Thursday, December 29, 2011

Women Should be Taught More Self Defense, Earlier

A word of caution, this post contains an adult discussion of rape, of both men and women, and may contain triggers for those of you suffering from PTSD. This post will build upon an earlier post of mine, "Should Girls Wrestle"  which, a year later continues to get comments.

For those that haven't read that post, I'll recap: High Schools should not only allow girls to wrestle, they should encourage it.  A recent report from the CDC on the widespread instances of rape and abuse in this country grabbed headlines for a day, and then of course, vanished from the the collective conversation. The newscasters tsk-tsked the results and then quickly went on to other, less depressing news. Why no discussion about how to stop or mitigate these findings?  Oh, that's right, it's just women, they are weak, and men who get raped, well they are like women right, weak, so who cares.  As you might can guess, I care.

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story—more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.
1 MILLION women, in the US alone, EVERY YEAR.  So, no, I don't want to hear about how uncomfortable it makes high school boys to have to fight with or wrestle with girls.  I don't want to hear about how they are taught not to hurt girls, so they are at a disadvantage with a female partner.  That's clearly Bullshit.  While I don't doubt that there are boys being taught that lesson, clearly, as men, they either forget it, or the numbers that never learn that social nicety are far too large.
Women are disproportionally affected by sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking.
• 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
• Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime while 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime.

The majority of this victimization starts early in life.
• Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11-17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10).
• About 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.
• 28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
 HALF of women rape victims are younger than 18.  That means that there are as many as 500,000 girls a year that could be learning valuable self defense lessons in JR HIGH and HIGH SCHOOL that might help them in escaping a rape attempt before they head for college.

Pushing them out of wrestling clubs, or sparring groups is short sighted and harmful.  Jr High Schools and High Schools on that path should do an immediate about face, and not only allow them in but encourage it.  Even if it means forming female only leagues.  Even if it means making male wrestlers uncomfortable.  Help these girls find ways to fight back against being one of these statistics. Don't just shuffle them through Home Ec, Sex Ed and Gym and delude yourself into thinking you're sending them out into the world prepared.

Sadly, I have no daughters, and no connections with the local Jr High and High Schools. (Yet.) If any of my readers do, please feel free to use this post in it's entirety to start conversations with your school district about this issue.  The CDC report is linked at the top and again HERE if you want to print out some of the facts and figures. Please PLEASE teach your daughters about the realities that face them.  Ignoring it or hoping it won't happen to them are terrible ways to deal with this issue.  If you daughters are old enough, enroll them in a self defense class, not one of those hour long once a year sessions, but something on a weekly basis, learning hands on grappling, breaks, throws and disables. While you pray they won't need it, someday they may thank you.  Send your boys too of course, the need isn't as dire in a personal protection sense, but they'll get other very useful benefits from it.

New Resolutions

:-) I actually like New Year Resolutions. I do. So far I have a pretty good track record with them. I write them down, I make concrete plans and goals, and then in a year, reevaluate.

Resolutions for 2011
1) Finish the scarf, learn a second stitch, Purl maybe, and use that in a second project.
Done! I finished that first scarf, it's a lovely camo-like variegated green. I learned the purl stitch and I'm 3/4s of the way through a project that has a purl/knit ribbing.  I went with a headband/ear cover instead of a hat. But, I'm using that black wool that I bought, and I'm still resisting the allure of oh-so-pretty yarn. Mostly. I did buy 2 skeins at the quilt show in Des Moines, for my next project.

1b) Do some darning, with the wool socks I love so much.
This one I tried, but apparently store bought wool socks are not as darnable as the home-made versions. I researched how to darn, and got my great-grandma to send me a darning egg, but after the research I decided it wasn't worth my time to try and darn the store bought socks.  This goal will have to wait until I make homemade socks, and wear them enough to get holes.

2) Sew more clothing, focusing on work clothing for me and play wear for Rowen.
This one went well. I did get one new shirt done, and some play pants for Rowen.  He loved his pants, and just outgrew them a month ago, I need to make him some more.  I stopped sewing for me, due to pregnancy, it's not worth my time when I'm only guessing at what my measurements will be from week to week.  I may end up having to sew a cloak or something to stay warm this spring, but we'll see.

3) $2000 in savings by Samhain.
This one we came pretty close, and it's a good thing I was focused on this, because we'll need every penny of it to pay for the birth of Baby Boy.   We didn't quite hit the 2000 mark, there were some car repairs that had to come out of savings, and that's what it's there for, so I still count this one as a win.

4) Finish the Blue Quilt, (Quilt #2) by mid January. Do some actual quilting on this one!

Well, I did finish Blue Quilt, but it only got done a couple of weeks ago.  I missed the Jan deadline, and then I lost all focus on it and sewed other things for the summer.  I brought it back out this fall and finished it.  It's hanging in the living room window, looking very pretty, if I do say so myself.  I did some actual hand quilting, nothing fancy, and I think I may take it down someday and do some more, but I'll count this one a win.It's doing a great job of blocking drafts, and it looks soo cool. I brought those fabric panels home with me from India, and I'm happy to finally have them displayed nicely.

5) Start Quilt #3. At least Queen sized, 85x85" or bigger, so that it can replace the 15 year old quilt from my grandmother that needs to be honorably retired.
Total fail. I was too focused on Blue quilt, and this one hasn't even been started yet. It's top of my quilting goals for 2012.

6) Make progress with getting a Community Garden started in my new town.  The first step here is to organize a seed swap I think.
This one went well.  I did the seed swap, and kept talking to people about the goal.  Fate conspired to put me in the right place, and a church group that was looking to start a garden had my name dropped in their ear, and I was able to help them start a Community Garden.  It's small, only 8 plots, but all were full all summer, and we got some great produce out of it.

7) Regain my pre-baby muscles. I miss my leg muscles and ab muscles. I never had much arm muscles, but maybe I could work on those while I'm at it.
I don't know how well I did on muscle, I know I got my leg muscles back, but maybe not so much on the arm and ab muscles.  I did get down to my high school weight, and that made me ecstatic. I was pregnant 2 weeks after that, and it's all gone down hill from there. :-D  I kid, in all truthfulness, I'm feeling healthier this pregnancy, I think in no small part because of the work I did to lose the last of that baby weight.

8) Finish seed saving attempt for turnips. Try again with potatoes maybe. Try parsnips too possibly.
Total fail. The turnips I tried to overwinter, died. I didn't save seed from the potatoes, and I dug up (and ate! Mmmm) all the parsnips.   Maybe next year? Maybe not too, we'll see if I can find space for it, with another mouth to feed and neighbors to keep happy, there may be a line I can't cross, and biennial seed production may be that line. :-D

9) Continue food storage, work on improving grain storage.
This one was a semi-win. We have a steady rotation of flour in storage, and a lot of rice.  We didn't get a grinder, we got a large mortar and pestle instead.  More useful on a day-to-day basis, and it can moonlight as a grain grinder if we ever get to that point of TEOTWAWKI.  We did look at buckets to hold wheat berries in, but it just never materialized.

I'll give myself a score of 7/10 for 2011.

New Resolutions for 2012

1) Make a new quilt for the main bed. 85"x85" at least.  We're currently using a 15 year old quilt that my grandmother made me, and it needs to be honorably retired.  I want to machine quilt this one, as it will be the biggest quilt yet, and put to the hardest use.  I'm signed up for a class in town to learn machine quilting, next month.  I have a lot of the fabric I need, although I'll need to run some numbers to see if I have enough to make the large size that's needed.

2) Transition Rowen to his own bed AND get him going on a bedtime routine.   He's 2 and a half, and we've been content until now to largely let him set his own sleeping patterns. With co-sleeping and a stay at home parent, there wasn't a huge need for him to have a set bedtime or sleeping place.  Now that baby #2 is on the way, we need the big bed space for that one and we need Rowen to start sleeping more regularly in his own bed.  My preference here is to spend Jan/Feb working on the bedtime routine and ending co-sleeping. Then in March when he turns 3 I'd like to transition him to a "Big Boy Bed"  (i.e. the old twin mattress with little-boy-friendly bedding) and turn the toddler bed back into it's crib formation well in advance of the new  baby's arrival.  March and April we can continue the Big Boy Bed routine, and that way (hopefully) he won't associate the new baby with the loss of his co-sleeping/toddler bed/etc.

3) Stick to our budget for the year.  We have a tough year coming up financially.  We're on an HSA plan for health insurance, which means we pay all medical costs until we hit $4000.  Baby Boy is going to be $3000 worth of hospital expenses and that's assuming a natural vaginal birth with no complications.  I'm not resting on my laurels as far as that's concerned. Baby and I are super healthy, weight, blood pressure, nutrition and activity levels are all as good as or better than they were with Rowen's fetal period.  Plus, we're with a midwife, who is totally committed to natural births.  We're paying all that we can in advance, and sending money hand over fist directly from my paycheck to the Health Savings Account.  By my calculations we'll have $3000 paid to the midwife by April.  In April I'll modify my weekly contributions to the Savings account, to a much lower amount in preparation for my maternity leave. Anything that's not paid by then, will wait until after I go back to work in August.
All the money we have budgeted for medical payments means we're $50 short for January and February bills, even with the "fun" and "savings" columns zeroed out on the budget sheet.  March will have 5 paychecks instead of the usual 4, so that will help, then in April I'll put less towards the HSA and I'll have more take home pay.   That brief respite will have to buffer us for the May/June/July maternity leave. I'll get 60% pay for 6 of those weeks, but that's it.  Hopefully Dave can find a temp job to fill in the gaps that will leave in the budget.  None of us can get sick or injured until August. :-D
Plans to help with  Resolution 3:
3a) Eat out of the pantry, maybe a challenge to eat 1 week a month completely out of the stored foods? I store for emergencies, and medical bills count as that, even if it's a "planned" emergency.
3b) Limit monetary input for the garden while simultaneously expanding it, I have started planning the garden, and I think I'll only need a few packets of seeds, mostly carrots, cucumbers and parsnips, maybe some spinach. Potato and sweet potato slips as well. I don't have any money budgeted for it right now, so it will have to come out of the food budget or X-mas money.

4) Put my maternity time to good use.  Of course, birthing a baby and feeding a baby are the most important things I'll be doing, but with almost 3 months off, I bet I can do something else productive.  Start that book I've been meaning to write, or brush up on my Spanish.

5) Hunt something new in 2012. Not that there's anything wrong with pheasant, but I'd like to expand my horizons to deer or turkey. Or Wild Hogs!!!! Ok, this might not be the year for wild hogs, but a gal can dream right?

6) Finish the ribbed headband and work on some knitted booties for baby.  Booties will push me into the 3rd dimension with my knitting, so far I've only done flat rectangular pieces. (The headband is knitted as a strip then the short ends sewn together.) They are small which is good, and common enough for free patterns and youtube videos.

7) Make a rocket stove. Something that can be moved with us and won't infringe on our rental agreement.  Most of the wood I have on hand is dead fall from our trees, and while we burn some of it in our fire pit, I'd really like a rocket stove for more efficient use during emergencies. 

I'm really excited for 2012, yes we'll have challenges, but there's a new life on the way, and new seeds to plant.  A presidential election will spice things up in November and then of course the world will end on Dec 21st.  hahahaha
Awww little baby shoes

Hope your New Year is cheery and warm.  Share your resolutions  in the comments if you like.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News From My Womb

This is a personal blog, I'll be back to politics, peak oil and TEOTWAWKI soon enough, but allow me a slight detour.
We found out last week that baby #2 will be a boy.  He's healthy and happy, which are blessings, I know. I can't stop mourning though.
Let me explain, I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized I wanted children.  I had always been lukewarm about the idea as a child and teenager. I knew I wanted a career, I knew I wanted travel, and love and all those things, but I wasn't sure about bearing children.  At most I thought perhaps I would adopt a couple when that time came. I had a dream when I was 21, that changed my mind completely.
Dreams, I know, very illogical.  Trust me, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my dreams, they are usually vivid, and I always remember them in the morning, but I know they are mostly brain dumps and subconscious thoughts.
This dream was different.  Very short and to the point, for me. I held my daughter in my arms. She was new, tiny, a nursling. She had dark hair.  She spoke to me, and said, "Mommy, I love you."  I explained that she couldn't be talking to me, she was too young to be talking.  She said, "Mommy, I know you needed to hear it."

That was it.

In my heart I always hoped I'd get to hold that little girl.
Maybe it's egotistical, but I think I'm a pretty unique woman.  I hoped I'd be able to pass that on in some way. Whether it's hunting or fighting or logic problems, I wanted another female to bond with and send into the ranks of Strong Women Battling the Hordes of Injustice. Lately that's mellowed to include cooking and sewing and dances and cute dresses with flowers in our hair.

Maybe this is better though. I've never gotten along well with most women. I don't seem to have much in common with a lot of them, and I have little patience for the bizarre things they find compelling.   Even with my own mother, it took awhile to find common ground.  We've found it, with sewing, and of course mutual love, but even so I know we don't look on things the same way. Maybe that daughter would never have been the woman I wanted. Maybe we would have been just as estranged as I find myself from most other females.  That would have been hard, so maybe this is kinder.

Maybe I can use that energy to take care of myself, and make pretty dresses for me.  Maybe I can mentor or foster or adopt. Maybe there are girls out there that will need that space in my heart.  I can't know, there's no way to know.

I do know 2 biological children is all I want.   We could try again and again, but there's no guarantees, and it would probably ruin us financially.  We'll do one of those more or less permanent birth control options as soon as he joins us.  We will be happy with our boys, and I will love them fiercely.  If I shed a few tears over their Y chromosome, they'll never need to know that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A-caucusing we will go

So, tis the season here in Iowa.  The season that seems to move up a little every year, just to keep us as "First in the Nation."  I'm talking of course about caucuses.

First off, I'm not sure I agree with the "First in the Nation" as a constant static thing. I've lived in a bunch of other states, and while I really do think Iowans are some of the most balanced, fair minded people I've met, I'm not sure it's beneficial for our nation to have the "First" be the same 2 states every year.

That said, our caucuses are pretty awesome.  I participated last go 'round and really enjoyed it. Here's the run down on how it works, for those interested in such things.

First thing to know is that the caucuses are divided up into R and D.  That was the first big downside as I saw it.  I'm a registered Independent. Always have been.  It is easy to change registration the night of the caucus though, you just show up to which ever side you wanted to caucus for, register that night for that side, then a few weeks later re-register as your preferred affiliation.   Those that have read this blog at all can probably guess which side I registered for in '08.  I went to the Democratic side.  I can't for the life of me remember who all was running for the GOP nomination, (Wikipedia to the rescue, McCain, Huckabee and Romney were the 3 big players)  I didn't care for any of them.  I did like a couple of the Democratic runners though, Dodd and Gravel for anyone who really cares. Of course, neither of those candidates made it very far.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, we get info on where our precinct will be meeting, show up, register if needed, and in my case, go sit in the gymnasium of the local Jr High and watch the other 200 or so file in. After the doors are shut, the fun begins.  Usually a district or precinct lead stands up and says a few words about the process and procedures.  Then there is time for speeches.  Anyone can stand to speak.  A few words or a prepared speech, doesn't matter. I think there were some people who said a few words for Obama, and some for Clinton. I wasn't convinced, but it was interesting.  After everyone spoke that wanted to, they taped up big signs all around the gym, one sign for each nominee, there were a lot too, they didn't leave out the little guys.  Round 1 started, and everyone was invited to stand under the sign of the candidate that they most supported.   I believe I was the only person under Gravel's sign, but I remember being proud to stand there and support him.   Everyone was counted, and totals were tallied.  A cut off point was decided, and everyone supporting a candidate with fewer than the required bodies was invited to go stand at their second choice.  The non-viable candidates had their signs taken down, and Round 2 started.  I shuffled down to join the Dodd supporters, swelling their numbers to a grand total of 4.  At the end of Round 2, Dodd was no longer on the viable list.  At this point we had Obama supporters and Clinton supporters talking with us almost one on one, asking what we liked about Dodd, and had we heard about this plan or that from their candidate?  I don't remember being rushed at this point.  There were people milling about, arguing, debating, and trying to wrangle every last body they could for the final Round 3.  The speaker announced that we needed to wrap it up, and that the final round would consist of Clinton/Obama/Edwards and that if we wanted to throw our support behind one of those candidates, now was the time to do that. I walked over the Obama sign. The final round was tallied, and our district went to Obama.  The caucus continued with Democratic party business, planks, platforms, delegate nomination, the whole shebang. I think I lasted through about 30 minutes of that before getting bored and leaving.

That's the gist of the process, rinse and repeat for all the districts in our 99 counties. One of the most democratic things I've ever seen here in our beloved Republic.

Fast forward, it's 2012.  With Obama running for reelection, there won't be a Democratic caucus.  There will be a GOP caucus though.  As the fair minded Independent that I try to be, I have the caucus on my calendar and I've really made an effort to get to know the the candidates.   I know you're interested in my take on them, so here they are, in no particular order.

Bachman - To be blunt here, she's an idiot.  She's anti-science, and poorly educated in anything other than fundamentalist christian dogma.  She doesn't support LGBT rights, her argument is just “OMG, people have sex in ways I don’t approve of. We must punish gay people.” Tamara Scott, co-chair of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, was caught on tape saying if we don’t stop same-sex marriage it will lead down a slippery slope not only to polygamy but to women marrying inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.  Idiots.

Paul - I'll admit, I've been attracted to Paul in the past.  He's consistent, which isn't a bad thing, and doesn't say as much stupid crap as some of the other nominees.  I like his stance on ending the drug war.  Sadly, that's about as far as I ever get with him.  None of his other positions appeal to me. He's constantly re-iterated his preference to do away with Roe-v-Wade, and he would love to have blastocysts declared as people, with equal rights to the woman who happens to be carrying said lump of cells. I think that's ludicrous and I have no intention of supporting anyone who furthers that notion. He has also sought to amend the Clean Air Act, repeal the Soil and Water Conservation Act of 1977, and to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to “restrict the jurisdiction of the United States over the discharge of dredged or fill material to discharges into waters”. A direct quote from the HR7955 reads like a textbook on bigotry, “Prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style.”  (links to various HR bills he's put forward)  Needless to say, it's a bit too much to overlook, even if he could end the drug war.

The Newt.  Again, those who read this blog probably already know my views on this guy. He can't seem to respect marriage vows. He left the Speaker of the House position shortly after being charged with eighty-four ethics violations. (After extensive investigation and negotiation by the House Ethics Committee, Gingrich was sanctioned US$300,000.)  During 2010 and the hubbub about the mosque being built in downtown NYC, his jingoistic demagoguery made Sarah Palin seem calm and nuanced. Gingrich demanded government action to stop the building, saying "we should not tolerate" what the First Amendment requires us to tolerate.  Further more, he has NO concept of geological realities, and encourages the "Drill baby drill" crowd with terrible untruths. In the Nov 23rd debate he stated that the United States could discover and produce enough oil in 2012 to cause a worldwide oil price collapse, if we were, "Serious." *facepalm*
The U.S. would have to increase field production by more than double current production to become oil independent by increasing domestic production to 14.8 Mbopd. Even peak production in 1970 of 10,000 bopd would only meet 68% of current crude oil consumption. To bring about a collapse in world oil prices, as Mr. Gingrich suggests, would mean increasing U.S. production by substantially more than this.
Maximum daily production from Prudhoe Bay Field, the largest in the United States, was 2.0 million bopd in 1988 ( Mr. Gingrich suggests that we can find more than six additional Prudhoe Bay-sized fields in one year. Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968, did not begin production for 11 years, and did not reach peak production until 20 years after its discovery. But Mr. Gingrich thinks that there are many Prudhoe Bay fields waiting to be found that can be  explored, developed and brought to peak production in one year. source

So, no, not someone I'm going to go out on a cold Jan night in support of.

Cain, his 9-9-9 plan would have raised my taxes significantly. I was willing to overlook that in favor of simplifying the tax code. It seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders.  Makes no difference now, he's out of the race.

Romney - He wants to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act (obamacare), in spite of the fact that the Mass health care overhaul has been popular.  Not wildly popular, but polling shows a majority in favor of it. I'm fine with making changes to it, no legislation is perfect, but scrapping it and starting over? Good grief, we'll never get anything done at that rate.   And of course, like a broken record around here, he's not in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Perry - Again, an anti-science idiot. His mantra seems to be "Cut taxes and regulation."  Like cutting banking regulation led to a good end, yea, they do a great job of self policing.  I like clean air and clean water, I'm just not in favor of cutting regulations.  He likes to brag about all the jobs he has in Texas. You know what else he has? He has the most children who are sick and obese and poorly educated. He has schools suing him for lack of funding, so low they are claiming it's unconstitutional.  He insists that peace can only come through "strength" and would probably allow the Defense budget to remain bloated and obscenely large.  And of course, he's not in favor of women's reproductive rights or gay and lesbian rights.

Did I miss anyone? I think that's most of the crop.  Not a single one of them is worth my time on a cold Jan night. I will probably sit this caucus out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'd forgotten what it feels like

Well, patient blog readers, I'm back.  Many apologies for the hiatus.  I had vague memories of being nauseous with Rowen's 1st trimester, but either hormones and time had erased some of the misery, or something about my 45-55 hour work week makes it worse.  Probably (as with most things) a combination of both.
I'll spare you the gory details, but to say I've been sick and exhausted for most of the past 2 months, would not be an understatement.
But! We are moving past that stage of pregnancy and roaring into the second trimester with a healthy appetite, high energy levels and aching joints. :-D
Dave and I settled on a midwife for care.  We interviewed a home-birthing midwife, but she was based in the next state over, battling anti-midwifery there and in Iowa, and was very very Christian.  I'm fine with my care providers having personal views I don't agree with.  But, after a discussion about all the things she can't legally do during a homebirth, (stitching my tears, anything with IV's, antibiotics or anti-hemorraging meds) it makes me very uncomfortable to hear talk of "praying for guidance and leaving things in god's hands."  I knew I wouldn't have the trust in her that I would need to have to birth at home.  The midwife Dave and I finally clicked with is based out of the hospital in the town I work in. (20 miles north of where we live)  She has been delivering babies for a long time, has an excellent relationship with the Obstetricians in the hospital and they in turn give her tons of freedom to birth babies how she wants. Which all translates into freedom for ME to birth how I need to, but with the safety net of a hospital ready if needed.  She has no requirements for positions during labor, is very much a non-intervention believer, and even Rowen liked her better.  Care is already night and day different from that horrible group Ob/Gyn practice that I ended up with when I was on Medicare with Rowen.  She talks to me, and listens to me, and doesn't give me lectures about the decisions I make regarding my body.
Baby and I are healthy and happy and growing at a nice pace.  I'm more excited than scared for the delivery, and really looking forward to the 2nd trimester.

In other news, Dave has been culling the spotty apples out of our storage box this week, and is currently making a big batch of tasty applesauce.  This is an important step with stored apples, as the old saying is true, one bad apple will spoil the lot.  Spotty apples make a great applesauce, or cider and will keep much longer in that form, simultaneously sparing the good apples that rotten fate.

I've harvested those little cabbage heads, and dried the last big bunch of chard. All the beds are cozy in their leafy covers, and we're as ready as we can be for the harsh winter ahead.

No time to mourn the end of this year's season, I got my Seed Savers catalog in the mail yesterday, and I'm researching sweet potato production and slip providers in Iowa.  My favorite local farmer is not going to be growing sweet potatoes next year, so if I don't grow them, I'll have to travel 30 minutes south to the big city to find local ones.

I'll be recapping my 2011 goals soon, and making new ones for 2012, should be fun.  Yule and X-mas celebrations are happening at our house this year, which is a first. It'll be a bit of a challenge, but as always, I think we're up for it. I've got Iowa caucuses coming up right after the holidays, so politics aren't far from my mind either.

Y'all stay warm, finish up that turkey, and settle in. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fall harvests

I'm a pumpkin carving master.
We have a few hardy crops in the ground that are continuing to produce tasty fresh food.
The pumpkins of course have been a fun harvest.  They are indeed edible, I found that really the texture is the only thing that's different between my random pumpkins and the nice "pie pumpkin" I got from the store.  And texture can be amended with judicious applications of the immersion blender.  So, two thumbs up for the random pumpkin experiment.  We got a few carving pumpkins out of the deal and more pumpkins than we'll be able to eat.  They are sitting on the porch looking festive right now.  Snow is forecasted for next week though, so I need to bring them in if we intend to try and eat any this winter.

Dave is a pumpkin pie master.

I tried something last night that was pretty tasty. I roasted the usual sweet potatoes for Rowen, with some of the pumpkin flesh I had saved from carving, and then mashed them together with the usual butter/milk/spices.  Pretty good.  Hard to tell that it was sweet potatoes and pumpkin mixed together. Considering the lack of sweet potatoes to be found this fall, that will help stretch them a little bit.  On a related note, I'll be figuring out how to grow sweet potatoes this winter. :-D
The first of three pumpkin harvests.

The swiss chard is still doing fine, nights below freezing don't bother it much.  It's the brightest green you can imagine, my community garden folks are jealous, I can tell.  They're envious of my tasty greens as they hoe under their sad bedraggled tomato vines. :-D

The turnips are still going. I have those buffered with piles of leaves and covered with row cover, just to help keep the ground from freezing around them.  Now, if I could just find a way of cooking/preserving them that the boys like.  One of my friends tried a turnip pickle that turned out ok...

Rowen and I picked the last of the carrots yesterday.  He was eating them dirt and all, before we even left the garden.  He usually doesn't like carrots, so that was a win.  Yay for frost sweetened carrots.We only pulled a half a pound or so out, but that's not bad considering the complete lack of attention I gave these things.  I do that every year.  Carrots take sooo long to germinate, and then they are hard to keep alive, and then they grow sooooo slowly, that I'm always sure they're going to kick the bucket before making any roots, so I give up on them. Then along comes November and I'm digging up the tastiest carrots I've ever eaten, and wondering why I didn't try just a little harder in July to get the carrot bed weeded and watered.

Kohlrabi is also still producing.  They definitely slow down once we get past fall equinox, but they withstand quite a bit of cold without much fuss from me. Plus, they look like alien saucers, which I love.

I found a bit of oregano under the leaves in the summer herb patch, doing well enough that I harvested a handful and put it in some water in the kitchen.  We ate some on the roasted veggies last night. Mmmm fresh herbs in November. Not too shabby.

Still to come: 3 small heads of purple cabbage, that I'm giving every last day I can before harvesting them.  They were the heads buried under the pumpkin vines. They are still alive because I made a bridge for the vines to climb, but they were definitely slowed because of the shade.  I'm more likely to eat them in Nov than I was in July when the other cabbages matured, so it's a good thing I think.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Soundtrack for today's post:

Coming home - My little brother came home this week from Afghanistan.  It's good to have him home again.  This was his second deployment.  Last time he was in Iraq, and I was living in India for a good portion of that deployment, so it was nice to be in the states for this deployment.  I was able to send him dried fruits and baked goods and occasional summer sausages. Of course, he flew home to the other side of the state, so I wasn't able to make the  6 hour drive to see him land.  But, I was able to take down the star from the window.

Home year round - We're getting ready for another long winter. Window quilts are going up, plastic on the outside, the whole nine yards.  We've got the heater on, but just barely.  I think it's at like 69  right now. The basement is nice and cool and has a good selection of potatoes, onions and garlic.   With my free apple tree not producing this summer, I don't have any apples stored. But, I'm feeling like we're pretty prepared for winter.
 The summer bounty is all canned and pickled. Yay for being done with the canner for the year! lol I have 3 butternuts, and dozens of pumpkins from my winter squash vines.  Awesome!  The Swiss Chard, kohlrabi and the turnips are still unperturbed by the frosty mornings, so I'm continuing to harvest fresh food.

Home for the holidays - We'll have much loved guests for Yule this year, so we've already started planning for that.  What food we want to cook, what presents we want to make.  What we want for decorations. I've fallen behind on my sew along for the Tree Pants, but it's ok.  I'm still plugging along, and I fell behind to make Rowen the cutest costume.  I went to my local fabric store and bought 1 yard of red cotton, a quarter yard of white, and I free handed a big circle and a little 'm'.  I backed the red circles with some fleece so he stays warm enough after the sun goes down, plus it helps to keep the shape.  Rowen was so happy with his M&M costume, and he got lots of complements during it's inaugural run last weekend.   We all went out to the Trick or Treating at the local county park.  It was a great night and we had a blast.
My first star!
Anyway, here's a shot of the first star I completed.  I didn't like it 100%, so I went to the fabric store and bought some cream to mix in with the cream/flower print.  Those stars look awesome. I have several of those done, I'll try and snap a picture of those this weekend.  (While I'm frantically trying to catch up with the other sewers ... lol)
It's not to late to join in the sew along.  You can follow the action at the Happy Zombie blog. Or at Sew Mama Sew.

Home for one more - I'm finishing up my 10th week with the tadpole.  Basil is still a no go, but the nausea in general is slowly starting to decrease. We're moving on the eating-every-three-hours stage. :-D Dave took some pictures of me this last weekend, but we'll keep this post family friendly. :-D  You're welcome mother.  We'll snap some PG ones soon and I'll share some belly bump.
Here's a candid shot of the tadpole.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall harvests

Well in spite of the frost a couple of weeks ago, my tomatoes are finally ripening. :-D
The row cover protected them from the cold, and the wind, and we've had just enough warm sunny weather to ripen a couple dozen nice fruits.   So, I spent the weekend canning, a rainbow of deliciousness.  I did something fun this time and canned red tomatoes together, and canned yellow tomatoes together and one small jar of Green Zebra tomatoes.  The Green Zebras don't look so hot. That nice sunny yellow and light green stripe that they get when ripe, all that disappeared in the canner, so they look like unripe blotchy green tomatoes. lol
Red, Yellow and Green goodness

I still have a small pile of tomatoes on the counter. Not sure what we'll do with them, it's still being discussed.  We've got plenty of jars,  (Thanks Mom!!) so we may roast and can another batch of basil-less sauce for me.  (The zygote has decided basil is nasty and not to be eaten, seen or smelled, and is willing to upchuck food in order to enforce that opinion.  This is very annoying as I've had an awesome year for basil production.)

Dave has finished the chair he was making for Rowen.  We took some birthday money that Grandma DeeDee sent for him, and we bought some wood and a few hand tools and Dave made him a chair, just his size!  We got some stain, so that still needs to go on, but it looks pretty good.

As the days darken and the garden bounty wanes, I'm once again drawn to my sewing room.   I have a massive window quilt that was supposed to be finished earlier in the spring, and is still patiently waiting to be finished with the hand quilting. I have a vest for Rowen made out of fleece, with a zipper and hoodie.  I ordered the zipper this weekend, and I've sewn as far as I can go without it.   While I'm waiting on the zipper, I have started tree pants for the yule tree I'm determined to have this year.  (Tree pants, because not all trees like to wear skirts. hahaha)  I'm making crimson stars on a cream flowered background.  I've not done any stars yet, this will be my first attempt, I'm following the Happy Zombie sew along to help me through the bumps. Thankfully her pattern is a square tree pants, because round things are yet another aspect of quilting I've not got to. :-D  I'll try to put together a star or two and post the results in a day or two. Wish me luck!
Crimson stars on the cream/flowers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

National Sewing Month Wrap Up

Yes indeed, September was National Sewing Month. So, I'll show off some home-made goodies.

Here is the new curtain I made for the bathroom.  This is a window that used to be covered with just the blue checked fabric, donated by my mother and tacked to the wall.   I thought to myself, "Self, we can do better than that."  So, I designed this little piece to cover the window and use the donated fabric, plus some remnants that were languishing in the fabric pile.    The bottom third is unquilted, because in the summer the bottom of this window is often open for airflow. So, I wanted to keep that part of the window covering light enough to allow for that.  The butterflies are my first attempt with iron on embellishment.  Not bad. I'll probably never do it again. :giggle:  I'll spare you the list of goof-ups, you can see them yourself if you look. :-D  All in all, I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.

Mom made Rowen the cutest little train bag to hold all of his Thomas the Train pieces and cars.  Utterly adorable. Super sturdy, and he loves it already.  Thanks Mom!

The two of us are headed to the AQS show in Des Moines this weekend.  She's headed that way right now, and I'll be joining her this Friday.  Can't wait! It's so much fun to see all the new quilts and buy pretty materials from the vendors. A weekend with my mom is icing on the cake.

I've almost got an apron done for my cousin in Texas - Hi JoBeth! - all I'm lacking is the final bit of rick-rack.  This was my first time working with rick-rack and I totally messed it up.  Not enough to redo it, just enough that I had to go back and re-read everything and look at all the pictures to figure out what I really need to do with this stuff.  C'est la vie. But, I have to say, I hate it when patterns tell you to buy 2 packages of something, and that's NOT enough.  Have packages of rick-rack gotten smaller in the past few years? What's the deal with that?

I got in some more diaper fabric from my buying co-op, so as soon as I get all the existing diapers inventoried I'll be starting on new baby diapers.  :-D  If you do a lot of sewing, and you haven't looked into fabric buying co-ops you absolutely should. They are wonderful.  Warning: they are also enablers, if you have trouble saying no to good buys, DON'T JOIN.  lol

I hope your September was full of sewing, and your October is too!

Fall Begins

I drive to work with the sun rising over the golden corn fields.  The tractors are already at work in the early light. An occasional pheasant or hawk can be seen taking their morning sun. I'm sure there's beauty to be had in places like NYC, but to me, nothing beats the views I enjoy here in NW Iowa, especially on a sunny fall morning.

The entertainment isn't terrible either.  We took the boy to the corn maze again last night.  He had fun last year, but this year he was much more interested in the playground and the kids than he was in pumpkins or corn. And of course we had to discuss all the animal sounds that the petting zoo animals made.

I asked the pumpkin grower what she thought about my volunteer pumpkin patch and how edible the fruit are likely to be. She thought I had a great chance of having edible fruit, and a likely chance that they are edible but not fantastic-tasting.   That makes me excited to try them and see.  We picked up a couple of squashed for decorating and 1 pie pumpkin just to compare against my volunteers.

The garden is limping along, tomatoes are gamely ripening, one at a time, so I'm hopeful I'll get one last batch of something made with them.  Seeds are setting and drying. Squash are hardening. 

"Though the fields lay golden;
Something whispered, snow."

Friday, September 16, 2011


For my code-impaired readers, the title means basically Add 1 to Family.   :-D

I'm happy to announce that Dave and I are expecting a little podling around May 20th.  I'm happy to have a warm little proto-human nestled inside for the long cold winter ahead. And I'm happy that most of the ice and snow will be gone when I hit the huge-and-clumsy stage at 8+ months.   It'll mean another year of spring planting with nursling in tow, and winter garden planning to include another baby's worth of peas and squash. Love it. :-)

We had our first frost yesterday, so the gardening heyday is definitely done.  I've got my blankets and such out, trying to extend the season, Rowen helped me wrap the tomatoes up.  It kept them from freezing, but they are definitely stressed, I can see signs of blight and I just don't know if all the green tomatoes will ripen or not.

The squash vines are slowly dieing, revealing their fruit goodness. I think I'll have a few butternuts and a dozen or so little green acorns and 6 at least pumpkins.  Whether they are all edible, remains to be seen, since most of those are volunteers.
The squash has been a fun experiment

We have large quantities of goodness stashed away in jars. Green beans did really well this year, as did the herbs and onions and garlic.  Potatoes did well enough, and I might get one more head of cabbage before the end of the year.   So, while I'm not ready to see it end for the  year, I am happy with the bounty we got for our efforts.
Rowen helping pick the green beans

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kindergardens - The edges of the day

Dawn, and dusk. Something about those times creates magic in the garden. Dawn still retains some of the darkness and mystery of night. Fog and mist twine around the growing produce, especially here in zone 4 as we ease into chilly September. There's so much promise to the day, what will be new? A new tomato? A new squash blossom?
Dusk brings an easing of the day's heat. Dew gathers as the coolness of night spreads. The fading sunlight and the twinkling of the first stars. Yea, there's definitely something about the edges of the day.

August has been a productive garden month. We've had a steller run of the bush green beans and purple beans. I've got the first pumpkin, and we've harvested at least a dozen summer squash. Potatoes and onions and garlic are nestled in their storage locations. Rows of jars are full of August bounty. Little bits of summer, ready for the long winter ahead.

Rowen quickly learned the joys of green bean picking. After he tired of plucking at random parts of the patch, he decided to help move the piles of beans from one place to a "better" place. Then he decided that the green beans and the purple beans should be in different piles. lol
He's also really intrigued by the watering process. Mostly I think he just likes to play in the water, but often he'll fill the can up and lug it around and water plants that interest him. It doesn't seem to be plants that necessarily need water, one time he spent 5 minutes watering one especially large squash leaf.

We have some amazing volunteer squash that have literally taken over the yard this month. (And the tree, and the garden and the compost pile....) Behold, the elusive tree squash. A delicacy, or so I'm hoping.

Stay tuned for an exciting child related announcement later this week. :-)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Projects getting done

Well, in spite of the busy garden season, I am finding time to finish up some projects. Sewing projects first, since I've been garden heavy on this blog lately.

I've finished my first knitted scarf! It's really basic, with an easy to wash yarn and a pretty variegated green color that should match well with my camo parka. That's right, camo matching tips, right here on My Path to Freedom. hahaha Seriously though, I wasn't sure I'd like knitting. It seemed complicated and I thought for sure the 2 year old would unravel everything at least once, but to my surprise, it was a nice project for those evenings when I didn't want to read, and it was really nice to travel with. I think I must have knitted half of it on planes traveling for work. Yes, you can get on a plane with knitting needles in the US. I have done it multiple times since the increases in security after 9/11.

I've already started project #2, it's a headband/ear cover in a plain black wool, with nice ribbing. The ribbing was tricky at first, but I feel like I'm really starting to get a handle on multiple stitches and patterns. The ribbing makes the headband stretchy, but in a firm sort of way, so I think it will stay on nicely.

I finished a wall hanging for my mother's birthday! A bit belated, but I think she likes it. I'm usually not big on fancy sewing for hanging on a wall. But, she's my mother and she deserves it.

I made a big bag for Rowen to put his Little People playset in. It's one of those sets that has a dozen little people, with little cars and a farm house with little animals... cute, but annoyingly easy to spread around the house like little bits of chaos. So, a big soft bag, with drawstrings was in order. I used Minky, strong seam techniques and some tie line from Dave for a free drawstring. Love it.

With the ever patient help of my husband, we got the curtains up in the basement food storage room. This means I can get the potatoes out of the kitchen and down there and hopefully have fewer of them sprout this spring. We also got gifted my Dad's hand-me-down shop vac, so the basement can get a much needed cleaning. Cleaning is important for more than just superficial looks, it means fewer attractions for vermin and fewer things for mold/mildew to hangout on.

Curing has finished for the garlic and onions, and I'm doing a bit of cleaning and sorting and trying to get them in their proper places. I have over 60 onions and about 25 garlic heads. I still need to find more of both, in order to store sufficient quantities to see us through till next spring. The cleaning isn't an involved process, I'm just trimming up the dried roots and trimming off the dried tops. (I don't braid them, if you are braiding, you'll want to do that while they are still green and pliable.) The garlic usually has an outer layer of the paper-skins that's dirty, and I'll gently thumb that off, mostly for appearance, partially to keep dirt out of the garlic storage bags.

We got 5 pints of salsa canned this weekend. Sssshhh, don't tell Rowen that we don't need the food mill to make salsa. He does love to help.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sharing the Canning Fun

We've been doing lots of canning the past few years. I've gotten better at gardening, and at finding local veggies and fruit when they are in season. I've also been gifted boxes of jars regularly which helps immensely. I have bought some too, but I've been amazed at how many jars found their way to me when I started to tell people that I was a canner. Out of basements and attics of people who are passed their canning hey-day. (Thanks Grandma Dee Dee!)

I have to give credit where credit is due. I can't do it all. Dave has stepped up and has helped a lot with the processing and preserving this year. I couldn't do it without him. Between 2 jobs, volunteer work and the garden I just don't have time to salt cucumbers for 3 hours for tasty Bread & Butter pickles, not if I want to sleep too. :-D Asking for help has never been a strong suit, and there are hiccups when we do things differently than the other would, but overall I think we do a pretty good job of working together. Often a job will start with me in the morning, then pass to Dave in the afternoon, then be completed by me in the evening. The drawbacks to this arrangement are obvious, more chances for something to get missed. We've found that lists and lots of notes help with communication. The benefit is that even with the miss-steps, we get a lot more done, things that neither of us could do alone.

I have found the time to teach my canning skills to a friend here. She promised to take me out bow hunting in exchange for a canning lesson or two. (Yay barter!) I invited her over for the whole tomatoes, which are easy because I like to raw pack them, but at the same time we got to go through the pressure canning process which was really intimidating to her. She was pleasantly surprised by how easy things were, and how straightforward the instructions were in the little canning booklet. I told her about the tools I like to have, and which instructions are more important than others. (Spices can be tweaked, PH can not. )

Keeping in touch with experienced canners has helped too. This is a bit of a challenge since I live half a continent away from my grandmothers. I have canned a few times with my mother, and that's always a joy. My neighbor is a canner, and I'm using her salsa recipe right now. But, mostly I rely on the internet to keep me in touch with other canners, to swap recipes and get inspiration.
Food in Jars
Punk Domestics
Local Kitchen

There's always new things to try. New recipes and new tools. It's hard work, but I enjoy most of it. I really enjoy the home canned goodness in the long winters.

Totals so far:
4 pints of sweet corn (there's still a lot left from last year)
5 quarts of applesauce
7 quarts of whole tomatoes
5 pints of garlic dill pickles
6 pints of Bread & Butter pickles

We have a box of tomatoes/peppers and a large bag of green beans waiting patiently for their turn in the canner.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's my birthday!

Yup, August has always been my favorite month. Enough sunshine that I'm finally warm. Tan lines, and tomatoes. Parties for my favorite people. (August babies are the best, and not just because I'm an August baby.) The days are still long, the nights are clear, and everything is growing. This post is a bit of an amalgamation, as things are busy, and I have stuff to share, but not enough time to flesh them all out into their own posts.

Rowen and I invited a co-worker and his daughter over for the potato harvest. We all dug in the dirt and came up with a big pot full of potatoes and a wide array of bugs, spiders, rocks and weeds. I swear the kids were just as excited over the bugs. :-D The potatoes yielded a good amount of well formed tubers. They didn't have the scab problem that I noticed last year. I was hoping for that, because I had read that a first-year-from-sod garden would grow out of that problem the second year. I know others nearby that don't seem to have my success with potatoes. I would swear I'm not doing anything special. But, I'll write down some of my practices, in the chance that something will work for those attempting to grow potatoes.

First, I put them in the ground early. Here in zone 4, that means a week or two before the last frost date. I'll protect them with a quilt or something if there's going to be a hard freeze, but they are otherwise able to handle the cold temps and frosty mornings. I dig a trench, and put the potatoes in there, mounding up the dirt to one side. I cover with part of the dirt, and a small layer of straw. As the vines grow, every 6 or 8 inches, I put more of the dirt on top, and more straw. New potatoes will be formed above the seed potato that you planted, so you have to give them room to do that. Loose soil, with the straw to keep things airy, but at the same time, light is no good, and will turn them poisonous, so the layers have to be as sunlight blocking as possible.

I don't do anything to the seed potatoes. I'll let them get some good budding on the eyes, and then I just plant them. I don't cut them, I don't dust them with anything... I'm very laissez-faire about it. I have had good luck buying seed potatoes from an Iowa source, Seed Savers, and I've had good luck buying seed potatoes from the bins at the farm store in town.

That all I do. :-D I watered them a couple of times, during really dry weeks, but not very much. For those struggling with golf ball sized potatoes, maybe some of this could help. You could try asking your local ag people too. Here in Iowa the people to ask are the ISU extension offices, they have all sorts of good info on local growing environments and what grows well and how to do that.

My coworker's daughter had a great time, and hopefully enjoyed the potatoes I gave them. Rowen loved having a little friend to play with. Total win-win.

In other news, the plum tree and the apple tree that I gleaned from last year, are both a bust this year. The plum tree has no fruit set, and my neighbors report that the apple tree is sparse and wormy. I'll do my own recon of the apple tree, perhaps some higher branches have something worth picking. This compounds the problem of the raspberry canes not producing much this spring. So, it's looking like this weekend I'll have to do a serious search for some local fruit and spend some money to get my fruit preserving done. I hear there's an apple orchard on the south side of town. This is ok. We're much better off financially than we were last year at this time, and if I have to spend money on something, at least it can be local fruit. It's too bad about the plums though, those spiced plums were freaking delicious.

I'm doing some canning outreach. As a twenty-something I'm well aware of the skills my generation is missing. One of these is How To Can. So, when a local gal mentioned she'd love to learn, I took note. I have 20 pounds of tomatoes to process this week and I've invited her over to help and learn the basics. She's a great bow hunter, so I'm hoping she'll return the favor and teach me a bit about turkey and deer hunting, since all I have experience with is birds.

So, summer wanes, the toddler grows, and I'm trying to get my community more prepared for the unraveling. I love it, but there's always work to do. :-) That's about as profound as I can be today. As always, I love hearing from y'all, so chime in if there's something you're dying to talk about.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Waste Reduction

Americans in general waste a LOT of food. Usually the waste is in kitchens and homes of everyday folks. It's a big deal, and something where action by individuals can improve the situation immensely. Unlike other huge problems I won't mention.

The biggest challenge we face in my house is gracefully handling the fresh produce coming out of the garden every summer. It comes in waves, in bunches and, often it seems, right before a big trip. :-D Squash and green beans tend to be the worst, with lettuce close behind. We did lose some lettuce this spring, I had a gal at the farmers market who was desparate to get rid of lettuce and I took more than we could eat.

But, I'm happy to say, we've not let any green beans die in the fridge. Hubby can take some well deserved credit for that, as he stepped up to the canning plate and canned 4 quarts of green beans out of the garden. So far we've only had one of the summer squash go bad, and that one I think I harvested poorly and shortened it's little life. There's still a lot of summer left, but I'm really hopeful that we can keep up this streak and take full advantage of the bounty. I'm getting better about just getting it cooked, instead of waiting for that perfect recipe. We're both getting better about saying, "No, let's eat in and use up that bag of green beans."

It's not earth shattering, it's not going to save the world. But, when I know there are starving people in Africa, at least I can face myself in the mirror every morning knowing that I didn't leave perfectly good food to die in the fridge.

In related news, Riot 4 Austerity should be starting up August 1st. Sharon over at Casaubon's Book is leading the charge. I'm waiting anxiously for word on where the Riot will be living online.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Solar Dehydrator

Calamity Jane over at SHTF blog is doing a solar dehydrator build. I am soo in on that!

I've got a window, and I'm thinking I'll build something along these lines, but smaller.

Join in the build if you're interested, either here or over on SHTF. Should be a lot of fun, and who doesn't want to keep the hot air outside this summer for our drying needs? I dry a ton of fruit and herbs, and often my little plug in garage sale dehydrator just can't keep up. It doesn't do any good at all with jerky and fruit leathers.

Some of the comments there suggested old cars as DIY dehydrators. I guess I'm unusual in that I don't have any old cars sitting around. I've only ever owned one car, and that's the car that's still in use as the only vehicle for our family. Using it as a dehydrator would be an inefficient use of resources I think.

If I make it right, I'm hopeful it can double as a base for a solar oven. *cross fingers*

Friday, July 22, 2011

American Redoubt

I hang out in some prepper/survivalist groups. Let me say upfront, I don't think end times are coming, I don't think One World order is about to declare martial law, and I don't think the gubment is about to put us all in camps. There has been a growing movement lately that just gets my dander up. It seems like a bad idea all the way around, and I have NO desire to participate. I'm speaking of Rawles "American Redoubt" movement.

Believers gush about the concept, "it is time for freedom-loving Christians to relocate to something analogous to 'Galts Gulch' on a grand scale."

Early proponent and settler Chuck Baldwin, "I read the letters and emails from people all over America who feel the divine urge to come to the Mountain States. And many are coming to Kalispell, Montana, specifically to be part of Liberty Fellowship and the band of patriot Christian brothers that are assembled here." Did you notice the militant language in use? "Bands of patriot Christian brothers," I wonder what SS members called themselves? Further reading brings up mention of building bunkers and prepping to repulse attackers if needed. Who are they planning to be fighting? Answer: other Americans.

These Christian nut-bags hate anyone who isn't the right type of Christian or the right type of prepper.
Putting their persecution complex in high gear, this movement encourages like-minded families to move to a select few states in the western part of the US. "If you aren't in agreement with most of those precepts, then I don't recommend that you relocate to the Redoubt--you probably won't fit in." and "In calamitous times, with a few exceptions, it will only be the God fearing that will continue to be law abiding." Fear mongering isolationist twaddle. Millions of Americans are good without god. Millions more manage to remain decent human beings using an amalgamation of spiritual beliefs.

Are hard times coming, yes I think that's unavoidable. Is it time to circle the wagons and give up on society at large, no. This is the time to knock on your neighbor's door and ask how they're handling the heat wave. This is the time to review your personal safety nets, and keep a close eye on your financial well being. This is the time to start community gardens and food gleaning programs to improve the food security of your hometown. This is the time to brush up on your making/repairing skills and sharpen your tools. Abondoning your community/town to relocate to an undisclosed location out in the middle of nowhere, that's just foolish and shortsighted. What happens when the utopia doesn't pan out or your fellow Christian soldiers decide, for whatever reason, that you are not the right kind of kindred? Don't kid yourselves, any group that starts out with a long list of people they don't like, will only find ways to make that list longer. To those individuals who already happen to live in the Redoubt area, you have my sympathies.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jobs - The Plural Form of Job

It's been quiet here on the blog front. The reason is 2-fold. Firstly, the garden is going gangbusters and I've got a lot of work keeping up with it.
Secondly my primary-paycheck job has been busy. And I've finally rounded up a secondary job in this new town. Which brings me to today's musing.

I've been working two jobs since I was legal to work. When I was in high school, I wanted to go on an honor choir tour of Europe. I worked at a Maidrite and at a PakMail in addition to school and extracurriculars to earn the ticket fare and program costs. In college I worked at another sandwich shop, plus did campus tours for prospective students. That transitioned into sandwich shop/modeling, and so on.
As with the other plurals in my life, there is a primary and secondary. The primary job pays most of the bills/food/rent/savings. The secondary job pays for fun things, hobbies, and entertainment. For the past 5 years my second job has been very different from my first job. I find it's more interesting that way. But, there is something to be said for secondary jobs that occasionally add value to the primary job.
Really, I think it doesn't matter so much, *what* the job is, as much as it matters that you *have* a second job. If you're like me, you primary job makes a fairly set amount of money. You can count on x dollars every week, balanced out by (hopefully) less than x in bills. There's savings in there, of course, (you do save, right?) but what if you need 2x one week for car repair or dental bills? That's where a second job can come in handy, something that you can schedule a few more hours with and pull in some more cash. This could be work out of your home, sewing clothing or work at the nearby minimum wage shop. Anything that can flex to accommodate the primary job, and if it brings in freebies that's even better. (The sandwich shop would give us a free sandwich for shifts over 5 hours in length, the modeling gigs would get me occasional free passes into art exhibit openings.) Online work can be nice, as that isn't bound by location and can help ease the transition when moving long distances for the primary job.

I know I can't live off of the secondary job, but I know they can expand to fill gaps, which often can't be said of my primary job. By diversifying I keep more options open. Options that are important when unemployment rates are skyrocketing and government safety nets are being slashed.

I find that organization is key when you enter the realm of multiple jobs. Most people can handle it, we organize more than that on a daily basis. But, I find that calendars and planners (I'm a paper sort of gal, but go digital if that's better for you) are essential. I have to keep track of my work load and manage expectations from multiple bosses, including myself and my spouse. It's worth keeping in mind how you'll deal with the job come April 15th. Is it a contractor/independent worker type of thing where you'll be on the hook for all the taxes? Or is it a paycheck type gig where the employer takes care of withholding every week?

I know people that can't even keep 1 job. I don't understand that at all. Jobs that I could hold down in my free time with one hand tied behind my back, are routinely walked away from because the person in question found an aspect of it not to their liking. I get anxious when I'm only working 1 job, I can't imagine being totally without. I imagine I'd start a home based business that day and carry on from there. I think it's just not in my nature to sit around and wait for the safety net to catch me. I don't have any answers for those of you dealing with a no-job situation. My belief is that everyone has the tools and the abilities to do *something.* If you can't "find" a job, quit looking for one, and just do your work from home, and find someone who's interested in paying you for it.

If you're intrigued, and want to try a secondary job, take stock of what time you have available, be realistic, and start putting out feelers. Whether it's 2 hours a week of home daycare or weekend dog walking, it can add up and it can make a difference. Don't put too many pre-suppositions on the search, be open to new opportunities, even if it's something very different from what you normally do. It may surprise you!

"I live to fulfill my purpose in life, it is a daily struggle."

Friday, July 1, 2011

Little Man, Big World

Another Kindergarden post. If you want in on the fun, hop over to Inadvertent Farmer.

I let Rowen have the camera this past week. At just over 2 years old, he's not real good with keeping steady while pushing the button. Plus, he kept crawling into the bike trailer, instead of clicking away in the garden. Here's the view from inside his trailer, looking up at my legs. lol

After that, we settled for a walking tour of the beds around the house, and I let him point at what we should take pictures of. That worked a little better. :-D We have some really pretty lilies open right now. Next to lilacs, lilies are my favorite. These guys don't have as much sun as they'd prefer to have. So, they are leaning over and a little leggy. Still really pretty though.

We saw a big moth on our large ash tree. Can you spot him? I hesitantly identified him as a catocala. If someone thinks otherwise, let me know! :-)We had a playdate Weds with Sue (the gal from the community garden) and her grandson who is 4. Rowen enjoyed having another small person around. We all sat outside and let the kids play in the wading pool. Sue, of course, would love to see us join her church and dropped hints whenever she could politely fit it in the conversation. :-D I, of course, was frazzled from a long day of remote startup support with a plant in Ohio, and was in no mood to be preached at. She never took it that far, and even said at one point how, "unique" she finds our family to be. lol But, we enjoyed the visit anyway, and the kiddo's sure loved that pool. And so, the collaboration continues, politely and at time tentatively, but it's worth it to see that garden full of veggies for people in my community. Does anyone else find that kids can ease socially awkward situations?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

40+ mpg

The little Honda ticked in at 40.8 mpg with this last tank of gas. This car is 8+ years old, and gets better gas mileage than any of the 2011 line up from Ford or GM (excepting plug in electric Volt.) I drive a mix of highway and city, and rarely go over 65mph. This is not rocket science. Why can't US auto makers get it through their heads, that their decades old technology for 30mpg cars and 15 mpg trucks is sad, and pathetic, and not something I want to invest money in? Yes, the civic is a little cramped for my 6 foot tall husband, and yes there are times I wish we had something with 4 doors and more trunk space. But, when gas is tickling the 4$ mark, I Love the Honda Civic. The few days a year when something bigger would be nice, hardly compare to the weeks and weeks of gas sipping efficiency.
Husband and I share this one car. We also have the bikes and trailer for in town errands. We manage multiple jobs, week long camping trips and Iowa winters, with very little hassle or problem. Square bales fit in the trunk, and if I pop a seat down I can fit 8ft lumber in. Granted I only need to do those things a few times a year, but it's always awesome to watch the truck driving people as I load up everything they're loading up , but in a car half the size of their gas guzzling behemoth. And don't even get me started on how awesome it is to get groceries or visit the community garden on the bike. Even with just our cheap pull behind trailer, it's really enjoyable for the whole family. Rowen gets some fresh air, Dave and I get exercise, it's a win-win.
All that aside, I recognize that our family may need to get another car in the next few years. While I can cram one man in there, Rowen's not going to stay small forever, and cramming two leggy guys into the Civic would be torture. We're not about to compromise on fuel efficiency, just to buy an "American" car, not when we can so easily meet all of our needs without compromising. Detroit, are you listening? I wouldn't have bailed you out, I'm certainly not going to give you money for gas guzzling crap cars. Is it so much to ask for a 4 door car with at least 35mpg and price under 20k? Honda doesn't think so.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kindergarden - What's new?

What's new in my garden this summer? The green onions were new this year. The spring round of them is done now, to much success. I am going to try a fall round, which will be planted in another couple of weeks. The other new thing is the amount of vine crops I'm trying to grow this year. In the past I have only had the room for a couple vines of squash goodness. This year, due to lawn space and the community garden plot I have all of the following planted.
Black Beauty Zucchini
Gold Zucchini
Parade Cucumbers
Butternut Squash
In addition to those varieties, I have a couple of vines sprouting from the compost pile, where several acorn squashes met a moldy end over the winter. So, I'm hopeful that I'll get some locally adapted acorn squashes from those.

Rowen's interest continues to wax and wane. I can usually get him interested for a few minutes if there's something related to bugs, mud, or piles of things. :-D He did pull a few leaves off a weed last week, as his contribution to the weeding task.

I wish veggies made noises. :-D Rowen is learning words right now, and is fascinated by the noises that other things make. I'm sure if veggies went, "Ding" or "Woooo wooo" he would be much more excited by them. The last few thunderstorms have been gold mines for noises that need names and repeated mimicry. :-D Thankfully they've barely made any damage in the garden. We had a beautiful lily get knocked down last night, and some branches from our big tree. Storms like that remind me of yet another positive benefits of root crops, they are unperturbed by wind.

If you are wondering about the Kindergarden blogging, check out Inadvertent Gardener for the details.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Solstice - 2011

Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the point of the year with the longest day length. For gardeners, this means anything planted after that day will have less sunlight every day. So, I try to have everything in before the solstice, and then I shift into harvest/weed mode for a month or so until it's time to plant for fall/winter.

This spring has been pretty good, in spite of the wind and rain I've got everything in that I needed to get in, and a few extras.

Rowen helped me plant the community garden plot. (And by help I mean he napped for the first hour, then blew some bubbles, and then followed me around like a little duckling making his quack quack noise.) We put straw around the squash hills, which have sprouted and grown real leaves. We put seeds in for some more purple green beans, (because you can never have too many) kohlrabi, (sorry dear, I couldn't resist) two different basils, a red and a green, and some swiss chard. We also rescued some sad looking onion transplants and put them in the ground, I don't know if they'll make it, but I'm not worried about it either way. While we were there we met our garden plot neighbor, Ms Linda. She was very nice.

The home garden is also bursting at the seams with freshly planted warm weather crops and lush well grown cool weather crops. Garlic scapes were harvested this past weekend. Bulb production is looking good. Onions are bulbing nicely too. Cabbages have started to head. Lettuces are sending up seed stalks. Peas are covered in pea pods, but due to the herbicide spray from last year, I'm hesitant to eat them. I'll likely save them all for seed. Beans are looking good and are about to flower, as are potatoes. I got 10 tomato plants planted, with organic egg shells crumbled into each hole to stave off blossom end rot. (I'm hearing reports of blight in the NE again, keep an eye on tomatoes again this year.) I also got three pepper plants in and a few herbs. :-) We should be good on tomatoes and peppers, if they produce well. *cross fingers* Rowen wasn't able to help with the tomato planting as the mosquitoes were about to carry me away, and it was decided he should stay inside with Dave. They both helped slather me with anti-itch creme as soon as I was done. Such nice boys.

Speaking of the men-folk. Rowen did get to help with the card we made for Father's Day. I put some cut out letters in a ziplock with a few dabs of paint and let Rowen squish it all around. (I think there was some hammering involved too.) Once a nice tie-dye look had been achieved on the letters I took them out and let them dry. We then colored a nice background on a construction paper card and I glued the letters onto that. :-) Yay crafts!

Happy Solstice everyone, enjoy summer!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Renting + Gardening

I'm a gardener. I quit fighting the impulses 6 years ago with my first veggie plot. Every year since I've put some seeds in the ground, and most years see an increase in my total area of cultivated ground. The amount I harvest is pretty substantial as well, my estimates are in the hundreds of pounds, for the past couple of years. I use a variety of spaces, right now those include my front lawn, flower beds in the side lawn, a dozen containers, and a community garden plot.

With all that, some people are surprised when they learn that I'm a renter. I've been renting for longer than I've been gardening, so the gardening habit has formed around that constant. (If you can call moving every year a constant.)

The year with the highest amount of harvest was during the year when we lived in a 1 bedroom basement efficiency with newborn Rowen. I had 3 different community garden plots and planted everything in those. 1 was within walking distance, and the other 2 I drove to once a week. Lack of yard space has never held me back. (Yes, I do realize how lucky I am to live in Iowa where growing things and green spaces and good soil are still the norm.)

Fast forward to this year, and I've dug up large swathes of the yard, put lots of love and attention and perennials into the flower beds and started a community garden that I may never see grow up.

Yea, I am putting in a lot of work for the rental house and our (probably) temporary home town. We're in a stable position right now, we've been here for almost a year and a half now and will likely stay for 3-4 total. I know my family will see some benefit from it. Things like the rhubarb and chives and sage planted last year are already producing tons. I like the thought of leaving a place better than I found it. It's a common philosophy, from Boy Scouts to Burners, (don't go off on tangent about boy scouts, don't go off on tangent about boy scouts...) Somehow, it still surprises people when they see it in practice.

The way I figure it, just because I won't live here forever doesn't mean I should limit my gardening. I was clear about my gardening intentions from the first time we came to look at the house. The landlady is not very garden saavy herself, but has given me pretty free reign to dig as I please. I return that trust by making sure that the flower beds not only look waaay better than how I found them, they will remain pretty long after I leave. (Perennials.)

The habit puts me on good footing with neighbors. Usually with rental places the neighbors are tired of the blighted conditions and respond really well to seeing some work put into making the place nice looking. It's not perfect, I'm not going to buy the expensive perennials or craft a year round blooming masterpiece of a bed, but it looks better. Our house isn't the blight of the neighborhood anymore. The neighbors don't have to cringe when they walk by. That is better PR than anything else I do. They'll forgive our pagan-hippy ways if it means I'll keep fixing up the yard and garden beds.

So, all you renters out there, give it a shot. Call up your landlord or landlady. Invite them over for cookies or tea and explain what you want to plant, where you want to plant it and how you'll handle the transition when you leave. That tiny bit of communication is usually all it takes. Once you start, other gardeners will notice, and bring by thinnings/cuttings from their plants to fill in gaps. I planted 4 of my own plants and was gifted another 6 or 7 in that manner.

Apartment dwellers, don't despair. How much does your manager pay to have the greenspace mowed? Can you reduce that cost for them if you take a quarter of the space and turn it into an apt garden? Make it worth their while in a monetary sense and you'll have a strong ally.

This country has a lot of renters. The numbers are growing. We need to feed themselves just as much as homeowners. If we don't start somewhere, who will?