BHM Senior Editor John Silveira has been visiting his old stomping grounds for the past two weeks. He stayed with us the first few days and has been back here since Monday. Today, he heads to Utah and the Sundance film festival so I’m taking most of the day off to hang out with him and then drive him to the airport.
So, instead of a long diatribe on whatever, I thought I’d offer you all some homesteading and self-reliance news.
First up is a story about a woman who’s been getting raw milk to make her own butter. Please, don’t rat her out to the Feds. She doesn’t need a SWAT team breaking down her door to confiscate her bowl of butter.
Raising chickens in backyards isn’t anything new, of course. The trend helped inspire the launch of Backyard Poultry magazine six years ago. Here is yet another story about a couple who dream of farming and have begun by raising chickens.
Mother Earth News has an interesting Q&A article. They asked nine homesteaders questions like What motivated you to choose a self-sufficient, homesteading lifestyle? How did you get started?, What are the biggest misconceptions people have about homesteading and homemaking?, and What is the most valuable lesson or skill you’ve learned?
Want to lose weight in the new year? Apps can help
Smartphone apps are changing the way we drop pounds, get fit
The New Year’s resolutions have been made. Some pledge to eat healthier, others to exercise more.
But unlike in years past, when anyone setting a lofty goal relied on willpower alone to stay on track, an iPhone will now do that job.
The smartphone has emerged as the newest gadget for fitness buffs and has given rise to a mobile health industry that is just beginning to realize the potential of having more than a third of Americans carry palm-size computers everywhere they go.
Thousands of smartphone applications are available to track weight loss, analyze jogs or bike rides, or monitor heart rate and blood pressure. Many can be integrated with social media sites to let friends know how fast you have run, how much weight you have lost, and when you have broken that New Year’s pledge.
The Boston area is home to the companies behind some of the most popular and innovative health and fitness apps. Over the next four years, the marketplace for health and fitness apps is expected to quadruple to $400 million in value, according to ABI Research, as software developers and start-ups find new ways for smartphones to record, track, and analyze health data.
“The smartphone creates an opportunity to deliver new services to people and to deliver a ton of new technology that we’re just discovering the potential of,’’ said Charles Teague, chief executive of Boston’s FitNow Inc., the creators of the weight-loss app Lose It.
Lose It, which tracks meals and calories, has been downloaded about 10 million times and is the number two health and fitness app in Apple’s App Store.
Teague said that when dieters track what they eat, they typically lose more weight. And with smartphones, he said, the cumbersome process of writing down every meal and adding up the calories is much simpler.
But the real motivating factor may be peer pressure. So FitNow built a social media platform in 2009 for Lose It users to compare weight loss data and find inspiration in other users’ diet achievements. So far, more than 1 million users have signed up.
I don’t own a smartphone, so I won’t be using a weight-loss app, but I do hope to shed a few pounds in 2012 so I can face the end of the world, or whatever happens when the 2012 winter solstice next rolls around, in better shape than I am in now.
Even if I did own one, I can’t imagine taking the time to punch in foods and portions every time I eat something so my phone can keep track of my eating habits, and possibly share them with the app’s creators.
Losing weight is simple. Eat less calories than you burn and your body will burn fat reserves and you’ll lose weight. But as anyone who has ever dieted can attest to, simple is not the same as easy.
The real problem, of course, is that food tastes so darn good it’s difficult to say no to the lasagna or the sixteen-ounce steak or the double-chocolate brownie. We all have our weaknesses, some more than others. My own, personal food weaknesses are pretty much everything except Brussels sprouts. I just can’t abide Brussels sprouts. Even if they’re covered in melted cheese, they just taste like cheese-covered dirt to me.
So, was one of your New Year’s resolutions to lose weight?
If so, how do you plan to do it?
If you have a smart phone, will you download (or do you already have) one or more of the many weight-loss apps available?
Or will you simply accept that you are already in good shape, since round is a perfectly good shape?
Then, a couple of years ago, someone came across the article on the website and was outraged that anyone would even think of publishing such an article. As I recall, the person who first took offense posted something on her website or blog which prompted others to complain. Nasty emails arrived in the BHM mailboxes after a couple of Days of it, Dave decided to take down the article.
The next day, he changed his mind after we checked the numbers and found the article was being read around five hundred times per month. Suddenly, the noise was brought into focus. Since it was posted online, the article had been read tens-of-thousands of times without complaint yet a handful of noisemakers almost caused the magazine to censor itself.
It was a sobering lesson for everyone. If the magazine had given in to the demands of a tiny number of “offended” people, what would come next? Would it stop publishing firearms articles because some readers didn’t like guns? Would it give up its libertarian-leaning editorials and thought-pieces because left-leaning readers occasionally cancelled subscriptions? What would they do if PITA came calling and demanded all articles about raising meat animals be banned?
At the risk of re-igniting past outrage, I bring it up because Congress recently lifted the ban on funding horse-meat inspections which shut down the US slaughterhouses and put folks out of work for nothing except making a vocal minority feel good. No fewer horses were slaughtered, they were just shipped to slaughterhouses in Canada or Mexico. Worse, according to the article linked to below, investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent – from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.
Once again, as so often happens when government attempts to use law for social engineering, unintended, unforeseen consequences resulted in more harm for no good.
Horses could soon be butchered in the US for human consumption
TULSA, Okla. — Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.
Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.
It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.
The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement.
The last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.
“If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you’ll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate,” predicted Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States. “Local opposition will emerge and you’ll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed.”
Scorpions are not my cup of tea, but this woman thought they were yummy.
I can see no logical, rational reason not to raise and slaughter horses for food or otherwise, as we do so many other animals. And the same applies to other “feel good” animals.
That does not mean I want to eat horse or dog or cat or rat or scorpions or anything else. But there are those who do and who am I to tell them they cannot?
What you think about the subject?
Are there any animals you would absolutely never eat unless faced with death from starvation?
Are there any you’d never eat even if you were faced with death from starvation?
And if you agree some folks have the right, through government, to tell you you can’t eat horse, haven’t you also given them the right to decide you can’t eat beef, or pork, or ice cream, or gummy bears or whatever causes the latest outrage at busybody central?
Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Desiree.
Thirty-two years ago, when a pretty young woman, who was by any measure much too good for the likes of me, inexplicably accepted my proposal and married me, I was clueless. Not about life in general, but about self-reliance and preparedness. Eighteen years later, when Dave Duffy asked me to take over management of the Backwoods Home website, I began to learn.
The first thing I learned was that we had been sort-of prepping for many years, at least when it came to food. We were not growing or canning anything, but we always had enough canned and dry food on hand to feed us for a month or so. It just seemed like a smart thing to do.
As I learned more, I tried to inculcate my then-teenagers with the necessity of being prepared for disasters and emergencies, but it was too late. They listened, and helped when told to, but it was clear the lessons were not making their way into their permanent memory. I fully expect that if something did happen that affected a wide area around here, my kids and their spouses, would pretty quickly be making their way back to our house when whatever groceries they do have on hand are gone.
I may have missed the boat with my son and daughter, but I’m very much looking forward to teaching the grandchildren who will be coming along in the next few years. My dear wife has encouraged the kids to consider our house babysitting central, but little do they know what lessons their offspring will be learning here in addition to the ABCs.
Which brings me to the point of this post.
I envision getting our grandkids involved as soon as they are able to start “helping” to put away groceries or water plants or pull weeds, with explanations of whats and whys to follow as they are able to understand. But I know I’ll be winging it and hoping for the best.
I expect many of you embraced preparedness at a much younger age than we did, often before you had children, so I’m turning to you for some education.
I’m curious to know if you have been teaching your kids about self-reliance and preparedness and, if so, at what age you began?
How did you get them involved? How do you keep them interested?
At what ages did you introduce new responsibilities?
And those of you whose children are older, did the training stick? Are they still prepping now that they are on their own?
I was surfing around looking for some interesting story about homesteading when I found this New York Times article, from April, 2010, linked from a post on a blog.
That Big Farm Called San Francisco
Having already pointed out the fermented tea kombucha “living” on top of the fridge, and the kefir milk fermenting in the pantry, and the homemade sourdough crackers browning in the oven, Melinda Stone led a visitor down to the basement of the Victorian house she shares with three other creative 40-somethings in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood of San Francisco. “There’s a lot of stuff bubbling down here,” she said enthusiastically, sliding open a door. “I think it’s beautiful.”
Sure enough, in a corner of the dark room, five glass jugs filled with hard apple cider silently burped and fizzed. Ms. Stone (who is a part-time farmer; she and her husband own a 21-acre solar- and wind-powered farm in Humboldt County) uncorked the air lock and added some honey water, to keep the fermentation going and increase the alcohol content. “Lots of people in San Francisco make their own hooch,” she said. “Alcohol is often the gateway to urban homesteading.”
In cities across the country, the term “homesteading” has taken on a new meaning. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it referred to settlers occupying land, cultivating it and claiming it as their own.
Today in the Bay Area and beyond, urban homesteaders like Ms. Stone and her roommates are raising their own food in their backyards, in community gardens and on derelict and undeveloped spaces in the city. They’re preserving and pickling vegetables and fruits, sewing their own clothes, baking bread, making alcoholic beverages, and much more.
I knew that urban homesteading has been growing in popularity for many years, especially since the current economic downturn began. But of all the things I associate with San Francisco (the list of which I’ll leave to your imagination), two that never would have occurred to me are homesteading and self-reliance.
Even more surprising is Ms. Stone’s statement that “Alcohol is often the gateway to urban homesteading.”
I’m pretty sure that most of the folks who visit the Backwoods Home website and this blog were not first attracted by the prospect of making their own booze. Somehow, that idea strikes me as something uniquely city rather than country. Be that as it may, I think anything that interests more folks in producing their own food — and drink — is a good thing. Which is how this story got me wondering about you folks.
Do you live in an urban, suburban, or country area?
Do you produce any of your own food?
If no, what prevents you from doing so?
If yes, how much? What do you grow or raise? Do you preserve much of it?
And what first drew you to the idea of providing for yourself as much as possible?
Does drinking soda really cause kids to be more violent?
Soda-drinking teens found more violent
Teenagers who drink soda are more likely to carry a weapon and act violently, according to new research.
Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston analyzed data collected from 1,878 14- to 18-year-olds in grades nine through 12 in 22 public schools in 2008.
Those who drank five or more cans of non-diet soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have also consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes at least once in the previous month, the researchers found.
Moreover, even after taking other factors into consideration such as age, gender and alcohol consumption, the researchers found that heavy use of carbonated non-diet soft drinks was significantly associated with carrying a gun or knife and violence towards peers, family and partners.
About 23 percent of those who drank one or no cans of soda a week carried a gun or knife, and 15 percent had perpetrated violence toward a partner. In comparison, among those who consumed 14 or more cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or knife and 27 percent had been violent toward a partner, the researchers found. Similarly, violence towards peers rose from 35 percent to 58 percent while violence towards siblings rose from 25.4 percent to 43 percent.
That was the entirety of what the Boston Globe printed of a story first reported by the Washington Post.
The clear implication, and what the Globe, with it’s nanny-state-loving agenda wants folks to believe, is that drinking a lot of sugary soda causes kids to be violent, carry weapons, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, etc. But an association between two things, even a statistically strong one, does not prove or even imply cause and effect.
For example, an equally valid, perhaps more valid conclusion would be that kids predisposed to risky behavior are more likely to carry weapons, consume alcohol and drugs , smoke, behave violently, and drink a lot of soda.
The researchers made this clear as Globe readers would have learned if the newspaper had not chosen to leave out the final two paragraphs of the Post article. (I bolded text for emphasis)
“There was a significant and strong association between soft drinks and violence. There may be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the researchers wrote in the journal Injury Prevention in a paper titled: “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students.”
The Twinkie Defense refers to Dan White, who was tried for the 1979 assassinations of San Francisco city district Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. White’s lawyers argued he had “diminished capacity” in part because he was depressed and had recently changed from a health-conscience diet to eating junk food such as Twinkies.
The agenda-driven intellectual dishonesty exhibited by the Globe is all too common today in all media. It’s one of, if not the primary reason newspapers and other traditional media have become ever-more irrelevant as their downhill slide toward oblivion continues apace.
Anecdotal though this may be, when I was young, I and most of my friends and relatives consumed lots of sugary drinks. To my knowledge, the only violence any of us ever engaged in were massive snowball fights in winter. Of course, back then, we didn’t sit on our butts all day playing video games. We were outside burning off all those sugar calories and more. And maybe that made all the difference. Maybe we just kept ourselves too busy having fun to think about gangs and guns and hurting other people.
What’s your take on all this?
Did you drink lots of soda as a kid? Did it drive you to packing heat and hurting your boyfriend or girlfriend?
And isn’t is sad that so many people will read the item in the Globe, and probably other newspapers, websites, and blogs, and never realize how they are being misled.
A few years ago, when my daughter-in-law told me about a website that offered half-price and sometimes quarter-price coupons to a particular restaurant we all were fond of, I was all over it like crust on a crème brûlée. I ordered a dozen coupons. This was a place we normally could not afford to go to with any regularity, but those coupons brought the cost into our price range. A few weeks later, they offered half-off coupons to another local eatery. Again I bought a bunch. Between the two sets of coupons, we could afford to eat out at a really nice restaurant every few weeks. Then the coupons vanished from the website, never to return.
We were disappointed our outings to these two places had to return to semi-annual special occasions, but after thinking about it, I realized the restaurants were probably breaking even on the half-price coupons and losing money on the quarter-price ones and that’s no way to stay in business.
Some time later I heard about a website called Groupon. Then my local newspaper started offering “Daily Deal” coupons. And before I knew it, I was being bombarded with coupon offers from every direction. At some point, I realized that not only was I wasting work time checking offer emails and googling restaurants to see if their menus looked attractive, all these great deals had seduced us into spending much more money on restaurant meals than we ever had before.
That’s when I dealt myself out. Every day brought so many offers I started hitting Delete without even looking at them.
I’m pleased to say that lunch or dinner at a restaurant has returned to the status of a treat we enjoy once or twice a month. Yes, we pay full price and are happy to do so because we enjoy the places we frequent and want them to stay in business.
What has been your experience with “daily deal” and other coupon schemes?
How many do you get or check each day? How many do you use?
And after using a discount coupon, how often do you return to the place and pay full price for the product or service?
Walmart’s first choice for a Market was in Roxbury, a part of Boston that is woefully under-served by large grocery stores and woefully over-populated by folks without jobs. Locating in Roxbury would have brought hundreds of new jobs to the area while giving residents access to inexpensive, healthy food choices. Unfortunately, Boston’s politically-savvy but apparently otherwise dope of a mayor essentially vowed that evil Walmart will never be welcome in “his” city. So what if the folks in Roxbury need jobs. Too bad they’ll have to spend more of their welfare and unemployment checks for lower quality food. He’s the mayor and he knows best.
A Walmart market’s prices for groceries in Dallas impressed Trena Daffe (left) and her cousin, Lajuanda Bennett. (Photos by Rex C. Curry/Associated Press)
If you follow the link and read the article, you’ll discover a group of busybodies, who call themselves Somerville Local First, have vowed to oppose the store, citing “the company’s wage and labor practices, pricing strategies, and fears that the grocery store, a corporate juggernaut, would pave the way for further Walmart expansion in Greater Boston that would drive smaller competitors out of business.”
This is the same tired tune I hear every time some of the officiously self-righteous take it upon themselves to decide for everyone else how the world should be run.
Walmart did not grow to the the world’s largest retailer by taking advantage of anyone. They did it by being smarter than the competition and by offering their customers prices that generally cannot be beat. To my knowledge, no person anywhere has ever been forced by law or by threat of physical harm to either shop at or work for Walmart.
Have Walmarts caused the demise of some local competitors? Without a doubt. But that is the nature of competitive capitalism. Businesses open and close all the time. While I might feel bad for the nice guy who runs the little store on the corner where tomatoes are $2 a pound, if money is tight and I can get my tomatoes for $1.25 a pound at the Walmart down the street, that’s where I’m going. And fear not, I’ll put that seventy-five cents I save to good use. And judging by Walmart’s success, hundreds of millions of other folks do the same every day.
If the intermeddlers are so concerned about small businesses suffering when faced with competition from Walmart, they should spend their time shopping in the small stores and be rallying all their friends and neighbors to follow their example. Instead of trying to prevent a business from opening, they should be persuading folks not the shop there. But they won’t do that, of course, because they know most people would laugh at them and head straight for Walmart.
I hope Walmart perseveres and the store eventually opens because I’ll shop there. I’m not poor, but neither do I have money to burn, and if I can save ten or twenty dollars a week off my grocery bill for the same items I’d buy elsewhere, why not? At the very least, Walmart’s opening may force Market Basket, the discount grocery chain where we usually shop, to further lower their prices.
There is room in the business world for all sorts of retailers, as was made clear in the article. In Dallas, Texas, where Walmart has a big presence, there are many other grocery stores of all sizes, most of which are thriving.
The way I see it is this:
If you don’t like the way Walmart does business, don’t shop there. But don’t prevent me from shopping there if I so choose.
If you don’t like the way Walmart pays or treats it’s employees, don’t work there. But don’t prevent me from working there if I need or want the job.
And if you’re one of the “enlightened” whose protests and meddling do nothing but delay the inevitable and increase costs for everyone, businesses and customers alike, please, go get a freaking life and leave the rest of us alone.
So…am I way off base here? Am I missing something?
Or do you agree that each of us should be free to make the choices we think are best for us, even if other folks don’t like them?
Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Leonard Barnes, a repeat winner!
Idiots come in all sizes, shapes and job descriptions. We run into them frequently in everyday life, especially when dealing with power-mad bureaucrats, but we kind of expect that if when find ourselves in court, we’ll be standing in front of someone to whom the label will not apply. Apparently, such is not the case in at least one Tennessee courtroom.
Seeds of Discontent
Code enforcement targets urban garden.
Adam Guerrero and three kids from his neighborhood, Jovantae, Jarvis, and Shaquielle, hardly seem like lawbreakers as they turn over soil at Guerrero’s Nutbush home.
Adam Guerrero with (l-r),Jarvis, Jovantae, and Shaquielle
But the city’s code enforcement department has deemed their urban garden a nuisance, and a judge has ordered them to remove the small ecosystem they’ve been working on for the last two years.
According to the court summons, Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School, was cited for violating city ordinances 48-38 and 48-87: He failed to “remove personal property” that is “unsightly” or a “nuisance,” and he failed to maintain “a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.”
Shelby County Environmental Court judge Larry Potter upheld the citation, ordering Guerrero to get rid of the “debris and personal property” stored outside his home and trim overgrown vegetation — including cutting down his 7-foot-tall sunflower plants.
“He said it’s considered a neighborhood nuisance,” says Guerrero, who is a member of the GrowMemphis board. “I asked him to define nuisance for me, and he said basically if it generates a complaint, it’s a neighborhood nuisance.”
If it generates a complaint, it’s a neighborhood nuisance? Had Judge Potter been toking on a certain psychoactive weed when he made that pronouncement?
If we are to use that standard, I could force my neighbor to cut down his trees because, each autumn, those falling leaves that land in my yard are sure a nuisance. Then there’s the neighbor with the dog, the one that likes to bark every time someone walks by. Talk about a nuisance. And don’t even get me started on the eye-assaulting paint jobs I see when I drive around town.
The fact is that anyone can claim anything they don’t like is a nuisance and the city’s code-enforcement department and especially Judge Potter should be bright enough to know that.
Personally, I hope Guerrero fights this idiocy by appealing to a higher court and, perhaps, filing suit against Judge Potter for abuse of power and gross stupidity.
My first job was working on a fruit truck. The owner’s name was Benny. I never knew his last name. I not sure any of his customers did. Everyone I knew, kid and adult alike always just called him “Benny the fruit man.”
It was the summer of 1963, I was twelve, and I made ten cents an hour, plus tips, and all the fruit I could eat. On a good week, I’d make five or six dollars, big money for a kid in my neighborhood back then.
I learned a lot from that job. The first thing I learned was if you want something, ask for it. I wanted the job, asked for it, and got it.
The second thing I learned was about moderation, and that you spend a lot of time in the bathroom when you eat too much fruit in one day.
Part of my job was to carry the bags of stuff that older ladies purchased to their front door and sometimes, if they lived on the second or third floor, up to their apartments. That part of the job taught me that if you’re nice to people and talk to them as you’re helping them, they’re much more likely to give you a dime instead of a nickel for a tip.
And watching and listening to Benny as he talked to customers, and often sold them more than they’d intended to buy, taught me some valuable sales techniques I’d not use until well over a decade later when I started selling real estate.
To this day, I’m not sure why Benny hired me that summer. He didn’t need help. All I can think of is that he decided to do a good deed and help a kid learn the value of work.
I don’t recall if I ever really thanked him when the summer was over, but I’ve never forgotten him, his old green truck with the roll-up sides and back, and the way he’d call out, “Whoa, peaches, bananas, nice, fresh corn” or something similar at every stop.
So…what was your first job, how old were you, and what, if anything, did you learn from it?
Comment Contest Winners # = Repeat winner
For the week ending
1/29 Leonard Barnes2 2/5 Pat
2/12 Brogan1 2/19 Stephanie
2/26 Scott Schluter
3/5 Storm4 3/12 Donna C.
3/26 Becky Holm
4/30 Brogan1 5/7 Blue_Sky
5/14 Drill Sgt K.
6/25 Woody3 7/2 Christie
7/9 Candace Delaney
7/16 No responses!
7/23 Rob Andrews
7/30 George Deas
8/6 Vinny V
9/17 Leonard Barnes2 9/24 Kathy
11/5 Kentucky Kid
11/26 Woody3 12/3 Leanne
12/10 Gina Jackson
12/31 charles scamman
1/7/12 Gloria Meyer
1/14 Liz Gavaza
2/4 Phillip Dukes
2/11 Storm4 2/18 Leslie
3/3 Debby Rich
3/17 Carolyn McBride
3/24 Keith Hodges
3/31 Jeffrey C. Anthony
4/7 Sue Reynolds
4/14 No responses!
5/5 No responses!
5/19 Estes Mills
6/16 Chip Johnson
6/30 Elizabeth Martin
7/21 K Howe
8/4 Will you be this week's winner?