Home and Family

Home and Family topics and commentary.

There IS NO Debate About Refugees

Everyone has an opinion about whether the US should “rescue” refugees or not, and the opinions seem to center on two basic topics – compassion, and safety.

The issues here are lengthy, and often distracting. Mostly distracting. Because the things you have been lead to focus on, are not the issues at all. A few loud voices have controlled the dialog, and carefully circumvented the facts.

I’ll try to break this down into some coherent sub-topics.

Compassion

If the government resettles refugees, that is not compassion. That is socialism. That is theft of American money, from American taxpayers, given to foreign entities. There is nothing compassionate about it.

Compassion is an individual thing. You feel it, sufficient to act upon it, GIVING OF YOURSELF (not taking from someone else, or ordering someone else to do it). If you do not decide to GIVE… PERSONALLY… YOU DON’T HAVE COMPASSION. You are only pretending.

So let’s stop the pretense that those who want the government to fix the problem, somehow have more compassion than those who want to stop the government from acting beyond the scope of immigration law.

Economics

Our nation is broke. Maybe you don’t realize this, but when you are so far in debt that you will never have the resources to get out of debt, you are broke! When your income exceeds your expenses year after year, and there is NO EFFORT to restrain or economize, YOU ARE NOT JUST BROKE, YOU ARE STUPID.

For our government to discuss SPENDING money to take on the upkeep of refugees here, is not only contrary to our law, it is unbelievably irresponsible, and CRUEL to the very people to whom this government owes its first allegiance – that is WE, THE PEOPLE… NO, that does not mean people from around the globe. No, that does not mean citizens of another nation. It means AMERICAN CITIZENS. We pay the tab. We come first. It is the duty of the government to see to the needs of its own house before aiding another (that is Biblical, for those Christians who want doctrine – it is just plain fair logic for those who don’t care about that).

If you are living in a house with a mortgage payment that is 3 months past due, and your bank is about to foreclose on you, then taking out a mortgage on another home so that you can fill it with refugees is REALLY DUMB. You don’t offer to pay for someone else to have a home while you and your own children are crying in the cold because you don’t have sufficient to pay for your own home. You see to the needs of your OWN FAMILY FIRST. Then you render aid wherever else you HAVE THE MEANS to do so, whether it be a dollar or five, or a hundred. OUR GOVERNMENT is under the same obligation.

This year, there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment for Seniors on Social Security. People who paid into a system, and to whom the government made promises. A system that would be self-supporting were it not periodically robbed by that same government to fund things unrelated to Social Security. To make a decision to not increase Social Security because “we don’t have enough money”, and then turn around and offer to pay welfare for refugees is senseless, corrupt, and inexcusable. If we do not have money to take care of those close to home, we certainly don’t have it for those whom we have no allegiance to!

Immigration Law

US immigration law requires that anyone coming to the US as an immigrant not be a drain on welfare resources for at least 5 years. They must be employable, or they must have a sponsor. Historically, recent immigrants were ineligible for welfare services – only those who had paid taxes IN were eligible to draw on the system. This is only fair and just.

Children may not immigrate without a home to go to. Orphans may be adopted, but the family receiving them must be able to show sufficient income to ensure that the adopted child will not draw upon welfare services for a 5 year period.

In a refugee situation, the powers of the US government have historically been limited to ONE decision only… That is, how many immigrants will they allow from each country, each year. In a refugee situation, they may increase the number allowed from that country.

In all cases, standard background checks are required, refugee or not, and immigrant law is not circumvented. So when the House currently seeks to require background checks on Syrian refugees, they are NOT asking for special treatment for them! They are only asking that CURRENT LAW be observed.

If immigration law were enforced, and not set aside, the government would NOT BE INVOLVED in any kind of debate at this time!

Sponsoring Adults

When an adult immigrant, or a family of immigrants, has a sponsor, the approval processes are generally much faster. This sponsor may guarantee a job for the head of household, or they may certify that they will ensure that the needs of the family are met so that welfare resources are not required.

If this provision were utilized at this time, ANYONE who felt like Syrian Refugees SHOULD be brought to the US, would be capable of stepping forward, and volunteering to sponsor a refugee, or refugee family. If you think they ought to be here, then by all means, PERSONALLY welcome a family into your home, your business, or your neighborhood.

No government involvement necessary, beyond standard immigration policy.

Those who claim “Compassion” for the refugees are free to act upon their conscience, and demonstrate to the rest of the nation, just how it should be done!

Adopting Children

Syrian refugee children are with families, or a guardian – they don’t get out otherwise.

In Muslim countries, women and children are possessions. They are not free to act for themselves. They are not able to travel by themselves without being taken captive, and abused, or punished for being without proper company. Muslim countries do NOT allow their orphaned children to be adopted by infidels.

But, supposing a child DID escape. Supposing there are refugee children in camps where parents or guardians have died, who have not been claimed by other Muslims in the camp (even then, this is the exception, not the rule, since the majority of refugees at the outset are adult men, without families).

The ONLY way that the US can legally help them is through overseas adoption. This is a lengthy process – mostly for the parents. There are many parents here who ARE prepared with homestudies done, and INS paperwork completed or nearly completed.

There have ALWAYS been children around the world in dire straits… and those upon our own shores as well. So people who REALLY have compassion, are already helping, no matter where the children are located (this help may also be rendered through non-profit donations, humanitarian aid organizations, fast offerings, etc, and may be small or great, but is always a personal sacrifice and a personal effort).

Parents who are prepared for this KNOW that children raised in a culture where women are degraded, and children are used for immoral purposes, and where children are taught that people who are not of their beliefs are never to be respected, will be VERY DIFFICULT to normalize within an American family situation. Personally, if I had daughters in the home, I would never bring a boy with that background into my home, unless he was under about the age of 3. It would be foolhardy. If I had no children in the home, I would consider a child up to about the age of 7, but would not consider older children unless I felt like I was instructed personally by God to do so. Because some children over the age of 8 have been trained in behaviors that would present a threat to the mother in the home.

God bless those who feel called to take in these children and love them in spite of the dangers.

If you are NOT ALREADY PREPARING to bring an international child to your home (or directly and PERSONALLY helping someone else do so because you cannot), then SHUT UP about the “poor orphans” whom our government is supposed to rescue. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!

A government CANNOT rescue orphans. FAMILIES have to do that. Put up, or shut up!

Action On Your Part

There is nothing stopping ANYONE who wishes to help the refugees, from helping the refugees. Government involvement IS NOT NEEDED.

  • You may donate money to a charity that is aiding refugees in overseas camps.
  • You may donate money to an organization that facilitates international adoptions.
  • You may donate money to a family that is trying to adopt.
  • You may sponsor a refugee or family yourself.
  • You may prepare to adopt a child.
  • You can do one of any number of other tasks that require your personal attention to offer aid.

Just don’t stand around pointing the finger and saying that other people are mean because they don’t want the government to circumvent immigration law, in order to get out of having to act in a way that costs you personally.

The Government’s Legal Right to Decide

The government has a legal right to decide how many immigrants to allow in.

Unfortunately, so many people are mislead by the misdirection right now, that our government is GOING to decide an issue which there is NO POINT in having them decide, and they will probably throw money where it will be largely wasted, and get us deeper in debt in the process.

If THEY would first FOLLOW law, before trying to change it, there would be no need for them to decide anything other than what they already have the process in place to do!

Your Legal Right to Decide

It is your right to decide HOW YOU PERSONALLY are going to make a difference. You have plenty of options.

But it takes more than words of ridicule pointed at someone who feels that it is NOT the responsibility of the government to be importing refugees. Those words carry no weight, they are hollow, insincere, and recognized for the evasion of integrity that they really are.

Pondering Slow Food as a Way of Life

We live in a fast food world, where we expect a meal in 5 minutes, and can take an item from the freezer to the table, within a few minutes, and serve up a hot meal with very little effort. The quality is, of course, questionable, and we forget that homemade food has the potential to taste so much better, and that it is so much better for our bodies.

The primary reason for learning to prepare foods from scratch, is quality and health. Foods without preservatives, foods that taste rich and are full of genuine flavors (not counterfeit flavors created in a lab), and which contain real ingredients which shine through. I’m not here to persuade you of the benefits. I’m only here to suggest some of the skills that make it manageable.

I have experienced the process of learning to do things more and more by hand. I’ve watched other people go through this process also – first making bread, then making whole wheat bread, then milling flour to make the bread, then making the yeast to make the bread with the home-milled flour, and eventually contemplating growing wheat (most individuals really can’t do this practically). The progress from buying the loaf, to making more and more of it yourself.

Most people will reach a point where they cannot go any further with it, and where they are comfortable with the compromise. This is pretty important, because otherwise you can really overwhelm yourself with tasks that just are not practical in our world, or in your particular corner of the world.

Slow food has benefits though, that are worth exploring. Most people are frustrated with the time it takes to begin with, until they learn skills for being able to do so within the time constraints that living, working a job, or raising children places upon them.

  • Prioritizing – You can’t do everything. You have to choose what is most important, and get it done. That often means making sure a task that needs to be done today to be ready for tomorrow, is done on time.
  • Letting unnecessary things go – You can’t do slow food when your life is filled with time-wasters. You have to let some idle passtimes go. If you already maximize your time, then you have to determine what you can let go that is less important than preparing healthy food. The wonderful thing about slow food is that there are many tasks which are relaxing when you learn how to do them in a convenient way, and which help form family bonds when you involve the children in the work.
  • Working slow tasks in around fast ones – Much of the “work” involved with slow food is waiting. Chop the ingredients, let something marinate and wait. Put the chopped items in a pot and let it slowly simmer for hours – stir it every half hour to hour, while you do other things. Use the waiting time to do other things, and organize your day so that you can maintain the slow food in a convenient way.
  • Planning ahead – You have to thaw the meat, mill the flour, render the lard, ferment the vegetables, start the stew, make the sourdough starter, or whatever else, ahead of time. You have to make it before you need it. You have to prepare ahead for many things. You have to stock in ingredients you might not otherwise use, and keep a wider selection of ingredients on hand. You have to start meals an hour or so ahead of time, sometimes more, depending on the food you are preparing. You have to think ahead. There are tricks to get by on those days when you just can’t plan ahead, but for the most part, you need to be thinking a day ahead, or at least thinking about what is for lunch and dinner while you are preparing breakfast.
  • Patience – A necessary skill – and patience is a skill, not just something some people have and others do not. The more you do it, the more patient you become, so if you feel you are too impatient, don’t worry! Just expand your skills a little at a time, and your patience will grow with it!
  • Learning skills to make slow things faster – Many “slow” tasks are slow because we don’t know how to do them well, and because our kitchens are not organized to make them fast. We have the flour stuck behind the Mac&Cheese, and getting at the ingredients to make our own noodles or biscuits is inconvenient. A little reorganization, and some practice, and you can make gravy in less than 5 minutes, biscuits whip up in 3-4 minutes, and you can even get bread ready to raise in 5 minutes, and that INCLUDES putting everything back into the cupboard! 90% is practice. The other 10% is observing, researching, and listening, to learn ways to do complex tasks more quickly – for example, when making your own tortillas, getting the texture right (fairly soft) makes the job MUCH faster and easier. Tips like that, which you learn over time or which you pick up from others, can make a WORLD of difference in how much you can accomplish in a day!
  • Selecting the right equipment to speed things up – A crock pot, a rice cooker, a bread maker, a tortilla press, a good wheat mill, a good orbital mixer, a sturdy shredder, a fermentation airlock, the right potato masher, a ceramic non-stick skillet, thick bottomed pots that reduce burning, a flat ended wooden spoon to stir the bottom of hot pots more quickly, a pressure cooker, a deep fryer, a food dehydrator, a good meat grinder, a french fry cutter, etc. Good equipment saves time. Lots of time, and makes some tasks more fun, and safer for kids to participate. Equipment is like everything else with slow food, you don’t do it all at once – you accumulate it one item at a time, according to the things you do most.
  • Learning skills layer by layer – Start by following recipes for dinner, instead of using boxes. Then advance to making or growing ingredients, one layer at a time. Taking on the whole picture (however you see the whole picture) all at once is overwhelming and certain disaster. Learn it bit by bit, and as your skills expand, you’ll naturally progress to the next phase for as long as you feel the desire TO progress to the next phase. Any degree of more real food is good!

Producing your own food from seed, bulb, chick, calf, or wild animals is the natural conclusion of slow food – Growing food is the natural extension of preparation. It allows you to know completely what is in your food, and it is the ONLY way to know for sure that your food meets your standards, because NOBODY cares more about what is in your food than you do! Gardening, raising livestock, and hunting are vital parts to producing food from scratch.

Slow food offers the opportunity to create from start to finish, and to see the process and experience all the creative effort that goes into placing food on the table.

There are rewards to slower processes, delayed gratification, and learning to wait for what is best. Those rewards are beneficial for anyone, but most important for children, who have so few instances of slow rewards in the world we live in. Planting a seed, nurturing it, seeing some live, some die, harvesting, preserving, cooking, and enjoying the food they grew with their own hands, or tended for hours or days from idea to consumption is an invaluable experience for children. When they experience this over and over in their youth, they become more patient and more productive adults, because they know that the BEST things in life take time, and investment long before the payoff.

Slow food as a way of life requires changes in the home, and in our thought processes, and in the way we move through the day. But it brings so much to us in health, satisfaction, and experience, that it is well worth the effort to adopt another layer of it into our lives.

Because it is only when you have practiced it for a few years, that you realize that what seemed like complexity, was really simplicity.

Through the Eyes of Need

I do not know how many years our family participated in the annual Scouting for Food activity in our town, gathering food door to door, taking it to a central location, sorting it, then taking it out to people in need in our town that same day. The last two years we participated in Scouting for Food, we saw the intake decline dramatically.

Our seven living children are adults now, and they were raised in circumstances that were extremely modest. We fed any child that walked through the door of our double-wide, who happened to still be there at mealtime, and there were many through the years. We were not the only family in the small town we lived in who would do this. We were just the largest. We took loaves of fresh bread to the neighbors, delivered cinnamon rolls to people around town after baking, and brought cookies to people we knew. Our children raked leaves and shoveled walks for many of the elderly without pay, carried in groceries for them, and helped them with lifting and cleanup. If a neighbor moved in, they ran out to help tote boxes from the truck to the house. It was a way of life, and one I never really considered to be unique, or fading.

I can feel the change sweeping over our nation. Especially in the last 10-15 years. Our nation is no longer a nation of givers. It is a nation of takers.

Lest anyone be offended, I realize there are people who still give, and generously. I have personally received much from such people. But I also see, as I never have before, that the native generosity of Americans has changed dramatically in the last decade, or little more. Even those who WANT to give, now find it harder and harder to do so.

Recently on Facebook, an article circled regarding statements made by foreigners about what surprised them most in America. One of the comments was expressing surprise that so many Americans gave to charities. That stunned them. Most nations are far more socialistic than the US, and the more socialistic a nation becomes, the less the citizens give to charities, or personally to their neighbors.

The first thing to go, is personal concern for their neighbors. Then they stop giving to charities. Charitable contributions in the US are now on the decline.

For many people, the lack of connection and concern for their neighbors is an outright abdication of responsibility, but for many it isn’t that at all – many of us still WANT to give.

Part of it is simply an inability to SEE need anymore.

The transients that ask for help in the Wal-Mart driveway are obvious. The homeless people under the bridges and pushing shopping carts are also obvious. But to much of America, those things are NOT visible. The majority of America is made up of smaller towns and rural stretches. And you just do not see those things in rural America, or even in small towns or suburbs.

Need is more often private than public. It hides behind the closed doors of homes where only friends and family see. Many people in need now have NO friends or family who ever enter their homes – their friends are all in remote locations. The needs behind those doors are sometimes every bit as dire as the desperate people we pass in the car, whom we feel are NOT our next door neighbors. Our neighbors do not hang their needs in the street or wear them out of doors.

The internet has replaced personal contact. The face we show the world online is not the face we look at in the mirror each evening. The lines of care and worry, framed by bottles of prescriptions from serious illness, the clothing that is worn, the background of a home sparsely furnished or too few blankets on the bed, the absence of a coat, or an empty fridge, the heaps of despairing unpaid bills. These things simply are not visible online.

To see need, you have to BE there. You have to see what is NOT spoken, and what cannot be broadcast to the world at large. Even caring Christians are simply not THERE where need IS much of the time. We WANT to be involved, to give, to help, to lift up and strengthen. But we are simply not THERE enough to SEE.

Life is so busy sometimes, we get stuck in our routine – those routines all vary from person to person, but they contain a common element of focusing on where we are and where we need to be next, and often not seeing beyond that. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning, coming up for air to gasp on Sunday, when I associate with people in my own area, then plunging back under for a week of slog through business and online interaction (necessary for my business). I am as guilty as anyone else of not being THERE during the week, and have had to make a strong effort to just stop and visit one person on the way home each week. I struggle to connect the people in my community with the daily routine apart from Sundays. It makes it difficult for me to see needs – and though my routine is unique, I do not feel that the difficulty in seeing needs IS unique, nor the reasons why it is so hard.

For the last three years, we have lived in need. Great need, due to things we did not cause, and which we could not stop, and which by their very nature have been very difficult to overcome. Many hands reached out to help. But many did not. Kind people, who simply never came close enough to us to even SEE that the clothing they were taking to the Salvation Army was needed by someone they knew, or the working toaster they were trying to find a home for would have been welcome in ours.

Early in our marriage when we had nothing, and at other times of hardship, we have been on the receiving end of great kindness, of all kinds. Much of it unasked – when you have seven kids in the home, people just assume you always need SOMETHING. A lot of it was mentioned by us, because we knew it was SAFE to mention it. Needs were met time and again, by people who knew us and saw our needs. We likewise filled boxes of groceries to deliver to people out of work, bought gift cards to give anonymously to people in need, and handed bags of food to hungry people passing through. But it really HAS changed recently. On both the giving and receiving end. The receiving end is a topic for another day…

America is more “programs” oriented now than even 10 years ago. When needs present, most people do not open their pockets to help, they refer the people to a program. But programs do not meet the majority of needs. They do not see inside the home, inside the heart, and inside the life of a person in need. They are incapable of perceiving the genuine needs, which are sometimes NOT what a program is designed to meet.

Programs, through the government, or charities, are limited, necessarily, by arbitrary rules. They are not designed to see exceptional circumstances, and a massive percentage of people in need ARE exceptions. We were exceptions – deeply in need, no income, no belongings at all, no transportation, no financial reserves. Our need was very real – yet we did not qualify for assistance through the state, through reasons beyond our control. Fortunately, we belong to a church which has a very successful welfare program, and we were able to receive assistance as we worked to get back on our feet. It was only able to meet some of our needs though – important ones, but leaving many things wanting.

I am NOT complaining about having needs unmet – we SURVIVED only because we had help. I am merely illustrating how my eyes were opened to the complexity of meeting the needs of disadvantaged people. No program in the world can do it. Because it has to be PERSONAL, and only individuals can be personal. Programs cannot be personal.

As I have considered the issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is only one real solution. Those who wish to serve the Lord and be the hands that relieve suffering, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the infirm and comfort the lonely and grieving, must VISIT people, IN THEIR HOMES – the internet is not enough! They must form bonds of genuine friendship and caring. They must learn to see through the eyes of charity – seeing the limitations in the person, seeing the good in them, and wisely aiding them in ways that help them to be uplifted and made better by the help, not just relieved of a burden temporarily. Help that makes someone better in the long term, and which helps them become less dependent on that assistance, is wrought in the workshop of deeply personal relationships.

For us, the needs that were met, were not met by a single person. They were met by many people – a skirt here, shoes there, a computer from someone else. A friend linked our new business website to her websites, and promoted me through her social media network. Two great ladies suggested a place to look for a house when we needed to move. Another friend sold us a used car, for far less than they could have got elsewhere. Two others helped patch a business back together so we again had the ability to build an income. Someone else invited us to work for three days at a flower shop, giving us some income to tide us over a rough spot, and introduced us to another individual who helped my husband apply for a VA grant for job retraining – the only program we qualified for! Several close friends and family members listened to me cry, and encouraged me when things were at their worst. Each person gave a little thing, and the total added up to survival. It had to be personal, in order to even see those things that we needed, and to understand the extent of our needs, and our limitations.

I have looked at the world through the eyes of need, more than once. This time has been by far the hardest. At the same time, it has truly deepened my appreciation for those who HAVE sincerely befriended us. Many could offer nothing to help us but prayer, because that is all they had to share. But they did that.

I do not know if the tide that seems to be turning America inward can be turned, so that we learn to see outside ourselves again, and to see behind the superficial masks that people wear in casual virtual interactions. I don’t know if that is even the goal. Perhaps the only goal is turning it in OURSELVES.

Uses for RAW Sour Milk

We are conditioned to think that sour milk is a harmful thing. If you are talking about pasteurized milk, it can be. Sour pasteurized milk can have some really nasty opportunistic pathogens in it.

Raw milk, on the other hand, is a different thing entirely. When it sours, it develops a wide range of microbial growth, including many helpful probiotics. It DOES contain some bacteria and fungi that would be considered to be harmful pathogens when in higher concentrations, but they are balanced and neutralized by the much more plentiful helpful microbes.

So why is pasteurized milk so risky when it is soured?

If you kill all the good bacteria and yeasts, then the milk is completely lifeless – for all of about half a millisecond, until it comes in contact with air again (or the inside of a milk jug, sterilized or not, or equipment, etc). It becomes a fertile environment that happily cultures any opportunistic bacteria or fungi that come along – the fast growing nasties are able to thrive, breed, and multiply without restraint. There are no natural inhibiting “enemy” or “competitor” strains to slow it down or to mitigate the effect. The ones that grow fast are likely to be fairly harmful, and they are likely to grow in very high concentrations. The fact that commercial pasteurized dairy products are stored for long periods of time in production, transit, and then on the grocery store shelves means that there is ample time for them to grow to very high levels. Levels NOT seen in fresh raw milk.

Raw milk, on the other hand, is chock full of a full complement of bacteria and fungi. If you leave it out at room temperature without ever putting it in the fridge, it will develop into buttermilk. Buttermilk is just old fashioned “sour milk” which old recipes call for (they are not asking for that nasty stuff that pasteurized milk turns into when it gets too old).

Note: Buttermilk is just raw milk left out to sour. The cream rises and firms up, which makes it easier to skim. The milk left behind was “buttermilk”. The cream was then churned into cultured butter, and the milk from around the butter was poured off and added back into the buttermilk. Just so we understand why sour milk was called Buttermilk.

Refrigeration does affect it some. It will develop a different complement of microbes at higher temperatures than it does at low temperatures, but they are generally equally healthy.

So, when your raw milk turns a little off, what can you do with it? Turns out you have a lot of options!

NOTE: It is still healthy enough to drink. You can drink it as long as you do not mind the flavor. There is no need to worry that you have to “catch” it before it goes the least bit off to save your kids from being harmed, or to avoid ingesting something dangerous. It is just milk, with a little more probiotic benefit.

  1. Make Biscuits. Southern buttermilk biscuits are a natural for sour raw milk, and so are buttermilk pancakes. You can omit the Baking Powder and use 1/3 that amount of baking soda which will react with the sour milk. You can also use it in any other recipe calling for milk, depending on how far off the flavor is, including things such as custards, milk gravies, and even home made macaroni and cheese or alfredo sauce. All of these cooked options will kill both the beneficial and harmful bacteria and fungi.
  2. Make Smoothies. If you usually use yogurt or kefir in smoothies, sour raw milk is a good substitute. Bet nobody even notices! Microbes are kept intact.
  3. Make Cheese. Let it sour a bit more, out at room temp for a day or so. Dump it in a pot, and heat until curds form and separate – to the point where you cannot touch the side of the pot at the level of the milk without it stinging. Strain, and either use as fresh cheese or press to make a hard cheese. You can also substitute it in any cheese recipe for buttermilk. Cooked cheeses result in a pasteurized product. You can also simply strain it without cooking if it has curdled, and use it as a soft cheese. It will be VERY full of microbes.
  4. Pasteurize it and make yogurt or kefir from it. You CAN do either one without doing so – they are, after all, just variations on sour milk! This process kills anything that might be lurking in your milk, and replaces the microbial assortment with a cultured assortment (which isn’t that different in kefir than it is in ordinary sour raw milk, by the way!).

There does come a point where it is too far gone – but that is quite a bit further along than most people think! Milk that should NOT be used will be discolored (more than just a little yellowing), it will have mold on it, or a very unpleasant smell. You won’t generally mistake if it is too far gone.

Sour milk is actually one of the benefits of using raw milk. Our ancestors knew this, and had uses for fresh sweet milk, and uses for aged sour milk.

The more I use it, the braver I get. I started with just using it in baked goods and cheeses, but we now use it in many other ways. My favorite is probably smoothies – my probiotic smoothies have single-handedly healed a number of annoying health issues for me.

NOTE: Because of the rabid “sterilize everything” Nazis, and various government entities which subscribe to the theory that killing everything must be better than retaining any kind of natural balance, I am compelled to leave a disclaimer. This is my opinion. It is based on broad research and experience, but it is still my personal view, provided for informational or entertainment purposes (making buttermilk biscuits is great fun). Use it as you see fit AT YOUR OWN RISK. I am not recommending this to heal or treat any disease, and am not a medical professional, nor a health or nutritional professional.

A Mormon Making Fermenting Products

Mormons don’t drink alcohol. At least, they all know they aren’t SUPPOSED to (doing so is considered to be fairly serious). The word “ferment” for a Mormon typically has only ONE meaning – that of making alcoholic drinks (intentionally, or unintentionally). And yet, I sell fermenting products, and fully believe that the products we sell were inspired of the Lord.

In the trendy world of the foodies, the word “ferment” is often preceded by the prefix “lacto-“. But when foodies get lazy, they drop the prefix and go with “fermenting”, and assume that everyone they are talking to knows what they are discussing. “Lacto-fermenting” refers to any process of fermentation which produces lactobacillus – a healthy form of bacteria. And there are several forms of fermenting which produce this kind of bacteria – alcoholic beverage production is only one form.

Most avid lacto-fermenters are not terribly concerned about the alcohol content. Oh, every once in a while someone will question it, with specific fermented items, but everyone else is quick to shut them up with reassurances that while no one has actually MEASURED it accurately, they are all CERTAIN that it is safe, and to go ahead and consume it as a health drink, give it to your kids, etc. This is in spite of a vast body of anecdotal evidence that clearly shows that SOME lacto-fermented foods ARE in fact alcoholic – with enough alcohol content to intoxicate (as in, raise the blood alcohol level as measured by blood tests). As a rule, pretty much ANY food with sugar (including tomatoes) will go ALCOHOLIC when fermented. This includes water kefir, soda pops, sweet teas, and many others. If it has sugar, has been fermented, and tastes bubbly, the alcohol content is questionable at best.

I don’t make those foods. Ok, so I once made a batch of salsa, which after fermentation was so boozy I had to heat it in the skillet to evaporate the alcohol before using it! We gave up on water kefir, because it smelled boozy.

I refuse to take chances. I KNOW what alcohol smells like, and if that smell is there, it is not something I am willing to take a chance with, for myself or my family. I just won’t go there. Because I am a Mormon… and I not only LIVE it, I BELIEVE it. I have seen enough evidence in my personal life for the efficacy and wisdom of the Word Of Wisdom (the guideline for what we eat and drink that forbids “strong drink”, meaning alcoholic beverages), that I do not need to be further persuaded. I simply will not argue the guideline into a lesser observance. I know too much to even try. I will walk on the safe side. I have no desire to do otherwise.

So why do I sell products for “fermenting”? Because of all the OTHER stuff that you can do with them!

They are good for pickles, salsa without tomatoes, condiments, sourdough, kraut, and other good wholesome foods. These foods do not have significant sugar, and do not develop the alcohol that sugary foods develop. They do develop a lot of tasty probiotic microbes though. Good living food that helps the body compensate for the chemical exposure of modern life. And these products are created through a process of fermentation, without the resulting alcohol that many people associate with the word.

Do some people use my products to make things that I would disapprove of? Undoubtedly! But my God is a God of Agency – granting the choice for good or evil to each person. I sell products and provide information for making healthy foods. If people use my products for unhealthy things, that is their choice, and I am not responsible for that. No more than if I sold televisions or computers and they chose to use them to view harmful media.

The process of developing this business persuades me that it was indeed inspired. I am not creative enough on my own to have conceived of our airlock jar caps, nor the even more complex process of creating the prototype, developing a mold for it, and then a process for making more molds. I haven’t that kind of brilliance in me, and some of the aspects to it all are truly brilliant.

But it does put me in an awkward position sometimes… I no longer introduce my business by the name (FermentaCap) to other Mormons. Instead, I just say that I make a lid for making Old Fashioned Brined Pickles. Most nod, with that look on their face which clearly says, “I have NO idea what you are talking about!”. A few hear “pickles” and wonder what in the world would make you need a special lid for THAT. Still fewer nod enthusiastically and ask for my website URL – but they are the ones who understand that “fermenting” does not just mean alcohol.

Nothing tastes as fresh and flavorful as old fashioned brined foods. Kraut that has not been canned has a complex flavor and crunchy texture – it is not limp and sulfurous (my husband, a confirmed kraut hater, will even eat it mixed in tuna salad). Dill pickles are firm, dilly, and garlicky, with a pleasant bite of vinegary flavor (even though they have no vinegar in them). Salsa is pickly and spicy. Good food, that is still alive and bursting with nutrition.

And THAT is why I, a diehard Mormon, manufacture and sell fermenting products.

Not So Rough After All

“You’ll need a four wheel drive to get up there.” she said. “The road in is pretty rough.” We had no 4X. “We’ve got what we’ve got.” I said, gesturing to our well-used sedan.

On the way in, I kept looking for the road to get bad. The pavement got a little rougher, but no worse than the road we drove home each day (better in most respects than the Indian Nation Turnpike – a hazard which they CHARGE you to drive upon!). In fact, it was better than many of the roads I’d seen in Oklahoma. When it eventually gave way to gravel, it was well-graded gravel, no potholes (which was more than could be said of the pavement). Overall, a very driveable road, just a few holes to dance around. It helps to be a logger’s daughter, gives you perspective on such things. But then, I’d also lived in Wyoming for 15 years.

Interestingly, I’ve seen more bad paved roads in Oklahoma than I’d ever seen in Wyoming. For some reason, people don’t complain about them in Oklahoma – as long as there is pavement, it is considered a drivable road, no matter how many open potholes, melted dips, overlayered rough patches, or heat buckles in the surface. Gravel, though, is considered “rough”.

“Rough roads” in Wyoming mean REALLY rough roads, and they DO take a 4X with extra clearance underneath to drive. Overall, Wyoming takes much better care of their roads than does Oklahoma. There are more miles of road per capita in Wyoming than in Oklahoma, and a larger percentage of gravel roads – but roads are more valued in Wyoming as well, and they are better kept. There, they are a lifeline. So when someone mentions a rough road, it is pretty much all angles, gullied ruts, boulders, and mud. A paved road with potholes doesn’t even count – you can drive around those!

The other thing we kept hearing about the planned trip was, “That’s a long drive – Pretty though.” It wasn’t a long drive. Just under 2 hours. Less than the distance we used to go to do our shopping. Less than the distance Kevin commuted for two years. Their idea of pretty was different than mine too – I like taller trees, grassy meadows, streams, and whitecapped peaks. This was all fluffy short trees covering rolling hills. Green, yes. Not so sure about pretty.

Many other things mean something different in Oklahoma than what they mean in Wyoming. “Small town” for example. It means 300 people in Wyoming. It means 10,000 people in Oklahoma. There’s a VAST difference between a town of 300, and a town of 10,000.

“There’s NOTHING there!” she insisted, about the last town on the way. “I mean NOTHING… No grocery stores, no fast food, no services, NOTHING!”. It was an awful lot of nothing. A small grocery store, a number of motels, gas stations, convenience stores, local restaurants. In all, a thriving community several times the size of some we’d been in.

“Warm day” also means something different. Anything above 50 in Wyoming is a warm day. In Oklahoma, it has to get up to 80 to earn that distinction. In Wyoming, your biggest bills come from heating in the winter. In Oklahoma, they come from cooling in the summer.

“Stiff wind” is something that does not translate. In Oklahoma, you get gusty winds now and again, and when a storm goes through, you’ll get an hour or two of winds that try to bat your car around on the road (the shiftless, unpredictable winds that accompany a storm with tornado warnings). But people constantly say that it is a windy place to live – and I think they must be people who have not lived anywhere with real wind. The Wyoming breeze blew through on a daily basis, fairly consistent (and the Wyoming definition of “breeze” is a good stiff wind anywhere else). Very little gustiness, mostly a steady solid stream of air from west to east, with enough force to ruin all but the most stiffly sprayed hairstyle. When it got REALLY windy, it could (and did) knock down small children, pull roofs apart, shove cars off the road completely, and even tip over semis, and it didn’t do that for a few hours, it would do it for days at a time. Oklahoma wind is a capricious teenage prankster who occasionally goes too far. Wyoming wind is a practiced, constantly relentless bully, intent on making sure you know who is boss.

There have been many other issues where the words being used meant something different to the speaker than they did to me. So much so that I wondered why they were even commenting upon the issue, it seemed so much like a NON-issue. Just a matter of being used to extremes, I guess.

Many small and large cultural differences as well, and some attitudes that are noticeably different.

Once you’ve lived in Wyoming though, the lack of a nearby McDonald’s or Wal-Mart really isn’t the harbinger of isolation that many people think it is. In fact, it becomes more of a welcome condition. Something that feels a little more like… home.

Making Butter at Home

It was the color of daffodils. Cream the color of most butter, skimmed off the top 2 inches of the jar, put into a smaller jar, and shaken by hand for about 20 minutes while we chatted and watched a video, produced butter of a strong yellow color, the exact shade of spring daffodils and buttercups (there’s a reason they called them “buttercups”). The color you never see in grocery stores, except from egg yolks.

Butter is easy to make, and there are several ways, from low tech, to mechanized. Shaking it in a jar is one of the traditional methods. As a child, we made it in a Kitchenaid Mixer. You can also use a hand mixer, or food processor.

Cream from milk from any animal works to make butter. It is made around the world from cow, goat, sheep, even horse, camel, and llama milk. There are probably a few other oddball animals in there somewhere too.

When milk is let set, the cream rises to the top. At least it does with some kinds of milk, like cow’s milk. Other types, like goat and sheep milk, are naturally homogenized, and the cream stays more suspended in the milk, with just a thin layer separating (a cream separator can pull out a large amount though, and goat and sheep milk often have very high butterfat in spite of appearances).

The cream can range in color from pure white, to a soft yellow. The color depends a lot on the breed of animal, and the diet of the animal. The resulting butter can also range in color, from pure white, all the way through a very intense yellow.

Cream is skimmed off the top, usually using a spoon or a flatish ladle (we have a deep gravy ladle that works nicely). You can’t really get it all without a cream separator, but that’s ok. Leaving a little cream in your milk is a good thing.

The cream is then put into whatever contraption you use to make butter – a jar, a butter churn, or the bowl of your particular appliance. According to some sources, the naturally homogenized milk types work best if the cream is shaken, not beaten to make butter.

The goal is to stir or shake it until the butterfat clumps together. This means you spend 95% of the time just stirring, shaking, or beating the cream.

Make sure you allow it a generous sized bowl, or a jar that is only half full, because it will generally expand in volume during the process. It will then reduce in volume and suddenly clump together into visible lumps of butter. Beat it a bit more, and it will clump mostly into a single mass. Be aware that if you are doing this with an open bowl and a mixer of some kind, it will probably start to splash wildly when it turns.

Pour off the milk (it is just skimmed milk, nothing special about it unless you cultured it first). You can stir the milk back into the rest of your regular milk if you want.

Now, what you have is butter, with lots of little bubbles filled with milk. If you want the butter to keep well (or to keep out of the fridge), you need to get that milk out of it.

The butter may be VERY soft by now – especially in warm weather. You may need to pop it in the fridge for a bit before proceeding. When it is cold enough to work without sticking too much to the spoon or paddle, go forward.

Use a butter paddle, or the back of a spoon, press down on the butter to squeeze out milk drops. Periodically rinse it under cold water – you can keep it under the cold water stream if it is cold enough to chill the butter, but if you live where your cold water warms up in the summer time, you will need to just rinse periodically.

Keep pressing the butter and working it to get the milk out, until it doesn’t come out white anymore. Then remove it from the water, and press the water drops out.

Add salt if you want salted butter, and work the salt through it. Since you are never going to be exactly certain how much butter you have, you really have to salt to taste every time.

Once the salt is blended in, you can put it into a butter pot, or mold it, chill it, and then remove it from the mold.

So what about that Buttermilk stuff? Why does buttermilk taste like sour cottage cheese if it is just milk that has had the fat removed?

Well, cream is actually easier to skim off the top of cultured milk. By “cultured” we mean fresh raw milk (not more than 24 to 48 hours old if it has been refrigerated, after that the microbe balance can be off), which has been left at room temperature to “sour”. You know those old recipes that call for Sour Milk? They aren’t talking about that nasty stuff that you get when your pasteurized milk stays out too long, or is too long in the fridge. No, they aren’t talking about that AT ALL.

Pasteurized milk goes nasty because all the healthy and friendly bacteria have been killed in the heat processes. So it is just wide open for contamination by opportunistic nasties.

Fresh raw milk though, has a complement of healthy bacteria, and when left out of the fridge for 1-3 days, will sour in a pleasant way – more like cottage cheese in smell and flavor. It will sour and thicken within about 24 hours, and that is when you want to skim the cream for butter. After a couple of days, it will start to separate, with curds on top, and whey on the bottom. At that point, it is really good for making no-rennet cheese.

When you culture the milk first, you end up with classic buttermilk, and cultured butter. In other words, expensive butter.

Now, you CAN make butter from cream that you buy at the store. Put it into a container so that the container is only halfway full, cap it tightly, and shake it if you don’t have any equipment to process it in another way. You’ll end up with fairly white butter. It will still taste like butter.

Making butter is one of those old skills that is so simple, that pretty much anyone can try it. It is fun, and gives you the feeling of experiencing a little history if you are not the kind of person that is into adopting it as part of a lifestyle. Personally, I really like knowing what is in my food and where it came from, so making butter is just part of the whole package.

And making butter leads naturally to making a loaf of homemade bread. Because there is nothing better than fresh, warm bread, and homemade butter!

Milling Wheat at Home

I love being able to have any kind of fresh flour that I want – white wheat for all purpose flour, durum for pasta, soft white for pastries, rye for breads and crackers. Ok, so I’m a wheat flour sort of person. A home mill can also make rice flour, bean flour, or flour from other grains or legumes. In general, it cannot mill oily seeds, such as sunflower seed, or nuts, such as almond.

I have used many kinds of flour mills. The worst, was a Wonder Mill (very poor design, multiple problems), the best and most reliable has been a K-tec (Blend-tec), which, although it has some awkward features, has produced the most consistently fine flour, and the best and most troublefree operation. I used one heavily for more than 10 years and only had to replace a filter. It died after being dropped, for the second time.

Something about mills – there is no such thing as an “easy clean” flour mill. They are all pretty much a hassle to clean. We used a brush to brush out the flour from the milling area, and washed the bin and intake cup. You can’t get absolutely all the flour off the mill – it will never be as pristine as new, after you get it home. Just use it regularly and you won’t have a problem. If you leave it sitting where bugs can get at it, it may attract weevils if you don’t use it for a period of a few months.

Milling large batches at one time can help with the cleaning hassle. Mill enough to make it worth the time it takes to clean it. Extra flour can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months, or in the freezer for far longer. Otherwise, it should be used within 2 weeks if left at room temperature.

Fresh flour is something special. Oh, you probably won’t notice a huge difference in flavor. That isn’t where the real magic lies. Nutritionally, it is amazing stuff. The wheat germ and oils are intact, and the nutrients have not degraded. It supplies a far more complex and usable variety of nutrients. It is also devoid of the preservatives and anti-caking agents so common to commercial flours.

Commercial flours are not truly “whole” anything. The wheat germ is separated off, and not included in the flour – the oil in the germ shortens the shelf-life, and commercial flour producers don’t like that. So you aren’t getting true whole wheat in the first place.

Flours from the grocery store shelf are also old. You didn’t think they removed that germ for YOUR benefit, did you? By the time you get it, it is already many months old, and the older it is, the more the nutrients have degraded. It is a poor shadow of what it should be.

A good mill will produce fine whole wheat flour that is a pleasure to use. None of that chunky bran stuff that gets in the way of making light cakes and biscuits, or making a smooth gravy.

I love having the right flour for the job. I tend to use more common grains, and have not branched out into triticale, spelt, einkorn, or kamut, though they mill nicely in a home mill.

Hard Red Wheat – the standard “brown bread” flour. It has a very whole wheaty flavor, and dark color. Fine milling helps to lessen it a bit, but it is a stronger flavored wheat.

Hard White Wheat – a good all purpose whole wheat. Produces a lighter colored and flavored flour. In many foods, families do not notice the substitution. It makes gravies and sauces without significantly changing the flavor, and produces bread that acts like half white half whole wheat. It is higher in gluten than Hard Red wheat, so it rises better. This is my favorite wheat, and the one I use for almost everything. If your family is having a hard time making the adjustment, try this wheat.

Soft White Wheat – makes pastry flour, with lower gluten. Does not work well for bread, but is perfect for pie crusts, tortillas, biscuits, and other foods that get rubbery if worked too much. Using a low gluten flour keeps them flaky and less sensitive to being worked too long.

Durum Wheat – the classic pasta wheat. Has a somewhat rubbery texture when cooked. The nice thing is, when you make pasta that is half whole durum, and half hard white wheat, you come out with a nice golden pasta that is only slightly darker than most commercial pastas. All durum produces a fairly golden pasta that holds together well without getting gluey. This flour can be substituted for anything calling for “semolina”. Interestingly, using whole fresh milled semolina flour gives you a yellowy pasta, NOT a brown pasta. Commercial whole wheat pastas most likely have bran added to the flour – for some reason they seem to think people will not believe it is what it is unless they alter it with chunks of nasty tasting bran. Your homemade whole wheat pasta tastes much better.

Rye – rye grain can often be purchased where wheat is sold. Fresh whole rye grain is also very nutritious, and makes a terrific bread or cracker.

If you have special dietary requirements, a home wheat mill is a wonderful asset to help you reduce the cost of specialty flours. A bag of brown rice is far less expensive than the same quantity of rice flour – and you can be certain it is both fresh, and cleanly produced.

When you mill grain, it produces quite a lot of heat, and the flour will be warm when it exits the mill. Fresh milled flour is also higher in moisture than flour that has aged a few hours. This may make it more difficult to work with, especially in bread. Freshly milled flour will rise faster, and requires less water in the recipe, by 1-2 Tablespoons per loaf. It can also sour in about half the time, so watch it carefully.

It takes about 10-15 minutes to mill a good sized batch of flour in the average mill (about 12-16 cups), including cleaning the mill and packaging the flour.

There have been times when I did not have a wheat mill, and was unable to get fresh flour. My body notices the difference, and my health improves when I am able to use fresh wheat flour instead of just partial whole wheat that is months old.

Fresh milled wheat is one of the things that helped me heal from Crohn’s. I also just really love a good fine milled light wheat flour, so I’m hooked on milling my own.

If you love good food, and have the time to mill your own periodically, a good wheat mill will prove an asset to your kitchen, and the flour it produces will provide a healthful addition to your meals.

Food Supply Blinders

 “Go to the store, and buy some vegetables.” If given this instruction, chances are, 90% of America would return with one of two things:

1. A can of corn, a can of green beans, and a can of peas, or perhaps the frozen versions of them.

2. A head of iceberg lettuce (or Romaine if they are particularly adventurous), a bag of carrots, and a bag of celery. Perhaps a head of broccoli.

If asked to get fruit, they would return with canned peaches and pears, or with a bag of apples, oranges, or a bunch of bananas.

Meats consist of beef, chicken, and pork, and seafood is a limited range of fish and shrimp.

These are the foods that commercial agriculture has determined that we need to have in abundance on our grocery store shelves, so we are conditioned to think of them as being the only things available. Sure, you think of onions, parsley, cabbage, or other similar foods that are also available, but this is still an EXTREMELY limited range!

The other day I saw a post on “What to do with the strange vegetables that come in your CSA box”. Those “strange vegetables” aren’t really strange at all! They are traditional herbs and vegetables that have been served up on the tables in regions around the world since time immemorial.

While there is some difference in regional availability of some items, our stores do not carry the wide wealth of cultural heritage that our ancestors knew. Since the industrialization of food, so many foods have disappeared from the collective memory.

Does anyone else remember eating ground cherries? I still remember the flavor. So completely unique there has been nothing else that even compares. I remember huckleberry jam. Eating smelt, fried in cornmeal. Parsnips in the soup. And the flavor of Jerusalem Artichokes – another unforgettably distinctive flavor that I can recall to mind even though I’ve not had them for more than 30 years.

Now, in a completely different cultural region from where I grew up, I am finding that the grocery store is pretty much the same here as anywhere else. But the garden potential is not!

Strangely, the gardens here tend to grow the same things as gardens elsewhere, even though there are many plants that grow here, exceptionally well, and produce better. Again, industrial agriculture has sanitized the individuality from the seed catalogs – that is, until recently. Within the last 10 years, the availability of regional foods is once again being promoted in seed catalogs, and there is an absolute wealth of foods which your grocer never heard of!

One of the great strengths of eating local is that some local farms are now returning to providing a wider variety of regionally appropriate foods. This means farmer’s markets, CSAs, co-ops, and on-farm purchasing provide access to some pretty amazing stuff.

We’ve also been conditioned to think of many things as “weeds”, when in times past, they were valuable forage crops for people. Some of them come up and produce long before your garden is ready to hand you a salad. Chickweed is a great example. It makes a very nice salad, grows prolifically, produces very early in the spring (often coming up before the snow is completely gone), and insists on growing whether you want it to or not. It is healthy and delicious. Instead of trying to exterminate it (this is the commercial ag solution – which feeds the coffers of the chemical companies, and makes you buy vegetables instead of eating the chickweed), we should be eating it! There are no problem weeds if we are eating them! And a surprising number of the most pernicious weeds are edible!

Locally, you may also be able to find duck, rabbit, pigeon, crawdad, freshwater shrimp, and other meats that you would not find in the grocery store. You may find grass-fed liver, marrow bones, and other good foods.

Look beyond the blinders of the grocery store food supply. Consider food in a new way. Look for sources for the old and traditional foods. Many of them provide the health benefits to compensate for the modern life, and hold the keys to preventing avoidable diseases. You don’t have to use them medicinally – you just have to eat a wider variety of foods!

Conditioning is a powerful thing, but breaking out of it is a wonderfully liberating feeling. We are told over and over that industrial agriculture is the key to “cheap food”, but in fact, opening our eyes and seeing what is already here, free, and discovering the things that grow best in our area with the least effort is the real key to affordable food. Small local farms, and backyard gardens can achieve this far better than large and impersonal “rule by popularity” industrial farms.

Take a look around, and see what you can find that you didn’t see before. Give it a try. There’s some amazing stuff out there, right in plain sight!

Frying Potatoes in a Ceramic Skillet

After seeing a friend cooking eggs in an Ogreenics skillet, I finally thought a ceramic skillet might be worth a try. She was cooking eggs, without oil. They adhered, but peeled easily away when the eggs were turned.

I cook a lot of potatoes in the skillet. And potatoes stick, in everything except teflon. Teflon wears out, fast, and bits come off in the food. Ick. Food purist or not, teflon just isn’t a good option for hard use. No matter how gentle you are with it, eventually, it peels.

Cast iron is great for a lot of things, but potatoes, and corned beef, stick, even if your cast iron is nicely seasoned. They stick to stainless steel also. Hopelessly. They stick regardless of the amount of oil in the pan. They stick regardless of the type of oil. They just stick. And you loose all that delicious crunch, because it all sticks to the pan, and you have to soak it off when you wash the pan. And really, why bother frying potatoes if you lose the very reason you fried them in the first place?

I purchased a Wearever ceramic coated skillet.

First, we cooked bacon. The skillet is so slick that you really need kitchen tongs to cook bacon. Trying to catch it any other way is near impossible. It just slides around in the pan and you can’t even get the utensil under it. But it wiped out afterward without the tiniest bit of sticky brown bits.

Then, the potato test. Diced potatoes, sausage, onion, all into the pan along with some butter. Heat on. The whole mess slid around effortlessly in the pan. Again, the problem was not with sticking, it was with sliding. Hard to get the turner under it to flip it. But at the end, the finished food slid out cleanly onto the plate.

It passed the test without even working up a sweat. I suspect it would handle reheating mashed potatoes much like it handles eggs.

Nothing sticks to this. You can’t make it. And you can use a durable metal pancake turner on it. No need to use a wimbly plastic thing.

I suppose someday someone will find some kind of health reason to not use ceramic cooking pots and pans. But until they do, I’m sold.

Dry Leaves

There is something magical about the feel of dry leaves under one’s feet. The crackle and crunch still delights me. I first discovered the magic of crackling leaves in the Yakima Valley, while I was dating Kevin. The magic of the leaves somehow mingling with the magic of being totally, completely head over heels in love.

Having grown up near the Washington Coast, where rain is an assumption rather than an event, I had never experienced the sound of leaves crunching under my shoes as a child. Leaves did not crunch there. They wilted, and sogged. I had read about fall leaves crunching underfoot, but had never been able to produce the sound, in spite of trying many times.

So now I walk down the streets, with brown leaves littering the edges and the gutters, and try to surreptitiously step on promising looking clusters or larger leaves. Trying to step on them, to hear that cheerful sound, but of course, wanting very much to not LOOK like I am trying to step on them. Best of all, holding hands with Kevin while the leaves crackle underfoot. And I am still totally, and completely, head over heels in love.

Freedom Plus Responsibility Equals Independence #liberty

I believe that one of the reasons so few people prize Liberty anymore is because they do not know what it is. They equate Liberty with “getting what they want without working for it” instead of “the freedom to choose to prosper without the help or permission of anyone else”.

There is a huge difference between the two concepts. We saw a BBC production on the Titanic recently. In it a maid said, “So in America everyone eats from porcelain and drinks from crystal?” The immigrant she was speaking to replied, “No, but in America there is at least the hope that they might.”. (This may be slightly misquoted, but the essence is there – I was unable to find an exact quote.)

Early immigrants understood that if you wanted to “eat from porcelain”, you had to work to do so. What they wanted was the OPPORTUNITY.

They did not want someone to hand them a finished product. They knew that if someone did that, it would be someone ELSE’S idea of what they needed, not THEIR idea. When you are restricted to accepting what someone else thinks you need, you are not free, you are a slave.

The more the government does for us, the fewer choices we have. If the government provides housing for us, then we have to accept their idea of what we need. Take a look at Low Income Housing, and see if it is all you want for the rest of your life.

If the government provides food for us, then we must accept what they deem is appropriate for our food, and we must accept the amount of food that they deem appropriate. Food stamp recipients receive the amount the government dictates, and can only spend it on things the government specifies for it.

If the government provides healthcare, then we must accept them dictating what conditions can be treated, how they can be treated, and even who is eligible for treatment. We have surrendered our right to choose what we prefer, by giving someone else the responsibility of providing it.

You cannot have true Freedom without Responsibility. You must be willing to take responsibility for your own:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Healthcare
  • State of Wellbeing (not being “offended” by what others say)
  • Relation with your Neighbors (not asking for laws to forbid them doing things you do not like)
  • Employment
  • Children’s Education
  • Phone Bill
  • Product safety – we use common sense rather than expecting the government to make sure it is all safe.
  • Community and charitable giving.
  • And yes, even things such as Disability, Retirement, Insurance and other “safety nets” that we think we cannot do without.

If you want true freedom, you have to step up and do the work. When someone else provides for you, whether it is the government or someone else, THEY decide, you do not. If you go to a Soup Kitchen for a meal, they will hand you a meal. You don’t get to decide what you’ll have for dinner that night, they decide that. Any help you receive from anyone is based on their determination of your needs, not your own.

The early immigrants had had enough of that. Someone else had made the decisions for them long enough. How sad for their posterity, that they are so willing to give it all away, for the hope of the ease of having someone else do the work so they don’t have to.

The real irony of it all is, that as soon as you are enslaved, you realize that not only is the government making the choices for you, YOU are still having to do the work. Eventually, the money runs out. When it does, the eligibility standards tighten and tighten, and pretty soon everyone is impoverished, and everyone is slaving for the government, to feed the fat hog that takes its portion from the top before anything is disbursed to the starving masses.

Equality never meant that everyone had the same things. All it meant is that anyone who chose to work had the same potential of having more, and of deciding for themselves what they did with what they earned.

It did not then, nor does it now mean Equal THINGS.

It just means Equal CHOICE, and Equal RESPONSIBILITY.

When we have the Freedom to choose, and the Responsibility for our own life, then we are truly a free people. If we do not understand that, we will never comprehend the value of Liberty.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.