Overshoot: in Today’s World

The challenging part of being a parent is setting boundaries for your children. As parents, we know, giving your child everything they think they want is NOT in their best interest. Or ours. We would raise a generation of “entitlement”-  I want, therefore I should have. The real world has limits. The real world has consequences. The real world (physics) does not care. What does that translate into?

farmstand products

Re-Localizing Quality Foods

The simply way to illustrate this is using food, something we all relate to. Given the choice between fresh cookies hot out of the oven most of us would choose to eat one (or one dozen) instead of broccoli. And that’s OK… unless you make it your lifestyle. We recognize that our body can not sustain itself on junk food. Luckily our body will, looking at those cookies at some point, say ENOUGH. I need some real food.

OK. Let’s extrapolate that out to some areas that are not as clearly seen and the internal limits not as explicit.

Historical Constraints

Historically population growth was constrained by disease, food availability, and war (kill off the young men). We lived in a world bound by certain constraints. If you could not grow enough food, or have something to trade for food, you starved. If you did not eat well enough, you were more susceptible to disease and would die off. If you had “resources” that others wanted they would come to take yours (war). I.e. If they did not have enough food or resources, your’s was up for grabs. Pretty basic raw life, for most of history. We’ll just move in and take over someone else’s stuff (land, food, gold, timber, you name it).

To some degree there was a rough check and balance system, by nature, in play. Too many people? Some will die (starvation, disease, war).

Technological Trap

What happens in today’s world. Because of our technological increased capacity to feed the “world” (in varying degrees, but still, compared to history) our population numbers have exploded past the carrying capacity of many countries. It’s called OVERSHOOT.footprints-1

Overshoot… you are consuming more than is being produced. Your waste products are not being broken down fast enough to prevent toxic buildups. You are consuming the very things you need to provide your future.

The answer, in the past, has always been to move to fresh territory. Take it and use it, regardless as to who was there originally; in human terms “might” trumps all. Your tribe (family, clan, tribe, country, race, etc) comes first. Everyone else becomes the “enemy” and it translates to “OK to take from”.

Reality Is A B.I.T.C.H.

We have now reached the end of that storyline. Out of room, no new territory to take, used up, spent, killed off what was there… what does the future bring?

head-in-sand

It brings us face to face with the constraints of reality. Unless, of course, you want to continue the ‘head in the sand game’ that has been played for the last 100 years. As adults we must face the real world and start thinking as adults and not as “entitlement children” who think the hard&fast real world is subject to our wants.

I have little hope that this will happen because we seldom want to give up what we have at present; letting go and moving to a simpler life that respects the limits. We need to treat our land as a valuable resource to be nurtured and preserved. 

That’s where the Britxit comes into this picture.  It’s a country where the common people have said, enough is enough. We have too many people to take care of as it is.  It’s the same theme you hear in the USA about illegal immigrants, etc.

A simplistic way to look at this situation is:  Should your children starve so that others do not?  When you limit your childbearing to provide for the children you have, does that mean that others can come and have as many children as they “have the right to”? and you pay the bill? (i.e. you give up conserving resources, living within your ecological footprint?)

Those questions are tough ones to face.  less-pop

popscaleearth

We either face them & deal with them or endure the consequences long term.

Seriously, each country needs to be able to provide the basic needs for their own population. Develop a society that sustains itself.  Relocalize your food supports.

56 Countries can NOT feed their population without importing food; many of those countries do not have resources to trade for food… and yet their populations are expanding.

When we took the technological steps to develop medicines we removed a constraint that in one sense of the word, kept things in a ecological balance (a rather raw brutal balance). If we choose to remove a constraint then I believe we also need to exercise a balancing technological constraint by utilizing birth control. (I’ve always said that providing food aid needs to include providing birth control as well.) It’s a part of living within nature; not abusing it.

Immigration Policies

This is NOT going to be a popular policy but we must rebalance or nature will do it for us.

If you don’t allow immigrants then you figure out how to live without their “slave labor”. If you can’t fill the job, then the the cost /value will go up until someone will, or learn how to do without.

Moving to another country is another example of using up all the resources in one area and moving to another, to utilize the resources that are there.

Immigrants, refugees are part of that pattern. It sounds cold blooded and harsh to say it, but shifting the problem elsewhere is not a solution. It’s a temporary fix that will result in the same outcome, UNLESS we constrain our population base.

Right or wrong, christian or not, fair or not, it is a reality that must be dealt with or nature will take care of it in her own way. And it ain’t a pretty way….

The proverbial Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Disease, Starvation, & War.line-separator

popbybillions

2016 – we are at 7.5 billion

 

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Life Moves On, the Path Changes

K bull calf - Old World Jersey

Life on the Farm

What a surprise… our journey has taken us from our sustainable farming adventure to big city life in an apartment. Like CRAZY. But again, it’s an education in what many people must deal with.

It, of course, is about following the money.  We were finally able to close on a foreclosed piece land that met the requirements we were looking for, for a future farm.

Dollar-Sign-101

Need Dollars

 

In order to get a construction loan to build on that 4 1/2 acres, someone had to have a formal job.  Thus Jim put out the “word” and got four serious offers back.  Amazing considering he is 64 (ancient wisdom & experience) within two weeks (in the Xmas holiday season, no less.

But none of the job offers were local. The closest (and most appealing because our youngest daughter was here) was San Diego.  We moved into a senior apartment complex in N San Diego, University City.

Instead of the gentle breezes and crickets in the distance, we are now serenaded with breakneck traffic, screaming sirens, and trucks lumbering down the road, shaking our windows day & night.  Our precious little patio is virtually unusable except on Sunday mornings, when the traffic load finally dies down.

I’m quite convinced that our brains and our psyche where never meant to endure the constant onslaught of noise & fumes that filter through the windows.

Interestingly, where there are jobs, there are fairly high rents. Not just a SF-Bay Area phenomenon.  There are many academic, science, medical, and high tech complexes. Very much a mini-silicon valley and toss in some of the most advanced medical facilities in the world (education, research, and patient care). Decent wages but the rents reflect that.

The only advantage we had in a senior complex, the deposit was minimal. We, at least, have a bit of green around us and some trees, plants, flowers, etc. compared to the SD ApartmentComplexhuge beehive complexes that are 5 – 15 stories high apartment complexes, packed shoulder to shoulder to each other. apartments

Depressing and claustrophobic.

But the rental rates are marching their way up to the stratosphere.  We started at $1900  (1,000 sq ft) and will be at $2300 -$2500 (depending on a 6 month lease or a 12 month lease) at our next renewal.  Sad that it is such a waste of monies we would rather put into building the farm. There goes any discretionary income… and I wonder how those raising a family can cope with the chipping away of the income they have while dealing with the increases in expenses just having kids, incurs.

Yes, you can get rents slightly cheaper… and then spend 1-3 hours a day commuting. Really.  Someone asked how far we live from the airport, “depends on the time of day. At the right time it’s only a 18 minute drive. At the wrong time, it’s at least an hour. Same 10 miles.”

We opted for a higher rent, biking to school and work, less commute hours in the car, and more quality home time. It’s all about trade offs.

Someone asked, “How do you like living in San Diego?”.  Well, it is true, the weather is wonderful.  The evenings are spectacular on the coast, rarely too cold & the dry heat is moderated by the ocean so that those living within 10 miles of the coastline live in 70-80 degree weather almost year round.  A lot of people like living here because of the

SD 4thofJulyBeach

the beach in San Diego, 2016 4th of July

weather… and I mean ALOT of people… as in San Diego is the 3rd largest city in California (I had no idea).  It’s now almost non-stop town between the cities of LA & San Diego. That’s a vision of the near future: LA and San Diego merging into one huge metro-complex.

San Diego county has enough water for 800,000 people, I’m told.  With a population of 3 MILLON water has to be “brought in”. Not just water, but food as well. Very little arable land to grow; good crops of boulders, rock and sand. Not enough water or food to support the population base in San Diego County, by a long shot.  If one could subsist on avocado’s, strawberries, and flowers one would do just fine.

Just pray that the “next really big one” is not down here in San Diego, as a significant earthquake would take the whole county down rather quickly. Any significant disruption of the transportation or water systems would bring it to it’s knees. transform_fault

The good part of an EQ in this part of the country; it’s two plates sliding past each other. San Diego is headed toward San Francisco. NOT the subduction type EQ that happened in Japan, where one plate is pushing beneath another (and triggering a tsunami).

Folks here live day-to-day, without a thought to what the future might bring; they just party on into the night.

But they do enjoy the weather, and we do as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just WHAT exactly is an emission, I ask!

What does it actually mean, “cut emissions”.  I understand the words themselves, but how does that translate into something in my day to day life?  What is the nitty-gritty reality of how I need to emissionsreformulate my life, my lifestyle? Like normal human beings, I want my cake, and to eat it, too.

Not This OR That, but This AND That

It’s especially funny when you consider the dichotomy of today’s media that regurgitates non-stop messages that are in direct contradiction to what we are being told we need to do, to ‘save’ the world.

It’s like saying ‘breath, but don’t breath’… or’ eat but don’t eat’ via TV, radio, internet, billboards, almost anywhere you look.  Those “hidden messages” are there… CONSUME to grow the economy, else there goes someone’s job (and corporate/wall street profits)… but “cut emissions” to protect the environment/slow-reverse global warming.

The reality is, that this is more than just “carpool” or don’t BBQ on certain days, or don’t run small engines (lawnmowers, blowers).

Greenhouse-gas-emissions-by-economic-sector-IPCCWhere do those fantastical magic “emissions” come from?  Well let me tell you, not just from cars and small engines!

Try the clothes you wear, the couch you sit on, the computer you compute on, the books you read, the food you eat, etc., etc., etc. Just about everything produces emissions… somewhere.

Most of it elsewhere; out of sight, out of mind…. I don’t feel guilty because I don’t even connect the two.

CONNECTING THE DOTS

Buy a new top? Do you need it? ‘just love those colors, that style, Jane has one, I’ll look so cool’, etc.

But what if it translated to a death? or serious health issues?  Because mom, working in the 3rd world factory, to produce ‘your discretionary purchase’, gets sick from the fumes of the machinery she works on 12 hours/day. Or triggers asthma in the surrounding populations of children from the particulate matter so thick in the air, they have to wear a mask to go outside?

But it’s just a top…. just one.

Yep… some 1 million ‘just one’ do tend to add up, though. The reality is the particulate matter index that is objective, coldly, unflinchingly real.

OK, bring it closer to home. I love seafood. We’re loosing a dramatic portion of our seafood ecosystem: shellfish (oysters, clams, shrimp,etc) because they are having problems making their shells.  The ocean waters are becoming acidic at a rate 10 to 100 times faster than ever mapped. Ocean core samples tell us 65 million years ago was the last time the oceans were so acidic.  The ocean ecosystem needs a bit more than just a 50 years to adjust to such a dramatic change in their world. (By the way, the ocean plankton produce 50% of the O2 we breath!)

The oceans absorb and hold 50 times as much carbon (CO2) as the air.  Shellfish can’t make their shell’s in water that is too acidic. Those that already have shells, find that their shell is dissolving. In a human being, an acidic change like that in our bloodstream, would cause seizures and death. Such a simple little thing with some really, really long term consequences.

We have to reverse the trend,  but because the acidification has already been put in motion, it will take a while.  Think of a rock that goes over the edge. Once it goes over, it’s pretty dang hard to get it back. In fact, you don’t. You just wait till it get’s to the bottom and deal with the consequences.

MY BACKYARD

Let’s bring it really close to home.  Remember that top you purchased?  Now it comes time to wash & dry it.  Did you know there is NO SUCH THING as an energy efficient electric dryer?  That term is called an oxymoron; two words joined that mean the opposite of each other.

solar array countryWhen we lived off-grid for 4 years I had to learn to pay attention to some little details.  How many watts did it take to run something. Our advantage was that it was solar that powered our setup, so outside the production & transportation of the solar array, it was now emission neutral.

But we lived on a “budget” of watts that were available for use. A tiny inefficient college refrigerator “cost” almost as much to run as my super energy efficient french door fridge! Amazing.  It paid to look at the “details”.

A laptop.. 40.  Crockpot… 100. An iron… 1,000.  An electric dryer…4,000.

The real day-to-day choice is, do I hang that top up on the clothesline to dry or toss it in the dryer?  If I hang it up, will I need to iron it? Just how many watts am I using? (watts = emissions, generally, unless you have solar panels). And come to think of it, how often do I need to wash something, really.

Here in sunny California, with our ongoing drought, I suspect one of the most significant things we can do at this point (having already done the usual conservation measures) is to REDUCE the amount of laundry we do.  It consumes water and energy. Lots. Moving water creates emissions.

In our current society of plenty, we wear something once, toss in the laundry.  Washer & dryers were touted as labor saving devices when they first arrived on the scene.  But people increased the number of things that went into the laundry such that there was no ‘extra time saved’ because you had more to do. More to do = more emissions. More water used and more emissions to move the water, to get to you.

WHAT IF?

What if you did something wild and crazy… like purchased fewer items, picked more durable fabrics,energy cloth use wore them longer, wore them more frequently.

What is the net result? Any impact on emissions? Take the challenge… reduce your wardrobe, increase the wear time between washing, hang it on the line to dry.  Can you see the domino effect of that simple change in lifestyle?

Jim has two sets of jeans… one set for office work and one set for farm work. Now the office work jeans don’t ever really get what I call dirty. EVER. They get crinkled.

His farm jeans… OMG, they get so much dirt/crud on them, they could almost stand up by themselves. Wash something when it really does need it. Otherwise, air it out.

I remember as a kid, when I had 2 pairs of shoes. One pair for church, one pair of tennis shoes for everyday wear. If I needed something nice, it was the church shoes that got worn.

REAL PRICE? 

Price, and having the ability to pay it, is not the only consideration anymore. What are the other costs that we are asking others to pay?

Is it something actually, definitively needed? or just “wanted”?

See… Wall Street, Public Relations, Media, Psychologist have gotten very, very, very good at their “business” of appealing to our wants, in order to fund their profits.  On the surface, it just seems to be about having the dollars to pay for something. But it is the “something” they are telling us we should want/have/desire/deserve to have regardless of the real price being paid. Never mind those other “costs”, they don’t concern you.

One of the best books I read in high school, was called, “The Hidden Persuaders”. Originally published in 1957, The Hidden hiddenPersuaders by Vance Packard, was the first book to show how the manipulation practices that have come to dominate today’s corporate-driven world began. It has been re-released, and now features an introduction by Mark Crispin Miller, revealing how advertisers use psychological methods to tap into our unconscious desires in order to “persuade” us to buy the products they are selling.

If you listen to a commercial today (we rarely do, thank you TiVo & the fast forward button on the remote control), there is seldom any real information; it’s all a sales pitch with little relationship to reality. “You deserve this”, “This will make you more appealing – people will like you”, etc. Even supposedly factual information is slanted to convince you that this will be good for you somehow.

They are never ever looking out for my interests, it’s only about profit. Period.

TAKING IT BACK

But I can take all that back.  I don’t have to buy into the ‘game’.

Some years back, we stopped (heaven forbid) celebrating Christmas, the commercial Xmas.  It was such a joy and relief. We had quiet time together.  We actually enjoyed visiting with family and friends.  It stopped being about the gifts and the crazy-making circus that went with that.  Now, we don’t have little ones, and we will buy gifts for the children. But limited in scope/dollars.  It no longer runs the show.

Media tells you, “you need this and that” but do you really? Or is it just so you can spend your life paying them their profits? at the expense of real connection; talking, sharing, working together, playing, etc.

IT IS POSSIBLE TO MAKE CHANGES

Our current lifestyle styles have created the long-term problems that will effect the whole world.  It’s time to reverse that process. A world based on consumption i.e. producing emissions, is headed toward extinction. The only real questions is do we want to go down that path. If not, then now is the time to make thoughtful choices. It all begins today.  I think it begins with the a simple question, “Do I really need this “fill in the blank” to live? Followed by, “And is it worth the price others might have to pay?”

Take a close look at how you define the word “NEED”, and is it a substitute for need for approval, need for status, need for competitive advantage, need for control”? It will tell you a lot about who you really are compared to who you “think” you are.

The best thing you can do is to try and lower how much carbon dioxide your lifestyle produces every day. You have heard the phrase, “Recycle, repurpose, reuse, reduce”. Begin to consciously integrate that into your lives and gently suggest & model it to those around you. Change in our culture starts from the ground up, in your home, inside our families.

You may well find a world more satisfying and real.

Looking for the NEW California Gold… part 2

wellDiagramIt was time to start digging. Dig deep.

We’d talked to neighbors and area well drillers about what they had on their land, and what had been produced, in water wells.  An Indian Casino had gone in less than 10 miles away, that farmer’s were worried would suck all the local wells dry.

Neighbor’s were only getting marginal water (low flow and poor tasting, iron-containing staining water) in the 150 ft range. So some issues to consider.  We didn’t want to tap into water that would draw down our neighbors, draining them dry of the little they had.

Ain’t Cheap, That’s for Sure!

At roughly $60 a foot, it would be very expensive to drill.  $6,000 for every 100 ft.  The well driller recommended 200ft. and estimated we would get 35 gallon per minute (GPM). At that flow rate we would not have to put in extra equipment for fire backup. Of course, a total guess based on who knows what, but probably to give us the lowest possible estimate to get a well in. And NO, no guarantees. But, they could get the permit and be ready to drill in less than a month.

(Our first well drilling venture, in Hopland 2005… it took us three years to get a water well drilled! Need I say that we learned a few lessons along that road!)

This well drilling estimate looked good except that it did NOT include actually getting any water out of the ground… which would require a well pump, power, lines, etc. Whole other issues there.

Great folks to work with, Peterson Drilling (in business for over 50 years).  Showed up on time, knowledgeable and willing to discuss the whole process. If you know me, I was in hog heaven! Someone who would explain their work and the processes involved. 

They brought in close to a million dollars worth of equipment (today’s costs to replace the equipment) to start to

Drill Rig setting up

Drill Rig setting up

drill.  Before they began, raised an American Flag to the top of the drilling rig. American business doing real work producing something.

Over four days, they sunk the drill bit through layers and layers of various soil textures.  Along the way they took samples of the “spoils” coming up, and built a pattern of the different layers underlying the property. Some layers the drill bit moved through quickly, other’s it just crawled.  The operator making notes along the way of each change he observed in the “spoils”.

Often you could just “hear” the change in the drilling process to know that the underground terrain had changed. Think about it, you are going back hundreds and thousands of years as you move through those layers.

straining the spoils

straining the spoils

Scientists have taken the drill logs of over 8,000 different drillers, through out California, to build a picture of the underground layers and see the story they tell.

Building a Picture of the Underlying Layers

For us, the first 50 ft were sandy loan, perfect for growing crops. Well drained. This area had been an old flood plain so sedimentary soils had build up over time. And then we hit a clay layer, a creamy beige layer followed by a dark blue layer of clay.  The drillers called it “blue clay” and said it came from an ancient swamp land that had decomposed.

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Blue clay is a “plastic layer”, a layer that water can barely penetrate. Instead of water moving many feet a day through the soil, this layer effectively blocked movement. Limiting it to 1-3 millimeters over a timeframe of a 100 years.  Water under this layer is basically ancient water that is not being recharged  The layer above this was the layer my neighbors had been, and still were, in.

Water “spaces” collapse

The problem with the soils & water withdrawals?  As water was removed, the soil particles compacted in and stuck to each other which prevent water from being reabsorbed into the soils, assuming it could even get there. (Maybe by pumping excess water back into the ground during the rainy season?)

We kept going deeper.  I did not want to be in a water reservoir that the neighbors were drawing on. We needed to go past another clay layer (i.e. through the bottom layer of that upper water reservoir).   A lower level would be a ‘contained’ reservoir, blocked from moving up by the clay layers above it; we would not be pulling out any of the water in the upper reservoir they were located in.

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

We hit the 200 ft level. No. Not far enough down.  

Good water bearing rock should be gavel-like in texture, some sand is ok, but small rocks are better.  Allows water to collect in the spaces and not as likely to compact down and prevent future water movement. Still no sense of any good layers of water bearing material.  Driller said, “I’m sure there IS water; how much or the quality? I have no idea.”

Keep going… I named 300 ft as the end point.  Somewhere between 200-300 feet we needed to find the right texture make-up of the layers.  I had to leave… couldn’t take the watching & waiting. I just knew I had committed our limited resources to the edge. We either got a return on it, or not (if we didn’t or if it was just minimal, it would severely limit what we could do with the farm land.)

Besides, I figured it was the ol’ boiling water figure of speech…. watching it wouldn’t make it happen any faster.

It was the middle of the 3rd day.  They would finish drilling and then start pumping water INTO the well to flush it out, and see what we would actually get.

Flushing the Well with Water

I came back. As I drove up, I could see the well head gushing water out.  They had placed a black tub on top to direct the water downward into the mini-drainage canal they had built at the start, to channel all the “spoils”.

Water, water

Water, water

Asking the driller how much longer they had to flush the well before we would know how much water we would get; he laughed, “honey, that’s not water we are flushing the well with, that IS  your water coming out.” I was shocked, stunned… on the verge of tears, actually.

I had prepared my self for a dribble,  3-4 gallons a minute that with a storage tank, you could get by on.

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

He was telling me we had a 100 GPM flowing from the well, of good water. No sulfur, no iron, just pristine water.

Ancient water that did not have hormones, antibiotics, industrial chemicals leached into it, protected by the upper layers of clay.

We even had enough water that we would be able to share with our neighbors.

Severe Drought in a Desert State

Why was I so shocked?  Here we are in the middle of the worst drought in California in over a hundred years, and we actually found water.  Turns out in the last 100 feet they drilled, roughly 85 ft of it was water-bearing material.  They hit another thick clay at 307 ft and stopped at that point.

Management becomes the key issue.  And will be an interesting point for discussion. How should water be managed? and why?

Water management in the past, and the future…

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

In the Central Valley of California (Sacrament Valley & San Joaquin Valley, 20-70 miles wide by 400 miles long) agriculture there has resorted to pumping from the aquifers to feed the water hungry farms.  Of course that valley production provides a quarter of the food for the entire country.  Move over one valley closer (cooler) to the coast, to Salinas and farmers produce close to 90% of some crops to the entire US. If you eat, a good portion comes from California farms.

Ground water, for years, has not been able to meet the needs of the industrial sized farms, despite building huge canals and moving water directly to the area.

The largest number of well permits ever issues, has occurred in the last two years.  Wells are being drilled to a 1,000 ft or more, as the surface wells (to 300 ft) dry up.

Land subsidence is dramatic; certain areas have dropped some 30 ft in the last 50 years. In the last 3 years of this drought, the land is collapsing in at the rate of a foot a year; as the water is removed, the land subsides.

collapsing layers as the water is removed

collapsing layers as the water is removed

Because it is becoming compacted it can never again hold water in the volume it has held in the past. This is happening in a relatively progressive state.

Ogallala Aquifer, largest in the USA, is already being pumped dry…

It has already happened in the mid-west where one of the world’s largest aquifer is located. The Ogallala Aquifer, spanning eight states, has been drawn down to a quarter

Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala Aquifer – spanning eight states

of it’s initial size, in less that 60 years of intensive farming. Estimates mark 2028 as the expected date for the water to be gone.

Water that took thousands and thousands of years to collect… gone.  It would take a 100,000 years, it is estimated, to replenish the water naturally. It recharges at roughly one inch a year; while being drawn down 5 ft a year, in places.

Contamination ~ no way to undo that damage

The other danger? They want to build the Keystone XL pipeline right through the land the overlies the Ogallala Aquifer.  Don’t worry, “we won’t let it contaminate the water” by leaking into it! Right, as if I believe that one. If it happens, it’s something you can’t take back. Is that a gamble you want to take? Just how much DO you trust cost conscience corporations?

It is the time for each one of us to begin to say, it’s enough. It’s time to start thinking and acting sanely.  

You say, “It’s the corporation, it’s big business, it’s someone else’s problem.” But if you drive, if you heat or cool your home, if you eat food… you ARE part of the issues.  It is time to start taking responsibility for what needs to happen, on a local level. If you are waiting for big government to make changes, they won’t until you make it happen.

California Gold, in a Desert State, is called WATER

So I look at my “California Gold” and am reminded of my responsibility to the future… it forces me to consider a broader picture than just me and my “tribe”.  The need to chart a path that builds resilience for the future rather than just doing the traditional “taking” today, for me and mine. Actually, it’s what we all need to be doing, and doing it actively before we have no more choices.

Dang! We found the new “gold”… for California, Part 1

To bring our adventure up-to-date; after we were unable to renew our lease on the hundred year old homestead we were at, we search for another piece of land.

Looking for land

Looking for land, for grass-fed Lowline Angus (miniature beef)

Of course, the challenge in the North Bay Area (north of San Francisco) is buying anything that does not include “an arm & a leg” i.e. lots and lots of dollars.

We watched area sales (2 acres or more) for 3 years (seriously, 3 years) before we came across one possibility that met our criteria. We were looking between Petaluma & Santa Rosa, CA.

Critical criteria for a Land Purchase

  • WATER: It’s not even worth looking at a piece of land if you don’t have good water. Good water meaning, reliable & uncontaminated, and likely to stay that way.
  • CLIMATE: Amenable to growing things, & not likely to suffer too badly with the increasing heat issues.
  • SOIL:  Reasonable fertility without a history of chemical use, heavy traffic exposure (exhaust fumes from vehicles leaving their generous gifts), not downstream from nasty stuff that could come from rain run-off.
  • COMMUTE:  Realistically, we needed to be able to access the “paying job” fairly easy and/or mass transit
  • COMMUNITY:  A farm-friendly area with a community of like-minded folks, would be wonderful.
Morning brings cooling fogs

Morning brings cooling fogs

Our previous venture into farming, by leasing land in Cotati for three years, allowed us get a feel for the area and assess the suitability.  We fell in love with the ‘goldilocks’ climate ONE HOUR north of SF,  (not too hot, not too cold, but just right) with the added feature of minimal humidity. (I’ve lived in the south and dripped through those hot sticky summers already! Been there, done that.)

We learned to use hoophouses/greenhouse setups to extend the season/increase the heat for plants that did need it. Located just 30 min east of the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, provided climate air-conditioning.  (By the way, if you go to San Francisco, don’t leave home without a coat, even in the summer. It’s surrounded by ice-cold water on three sides.)

Seniors don’t tolerate heat well as they age, so we were thinking ahead. Plants need heat, seniors notso much.

COMMUNITY

Sonoma/Marin/Mendocino/Napa counties, in California, are on the forefront of interests in sustainable farming development.  Priceless. Incredibly well educated population with an interest in creating what will be needed for our future. Numerous small startup & ventures into relocalizing our

farm trails
foods with a view to “real” sustainable practices. Working with the soil & it’s microbial life, nurturing it, building it, not stripping it. A community which valued quality, healthy, local foods to support the small farms.

This area has several very active Grange Halls; community groups that work to protect and support the small farmer.

 

OK. we just needed to locate a piece of land, now that we had identified the area/community & climate. With that, we could then look at water & soil quality once we found something.

WOW, was that a challenge.

I scoured the real estate listing. Was on several email boards that would send me a link immediately if something with any land, was up for sale, & I watched Craigslist. Keep my ear to the ground for possible “future sales” coming up.  Those I did see:  98% were not even worth considering. If they passed muster on my criterial list, they were multiples of $100,000’s out of our price range.

Had to think of the future income… being able to live on a pension and make those payments.

EUREKA (california slag for “I found it”!)

Feb/March of 2014 we hit a possible property.  A craigslist post… a foreclosure. Called immediately.

Almost 5 acres, but basically raw land.  No house (or water, or septic/sewer, or power) but had wonderful ol’ oak trees and an old chicken barn that still had a roof and was standing (barely). It had some acres that were perfect for growing hay/forage. Rural, yet 10 min access to freeway.

NO water. When I researched …Hmmm, neighbors on both sides, poor water amount and poor quality (iron).  

We knew the area well enough to realize that this was an old river plain.  Talked with the county geologist/hydrologist who showed us maps of the water basins in the county.  Many areas had virtually no water.  But… the area we were looking at… housed one of the largest & deepest aquifers in the county because it used to be, thousands and thousands of years ago… a flood plain, river basin, swampy area.  We had a good shot at getting, at the least, decent water i.e. 3-5 gal/min for home and 7 gal/min to do some irrigation (crops). It would be uncontaminated water (no hormones, antibiotics, industrial chemicals).

We gritted our teeth and took the plunge.  Pulled together every penny we could, and working with a wonderful seller, made a deal that allowed us to purchase the land.

PRICED TO KILL THE DREAM   Farming ventures in this part of the northern California are

Re-Localizing Quality Foods

Re-Localizing Quality Foods

 

basically priced out of existence, unless you have family land or have hooked in to some special deal. But the average young farmer is significantly challenged if they are trying to start up. Why? If your mortgage is $5000/month that’s a heck of a lot of potatoes to have to sell, and that doesn’t even cover your living expenses.

We learned the hard way that just paying the taxes on land, can be more than you can make by farming. Why are the costs so high? ‘Cause we’re so close to SF & Silicon Valley… where their are still jobs that pay good wages. Those salaries push the prices for land/homes skyward.

Previously, on our first land purchase, a very expensive learning curve, we figured we would have to sell one cow a month just to pay the taxes… but the 65 acres of land that we had, could not support that many cows.

That was JUST to pay the taxes. Rocky hills, minimal pasture (great for a vineyard, not so great for raising crops or livestock). Talk about a conundrum when you are working to “relocalize” your food for community resilience!

We ended up taking a big hit when we sold that piece of land, loosing all of our investment and then some, but we recognized that it was a no-win situation (Crash of 2008-9). We were able to sell the acreage and ended up with a little cash in pocket.

More importantly, we did come out with an awesome education and awareness of things we needed to consider closely, when we did purchase again.

to be continued… “drilling for water” (or sweating bullets)

 

WARNING! Ultra-Pasturized Milk issues

Ever wonder what the difference is in the milk in the store?

 What’s the difference between the brands? and why different prices?

 It is much cheaper to move milk around if you take all the water out!

You take the water out, you take out the water-soluble components in the milk. whole-milk-powder

 

 

Many processors “reconstitute” the milk and then ship it to the store. Except for two producers here in california, all milk is pasteurized. Because the pasteurization process can damage the components of milk, much of that is added back via a chemical additive.  Not always the same thing as the “cow” put out.

Think sweetener: sugar, saccharin, stevia, glucose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)…  all called sweeteners but all very different. So when they “add” Vitamin D to the milk, is it in the same form that the cow produced, that our bodies can absorb?

whey protein chart The “cheaper brands” take the milk apart and then try to reassemble it as inexpensively as possible, to keep that price low.

I know if you make cheese from commercial milk, you have to add calcium back into the milk!  ultra pasteurized milk can NOT even be used to make cheese.

Ultra-Pasteurized WARNING!

 I’m finding that it is almost impossible to find milk that has NOT been ultra pasteurized (even those called organic).

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

 We have another name for ultra pasteurized milk.

It’s called: 

“white water that lives on the shelf

long time!”

It is “cooked” at very, very high heat which alters the milk, and allows it to not go bad on the shelf, for weeks.

 Think of the difference between a raw egg, and an overcooked scrambled egg. They are NOT the same product, even though they had the same beginning and both can be called ‘an egg’. Heat can dramatically alter the product.

 Organic milk, that is ultra pasteurized, is stripped of the very properties that made it a good buy.  I talked with some dairy farmers who provide this organic milk and asked why this was done. They said that they had NO CONTROL despite being a farmer co-operative. The buyer’s of their milk (processor) did it to make the milk last longer.

 Clove:straussLucky, so far, some local dairy operations, CLOVER & Strauss do NOT ultra pasteurize their milk.  If you want to support local dairy operations here in Northern California, these are two great ones. In fact, Strauss (the glass bottles) does a very low heat, slow process that preserves the components in the milk.

 

Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for!”  Yes, their milk might look pricier but you are actually ending up with “more” for your money.

 (I understand that all Clover milk is organic but they can only “sell” so much at the higher price that they get for it, but much of their “non organic branded” milk can be organic. If you have to choose, this might be a less expensive milk to choose! I have been told this, but can NOT verify that this is true.)

Strauss, also, does NOT homogenized their milk. There is some thought that vigorously mixing the milk and breaking up the fat globules to “homogenize” the milk, actually damages it. Thus you will see a separation level in the milk bottles, without this “forced” mixing. Shake to mix before pouring.  Or, better yet, steal some off that top-level, for cream for your coffee!

Pasture-Butter-325A side note:  If you can buy butter, made May-September, do! 

Several companies are beginning to market it because of the higher vitamin, CLA levels from the fresh pasture. You can freeze butter up to a year. But only butter that is from pastured cows!

Some Economic Beef Background:

I don’t know if you know, but the cost of feed/hay has dramatically increased over the last 5 years.  When we started, hay was $5/bale and now is at $20+/bale.  A lot of this is due to the severe drought conditions in the midwest & south… with everyone trying to “source” hay to feed their cattle.

We’re lucky because our costs are lower since we DO NOT EVER feed grain, and we have access to some awesome pasture on the Mendocino Coast.  We have focused on compact heritage Angus beef that have the genetics to do well on forage only. Our beeves are raised mostly on fresh forage. They are only supplemented occasionally, with hay, to protect from over-grazing.

grass fed lowlines

Ranging the land

 Commercial ranchers in the mid-west and south literally dumped their herds into the slaughter houses last year, because they could not afford to feed them, or even in some cases, have enough water for them.  Herds in 2013 are the lowest size since the 1950’s.

 Initially, prices on commercial beef at the store dropped, but you will start to see a dramatic increase in price (in some places it has already started).

The Heritage Farm – Healthy Food: 

 Again, I will remind you of my “spiel” that grass-fed beef has the Omega3:Omega6 ratio that is healthy for the human body.

Because our beeves are raised on pasture, they will have high levels of CLA’s (associated with cancer fighting properties). See EatWild.com for in-depth information on the positive benefits from eating “pastured products”!

Beef from grasslands is a completely different product than that raised in  a feed lot.  So is the butter, 1/2&1/2, milk.

Anyway guys, hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too MUCH info! But I’ve wanted to share some of this and thought you might find it interesting.

The more I see of the health complications in our world the more important I realize it is to provide quality food. It’s the little things we can do, for our family and friends, to help and to protect them.

Products Available:

100% Grass-fed Angus Beef halves available:  Only have 4 half portions available.  Min  weight: 125# (up to 140#)

USDA processed, cut & wrapped  – Works out to roughly $7-8/lb for 100% grass-fed beef.

Our heritage line of Aberdeen Angus has had no hormones, no antibiotics. They are raised on pristine pasture with their mothers, on the Mendocino Coastline utilizing rotational managed grazing, which increases the health of the soil/forage.

$959/per half, whole $1800. Can be paid in 4 installments.

[Cost by the cut: $7/lb ground meat (NO added fat), stew meat

                        $10/lb roasts, ribs, misc cuts

                        $15/lb steaks        ]

 (Please check Oliver’s or Whole Foods and you will find these are EXTREMELY reasonable prices.)

 But the best deal is to buy a half (join up with a friend and share).

Bulk pricing gets you the best deal, which you already know!

We have already done all the work: birthed, raised up humanely, harvest, & custom cut & wrap.

 All locally done (within a 100 mile radius).

– ready April 8th.

CONTACT:

email me if you are interested in a beef half.

Also, we have just got our order of USDA heritage Berkshire hog pork in.  Again, no antibiotics, no hormones, raised in an outdoor setting.

 If you want: pork chops, ground pork, apple-sausage links, bacon,ham, or back-fat to make lard, let me know. Back-fat lard is awesome for cooking and seasoning beans, stews, etc.

I can send you a price list.

Cheers!

Amy

Aiming for a “real” christmas?

On your mark….

OMG, I walked into a store and was just overwhelmed with the onslaught of possibilities of

Decorate the House!

things I could purchase to create the most wonderful Christmas. My heart sped up!  Decorate the house, the yard, the office…  Buy that perfect, special gift for (fill-in-the-blank) uhhhh, wait… purchase?

The psychology of advertising is incredibly efficient and effective. We have learned the “triggers” that motivate people to do what we want, in the short-term, and have applied that to the science of sales.

Corporations have put in place powerful hooks to sell their “goods” by triggering our psychological buttons.  We want to please, we are good-hearted and like to share, we love to bring something special into someone’s life, we like to make other’s feel good… and the consumer society that we live in, tells us to do this with “things”.

The “REAL” gifts at Christmas

I would contend that the “real” gifts we give at Christmas are about connecting, sharing, laughing, appreciating, working together, creating community. It is about developing a sense of intimacy where people actually care about who you are and who they are.

It is NOT about the “things” at all. They are simply a method that can be used to express something.  It’s when the item/gift becomes a substitute for the real connection that it is actually a detriment. (Did Johnny get more/better gifts??? don’t they love ME as much? kind of thinking).

Purchase…Christmas, hmmm. Every heard of an oxymoron phrase?  Words spoken together that contradict each other. Oxymoron is one of my most favorite terms.

  • Bitter sweet
  • Deafening silence
  • Military Intelligence
  • Living death
  • Irregular pattern

But Practically… How?

We were able to switch, when I was problem solving the gift issue,  to a variation of gift giving. If there were 6 in our xmas group I would buy 6 useful gifts in a specific price range & wrap them. Before I would have spent hours and many miles trying to find “the” perfect gift for “that” person, a near impossible task incurring a significant amount of stress.

Christmas Present – choose one!

When it came time to open presents, each person was able to select one package (unopened). Interesting to see if people were drawn to size? or to fancy wrapping? I got to have fun being creative with the wrapping!  Once everyone had a wrapped package we would open our gift to see what we had.

Starting with the most senior (or most junior) person, we could trade for another gift and continued this until everyone was happy with what they had. (no trading directly back & forth, of course… had to go through a third-party). It’s a variation of the white elephant gift, but it was a LOT of fun. We laughed and shared; discussed possible uses for a gift for a particular person. We INTERACTED with each other. It was a special time that we shared together. Not as in isolation as I opened “my” gift to see what I had scored!

laughter

A huge part of a “successful” Christmas, is the feeling of connection and interaction generated; laughter, talking, sharing, working together on a project. But western culture has evolved to the acquisition of “things” as our focus. Well, selling more things meant work for

I got WHAT?

more people to make things for people to purchase (until those jobs/plants were sent overseas). How to get out of the ” more trap” and yet still have fun?

Some things I purchased: a quality extension cord, flashlight w/solar charger, a tool kit, a book, calendar, a puzzle, etc. iT NEEDED TO BE USEFUL, NOT PLASTIC JUNK, AND good for male or female.

A gift of something real

You could do this several times ($5 limit, $10 limit, $20 limit). We had MORE fun than the traditional open every gift you have in 5 minutes, and then look to see “what else is there” that quickly resolves to “is that all?” Usually opening presents was a rather depressing experience. Too much expectation built up for getting that “perfect gift” which is, in and of itself, a moving target that we often don’t even know the answer to.

We did get each person one “special” gift they had asked for but that was generally the limit.

The challenge is to defuse the “consumerism” overload of the media. DON’T go into the stores and subject yourself to the assault any more than you must. I think it’s challenging enough just to get through the grocery store these days.

Did you say USEFUL?

I know one couple that chose to buy one major thing each year, and then decided to take $25 each (well, that was many years back, try $50) and see how many USEFUL gifts they could come up with, for that Christmas, for each other.  I always waited, with bated breath, to hear who had won that year’s Christmas year challenge: number of useful gifts within the price target! They choose to make the focus on figuring out what would be of use to their partner which meant they really needed to think about what each was doing, working toward, etc.

Each of us will find our own path… to “deal” with the holiday season.  The challenge is to not let consumerism dictate and undercut the values we hold, or desire to hold.

Was there a Void?

When we are brought up in our current culture we start out by not even questioning the norm.  Except, except for that nagging feeling that something is missing.  We’re suppose to feel a “certain” way… but it isn’t there.  Why? what’s wrong with me?

Uh, NO. It’s NOT what’s wrong with you. It’s what is wrong with the way our process has evolved.

Finding what bring satisfaction

Over years, the traditions have evolved subtly,

to becoming more consumerist and it

produces an “empty” feeling, when that is ALL there is to it. That feeling should challenge us to see out what really fills that void.  As we do, we begin to touch on what has value in the long-term.

This season: Figure out your goal, make a list, and stick to it!, is the mantra!!! Become aware of the “media” pressures to push you in a certain direction.

Try this: sit down with someone this holiday season and ask them about their childhood.

Where they grew up? what they did? who had an impact on them? The doors will open up and you will begin to develop a connection to another human being, in a way that matters. And remember, there is no pressure, there is no one  right way… it is simply “being present” that matters.The challenge is to listen and to focus on that person and the world they are from.

Gathering together

*****************                                  *******************                             ********************

The Ugly American:  After looking at the statistics for this blog site I am blown away at the number of different countries it has gone to.  There is a certain amount of humility in that awareness because I am acutely aware of how incredibly selfish and self-centered americans are. We have so much.  We have so much materially.

It sounds rather tacky to be talking about how many gifts, or how to handle gift giving… when so many in the world will have nothing, or simply having enough food on the table, will be a gift.

In the USA it is a curse for many. The “curse” is that stuff substitutes for connection.

IMO, connection IS what is about. We as children grab for the gaudy wrapped junk, instead of honoring the relationships we develop.

Because I struggle with this dichotomy (Americans have much/many have very, very little) in the past we have chosen a charity to support.  In lieu of gifts, we donate to The Heifer Project: Theheiferproject.org. It fits well with our sustainable farming focus.

sample Catalog page

If you look at their gift catalog, you can choose to help support many different projects (water buffalo, chickens, bees, water, biogas stove, etc).  It’s gift that keeps giving, in many cases.  With livestock and education gifted, some of the offspring are passed along eventually, to others.  It increases awareness, health, nutrition, income, resilience among small communities. I would encourage everyone to find some NGO (non-government operation) to support that fits in with your concerns.

Giving to those you know and care about, is in some senses, not really giving. It’s like giving something to goodwill you no longer want… is that really “giving”?  How about I give away something I REALLY want… a whole different matter.

Contributing to the well-being of those you do not know personally, that adds another aspect to sharing. “Go ye into all the world” in a practical sense… giving something meaningful and of value, to those you do not even know. Isn’t that the real meaning of the “season”?

All the world

Winning the Darwin Prize!

California 2012 voters raced again to the forefront of winning a Darwin Prize*

gmo

gmo (Photo credit: decorat)

By their actions, again, the majority have chosen denial to deal with real issues.  “I don’t want to know if something is really natural or is GMO (genetically modified); I would rather pretend that everything is OK. And then I can avoid having to face the choice of paying the cost for real food.  If you don’t label it, I don’t have to think about what it might mean.  Never-mind that my neighbor might want to have the choice to know.

Hell yes, it will cost us! But it ALREADY costs us in ways we don’t put on the tab.

It was a bit misleading to say that labeling GMO foods would NOT cost anything (because they change the package labels all the time).  The reality is, OF COURSE it would raise the cost of food.  The industrial folks don’t do it ’cause it IS more expense than their created “knock off version” of food.

Trust me, I know.  We have raised our own beef, pork, chicken, and organic veggies.  Doing it to make money is fighting an uphill battle when you price compare to industrial food.  If the industrial people had to label their GMO food, which meant many would not buy, they would have to shift to foods that would increase their cost of doing business.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the industrial complex is in the business of making food; they are in the business of making money.  If the cost of that production goes up, then it gets passed along.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! That cost will show up in your grocery cart.

Did you hear about the Freebies?

Unfortunately, when buying industrial food you are getting a lot of “free” extras! Because it is not staring you in the face, it can be ignored… for a very, very long time.  But it comes back to bite you.  You know, like when you don’t pay the power bill, eventually the power get’s turned off. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will.

So when I see the autism rates are skyrocketing (1 out of 60 births, vrs 1 out of 10,000 historically), when autoimmune disease are epidemic (thyroid, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis), when the onset of diabetes has become the province of staggering numbers of the very young instead of the old, I believe our cultural advances are slowly poisoning us. I wonder just what IS the price we are paying for those freebies.

I know, too many variables to make an absolute correlation.  Well, if I wait to long, I won’t even have to worry about it, will I.  After 30 years in the medical world it did occur to me that the most cost effective patient, after the healthy one, was the dead one. From a strictly monetary assessment of costs. OTOH (On the other hand), a whole new income stream to supply medications to deal with the possible side effects!

Is it the food? The water (with it’s load of residuals of hormones & medications & chemicals) we drink? Or the air? …the neuro-toxic mercury we all breath in and eat (from the residuals of burning coal)? A zillion possibilities… I. Don’t. Know. and I could be wrong.

What is Different?

What I DO know is that there have been some dramatic changes in the last 100 years…  we’ve shifted away 10,000 years ago, from the hunter-gather society that we were bred from. Let’s see: 100,000 years to 10,000 years to 100 years. (And actually, according to the latest research in archeology that 100,000 years is really at least 600,000 years of development).**

We developed over thousands of generations, where survival meant dealing with “upfront & in your face” problems, in your immediate future.  Things like getting away from predators, finding food, staying warm/cool, shelter from the elements, etc. No need to worry about 10 years down the road because immediate survival did not depend on that. Our “stone age brains” are wired for fight or flight, right now.  And maybe, food for the next season.  We survived in a world that utilized what nature provided, for food, in very basic forms.

The Stone-Age Brain: Death by Over-Consumption

We’ve moved into a new realm where, in the Western World, most of us have our basic needs met with highly processed foods & chemicals.  In fact, for many, met to well. Fat, couch-bound, car focused, and entertained until death.

I don’t think our “stone age brains” have had time to evolve to a world of “enough”. We consume as if we can not get enough. (Those details are the meat of another post, though.)

But some will…survive. It’s a brain that has adapted to the new “reality”… that considers cause and effect, actions and consequences on a longer time frame. “Neo-brain”.

Those who think (delayed benefits) about the longer term effects, will be the ones that DO survive as they make the adjustments they see the need for.

Survival battle

darwin

IN or OUT of the genetic pool?

That “stone-age brain” will lose the battle of survival of the fittest because it will kill itself off!  It will be those who consider the long-impact of our actions, that will win that battle, without even having to “fight”. They will simply look for the sustainable practices that will make a difference in long-term survival. And significantly, then take personal action that will make a difference.

The real challenge is to keep the stone-age brains from dragging the survivors down, as the stone-agers grow & harvest the darwin award!

If you kill off that which sustains you… by default you will die.  The problem is that you take a lot of “innocents” along with you. As well, you (the masses) may inflict tremendous damage on the underlying systems. But some will survive. The systems, over time, will re-balance.

Our human nature tells us to reach out to others and alert them to the dangers! One can only reach out to those who are unaware.  Once the “word” is out, if denial is the choice that is made… it is made for not only yourself… but those whom you care for, as well as others who have not made any choice.

Here in California, with the defeat of Prop 37, Label GMO Foods, and the defeat of an added soda tax (to discourage excessive consumption) we are saying that the health of the community cannot be legislated.

And yet, we did pass No Smoking laws, eventually.  So there is hope. Overtime, other parts of the country have made changes as well. With all the issues coming to a head, the question I ask is, “How much TIME do we really have, this time?”

KUDOS to those who spread the word!

They fought a strong battle. 47% of those that voted are now even more aware of the challenges ahead. And many in other states that listened to the battle, learned much as well. Those that could not vote and those that did, can now vote a different way, in the future.

It becomes even more imperative that we vote with our dollars and actions to support those farmers that do see the future, and are helping us to survive this Darwinian hit list!

The quality of our survival will depend on them.

*************************************************************************

* Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.

For example: killing oneself while manufacturing a homemade chimney-cleaning device from a grenade would be eligible;

OR –  John used wood and rope to make a traction device to ease his wife’s neck pain. But applying traction to the neck takes a delicate touch. His DIY (do-it-yourself) medical device turned out to be a gallows, as John found out when he tested it and hanged himself.

** FYI: Atheist, or not?  I personally believe in intelligent guidance, so evolution, for me, is not an anti-bible concept. I find it a matter of “hubris” that man thinks to dictate to “GOD” the details of how things should be done.

GMO’s – the lowdown (guest post)

Occasionally I cross-post something: “60% of our DNA is identical to that of corn and soy, and we have no idea how this transgenic process of altering genes in our food will affect us in the short term or the long term.” 
Congratulations to Baker Seeds, The Seed Bank and all those who worked hard on getting the signatures for the requirement to LABEL GMO products, on the California ballot!  … and this guest post is definitely one on GMO’s that presents a very clear argument for the issues involved.

The Truth About Genetically Modified Organisms – GMO’s

A Guest Blogger ….It’s a fantastic article that could also be titled; Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about GMO’s.

From April 28, 2012 by Soulsby Farm – A Very Small Farm Blog.

My name is Chris Vogliano and I am currently studying nutrition and dietetics at Kent State University in their Master’s Program.  I am conducting my thesis study on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms related to Dietitian’s knowledge and perception of them.  According to previous research, the public trusts dietitian’s to relay current and scientific information on this controversial topic.  However, as I hope to prove in my research, there is a significant knowledge gap in the perception of what dietitian’s know versus the knowledge they actually hold.

I chose this topic because genetically modified foods is personal and strikes an emotional cord.  Ever since discovering the topic, I have unveiled more and more unsettling information about this complicated and controversial process.

Most of American’s have no idea what genetically modified foods are, even though over 80% of our supermarket foods contain them.  Many American’s believe that simple crossbreeding is the same or at least a similar process to that of genetic modification.  Some American’s place trust in the “assumed” strict regulatory processes of the FDAUSDA, and EPA.

Politics plays a much more pertinent role in our lives than anyone wants or cares to believe, and I adamantly feel this with GMO’s…

The patenting of a transgenic soybean in the early 1990’s has had more of an impact than we would have ever imagined. We have seen a revolutionary agricultural shift in the way we grow our produce form even twenty years ago.

Many see this synergy of biotechnology and agriculture as a positive step towards our goal of creating a more economically sound production method for our food.  Big agriculture business has consolidated hands over the years to just a few large corporations, leading with the illusion of solving world hunger and bridging the world’s nutritional deficits.

As a soon to be dietitian who heavily values nutritional philanthropy, I could not have been more eager to learn more about this technology that could potentially curb our world hunger problems.
Let’s take a step back and look at the role of corporations in our society.

While we all vary on our opinions of specific corporations, deeming some as good and some evil, we have to remember one simple fact.  Through all the humanitarian efforts some might drape over their figurative bodies to display a positive PR image, corporations have one goal and one goal only.

The primary goal of a corporation is to increase profits for its shareholders. Plain and simple.

While some corporations may choose donations and community building tactics to seem selfless, at the end of the day it is simply to make you feel better about being a customer of their product.  This is not to demean the great things some corporations have done, but to call it an altruistic act is not so valid (arguably, is anything actually selfless? a question better saved for your philosophy 101 class).

Back to the grit of GMO’s – The basics of genetically modifying organisms is as follows:

A desired gene from a species not related to the host organisms is transferred into the cultivar or desired product (while sounding simple, this is actually quite a complex process).  The interesting part is that we don’t know how this transgenic, or crossing DNA from one foreign species to another affects humans or the environment.  This technology was developed and implemented into our food supply less than 15 years ago.

Monsanto is the largest corporate sponsor of GMO’s, fighting for their governmental acceptance worldwide ever since their creation.  A quick lesson on Monsanto’s history:

One of the first products Monsanto created was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which we now know can cause cancer

The next major products were DDT, Lasso, and Agent Orange, which we now know are highly carcinogenic.

Now they are trying to sell the idea of “genetically modified seeds” to us as being healthy and safe, when in all reality they are a self regulating organization whose primary interest is not the health of the consumers, but the money in their pocket.

European countries have strict regulatory standards and most countries have stopped the production of GMO’s until further testing has taken place.  Those countries who do have GMO corn must blatantly label their products with the phrase “this product contains genetically modified ingredients”, which protects the integrity of the food supply and the safety of the consumers.

GMO seeds have NEVER been tested in human trials to determine the impact they have on our bodies.

60% of our DNA is identical to that of corn and soy, and we have no idea how this transgenic process of altering genes in our food will affect us in the short term or the long term.

The only test currently being done to determine the safety of these products is happening right now, in our grocery stores.

As American’s, we deserve the right to know what is in our food. There is a serious need for us to take action on this issue that will help define the future of the agricultural food chain. We need the health of our food to lean in our favor, and not that of large corporate interest.

While there has been unethical practices that have been slipped passed the American consumers unbeknownst to them in the past decade, there has never been a more opportune moment to express out opinion than now.  More than ever, people are forming organizations and events to express their desire to have genetically modified foods labeled.  It is out food supply and we deserve the right to know what we are consuming.

think. be educated.

For more information or to get involved (highly encouraged!) visit:

www.Saynotogmos.org

www.nongmoproject.org

www.labelgmos.org

www.truefoodnow.org

LinkedIn Account:
www.linkedin.com/pub//chris-vogliano/41/806/370

WordPress account

http://chrisvogliano.wordpress.com/

Three things to do, which will MAKE you $’s

OK, OK. I’m sure you’ve heard the “scams” over the years…. follow MY advice and earn “millions” with very little effort! Of course, most of those guys… want a small “fee” to tell you what you need to do. If you operate on the theory that “you get what you pay for”, it does make sense in a way… to charge. I’ve paid some of those guys, and I did learn.  I didn’t learn about millions, that’s for sure, though.  But it did help me learn to think outside the “box”.

On a farm, in suburbia, in an apartment…. there are at LEAST three things you can do that will make you dollars. Most of us think in terms of “bringing MORE dollars home”, but just as useful is to think of it from a different angle.  Less dollars going out.

Cost of  Making Dollars vrs Keeping your Dollars

Usable Dollars

If you MAKE dollars, via wages, you must pay approx 1/3 or more, to the government.  Often, if those are the “last dollars” you make (i.e. on top of your regular salary), it may be taxed at an even higher rate.  If you factor in: taxes, social security, sales tax when you spend the money, and the higher tax bracket you’re  forced into…

I would guess you can only count on 50% of each additional dollar that you EARN as being actually in your hot little hand! (If you had to pay child care while you made those dollars, then you are probably in negative territory).

That was the cool thing about the stock market… you could let your money do the work while you stayed home.

Uhhh, except for a few details there… that again you can be taxed through the roof, if you do buying and selling within a year of purchase… in addition to the fee to actually buy and then sell and then buy. Hmmm, and if you did actually “make $’s” there is again that problem of being forced up into a high tax bracket.  When you went to use those dollars, dang it… there you are again, usually paying some kind of sales tax on it. How much of your dollar do you actually get to use?

So yes, I can double your useful money value. Maybe even triple it!  Well… some of your dollars. But it won’t be glamorous, or yuppy. You can’t whisper into someone’s ear how you made out big on “……” (fill in the blank).

Here goes:

Bag of Pinto Beans!

I went down and bought a bag of pinto beans… 99 cents.  Boiled ’em up (yep, it’s actually quite easy to do)… google it!

For that one dollar spent, plus the energy to cook them (let’s call it 10 cents), and then to store them in the fridge/freezer (which is already being used but let’s call that another 10 cents).  We’ll call it $1.20 total (and you’ll reuse containers so we won’t factor in container costs).

One lb of beans = at least 6-7 cups of cooked beans = 3-4 cans of purchased beans.

$1.20 vrs  $7.20 to $6.00  (4 cans/$1.80 each) or maybe you get them on sale @$1.50 = $6.00

Well, I knew you would NOT believe quadruple your money! but hey, that $6.00 you just saved… is a REAL Six Dollars… you don’t have to pay any more taxes, social security, child care, etc., costs on it.You would have had to “earned” $12.00 to have the same value that you just saved, if you “bought” those groceries at the supermarket .

You know, a knowledgable, skilled homemaker (cook, etc) is worth HIS/HER weight in gold at home!

The other pluses you get with this deal: less processed food, long-term storage, no exposure to cans lined with BPA, you know exactly what went into the making of the food, no preservatives.   Did I mention, you saved your dollars for things that you MUST pay with dollar bills… doctor bills, fuel, IRS.

Three Ways

ONE) make food from scratch… it’s much cheaper, you have control over what goes into it, less exposure to additives, customize to your taste!

TWO) what you must purchase, purchase now (prices on staples are skyrocketing and will continue to do so) in larger numbers and store. I used to get tomato sauce for 20 cents a can a few years back.  I now make most of my own but when I get it at the store, it’s up to $0.79 or more.  For now, I would buy on sale, and in bulk amounts.  Take $20/paycheck and allot it to your “investment account”. Track it, bet you’ll be surprised at your “annual rate of return”. Not quite as big a money investment but buying at today’s prices will buffer the sticker shock, as prices increase.

THREE) grow some things, on your own.  I was amazed at the production I got out of just a few plants.  I planted a 10 ft row of beans… and could NOT keep ahead of them. They just kept producing!  I finally decided I’d try NOT picking them.  I ended up with “dry beans” that I then picked and stored away to make winter soups!  That 10 ft row probably cost me $2/seed package for a bushel of beans. ($4 if I bought 2 cell packs of “starts” ready to put in the ground).

During a month of production I  got at least $4/worth of beans A DAY. Green beans… and then at the end of the season, another $5/dry beans. $4×30=$120 green beans, 5# dry bean x $6= $30.   $150 from a $2 pkg of seeds… well, you do have to account for some water, trellis, and your time.  But that is a heck of a deal… just not exactly glamorous!

Dried vs. Canned Beans
Canned beans are fast and easy to use. Or you can prepare dried beans from scratch. Here are some equivalents:1 lb dry beans = 2 1/2 cups dry beans = about 7 1/2 cups cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = about 3 cups cooked beans
14 oz/398 ml can beans = about 1 1/2 cups drained beans
19 oz/540 ml can beans = about 2 cups drained beans

Homemade lettuce box

You don’t need a 10 ft row of beans….

but try three different plants, a cherry tomato & a regular size tomato plant, green beans or peas or lettuce or onions or potatoes or cucumbers Things that you will actually eat, plus try one new thing. Plant a Salsa Garden… tomato, tomatillo, chili peppers, onions, cilantro!  DON’T plant what you DON’T LIKE!

Tomato Container Garden should be much larger!

Just don’t kill yourself trying to do too much… start small. It is truly amazing how little you need to grow to get a very productive output.  You will be absolutely impressed by how good your homegrown food can taste… amazing difference from store-bought!

Self-Watering Container (aka Earth Box)… I’ve included a unit you can put together!

  • that reduces the water chores, with its water reservoir,
  • it reduces weeding issues,
  • it reduces bending issues (for seniors who gotta watch out for the back!),
  • it doesn’t even need land; it’s great if you have a sunny patio, even in an apartment complex,
  • there is even a Yahoo group, ContainerGardening, that you can join… great at answering questions.
ediblecontainergardens@yahoogroups.com

You need roughly 6 hrs of sunlight for fruiting plants. Shade plants (lettuce, radishes, onions, beets) can tolerate much less sunlight.

Homemade self-watering Container

Basically, a big tub with a false bottom.  The false bottom has a wick down into the water stored in the base, to pull up the water it needs, when it needs it.  You use a potting soil(not garden soil… too heavy, thick, clayish) to fill the top-level, and then plant.  You do need to be aware of how big the plants will get, that you want to grow, and factor that in to the size of the container. You can get a small cherry tomato plant, that will stay small or one that will grow 4 ft tall by 4 ft wide. Do your research!  There is a refill spout to replenish the water drawn up by the plants.

NCAT SIFT Program sift@ncat.org

SIFT (Sustainable Intensive Farming Techniques) directions:

It doesn’t take a field, or even a greenhouse, to enjoy your own sustainably grown produce.

A sustainable “micro-farm” is a good choice for those who may have limited space or who might want to experiment with small amounts of different kinds of crops.

Choose corner containers that are the same heighth as the wicking cup.
Choose corner containers that are the same height
as the wicking cup.

And a microfarm is a great project for parents, teachers, and anyone else with kids looking for fun and educational things to do. It’s easy to design them with an efficient watering system, drawing moisture from the bottom instead of relying on watering from the top. That makes it a good first introduction to sustainable-agriculture practices.

Here are the materials you need and step-by-step directions to assemble a water-friendly microfarm of the type the SIFT project has used to introduce local 4-H members to sustainable agriculture. Have fun!

List of materials
• 18-gallon plastic storage tub and lid

• A 3.75–inch “wicking” pot, also known as a net cup, or a sturdy cup you have poked MANY holes in it, so water can move through it freely

• Four plastic individual-serving yogurt containers, plastic cups, or sturdy, similar-sized items to use as braces. They should be the same height as the wicking pot.

• Four locking plastic ties

• A 20-inch-long PVC pipe with one end cut at an angle. The pipe should have a large enough diameter to make it easy to use a hose to run water into it.

Attach the wicking cup to the lid with locking ties.
Attach the wicking cup to the lid with locking ties.

• 40 pounds of soil

• Compost or organic fertilizer

Process
• Punch a hole in the tub approximately 2.5 inches from the bottom. This is to allow any excess water to drain from the tub.

• The lid has a rim of thicker plastic. The following cuts will be made inside that rim:
–Cut a hole in the center of the lid that is the same diameter as the wicking pot.
–Cut a hole at the inside edge of the lid’s rim that is the same diameter as the PVC pipe
–Punch rows of small holes in the lid
–Cut out the area of the lid that is inside the rim of thicker plastic in one piece

• Make sure that the yogurt containers, plastic cups, or other items you use as a brace are the same height as the wicking cup

• Place the wicking cup in the hole at the center of the lid and attach it to the smaller holes in the lid with the locking ties. Punch new holes for the ties if necessary.

A completed microfarm.
A completed microfarm.

• Place the braces inside the tub at the corners

• Place the cut-out piece of the lid on the braces with the wicking basket on the bottom

• Insert the PVC pipe into its hole, with the end cut at an angle at the bottom to make it easier for water to flow into the tub

• Fill the tub with soil and soil amendments

• Use the PVC pipe to add water to the bottom of the tub once you have planted your crop. Be careful not to waste any water. You can make a “dipstick” with such items as a dowel or yardstick, or to check the water level in the tub through the pipe.

Posted on: April 5th, 2012  Make Your Own Sustainable “Farm”

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