Thursday, October 30, 2008

A sad report on our chickens

We had a dog attack on our chickens this week: it broke through our, albeit - rinky-dink, poultry fence and massacred our little flock. Casualties include: 2 missing, 7 dead, 3 injured, and 19 jittered. It was horrible. Two pullets are in a straw-filled hospital-box under a heat lamp in our garage with what seem to be superficial injuries. The injured cockerel is in the coop with the rest of them; he won't stay in one spot, though he does stand quietly to the side. The look and mannerisms of shock of the wounded was sobering. I can't help but look at them anthropomorphically - and my imagination ran wild last night with all the horrible things that humankind has inflicted on one another. They were completely shell-shocked.

It happened in the morning - I was here the entire time, completely oblivious. As we were leaving for the library in late morning, Diego ran out to the coop as usual. I was bringing out tomato scraps from the previous evening's tomato soup as he ran back saying, "Mama, I saw a dog!" That is when I looked more closely and saw the pluming feathers (which I previously mistook for milkweed seeds) and noticed a bird laying on its side outside of the chicken yard, another alive and just sitting by it, feathers askew with eyes staring.

Five of the seven were shaken to death; two of the seven survived, but sustained severe injuries and Squeeze had to put them down last night. Also sobering. The three remaining injured seem as if they will recover, though still extremely subdued and still: the just stand or lay and stare. It is horrible.

Dilly danders

Eric, you are correct
I love this rhyme!

We were out of town last weekend for a wedding and this weekend we have company coming [can't wait] - this is why you've heard little from me.

11/7 Edit:
This post used to contain the sad story of our chicken attack, but I'm putting it into an entirely new post - it is too morose to be a post-script under the Dilly Danders heading.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A riddle:

Four stiff standers,
Four dilly danders,
Two lookers -
Two crookers -
and a wig-wag.

What is it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Little Pumpkin

You little darling!
Pumpkin's birth story
Now, a birthday surprise for the masses --
Pumpkin is truly one of this boy's middle names:
Truen Jules Pumpkin
(His handle is not Pumpkin for naught)
Happy Birthday Sweet One

Monday, October 20, 2008

Farmer in Chief

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, wrote an interesting article in New York Times Magazine, as an open letter to the President-Elect. [Hit 'single page' if you go to the actual article - it is too long to be continuously hitting 'next page'.]

After deconstructing the crux of the problem, he really sizzles in his three main proposals:

I. Resolarizing the American Farm
II. Reregionalizing the Food System
III. Rebuilding America’s Food Culture

Preach it, Pollan:
The sun-food agenda must include programs to train a new generation of farmers and then help put them on the land. The average American farmer today is 55 years old; we shouldn’t expect these farmers to embrace the sort of complex ecological approach to agriculture that is called for. Our focus should be on teaching ecological farming systems to students entering land-grant colleges today. For decades now, it has been federal policy to shrink the number of farmers in America by promoting capital-intensive monoculture and consolidation. As a society, we devalued farming as an occupation and encouraged the best students to leave the farm for “better” jobs in the city. We emptied America’s rural counties in order to supply workers to urban factories. To put it bluntly, we now need to reverse course. We need more highly skilled small farmers in more places all across America — not as a matter of nostalgia for the agrarian past but as a matter of national security. For nations that lose the ability to substantially feed themselves will find themselves as gravely compromised in their international dealings as nations that depend on foreign sources of oil presently do. But while there are alternatives to oil, there are no alternatives to food.

And again:

A decentralized food system offers a great many other benefits as well. Food eaten closer to where it is grown will be fresher and require less processing, making it more nutritious. Whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience: regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks. When a single factory is grinding 20 million hamburger patties in a week or washing 25 million servings of salad, a single terrorist armed with a canister of toxins can, at a stroke, poison millions. Such a system is equally susceptible to accidental contamination: the bigger and more global the trade in food, the more vulnerable the system is to catastrophe. The best way to protect our food system against such threats is obvious: decentralize it.


You’re probably thinking that growing and eating organic food in the White House carries a certain political risk. It is true you might want to plant iceberg lettuce rather than arugula, at least to start. (Or simply call arugula by its proper American name, as generations of Midwesterners have done: “rocket.”) But it should not be difficult to deflect the charge of elitism sometimes leveled at the sustainable-food movement. Reforming the food system is not inherently a right-or-left issue: for every Whole Foods shopper with roots in the counterculture you can find a family of evangelicals intent on taking control of its family dinner and diet back from the fast-food industry — the culinary equivalent of home schooling. You should support hunting as a particularly sustainable way to eat meat — meat grown without any fossil fuels whatsoever. There is also a strong libertarian component to the sun-food agenda, which seeks to free small producers from the burden of government regulation in order to stoke rural innovation. And what is a higher “family value,” after all, than making time to sit down every night to a shared meal?

Our agenda puts the interests of America’s farmers, families and communities ahead of the fast-food industry’s. For that industry and its apologists to imply that it is somehow more “populist” or egalitarian to hand our food dollars to Burger King or General Mills than to support a struggling local farmer is absurd. Yes, sun food costs more, but the reasons why it does only undercut the charge of elitism: cheap food is only cheap because of government handouts and regulatory indulgence (both of which we will end), not to mention the exploitation of workers, animals and the environment on which its putative “economies” depend. Cheap food is food dishonestly priced — it is in fact unconscionably expensive.

It is a LONG article addressing a BIG problem, but well-worth the read. Please -- indulge me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pictures, Em - pictures!

Emily - my new SIL just posted pictures of their wedding on her blog. [I can't link directly to the post, so find the 10/18/08 post if this is in the future.]

I'm still working on getting pictures up myself -- sheesh, what's a mother to do? It'll happen -- maybe I'll put it up in celebration of their one year anniversary. Ha!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thank you, Barbara

Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver, I am stocking our root cellar with local produce for the winter. Considering the fact that I actually have a root cellar and the fact that I was able to go to a farm and buy the produce amazes me. We definitely weren't at this point 2 years ago, physically or philosophically - though certainly working towards it.

We bought the book Root Cellaring by the Bubels on eBay once we knew we were moving to a place that had a root cellar. It is a great reference book - filled with information about vegetables and how to keep them, but it also gives specific instruction and options for those who do not have root cellars (which would probably be the majority of the population). It is possible to "put up food" in root cellar-like conditions without a root cellar - but it does take more work. Check out the book, if you're interested. It's great.

The farm I connected with is a vegetable growing operation that is the mainstay at several of the local farmers' markets - not in our town, but in my in-laws' town. In September, I started going and buying huge canvas bags of onions, potatoes, and fabulously large and totally gorgeous celery, when I realized: hey! I should be stocking up for the winter. Another DUH! Moment.

I was fearful that I was too late in the season, but I called the farmer and made an appointment for this past Thursday morning. It was great fun - Diego loved running around the gardens and commenting on the plants he recognized [and playing with their enormous yellow lab, Tigger] and I enjoyed walking around and seeing their operation. Nestled in our root cellar is now 90 lbs of potatoes, 20 lbs carrots, and 40 lbs onions. I also bought several cabbages, as I am total sucker for cole slaw and cabbage in soups. I would have liked more carrots, but that was the last of them. Serves me right for not getting on it sooner.

From our own garden, we also have a store of 15-20 buttercup squash upstairs from (they don't like root cellars); and several flats of green tomatoes, in addition to the green tomatoes still on the vines and hanging upside-down in our garage. [Thanks Sandy!] In the freezer, we've got 20 or so quarts of frozen tomatoes and 10-15 quarts of frozen chard and spinach; two quarts each of frozen raspberries and strawberries. There is still kale in the garden ( it) and there are three enormous bunches of celery in the freezer (so fragrant). And I have two of the three quarts of lard left.

It has been so much fun! I wouldn't say it has been too much work, either. In general, it has been a this-and-there job; prepping and storing the food when it is ripe. It is so satisfying to know that we have stores of food on hand; it also makes grocery shopping so much less of a chore. It has definitely been a several-year journey to get to this point - I am so excited to see where we are at a few years from now.

I'll close with a funny note on our raspberries. We planted two raspberries last fall and three this spring/summer, so they are still very immature and generally not producing; however, two of them grew berries this fall and we have harvested -- get this -- a total of 15-20 berries over the past two weeks. It ain't many, but they are so vibrantly delicious that I get the happy shivers just thinking of their future. Both boys love to go out and check to see if there are any red berries available - Truen flaps his arms and looks very focused at getting at the bush, and Diego will search the plant to see if there are any "wipe berwies".

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Delish, and an update

I made an amazing Kale-Potato soup this evening, using a recipe from Simply in Season.

I am pretty proud of myself. It was a nice change of pace, but I was even more pleased after considering the ingredients: farmers' market potatoes & onions, kale & garlic from our garden, and homemade chicken stock with local chicken, garden carrots, farmers' market celery & onion; even better, I cooked it up in my new [birthday] LODGE cast-iron enameled dutch oven.

The non-local items included butter, pepper, pink sea salt, and WIC milk.

*** *** ***

We recommenced work on our kitchen remodel this weekend after the carpenter finished the trim and raised our front door this past week. Squeeze's parents came and the three of them finished removing the last of the wallpaper, primed the walls, and began staining while I kept the children under wraps.

Yes, this project started sometime last March: it is sloooow going with two babes and tons of outside work. Next weekend: more staining and painting. Our paint choice is a light warm yellow called 'Happy Stroll'. It should be beautiful.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CONSUMER REPORTS: Back to Basics For Safer Childbirth

I found a great article today, discussing the some of the problems with the current culture of childbirth in the US. I feel encouraged that a non-profit organization like Consumer Reports is picking this up on their radar - it is just one more spark that may ignite change.

For a more in-depth look at the problem, please read PUSHED: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. I was amazed to find some of my own experiences paralleled the author's descriptions. It would be a great start to sharpen some of your critical thinking skills in dealing with your view/idea and experiences with the medical model of childbirth.

CONSUMER REPORTS: Back to Basics For Safer Childbirth

Last update: 2:54 p.m. EDT Oct. 8, 2008
YONKERS, N.Y., Oct 08, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Too many obstetricians and hospitals use potentially harmful high-tech or invasive procedures, new study finds
According to Consumer Reports, many obstetricians and maternity hospitals overuse high-tech procedures that can result in poor results for newborns and their mothers. CR urges parents to test their knowledge of maternity care by taking a quiz available at CR's website,
A new report by the nonprofit Childbirth Connection published for the first time today on CR's Web site says when it's time to bring a new baby into the world, there's a lot to be said for letting nature take the lead. It finds that maternity care in the United States today is characterized by too many unnecessary and invasive procedures and not enough high-touch, low-tech measures that can optimize infant health. Lower tech measures can also encourage the establishment of successful breastfeeding and better mother-baby attachment.
The Childbirth Connection study analyzed hundreds of the most recent studies and systematic reviews of maternity care. It notes that the current style of maternity care is so procedure-intensive that six of the 15 most common hospital procedures in the entire U.S. are related to childbirth. Although most childbearing women in this country are healthy and at low risk for childbirth complications, national surveys reveal that essentially all women who give birth in U.S. hospitals have high rates of complex interventions, with risks of adverse effects.
To read the Childbirth Connection study or take the maternity quiz, please go to

Quiz: Maternity care, beware
Despite growing evidence of harm, many obstetricians and maternity hospitals still overuse high-tech procedures that can mean poorer outcomes for baby and Mom. Test your knowledge with our quiz below, and then learn more in our report (

True or false
An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.
False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.
Induced labor can halt fetal development.
True. The vital organs (including the brain and lungs) continue to develop beyond the 37th week of gestation. There is also a five-fold increase in the brain's white-matter volume between 35 and 41 weeks after conception. Inducing labor (with synthetic oxytocin, for example) might stop this growth if the fetus is not fully developed. Between 1990 and 2005, the number of women whose labor was induced more than doubled.
Due-date estimates can be off by up to two weeks.
True. This inaccuracy can lead to a baby being delivered by induction or Caesarean section up to two weeks earlier than its estimated due-date, cutting off important weeks of fetal development.
"Breaking the waters" helps hasten labor.
False. There is no evidence to support the fact that this common practice (about 47% of women) shortens labor, increases maternal satisfaction, or improves outcomes for newborns.
Induced labor increases the likelihood of Caesarean section in first-time mothers.
True. The cervix might not be ready for labor. Other effects of induced labor include an increased likelihood of an epidural, an assisted delivery with vacuum extraction or forceps, and extreme bleeding postpartum.
Once you've had a C-section, it's best to do it again.
False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman's previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.
Labor itself can benefit a newborn's immunity.
True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn's intestines will be colonized with "good" bacteria after the sterile womb environment.
Epidural anesthesia is a low-risk way to make labor easier.
False. Many women welcome the pain relief, but might not be well-informed about the increased risk of its side-effects, including lack of mobility, sedation, fever, longer pushing, and serious perineal tears.
Epidural anesthesia presents risks to newborns.
True. Babies whose mothers received epidurals during labor are at risk for rapid heart rate, hyperbilirubinemia (the presence of and excess of bilirubin in the blood), need for antibiotics, and poorer performance on newborn assessment tests.
Episiotomies reduce the risk of perineal tearing.
False. Evidence shows that routine use of episiotomy offers no benefits but rather increases women's risk of experiencing perineal injury, stitches, pain and tenderness, leaking stool or gas, and pain during sexual intercourse. Yet in 2005, 25 percent of women with vaginal births continued to experience this intervention. Episiotomy is one of several obstetric practices adopted into common usage before being adequately studied.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

He's got skillz

Baby Truen is walking behind a little kiddie car while holding onto the back of it. He just started tonight, totally out of the blue. It won't be long now - and then he'll be hitting the ground running. [He essentially does that right now, only on his hands and knees.]

The Lil' Pumpkin will be a year on the 21st.
Where did my wee babe go?

He can play the drumz too

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In which, as it were, I rant.

I've finally had it with our little library. It is small, but worse: the selection [collection] is nauseating. I would say 60% or more of the children's library consists of bore-me-to-tears cartoon character stories from Nickelodeon, Pixar, or Disney. Sickening; enough to make me roll my eyes into an oblivion. I can't read that pap to my children! I'm so bored by the second sentence I can hardly stand it. Furthermore, it is less of a "learning opportunity", like, i.e. "Help Blue [of Blue's Clues] find the most healthy snack!" than it is one more avenue of branding their product. Complete malarkey.

The teen section is mostly grotesque novellas of jealousy, love and betrayal - certainly not worth a second glance. Think Sweet Valley High amped up to a revolting level of shallow materialism and sexual obsession. I just can't take it. It is like we are spoon-feeding our children self-absorption. As if the media isn't doing enough of this via ads, mags, television, blockbuster hits, and laughable music videos. We have to hit 'em up with books as well! Gross.

The adult section is mostly shoddy mysteries, westerns, paperback romances, and grocery store aisle best-sellers. Dull. Dull. Dull. Some of my best finds have come from simply browsing library shelves, something that is almost impossible amidst the small pond [I was going to say ocean, but then realized that, no, this library is like a stagnant pond - not the sea] of driveling dribble we have for a book selection in this little town. It is disheartening more than I can describe. There is no Great Literature in this library. It is pap. P-A-P.

I have complained of this before, but after a year - I just can't take it anymore. I'm starting to explore libraries in other towns. It almost feels like a betrayal - like I am cheating on my library. I feel like I have to be very secretive about it and hold my tongue (something that is very hard for me) when I am elsewhere, otherwise that infamous small-town talk will work it's way back to the Small Town librarian and then I am truly done for.


I've found a library that makes my heart glad. It is in the town just west of us; a bit farther of a drive, but the children's section does NOT have cartoon characters painted on the wall (ours does) and they actually have a solid selection in both the children and adult sections. It is almost as small as "my" library, but it feels like a library. It smells like a library. They have tall shelves where you can get lost in the aisle and it gets a little darker when you're in the thick of it.

This leads me to the beginning of an understanding of how much the librarian probably influences the aura-sense-feel of a library, not to mention the collection itself. This is a real DUH!! Moment for me, but being used to large libraries that employ, say, 10-15 people, and going to libraries that are run by one person and a handful of volunteers, it is quite revealing indeed. Those who run it are directly responsible for what it is.

This new library actually feels like a library instead of a book-only garage sale. They have books that are old alongside books that are new. It looks as if quite a bit of thought goes into the collection - there is more variety, more intrigue. The poetry section takes up two four-foot selves instead of a quarter of a shelf. The children's section is chock-full of literature with nary a Buzz Lightyear book in sight. [I did see a couple of Dora books, but they were off to the side and limited in number.] The librarian is a fancy older lady. She wears big jewelry! She looks at home with books! I've overheard her talking about what she is reading!! I can browse!

And now...I feel better.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


This is a post I've been meaning to write for almost a year.

With sheer exuberance, I'd like to announce that canvas bags for grocery shopping are the BEST. Sure, I've been bringing my own bag to farmers' markets for years - but grocery stores? I am ashamed to admit it, but I've only been doing it for a year and a half. What was I thinking?! I even have good friends who have been doing it for years [LSJF fo' sho']. But me? A year and a half. Ridiculous.

There's a lot of [important] yadda yadda about reducing waste, which is one of the big reasons why I started making the initial switch. It is obvious: why use something disposable, even if it can be re-used for, say, a garbage liner, if you can use something else over and over and over and over and over again? Furthermore, I'm sure everyone else has seen the plastic bags stuck on trees and bushes and rocks and fences. Enough said. It ain't good. I'm glad that grocery stores are providing recycling receptacles for plastic bags, but I think we, as a nation, should take it a step further. BYOB - that is, Bring Your Own Bags.

[Paper isn't much better because though it biodegradable, a whole lotta energy went into making it. And, I don't know if anyone else has noticed - but grocery stores seem to be pushing the plastic. I suspect it is because plastic is less expensive.]

But the beauty of making the switch is that I've discovered a heap of benefits that are above and beyond the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Really!

First off, you can pack more into each bag, which means: less to bring in the house. Secondly, the bags are significantly easier to carry. You can sling 2-4 over your shoulders and bring them into the house like a pack-horse, cutting out nasty things like getting the circulation cut off from your fingers or the inability to open doors. All the weight is on your shoulders, with your arms free to use as need be. This has been the most significant perk for me: I can actually bring groceries, inside, by myself, with two children, in the winter. Amazing!!

I have been converted and I am never, ever going back. When I think about all those years with Squeeze, struggling to bring groceries in - especially when we were living in the top floor of our duplex, or the third floor of our first apartment - I just think to myself, "Doh!!!" What a waste. It could have been so much easier.

Additionally, most grocery stores take off anywhere from 5-10 cents for each bag that you bring in and use. They don't seem to advertise this, and it isn't much - but whatevs. I'm not doing it for the cost savings from my bill. I've got bigger things to worry about. Like, hauling in groceries while contending with two small children. Or what to make for dinner tonight. Besides, it is the cost savings from the bigger picture that I concerns me, not the potential of 70-80 cents.

Grocery stores are selling their branded reusable bags, which work fine - but I have a better idea. Instead of paying two dollars for the synthetic bags that the mainstream grocery stores are offering, get them from thrift stores for 25 cents. I've been picking them up here and there for a couple of years now, both canvas and synthetic: they are from all sorts of conventions and company meetings and even a few from hobby groups. I have collected a whole fleet, that can handle big and small trips. They are wonderful. WONDERFUL. I keep them right by my seat in the, ahem, minivan. Squeeze has a few in his car, too. And I found a little hand-made purple one with a clown patch on it that I keep in my, ahem, diaper bag at all times for little in-and-out trips.

Finally, there is something very satisfying in re-using the same bags. I've gotten to know them and have opinions about what they are each used best for. Some of them are adorable, while others fit over my shoulder just right. My personal favorite extols the carrier as the "Number One Grandma". They are fabulous. Wonderful. Labor-reducing. Cost-effective. Fun. Cozy.