Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The More I Change...

While I watched the boob-tube off and on last night, I was reflecting on the many changes in my life just in the last 15 months, as well as changes over most of my whole adult life. As is typical of me, I usually don't even realize I am 'processing' something until after the fact, and major changes over the years have seemed to almost miraculously appear. Some decisions of course have been deliberate, while others feel like I had no alternative...  just pulled along like a pig with a ring in my nose.

Right now I sense something is afoot... perhaps something is percolating along in my sub-conscious, or percolating in the Universe? I really don't know... I just have a suspicion my life is about to change again, and no clues whether for the better or worse, although hopefully better... even in this crappy situation our country and the world is in.

Over the years I have accumulated working knowledge in so many diverse fields. Serial (and successful, depending on your definition) careers have been all over the map: working in open heart surgery, architectural sales and marketing, raising show horses, passive solar design, real estate legal stuff, graphic design, home building, research and development... 

None of those fields were deliberately chosen; I just seemed to fall into one after another, without any 'connective tissue'. Some allowed me to participate in some pretty awesome things, for which I am grateful although it doesn't pay the bills now. As I grew older and the list lengthened, most folks except close friends seldom believed I did all those disconnected things. Sometimes I even wonder, except I have documentation... and scars.

I have always wondered if there was some reason I was being exposed to, and learning, so many different things, and if someday those skills would all focus for a purpose. I am no closer to an answer now than I was 30 years ago. Sigh.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Garden Bounty

Winter Squash 2010

I am getting a lot of Waltham Butternut Squash from the 6 plants I started from seed! In the garden next to them I also planted a few acorn squash... big mistake on my part because they can possibly cross-pollinate, which only affects seed saving, not this year's crop. However, I have only found a few Thelma Sander's Sweet Potato Squash under the umbrella leaves, and 50% of those were rotting. Plus, I only have found 3 of the dark green acorn squash. Drats.

I have NO clue where the the pale striped squash (above) that are shaped like a butternut came from (no previous squash planted in that area) but clearly they are not pure butternuts. I actually suspect bad seeds on all winter squash, and I am very unlikely to purchase seeds from that vendor again. I have written to them, and sent photos... just waiting to see what they have to say. Edited to add: they say they are butternuts, and will turn tan as they cure.

My red raspberries are still going great guns in spite of being weed-infested from neglect. I didn't pick any of the early ripening berries, knowing I wouldn't make jelly since I cannot have sugar (and still have lots on the shelf from last year). However, as the late berries are ripening I have picked at least 10 pounds, maybe 15, so far.

To give you an example of raspberry volume, a gallon zip-lock bag about 1/2 to 3/4 full of picked berries weighs around 3 pounds. I have several bags in the freezer now, and more berries yet to ripen, although fewer each day. (The berries in the bowl above weighed 2½ pounds.) These berries will be raspberry wine in about 3 months, and some of that wine will become real raspberry vinegar early next spring.

It looks like I may get some golden raspberries this year, too. That's a real surprise, considering a friend gave me just one small cane last summer... and it has spread to probably 20 or so canes already. I guess it likes that bed!

My tomatoes grew like weeds and produced lots of fruit... but all are inedible, thanks to a bad stink bug infestation. Yuck. I do have a few late-planted tomatoes in another section of the garden but they are just now flowering. I may get lucky and get a few tomatoes from them if we don't get an early frost, but surely I won't get enough to can. Only the Husky Red has given me some cherry tomatoes to eat. I can't complain, they are certainly tastier than the red tennis balls from the grocery store.

To my dismay... I was bad and didn't get any fall crops planted. Sigh. Some of the spring kale has reseeded (or regrown) in with the buckwheat I broadcast for a cover crop. 

The buckwheat has been growing great, but one long edge of that bed was under water for several hours when the creek flooded last week. I haven't checked it in a few days, but it probably all survived. We got 5" of rain in several hours, but uphill from here got even more... which all came down the creek. The lower garden (nothing planted in it) and spring house had at least 5 FEET of water in them above the creek bank. Fortunately the muddy and probably polluted creek waters didn't get to the edible garden area.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kellog's Boycott and Food Labeling

No, not the boycott of Kellogg's cereal company for dropping their sponsorship of Olympian Michael Phelps after he was caught on film smoking from a bong... but instead, the boycott by the Organic Consumers Association to stop Kellogg's from using GMO (biotech) sugar.

If you joined the OCA boycott, you probably received this letter from Christina, their "Consumer Specialist":

Thank you for your comments regarding the use of biotechnology ingredients. Like you, we want only the best ingredients to go into our products.

Biotech ingredients are safe and have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination.

We use biotech ingredients based on the backing of groups including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association that confirm there are no safety concerns.

You have placed trust in us to provide healthy, nutritious, and safe food. We will continue to evaluate our ingredients, suppliers and product formulas to give you the best products possible. Please be assured your concerns will be shared with our nutritionist and food developers here at Kellogg.


Christina Calleros
Consumer Specialist
Consumer Affairs, Kellogg's

I do agree with the statement: "...have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination."

However, the statement that GMO's can contaminate organic crops... is an admission growing biotech crops is not a controllable situation. And the fact that 60-70% of packaged foods in the US now contain GMO's is alarming, or worse, since NONE of them are labeled as such. (I have recently read the percentage of GMO's in foods is actually much higher.)

If I believe GMO's are harmful for my health (and I do)... how could I possibly avoid them if they are not labeled?? 

Lectins are naturally found in most foods, but how much lectin varies with different foods. The amounts of lectins present in many foods are not thought to be high, or as potentially toxic as lectins in just a few food groups. Common foods with known toxic lectins include all soy and wheat products including oils from these substances.  Lectins are often spliced into modified varieties (GMO's) in order to enhance “natural” pest and fungal resistance. Furthermore, lectins have been associated with leptin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition linked to obesity (and is very similar to insulin resistance). 

How would a pre-diabetic who is studiously avoiding grains and legumes know he was still getting lots of lectins in his other packaged foods via 'biotechnology' if they aren't labeled?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pencil Carvings

My cousin sent me this link and I am suitably impressed! Much as I hate to send anyone away from my site, his art is worth it.

Pencil Carving Art by Dalton Getty

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Road to Real Fruit Vinegars

I've been fascinated by the few reports I have read about Real [Fruit] Vinegars ... those are NOT the fruit or herb flavored vinegars [other than Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar] we usually find in our stores in the US. Apparently there are a few stores who import these luscious vinegars from France, Italy and Spain where they are more commonly made, but the purchase cost is higher than a bottle of fine wine.

The process to make real vinegars from fruit is to first make fruit wine. Then you expose the wine to oxygen where the acetobacter convert the alcohol to acetic acid. Actually, the process to make any real vinegar is to first make the substance into a wine, then convert the alcohol in it to acetic acid. Quickly distilling GMO corn or corn by-products into vinegar may give you a good product to use as a household cleaning product, but there are far better options of vinegars for foods.

One important distinction besides the taste is the health benefits of the nutrients in the vinegars. When wines are bottled, sulphites are added to kill the bacteria and stop any residual fermentation, and act as a preservative. If you have bought Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (or made your own vinegar) you will notice a "mother" in the vinegar. That's a product of the action of the acetic acid bacteria on the alcohol where no sulphites have been added to kill the good bacteria. It is harmless (but alive). Real apple cider vinegar retains all the nutritional goodness of the apples from which it was made,  plus it is fortified with the enzymes produced during the two fermentation steps. The same is true of any fruit fermented into real vinegar.

The photo above is blueberry wine on the left, and plum on the right. I made both of these from what winemakers call 'seconds'... that is, the second brewing of the same fruit pulp after the first batch has been drawn off. Not being a winemaker myself, it will be interesting to see if I have successfully made wine at all! Those bottles will be left to 'age' for several months, and then I will siphon the liquid into jars with a large mouth, and cover the mouth with cheesecloth to keep out dust and bugs but allow contact with oxygen to convert the alcohol.

In my freezer I have enough red raspberries to start fermenting a 3 gallon (or more) batch of wine from scratch, and I have higher hopes of success in making wine than with the jugs above. If I actually succeed in making a drinkable wine, most of it will be bottled for friends since I don't drink. The rest will get converted to vinegar.

I'm also hoping to find enough elderberries left this year to start a gallon of elderberry wine. I used all the elderberries I had picked to make an elderberry syrup for colds and flu before I thought to save some for wine.

I have an invitation to visit a cidery when apples ripen, and I'm hoping to buy some just-pressed juice to make some hard apple cider, which will ultimately become raw apple cider vinegar. I use a lot of Bragg's and it would be nice to make my own, but buying a cider press is out of the question financially.

One of the apples I hope to find for cider is an heirloom crab apple "Virginia Hewe's Crab" Thomas Jefferson grew in his North Orchard at Monticello for cider. Someone discovered one growing somewhere in Virginia several years ago and has been grafting lots of new crab apple trees from it. The old cider made in England and Colonial America was a mix of sweet and bitter apples; most of those heirloom apple varieties are long gone since cider fell out of favor as a beverage, and they did not make a good eating apple.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

About the Egg Recall...

Everyone is aware of the 500 million+ egg recall because of a salmonella outbreak, and a some folks are aware of the despicable environments of the hens who lay those eggs. Fewer are aware of the lower nutritional value in those eggs.

However, many groups are really having a field day because of the recall. Animal Rights groups are pushing a vegan diet that excludes all animal products including eggs. Environmental Groups are pushing the hazards to our ecosystems from waste products. Some groups are pushing for 'Free-Range' to actually mean something more than a small door to a concrete lot. Organic Farmers and Environmentalists both are pushing for non-GMO beans and grains in feed. BigPharma is giddy at the financial prospect of the vaccines that may be required for every chicken.

It's a political and media football, and us folks in the grandstands get to watch... but generally don't get to win. Nor will the hens. BigAg will find a way of 'compliance' that still insures the biggest bottom line, just the way one of the big companies involved in the currant recall has either avoided making real changes as a result of their health citations, or given the citations lip service while really changing nothing but still making a big profit.

What I foresee happening is that before long you will not be able to buy local farm-raised eggs at the farmer's markets, nor from your neighbor, except under cover. Already some civic groups are prevented from having fund-raising pot-luck suppers (which often include deviled eggs) open to the public unless all food is prepared under USDA facilities and rules. 

Have you ever heard of an outbreak of salmonella poisoning from a neighbor's eggs or eggs bought at a farmer's market?

Time to get my ducks... er, chickens, in a row... in my back yard.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Secrets to Tomato Sauce(s)

Photo courtesy KReese

Like many folks, I grow and can tomatoes in many forms. I make some into salsas, some into flavored sauces for spaghetti, pizza, etc... and some for all kinds of tomato relish, even green tomato 'mincemeat'.

Over time, I have found roasted tomatoes make the best sauces, whether fire-roasted, or oven-roasted; fire-roasted is best but not most convenient. I started oven-roasting tomatoes several years ago with a recipe posted in the Recipe Forum over on Dave's Garden. The first time I made after moving here, a neighbor's son stopped by... and insisted on a taste. He said it was the best-smelling, best-tasting tomato sauce he ever had... and now his mother makes it this way too.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce
4 pounds (+/-) tomatoes, stem and quarter
1 large onion, red or yellow, coarsely chopped (or 2-3 small)
2 Jalapeño peppers, seeded (leave seeds in one for extra heat)
16 cloves garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dry oregano (or a bunch fresh oregano and basil)

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Use a 9 x 13 baking pan. Oil the bottom and sides of the pan, add other ingredients and drizzle remaining oil on top. Roast for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until juices are getting thick and tomatoes are just beginning to char. Let cool, and run through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. Season with salt and pepper. Freeze in portions, or process in a pressure canner following USDA guidelines. (To be safe, I only pressure-can tomatoes with some lemon juice in each jar.)

Photo courtesy KReese

Roasted Tomato Sauce Adaptations
Several pounds tomatoes, stem and quarter
3-4 large onions, quartered
2-3 bell peppers, quartered
several cloves garlic
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Use directions from recipe above. Add any herbs to taste. After straining, you can add a can of tomato paste if you want it thicker, or some red wine to thin it. I've even added mushrooms! You may want to add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes are very acidic-tasting. Freeze, or pressure-can.

Now if you really want to make a jazzy fire-roasted salsa, gather:
Lots of tomatoes
Some Bell peppers
Some Hot peppers
A few Carrots
Fresh herbs, your choice
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak some wood chips overnight. Build a hot fire on the grill (not with charcoal briquettes, they have additives that will taint the taste). Slice the carrots lengthwise into quarters, core the peppers, halve or quarter the onions... leave everything else whole. Add the wood chips to the hot coals to make smoke... and place everything on the grill to smoke/char for a few minutes. (You may need to do it in batches if you are making any quantity.)

As ingredients are roasted, place in a large soup pot on the stove. (Tomatoes will skin easily after being on the grill.) Cook over medium heat until the flavors mellow and the sauce has thickened. Run through a food mill if you don't like chunky salsa. Freeze in smaller portions, or use a pressure canner. The smoke/char flavor adds a dimension to salsa not found on grocery store shelves. YUM!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Small (Temporary?) Victory Against GMO's

A few days ago a federal district court judge revoked the government's approval of growing GM Sugar Beets in the USA, citing inadequate assessment of environmental consequences by the USDA.

The USDA and Friends argued that their mistakes were minor, and that the crop would eventually be approved anyway. The Dept. of Agriculture will now have to prepare an environmental impact statement before approving the crop again, a process that could take up to 2 years.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled to lift the injunction on GMO Alfalfa. The earlier injunction on planting GMO alfalfa had come from the same federal district court, but this time the court did not issue an injunction, merely revoked the FDA's approval of the GMO crop. 

So for the nonce, both GMO crops are on hold...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goodbye, Haagen-Dazs

Haagen-Dazs is not quitting... I am quitting them. Or at least until they stop using rBGH (bovine growth hormone) milk in their ice cream. Several other major brands have now guaranteed their dairy products are rBGH-free: Ben and Jerry's, Starbucks, Yoplait yogurt, Dannon, Tillamook cheese, Chipolte restaurants, and many more.

Haagen Dazs, Breyers, Edy's, Nestle's, Baskin-Robbins and others have not.

rBGH is a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone developed and marketed by Monsanto for years until they sold it in 2008 to Elanco, a division of the Eli Lily drug company. The hormone is injected into cows to increase milk production by 10-15%. However, the drug causes many problems in dairy cows such as painful mastitis, deformed calves and lameness, and is linked to health problems in humans. It has been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and all 27 of the European Union countries since the year 2000, if not before. Of course, Monsanto assures us it is safe.

A 1991 report by Rural Vermont, a nonprofit farm advocacy group, revealed serious health problems with the rBGH-injected cows that were part of a Monsanto-financed study at the University of Vermont. Problems included an alarming rise in the number of deformed calves and dramatic increases in mastitis, a painful bacterial infection of the udder which causes inflammation, swelling,11 and pus and blood secretions into milk12. To treat mastitis outbreaks, the dairy industry relies on antibiotics. Critics of rBGH point to the subsequent increase in antibiotic use (which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria) and inadequacies in the federal government's testing program for antibiotic residues in milk13. The FDA relies on pasteurization to kill off bacteria, hormones and antibiotics in milk.

Injecting rBGH into dairy cows increases the amount of a substance called IGF-1 in their milk, by as much as six-fold (source). Why does that matter? The European Commission's authoritative international 16-member scientific committee reported the excessive levels of IGF-1 found in the milk of cows injected with rBGH may pose serious risks of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

How serious is the increased risk? According to an article in the May 9, 1998 issue of the medical journal The Lancet, pre-menopausal women with even moderately elevated blood levels of IGF-1 are up to seven times more likely to develop breast cancer than women with lower levels. (source) There are many links to studies about cancer risks from rBGH here.
How this nasty Monsanto drug became part of our dairy industry is well-noted in this article by John Robbins (son of Irving Robbins who co-founded Baskins-Robbins). Some of the other offensive moves by Monsanto and collusion by the FDA are reported (scroll down in the article) here. 

Several of my friends have developed breast cancer, and some had radical mastectomies. I'm appalled at the FDA for allowing continued use of unmarked rBGH in our milk supply (cheese, butter and yogurt are included, too). We are not allowed to buy raw milk because we "might" get foodborne illnesses, but we can have all the milk we want that could cause cancer.

So, Goodbye Haagen Daz... Goodbye Baskin-Robbins, Edy's, Breyers and anyone else who still uses rBGH in milk and milk products.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What to do if the freezer stops

I've got a busy schedule coming up, and nothing to post.

Instead, here's a link to download a PDF on
Preserving Food: What to do if the Freezer Stops. (It's on the list there, just scroll down.)

Plan ahead! Hurricane Season is upon us, and before long winter (and winter storms) will be upon us, too. The PDF contains some valuable tips. Print it out and tape it to the freezer door!

I'll be back in a few days.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Silver Bullets and Weed Control?

Photo courtesy An Nguyen's photostream

Many of us old-timers associate silver bullets with The Lone Ranger, who always left one as a calling card, and we associate a silver bullet with good guys in white hats. In folklore, a silver bullet was the only thing supposed to kill werewolves and witches... another example of a silver bullet being good.

The term has become a general metaphor where 'silver bullet' refers to any straightforward solution believed to have extreme effectiveness. The phrase typically appears where some new technology is expected to cure a major prevailing problem. 

One such "silver bullet" is glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's  Roundup™which is a broad-spectrum herbicide that kills weeds. The exact blend of ingredients in Roundup™ is a "trade secret" and not disclosed to the public. But is glyposate really a silver bullet? Is it really a 'good guy in a white hat'??

Research has discovered glyphosate in the soil can increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defenses against pathogens, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients making them unavailable for plant use. They also found glyphosate reduces manganese in plants... and manganese is essential for many defense mechanisms that protect plants from environmental stress as well as disease.

Glyphosate also immobilizes copper, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc so they are no longer nutritionally functional. When glyphosate is sprayed on a plant, it is absorbed and transported throughout the plant, where it accumulates in the roots (killing the plant) and migrates into the root zone. Some of the chemical is metabolized by soil micro-organisms in the root zone. However, it is also toxic to some bacteria and fungi, so the net effect is a actually a disruptor of soil ecology.

That means if you apply Roundup, it may kill the weed(s) but in the longer run, it may cause far more harm to the soil, and the eventual runoff has been shown to be cell membrane disruptors in fish, amphibians, and other microorganisms in our streams and lakes.

Monsanto assures the public that the ingredients in Roundup™ are inert and therefore non-toxic. To whom?

From NaturalNews.com about Roundup in our food chain:
As the percentage of genetically modified (GM) soy in the US burgeons to over 91%, researchers are beginning to publish harbingers for the potential of a maelstrom of future health problems from GMOs (genetically modified organisms). 

Monsanto's G, the secret blend of glyphosate named Roundup, is the active ingredient utilized in nearly 75% of all edible GM plants that have been engineered to tolerate high levels of this form of G. G works by inhibiting an enzyme that synthesizes the amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine thereby killing the weed. Researchers examining the amounts of herbicide used on GMO soy have concluded that the GMO soy typically receives several more pounds of G than conventionally grown soy per acre 

One of the potential harmful triggers includes the increased amounts of chemicals present in the environment disseminating at an alarming rate,  with few researchers examining the combined effects of these xenobiotics on plants, animals or humans. Similarly, much of the existing research on GMOs has been undertaken on the individual organism itself and neglects to examine the more important ecological issue of synergism.

Researchers have found that several types of newly created superweeds resistant to Roundup (e.g., pigweed, ryegrass and marestail) have been rapidly surfacing leading to increased amounts of Roundup used on such crops.

The researchers concluded that, "the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from R [Roundup] formulation-treated crops".

Monday, August 16, 2010

Feeding my Cat

Why should I feed myself nutritious real food, and still give my cat trashy soy kibble and canned waste? In the first place, she is an obligate carnivore.

Obligate or true carnivores depend solely on the nutrients found in animal flesh for their survival. While they may consume small amounts of plant material, they lack the physiology required for the efficient digestion of vegetable matter and, in fact, some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation specifically as an emetic. The domestic cat is a prime example of an obligate carnivore.

Now that I have just one remaining cat (who was a 'pound kitty' and is perhaps 3 years old), I have decided I can squeeze the budget to feed her better. I did try raw meats for both cats a few months back, but neither one was interested. Last week I bought some chicken livers for my remaining cat... she didn't like them cooked, and she certainly didn't like them raw! However, she loved the cooked chicken thighs, so that's a place to start.

I've been reading the website by Dr. Pierson, a Veterinarian. She has some excellent information about feline nutrition, and how to transition from (unhealthy) dry kibble. (Now I understand why my attempt to switch to raw meat abruptly was a mistake.) I have also wondered why my cats turned up their noses at kibble that had been in a bowl all day. Manufacturers spray a substance on the dry kibble for cats and dogs to make it more palatable. (Most will lose their fragrance in a couple of hours, and a bag of kibble that is opened repeatedly surely must lose it more quickly.) 

There is a product, "FortiFlora" that is a similar formula but concentrated (it's a probiotic) and Dr. Pierson recommends using a tiny amount sprinkled on new foods as an enticement for picky eaters.

I am going to be out of town for 10 days in September, and my 22 year old niece will feed my cat for me. That means I have to have enough food prepared in single meal-size packages so it is convenient for the Kid. (God forbid she should have to measure!)

I will start with mostly cooked chicken thighs, but they don't contain much taurine or potassium so I will have to add it. I do have some leftover beef heart in the freezer, and the heart muscle is high in taurine so that takes care of that nutrient. Lite salt will take care of the potassium. Unless I grind some of the thigh bones for calcium, I'll need to add calcium also. 

I will eventually try partially or barely cooked chicken, and maybe some raw rabbit mixed in if I can find it local and inexpensive. I also will probably vary the meats in the recipe, depending on what I can get from the grass-fed meat co-op. Dr. Pierson's "recipe" is nutritionally balanced, and she does address the finicky eating habits of some cats (like mine).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sugars Feed Cancer Cells

Don Matesz over at Primal Wisdom posted about a study I had missed: cancer cells feed on a diet of sugars, and cancer cells increase rapidly on fructose.Thanks for your post, Don!

Somehow the study results are not surprising, given the increase in HFCS in the SAD (Standard American Diet) and the overwhelming increase in disease and obesity. The HFCS consumption figures quoted in the study are outdated, but in the 20 years from 1970 to 1990, the consumption increased 1000%, long before almost every soda or fruit juice was sweetened with HFCS.

Don said this: "Finally a mainstream article admits that "tumor cells thrive on sugar"!  And how amazing also that a mainstream article discusses cancer and nutrition with nary a mention of the dreaded saturated fat or how meat supposedly promotes cancer!"

A point Don makes, and I agree completely, is that developing a drug to prevent cancer cells from thriving on HFCS is ridiculous. HFCS is neither a bug requiring a drug, nor even something essential; it's a non-essential additive to the human diet. Humans do not require sugar for health, only for pleasure. Of course, we all know the increase in HFCS use is largely because of government corn subsidies, making it cheaper than other sugars. However, the study points out that it's not just fructose that feed cancer cells; so does glucose. The solution seems pretty straight-forward: eliminate sugars from your diet!

As a group, we are totally resistant to change; very few people reading that study will even consider eliminating sugar from their diet, much less actually do it, despite being faced with evidence of the dangers to their health. 

My changes in dietary choices over the last several years were slow in coming, even with the possibility of needing a transplant 3 years ago. I'm still not even sure now what actually made me finally make some drastic dietary changes 6 months ago. I think I just got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Best decision I've made in many years!

Since I eliminated nearly all sugars from my diet several months ago I have felt so much better (and healthier) that I cannot even put a number to how much better I feel. 100%, 500%, 1000% ?? I have eliminated all sodas, candy bars, PBJ's, cake, pie, donuts... in short, anything with added sugar, regardless of the form of the sugar (even things like peanut butter and ketchup contain lots of sugar, some in the form of HFCS). I have also eliminated all the starchy carbs that convert so readily to sugar in the body. I now get my energy from burning fats, not sugar intake.

Oh, I still get some natural sugars in a wee bit of fruit (and some vegetables) but that's not often, and not much from fruits. I eat the equivalent of 1 stone fruit (peach, plum, apricot) a week, or maybe half a cantaloupe, if they are locally grown, and lots of vegetables with a low glycemic index. During the winter, local fruit will not be in season here (other than apples), so I'm enjoying them now!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 'Creamsicle' Smoothies

A fragrant and tasty pick-me-up for these hot August days... It makes me think of the creamsicles on the old ice cream trucks that prowled our neighborhoods many years ago.

5 orange spice tea bags
1 peppermint tea bag
1 cup boiling water
1½ cups orange juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup vanilla ice cream (or vanilla frozen yogurt)
1 cup ice

Put the tea bags in the boiling water, remove from heat; steep 4-5 minutes. Let cool.

Pour tea in a blender, add OJ, honey, ice cream and ice. Mix until fully blended. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, and for fun... use one of those old glass swizzle sticks you have in a drawer somewhere!

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Many Ingredients Needed in a Recipe?

I think I'll make up some homemade chicken "nuggets" and "tenders" to have as snacks. Hmmm, what do I need? Let me make a list of ingredients:

Chicken (Package says contains free-range chicken)
Flour for dredging (Package says contains 100% unbleached hard white whole wheat flour)
Salt (Package says contains hand-harvested natural sea salt)
Pepper (Package says contains 100% ground peppercorns)
Lard or Tallow for frying (Ingredients, 100% pure home-rendered beef or pig fat, no chemicals used)

So to make chicken nuggets or tenders, I need just 5 ingredients... and all of them are 100% natural foods with no chemicals. Zero, Zip, Zilch.

Gee, I wonder what the ingredient list is for Chicken McNuggets? Here's what I found:

"There are 38 ingredients in a nugget, and 13 of them come from corn [probably GMO corn]. This includes; cornstarch, mono- tri- and di-glycerides, dextrose, lecithin, chicken broth, yellow corn flour, the corn fed to the chicken itself, and even more cornstarch for the batter, cornstarch for a filler, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated corn oil. 

Some of the other ingredients are quite frankly very frightening to think that we are eating. These ingredients are synthetic and usually come from a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. First there are the "leavening agents": sodium aluminum phosphate, monog-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These all keep the fats from going bad.

Chicken, water, salt, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates, chicken broth powder (chicken broth, salt, and natural flavoring (chicken source)), seasoning (vegetable oil, extracts of rosemary, mono, di- and triglycerides, lecithin).

Battered and breaded with water, enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, modified corn starch, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dried whey, corn starch. Batter set in vegetable shortening.

Cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, (may contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated corn oil and/or partially hydrogenated canola oil and/or cottonseed oil and/or sunflower oil and/or corn oil). TBHQ and citric acid added to help preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an anti-foaming agent.

The most frightening of all is the TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone), an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to help preserve freshness! TBHQ is a form of butane (lighter fluid). The FDA allows processors to use it sparingly on food." source

Sounds more like a bunch of petroleum products, rancid hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) that have been chemically cleaned and deodorized, and GMO's. Oh, and of course, chicken... no doubt a battery chicken force-fed hormones to mature quickly for a bigger profit. 

Do you think my chicken nugget recipe with just 5 ingredients might be healthier to eat?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BPA in Canning Jar Lids, and Safe Alternatives

BPA is a chemical compound used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It is used in baby bottles, water bottles, medical and dental devices, lenses, food storage containers, household electronics, compact discs, DVDs and countless other everyday items. Epoxy resins containing FDA/USDA approved BPA are used to coat the inside of many food and beverage cans, as well as some aluminum water bottles.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen. It also disrupts thryoid hormone function. (In tests, the estrogenic effect dispupts Pancreatic β-cell function and induces insulin resistance.) To date, more than 200 studies have found evidence that exposure to BPA, even at extremely low levels, is linked to numerous diseases and health problems because it can interfere with the body's hormonal system. It's dangerous for adults, but it's even more dangerous for infants and children because they're still developing and growing. Due to this clear and compelling evidence, regulatory agencies in the United States are taking action to lower consumer exposure to BPA.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to coat the inexpensive metal lids for canning jars, and that's worrisome to me. (It would be of even more concern if I had a young family and children to eat what I can.) The alternatives have been Weck Canning Jars or "Fido" Jars, but I have invested a small fortune in mason jars and cannot afford to replace them. Now I have found lids that contains NO BPA... TATTLER Reusable Plastic Canning Lids.

The lids are manufactured using a plastic compound that is safe for direct contact with food products. They utilize an FDA and USDA approved, food grade product known as Polyoxymethylene Copolymer (POM) or Acetal Copolymer. This formulation does not contain any Bisphenol A (BPA).

You use your own rings and jars, and the Tattler lids work in any accepted method of use, pressure cooker, water bath, etc. They come with a rubber ring which is also re-usable, so long as it is not damaged (cut or stretched). The price is slightly higher than the Ball canning lids (about 59¢ each unless you buy in bulk, vs 50¢), BUT they are reuseable, which regular lids are not.

Tattler has an online store, or you can buy these lids from Lehman's.

The only thing I noticed in their instructions is an allowance for slightly more headspace. I think I'll experiment, since the lids are reuseable.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Sustainable is Discarding 1/3 of Every Meat Animal?

We Americans have become very picky eaters, sometimes with good reasoning, but some of it is merely due to the learned 'squeamish' factor. We really don't even want to know where those sanitized packaged chops, steaks and skinless/boneless breasts we do eat come from...

Many folks who read this blog are dedicated in some form to sustainability, and some even raise their own hog or steer to butcher for the family meat supply. After grazing an animal until it reaches butchering size, they are usually trucked off to the butchering facility. Folks get their animal back in neat little frozen packages, total weight well under what they took in.

In the US Meat Industry, statistically only about ⅔ of every beef or hog reaches our domestic grocery stores. Much of the rest is not only very edible, but some of it is far superior nutritionally to the muscle cuts which show up in the meat departments of our stores. The percentage of what reaches our stores now used to be higher, but we have learned to shun many nutritious edible parts over the last 50+ years. Personally, I have shunned those parts with good reason: the CAFO animal offal (for example, liver is offal and a large filter) contains higher amounts of toxins, whether from pesticides and herbicides in their feed or in antibiotics given to the animals.

Most of those edible parts we shun are sold cheaply to other cultures who favor parts like beef tongue, liver, brains, tripe, testicles, intestines and tails (parts considered offal), although some does come to us in the form of hot dogs and sausages. The inedible parts like hide and bones are also profitable to the industry; they are sold to processors for various uses including animal food. Nothing goes to waste, everything makes a profit for them.

Home-raised meat is not very different in what percentage of it we eat, and many small meat processors do not have a market for the portion they don't butcher and package. Much what we discard is not only edible, but some of it is far superior nutritionally to the muscle cuts. How sustainable is it to discard ⅓ of an animal when much of it is edible and all of it is useable?

I am now buying all my meat locally; it is strictly from small, family-farm pastured animals that are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. Like most people, I could say I don't eat offal. Truthfully all I can say I is that I haven't eaten offal in many years, but now that I have access to pastured meat, that is changing. Why should I spend $6-8/pound for some cuts of meat when the $2/pound will give me more nutrients?

The organs of pastured animals contain much more nutrition that the muscle parts. According to Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions), organ meats contain 10 to 100 times the nutrients of muscle meats. In the wild, the organs are always the first things eaten by a predator because of the higher nutrients they contain. Same was true of the Native Americans... they ate the buffalo or other animal organs first, and cured the muscle parts for later when food wasn't plentiful... But when I ask the local farmers for leaf fat, heart, tongue, sweetbreads, oxtail or other offal parts, the usual answer I get is that they don't sell them because there is no demand.

I had to beg the fellow who raises lamb to have his butcher save the sweetbreads for me when I ordered the cheap but very meaty neck bones for stock. He gave me the sweetbreads free because they normally don't keep them. For under $10 I got enough neck meat for at least 8 meals, not counting the delicious and nutritious stock I canned.

Beef liver is a nutritious organ meat that contains several vitamins and minerals important to the human body. One slice of liver (about 3 ozs.) contains 423% of the daily requirement of vitamin A; 163% for riboflavin/B2; 1,122% for vitamin B12 and 28% for iron on a 2,000-calorie per day diet as recommended by the USDA. By contrast, the same amount of a chuck roast supplies 0% vitamin A, 12% B2, 36% B12 and 15% iron.

The average beef liver weighs 10-12 pounds, and I can buy a whole grass-fed beef liver for around $10. (The liver in Grass-fed/Pastured beef is a still a filter, but it isn't filtering any toxins if there aren't any.) I don't like the stronger taste of mature beef liver as much as the more delicate taste of calf's liver, but soaking a slice in buttermilk for an hour or so removes the strong taste! Another tip for liver is to partially freeze it, then slice it very thin, and sauté quickly. Cooking with some bacon or in bacon fat adds flavor, and I prefer cooking liver with shallots rather than onions... plus I add a splash of sherry just before removing it from the pan.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Omega 6, Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes

Omega 3 and Omega 6 are lipids... EFA's (essential fatty acids). We cannot manufacture them in our bodies; we must get both of them from foods. We hear a lot about Omega 3 from fish oils, but we seldom hear very much about Omega 6 in anything, whether food sources, news, or health warnings.

It is not only important that we get both Omega 3 and 6 in our foods, but it is very important that we get them in the correct ratios. Research scientists recommend ratios varying from 5:1 to 10:1 omega-6 to omega-3, but some experts suggest a ratio of between 1:1 and 4:1 as being optimal. The average in the US often is between 30:1 and 40:1!

ScienceDaily reports a study now linking excessive Omega 6 coupled with insufficient Omega 3 to increasing obesity in generations, and metabolic disorders like insulin resistance (which is the first step in developing Type 2 Diabetes). Over the last 40 years the amount of Omega 6 we consume has increased over 250%, while the amount of Omega 3 we consume has dropped by 40%, increasing the ratio dangerously.

When the intake of Omega 3 & 6 is unbalanced, it can have serious long-term effect on human health.

Where do we get Omega 6? Mainly from corn (maize) and wheat, which are themselves consumed in large quantities by the farmed (CAFO) animals eaten by humans. (Half our lipid intake comes from meat and dairy products.) We also get Omega 6 from food oils like palm, soybean, rapeseed (Canola), and sunflower.

Where do we get Omega 3? Omega 3's are mainly present in grass, so any grass-fed-only animal (including chickens, and their eggs) will be high in Omega 3. Other sources are fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel.

I do not believe the Obesity Crisis is just due to eating too many calories, but due to eating too many of the wrong calories. Since I severely cut my Omega 6 intake several months ago to a better balance with Omega 3, I have lost well over 25 pounds even though my daily caloric intake is now higher. 

So I have to question why 'they' keep pushing 6-11 servings a day of grain products (Omega 6) on us? Why 'they' keep saying grain-fed beef and grain-fed chickens (mostly from CAFO's) are healthy for us? (Duh. They are cheaper to grow because they are heavily subsidized, and they are highly profitable.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Heart Attacks, Supplements, Natural Vitamins and Minerals

Recently, the New York Times ran a piece about the correlation between heart attacks and supplemental calcium, based on this research posted in the British Medical Journal. The report concluded that calcium supplements increase the risk of myocardial infarctions (what we call heart attacks) by about 30% over five years. 

One of the problems I see with the report is that people believe what they read in reputable publications, whether it's the NYT or the BMJ. Actually, people tend to believe what the read in any publication, and if it is medical or nutritional research, that goes double. The average person has little training in medical research, and takes on faith what they read by someone with a degree, or in 'prestigious institution' publications.

My own in-depth look into medical and nutritional reports in general is what has brought me to the place where I now look closely at all research before I believe anything. Who paid for the research? Who benefits financially? What data did they choose to omit because it disproved their hypothesis?

In my opinion, the report above is in total alignment with the belief that we are too stupid to manage our own health. 

Even according to The Alliance for Natural Health, the report by the BMJ has some serious flaws. 

"It was another example of bad research, poorly constructed from a scientific point of view. But it does contain an element of truth that we all need to understand.

First, the research itself: Daniel Fabricant, PhD, vice president of scientific regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association, said the results of this study go against years of research showing the benefits of calcium supplementation, and suggested that the authors of the research “cherry picked” the fifteen studies from hundreds of available research studies in the area.

Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said that their conclusions are “dramatically overstated….Seven of the fifteen trials evaluated had no, or incomplete, data on cardiovascular outcomes…. Further, the researchers chose to exclude any trials administering calcium plus vitamin D—including the Women’s Health Initiative, which found calcium plus vitamin D had no effect on the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” 

This last point—about taking calcium with vitamin D—is vital but still incomplete.

Supplemental calcium should never be taken alone. It needs additional magnesium, vitamin D, omega–3 fatty acids, and vitamin K (in particular, vitamin K-2, which is especially important). Without these essential co-factors, the calcium may end up in our blood vessels or our heart, where it causes harm, rather than our bones, where it is needed. 

So long as these co-factors are taken as well, many studies have shown that added calcium plays an important role in building and maintaining bone mass—and also reduces the risk of colon cancer.

It is unarguably true that many people are taking calcium in the wrong way. The answer is NOT to stop taking it. There are enough cases of bone loss (osteoporosis) as it is. And the potential side effects of osteoporosis drugs are truly scary.

Here are some of my thoughts on supplements (and I do take some supplements):
Calcium occurring in a natural food form (lots of green leafy vegetables, dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, almonds, fish...) was not considered in the research above, but only calcium in supplement pill form, maybe even without magnesium in the compound. So we have no idea if calcium in food form might increase heart attacks; I somehow doubt it.

I don't really know what is true in that research controversy, but maybe I don't need to know if I look to Real Foods for much of my calcium, other minerals, and vitamins.  (Vitamin D is one exception, which I posted here.)

What is true of calcium tends to be true of all vitamins and minerals... they are naturally occurring in our Real Food supply, and our bodies can absorb and use their natural forms appropriately. No one overdoses on vitamins and minerals found in Real Foods.

This assumes, of course, that we know what foods to eat for the vitamins we need. Fast Food does not supply the vitamins we need, and so-called 'vitamin-fortified' foods like breakfast cereals either do not contain the proper balance of vitamins, or they contain vitamins in a form our bodies cannot utilize.

The other thing that is true is that all vitamins and other supplement pills are not alike, and many of the least expensive ones are imported, mainly from China, or are synthetically derived from coal tar.

Now, BigPharma is working to get a bigger cut of the vitamin market, notably the B vitamins which protect against heart attack and stroke. I expect we will see B vitamins like B6, B9 and B12 available by prescription soon, perhaps in response to research like the report above on calcium and heart attacks.

Of course, we all know you can get all those same B vitamins from Real Foods like animal protein (red meat and eggs are best), and some fruits and vegetables, don't we?? 

ps... The B vitamins are water-soluble, which means your body doesn't store any extra B's; you have to replenish them daily.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Homemade Elderberry Cold and Flu Syrup

Common Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigra
Image courtesy of Dave's Garden PlantFiles and Melody Rose, photographer

Elderberries are ripening now in our gardens, and so are the wild ones along the roadsides. It's easy to use some to for a homemade cough/cold/flu syrup extract, but you must be sure you pick the edible variety, the common black elderberry, Sambucus nigra. Only the berries of the black elderberry are edible (cooked; raw = stomach distress), the rest of the plant is toxic. There is a poisonous red elderberry, Sambucus racemosa, which you must avoid (although birds seem eat the berries).

Red Elderberries, Sambucus racemosa, All Parts Poisonous, Photo by Ken Harris
Image courtesy of Dave's Garden PlantFiles and Melody Rose, photographer

Elderberries are commonly used to make country wine and yummy jelly, but their real value is in the natural health and healing properties we are now re-discovering. Elderberries contain amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, sugar, rutin, viburnic acid, vitaman A and B and a large amount of vitamin C. They are also mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic (aiding in fever management). Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry flowers and berries. According to studies, these phytochemicals known as flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage.

Elderberry syrup (or extract, same thing without sugar) boosts the immune system to fight coughs, colds, flu, bacterial infections, viral infections, and tonsilitis. It also is said to lower cholesterol and improve vision and heart health. Clinical studies support the health-giving reputation elderberry has had for centuries. Elderberry is also very effective for relieving stress, and it is so effective it is being considered for military troops under stress.

H1N1 Virus
A recent study published in the July 2009 issue of the scientific journal, Phytochemistry (2009 Jul;70(10):1255-61), declares that "elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro."

Similarly, a study published in the Journal of International Medical Research (2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40) examined the efficacy of black elderberry syrup (marketed under the name Sambucol) in a group of flu sufferers in Norway. They determined that their symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier when taking elderberry extract compared with a control group receiving a placebo.

So, here's how to make your own elderberry syrup:

Elderberry Syrup Recipe #1 
makes 1 quart
2 pounds fresh elderberries, stemmed and rinsed
4 cups water
2 cups sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Put the berries and water in a non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the berries are soft and squishy. Cool, and run the pot contents through a food mill, discarding the skins and very tiny seeds. If you don't have a food mill, you can thoroughly mash the cooked berries in the pot, and strain through a jelly bag, allowing them to drip for several hours.

Put the strained juice back in the pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and cook at just below boiling for a few minutes, until the syrup is clear and has thickened. Cool thoroughly, and pour into a sterilized bottle or jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Elderberry Syrup Recipe #2
makes 1 quart 
2 cups fresh elderberries, stemmed and rinsed
4 cups water
1½ cups honey, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions: use the same directions as recipe #1.

Neither of the recipes suggest canning in a hot water bath, but there is no reason not to do so. (They don't because the recipes just make one quart, easily refrigerated.) The berries have already been cooked so there is no added nutritional loss from heat. I am making a triple batch in half pint jars to share with friends, and I will process them in a water bath. My friends can transfer them to a stoppered refrigerator bottle if they choose, but the syrup must be refrigerated after breaking the seal.

No access to fresh elderberries?  
You can substitute 1/2 cup dried elderberries for the 4 cups of fresh berries. I'd put the dried berries soaking in the water for a couple of hours or more to completely rehydrate, before cooking, and probably add a bit of extra water to compensate for the berries being dry. Here's one online source for dried elderberries; there may be more, so check around.

Using Black Elderberry Syrup
To prevent catching a cold or the flu, take one teaspoon of the syrup morning and evening. If you are treating someone who's already ill, give the person a teaspoonful every two or three hours.

Children love elderberry syrup, so it's very easy to give to them. If this remedy is being given to babies under two years of age, make the syrup with sugar instead of honey.

Elderberry syrup is also a delicious treat when poured over ice cream, and it's a favorite for pancakes. Try mixing a teaspoonful in a glass of ginger ale to settle a queasy stomach!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Prepared for Emergencies?

Having been born and raised in Hurricane country, preparedness in some form has been part of my life for more than 60 years. Some natural events cause great fun when you are 9 years old... going in and out of the house through a slim window because the doors were nailed shut after they blew off... and not taking a bath because there was no water was fun, too!

Later as an adult, I thought about where we must have obtained drinking water for 2+ weeks... maybe boiled water from the bathtub we had filled? How long would that last for a mother and 2 children? I have no clue, but I don't remember any community handout either. Children don't always remember the details when it didn't seem threatening to them.

We didn't lose the roof, and the walls didn't cave in. I do remember it was wet, wet, wet and dark, windy, and noisy... much more so when the back door blew off and a neighbor helped nail it back in the frame. Fortunately we found the door before it blew very far away, and had a neighbor to help. The front door didn't actually blow off, but the rain that was forced under the door buckled the floor so that the door wouldn't open more than 3 inches.

Now, sixty years later, I live on a creek that floods; it hasn't flooded its banks enough in the 4 years I've lived here to prohibit leaving the house and driving down the road... but I'm told it has in the recent past. The road was under water then for several days. The electricity has been off as much as 24-30 hours in the last 4 years, but it has been tolerable. Just don't open the freezer. But what if the power was off for 2 weeks or more? And the road completely flooded for weeks, and we couldn't get out (or anyone get in)?

I have plenty of home-canned food; there's spring water and a portable container to filter it, along with enough firewood, matches and candles to make it through maybe 2-3 weeks if necessary, although it wouldn't be very comfortable. I would have to share what I have with my sister and niece (who live in the other part of the house) because their preparedness is not much more than a few cans of pork and beans, some sodas, an extra bag of chips, a flashlight with old or possibly dead batteries, and maybe 2 stubby candles.

I am not a 'doomer'; I don't stockpile weapons and ammunition to protect my life and home, not that it would be effective in the long run anyway. I don't have a cache of food buried deep in the woods. I don't have a vehicle packed, ready to flee and hide somewhere. Where would I go anyway? 

What I do have is an ability to plan; to learn some long-forgotten skills, especially where potable water and long-term food storage without refrigeration are concerned. And I can purchase a few dollars' worth of staples every month, even if just an extra pack of TP, a box of salt, some hydrogen peroxide and 2 cans of Spam (just kidding, I don't eat Spam!).

The bigger ticket items like stand-alone water filtering systems, a chain-saw or a good portable radio are harder to come by on a limited income. I've had 2 wind-up radios in the last 5 years. Neither wind-up generator on them worked more than a month or two, so not very dependable at all. One wouldn't even work with batteries, and I'd rather not depend on batteries anyway... although I do have a solar battery charger and some rechargeable AA batteries.

I am thankful that due to my food protocol, I am off all medications. Otherwise, that would be extremely worrisome in adverse conditions.

I don't deny that things might get worse as the economy continues to falter. Already in my county, the police say meth usage (and its manufacturing) is up, partly due to extended unemployment benefits running out; a deputy sheriff told me last week that even if there were jobs, many of the unemployed could not pass a drug test. Addicts frighten me, especially meth addicts... they can become so out of control.

I doubt there's very much I, or anyone else in my neighborhood, can do to prepare for an unlikely threat such as an asteroid or a nuclear attack, or something else unthinkable. But I can be better prepared for likely threats (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, long blackouts, fire, etc.).

Yesterday I read a library book cover-to-cover on the 'unthinkable'. I read half while I was waiting at a car repair shop, and finished it at home because it really captured my interest. I don't read much fiction anymore although I used to read 3-4 books a week. 

This book (One Second After) is fiction, about a small community in western NC with total loss of power after an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from a small nuclear warhead detonated in the atmosphere above the US. (EMP's can come from solar flares too.) Total loss of power, not just electricity: All of the cars and trucks built after about 1970 died where they were on the highways, or in their driveways, because of the computer chips in them; no electronic banking so no money, grocery stores with limited amounts of food, pharmacies with only small amounts of medicines in stock, all communications gone... no fire, police, rescue...

Intellectually I know about the hazards of an EMP, and even posted something about it here; but I have never actually considered the realities of what it could be like. We are a society conditioned to 100% dependence on power and the immediacy of supplies. 

Hey, if there's a hurricane or winter storm coming, we know the grocery shelves will be empty of most food in a few hours... but we also know it will be restocked a few days after the storm has passed. Until restocking, FEMA and the Red Cross will (eventually) come to the rescue with food, water and maybe blankets and tarps. Someone in the neighborhood will have a portable radio so we know what's really happening... and the electrical trucks from several states will be on their way to repair damage.

But what if there IS no "Cavalry to the Rescue"? What if FEMA and the Red Cross are disabled too? What if an EMP shuts down or destroys the whole country's power and communications? If Food can no longer move by truck or rail? When CAFO animals die because no trucks can bring in grains which cannot be harvested anyway because equipment won't work? If Foods and Medicines can't even be manufactured because the plants don't work? I cannot truly even imagine such a possibility, despite having just read a book about it.

One thing that helped in the book was the community banding together, and some eventual resurrection of pre-computer technologies including old automobiles, coupled with scrounged antiques like vacuum-tube ham radios, old hand-cranked telephones with simple copper wire connections from the fire station to the police dept., wood-fired boilers/steam engines to get a fire truck running and/or cook community foods, bartering... and finding someone's personal library full of lots of old books on forgotten ways of doing things.

After reading that book, I need to take another look at my own preparedness for likely threats and see what I can do to better prepare for potential risk and deprivation. There are things in the book I had not considered, and probably more not mentioned that I should consider. Their shut-down was totally without any warning; how prepared am I for something that happens with absolutely NO warning? What essentials have I used up that I'm out of at this very moment? What would I wish I had available?