Garden, Plant, Cook!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Old TIme Radio Holiday Shows / Music for iPod and mp3 play lists.

Dear Folks,

I enjoy listening to old time radio programs and there are hundreds available for holiday-theme listening.  You can load your iPod or similar mp3 device, create a custom list from the available CDs for party and entertaining background shows/music, or play them on your computer while you are doing chores.

I personally enjoy having the shows and music on while I'm doing holiday cooking and chores. is my source of choice for these shows

Jon, at OTRCAT, offers a daily free download.  The cost of the discs is pennies a show.

Have a great weekend,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

P.S.  Check out my newsletter group post on upcoming classes on sustainability issues.

Monday, December 05, 2011

While Dealing With Your Life -- keep on tending your garden

Dear Folks,

In the last week or so I have read or seen a variety of thoughts on several different 'fronts' of life ranging from the political messages (or non-messages), who does and does not have a job, who is and is not taking advantage of the system, who is (And Is Not) making really meaningful contributions and solutions to our problems, and WHY most people are not satisfied with enough to be happy about their lives!

In the beginning . . . life may have been hard but it was simple.  You needed food, comfortable shelter, clothing and freedom from fear.

When did bigger and more become so important we forgot about quality?

Listen to our friend Jim Pipkin's (Jim's facebook music store is here) new song "Primitive Minds" and contemplate this question:

Why do we as a society now consider that more and bigger is the golden-goal, particularly if more and bigger are really inferior?

Consider a zucchini - no I'm not making a silly statement - anyone who has ever grown or been blessed by friends and neighbors with zucchini, understands the more and bigger in a very micro view - young zucchini are more tender, tastier and more nutritious than older zucchini, and easier to use.  Yet some people want to grow their zukes to the biggest size they can to show how good they are at gardening.  A gardener picking young zucchini will have more, sooner, and better for them than someone who decides they have to have the bigger product.

Two recent articles really caught my attention:

1) an article discussing the degradation of the nutrient value of our food crops over the last 50 years (1950-1999) due to changes in varieties and farming practices -- Consider just one - corn originally a high protein grain crop which sustained cultures for Millenia dropped from a 1950s average of 3.22 grams of protein per serving down to 0.223 grams per serving -- a drop in nutrition by 70+%.  The fact that you would then have to consume something like 3 times as much corn to achieve the same protein content, means 3 times the calories to get that desired protein --  Journal of the American College of Nutrition

2) an article in the Mother Earth News by Bryan Welch (Publisher of MEN) - relating the continued unworkable requirement that the only way to achieve stability is to grow population and 'new' whatevers.

Mother Earth News - December 2011

The article ends in part "...but keep tending your garden."

And that brings my mind back full circle to what is important.

Welch's article got me thinking about ALL THOSE numbers the various economists, government, Wall St., and pundits throw at us daily about whether something is up, down or stable.  I have always questioned the wisdom, for instance, of including 'housing starts' in whether or not our economy is doing good.  Jobs - yes, but housing starts presumes more population is the only way to show progress.

Welch's article takes the premise that what currently fuels growth is not necessity (in its truest sense, like food, clothing, shelter) but the pursuit of luxury are what fuels most of our growth.  We can't be satisfied with what we need, but want to 'to keep up with the Jones," to feel fulfilled and accomplished.  The problem is we are running of out of 'new' resources.

Welch's article is entitled "Unplugging Our Economic Ponzi Scheme" and the idea of a growth fueled only by population growth is a real eye-opening definition of Ponzi Scheme.

If you say the word sustainable to the world at large the collective shudder implies that sustainable means going backwards and nothing is further from the truth.  If something is sustainable it is implied that it will continue on.  "Resources" that are finite can't be sustained, they can only be replaced with something different, rationed (until they are gone), foregone when they are gone, or given only to those in 'authority' or the ones with the most money.

The 2 most valuable activities an individual person or family could do for themselves, right now, would be to learn or hone a skill or trade, and two, tend your garden.

What do I mean by a skill or trade?  I mean something that is not necessarily modern but something that is a useful experience/expertise that can be sold, traded or donated.  If you are a doctor, lawyer or chief of some-company it would still behoove you to learn or re-learn a necessary skill or trade (and yes doctors you have a skill, but it would not hurt to learn how to raise chickens so you have eggs to trade).

Carpentry or wood-working
Simple electrical work
Tending livestock

Skills or trade can certainly be high-tech, but consider what else besides high-tech would be tradeable in a difficult situation.  If the power is out knowing how to hook up a computer is useless, but knowing how to provide a sewn or knitted blanket is not.  Knowing how to cook over an open fire or any kind of a grill - and cook anything you need is useful when you do not have electricity.

If it sounds like I am talking in terms of survival - I am but not as a 'the world is coming to an end' but at what I see as a lack of any reasonable options for those who are without a job - short or long term.  If the stories that I've seen are any indication, losing a job is so mind-numbing for most hard-working people because they did not have a ful-back skill or trade.  The job they had was what they set their minds on having and no other 'what-ifs' were contemplated.

That is what complacency tends to do to us - most of us do not give enough consideration to the 'what-ifs' other than buying insurance to help our family if we die.  Losing a job or jobs is not contemplated because it is the unimaginable "won't happen to me" mentality because there is no back up plan.

How do you learn a skill or trade?  Schools of course, but you can also volunteer as a helper or apprentice to an organization you like. 

When I was a teenager, I volunteered after school several days a week at the local TB association.  I learned office skills there that aided me my whole life, and gave me a foundation for the jobs I later had.  There was the usual office work, but also the responsibility, mindfulness of what was needed to get things done, and concern for doing a quality job with a team, that instilled in me a belief that everyone should work together.  Looking back I was incredibly lucky in my choice of organizations to assist because they treated me with consideration that would normally be accrued to someone much older and/and a paid employee.

When I wanted to learn how to take proper care of the goats I wanted to get, I took 'lessons' from the gal I eventually purchased from.  The lessons included my desire to learn everything that was needed - mucking out stalls, hoof trimming, milking procedures, etc.  Later on I learned to assist while a friend did some of the less appealing things that temporarily cause a minute of pain to kids - not a pleasant job, but a necessary one.

I did not take for granted that learning how to take care of a goat was no different than taking care of a horse or cat or dog - the differences were IN THE learning, not assuming I knew what I needed to know - I wanted to make sure they were cared for by me, correctly, from the beginning, not as an experiment by me, on them.

Because I was a willing 'apprentice' my help and learning were appreciated by my friends and me.

While some of the above may not seem related, I see it all as part of not only the choices we make but as a portend of how we will manage or even survive, if we choose quality over quantity and skill over mindless 'progress'.  I do not think it is progress if we have more but the product is so inferior as to be all but impossible to survive on or with.

In many ways we have allowed ourselves to be 'told' what we wanted and needed.  Companies and ad agencies have perfected the 'entitlement' message.  I have become so suspicious of any use of the term natural or similar that I go look up information on 'it.'  Do you check the real purpose or quality of an item as much as you price check?

When we accept that only others can be the source of our necessities, then we risk having a roof made of paper, garment made of chemicals, or a meal of straw.  That is unsustainable.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady