Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's Going On with the Weather

Clearly somethiing is amiss, but for the record, what's happening is not "global warming", and as people who are in the climate change camp like to point out, weather is not climate, and so when there's a severe snowstorm in, say, Georgia, where snow is a rarity, and someone says, "How's that for global warming?" that person is failing to understand the difference between weather and climate.

The fact is that something is happening. From 1961 to 1990 there were an average of about eighty deaths per year across the US due to tornadoes. That's all of the states combined, even those where tornadoes are a normal, annual occurence. I lived in the south for a long time, and while tornadoes were always respected and treated like the emergency they are, we tended to be a little complacent. It was like, "oh, goodie. Another tornado drill." In fact, when I was in grade school and junior high, we had regular tornado drills, just to make sure that we all knew what we needed to do in the event there was a severe storm while we were in school. And those happened, also. There were times when we had severe storms - enough so that parents came to get their kids ... yes, in the middle of a severe storm.

But with the early warning systems in place, I don't remember hearing about very many people dying. Severe destruction of property, yes, but deaths, not so much.

Which is why when I read headlines like this one, I know something is happening that we aren't anticipating, can't predict, are unprepared for.

Whether or not Al Gore was correct about the human responsibility for the global climate changes we're seeing is really moot. The fact is that something is happening that is catching us off guard, and at very least, we need to accept that change is happening.

If it's our fault and we do nothing, then we deserve what we get.

But if there's a chance, even an itty-bitty-wittle-tiny chance that global climate change is a result of our gluttony of carbon emissions, doesn't it make sense to make some small changes? Those small changes, spread over a large population, yield huge results, and if we all did just a little, it might make a difference.

Most of the easiest ones aren't even that difficult. Change the lightbulbs, or just use the lights less; unplug things that aren't in use or put them on a power strip so that they're not drawing ghost loads; plan car trips so that errands are all accopmlished at the same time, and there's one long trip instead of several small ones. Those are very, very easy changes that anyone can make that really do make a difference in one's personal energy consumption.

Some take a little more thought and energy (and perhaps money), but aren't, really, any more difficult: line-dry clothes instead of using the dryer; plan baking sessions so that the oven isn't on for as long (like the car suggestion above, if you know you're going to bake a cake, also cook dinner, or something like that); bike or walk when you can; switch to lower energy appliances; eliminate redundant electronics, like getting rid of the television if you have a computer with an Internet connection - especially if you don't have cable; switch to a tankless water heater; monitor your use of heating/cooling, and insulate rather than adjusting the thermostat; plant trees to provide shade for cooling in warmer climates; take advantage of solar passive heating/cooling; source more food locally so that one's food miles are reduced ... or grow your own. None of those changes are difficult, and any combination of them practiced among a large group could be significant.

But, maybe, those things make no difference, but what are we out if we try?

Someone asked me the other day, what if we make all of these changes to our lifestyles and nothing happens? My answer is that by making these changes, we become more self-sufficient, we become less dependent on an increasingly less reliable energy source, and we save a lot of money.

Personally, we've made most of those changes. We've reduced our electric bill from about 1000 kwh per month to 350 kwh per month ... and we could go lower with some bigger changes. We cut cable and saved $20 per month. We changed from a tank waterheater to a tankless water heater and cut our gas usage in half. We combine trips and use the car with better gas mileage, and we save two tanks of gasoline per month (instead of filling up the lower gas mileage car every week, we're only filling each car every other week - so four fill-ups per month between two cars). By raising our own chicken each summer, we're saving, on average $1/lb. We raise 40 chickens per year at an average of 5 lbs each, for a total savings of about $200. We use that $200 to help pay for a cow share, and we pay about $4/lb for the beef - all different cuts, including some pretty pricey ones - for $4/lb. I'd say the savings there is pretty substantial, and we have all of the chicken and all of the beef we could eat, at a fraction of the cost of buying it at the grocery store ... and we know where the food came from.

I just don't understand where the bad is, and why anyone would be resistant to change that is so positive, definitely saves money, and could save our lives ... and our planet.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Books Rule!

I think one of the things that sets my book apart from other similar books (i.e. one's that are about "survival" in the face of TEOTWAWKI) is that I place some emphasis on things that other authors/writers never consider. Specifically, I recommend building a library.

When people ask me why I include that recommendation, I have, what I think are, a few good reasons. One is that we are not a society that teaches "life skills", and by that I mean every day, useful kinds of skills that help make life more simple - from homesteading skills like how to grow and preserve food, how to raise and butcher an animal and tan the hide, and how to make lye soap to more specialized tasks like how to spin animal fur into fiber and then weave that fiber into cloth, how to forage spring greens or medicinal plants, or even something as (seemingly) simple as splitting wood for the woodstove.

How many of us have been taught these skills today?

Elliot Wigginton and his students attempted to perserve this knowledge in The Foxfire Book series. What they discovered, though, and what I realized, as I was reading the Foxfire books and writing my own, is that our society has an incredible dearth of knowledge of how perform very simple, every day tasks, that the people interviewed by Wigginton and his students simply took for granted.

First off, we should note that those people interviewed didn't live hundreds of years ago. In fact, it is only within the last generation or two that this wealth of information and skill has been lost. What's even more interesting is that by and large those people would have been considered less worldly and less intelligent than most of us consider ourselves. Yet, they had skills and knowledge that would help them survive in conditions we couldn't even fathom living in. Without our modern amenities, most of us would die. Without modern amenities, those people would continue to live ... and THRIVE ... just like they always had.

Today, in an interview with Carl Etnier we talked about the loss of those skills, and I said, basically, that we no longer have those very simple, life-enriching and potentially life saving skills, and it will be only through books that most of us will learn them. In fact, it was through books that I learned the skills I needed to safely preserve food for my family, and Deus Ex Machina learned to harvest our rabbits and tan the hides.

The best reason for collecting books and caring for them, though, came in the comments section of this article about a 500 year old book that was found in an attic in Sandy, Utah. Commenter Gsfish said, imagine 500 years from now. Now imagine that someone finds a disk with digital books on it. They won't have much of a chance of reading them with technology in that time even if the files stayed intact. However, this book will be 1,000 years old by then and still be readable. Books rule!

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let's Get Ready to Grumble

So, finally, people are starting to notice that gasoline prices are increasing ... at least, the news media has started to pick up on and report on the increasing prices (although the price has been steadily and slowly increasing for the past two years - and no one has, apparently, been paying attention), and so the collective consciousness is just starting to comment on it.

I love the off-the-cuff suggestions on how to fix the problem, though.




So, let's take a look at those solutions from a global perspective.

The lowest gasoline prices in the world are in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. In Venezuela they pay less than 15 cents per gallon for gasoline, but low gasoline prices are seen as a national RIGHT, and they're gasoline prices are heavily subsidized by their government. By some reports, Venezuela, has the world's largest oil reserves, and they are the eleventh largest producer of oil in the world. In Saudi Arabia, they're paying around 60 cents per gallon for gasoline (up a few cents from their 2008 prices of under 50 cents per gallon). Saudi Arabia is the world’s second top producer of oil. The price of gasoline in Saudi Arabia is set by the royal family. So, essentially, the two countries with the lowest gasoline prices in the WORLD have the most government intervention with regard to the price they pay.

Lowering the gas tax might lower our overall cost at the pump, but the reality is that only 48 cents of our per gallon price here in the US is for a gasoline tax, as opposed to $4.50 for gasoline taxes in France. Even if we eliminated the entire tax, we’d still be paying over $3 per gallon for gasoline. As such, the supposed high gasoline tax some think we’re paying here ... not so much, and eliminating that tax isn’t going to lower our prices enough to make any difference. Most of Europe (and Canada) pay a higher tax for their gasoline, which accounts for their much higher prices at the pump, but those taxes go to pay for things like state sponsored health care. On average, Europeans are healthier than Americans, not because they have State-sponsored health care, but mostly because of their lifestyles, which are not car-dependent and sedentary like ours. Cars aren't seen as an entitlement in Europe the way they are here, but good health is.

As for increasing production, the US is already the world's third largest producer. We have an estimated eight years left of oil reserves, compared to Russia, which is the world's largest oil producer and has an estimated seventeen years of oil reserves left. I guess I just wonder how we're going to increase production. And, yes, I do know that some believe we have these massive reserves in places like ANWR and off the Atlantic coast, and there's even the 200 BILLION BARREL oil reserve that has been discovered in North Dakota.

But all of those reserves combined might give us another 400 billion barrels total. We are burning 7 billion barrels of oil per year. At that rate, it would take us only about sixty years to burn through all of the oil reserves we have left to extract.

Canada produces one-third less than the amount of oil produced by the US. They are the sixth largest producer of oil worldwide and are, in fact, the top supplier of oil to the US. They have an estimated 180 years left of oil reserves. Given all of that, one would think that Canada's gasoline prices would be pretty reasonable. Think again. The price per gallon for gasoline in Canada is $5.66. Granted, they're paying some crazy tax, and eliminating the tax would reduce their per gallon rate, but only to about what we're paying here in the US right now. So, a net world exporter is paying per gallon what we here in the US (a net world importer) is paying. A better example of how increasing production doesn’t necessarily translate into lower costs is Russia. They are the world's top producer of oil, and yet, they still pay almost $3 per gallon for gasoline.

In short, the countries with most government involvement have lower prices, subtracting out the taxes would reduce the overall cost per gallon, but not enough to really make a difference, and with very few exceptions (Venezuela and Saudi Arabia), the top oil producing countries in the world pay prices that are very close to what we’re paying at the pumps here in the US.

So, what’s the answer? If we look to the world, the countries that produce the most oil and have the lowest gasoline prices also have a smaller demand. In Venezuela only 10% of the population owns cars. In Saudi Arabia about one-third of the population owns cars. In Mexico, where prices aren’t so rigidly controlled by their government, only one-fifth of the population drives, and their prices are a dollar less per gallon than we pay. Here in the US, half the population has a car.

We all know the rules of supply and demand, and if we use less, but maintain production, there will be more. If we really want to see a decrease in the cost of gasoline, we have to use less as a country, and import less. And if we were to decrease our overall usage to closer to what we are currently producing, perhaps we’d have some for the future.

Personally, I think a better option would be to change our tax system to a pay-to-play system, and tax the heck out of gasoline. Our culture, our leaders, and most of our citizens will emphatically declare that we need cars, but I don't believe that's true at all. We like cars, cars are convenient and comfortable (especially when it's cold or raining), and they allow us to have a sense of freedom that's actually a fallacy (many of us are tied to jobs we hate in communities where we have no connection so that we can afford to pay for those cars). If gasoline were taxed at the rate that the French do, we could use that tax money to fund a build-out of a mass transit system and/or the development of better sidewalks/bike paths. Or perhaps we just need to be a less mobile society.

Gasoline prices will continue to rise, and nothing our government can do will fix it. The control lies with us, as individuals, and we can decide to continue guzzling like there will be no after-party clean-up … or we can change our lives, live more locally and use less, become more self-sufficient and live more sustainably.

Native American wisdom cautions that when it comes to resource use, we need to plan for the next seven generations. In the last seven generations (starting around the time of the Civil War and ending with mine), we have squandered the amazing resource that is fossil fuels. Maybe there’s enough left for the next seven generations, if we conserve starting now. If we don’t there won’t be enough for the generations that are here, and by the time my granddaughter meets her grandchildren in sixty years, it will be gone. We’ve been having this huge orgy of gluttony, consuming as much as we can without any regard for the mess we’ll need to clean up in the morning. Well, it’s morning. Time to wake up and start sweeping.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Waste Treatment

Yesterday, when I was talking with Charlie Dyer at KNEWS Radio, he asked me, specifically, about waste disposal. I told him what I thought, what I had written in Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs - the bottom line of which is that we can not continue to depend on large-scale facilities.

This article illustrates one reason why. Sure, the people who enjoy the waste treatment aren't being affected, but I might be. My children might be. I'm very sure that I don't want little sewage treatment disks from a New Hampshire sewage treatment facility washing up on my beach here in Maine.

The problem is that, as a society, we've continually bought into the idea that we should consolidate all things into one big thing. Instead of small, community/neighborhood schools, we have a consolidated county school. Instead of locally owned grocery stores or neighborhood bakeries, we have megastores. Instead of septic tanks and wells or cisterns in every home, we have the grand scale sewage treatment plants and water treatment facilities. Instead of a few lightbulbs and a refrigerator in our homes that use only a small amount of electricity, which we could generate ourselves using some very simple machinery, we have fully electrified houses that use thousands of KILOWATTS per month, and so we (think we) need these massive coal fired or nuclear energy generating power plants so that we can watch the Superbowl on our 46" plasma screen televisions.

The result has been that we don't think we need to conserve anything ... at all, and we've become complacent.

There was a time when every household was prepared for disaster, not because they thought about prepping, but because they lived simply, frugally, and in a more self-sufficient manner. They weren't wholly dependent on a very fragile system - one that is too big not to fail, and one that fails us repeatedly.

Too few of us notice the repeated failures ... or the failures seem to happen so infrequently ... or they just don't adversely affect our lives enough to make us choose to hedge against them as a rule rather than an exception.

I wonder why. I wonder why all of those people who lost power here in Maine and in Canada for WEEKS following the 1998 Ice Storm didn't make significant changes to their livestyles so that when such a thing happened again (and it will happen again ... it always happens again) it wouldn't negatively impact them.

I wonder how we can so quickly and so easily slip back into complacency. We "get through" the emergency, and life as usual recommences, and we seem to forget how difficult things were for that day or two, because *most* days it's okay. Most days life is usual.

And, then, one day, it's not. One day, the whole world turns upside-down, and we wonder how this thing could be happening to us.

While all this time, we've been given little hints, little warnings, little opportunities to prepare ... and did nothing.

Maybe each of us, as individuals, feel we can't do anything about the waste treatment plants in our communities. It's unlikely that we'll get them closed. But we can choose how much, if anything, we contribute to the problem. We can decide how many times we flush the toilet ... or better, we can decide not to flush the toilet at all and install instead a composting toilet ... or even a very simple Lovable Loo. We can decide to save water by using less when we wash dishes or clothes or our own bodies. We can even decide to reuse water for multiple tasks - like taking a bath, and then using our bath water to wash the clothes.

The point is, that while we think we don't have any control over these massive infrastructure facilities, we do, and if more of us are using less, there will be less to treat, and perhaps, less potential for things like little disks escaping during a severe rain storm and washing up on my beach ... where my children would love to play in the surf before the tourists arrive at the end of May.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Myth Busting - Baby Needs vs. Mommy Wants

Here in the United States we have a whole store - a warehouse-sized store - solely devoted to supplying parents with the things they need when the new baby arrives. The store has everything from clothing to cheap cloth diapers (usually relegated to "burp cloth") to high-end strollers and cribs (with all of the accessories: themed quilts, bumper pads and sheets sets, etc.). If it's made for baby, the store has it.

But that's just that one store. Other stores have whole aisles and/or sections devoted to stuff for babies.

"They" start 'em young, don't they?

When I was a poor college freshman and pregnant with my first child, I recall the lists I was given for my "layette" - those supplies parents will need when the baby is born.

Most layette clothing lists include:

8 Receiving Blankets
6 Onsies
4 Footed Sleepers (Terri cloth)
3 Lightweight Night Gowns
2 Blanket Sleepers
2 Hats
4 Booties or Socks
4 Rompers (Long Sleeved)
1 Sweater
6 Undershirts
4 Bibs
1 Snowsuit or Bunting
1 Dozen Cloth Diapers (Burp cloths)
2 or more newborn size Pacifiers

That list represents over a $100 worth of clothes, some of which may be used only once or twice, or worse, are never used and are just wasted money. Depending on the size of one's newborn and the size of clothing one purchases for one's layette, some things may never be used. Three of my five children were over 9 lbs when they were born and wore newborn sizes for about five minutes.

And the above list is just for the clothes. There are other lists for furniture (which includes a stroller, a baby swing, a changing table and a rocking chair ?!?); feeding (some research suggests is better not to give a breastfed baby a bottle - ever!); diapering; bedding; bathing; and health care.

As I said, when my first child was born, I was a poor college student, and I didn't have the money for all of those things, but I was certain I needed them, because everything I read told me I did. Unfortunately, because I didn't have all of the supplies I needed, I was sure I was a lesser parent. It never occurred to me to wonder, at the time, about the skills of previous generations of parents who never would have had access to all of thos supplies.

During my second pregnancy, I started to ponder those questions, and by baby three, I started to come up with some answers.

Our consumer-driven society does a real disservice to parents, especially first-time parents, and after five children, I have a very different list.

My list of things to purchase would include:

1 copy of The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears
1 baby sling
2 dozen onesies (1/2 dozen newborn size and the rest the next size up)
6 footed sleepers
2 dozen cloth diapers with covers (and at this point, I'd probably make them myself)
4 or 5 half-sized quilts or fleece blankets (like couch throws)
... and a car seat, because we're still a car culture, and transporting a baby in a car is illegal without a car seat.

Most of the other stuff is just unneccessary and, at best, will be used only once or twice as baby grows, and at worst, end up as useless clutter.

If I had it to do over again, I would never buy another receving blanket, but I would take some old tee-shirts or old sheets and sew a couple of layers together in a 24" square to use as burp cloths and changing pads (on the floor or on the bed, because I never had nor ever needed a changing table), which is the only thing my receiving blankets were ever used for. I would also not bother with undershirts, night gowns, socks, rompers, bibs, blanket sleepers (unless the baby was born during the winter), or pacifiers.

If I had it to do over again, I'd never purchase one of those hooded baby bath towels. They're too thin, and they're shaped oddly and difficult to use one-handed, which in my experience is how they must be manipulated, because the other hand is holding the baby. If I were going to purchase new towels for baby, I'd simply purchase regular bath towels, which the baby won't outgrow. I never used those plastic baby tubs, either, although I did like the sponge that was placed in the bath tub. I think a better choice, though, would be to use a small wash tub (or a really large bowl) lined with a towel, or just bathe baby in the sink. Likewise, those expensive baby soaps (which are really detergent) aren't necessary. They're pleasant for Mom, because they smell pretty, but baby doesn't need them. Warm water infused with a drop or two of an essential oil (like lavendar) is adequate.

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't purchase anything on the "health and baby care" list, except a thermometer. The other things on the list can get a new parent into trouble, like baby Acetominophen. If a newborn has a fever, it's something a lot more serious than Tylenol can fix.

And I would NEVER, not in a million years, use "petroleum jelly" on my newborn baby's skin. It's not that far removed from smearing Valvoline all over the baby's body - same base ingredient. Likewise for those chemical-laden baby lotions. For dry skin (often caused from too many baths with commercial baby soaps - ask me how I know ;), what's in the kitchen cabinet is better than any commercial baby lotion. Unrefined coconut oil or cold pressed virgin olive oil are much healthier choices for baby's tender skin.

Other things would be considered as the baby grew, and we discovered what we needed, but there is no reason, except for pressure from our consumer-driven society, to purchase several hundred dollars worth of stuff for a layette.

I'm sure someone noticed that I didn't have "crib" on the list of "would haves", and no, that was not an oversight. Deus Ex Machina and I co-slept with our three youngest, and if we had another child, we'd co-sleep with that one, too. The crib was occasionally used, as a storage place for extra blankets and pillows, but no one slept there.

We also never used a stroller or a playpen, a swing or a changing table. Bottles wouldn't make my list, because I know I would breastfeed.

Our society does a great disservice to young parents by making them believe that the typical "layette list" represents things that will be needed, when, in fact, most of the items listed are useful, to a degree, but definitely not necessary, especially in the first few weeks of baby's life.

What a newborn actually needs is very simple: food, dry diapers, and a warm body against which to snuggle. None of those things need to be purchased in a store.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wrapping Up Loose Ends

After the whirlwind posting through the month of March, plus everything that's been going on in the "real" world (including the maple sugaring season), blogging has taken a backseat. I haven't had a lot of time to visit my favorite bloggers, and, at least for the last week, I've neglected my own.

I'm still here, I'm still reading, and I'm still valuing the information and wisdom I glean from those who have blogs that I read and from those who comment on mine.

I still have some gifts from the giveaway to send out. I am getting it done, slowly, but a couple of the items were big and a bit more complicated to send ;). I heard from all of the winners for the twenty-one day giveaway, but on the final day, I offered a copy of my book, and decided to give away three copies. The winners are:
  • first time commenter and this book goes to Chamis;

  • long-time reader who didn't receive one of the other giveaway items and this book goes to Barefoot;

  • commenter who followed and commented throughout the 21-Day series, and this book goes to Jennie.

I haven't heard from all three of you. Please leave a comment, even if your comment is that you don't want my book ;).

Hopefully, things will get back to normal in a few days ... whatever normal is ;).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Other Side of the Question

I've been taken to task for the past two posts, perhaps deserved. Any time one has very strong opinions, those opinions should be challenged, and I welcome any opportunity to more clearly state my opinions, even if it's just to be sure that that's how I really believe.

When it comes to corporate medicine, I feel very strongly that we are being cheated - perhaps not by some conspiratorial source, but defintely by a system that is more interested in stopping us from "feeling" than it is in really "curing" any of our illnesses. As I pointed out, the number one killer in the US is heart disease and the top selling prescription drug in the US is Lipitor, a heart medication.

Perhaps that makes sense, but it seems to me if we're being given a very costly drug to fix a problem that there wouldn't be so many people still dying from it.

But that's an aside, and I'm saying it kind of stream-of-consciousness. Don't feel obligated to comment on anything above this sentence ;).

What I do really wish to comment on, however, is the amazing medical care I have received in my lifetime. In 2000, I found that I was pregnant with my fourth child. My first child was born via c-section. My second was VBAC, a term I didn't learn until many, many years after my daughter was born. My third child was born in an Army hospital and delivered by a mid-wife, again VBAC, and again, I didn't learn that term until later.

For this fourth birth experience, I wanted something other than a hospital, but our insurance wouldn't cover a homebirth, and so I hoped to do the next best thing - a birthing center. It was at that point that I discovered more than I ever wanted to know about how the medical world works. In my experience it was the worst "good-old-boy" network I'd ever encountered. In short, due to insurance restrictions, the birthing center could not take me as a client, because the delivery would be a VBAC (pronounced vee-back). It means vaginal birth after c-section, and apparently, that one little thing made me a high risk for delivery, never mind that I had already, successfully delivered two children VBAC. It didn't matter, and the head of the hospital that provided back-up service to the birthing center made it clear that having me there would be a liability to them.

I was devastated, incredibly frustrated, and completely disappointed. I had one appointment with my local OB/GYN, who, when I presented him with my birth plan backed as far away from me as the walls in the exam would allow him to get, and told me, basically, that he would consider my requests, but that, ultimately, he was in charge ... of MY body and MY birth experience.

I decided I didn't like that answer, and I found a new doctor. She was a family doctor in a small practice, who had trained with an Amish midwife in prenatal care and delivery. She was the most amazing doctor, and I loved her. She took me as a patient well into my second-trimester, took me through my pregnancy, and listened to me when I told her that I did not want to be induced, even though I was two weeks beyond the date the calendar said I should have delivered.

When I found that I was pregnant with my fifth child, I was told that my beloved doctor would not be given priveleges at the hospital to deliver my baby there. The hospital chief, who was an OB, decided that it was too much of a risk to have a family doctor, not trained in surgical obstetrics, be the physician in charge of a VBAC - for a woman who was having her FIFTH child, FOURTH VBAC. My wonderful, incredible doctor sent me to an OB with a private practice, whom she believed would have more freedom to listen to my needs. Two visits with him and I knew that he was one of the good-old-boys. He never said as much, but what he did say was, "Why aren't you doing a homebirth?"

So, at the advice of my doctor, Deus Ex Machina and I hired a homebirth midwife to oversee the prenatal care and delivery of our last child. She missed the magic moment, and some how, inspite of the fact that I was a VBAC (for the fourth time), I managed to survive delivering a baby with only the assistance of my amazing husband. In fact, we both survived, and that fifth baby is standing in the dining room playing rock-paper-scissors now as I type this.

There are exceptions to every rule.

Unfortunately, my beloved family doctor moved, and we had to find a new primary care physician. It took a long time to find someone that we liked and trusted would not treat us like we were mindless sheep who needed to be herded in the direction they thought would be best for us, but we did.

We found a private practice. They don't just have doctors, though. There are other, non-traditional health care providers. Their clinic philosophy is one of treating the whole patient rather than just symptoms, and the likelihood of being prescribed a medication just to get you out of the exam room is pretty slim. In fact, the typical initial evaluation is an hour and a half, and not an hour sitting in the cold exam room waiting for the doctor with a nurse or PA occasionally coming into the room with a stethoscope or needle. It's an hour and a half with the physician in the room going over the medical history and discussing any problems or concerns.

So different.

But these guys *can* be different, because they don't take insurance. They don't take insurance, and so they are not limited by what an insurance company will allow them to do for their patients. They charge an hourly rate, which their patients pay at the time of service, and if the patient wishes, he/she can send the claim to the insurance company for reimbursement.

It's a warm and nurturing environment, and I wanted to share this experience, because I wanted to be clear that I don't hate doctors, I just think that by the time most of them finish their training enough that they can enter a private practice, they've become so jaded by the system that they no longer care. It's like the difference between a first year teacher and a tenured classroom veteran.

Our medical system is as broken as our educational system. It got too big and too complicated, and now everything, even the common cold ... even pregnancy ... is treated like an emergency. Nothing is treated anymore by a better diet or more exercise or just being aware of one's body and what one's body is saying. Doctors don't encourage us to listen. Indeed, they don't even give us the benefit of the doubt to know what's going on. They'll tell us. We just need to shut up, sit still, and allow them to do their jobs.

That's not good enough for me. It's my body. I've been in this body for more than forty years, and my body and I have been through a lot together. I know what things make my body feel wonky, and what things make my body feel good, and if I tell the EMT that I need to push when I'm giving birth, he'd better listen, but when he tells me to push, and I know I don't need to, I will (and did) tell him to be patient.

I realize that not everyone is like me, and that's fine. What a boring world it would be if we all were the same.

But I am like me, and I want a doctor who will respect *me*, as an intelligent, well read, and thoughtful human being. I may be wrong, and the doctor can tell me I'm wrong, after he's figured out the right answer, but to automatically assume I'm wrong without having listened to me or done any tests is insulting.

It's possible that the medical profession (doctors, nurses, hospitals, big pharma, etc.) is not in any conspiracy to make us sick so that they can keep getting paid the big bucks, but it has been my long and varied experience that they don't have a great deal of interest in helping me stay well by giving me sound advice and direction. Nope. Slap a bandaid on it. Give me a pill. Do some quick surgery.

That's not good enough for me, and I'm not willing to support a system that is so apathetic to my needs. In my opinion, no one else should be either ... but that's just my opinion.

The very bottom line is that medical care in this country is too expensive and too complicated, and unless we can find some doctors who know how to treat without big fancy machines and expensive medication, we're going to be in some trouble in the not too distant future.

I'm confident that my doctor will be able to treat me, even without drugs and x-ray machines. Are you as confident about yours?

Monday, April 11, 2011

More ... Questioning

I certainly didn't intend to get anyone's dander up with my last post, but it appears that I stirred the proverbial hornet's nest :).

For the record, I do not think that all doctors are evil or even bad people. I don't think that people enter into the medical profession with the intention of keeping people sick so that they can get rich. I'm sure that many people who enter the medical profession do so with a genuine desire to help.

I will say, though, that the stereotype of doctors as being "rich" is pretty prevalent in our society. In fact, when I was growing up, those young people whose parents wished them to have profitable careers encouraged medical school. How many of us have heard that stereotype of the rich doctor in our lifetimes? Be honest.

So, if that's true, if doctors are getting rich, if the medical profession is so profitable ..., but wait ...

Why is the medical profession so profitable? And why do we allow people to profit off of our illness?

A couple of people commented that we need "healers", and I don't disagree with that. There is a time and place for all things, and yes, people do get sick, but I want to point out that I said, "Most doctors ... would be out of work." Not all, by any means. We still need people who understand how the body works, be they doctors, or midwives, or herbalists, or Shamans, because, yes, sh*t happens, and it can be very ugly and very scary.

My point was that, too often, those in the medical profession behave as if they are gods, which they are not. *We*, the American public, are not simple innocent bystanders who have been duped by the medical system, however. We are just as culpable, and we often treat doctors as if they are miracle workers (instead of human beings like the rest of us), and we smoke and drink and live outrageously, believing that doctors can give us new lungs and new livers and new limbs if we mess up the ones we were born with. And if they can't? We blame them for our irresponsible behavior and stupidity.

There are two facts of life in the medical field. The first is that a pregnancy will result in a birth, not necessarily a live birth, but a birth nonetheless. The second is that people die. The only two givens in life are that we are born, and we will die. Nothing else is guaranteed.

But at the risk of causing further offense, I want to say that in my opinion there are worse things than death. Sure, we're living longer ... but at what cost? And are we happier? Are we, as a society, more fulfilled with our longer lifespans than our grandparents ... our great-grandparents ... our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors? In short, in keeping us alive longer (often with expensive drug therapies and "miracle" cures) has the medical establishment really done us any favors?

According to this blog a display at the Rueben Fleet Science Museum on San Diego showed the leading causes of death over the last century and a half as follows:

Leading causes of death in 1850:

1. Tuberculosis
2. Dysentery/diarrhea
3. Cholera
4. Malaria
5. Typhoid Fever
6. Pneumonia
7. Diphtheria
8. Scarlet Fever
9. Meningitis
10. Whooping Cough

Please note that ALL of them were from infectious diseases of which we only vaccinate against two. For the most part, these diseases were eradicted due to improved sanitation - most markedly being the availability of clean water and waste disposal.

By 1900 - fifty years later - only four of those infectious diseases were still in the top ten causes of death, and yet, vaccinations weren't widely used until the 1940s, and then, only two of the top ten killers were made into a widely used vaccine (please note that several of the others had vaccines developed, but none of those vaccines were ever widely used and in fact, use of the choloera vaccine was discouraged due to the severe side effects, and the vaccine for Scarlet Fever was discontinued, when penicillin was discovered).

Top ten causes of death in 1900 were:

1. Pneumonia
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
6. Liver disease
7. Accidents
8. Cancer
9. Normal aging
10. Diphtheria

Please note that half of them could be deemed as being directly related to industrialization, and the ninth most common cause of death in 1900 was normal aging. Does anyone today even die from that?

Looking at the causes of death in 2000 would certainly seem to imply that most of us do not die from "normal aging." Apparently, we have bigger problems, namely:

1. Heart disease
2. Cancer
3. Stroke
4. Lung disease
5. Accidents
6. Diabetes
7. Pneumonia/Influenza
8. Alzheimer’s disease
9. Kidney disease
10. Blood poisoning

Please note that the top six could be considered lifestyle related (assuming the fatal accidents are via automobile).

Obviously, I offended some people with my rather terse post about how the medical system is trying to keep us sick, because wellness is not profitable, but I stand by my belief that having an overweight, sedentary, mindless, and unhealthy population is far more profitable than an energetic, thinking, healthy one. And when money is the bottom line, *we*, the people, don't matter.


So, let me ask you: would you work really hard at a job if you knew that the end result of all of your hard work would be that you would no longer have a job?

The top grossing industry in the United States in the past year or so is health care. In fact, it's been one of the fastest growing industries for quite some time, and I've been hearing since I was in college about the nursing shortage.

So, what would happen if every one got healthy? If they really did find a cure for cancer, AIDS, asthma, diabetes?

Every medical research scientist would be out of work.

Most doctors and nurses and other health care providers would be out of work.

If we were all healthy, we wouldn't need the pharmaceutical companies, because we wouldn't need drugs. The drug manufacturers and their suppliers would all be out of a job.

If we didn't need doctors or drugs, the insurance companies would go out of business.

Seems to me, it's in someone's best interest that we stay sick.

But is it in ours?


I'm watching Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. Many years ago, I watched Zeitgeist: the Movie. It was terrifying in its implications, because, basically, it presented the scenario of what we are currently experiencing, explained how we got where we are, but then, stopped. It suggested what we should be doing (but really, don't we all know what we should be doing anyway?), but without any real, clear direction.

Don't get me wrong. I think both films are incredibly important. The one I'm watching has had five million viewers. It needs more. Not even half the US population has watched it, yet. We need, at least, half.

Earlier, I watched an interview with the director and a panel of individuals who are associated with the film and the Venus Project, which is being touted as the answer to the world's problem. It was a very interesting interview, and it seems to me (although it may not to them) that what I say in Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs is very similar to what they propose - the bottom line of which is: we have to stop our consumptive behaviors, we have to figure out "enough", and we have to learn to live within the framework of the environment in which we find ourselves (i.e. locally).

I live in Maine, and I can use the resources that I have locally, which means that I should not be dependent on oranges ... or oil. If I lived in Arizona or Kentucky or France, my lifestyle choices and resource options would be very different.

The bottom line is that we can not have it all - every individual in the world, can not have every little thing that he/she desires, but if we are wise, we can all have enough.

I promised to pick a person to receive a copy of my book on April 8, and I dropped the ball. As such, I have decided to pick three.

The categories are:
  • first time commenter and this book goes to Chamis;

  • long-time reader who didn't receive one of the other giveaway items and this book goes to Barefoot;

  • commenter who followed and commented throughout the 21-Day series, and this book goes to Jennie.

Please leave your contact information in the comments section. Comments are moderated, and I will not publish your address.

... and if you receive a copy of the book and wanted to post a review on Amazon or any other online venue in which people might see what you thought, I would really appreciate it (yes, even if you don't think it's worth five stars ;).

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Goes Up ...?

In his book, Last Light, Alex Scarrow describes a scenario in which all of the oil ports worldwide are destroyed within days/hours of each other. Understanding that this means they will be depending on their meager reserves, the British Prime Minister is advised to go on national television and let the people know the situation, which is, essentially, we only have enough oil and enough supplies for about three days.

Not surprisingly, panic ensues, and it's that panicked reaction - not the actual loss of oil worldwide - that causes the societal breakdown Scarrow describes through the rest of the novel.

I read that WalMart's CEO announced there was going to be a price hike, and apparently it's going to be a doozy; word is being leaked that we can expect 10-20% on most things and up to 50% on others. The article (not the one linked) related that these price spikes would occur in May, but maybe sooner. For those who depend on Wal-Mart for their food, and trust that Wal-Mart's CEO knows of what he speaks, how much different will the general atmosphere be over the next few weeks? How frenzied can we expect buyers to be? I wonder how many empty shelves I will see at the grocery store next time I go.

This news won't really change how I shop, because we've been shopping with just this sort of mindset for years. We've been anticipating (and watching) price spikes for a long time and have taken steps to buffer ourselves from the worst of it, but I think, even with all of our preparing, we're not really prepared for what the reality will be like.

I will say that the package I received recently will go a long way toward making me feel more secure: .

But even that had some concern with it. I waited too late to place my order, and they'd already sold out of one of the seed varieties I had ordered. It was definitely one of those "Oh, crap" moments when I realized how very fragile our system is. Maybe it will be okay. I mean, I have another variety of that particular plant for my garden, but what if I didn't? What if I were dependent on that one variety ... and I couldn't get the seeds? How can they run out of seeds anyway? I mean, who would ever suspect that we couldn't just get all of the seeds we want whenever we want them? Who would have ever thought that what was listed in their catalog may no longer be available? That just doesn't happen ... right?

This year has been a real eye-opener for Deus Ex Machina and me. I really hope that we've learned our lesson about being complacent, and the real need to plan ahead and be prepared - even just for every day stuff, like firewood to heat our house and wanting to plant San Marzano tomatoes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Washer ... Woman

A good friend of mine posted the following TED talk on my Facebook wall. I love TED. They have some pretty amazing speakers, and Mr. Rosling was no exception.

In the talk, he makes a case for the "magic washing machine." Watch and enjoy ... but come back, because we gotta talk.

Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine | Video on

First, let me say that I don't disagree with anything he says. I have handwashed clothes before. A lot of times before. My life has been such that my income has ebbed and flowed like the tides, washing me up on the shore in times of prosperity and washing me out to sea in times of deprivation when I was sure I would drown. It was during those (too many) times of financial distress that I learned how difficult handwashing is, and how much I learned to appreciate my washing machine. Like Hans Rosling's grandmother, there were times when I sat in awe of how much easier the washing machine made my life.

The problem, as Mr. Rosling points out, is that we simply can not continue to have it all. Those of us in the US live in that "airplane zone." With very few exceptions ALL of us live up there with the one-seventh of the world's population that uses half of the world's resources. Something has to give, and really, it's us. We need to give some things up, because the world can not (and will soon be unwilling) to continue allowing us to monopolize the few remaining resources.

I've asked the question before. What would you be willing to give up?

For me, the question wasn't that difficult. I gave up my dryer and opted instead to line dry my clothes. I did some research and I discovered that the dryer uses a significant amount of energy for the job it does. According to information on this site a dryer constitutes 12% of the electricity usage in an average household. If the average household uses 900 kWh of electricity per month, discontinuing use of the dryer would cut the electric bill by 100 kWh/month. That's a lot. Really.

Like Mr. Rosling's grandmother, however, I have decided I want the washing machine. I wash all of my clothes in cold water. I make my own laundry soap. It costs, in electricity usage, about 300 watts - not kilowatts. If I hopped on my bicycle generator for one hour every day, seven days a week, I could generate enough power for two loads of laundry. By contrast, I would have to cycle three hours per day for five days to dry one load of laundry in my dryer. If I'm on a bicycle for three hours a day, I'd better be winning the Tour de France.

I've also given up many other electrical appliances/conveniences that are just not necessary: television, VCR, DVD player, incandescent bulbs, blender, coffee maker, electric can opener, furnace, AC, electric clocks, dishwasher, electric blankets, exotic pets (like fish with filters, lights and tank heaters), bread maker, microwave, blowdryer, and curling iron.

I have plans to toss the fridge and the vacuum cleaner, too.

But the washing machine. If I can find a way ... even if it means pedal-power ... I will keep my washing machine, because an hour a day on the bicycle is significantly less time consuming that spending an entire day with a washboard and a tub of wood-heated water.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Vaccine Question - Revisited

Today's newspaper included this article. Obviously, the person who wrote the head line is pro-vaccine, as it was written to scare people into believing that vaccines are the only choice we should be making.

Headline: Bills could erode rate of vaccines in Maine.

Dude, I got news for you - the rate of vaccines in Maine is already decreasing! - a fact which is mentioned in the article. People have stopped being sheep, and just blindly accepting what they're being told. After so many years of having been lied to and/or misled by so many people who call themselves "experts", we, parents, want answers and full disclosure.

What amazes me about this article is the attitude of the medical practitioners. In particular this one pediatrician who is balking against having to provide a list of ingredients to parents prior to administering the vaccine. It's not that parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated. It's that they want to know what's in the vaccine. I just don't understand why there is so much resistance in the medical establishment to these Bills. That's all. Just an ingredient list. Is that so much to ask?

Apparently, it is ... too much to ask, and just, really, not important. We're being unreasonable.

One pediatrician who was interviewed claims that requiring a doctor to inform patients of the ingredients would be like requiring a grocery store cashier to give lists of ingredients to customers at the time of purchase. Uh, no it's not! Because, first of all, the cashier isn't carrying out a State or Federal mandate that I consume a particular food, and the cashier isn't putting anything into my body! She is only ringing in my purchase, which I selected from a veritable smorgasbord of choices, all of which carried a label that showed the ingredients, the company that manufactured the processed food, and the country of origin. If she'd compared her receptionist to the cashier, I might agree with the analogy.

I'm really not surprised by the doctor's attitude. Too often I've come in contact with doctors who seem to believe that I should simply do as they say, without any discussion as to why. No, I do not have a degree in biology, nor have I studied medicine, but I do have a degree in English, which means I can read and understand the English language. I have studied the human body, and I have studied herbalism, and I have read about those diseases for which children are being vaccinated these days. There was a time when they were deadly, but even before vaccinations were widely used, the mortality rate was on decline. Prior to 1900, the fatality rate of Pertussis was 4 deaths for every 1000 cases. Between 1900 and 1904, the rate had fallen to less than one death per thousand cases - with no vaccine use.

I think there are two key factors that helped with decreasing the severity of the diseases. One is an increase in sanitation, and the second is an increased understanding of the causes of the disease. Knowing why people were getting sick and with what went a lot further to helping treat and ultimately prevent the disease than any vaccination ever did.

As I see it, there's a significant problem with vaccinations - other than the concerns regarding toxic ingredients, and that is, those who are vaccinated tend to think that they are impervious to disease. Unfortunatly, that's not true, and many people who were vaccinated still get sick. It's like wearing a kevlar vest and going into a fire fight. There's still a chance of being injured and even killed. The vest protects the wearer, but not completely.

Yes, we have seen some modern miracles in the medical establishment, and now, more and more we see these miracles being abused (google antibiotic-resistant MRSA or the c-section rate in the US). Vaccines can be useful, but a better way of dealing with these diseases is to educate people about them, and to encourage healthy practices, like eating well and washing hands.

We need to be educated on the fact that the average human immune system is incredibly strong and resilient. With proper rest, sanitation and hydration, most people will fully recover from even the most unpleasant of illnesses. As a society, we need to start insisting that those who are unwell be encouraged to self-quarantine. In short, if you're sick, or if your child is sick, STAY HOME, rest, get plenty of fluids ... but, for goodness' sake, don't go to school, work, daycare ... the grocery store!

A final thought: viruses and bacteria usually need a host to survive. The most severe illnesses are often due to the most fragile of viruses (ones that don't last long outside of its host or that can be killed easily outside of the host with simple soap and water). Those living in close quarters, very densely packed cities, for instance, are more susceptible to pandemics than those who live more spreadout.

The impetus behind the suburban movement was to allow people to leave crowded cities. The decrease in incidence of "normal childhood disease" and a migration out of the cities and into the less densely populated suburbs occurred at around the same time.

Perhaps it's not vaccinations that are responsible for the decrease in these diseases, but suburbs.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Eternity Road

Excerted from Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil:

I ... read Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt about a future world with no books. No books. The thought makes my skin crawl. The story is about a group of adventurers who risk their lives to find a mythical place where books have been preserved.

After reading the novel, ... I had to consider which books would I preserve for posterity, which ones would I want to save that would represent my culture to a future world? I have not been able to come up with a list, because I couldn't get beyond the idea of a world without books. What I do know, for me, at this moment, is that as long as I have a little money, I'll buy books, and if any money is left, I'll buy food and clothing. Because I can grow food, and I can make clothes, but books ... well, without books so much knowledge is lost ... and if the world as we know it is going to end, the biggest tragedy would be the loss of the incredible wealth of information that is contained in our books.

The winner of the book, Eternity Road, is Kimberly. Congratulations! Please leave your full name and address to which you would like your book mailed in the comments. I will not publish your information.

Raised Beds

When I was coming inside this morning from tending the animals, I noticed that the snow is mostly gone. There are still a few patches where we created snow banks when we shoveled the snow off the pathways or driveway, and being deeper and denser than the surrounding snow, they'll take a bit longer to melt. One of these spots is right next to the driveway on top of one of my raised beds.

When we first started gardening, we were complete novices (worse than novice, actually, and if you've read my book, I hope you enjoyed the story about my first adventure in gardening ;). Deus Ex Machina decided raised beds would be the best for the space we had available, but we didn't have any money for supplies.

We got our first rabbits at the same time, and we needed to have some place for them to live ... but, again, no money for building supplies or rabbit hutches.

Deus Ex Machina found some old pallets at work and brought them home. We used them to build a super structure for the rabbits (and more than ten years later, we still have and still use the hutch we made from pallets, although it's in need of a few repairs at this point) and with what was left, we built our first raised beds.

We've replaced and/or relocated most of those original beds, but it was a great lesson in making-do, and it helped us to realize that we didn't have to have the "ideal." Frankly, the plants don't really care, and with creativity and imagination, the garden made of repurposed materials doesn't have to look shoddy.

Since then, we've used all sorts of materials to create our beds. Right now, we have several 4'x 4' beds. These are framed using 1"x 6". We also have a couple of square beds that were framed using field stones from an old rock wall. Another bed was constructed of cinderblock (which are about $2 each and one needs fifteen to make one 8'x 4' bed).

My favorite raised bed material is the cinderblock, because I believe it has more longevity than wood (although the 1"x 6" allow me to make better use of my space, because I can place the beds closer together and still leave room for walking around the beds). Another nice thing about the cinderblock is that I can plant inside the perimeter of the cinderblocks, but I can also plant things in the holes of the cinderblocks, which increases my planting space without having to worry (as much) about whether the plants make great companions (because they don't share the soil).

Other perimeter materials can be just as simple and repurposed: buckets, plant pots, tires, bricks, cord wood. The possibilities are only limited by one's imagination.

In fact, I was looking out the window earlier, and I noticed that my neighbor had some old decorative shutters stacked under his storage shed, and I thought, "If I fastened those together, they'd make a good raised garden bed."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes

How is it that a ten year old girl "gets it", but most adults are still oblivious? Makes me wonder who the wise ones really are.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Yend* ...

In poetry, personification is the technique wherein the poet attributes some human characteristic to something in the natural world. It's April 1, recognized here in the US as "April Fool's Day," and if I wanted to engage in personification, I might say that Mother Nature was making the fool of us here in the northeast. It's snowing right now, but when I looked at my flower bed just two days ago, I could see the irises just starting to peek out. The trees are budding, and we're busily boiling sap for our years' supply.

And it's been a very good sap season so far. In fact, we're in glut, which was not the case last year. We're in glut, and we're struggling to keep up with the abundance that is being provided us ... but we have to. We have to use it all, with thanks for the bounty, because next year might be like last year was. When one lives seasonally, it's with the understanding that sometimes we have, and sometimes we don't, and the key is learning to accept the gifts as they arrive, and not just when it's convenient for us. Nature may not be so generous next time, especially if we treat Her like a horse and look into her mouth.

I could be disappointed that it's snowing today. Or I could enjoy how beautiful it is ... and later, when it slows a bit, I could go outside and light up the fire under the sap boiling pan, boil it down to almost syrup, and then drizzle it on the fresh, newly fallen "clean" snow and for the first time, have snow candy. Usually, when we're boiling, the snow is mostly gone, or just dirty. I've been given this gift of clean, white snow, and for that I am thankful.

The last twenty-one (well, twenty-two) posts have been a lot of fun to do, and if you've been following along, then you've been given a preview of what my book is about. Like my last twenty-one (or twenty-two) posts, the book draws on the idea that we know something is going to happen in twenty-one days that will dramatically change our lives. The event, and we never know what it is, will strip away all of our little conveniences and leave us vulnerable ... unless we prepare. Like Noah, building the Ark, the book challenges us to think beyond the obvious ... to hop right outside of that box and imagine what's possible, with a little imagination, maybe a bit of research, maybe some stocking of supplies.

And no, I don't believe we can prepare for every imagined possible future, but we can do some things that would be appropriate no matter what. We can think about our shelter needs, for instance, remembering that one can live without food for weeks, without water for days, but only for a few hours when exposed to the elements. The bottom line is that we begin to focus on needs, and not wants - figure out what do we really NEED, and not just what we think we need because our society tells us it's so.

My favorite part of the last month has been the comments. Indeed, it was because of comments over the past four years that the book was born at all. Kate, from Living the Frugal Life, coined the term "Thrivalist" in the comments section of my blog a couple of years ago, and her witticism has now become part of my book title. *Thanks, Kate* :).

But also it was often nay-saying responses to my insistence that we "can do" whatever it is we need to do. I could hear the fear and desparation in the voices, and I wrote my book, and continue to write this blog, because we don't have to be afraid. The book is about empowering us, as individuals.

*WE* can be in control.

But what *WE* can not do is to wait for someone to come along and solve the problem for us. And we also can not be paralyzed into inaction by our concern that we can not solve all of the problems of the world. One day, when my children were very young, and we already knew we were going to homeschool, I started to think of all of the things that I know, all of the lessons that I had learned from the hundreds of teachers that I have been privileged to know, and suddenly, I was completely overwhelmed. How_could_*I*_do it all?? The answer came and said, "How could I *not* at least try to do some?"

And that is how I approach moving toward self-sufficiency. How can *I* not do something for myself, even if I can't imagine how I could do it all?

I can only change myself, but in changing myself, eventually I can change the world.

I believe that, and I believe it is true of all of us.

I'm not going to develop a power generation system that can power all of Portland, Maine, but I could have a small system that would give "me" enough power for a few laptop computers, the freezer, and if I'm very lucky, my washing machine. I don't reckon I need much more than those few things. Not really.

I'm not going to feed the world, but if I can feed my family, that's five fewer people the world's farmers have to worry about, which leaves more food for other people, and, perhaps, I can raise a bit extra to share with my neighbors, which leaves that much more for others.

We don't have to do it all alone, but we do have to do as much as we all can, individually, start small and work our way outward.

I'm so impressed with all of you, because you're doing so much more than you give yourselves credit for doing, and I know that most of what I say could be described as "preaching to the choir." I learn from you, too, and I'm so grateful that you found this blog and make it a part of your day to read and comment.

The last twenty-one (or two ;) posts have been a snippet of what I cover in my book. I go into a lot more detail in the book than I did in each blog post (and I don't give stuff away at the end of each chapter) with a lot more ideas, a few recipes, and some great resources for more information.

If you are interested in a copy of my book, please leave a comment.

I will announce the recipient on April 8 - a week from today.

*I have been blessed with very talented and creative children. When my youngest was very small, she loved telling stories. When she finished her (often very long and convoluted) tale, she would say, very emphatically, "The ... Yend!" It's become one of those endearing traditions in our family ;).