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Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Raw Dairy Real Food Recipes

Current Events in Real Food and Sustainablity – What’s Going On?

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I’d like to share some important and interesting destinations I’ve recently visited on the Internet relating to real food and food politics – of course, two subjects I am keenly interested in spreading around to my readers. Here we go!

The school lunch saga continues on. In this report on the New York Daily News site,  apparently even though programs have slashed calories (and along with it, grams of fat), school lunches are still unhealthy. Hmmm. I wonder why that is? They still aren’t getting it, are they? In one part of the article, one of the students remarks on how one of the foods appears to be so greasy, how could it be healthy? For so many years, people have associated grease with unhealthy properties, they can’t even tell the difference between unhealthy fats like shortening, margarine, and vegetable oils and real fats like butter and tallow. Marion Nestle, food author says that kids should be getting nutrients from real food – isn’t this what we’ve been saying all along? Why, why is it so hard to get this really quite simple point across? Oh wait, I forgot. Agribusiness companies and conglomerates wouldn’t hear of it…so we’re back to the drawing board.  :(

And here’s another maddening school lunch story – Sodexo, a supplier of processed foods to schools, has been pocketing rebate checks from processed food companies like Kellogg’s and Pepperidge Farms instead of passing the money along to schools. Do the unethical acts ever end? Of course, we don’t like that they are supplying processed foods to schools, but this just adds insult to injury.

Because genetically-modified foods are a big problem in today’s world with respect to health and sustainability, The Millions Against Monsanto Campaign is an important movement to get involved in. Genetic-modification is something that big companies like Monsanto argue is necessary in order to keep up on being able to feed the growing population of the world. But did you know that genetic modification of seeds is done at the DNA (cellular) level and prevents crops from re-seeding year after year (and Monsanto will sue you if their seeds blow onto your land too)? There are many side-effects to GMO foods including widespread failure and destruction of healthy, heirloom crops and damage to human health. It is a threat to our entire food supply and future. Becoming acquainted with what you can do to help stop this destructive process, boycott GMO foods and contact your local congressperson to let him or her know how you feel about GMOs and how they impact our health and the planet.

Last week I wrote two in-depth articles on the subject of raw milk – The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II, which have been circulating around the Internet and getting some good commentary. If you don’t know much about the importance and health benefits of real raw milk, give this subject a few minutes of your time today. This is another subject I feel very strongly about, and I’d like to point you in the direction of Mark McAfee’s (of Organic Pastures) interview on Sickly Cat about raw milk if you haven’t already seen it. It’s fantastic and really helps to answer some of the many questions people have about this hot topic.

Are you in favor of organic fertilizer or toxic sludge used to grow foods? In San Francisco, mayor Gavin Newsom is encouraging farmers, schools, and homeowners to use wastewater sewage for fertilizing produce. Come on San Francisco, I thought you were more progressive than that! Follow the link at the top of the Organic Consumers’ Association to the Peter Collins Radio Show for the latest on this development.

CHOW has this great article about whole animal buying - advise about purchasing large portions of meat directly from farmers or ranchers, and ideas for splitting it up with family or friends. I highly recommend buying meat this way – it creates less waste and you can save money on many fronts – by knowing your farmer and the practices they use, and being able to avoid supporting big agricultural outfits that produce unhealthy meats/meat products and harming the environment.

You’ve probably heard about the new USDA Dietary Guidelines that have recently been released? There are some really good articles available critiquing this subject. Kimberly Hartke who manages Hartke is Online! has this informative piece, Government has Failed to Halt Epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes. Also, David Augenstein’s fantastic new site, The Journal of Living Food & Healing has this great article – Scientists Claim: USDA Diet Guidelines Cause Obesity, Heart Disease, and Diabetes.

Mother Earth News, a great publication with a vast variety of topics shows you how to garden in small spaces, something that’s useful for many people who don’t have big pieces of land at their disposal for farming. Also, I liked this story on sustainable poultry management too, for those of you who are venturing into raising your own chickens and eggs.

Even though I’m not supposed to, we’ve been eating pancakes for the last two days at breakfast – along with some other great things too like chorizo omelets and bacon and eggs. Yum! I do much better if I eat my grains very sparingly and eat them properly prepared – as in, sprouted, soaked, or fermented. Something I still haven’t attempted yet is a good sourdough bread or other recipe, but my friend Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa has this fabulous recipe (and is a fantastic cook too!) for sourdough blueberry pancakes, with all the steps and photos (she’s so good at that!) you need to get started. Don’t these look absolutely delicious???

Okay, here’s two posts with recipes I really liked. My friend Tara at Keep It Real has some great ideas for meal items that are naturally rich in probiotics, something we all need more of in our diets…and something fun, a soaked spice cake that is really delicious! She brought some over for us to try when we met at the health food store last week.

The Local Cook has a great book review on food preservation, something that I really want to learn how to do, but haven’t yet. I was going to start doing that this summer, but I’m still trying to find out whether my garden is actually going to produce enough to make it worth my while. And, two of my friends who normally can and that I was going to get together with to learn how to do this with aren’t doing gardens this year. Our weather was really weird and we had a long cold snap in the spring, which caused a lot of problems for many people with gardens this spring. But, we’ll see what happens. If not this year, next year for sure!

Who’s got carnivals?

I don’t, but I would love to get one going sometime soon. I’m always so busy I barely have time to get posts up, but in the meantime, here’s a list of really great blogs with great weekly carnivals you should check out!

  • Two for Tuesdays Blog Hop – my friend Alex Clark at A Moderate Life is hosting this great recipe carnival weekly now, and she gets a lot of contributions. So stop on over, contribute a recipe, and read some of her articles too. She has a great variety of things to read about – all connected to real food, nutrition, eco-friendly ideas, and sustainability.
  • Tuesday Twister my friend Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS has a lot of great information about real food, cooking, and recipes and her Tuesday carnival is a great way to share your own real food recipes. I love Wardeh’s informative style and her great ability to teach new things to people about real food!
  • Real Food Wednesdays – My friend Kelly the Kitchen Kop is one of the most well-known and visited food and nutrition sites in the world of food blogging. You will find a whole lot of great posts contributed on Wednesdays about food, nutrition, and all things to do with breaking the conventional molds of ideas about health and food.
  • Pennywise Platter Thursdays My friend Kimi’s site is one of the best for recipes and great sustainable food ideas that are nutrient-dense. Check out her thrifty carnival on Thursdays for some wonderful recipe ideas!
  • Fight Back Friday – My friend Kristen at Food Renegade, another great resource site for insight on real food, recipes, and food politilcs has a great carnival for real food each Friday, and is a wonderful site for information about nutrition, health, and food politics.

Have anything interesting to share? Please do!

Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

The Joy of Gardening – A Call to Sustainability

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For the first time in my life, I am really beginning to comprehend just how wonderful it is to plant and cultivate a garden.

For the last few years, I’ve been working on getting my garden to a point where it is thriving and producing each year. Last year was a pretty good season; for the first time I saw my plants yielding vegetables to the point where we had something to eat almost every day. I was able to triumph over weeds and diseases that would have otherwise claimed my vegetables.

This was a great feeling.

How did I do it? I’m no expert, but I know that fertilizer and enriched soil is a key to successful production in the garden. I bought just one bag of Happy Frog soil conditioner/fertilizer last year and tilled it into the soil of our raised bed. It made an enormous difference – it was the difference, in fact between the previous year of pulling weeds several times a week out of the bed and being disappointed in tomatoes with rot on the bottoms as well as my other plants just not producing, and no weeds, healthy tomatoes, and my other plants producing last year.

Our garden consists of a 7 x 7 raised bed, surrounded by railroad ties we got on sale very cheap at our local garden store about 4 years ago. One of the biggest advantages to raised gardening is greatly reduced soil compaction. Plant roots need oxygen, and they receive more in a raised bed environment. Soil conditions, water, compost, and mulch can be controlled much easier, and raised beds drain excess moisture better than other types. Raised beds can also produce up to 2 times more yield than ordinary beds due to the aforementioned advantages.

We have also a new compost bin in our back alley, constructed by my talented husband, and we are building up our supply of soil for our yard and garden in the coming years.

We do have a few other plants growing in pots, which have some of the same advantages as raised bed gardening because you can control soil, water, fertilizer and other factors much more effectively.

We bought seeds from Heirloom Acres Seeds. I spent just over $20 and got a nice variety of seeds – 10 different vegetables – cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, red leaf and romaine lettuces, Swiss chard, carrots, celery, peas, and squash. There were plenty of seeds for us and some for our friends, and we put the rest in the freezer for next year. I bought heirloom tomato and pepper starts from a local organic farm and our farmer’s market. Buying heirloom and heritage seeds and plants is important because the destruction wreaked by modern farming has cause massive damage and loss of biodiversity in our soil.

Now that I understand the great value of having healthy soil, I know that growing produce naturally without chemicals and pesticides is possible. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to deal with pests or other challenges in my garden. Just three years ago, I planted pumpkins and zucchini only to learn that squash bugs had found my plants, and proceeded to suck them dry.

For several days I did research about how to destroy them, and spent some early mornings on a killing spree. I grew to loathe the sight of them – their lumbering, almost prehistoric appearance drove me nearly to the point of madness as I stopped at nothing to wipe them out of my garden for good. But my efforts were to no avail and they succeeded in eradicating my entire pumpkin patch, which was a fairly good size.

Here is a picture of the squash bug:

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You may have seen some of these lurking in your garden (but I hope not!).

The squash bug and squash vine borer not only suck plants dry of their precious moisture, they also inject a toxin that causes the leaves to wilt, blacken, and die. These nefarious pests can cause more damage to small, immature plants. Certain species of pumpkins, squash, and watermelons are more vulnerable to this scourge. They lay their eggs in the soil (over the winter) and on the backs of leaf stems. For more information about the squash bug, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

This year, to make sure we not not taken over by these pesky insects, I am going to buy some fabric covering and earth staples to keep them in place. You can also use hoops to support the fabric up above the plants. Diana from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa suggested these, and they sound like a great solution. Thanks Diana!

Heirloom and heritage seeds
This past weekend, I decided it was time to put my seedlings in the ground that my husband, son, and I had so carefully started back in early April. Our frost season has been late this year, so we kept our plants in our back room of the house which has a lot of tall windows for light.

We bought seeds from Heirloom Acres Seeds. I spent just over $20 and got a nice variety of seeds – 10 different vegetables – cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, red leaf and romaine lettuces, Swiss chard, carrots, celery, peas, and squash. There were plenty of seeds for us and some for our friends, and we put the rest in the freezer for next year. I bought heirloom tomato and pepper starts from a local organic farm and our farmer’s market. Buying heirloom and heritage seeds and plants is important because the destruction wreaked by modern farming has cause massive damage and loss of biodiversity in our soil.

Heirloom and heritage plants, on the other end of the spectrum, are those that have been around for a long time, and passed from generation to generation. Heirloom seeds allow for the propagation of many varieties of plants. With an F1 hybrid you will probably only find one or two varieties of watermelon, whereas with heirloom there are thousands.

Biodiversity encourages health by making the strongest species survive and thrive. Genes in heirloom seeds essentially ensure life for the future.

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Heirloom seeds are more likely to survive and thrive because of their diverse genes, especially when they are given a good start in rich, organic soil from compost and carefully-chosen organic fertilizer.

How modern hyrbridization harms health and the environment
Many of the seeds in our environment now are first-generation hybrids, are pollinated by hand, are patented, and in many cases are sterile and genetically-modified. These seeds and plants are ubiquitous; most multinational seed companies sell this variety. Bioengineered seeds are rapidly contaminating the state of the global seed supply on a wholesale level. They threaten the purity of seeds everywhere. What’s more disturbing is that the DNA of the plant has been modified. As one example, a fish gene might be introduced into a squash to make the plant frost-resistant.

Hybrids and genetically modified seeds cannot guarantee life, as they are sterile. Farming with these kinds of seeds causes damage to the environment since it fails to perpetuate the precious cycle of life. The only guarantee present there is in allowing large corporations to dominate the market and make a lot of money.

A family project: planning and cultivating our garden
One of the things I love about growing my own food is that our entire family is involved in this process. It gives us togetherness doing something from which we’ll all benefit, and some time outdoors, getting our Vitamin D. It allows us a sense of purpose, a bit of struggle (in the heat, for several hours, toiling in the soil), and gives us a bit of a sense of what our ancestors did when they fought for life in a harsh world where everything they did was about survival and making it through.

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People everywhere used to have to cultivate, plant, harvest, hunt, slaughter and produce their own food. I have gained an appreciation for the work and effort necessary in doing this, however small by way of comparison my efforts are compared to theirs.

What’s next?
Our next project in the world of urban farming is to build a chicken coop and buy chickens. I’m already scouting out heirloom and heritage breeds on Craigslist and other local resources on the Internet. I’ve had some great advice from folks on Facebook and in real life. I am so grateful for these resources, and can’t wait to have our own fresh eggs (and maybe a roasted chicken or two) sometime later this year. Our yard is too small for more than about 3 chickens, and we live in the city limits, so the imposed number for city dwellers is the same number. But I’m looking forward to it nevertheless.

I’m hoping as time goes on, our family and others who strive to live sustainably can endeavor to deserve this amazing planet given to us by God the Creator, which is most capable of beginning and continuing life when given proper stewardship. I’m thankful for my piece of dirt!

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For more information on heirloom seeds, visit the Seed Savers Exchange.

Want to take action against companies who sell genetically-modified and hybridized seeds? Join the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign on Facebook.

Donate money to help toward this effort on the Organic Consumer’s Association web site.

Look at what these farmers in Haiti are doing – burning Monsanto seeds!

Do you have gardening tips, experiences, or ideas you’d like to share?