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Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Need Structure

I have a post today at Homemakers Who Work about routine and getting back to a schedule. My Plan to get back on track...

Sans Microwave

Three weeks ago our microwave bit the dust. My gut reaction was to moan and groan and then check the sales fliers for a good deal, but instead we decided to try going without. Initially it was very hard, I mean how else do you warm up a cup of coffee, or make a couple Morning Star sausage links for breakfast? Microwave popcorn, quick defrost of meat, melt white 'chocolate' for our traditional xmas pretzels?

However humans are adaptable creatures and thrive under adverse conditions! I have learned that warming water for tea is almost as fast on the stove, taking meat out ahead of time is a wonderful thing, the stove *gasp* works great for breakfast links, and we don't eat the prepackaged 'must microwave' stuff anyway-except sometimes for lunches at work. I think we will try the old fashioned popcorn in a kettle tonight (with REAL butter) for a new years treat. I will need another small sauce pan to make this work long term.

We have decided to go without -our future (off grid?) home will be small and spare; cutting back on electricity use and the extra clutter of bulky appliances is how we explained the situation to our curious mom-in-law but maybe it was just plain old contrariness-I'll never tell!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Walk

This weekend my husband and I ditched the children :) and took a much needed woods walk. It was about 15 degrees but sunny and no wind. I had my new Carharts and was ready to roll! We walked our newly surveyed 20 acres and then slipped into Dad's adjacent woods. It was a great work-out! I didn't think we had enough snow to warrant the snow shoes but we forgot what the wind does out there. The sun and the sweat and the dream of things to come were just what we both needed!

An 'island' of grass with lots of mouse activity

Birds in the fencerow



Friday, December 18, 2009


Following this link from Homemakers Who Work? Sorry-I have a sick kid today--I will write a nice (maybe naughty) post this afternoon! Check back soon. Kris

This week I received an e-mail from my state professional association, it was a copy of an email sent to MY state legislators informing them that WI veterinarians are against the raw milk bill. What? When did I say that? Did I miss some poll? The e-mail got me going for several reasons. I am FOR raw milk; at least give us, the unthinking masses the chance to choose. I am also paying association dues to be misrepresented. The WVMA (and national AVMA) is also very much for NAIS--another topic you do not want to get me started on! The threshold has been broken-I am ticked, these blog rants are a way for me to blow off a little steam before I settle down and write a good logical, professional(but still mad) letter to the WVMA.

Wisconsin is agriculture. In fact the county in which I live used to be known for having more Holsteins than humans! Due to historically low milk prices (something on the order of $0.84/gallon) to the farmer-they are bleeding red ink this year. A combination of declining milk exports and high prices for feed have created an estimated 'average' loss of $47 per cow each month. Farms are going out of business (which by the way does not mean less milk produced-someone buys and milks those cows), which means people loosing their livelihoods, their retirement equity, and in most cases their homes. Farmers are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

The whole and local food movement has created a demand for raw unprocessed milk. Dairymen who sell milk fresh from the farm can make $4-7 per gallon, a living wage-unfortunately this is illegal in WI. The bill in front of the State would allow class A dairies to apply for a raw milk permit and legally sell unprocessed-straight from the cow milk, without being held liable for possible damages-unless obviously negligent. Bonus-they can pay their mortgage, pay their bills, and have something left over for retirement.

Yes, you can get sick from raw milk. It's going to happen. Listeria, brucella, e. Coli, Q fever-there are all sorts of nasties which can live and multiply in milk. But wouldn't you rather have permitted farms selling milk or black-market, under the table sales? To have a raw permit-the dairies should have scheduled bulk tank sampling and cultures, a Johne's negative herd. It is a win-win situation. People get the product they want, the state gets permit revenues, the farmer gets a financially viable business ( and oh yeah large animal DVM's have increased revenue from the additional testing as well as farmer who can actually pay their bills each month!)

The milk safety issue is an interesting one. There is the acute illness we can see and measure when there is a local outbreak of gastrointestinal disease, this is (relatively) easy to lay blame on contaminated milk (or peanut butter or spinach). But what about the chronic health problems which lead from a life-time of eating processed, dead foods? There is no way to measure something like that. As a person of Northern European descent, I believe my body is more capable of dealing with the occasional bacterium in a traditional food like whole milk than in highly processed dead food. I trust eons of natural selection and symbiosis over 100 years of 'progress'. Which is the safer food? Food scientists are really smart and we have come a long way, but I don't think we have come close to understanding the subtlety and complexity of nutrition.

Come on Wisconsin-at least pretend you care about your farmers more than you cater to agribusiness.

Some links to look at for more info

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Health Care Muddle

Is health care a constitutionally protected right? Is it right up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Do we have a responsibility to provide the same level of health care to everyone across the board? Or is health care something you earn; work hard, take responsibility for your own life, don't have kids until you can afford them, etc. The price I pay for being a Libra is I can see both sides of the argument. Both have merit. I fall somewhere in the middle I suppose, but all the shades of grey are difficult-it would be so much easier if things were black and white.
In theory I am a survival of the fittest kind of gal, and while supporting the weakest member of a society is good for those weak individuals it is bad for the society as a whole in the long run. Sorry if that is offensive, but I am too much of the Darwinian biologist to think any other way. I do not believe access to health care is something our society is mandated to provide to every member of society, but I would support health care for every child under the age of 18 yrs. I would also support a national health care pool from which you could not be excluded based on pre-existing conditions. But not free. Free is not free, free means people with income pay for those without. I have worked very hard for a long time and would rather not support someone who has made poor choices and screwed around with his /her life. There are all sorts of extenuating circumstances though-mental illness for example.
It is all just a muddy mess. What sort of solutions do you see?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After the Snow

We are one of only a few households without a snow blower in our NC Wisconsin neighborhood. I'm not sure if it is stubbornness or frugality (actually I am sure it is a healthy dose of BOTH), but we have resisted buying an expensive noisy beast.
We only get a handful of big heavy snows each winter, the remainder comes in 1-3 inch increments-easily handled with a shovel, the only kicker is the snowplow leavings across the driveway.
Last week we received 11.5 inches of snow-it was light and fluffy but still a lot of material to move...enter our best friend after a big snow-the snow scoop.

We have a double lot on a corner which translates to a block worth's of sidewalk! So I love this thing, no lifting the snow. I can push it with my body if my arms get tired, and even when full loaded with heavy snow it is easy to 'drive' it up a snowbank then a quick jerk backwards deposits the snow.

The south side done-only wide enough for one person and a dog-good enough!

Second half to go-down to the telephone pole,this is the second time through-after the winds stopped!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stepping off a Cliff ?

The enormity of what we are doing is sinking in. It is one thing to sit around the campfire and say "let's move to the country" after a beautiful summer day of gardening and hiking and playing. Another thing entirely to consider 5 long months of snow and wind and darkness. To be confronted daily with mother nature at her fiercest and most beautiful; to realize that as an individual (or even as a species)that I am NOT special, that I AM vulnerable, that my survival depends on how well prepared I am.
I admit I got a little weirded-out driving out to the property last week with -20 wind chill to meet the surveyors. I had to borrow my hubbies 4 wheel drive(to make it up the -plowed- driveway). I also had to borrow his Carhart's because I don't have decent warm clothes. I was feeling a little over my head. But I accept this challenge. We can do this-our family does not belong in town anymore-we have outgrown it.
The land purchase is going forward. Since we have agreed to the land price, Mr. Nice Farmer is working very hard to be sure we hit no other snags. We should be finalized around the end of the month!


All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas layin' in the sun,
Talkin' 'bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done...
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did

I've been full of shouldas and wouldas,
Thanks Shel Silverstien for showing me the way

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Garden Plans (and snow)

The view towards the rabbit hutches: the girls have been making trails :)

My poor little car!

We have been hit with snow like the rest of the midwest, maybe 8 inches? It is hard to tell with the drifting. The wind shifted to the north last night and the poor bunnies nest box opening face north-they had a bit of snow in their little houses. We got the plastic up for them this morning! I have been pretty complacent with this long mild fall.

Tom has been reading 'The Good Life' by helen and scott nearing. I read it a while ago and got it out to re-read part again...We were both struck by their sense of order and doing things the 'right' way. Their disciplined approach appeals to both of us-something to file away for future use. Tom is interested in being more involved in the garden this year! I would love that-it is good to work TOGETHER on something.

With a couple of months of eating foods we have grown and stored, I have a better idea of what works for our family. The dehydrated carrots are WONDERFUL for casseroles and soups. We certainly want to plan for more carrots -planted in succession, next year. The frozen green beans have also been really good in casseroles and soups. I don't think you can beat dried beans for ease of growth and storage. More varieties next year! The sun dried tomatoes in oil are little treasures too. We certainly need to get the solar food drier running next year.

The 150 Lbs of potatoes are doing well. We dug them up too early and some are beginning to show some sprouting activity. The yellow onions are fine in the basement closet too. (Don't try to store red ones!)

I can hardly wait for the seed catalogs to start arriving!

Tomorrow I pull out the snow shoes and 'supervise' the surveying. It has gotten more complicated now that we are buying a 4+ acre portion and creating a 15 acre 'sublot' to put on the land contract; more fees to pay the county government.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't 'Fall Down the Stairs'

The Christmas tree is up; snow is on the way (up to one foot of the stuff!), we have a cookie baking extravaganza planned for next weekend and guess what? It’s beginning to feel like Christmas! Finally.
I have a bad attitude about eating on a diet, this weekend I ate grilled cheese sandwiches (homemade sourdough-mmm!) and eggnog with no regrets! My co-worker gave me a great quote “just because you tripped down a couple stairs, don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairway”. Something to that effect, anyway. She’s right-and she should know-- she has lost 57 lbs. with WW and exercise. I almost didn’t go to workout this morning; I was grumpy and ugly. Then I reminded myself that it wasn’t optional. I am working on increasing my running (jogging) distances, gradually working up from 1minute jog, 1 minute walk, repeat. Today I ran a total of 0.8 miles. It isn’t pretty but I felt great doing it and the liberating thing about being (nearly) 40 is the complete and utter disregard I have for how I may look to others! It just doesn’t matter-I wish I could go back and give this peace and acceptance to myself at 17.
We were scheduled to have the land surveyed on Wednesday-it is supposed to be blizzard-like, if so it will be put off until next week. Nothing else to report here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Today I have a post at HWW about mindfulness and living in the moment. Enjoy the holiday season, every moment!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Plant Sex

No one guessed what the pictures in the previous post were...plant porn. Electron microscope photos of pollen enhanced with color. Once giftmas (oops christmas) is history-I will break out my old paints and see if they are all dried up or still usable! It's been years.

A helpful radio announcer reminded me that there is only 20 days until, I better order gifts for the girls. They have been circling and cutting out pictures from the catalogs we receive for months! Everyone else is covered, I think.

I have been working out 3-4 days per week. I feel great. The scale is not moving much (5#) but my blue jeans are much looser-as in I can pull them off without unbuttoning. Its something, I'll take it 5# at a time.

The land contract on our 20 acres is going forward. We will buy outright 4 acres plus the 33x800ft driveway, and write a contract with Mr Nice Farmer for the rest. The surveying will happen next week -to the tune of $1,000 ouch! The builder we will use is available for next summer. We will get together with him sometime in january to go over our scribbled plans.

I need to work on a post for tomorrow's Homemakers Who Work. I think I will talk about my personal hero the FlyLady...interested...come visit us there.

(i don't think I posted these from this summer)

Erin before her first class--she's crazy nervous but it doesn't show

Lizzy on Beljit with trainer Liz Rice-Beula

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This weekend i participated in an Alternative Holiday market at the Universalist Unitarian Church. A group called the Simple Sustainable Living Network (SSLN) meets at he church and hosts the market. ArkWorks Farm had a table at the market and Dad-looking for a little moral support-invited me to market my primitive wood crafts there as well. Making these wooden signs has been a bit of a hobby over the past year-not technically challenging or particularly creative but they keep my fingers in the paint pot so to speak. All proceeds were to go to the local Women's Community Center-except I had no proceeds! A lot of looking but no buying. I am not crushed! Now I have plenty of christmas gifts to give away! I was happy with my quality of work, etc and it was fun to get out of my little world. Dad sold a few chickens and made alot of new contacts and reconnected with many old teacher colleagues. We were tabled right next to the farmer we buy our grass fed beef from and what a great guy-very serious about his cattle and improving the his land. There may be a possibility of working with him in the future.

It was really important for me to get out of myself this weekend, i realized how self involved I have become-work, land, plans, family. Nothing else-nada. I need to get out more, raise my horizons. I really miss the SSLN people-we have not been meeting because everything had fallen to the 2 founders with no one else willing to take up the reins. Perhaps I can... I also missed the UU church -last winter I went to a few services and I think I will go back for more this winter.

Other fun things-I continue to wrestle with my career-I am so blessed to be able to be in a position to DECIDE how to make a living. Specialize or generalize. One of the reason I am balking at the direction of specialization and increased standards of care is I am not comfortable with an increased level of responsibility, I am afraid of being held to a higher standard and found inadequate. I am smart but not brilliant, I am a good veterinarian but not great-my strengths are empathy and compassion not logic. That is why I am afraid of the direction our clinic is headed-but perhaps my strengthss will be needed even more now.

I found these pictures in the recent National Geographic magazine (thanks Mom!)

They really stirred the artist in me. I may have to break out the acrylics again. I haven't felt the tug to paint in a long time but the color and shapes did something to me that I won't ignore. Do you know what they are?? I'll tell you next time!