A Gardener’s Diary Entry: May 30, 2012

It’s a Wednesday.  85 or so degrees.  California foothills.

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We snacked on pea pods from the garden this afternoon.  A pea tastes totally different off the vine than from the grocery store.  When a pea is eaten fresh, truly fresh, the sugars from the plant haven’t settled to starch yet. They are perfectly crunchy, not at all stringy and contain a sweetness that rivals fruit.  Fresh, home-grown food is truly amazing.

 

I have fallen in love with yet another book.  I’m reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.  He tells the story of four plants through their own eyes: the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the potato.  In the section about the apple, Pollan explains a world of agriculture that preceded a world with sugar, whereby the sweetest taste a person would come by came from fruit or honey.  During this time, land that was considered to be fertile and optimal for planting was described as “sweet.”  Sweet land.  I had to smile because our local nursery is called Sweetland Garden Supply. 

 

The blackberry nectar flow is on here and the bees have been buzzing around with fury.  I stopped feeding them sugar water because they definitely have enough nectar in their environment to sustain.  I added a second story to both hives last week so that they could expand their operations.

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My parents came to visit for Memorial Day Weekend.  We had them over for a barbeque on Saturday.  It poured rain.   There were flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder so powerful that the cats spent the afternoon under the bed.  It was quite a storm but I barbequed anyhow.  When the rain let up, I got to show my parents the garden.             

 

We’ve been pretty ambitious so far this year.  We put tomatoes in the ground in early April.  Most folks around here don’t put tomatoes in the ground until Memorial Day.  We also planted squash, egg plant, peppers and zucchini uncommonly early.  So far we’ve been lucky.  My parents were impressed.  I already have tomatoes on the vine.  I hope that the weather holds.  Aside from our Saturday down-pour, the weather has been compliant.  My bees and I are very thankful.

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After showing the garden, we all went down the road to Oregon Creek Park in the Tahoe National Forest.  There’s a covered bridge there that was built during Nevada’s Silver Rush to connect the roads to the silver mines.  At one point, a damn broke and the bridge floated down stream.  When it was put back, it was placed backwards.  It’s not stable enough to drive across any longer but people still walk across it.  It’s a beautiful area where Oregon Creek meets a leg of the Yuba. 

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There are so many wild flowers there.  I highly recommend the area for a picnic.

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This week I plan to replant some pickling cucumbers.  I planted some three weeks ago and they just didn’t geminate.  Not a one.  I’m going to add some manure and see if that helps.  And try a different brand.  We will see how it goes.

 

I have to put in a drip system.  It’s on my list.  I’ve been watering with a hose so far.  Since it hasn’t been too hot, it has worked.  But it’s not great for the soil and it’s not at all efficient.  Excessive water can change the soil and create an anaerobic atmosphere which can inhibit growth and nutrition.  With a drip system, the soil nutrition is preserved and water is conserved. 

 

I keep telling myself that everything is a process.  When we first moved in, the whole yard was over-grown.  I spend about an hour each morning pulling weeds because it has to happen.  I used to see other yards and farms and turn green with envy.  They all seemed so put-together and well-kept.  Somehow, I never attributed the beauty to hard work.  Now I understand that things happen one step at a time.  Work and attention is key.

 

So maybe tomorrow is the day that we put in a drip system.

The Fallacy of Money

 “Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that you cannot eat money.” –Cree Indian Proverb

What the hell is money anyway?  I think that Charles Eisenstein put it best when he called money an “agreement” in his book, Sacred Economics.  We agree on a price.  When we are employed, we agree on the money we’ve been paid for our time for doing some sort of task.  Maybe we think we are worth more for our regular tasks but we acquiesce our agreement when we continue those tasks for whatever exchange we receive.  In return, we further such an agreement.  We agree that some arbitrary price warrants what we are paying in exchange for some other task, otherwise known as a good or service.

Money replaces time.  It replaces relationships.  It replaces community.  It replaces religion.  Money is exchanged for advice.  It is exchanged for art.  It is exchanged for beauty.  It is even exchanged for sex and/or salvation.

Today, money has replaced almost every segment of basic humanity.  For many, money has even replaced friendship.  Just ask a member of congress.

Money is bullshit.

Oh wait.  No.  Because bullshit is worth something.  As a farmer, I of course know that.  I would spend hours transporting bullshit because it’s a wonderful nutrient for the soil and it helps plants grow.  Money is less than bullshit.

Money is a fallacy.

It is a way for the current paradigm to reduce all of us to something less than human.

Money is worthless.  It’s not just that Nixon abandoned the gold standard by signature on August 15th 1971.  As someone who lives in shouting distance of the Golden Highway in California, I can tell you with certainty that even gold is worth more when it is in the ground.  Because of the area’s legacy of gold-mining, we can’t eat the fish from our rivers.  Our local electeds refuse to designate any land for a community garden because the soil might be too toxic to reasonably grow food.  This is the legacy of “money.”

Fiat currency has created quite a stir politically both here in the United States and internationally.  Fiat currency, or fiat money, is money that only has value because a governmental body deems it so.  There is no backing, or real value, attributed to the money we exchange.  Our faith is what gives money any value.

As an asset of simple paper, there is no real difference between a one dollar bill and a hundred dollar bill.  If a person set either on fire, they would each burn at the same degrees Fahrenheit.  (Similarly, if those same bills were burnt in a country using the metric system, the bills would burn at the same degrees Celsius.)  By that, it might as all well be scrapbooking material.

But most money in the world isn’t even paper.  Most of it is just an idea, a blip on a computer screen or some digits displayed at the ATM.  It’s traded and tracked, transferred and travelling at speeds and amounts unfathomable.

Money is supposed to represent something.  That’s why we use it.  It is supposed to be a convenient marker of productivity, of work that has been done and/or of goods that can be exchanged.  But let’s think about how strange that is for a moment.

Take the housing crisis, for example.  Many families bought homes from 2002-2005.  By 2008, the homes that people bought were worth less money than when they had purchased them a few years prior.  It wasn’t that millions of homes across the US suddenly had termites and leaky roofs.  They were still viable shelters.  The homes were just worth less money.

Another strange case study for money is the jobs crisis.  Millions of people were suddenly told that their job had been eliminated.  Poof.  Gone.  But was the job necessary in the first place if could so easily be eliminated?  I think back to what I used to do.  I was a case manager in social services.  I pushed paper around and entered data so that the state could follow up on whether or not the rules for their programs were being broken.  Did the world stop spinning when I lost my job?  Nope.

There are actually very few people in this country and worldwide who are participating in a job that makes any sense and is necessary to further humanity. I’m not talking about machines or technological advances.  I am talking about working for an endeavor that is actually worth something.  Most people are just working for money.

For now, money is still a convenient means of exchange.  It is still something that folks subscribe to and put faith in.  It is still something that can be exchanged for food.  It is something that can be exchanged for electricity.  It is something that can be exchanged for livestock, for a blanket, for a shovel and for transportation.

For many, that reality is changing.  For people like me, money is becoming less and less a means of exchange.  I am one of the millions of people living in poverty in this country.  I don’t have a lot of money.

I used to spend my lunch hour shopping for things I didn’t really need.  I have two boxes of seasonal table linens in the garage.  When I had money, the exchange of money for something like a place mat, seemed a perfectly reasonable endeavor.  My priorities have changed.

In the days when I used to have money, if I needed something, I’d just go buy it new.  And when I did so, I was participating in the moneyed paradigm and helping the economy “grow”.  (Some help that was.)  What a lot of people are waking up to is the fact that the mindless participation of exchanging money for products isn’t necessarily beneficial.

For example, many people own a lawnmower.  But most people only use it once a week or less.  If a community got together and agreed to share a lawnmower, the additional resources that were used for the extra 20 or so lawnmowers could have been put to better use.  Or, for the environmentalist/conservationalist, those extra resources could have stayed underground.

But that’s not the way that money works.  As Charles Eisenstein points out in his article, “Money and the Crisis of Civilization”, “Money seeks interest, bears interest and indeed is born of interest.”  He further explains, “Interest drives the creation of money today.  Any time money is created through debt, a need to create even more money in the future is also created.  The amount of money must grow over time, which means that the volume of goods and services must grow over time as well.”  Money’s existence is dependent on infinite growth.

As Michael C. Rupert says, “There is no such thing as infinite growth on a finite planet.”  Our earth has a limited capacity.

If money were truly congruent to goods and services then inflation would be impossible.  A flower is a flower and an apple, an apple.  A tree is a tree.  I’m not trying to be poetic.  I mean this very literally.  Sure, things develop.  I believe the science of evolution.  I understand selective breeding and hybridization.  I understand that some resources have been used to the point that they are becoming scarce.  But in general, our resources, at their genetic and molecular levels, have not changed very much at all in the last hundred years.  Money, by contrast, has developed in a way that only makes sense in spiritual doctrines.

Resources are tangible.  Money isn’t.

I can plant a tomato seed in the ground a get tomatoes a few months later.  I cannot do the same with money.

Some people will read this and think, “But I can go buy a tomato with money at the grocery store.”  For those people, I will pose this question: what in your life do you have that you would never sell for money?  Your spouse?  Your children?  Your dog?  I’m not being rhetorical.  There are people in this world who have sold those things.

What would you never sell for money?  Your great-grandmother’s china?  Your grandfather’s bible?  Your great-uncle’s pocket watch?  A record signed by John Lennon?  The quilt your mother made for you?  A love letter from when you and your spouse were dating?  A plant that you’ve kept alive for 14 years?  Your grandfather’s clarinet that he played in Carnegie Hall?  The camera that your father gave you before he passed away?  The flag that was draped over your great-grandfather’s coffin after he died in WWI?  A hand-written set-list from a memorable concert?  A seafoam-green tea cup from your step-father’s family?  A first-edition Hemmingway?  A small cross from your baptism?  An abalone shell from the last dive your cousin went on before drowning?  The book that you were carrying when you left the civil war in Guatemala?  A signed poster from your hero?  Your wedding ring?

Humanity is non-negotiable.  Money absolutely is.

The only thing that should make the price of resources relative is our attachment to them.

Steel is steel.  And gold is gold.

We will pay $3.47 for a gallon of gas.  We will pay $84 per month for a cell phone bill.  We will pay $2 for a loaf of bread.

For me, you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell my cats.  And you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell the letters that my great-aunt wrote me before she died.  And you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell my mother’s piano.

The things that we truly need are priceless.  The things that we need don’t ask for money.

Money is a fallacy.

Society is continuing to grow with money.  We are continuing to make agreements.

Imagine a world without money.  Imagine a world where everything has as much value as grandpa’s watch.  Imagine a world where things are non-negotiable.

Many people are facing that reality today.  Many people are living without money.  We trade a dozen eggs for marmalade and we get by.

Money doesn’t make the world go round.  We do.

As more and more people are working within the monetary crisis every day, more and more people are realizing that they can live without money.  Humanity trumps money.         `Money is just a convention.  Money is a fallacy.

Genetic Modification vs. Hybridization

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I was disappointed with Sunset Magazine’s use of the term “frankenfood” to pose a question about the Indigo Rose Tomato.  (page 16, April 2012)  The term frankenfood was coined to describe genetically modified organisms (GMOs).   There is a huge difference between GMOs and hybridization.  GMOs are scientifically altered in laboratories with little regard for the safety or long term effects of the result.  Hybrids, like the hybrid tomato, the Indigo Rose, are a result of several dedicated farmers’ careful and meticulous selection for optimal traits in a plant.  The Indigo Rose was fostered in the traditional Mendelian method, over time and in the field.  With so much misinformation surrounding GMOs, it is important to maintain the distinction.

For more information about the Indigo Rose Tomato: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/purple-tomato-debuts-%E2%80%98indigo-rose%E2%80%99

Voters in California are likely to face a proposition on the November 2012 ballot that calls for the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  California is still counting signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Because the proposition is likely to qualify for the ballot, the opposition has already begun a campaign against the measure.  Money is being spent.  We are already seeing an incredible campaign bending the information about GMOs.

Let’s get a handle on the issues.  First of all, the ballot measure in CA to label GMOs is just that.  No one is asking that GMOs be eliminated.  At least, not with the ballot measure.  We just want the products that contain GMOs to be labeled, so that consumers can make appropriate choices about their food intake based on knowledge.  This obviously reveals my position on the issue.  Let me give full disclosure:  I want GMOs labeled.

But let’s understand what a “GMO” is.  A GMO, or “genetically modified organism” is something that has been manufactured in a laboratory.  It is something that absolutely does not occur in nature and cannot by reproduced by selective breeding or hybridization.  It is something that has been manufactured to create a set of traits and then patented to help the folks in agribusiness make money.

GMOs do not help people.  In fact, since GMOs have hit the market, more and more research points to the fact that GMOs hurt people.  Their effect on the environment has proven detrimental.   That’s what we know in the short term.  Unfortunately, very little research has been conducted on the long-term effects that GMOs have on the human body and the environment.  Our intake of GMOs is a massive human experiment.  We are, essentially, a populous petri dish.

Genetic modification is not the same thing as hybridization or selective-breeding.  Corporate interests will tell you that genetic modification had been around since the onset of farming.  Not true.

When a farmer works with his or her crops to produce a better product, she or he does so using a method called “selective breeding.”  What that means is that, for years, or even decades, a farmer takes the seed stock from plants that show optimal traits, and continues to breed the stock.  For example, if a tomato shows resistance to frost, a farmer might hold on to that seed and perpetuate it.  That’s called selective breeding.  It’s not laboratory-produced and it does not result in a “genetically modified organism.”

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Similarly, a farmer might see that one tomato plant produces fruit high in antioxidants and see another that produces fruit which grows all summer.  Seeing two beneficial traits, a farmer might cross-breed the two, hopefully creating a tomato that is both high in antioxidants and produces all summer.  This is called hybridization.  Also not a form of genetic medication.

Hybridization and Selective-Breeding are old-timey methods of farming that allow a farmer to maintain a set of stock that provide optimal traits for an optimal harvest.  On the other hand, genetic modification supersedes conventional science and introduces bizarre genes into a set of genetic structures, altering the genetic code of a plant.

The Assault on Women

Four weeks and twelve pages later,    I have to just post this.  I started writing it about four weeks ago.  I wanted it to be brilliant, accessible, uplifting, etc.  I have to let it go.  I have to come to terms with the fact that there is no easy way to write about the assault on women.  There is no easy way to say the things that I have hoped to say.  I have tried to be flip, joyful, sarcastic, factual, funny, honest, sincere, delightful, kind, hopeful, truthful and spiritual.  All in one piece.  The last thing I wanted to be was depressing.

Here’s the truth:  as women, we so often try too hard.  Raising our voices in a world where we have been told so often, either directly or indirectly, that our voice doesn’t matter makes if difficult to raise our voices.  Even in times of necessity.  This has been one of those times.  I need to publish this.  With all its flaws.  I have to set this free. I’ve decided, if I sound depressing, it is because it is warranted.

Again, this has been four weeks in culmination.  Some of the “current events” that I reference are no longer current.  I have tried to clarify and rectify.  Bear with me.

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I’ll just say it.  Sometimes I have sex for pleasure.

My lesbian partner has been trying to get me pregnant for some time now and, well, to be honest, we are having some fertility issues.  We’ve been sexually active and not using birth control for our entire relationship.  Everyone knows that birth control is morally abysmal.  Family planning is, for sure, a total abomination.  All children should be a surprise—a giant, life-changing, expensive, surprising gift from God.

And we’ve adhered to that whole-heartedly.

But sadly, neither of us has gotten God’s gift.  Neither of us has gotten pregnant.  Obviously, this makes me feel very ashamed, because we all know that the only reason to have sex is to conceive children.  And my partner and I have been having a lot of sex.  A lot of beautiful, wonderful sex.

One would think that, with two uteruses involved in the process, the possibility of conceiving a child would double.  Sadly, I just don’t think that this is the case.

With all the trouble we’ve had conceiving, I’ve resorted to the greatest sin of all.  I’ve started taking pleasure in the intimacy I share with my partner.  I actually enjoy lying down with her.  I actually like when she touches me.  Even though I know that each time may not result in a baby, I actually enjoy holding her.  It’s terrible.  I know.

But at least it’s not as bad as my parents.  They admit that they are still having sex and my mother had her uterus removed two years ago.  WTF?

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In case you haven’t noticed, I’m being a bit flip here.  But just a bit.  Honestly, I feel like this is, perhaps, one of the only ways to meet the argument against women in this county at the current level of conversation.

Feminism was my gateway drug into activism and social justice.  I haven’t had to wear my feminist hat in a while.  As a farmer, the plants don’t care if I’m female when I water them.  They also don’t care that I’m a lesbian.  It’s refreshing, really.  A lot of my political focus has shifted to farming policy and food security.  As such, I just haven’t been as directly active as I once was in the feminist community.

Besides, didn’t we already win all those battles?  Aren’t we all thinking that we we’ve come a long way?  Aren’t we on top of the world?

Think again.

Sure, I.B.M. has a female CEO.  That’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?  But when it comes to equal access in the Augusta National Golf Club, her status as a successful woman is seemingly a moot point.  The club, which was founded in 1933 and recently held a national golf tournament, is a men-only membership club.  I don’t know if CEO Virginia Rometty even golfs.  It doesn’t matter if she does.  She wasn’t trying to tee off there.  The issue is that the tournament has traditionally been sponsored by I.B.M. and in the past years, the CEO had been given an honorary membership to the club.  Well, in all past sponsorship years, the CEO has been male-gendered.  As the New York Times puts it, “A club founded on the bedrock of segregation is…not so easily rebuilt.”  This example shows that, while women have proven that they can do business with the big boys, they are still denied access to equal opportunities, even where precedent begs it.

Of course, most women aren’t CEOs.  Many women are just looking for a nice job.  In Arizona, the possibility of finding a nice job is likely to get harder for women.  In the last month, the Senate Judiciary committee in Arizona voted in favor of endorsing a piece of legislation that would allow employers to ask their female employees what they are using contraception for.  Wouldn’t it be abysmal for women in Arizona if such legislation passes?  Well, the female Governor just signed it into law.  Based on this new legislation signed by Jan Brewer, an employer could fire the female employee if the employer finds her reason for using birth control to be in moral opposition to the company’s mission and/or contrary to the beliefs of the company’s management.  So if a woman is using birth control to, for example, prevent a birth, and her employer finds that unsavory, she could be dismissed.  Further, it would allow employers the right to ask women about their sex lives in the interview process.  It probably won’t surprise you that, among the nine people on Arizona’s Senate Judiciary Committee, only two are women.  What women in Arizona might face as a result of this bill is going to be horrific.

Since I started writing this piece, Governor Jan Brewer signed that bill into law.  According to Jan Brewer’s signature, it’s not just the right-wing man furthering the conversation.  Unfortunately, a large part of the female population is furthering the war on women’s rights.  Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, a stay-at-home-wife of a multi-millionaire, said in a recent speech, “Why should women be paid equal to men?  Men have been in the working world a lot longer and deserve to be paid at a higher rate.  I’m a working mom and I’m not paid a dime.  I depend on my husband to provide for me and my family, as should most women…If a woman does work, she should be happy just to be out there in the working world and quit complaining that she is not making as much as her male counter parts.”  You can’t make this shit up.

In every presidential election year, someone gets thrown under the bus for the sake of politics.  Last time, it was the gays.  (Though that war is still raging and certainly far from over.  I love you North Carolina)  This time, the right wing is building on the momentum of the negative associations around traditional gender-role non-conformity, a non-conformity that is at the heart of the gay-rights conversation, and choosing to attack women.  Specifically, the right wing is attacking any policy that might further the rights of women to have access to safety, health and equal opportunities in employment and education.  And the ripples of these conversations are going to be astounding.

It is not off-topic to look at the debate against Proposition 8 in California and examine it as the foundation for this new argument and use it as a barometer of what’s to come in this new war against women.

I’m a seventh generation Californian and I’m a Lesbian.  I was living in Sacramento during the 2008 election campaign.

I’m one of those “lucky” gays.  My parents have always showed me their unconditional love and didn’t bat an eye when I came out.  My employer at-the-time and fellow employees knew I was gay and there were never any adverse effects in my employment life because of my personal relationships. I do not belong to any religious or civil institutions that kicked me out or ostracized me for my sexual orientation.  That fact that I was gay was not exactly at the forefront of my being.  Like many gays, I identify with other titles and just happen to also be gay.

Prop 8, its culmination and its fallout has changed that.  While my “gayness” wasn’t something that constantly affected my family, my employment or my social life, after Prop 8 passed, I became painfully aware of my lesser place in society.  Prop 8 passed and, while it took away the civil right of gays to marry their partners and have equal access to the benefits afforded to married couples, the story neither started nor ended on Election Day.

Months before Prop 8 passed, roadways were dotted with signs solidifying the campaign’s mission to dehumanize the LGBTIQ community in order to take away their rights.  It worked and it went far deeper than election politics.  For months leading up to Election Day, the queer community and their supporters were harassed and attacked in the name of politics.  While hate speech was dismissed as part of the political process, people like me were chased, spat upon, assaulted and threatened.  My friend, Alex, had a gun pulled on her during a heated election rally and, when she complained to the police at the event, she was told that it was about the election and there was nothing that could be done.  Obviously this reaction by the police was negligent, illegal and a result of corruption in law-enforcement but it happened.

When Proposition 8 passed, it became a validating benchmark indication for people with discriminatory policies and hateful attitudes to outwardly expose those policies and attitudes.  When the political process openly supports discrimination, the people follow.

Since Prop 8 passed, we have had a nation-wide exponential increase in teen youth suicides due to bullying and anti-gay related hate speech.  Right after its passage, my friends and I faced numerous incidents of outward discrimination, hate-speech and even threats of violence, when before there were few.  According to the San Jose Mercury News, in Santa Clara County, California, there was a 15% increase in violent crimes against gays after Prop 8’s passing.  The Deputy District Attorney there, Jay Boyarsky, attributes the increase in violence directly to Prop 8 stating, “My belief from having done this type of work for many years is that surges in types of hate incidents are linked to the headlines and controversies of the day.  Marriage Equality and Prop 8 have been in the news and we have seen an increase in gay bashing.”  Campaigns based on subjugation have far-reaching consequences.

I worry that women will face the terrible gauntlet that gays in this country have been going through.  I fear greatly that the current conversation in the political sphere surrounding women’s rights will have similar consequences.

Women can’t afford such consequences.

I’m happy for people like Ann Romney, people who feel comfortable and taken care of in their relationships.  I wish this were true for more women.  As someone who is also at-home, I am constantly thankful for my partner and the way that she supports our family.   The comment by Ann Romney would be all fine and dandy if it weren’t for a few…well…facts.

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While our foremothers have given us an incredible foundation to work with, women are still facing significant obstacles and atrocities in America.  According to the Department of Labor, a conservative government agency, working women in America only make 78 cents on the dollar compared to working men for doing the same job.  The disparity deepens for women of color.  Let’s remember that women had to fight to enter the workforce and that the majority of women, even when making as much money or more than their partners, still find themselves responsible for a majority of the household chores after a long day’s work.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if equal pay were instituted immediately, a typical woman could expect to gain a total of $210,000 in additional income in her working life.  According to the 2010 census, over 42% of single mothers live in poverty.  According to the Center for Disease Control, the governmental agency responsible for keeping track of child birth in the United States, over half of all pregnancies in this county are unintended.  According to the FBI, 1 in 3 women will be assaulted in her life time and 1 in 4 women will be raped in her life time.

This last statistic has always been the one that haunts me.  It hasn’t changed for years.  And truthfully, it’s probably worse than that.  But what upsets more than the stand-alone statistic is the lack of accountability. We have the numbers for the victims but what of the perpetrators?  Let us all consider the question: If 1 in 4 women will be raped in her lifetime, how many men are rapists?  There are statistics on the number of convictions but we know that convicted rapists don’t account for the actual number of rapists in this country.  It’s true that most rapists are repeat offenders.  Let’s say each rapist rapes two women.  Then, perhaps, 1 in 8 men are rapists.  Even if 1 in 100 men are rapists, the odds for women aren’t great.

But let me give a few more statistics since were rattling off numbers.  There are roughly 170 million registered voters in America.  There are about 55 million registered republican voters in America.  According to a 2006 CNN exit poll, 43% of women voted for the GOP and 57% of men did.  That means 18%, or about 1 in 5 registered voters are male right-wingers.  And that doesn’t include any independent voters in the Tea Party.  Perhaps the statistic is coincidentally close.  Perhaps it isn’t.

While the rape statistics may not necessarily coincide with right-wing voter statistics, the anti-woman agenda on the part of the right-wing absolutely sets a percent for the subjugation of women.  According to the right wing, women should not be successful, they should not have equal opportunities and they absolutely should not be using birth control nor having sex that feels good.

If women shouldn’t be allowed to have sex for pleasure, let’s ask ourselves what the alternative is.  Let’s sit for a moment and think about it.  What is the opposite of pleasure?  Do we really want that for our wives, our mothers out sisters, our daughters?  Really?

When Sandra Fluke, graduate student at George Town University, testified in front of Congress about the need for access to health-uses for birth control, she was strung up by right-wing, radio-talk-show-host Rush Limbaugh as a slut.  She, her boyfriend and her and his family have since been stalked and chastised by the right-wing media.  It has been relentless and the war against her is unacceptable.

The war against women is unacceptable.

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In 2003, I was the president of the chapter of the National Organization for Women at UC Davis.  During my tenure, several women had reported being raped.  But there was one young woman who reported, very publically, that she had been raped on the UC Davis Campus.  She reported that she was on our campus, and had been grabbed by an unknown man and forced to have sex against her will.  She reported that that she had cried and screamed and that no one had helped her.

It jarred our campus in a way that I can’t describe.  We organized a rally.  We vowed to sleep overnight at the place where the victim had been raped, in order to reclaim the space as safe.  300 people showed up with sleeping bags.  It was January.

As I was giving a speech about women’s rights that night, a reporter whispered in my ear, “The young woman just recanted her story.  She wasn’t raped.  What do you have to say?”  I was shocked.  I was appalled at the lie.  And then I told the audience exactly what the reporter had told me.  I looked into a crowd of glazed eyes, a crowd of tears, and I remembered why I was there.

I have been raped.   I was 20 years old.  It was three years prior to this rally that I have described.  It was Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t want to.  He did.  I said no.  He persisted.  He was my boyfriend.  And he forced himself upon me.

I thought about that moment.  I thought of the many, many women who have gone through the same thing.  And I looked into the crowd.  I saw their tears.  I saw their hopelessness.  And in that moment, I understood.

I leaned to the reporter and I said to her, “You know what I have to say?”

I stepped to the mic, and without a shake in my voice, I said, “Stand up if you, or someone you love, has been raped.”

Every single person there stood up.

And then I said, “Sit down, if it wasn’t you.”

Only about three people sat down.

I turned to the reporter.  “That’s all I have to say.”

I cannot describe that moment in words.  I cannot describe what happened next.  Strangers held each other and cried.  We all cried.  While reporters filmed us, unsure of what to do, we cried.  And we slept there, that night, in complete silence, knowing that we would never be the same.

———-

For women, similarly for gays, the debate about equal rights and equal access is not about sex or sexual conduct. It’s about equal rights.  It is about access to our lives, to our bodies, to our love, to our livelihoods, to our freedom.  It is about sanctity, providence, self-hood and equality.

One in four women will be raped in her lifetime.  For men that care, if you have a daughter, a mother, a wife and a sister, chances are, one of them will be raped.  One of them probably already has been raped.   Most of us don’t like to talk about it.

It is hard enough to establish ourselves in schools, in the workplace, in society.  When budget cuts happen, we feel it first.  When new policies go into effect, we are likely to feel the ramifications first.  When schools cut programs, usually the first programs cut are things that a majority of women have a stake in.  We have enough to face in society.  Even without being raped.

———–

For the right-wing, sex, and the issues surrounding it, are the hot-button topic; this issue prevails in the media. The right-wing constantly reverts the argument about equal-rights, for both women and gays, back to sex, sexual issues and sexual conduct.

It’s no wonder that sexual violence results.

For women and for gays, the issue is not about sex.  It’s about equal rights and equal access.

But fuck it.  Let’s go there.  I’m not a victim.  I’m a survivor.  And because it has taken quite a journey, I can be proud of that fact.

Since sex is what the conversation really seems to be about, let’s make this about sex.  As the 1991 hit single released by Salt N Pepa proclaims, “Let’s Talk About Sex.”  Because maybe society needs a few clarifiers.

I started this blog with very flip commentary.  I can’t speak for an entire nation about sex so I’ll just speak for me.

I have sex.   I do so in the privacy of my home.  Just like most people.  My intimacy with my partner is secret and contained.  But forget our usual practice.  Let’s put it out here right now.  My partner and I love each other and what we do behind closed doors shouldn’t have to be subject to public assault.

But I’ll open up.  It took me a long time to get here.  Like many victim of assault, it has taken me a long time to develop a healthy relationship with my sexuality.

I want to help the election.  I believe in public discourse.  So let’s go.

I enjoy sex.  I will let it be known.  I like it.  I usually consent to it.  And when I don’t, my partner respects it.  Because, sometimes, I’m not in the mood.  And then we don’t have sex.

But when I’m in the mood, and when she’s in the mood, we have incredible sex.  Sometimes she is on top.  Sometimes I am on top.  Sometimes we even have sex on top of the covers.  It’s because we love each other and because with feel healthy and safe together.  We indulge in complete love when we have sex.

There!  Do you feel better about the upcoming election?  Do you feel educated on the issues?  Do you feel like my gay woman sex has helped you pick the better presidential candidate?  Were you able to understand foreign policy?  Economic policy?  Do you think that knowing about or judging my sex life will help create jobs?

No?

What?  Detail about Lesbian sex didn’t make you a better voter?

Well then why is anyone engaging in this topic?

I am really sick of my private life being up for public judgment, political debate and public commentary.  According to the latest statistics on voter registration, men make up 47% of registered voters while women account for 53%.  We are a majority.  We have power.

———

Yet, in the time since I’ve started writing this blog, in just four weeks, I have had two friends call me and ask me for help.  Since I started writing this, a friend of mine was brutally raped by her manager at work and another friend of mine had to leave her apartment because she was assaulted by her roommate.

There is no way to make this nice or uplifting.  I have tried with the whole of my heart.  Facts are facts.  According to the Family Refuge Center, every 18 seconds, another woman in this country is beaten.  Every six minutes, another woman is raped.

It has taken me nearly a decade to call myself a survivor.  But in truth, while my sisters are still victimized, none of us are survivors.  We are all victims.

And as the Republican war on women wages, more and more of us will face victimization.  As policies continue to go into effect that subjugate women, we will all continue to be victims.

———

Each and every one of us, and the people who care about us, need to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to women’s subjugation.  What we do in our bedrooms is our business.  What we do in the voting booth matters to all of us.  Maybe people like Ann Romney, Sarah Palin and Phyllis Schafley seem to outwardly support the right-wing agenda in public.  But what if they too vote for women’s rights behind closed door because they know that it’s the moral thing to do?

We cannot go back.  Because, let’s face it, we have not gotten that far.

We are still being assaulted.  We are still being beaten.  We are still being raped.  And more and more, services that help women are being cut.  Access to basic women’s health needs, like mammograms and birth control, are subject to congressional hearings.

When policy hijacks the ownership of women’s bodies, women suffer.

I am done.  I’m sick of the late-night calls.  I am sick and tired of hearing about another friend who has been raped.  Not because I can’t handle it but because it shouldn’t happen.

We should all be done.  We are 53% of the voting block.  It’s time we make our majority heard.  Loud and clear.

Not another woman.  Not another moment.  Period.

A Gardener’s Diary Entry: May 19, 2012

It’s a Saturday.  80 or so degrees.  Northern California foothills.

There are no days off for a gardener/farmer.  For me, the weekends are nice because, while I don’t stop working, I get the company of my sweet one, who has a regular job with regular hours.

Neither of us slept well last night.  The three cats seem to have spring fever and can’t sleep.  Therefore, we can’t sleep either.  We awoke to an orange kitten that decided that it was time to play at 3am.  His brother followed suit, concluding that 3am is a great time to start begging for wet food.  I have a small break out of Poison Oak on my left ankle.  I’m monitoring it and applying calamine in hopes that it doesn’t spread.  Both my partner and I are suffering from allergies.  We got back to sleep when the neighbor’s roosters started to crow and slept until almost 10am.  Unheard-of for us.

We watered the garden after a cup of tea and some eggs.  We planted Blue Lake Green Beans along our north-facing fence two days ago.  We are keeping the soil moist.  The strawberries are starting to ripen.  We had the first one in a mixed-green salad for dinner.

Our lettuce is coming in nicely.  We planted a pallet full of lettuce about 6 weeks ago and have been thinning it.  We also spread lettuce seeds in the spacing between our tomatoes.  We are planting three pallets of lettuce in 6-week rotations so that we have greens all summer.  We put together our second pallet and seeded it two days ago: Romaine, Redder Ruffled Oak and Rogue D’Hiver.

We had sun again today.  We’ve had sun for the last ten days.  And we have sun predicted for the next ten.  It’s still only in the 80s but water is essential.

Things have taken off in our green house.  We have a little plastic tent “green house” that we got off the internet.  The orange cat likes to sit on the roof.

We tried tomatoes in March but it kept snowing and they didn’t geminate.  Our second try has been very successful.  We have about 150 pepper plants and 150 tomatoes.  They are all about 3 inches tall to date.  Of course, I got impatient and bought plant-starts anyhow.

We have about 20 tomato plants and 8 pepper plants in the garden.  I finished putting cages around them today.  We also have a couple eggplants, squash, and a number of greens such as kale and chard.  We bought four starts of something called a “Costa Rican Gooseberry” from a grower in our area.  The seeds may or may not have been smuggled into the United States illegally.  Judging by the leaf structure, they look like something related to a ground cherry.  We’ll see.

We have about 12-16 Aunt Molly ground cherries in the green house and look forward to planting them and making jam when the time comes.

We have a few peas and snacked on them this afternoon.

We scored a fire-engine red Weber Grill from the Re-Store and barbecued on it this afternoon.

I made stuffed Jalapeños and put them on the grill.  What is it that makes some so hot and others bearable?  Does it vary by plant or just by pepper?  We have jalapeños in the garden and I’m interested to see the result.  (As I write this, I can’t feel my face.)

My partner spent the day reading The Long Descent by John Michael Greer.  I cut back some rogue blackberries and pulled sweet peas.  I planted long beans along the fence between the blueberries.  They are supposed to grow up to 18 inches long.  I also tried for fennel again.  This is my third time seeding for fennel but I’m trying a different brand this time.  It’s from Sierra Seeds Co-op, which is local.  And I planted some golden beets in some unused space.

I keep pulling a weed that I am pretty sure is edible but can’t get a definitive identification on.  I’ve tried a few leaves and they taste like radish greens.  Any thoughts?

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We are going to start Pumpkins and Amish Pie Squash in the green house tomorrow.  It’s probably a few weeks too early.  We just want to be sure that we will have pumpkins by Halloween.  I think we are going to plant them among the peas.  We grew Amish Pie Squash last year, which we got from Seed Savers Exchange, and it made the most amazing “Pumpkin Pie” ever.

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Our bees seem happy.  We got our bees on April 30th.  Two hives.  We bought two “nucleus” boxes from our local bee expert.  A nucleus, or “nuc” for short, is a set of five frames with young bees, some brood and a queen.  So far, this is a great year for beekeeping.  The weather is right.  The pollen levels are high.  The bees are busy.

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The blackberries are starting to bloom so the nectar flow will further enhance the bees’ happiness.  I can’t wait t o make jam.

Of course, I worry about the weather.  So far so good.  But last year it snowed the last weekend of May.  The Farmer’s Almanac for this region does predicts some storms for early June but it looks like just rain.  I’ll take it.

It’s Time To Start a Garden or Homestead

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According to a report produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly one billion people in the world suffered from chronic hunger in 2010.  Yet, in The United States of America, as indicated in the book, What’s The Economy For Anyway, by Graaf and Batker, “Modern agriculture, science, machinery, and trade have given Americans a cornucopia of food beyond the imagination of our great grandparents…Today, more Americans die from eating too much rather than too little.”  It is a strange paradox.

 

On a most basic level, food is supposed to support our most basic needs: sustenance, health and fortitude.  Yet, in our country, in the United States, food has become our enemy.  So much of what passes as “food” these days is actually harmful, malnutritious and/or toxic.  For all the hubbub about food safety and bacteria, it’s easy for a person to think that food adopted by popular consensus would be safe.  Not so.

 

So much of what we eat today is actually produced in a laboratory or factory.  It likely starts as a farm product, but then the chemical alternations that take place in a laboratory demote what once was food to some form of molecular slime that is a distant red-neck cousin of food and barely passes for an ingredient appropriate for shampoo.  Yet, we, with very little regard to the side effects, ingest it.

 

As Michael Pollan points out in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a “chicken” nugget contains several completely synthetic ingredients.  He pinpoints a MacDonald’s nugget and outlines some very troubling ingredients: sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate and dimethylpolysiloene, the latter of which is a likely carcinogenic and an established mutagen which effects reproductive health.  (pg 113)  If a chicken nugget actually came with warnings (which they probably should) those warnings would look very similar to what’s on a pack of cigarettes.  It’s gross.

 

Maybe my inaccurate sense of nostalgia clouds my perception of the past, but I feel as though there might have been a time in this country where laws and policies enacted by our government were intended to protect the people.  Our hotly debated second amendment to our constitution, which guarantees the American people a right to keep and bear arms, was enacted at a time when British Soldiers were infiltrating the homes of American families and any and all protective measures were desperately needed.  While there is much deliberation today about whether or not the policy still serves us, there was a very clear and historical reason for its founding.  American lives were at stake.

 

So many of today’s policies are born and bred in board rooms, serving corporations and profit over people, and eventually turned into law by one or more governmental bodies.  For example, in November of 2011, in order to pass a school lunch bill that jived with corporate food lobbyists, our congress declared pizza a “vegetable.”   Telling our children that a slab of cheese over a slice of toasted flour is a vegetable doesn’t help them make healthy choices.

 

Even laws that seem to be written in good faith can be full or ignorance and misguidance.  Because our elected officials consider points provided by lobbyists, more often than the real issues facing the American public, many of the laws that get written benefit corporate interests and hurt, rather than protect or help, the American people.

 

For example, a heritage pig farmer in Michigan was recently affected by a ban on keeping “wild” pigs.  Stuart Kunkle had a small pig farm in Michigan where his focus was on genetically diverse heritage pork.  According to www.organicconsumers.org, “The intent was to shut down ranches that sell wild boar hunts.”  The website went on to note that, “Large agribusiness interests support the new rule.  For factory pork breeders, [the new law] is a convenient means of eliminating the competition.”  But the new law hurts small farms and eliminates healthier choices for consumers looking to purchase farm-raised pork products, rather than the sad bacon that comes from pigs confined to a jail cell and fed genetically-modified corn.

 

This reality brings us to another point.  Trying to obtain healthful, organic food can get expensive.  Why might that be?  Aside from the absurd obstacles that small farms and organic operations face, large corporate agribusinesses are offered subsidies from our government.  What’s The Economy For Anyway, by Graaf and Batker points out that, “Since the 1950s, crop farm subsidies have expanded and focused on five crops: corn, wheat, rice, soy and cotton, often based on quantitative production favoring larger farms.  This large-farm bias has expanded agribusiness at the cost of smaller, local farms.”  They highlight corn subsidies explaining, “The market price of corn covers about 45 percent of the cost of production.  Tax dollars cover more than the rest, ensuring profitability.”  What’s so bad about that?  We’ve all enjoyed some nice corn-on-the-cob at a 4th of July barbeque, right?  Graaf and Batker explain: “Over 500 million bushels of U.S. corn were exclusively devoted to high-fructose corn syrup production in 2010.”  So basically, the American people are paying for modified food slime, through tax dollars, whether or not they actually want to eat it.  And, on top of that,, when the American consumer wants to make the healthier choice and support organic, small-farm operations, those operations have been priced out of the market.

 

Of course, this seems completely insane.  Why would we have such a terrible system in place?  Doesn’t our government want a healthy America?  In short, no.  When you also take into account the lobbyists and subsidies for pharmaceutical corporations, companies that make a profit on treating the diseases that people acquire from making unhealthy food choices, the big picture becomes clearer.  Remember, The Food and Drug Administration is under one umbrella as far as our government is concerned.

 

Many people are beginning to understand that, the incredible shift that has taken place in our food system in the last 30 years, is not something that benefits their health and the health of their families and communities.  The sluggish research on pesticides has proven that they are deadly, if not immediately, then in the slow form of cancer.  Genetically Modified Foods have more and more become linked to diseases.  Chemical food alteration, which was initialized to prevent hunger, has created an inverse effect; people in developed nations are literally eating themselves to death.  Obesity, which is very much a problem in this country, is hardly the tip of the iceberg.  A person doesn’t have to gain weight in order to suffer from the atrocities caused by an industrialized, chemical-laden agricultural system.  Our most basic life-force, our food, is poisoning us.

 

And yet, people all over the world, and even in this nation, are still starving.

 

The money-making scheme that is imbedded in the industrialized food-chain isn’t helping people. Whether you are a victim in a richer nation or in a poorer nation, you are still a victim.   The industrialized food-chain is hurting everyone.

 

We have the power to stop it.

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As more people become aware of the situation, more people find themselves overwhelmed.  It’s easy and cheap to just sit back and feed your kids MacDonald’s products and Fritos Corn chips without having to consider the consequences.  But, as more and more people open the lid on the industrialized food industry to find their loved ones battling things like food poisoning, diabetes and heart disease, it is no longer reasonable to take a passive role and watch it happen.  Many people have begun to take action.  All over the Unites States and the world, people are creating healthful, local, organic food systems in order to sustain their families and community.  Support us.  Join us.

 

Whatever brought you to this article, I hope that it will provide you with some essential resources on how to get started on your own garden or homestead.  As someone living through the revolution myself, I hope that others can build on my experience.

 

After being laid-off, 13 months ago, from my good-paying job with great benefits, I took my college degree and buried it.  I thought that what I was supposed to do was get a college degree and enter the exponential-growth paradigm of employment.  After six years in a cubicle, and mounting credit card debt, I decided to take another path.  It was no longer worth it to me to continue the mass-consumption rat-rat of the American industrialized-revolution.  I was working in order to buy things that I didn’t need.  I was spending my days behind closed doors.  Even when I rode my bike to work I was spending my days and my pay check on things that ultimately didn’t benefit me or my family or make any of us healthier. In spite of my gym-membership and yoga classes, I was unhealthy, miserable and out-of-shape.  I had to make a change.

 

For me, my change was to contribute to the production of the earth and to take heart in doing so.  I have never been happier.

 

Maybe you aren’t ready to read a bunch of books on the subject.  That’s okay.  If you just want to get started, and aren’t sure about your level of commitment yet, you can, at the very least, plant a garden.  (If you are looking for books on the subject, please refer to my blog:  http://thesustainableme.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/the-four-books-essential-to-homesteading/)

 

If you are new to this, don’t mess around.  Start the journey off right.  Plant a sustainable, organic garden, one free of pesticides like Round-Up and genetically modified foods, like “Endless Summer” tomatoes.  Don’t just saunter down to your local Home Depot, Lowes or Wal-Mart and buy a few things.  Industrialized, corporate institutions aren’t going to help you steer clear of industrialized food.  While food products can be fabricated in a chemical laboratory, it is still true that they have to start somewhere.  Let’s get started on the right foot.

 

When you plant a garden, you are doing so with the intention that you are providing a resource for you, your family and/or your community.  Let that resource be something that can count on.

 

Genetically modified food and industrialized fertilizers provide further instability.  They are often unreliable and ultimately taint sustainability.  More importantly, however, they poison your food supply.  Don’t fall into that trap.

 

Look into local nurseries that provide things like organic compost, organic soil and organic plant-starts.  Ask questions like, “Is this pesticide-free?”  And, “Can I save the seeds from this plant?”  Growers and distributers that believe in sustainability and long-term mutual-benefit will answer your questions succinctly and directly.  If you are met with wishy-washy answers about the product that you are intending to buy, take your business elsewhere.

 

Local is better.  When you obtain local seeds or plant-starts, you are more likely to get a plant that is climatized to your region.  Climatization is important to growing.  Plants, like people, do well with a level of stability.  If you are trying to grow something at 3,000 feet in Colorado, something that has been traditionally fostered in a New Mexico desert, you might have a harder time.  Ask your grower where your starts or seeds came from.

 

In contrast, however, while the petroleum age still allows us a level of flexibility, make use of organic online entities.  There may soon come a time when we can no longer exchange seeds across hundreds of miles.  For now, we have access to an incredible diversity of organic, heirloom seeds.  Supporting the ventures that support a sustainable food system is a wonderful endeavor.  Genetic diversity is important to a healthy food structure.  It’s not always easy, but we can create a food infrastructure with long-term stability.  Resources like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) and Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org) offer a number of varieties of heirloom, organic, open-pollinated seeds, all of which are essential to maintaining food security.  While not all of them may thrive in your region, it is reasonable to try.  (And the varieties are a lot of fun!)

 

Life is not without a level of resistance.  I tried to start Okra in my greenhouse in March.  I live at 2,100 feet in the California foothills.  It snowed in April.  Okra is mostly tropical and does well in places like Mississippi and Florida.  The Okra laughed at me and refused to germinate.  I’ve since tried a second batch with a lot of love, care and management.  We shall see.  So far, this second batch is more agreeable.

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Allow yourself a level of failure.  Don’t be too afraid to try things.

 

Some things that you plant will die.  Life is fragile.  It’s totally disappointing but it is still worth a try.

 

Planting a graden will clue you into why there is a reason that organic food costs more in the grocery store.  Part of it is policy.  But part of it is that organic farmers have to work harder.  There is an incredible amount of love that goes into organic farming.  There is a divine spiritual component to organic farming.  We don’t poison the earth around us and therefore, we have to pull more weeds.  Any relationship worth tending to, is worth the pulling of a few more weeds.

 

Planting a garden is spiritual. When you plant a garden, you have made a commitment to a real relationship, one that is vulnerable but ultimately worth it.  Ask anyone who has children: Fostering life is always difficult.  But it is always spiritual and it is always worth it.

 

Become a warrior.  Inspire yourself with your mission.  When a person rebukes “the easy way out”, knowing that the short-term gain may cause long-term pain, knowing that, when a person gives up harmful technologies, and resigns oneself to time-honored traditions, a person is rejecting the comforts of “convenience” and therefore adhering to a long-term and sacred endeavor.  It is a sacrifice but it is also empowering.

 

When you start your first garden, when you begin to put into place the makings of a homestead, you will worry.  You will worry about weeds.  You will worry about watering.  You will worry that pests you’ve never even heard of will come in the middle of the night and eat the whole garden.  (Very unlikely.)  But when you harvest that that first tomato, or pepper, or strawberry, your worry will wash away.  You will carry on.  You will begin to share your harvest with your friends and family and see the joy and price as they munch on something you’ve put work into.  And, as you continue, more tomatoes, peppers and strawberries will ripen.  And as you continue after that, you will become more aware of your power, your fortitude and your independence.

 

When you start a garden or homestead, you are bestowing yourself with a power that allows you to subsist.  When you know where your food comes from, you are breaking from the chains of an industry that has been holding you back.  You can be healthy.  You can have access to healthy food.  You can drop out of the industrial food chain and the policies that have been hurting you and your family.

 

Start your homestead.  Start your garden.  It’s a revolution.  You will have challenges, but you will have no regrets.

The Four Books Essential To Homesteading

Homesteading is loosely defined by John Seymour as maintaining a relationship with the land that incorporates small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking.

 

Maybe you’ve just read another article about a salmonella outbreak.  Maybe you’ve just learned what’s actually in your children’s cereal.  Maybe you’ve just been educated about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (or CAFOs) and you feel compelled to do something.  Maybe you’ve just watched a few documentaries on Netflix such as “Supersize Me,” “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead,” or “Food, Inc.”.  Maybe you’ve had a garden for a while and have been thinking about a few backyard chickens.  Maybe you just know in your soul that it is time to do something about our food system and what we’ve been putting into our bodies.

 

I have been working on founding a food-system that my family and I can rely on.  We don’t have a huge backyard.  We don’t have a lot of money.  We haven’t had a lot of resources.  So much of what we have come up with has been trial and error.  Aside from the help of friends and community members, I can list four essential resources that have been instrumental in making this journey possible for me.

 

Below, I list the four books that I have found essential to my journey.  Because the industrialized food revolution has provided such a jolt to the American psyche, a few simple how-to manuals would prove insufficient.  The following four books, in my opinion, provide answers to “The Why,”  “The How,” “The How-To” and “The What-If,” while preserving a state of mind that allows a person to cope with the food problems and political policy plaguing America.

 

Book 1:

 

The book that will inspire you to want to grow your own food and eat locally.  This book that will propel you to eat sustainably grown, organic products.  It is the book that will inspire you to plant your own garden, because, quite frankly, it will logically scare you into doing so:

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Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma

 

 

Book 2:

 

The book that will make you feel like it’s possible to create a local food system and will bring you joy while you engage in such an endeavor.  For all the immediate problems that Pollan proposes, this next book will bring you peace in solving them.  And it is a total joy to read:

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Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle

 

Book 3:

 

The book that is essential to helping you become self-sufficient, whether you live on 200 hundred acres or 20 feet.  This book provides you the ins and outs of how-to gardening and homesteading.  So far, it has answered 99% of the questions that I have come across.  It is my how-to bible:

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John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It released by DK publishing, my favorite publisher, if only for their pictures and step-by-step simple explanations.

 

Book 4:

 

The book that will propel you to get involved on the activist level, the book that will outline the insane obstacles that you might face, the book that will tie you to the local food movement forever:

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Joel Salatin’s Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal

 

Each and every one of these books, singularly, has changed my life.  But combined, they have set my life in motion.  Together, they have propelled me to foster a new relationship with the earth, our food, its production and the policy that goes into all three.

 

I wish that the last of these four books was unnecessary.  It isn’t.  With the plague of the industrialized food revolutions and our nation’s policies that have followed accordingly, it is, unfortunately, perhaps the most essential.

 

First and foremost, get started on your garden.  But then get educated.  What our small-farmers are facing in this country is nothing short of the degradation of society.

Pumpkins from Heaven

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I love the cucurbitaceae family: pumpkins, squashes, gourds, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, etc.  They have a propensity to reseed themselves, to renew their own lives, and I find it admirable and spiritual.  I also like the fact that so many species in the family are indigenous to the Americas.  I often think of a world before trans-Atlantic trade, a world without pumpkins or chocolate, and find it heightens my appreciation for such things.

Halloween has its roots in numerous pagan traditions that date back thousands of years.  Shakespeare referred to an All Hallows Eve celebration in Act IV, Scene 1, in his play “Macbeth” from 1606.  Can you imagine a Halloween without pumpkins or chocolate?  Shakespeare’s reference in 1606 took place before the first Thanksgiving and before Jamestown.  No wonder Shakespeare’s witches focused on “Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog.”  I’ll take pumpkins and chocolate over that stuff any day.

In our corner of the world, up here in the California foothills, it is time to start the pumpkins.  How do I know?  They are starting to come up on their own.

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Our living set-up is community-based.  We are not a co-housing facility or an “intentional community.”  There are nine units on the property and we just happen to be neighborly and look out for each other.  We are very lucky.

Between the nine units, we have several garden areas and 4-5 compost piles.  We have a communal compost pile, in addition to a few personal ones.  Each and every one of us, no matter the level of maturation of the compost pile, have pumpkins growing in our compost pile.  Pumpkins from heaven.

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About a week ago, I bought a few squash and pumpkin starts and planted them directly into the compost pile:  Baby Blue Winter Squash, Sunshine Kabocha and a Tom Fox Pumpkin.  While the plants may leech some of the nutrients from the compost, they are happiest there and will grow well.

A day after hatching my brilliant plan of putting my pumpkins and squash where they usually manifest anyhow, a number of volunteer squash plants sprouted, right next to my intentional plants.  Ooops.

It’s a tough call when surprise cucurbits spring up.  Some members of the family are adamantly opposed to transplanting.  Cucumbers, for example, are something that I always direct seed because they are fussy when faced with an abrupt climate change, as happens when transplanting from a green house.  They are happy to grow but they like a level of stability.

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When cucurbits spring up, they all look very much the same.  It’s hard to tell one from another.  If you are fine with volunteers growing in your compost pile, you could leave a few plants and see what you end up with.  You will definitely want to thin, however, because cucurbits can suffer with crowding.  In a Purdue University forum on Consumer Horticulture, they attribute many diseases, such as blight and fungal diseases, to over-crowding.  Think of it like a Kindergarten class.  If one of the kids has the sniffles and touches the other kids in the class, they all end up with the sniffles.  No one wants that.

Additionally, if you hope to eat your volunteers at harvest, rather than use them for a decoration like a Jack O’ Lantern, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.  Volunteer pumpkins are usually cross bred and don’t always result in a hybrid that is worth eating.  If you are willing to water your volunteers in order to use them as a decoration, no problem.  If you are hoping to make a pie, you might want to use a more reliable seed source.

If you are like me, you’ll just go for it.  Most people are familiar with the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat.”  But few people know the second part of the saying:  “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”

I’m willing to water my compost pile for the sake of volunteers.  I am also willing to move some, just to see how they will do.  Sometimes gardening has to be fearless.

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Since I already put some designated cucurbits in my compose pile, I decided to relocate the others that sprang up.  I carefully dug them out, scooping my shovel deep enough so as to not disturb their roots.  I placed some just below the compost pile, since that was the home they had chosen, and moved some into the main garden.  We will see how it goes.  So far, so good.

God Made Strawberries and Fish, Not Fishberries

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Same-sex marriage will not unravel society and doesn’t actually pose a threat to anyone.  There is something far graver and far less talked about that is truly creating a serious threat and is very dangerous to both humanity and society: genetically modified food.  If folks really want to protest something abnormal to biology, something that is actually an abomination, it might be wise to switch the inflammatory conversation of the day from the topic of same-sex marriage to the topic of genetically modified food.  In the following article, I am going to use the format for conversation around the arguments against gay marriage and use the national talking points against gay marriage to illustrate how the very same argument could be and should be applied to genetically modified food, a subject far less talked about and not on the forefront of the minds of the general public.  Because California voters passed a ban on gay marriage and will likely see a ballot initiative to label genetically modified food, or “GMOs,” this fall, much of my material will come from California.  IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE:  This paper is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek example of the absurd focus of politics in our country and should not be used as a reliable legal or scholarly resource.  These are not actual law findings and I do not have a law degree.

Actual fact: food and the way it has been grown has changed more in the last 20 years than in the previous 2,000.  This is from www.protectmarraige.com but I have substituted words like “traditional marriage” for words like “traditional food”.  “Traditional food is the foundation of society and has served our state well for centuries. California’s “label GMOs” initiative exists to strengthen society, encourage healthy eating, access to healthy food and to provide the optimal environment to ensure the well being of children.”  Basically, all the asinine arguments that don’t really hold together against same-sex marriage actually do hold for arguments against GMOs.

Similar to the social arguments against gay marriage as it relates to GMOs, the law arguments can be applied in the same way.  These are quotes from a paper prepared by Monte Neil Stewart, President of the Marriage Law Foundation, a right-wing organization against Same-sex Marriage but, again, I have changed the argument to be between genetically modified food and “traditional food.”  “The food issue of our time is whether constitutional norms, particularly of equality and liberty, require the redefinition of food from the union of seed, water, soil and sun, to the union of any two or more organisms in a science laboratory.  Perhaps no great issue in American constitutional law has been so plagued by conflict, confusion, and carelessness regarding the relevant facts. This is not to say that divisiveness over certain facts has not influenced earlier constitutional contests.  Typically in those earlier contests, however, legislative or administrative action provided some coherent and even authoritative body of facts helpful to judicial consideration of the subject matter.”  As in the court case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms et al, whereby seed companies tried to file an injunction banning the use of genetically modified alfalfa, due to fears of cross contamination with traditional seed stock, the court failed to grant an injunction despite growing evidence of the very real dangers that GMO’s pose to humans and the environment.  “Even in the absence of such legislative or administrative guidance, courts have often managed to develop clear understandings of the factual underpinnings of contested constitutional issues.”  When the court repeatedly puts corporate interests over human safety as they have done with the food issue in America, it is important for the people to take a stand. “The treatment of constitutional facts in recent American appellate court decisions addressing the food issue has been confused and even careless.”  In almost all cases brought to the courts regarding genetically modified organisms, the courts have sided with big business in opposition to the health and safety of the American people.

Genetically modified food has no place in our schools.  It poses a threat to our children.  Genetically modified food shouldn’t be taught in our schools.  Even places like China and Mexico have bans on genetically modified seed.  It has no place in our society.  It has no place in our churches.  Churches that serve genetically modified products, especially for communion, should be stripped of their religious non-profit status.  In the bible, it says that, “God said, Behold, ‘I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.’”  It is a sin to genetically modify God’s seed.  If we continue to allow the courts to dictate our rights and force GMOs upon us, the United States of America is nothing but an abomination.  We must create a constitution amendment against GMOs.  They must be stopped.

We have wasted a lot of time and money in this country stripping gay people of equal rights under the law.  If our focus shifted to something that actually does post a threat to society and future generations, like GMOs, we would all be better off.

This year, if you are a voter in California, vote to label GMOs.  And just for the sake of getting our priorities in order, let’s work on repealing Prop 8 as well.

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How to Turn a Pallet Into a Planter

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If you are looking a free and fun way to add to a garden, this is it!  Pallets can be used to make planters for small spaces.  You can grow food or plant flowers, even on a balcony.  Many work sites and commercial enterprises have extra pallets lying around that they are happy to get rid of.  Our local nursery leaves them outback for people to take.  Be sure to ask just in case the pallets have been promised already but, because many places have to pay to get rid of the pallets, they are usually very happy when someone comes by asking to take one or two.

 

Items needed: An old pallet, a staple gun, some plastic backing* (we used empty soil bags), a nail, a hammer, dirt, and either seeds or plant starts.  *You can use waxed cardboard if plastic is not your thing, though it can be harder to come by.  Sometimes your local grocer may have extra waxed cardboard from produce deliveries.  I don’t recommend plain cardboard because it will rot out quickly after being watered and you could lose your plants.

 

Step one:  Lean the pallet up against a sturdy support, with the back facing you.  Or, if it’s comfortable to you, lay the pallet on the ground.  Most pallets have one side with a few supportive base slats and one side with even, multiple slats.  You will want to use the side with even slats for planting.  Plan to staple your plastic backing to the backside/bottom.  Decide which end will face the ground and which end will be the top of your planter when you lean the pallet upright.  Have the bottom of the planter accessible and facing you because you will need to staple a plastic or cardboard overlay to hold your dirt in place once the pallet is leaning upright.

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Step two:  Take your plastic or cardboard and arrange it to make an even backing.  If you are using something like a painting tarp, you may have to cut it to size.  If you are using recycled plastic bags or waxed cardboard, arrange the pieces in a pattern that will spread evenly across the back of your pallet, overlapping so there are no holes.

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Step three: Staple the backing to your pallet liberally, folding the plastic or cardboard to make a covered edge for the bottom of your planter.  Remember, this is going to be holding dirt, moisture and plants, so you want it to be as sturdy as possible. 

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Step four:  Move the pallet as close to the area that you plan to keep it.  Whether you plan to use bags of soil or buckets of dirt, it’s better to bring the dirt to the pallet, rather than try to move it afterwards.  It will be heavy.

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Step five:  Lay the pallet flat and begin to fill evenly with dirt.  Employ the help of a friend to lift the pallet, keeping it parallel to the ground and gently dropping it a few inches from the ground to tamp.  Spread the dirt evenly and repeat as necessary.  You could use a broom to sweep the dirt into the slats if necessary.  When the pallet seems filled, lean it against its designated spot, with the top up.  The dirt will slide and some will inevitably fall out.  It’s okay but you will need to add a bit more to fill the pallet completely.

 

Step six:  Once the pallet is filled and set upright, sprinkle your seeds or plant your starts with the appropriate spacing. 

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Step seven:  Wait, watch it grow and enjoy your eventual harvest!

 

 We are using pallets to grow lettuce and using three pallets in 6-week seed rotations to keep a steady supply of lettuce through the summer.  For something like strawberries, they will come back each year.  As with all things planted, it is important to keep it watered and cared for.  Stay vigilant against weeds and pests.