Category Archives: Food for Thought

I’ll drink to that

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, but I can get behind this one:

Prepper Potpourri brings up some important facts about the power of positive thinking in this video. Frankly, I think if you buy into believing everything is “doomed,” it severely impedes your ability to accurately assess situations and stay motivated to find creative solutions. I do mention my late husband a lot and he certainly had plenty of flaws, but he also had the most irreverent sense of humor (like many infantry soldiers), that helped me stay calm through bad situations. He often had me laughing out loud even in the midst of some pretty awful situations. He also didn’t want to hear about “Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” type drama. He was the type of person who would keep trying until he couldn’t try anymore. I am the worrying kind of person, so I have to work at seeing the glass as half full.

The other thing I’m working on is trying to listen more rather than jump into reacting, which is what most of social media runs on – hot takes and people who get worked up about one hot topic blazing across news and social media after another. I’ve done plenty of that too, but I’m working on breaking that habit and taking some time to think about things more, consider other angles and doing a bit of research on some things before getting entrenched in a position.

I’ll mention the young football player who collapsed during a football game the other night as the type of instantaneous reaction I’m talking about. Within minutes some right-wing pundits were ranting about the dangers of COVID vaccines. On the left, the same sort of leaping to conclusions flourishes too, heck, just look at how many things are blamed for climate change, even being tall. I kid you not, a NYT guest essayist, Mara Altman, penned a piece putting forth the idea that short people are better for the environment. I’ll quote from a NY Post write-up about this NYT essay (I don’t subscribe to the NYT):

“Altman continued, “Short people don’t just save resources, but as resources become scarcer because of the earth’s growing population and global warming, they may also be best suited for long-term survival (and not just because more of us will be able to jam into spaceships when we are forced off this planet we wrecked).”

Who needs tabloids with space alien stories by the supermarket registers anymore, when you can get all that from America’s paper of record…

Have a nice day!

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Focus on what we can do each day

Happy New Year!

I started out my morning putting a beef roast in the slow cooker with onions, carrots and celery. I’ll add potatoes when it’s closer to being done, so dinner’s cooking. And I’ve been thinking a lot about trite sayings that circulate online as if they’re the wisdom of the ages. Yesterday some video popped up in my YouTube feed about “focus on systems, not goals” and after I watched that one, several more videos spouting that same theme popped up. Then there have been the videos a few days ago about “hope is not a strategy” and I’ve seen several of those videos flitting by on my YouTube feed. It’s almost like how if you ever watch one “TED Talks” video on a subject, for the next few days, your YT feed will be filled with videos on that subject.

Whether people are aware of this, or not, this is how algorithms are designed to gauge your viewing habits and feed you more of the content that held your attention. It’s social media platforms designing rabbit holes for you to go down. The more alarmist content you consume, social media algorithms (and perhaps even the Feds) will find ways to pull you further down those rabbit holes. It’s also easy to assume that because you are seeing this particular viewpoint a lot, that it’s the mainstream view, when in reality it’s a view that was packaged to hold your attention.

For me, I kind of think this Bible verse sums up life, in general, and figuring what time you’re in can help you weather life’s storms.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 from the King James version:

” To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

That kind of covered it for me, but in the secular world here’s how I look at “strategy” and “hope” and “goals vs. systems.” First, “hope” is crucial, because without hope we wouldn’t get off our butts and be motivated to have goals or come up with a plan (strategy), so hope is a critical factor in survival and even with getting things done, in my opinion. You can parcel that out into words like attitude or grit or determination, but a belief that you are going to work hard to survive and work to overcome adversity is critical.

The ideas I heard recently about focusing on systems not goals left me shaking my head too, because I believe in comprehensive strategic planning. Simply put, that means you have to set goals (ends) – period. Then we get to the “systems” and that’s the nitty-gritty for achieving goals – the ways and means of how you’re going to set about achieving your goals. All three components are vital for success, I think and all these trite word games that people come up with, as if they’re reinventing the wheel, just complicate matters. A comprehensive plan would include a tiered level of goals, ways and means to achieve those goals and some timelines for the various moving parts. Into all this comes dealing with adversity and failure, which are going to happen, even with the best laid plans. Here again that attitude factor comes into play as being critical. Some people quit after one try, while others will keep trying, reassess their “ways and means” and try again and again, until they succeed.

Setting up “systems” and getting some systems functioning in basic survival usually revolves around food, water, shelter, staying warm/cool, sanitation needs, and those sort of things. To live more comfortably, most of us rely on all sorts of systems in our home that we don’t think much about, like having a heating/cooling system installed in our home or building a home with a solid foundation, insulation and a reliable roof, having electricity and running water. Likewise, most of us rely on all sorts of complex global systems for the goods we routinely consume or use in our lives.

Rather than get caught up in the “sayings” floating around the internet or the partisan political flame-throwing and endless rabbit holes, I’m working toward assessing my own life and home and trying to figure out ways to simplify things. Since I’ve always liked repurposing and finding ways to reuse things, that’s going to be more of a focus this year than buying so much more stuff. In my kitchen, I want to start using the gadgets I already have more, rather than buying new ones. For instance, using my slow cookers more (I have three different size slow cookers – yes, ridiculous, I know). I want to find more ways to use my Instant Pot and dehydrator. The list goes on, because I have a lot of kitchen gadgets and small appliances.

Beyond all the goals vs. systems or hope vs. strategy stuff, mostly I want to work on functioning better alone, because March will be two years since my husband passed away and some days are still very hard. When I saw these YouTube topics about “focus on systems, not goals” and “hope is not a strategy,” I thought about my husband and what he would make of these ideas. I feel confident in saying he would have said something along the lines of “F” that bs. and let’s just get some s-h-i-t done around here. He had no patience for theoretical debates and he very much set goals – big and small ones and then he worked his butt off to make them happen. He had no interest in social media – ever, even before he became ill, but then again he never had any patience for a lot of small talk. He wanted to get things done. His can-do attitude reined in a lot of my daydreaming type big ideas and theorizing and wasting time on stuff that isn’t going to get a single constructive thing done today or in my life.

I’ve wasted a lot of time following politics, the news, the online “conversations” and frankly, I think my husband was right – focus on what we can do each day.

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Figuring out the “there” you want to get to.

I love sayings and quotes, especially random ones that I find in packaging, like inside Chines fortune cookies. I didn’t expect sayings on Splenda packets though, but lo and behold this 400-count box of Splenda packets comes with sayings.

People seem to fight about everything online and since I have my own strong opinions about many things too – I’ve been guilty of kicking up a little bit of controversy a few times too. However, I’m trying to avoid that, but yes, I’m aware I’m a contrarian by nature, lol.

The above Splenda packet came in a 400-count box that was given to me. In fact, I was gifted two 400-count boxes of Splenda packets that were given to me by my son’s friend, who had received them by mistake in a Walmart grocery pick-up order. She hadn’t ordered them and when she tried to return them to the store, they told her they don’t take returns on pick-up orders. These boxes are over $14 each, so that store lost almost $30 on that employee error, so it’s a crazy policy, I think.

With my using a Splenda packet saying, online some people would automatically want to start focusing on their views on Splenda being an unhealthy sweetener and why I shouldn’t use it, while I was merely amused by the sayings on these packets. And yes, I am using Splenda packets in my hot tea and oatmeal, because it doesn’t elevate my blood sugar like sugar does. I also use stevia and I’ve heard monkfruit is a good sugar alternative too, but it’s expensive and I haven’t tried it yet. I’m open to trying alternative sweeteners, but I also don’t get invested in all the health food drama in America and all the word games that come with the marketing of “healthy” stuff. I found this saying amusing, but let’s be honest you’ve got to define “there” in journeys or you’ll probably start down some wrong paths and have to make a lot of U-turns. Words can be tricky and the emotions we invest in words even trickier.

Most people around the world don’t have access to goods like we do in America or the myriad of consumer goods and widespread availability of food that we still have. And yes, there are growing shortage issues and inflation here that are dramatically impacting many American homes, but by and large, we still have way more that is available than most parts of the world have ever had. Plus if you live in constant dire financial straits, well, most often in America those situations are due to bad personal decisions, not because of some unexpected event or emergency. Sorry, that’s the truth. Once you get to the truth about people’s financial decisions, especially things like debt to income ratio and looking closely at personal spending habits, often there are things like cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, fast food, lottery tickets, even junk items from dollar stores, etc. that give a clearer picture of personal finances. I’m not trying to bash any particular person or group of people, all I’m saying is most household budgets contain some choices that indicate there were other, more economical, paths to take. The figuring out where you are matters before you decide on the “there” you want to go. That’s where I prefer to start – thinking about a plan of some sort.

While there really are some disturbing major crises unfolding around the world that are likely to impact everyone, including all of us in America, like everything else the impacts are likely to vary widely in severity, depending what country you live in and even regionally or based on personal lifestyle choices and events. For instance the other day I bought an 18-count carton of large eggs at the grocery store for $6.38 and that was definitely sticker shock for me, but I decided to buy the carton, because I want to make some deviled eggs for Christmas. I don’t use that many eggs really and I have a pack of Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer and some whole dried eggs in my food storage, so I have other options for most other egg needs. I also had the choice, of course, to not make deviled eggs. I don’t know of any alternative way to make deviled eggs without fresh whole eggs, so I paid the $6.38.

With the blog posts I’ve written about emergency preparedness, I’ve felt that while I disagree with so much of the constant stream of online preparedness hysteria and fearmongering, assuredly the people who engage in that constantly would likely insist they want to motivate people to prepare and that they’re sharing important information and not fearmongering. Despite my disagreeing with the fearmongering approach, the truth is people who have taken some steps toward getting their finances in better shape, stocking up food and supplies, learned even a few skills are way better off in a crisis than people who haven’t even thought about emergency preparedness at all. That single truth is what I’ve been thinking about with a major winter storm, replete with Arctic temperatures and high wind, forecast to impact a large section of the US later this week.

Considering it’s Christmas time, millions of Americans will likely be traveling too and it’s also likely most won’t make any preparations for winter weather emergencies. That’s been mostly what I’ve seen over the years, even when people do have advance warning of an impending emergency situation.

Fear can be a powerful motivator to prod people into action, because as my Splenda packet says: the best way to get there is to START. The problem comes in that living in constant fear only works for a short time. To stay motivated and committed to being prepared requires both a mind-set and a lifestyle change, not living in a state of fear or anxiously waiting for a SHTF event to hit. It’s not all about buying supplies on a list, but more about a way of thinking, decision-making and overall lifestyle. You can’t buy your way to developing a preparedness mind-set, but the toss side of that is even modest preparedness efforts can reap big rewards, provide you with more options, but most of all it can buy you more time to come up with more solutions in an emergency situation.

Where I live we’re expected to get some freezing temperatures and perhaps some rain, but I ran to Lowe’s to pick up a few items yesterday. I asked an employee for assistance in finding an item. I told this young man I wanted to do a few things around my house to prepare for the storm that’s headed across most of the US later this week. He said he wasn’t aware there was a big storm coming. I asked him a question about a product and he started to tell me his neighbor is sort of a crazy Doomsday prepper type guy, but knows a lot, as he explained something to me. I laughed and told him that my kids think I’m sort of a crazy Doomsday prepper too. The neighbor, who is likely to be where this young man goes for help in an emergency, was labeled with the negative pejorative “Doomsday prepper type.” The truth though is this nice young man had no clue about a major weather event that’s going to impact the US this week. I expect most Americans are like this young man and think prepping is stupid or people who try to be more prepared are weirdos.

Media is largely responsible for creating that negative stereotype of emergency preparedness, by hyping the most extreme preppers and promoting that “Doomsday prepper” labeling. In this April 2022 article, This is the surprising generation least likely to have even $1,000 in savings — and here’s what they need to do about it, it states:

“A survey of 1,000 adults from Bankrate this year revealed that 56% couldn’t pay for even a $1,000 emergency from their savings account. Meanwhile, data from the Federal Reserve showed that when faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, only about two in three adults could pay that expense using cash or its equivalent. What’s more, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found in 2022 that 24% of consumers have no savings at all set aside for emergencies, while 39% have less than a month of income saved for emergencies.”

According to the USDA, around 10% of Americans were food insecure at some point during 2021.

While I don’t agree with a lot the drama and hysteria I see within the online prepper community, I still think the focus should be on trying to get more unprepared people to take some steps toward being more prepared and not so much focus on the most extreme “Doomsday preppers.” I had a neighbor come to my door in the past month needing some food, which I gladly provided. I’m going to take them a food basket this week too, because there are two small children in the home. I suspect there are people all over America, especially elderly people, who might be in need of some help and that’s where I think the focus should be – not on labeling people.

Without getting into politics much, I’ve always been very conservative and several years ago, one of my adult kids was telling me that she describes me to friends as sort of a “militia-type right-winger – without the guns.” I was sort of dumbstruck and appalled by that description and I was thinking, “This is what my own child thinks of me?” Then Trump came along and I was NeverTrump really, because I believed all along he’s a phony, not conservative in the least and just playing on the fears of a lot of poor Americans, especially poor white people. Trump was a NY liberal, whose golfing buddy was Bill Clinton, so I never got on the Trump train and I guess that spared me somewhat from being cast into “The Deplorables” basket. Now the targeting has moved to labeling everyone on the right as “MAGA Republicans” and I guess just about everyone who runs afoul of the liberal political views will be cast into the MAGA Republican group of “undesirables.” Which brings me back to the “Doomsday prepper” labeling, which came about by the liberal media…

What I really believe, as my core beliefs, has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. I believe in trying to help other people and treat other people as I would like to be treated.

Yes, inflation is supposed to get worse in the coming year and more and more people are likely going to be struggling, even in America. I want to focus on helping my family, friends and others people as I can, not on politics or dividing America into hostile camps. That’s the “there” I want to get to and perhaps most of us might be on board with that as a place to START.

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Small beginnings are within reach

I started a blog post the day after Thanksgiving and despite editing and rewriting parts of it, I decided not to publish it, because it wasn’t quite expressing what I wanted to say. I became interested in becoming better prepared in 2020, mainly out of fear when my husband was placed on home hospice care and within weeks of that the pandemic craziness hit.

I’d always stocked up extra supplies and food, but I felt assuredly there were “experts” who know a lot more than I do. That’s when I started viewing YouTube prepper videos. I’d been watching homesteading videos for a long time too and that goes with my interest in learning about how people grow food and manage living off of small farms or village life around the world. When my husband and I were first married I told him my dream was to live on a small farm out in the country. We never tried farming and I likely won’t ever live on a small farm in the country, but I enjoy watching other people who have embarked on that adventure.

I’ve been watching an Azerbaijani lady cook food over open fire outside for years and even before I found that channel, I watched a grandma cook in her village in Sri Lanka. A few African village life channels popped up in my feed recently and I’ve watched a few of those too. The biggest takeaway is people do manage with a lot less, they take pride in talking about their lives and sharing native dishes. I’ve learned a lot watching these videos and there’s absolutely no drama, the people seem warm, friendly and excited to share their culture. Unlike so much of the sky-is-falling drama that permeates many of the American prepper and homesteading channels, these people living with so much less, seem more emotionally stable, calm and happy.

When I came across the William Bradford quote for Thanksgiving, the “out of small beginnings greater things have been produced” phrase stuck in my head. Bradford was a Puritan, who sailed to America on the Mayflower and became the governor of the Plymouth Colony, when the first governor, John Carver, died during the early months establishing the colony. Out of the 103 Mayflower passengers and around 30 crew on the ship, about half of them died during that 1620 voyage and first winter in America.

The Mayflower voyage went off course and the Pilgrims ended up reaching land much further north than planned, in November of 1620. They were running low on supplies and totally unprepared for the cold, hard winter there.

The first Thanksgiving was a 3-day harvest celebration in 1621. Although, those first settlers survived their first year in America, daily life was grueling, devoid of luxuries, and uncertain. Life in some parts of the world is still that way. I doubt any of the early American settlers could ever have imagined that out of their small beginnings, our United States of America would grow into a great and prosperous nation.

While we are facing some shortages now, Americans were facing all kinds of shortages, including food shortages, from the first settlers and there were years of failing crops, wheat shortages, and other shortages many times in American history, yet people couldn’t run to Costco or Walmart and try to stock up. They learned to make-do during wheat shortages with what they had and used substitutions, like barley, oats, corn to make bread.

Interestingly, while it’s easy to presume early settlers were all made of sterner stuff than people today and had some sort of unique survival skills, the truth is they were just people too. Their daily lives involved a great deal more hard labor and lack of physical comforts, so from an early age daily life required self-discipline, following a daily routine, and a sense of commitment. The Puritans had already moved from England to the Netherlands to avoid religious persecution, before embarking on the Mayflower voyage. Daily life in England and the Netherlands in the 1600s, was a far cry from arriving in America, where they were facing an uncertain situation with the Native Americans and an inhospitable land.

We all are products of the times we live in and as times change people adapt and change too, but even back in early America, some people didn’t cope well and they had all the same human emotions we have today.

William Bradford’s wife, Dorothy, died while Bradford was on his third scouting trip on land, as the other passengers stayed on the Mayflower, awaiting their return. She fell overboard and drowned while the Mayflower was moored in the harbor. Some historians question whether she committed suicide. There were passengers dying all around her and they had left their three-year old son behind in Amsterdam, with Dorothy’s parents.

Nathaniel Philbrick, in his book, Mayflower, wrote: “We think of the Pilgrims as resilient adventurers upheld by unwavering religious faith, but they were also human beings in the middle of what was, and continues to be, one of the most difficult emotional challenges a person can face: immigration and exile. Less than a year later, another group of English settlers arrived in Provincetown Harbor and were so overwhelmed by this “naked and barren place” that they convinced themselves that the Pilgrims must all be dead. In fear of being forsaken by the ship’s captain, the panicked settlers began to strip the sails from the yards “lest the ship should get away and leave them.” (pages 76-77)

Most of us adjust and learn as we face challenges, just as the Pilgrims did. Some people, even back then, fared better than others, but none of the first settlers in America, nor the Native Americans, already here, lived an easy life filled with comfort items and luxuries that we take for granted. However, we can all, little by little, choose to learn new skills and face new challenges with a positive spirit and small beginnings that produce greater things are still attainable, no matter what the latest shortage being hyped or online drama.

I watched a video the other day where the couple grew a dry corn variety this year and they ground some up and made cornbread. I found that very interesting. I bought a cookbook, Country Beans, earlier this year (used for under $6 on amazon), which explains a multitude of ways to use dry beans, peas and lentils, including making flour out of them. Each little bit of information I acquire and each little experiment learning new techniques and ways to use food, or even my small gardening effort, feels like time better spent than getting worked up about world crises or the latest hot topic flitting across social media.

We can all assuredly embark on a few small beginnings, just looking through our homes and pantries and trying to find new ways to use the things we already have. Unlike the early settlers we have access to information almost instantly. There are even apps available that can identify wild plants and trees with the snap of a photo on your phone. There is more information on ways to use almost any food than any of us can ever possibly use. Truly, we still live in a land of abundance here in America and I am thankful for that every day.

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Harder struggles

Watermelons are growing.

Wherever you’re at on your life’s journey, the truth is everyone’s path takes twists and turns that are a little bit different than everyone else’s. Everyone learns different things and forms their own perspective and views. A phone conversation with my youngest daughter this morning got me thinking about how there’s so much blanket advice and how many people become committed to a one-size-fits-all approach in so many areas – even gardening.

I mentioned the watermelons growing in my container garden and my daughter right away reminded me of how when I grew watermelons and cantaloupes in my backyard years ago they got rotten spots on them before they were ready to pick or the bugs got them. I told her I remember all that. That’s why when I posted a picture of the little watermelon the other day, I said I don’t expect much.

I used to plant an in-ground garden. After my melons rotting the first year, in subsequent years I put mulch underneath the melons right when they formed to keep them off the wet soil, with no success. Then I tried trellising the cantaloupes and gave up on watermelons. I had minimal success with growing melons in my backyard, which was GA swampland before they built this residential area.

Our property wasn’t a designated floodplain when we bought our house, but many years later FEMA redid the floodplain map and a small corner of our backyard fell into being part of a designated floodplain. We had to purchase flood insurance, in addition to carrying homeowners insurance. The new designation cost us money, but the reality has always been that the backyard is often very swampy. And yes, my husband put down more top soil and he added a lot of amendments to the garden area, but it didn’t help much.

One of the first things my father told me when my parents first visited our new house was that we would have been better off buying a house up the street, because it’s on higher-ground. Luckily, knock-on-wood, our house has never flooded, but if we get a heavy rain we’ve had our backyard remaining a swampy mess long after the front yard has dried out.

An in-ground garden was a constant struggle in my backyard and even with this container garden effort, I weighed the pros and cons of using weedblock fabric and putting woodchips down to keep the containers out of sitting in mud, if it rains a lot vs. woodchips attracting more insects and voles. We’ve had voles many times in our backyard.

With gardening a lot of people have very strong views about which methods, which seeds ( I buy some heirloom, some hybrid and I don’t care one iota about “non-GMO” truthfully), which products and how to deal with challenges are the right ways and I’m pretty much agnostic. I’m willing to try different things, but I don’t have rigid views on gardening. I’m an amateur gardener and have had more success growing flowers than vegetables, but even with flowers, I’m a realist. My climate and especially my yard isn’t conducive to growing things like tulips or daffodils, so I just buy a small pot at the store to put on my table, if I think I need some tulips in the spring.

I bet some of the backyards in my neighborhood up the street, that are on higher ground, are probably better suited to growing vegetables, but I live here and will make-do with what I’ve got. I’ve been grateful for everything in my container garden that grew this year and produced food. I made 7 pints of dill pickles today.

I’ve seen a lot of debate about back-to-eden/no till/lasagna gardening methods vs. traditional tilling methods or using woven groundcover.

I had an elderly friend give me some Jerry Baker gardening books many years ago, but I never was taken with his home plant concoctions. I did try mixing up one long ago, but when I told my mother about it, she didn’t think much of using that. It didn’t work.

Instead, one of the gardening books I’ve found most useful is a GA Master Gardener’s Handbook I bought for under a dollar at my local Goodwill store many years ago. That handbook has clear information and science-based advice from UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Studies. UGA has a ton of information specific to my area online. Someone else might be a Jerry Baker adherent or Ruth Stout or think back-to-eden is the best method.

I did buy the Patricia Lanza book on lasagna gardening and a Ruth Stout book, based on a recommendation from a guy who has a YouTube channel about no-till gardening. I’m curious to learn more, but at the same time I’ve seen numerous gardeners and homesteaders who say why these no-till methods didn’t work for them in the Deep South. I am open to trying a small area in my backyard using a no-till method and seeing how it does.

The truth about my backyard is it’s naturally GA swampland and that’s a reality no amount of gardening information and savvy will change, so I’m trying to work with what I’ve got and what I can manage. The container gardening has worked better than in-ground gardening did, but I would like to try a couple raised beds and see how that works.

There’s very productive farmland just a little further inland (my area is considered part of coastal GA) and I used to tell my husband repeatedly that I wished we had bought a house out that way in a more rural area, but at this time here’s where I am and the benefits are medical care is nearby, grocery stores are nearby, friends are nearby and aside from the swampy backyard, I like my house a whole lot.

Next week, I plan to take an elderly friend, who is 85, to Lowe’s so she can look at the flowers and get a new flower arrangement for the table on her front porch. I worked with her for years and she lives nearby. She loves purple and I had gotten a container with purple petunias and some other lighter lavender flowers earlier in the spring, but I told her yesterday, it’s time for some new flowers for her front porch. The heat’s taken a toll on those petunias.

Her mobility has gotten very poor, so she uses a walker even in her house. She keeps telling me how much she’d love to be able to work on planting flowers in her yard, but that’s not possible. Instead, she has a lot of houseplants she tends by pushing her walker around with her watering can on the seat. She loves the flowers on her front porch, which I water for her, but she can’t safely work in her yard. I’ve been telling her about my container garden challenges and she told me for years she kept buying ferns for her front porch, which gets full-sun most of the day, and no matter what she did they died. I told her ferns love my front porch, because it gets a lot of shade. Sometimes we have to accept that some things we really want to grow where we’re at, aren’t going to thrive there.

I started buying cut flowers for her often and putting them in a vase on her kitchen table rather than putting flowers on my husband’s grave. She loves having a vase of pretty flowers to look at and truthfully, I know my husband would think getting flowers for her makes more sense than putting flowers on his grave. Her remaining son died last summer, a couple months after my husband died and she lives alone. She’s on home hospice care. Whenever you think things are bad, you don’t have to look far to find someone who is facing even harder struggles.

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Being like the water fowl

In my blog post yesterday I mentioned that my little container garden has brought me many hours of pleasure and it’s helped me come to terms with major loss and the loss part is what I want to write about today. No, this isn’t going to be about losing my husband, although that’s been the most crushing loss I’ve experienced in my life.

Being fearful is easy. Putting fear aside takes hard work. I speak from experience. I was an extremely fearful child, to the point “Scared” should have been my middle name. One of my biggest fears, besides the dark, was I was terrified of strangers. It took years and constant encouragement and prodding by my parents to get me past a lot of that. I had to work hard on dealing with my fears and learning to face them. Then I had to learn to not let fear take a hold of me and often that involves not listening to people spreading fear and for me it takes praying and asking God to help me.

Even as I reached adulthood, I was still a very fearful person and overly cautious. My husband helped me learn to face my fears and some of his courage and fearlessness rubbed off on me over 40 years of marriage. He always told me I can do things, while I would list the reasons why I would fail.I wandered around my home many hours each day for almost a year after my husband died last March.

Planting this little container garden hasn’t been some spectacular garden and some people would scoff at the small amounts it’s produced, but for me each seed that sprouted and grew into a plant felt like it was filling a hole in my heart. It felt like God was blessing me with growing things in my backyard and each tiny success gave me enormous hope.

When I was a kid one of the little habits I started when fears started taking hold was to deliberately focus on all the things that were good that were going on around me and all the many blessings all around me. By switching my focus to looking for positive things the bad didn’t disappear, but the good started taking an upper-hand over the bad and the fears. I prefer to focus on working on things I have some control over in my own life and trying to help people where I can. Worrying about global conspiracies, evil elites, even real major system failures with the global economy doesn’t get me anywhere, while looking around my own home, family, neighborhood and focusing on things I can actually do each day moves me in a better direction. What I do might not work for millions of people and it’s likely millions of people won’t agree with my views.

Writing blogs is a trend that’s losing popularity, as social media has moved on to other formats most people now use – video content is way more popular, podcasts are popular too. Instant and quick have large audiences while reading 1,000+ word blog posts is about like reading books – most people don’t want to invest that much time. In fact, even with news, it’s obvious on social media like Twitter that most of the blue checkmark crowd of politicos there react to headlines and don’t read through the articles linked.

Starting this blog was tackling another of my biggest fears. I always loved writing, but I had a lot of fears about writing and letting people read what I wrote. Self-doubt literally crippled me from writing. This blog was like a blank piece of paper that was mine to fill as I chose.

A friend urged me to start this blog and it’s been a whole lot of commentary on politics and current events. Watching the corruption expand in our institutions, from government to media to even things that shouldn’t be political, I’ve found myself becoming less of a right-wing partisan and thinking more in terms of just being an American citizen, as our politics has gone further off the rails in recent years. I don’t want to be part of Red Team America or part of Blue Team America. I just want to find ways to work toward things that matter to me and that I feel are positive for all of America.

I’ve had to catch myself recently with writing commentary on my blog about things I see on social media and disagree with, because I’m not into popularity contests, pissing contests, the clique mind-set or people caught up in their social media “followers” and “subscribers” status (I’ve watched this on Twitter, people on facebook bragging about the number of friends they have and on YouTube – those are the social media formats I’ve used.) And I do find a whole lot of things I see online that I think are fear-mongering for clicks, total bullshit, or the rush to weigh in without doing any fact-checking. It’s not just regular people who have social media formats that do this.

What’s really distressing is how many professional journalists, political pundits, and even political leaders rush to weigh in on every hot button thing that flits across social media too. In the process, trust in the news media and our political class has plummeted. Too much of America feeds on reacting rather than taking some time to think about information, do some fact-checking and then taking a little time to think things over. I write my blog posts for myself, as my space online to write what I think and believe is the truth. I will never monetize my blog and I have no desire to venture into more social media formats. I don’t do public speaking, have never taken a selfie in my life (I found that selfie trend very disturbing when my kids were younger), I don’t do videos and I intend to keep it that way.

I’m also going to be consuming less prepper-related content and less politics content online, because very little of it makes me feel any-better informed. I don’t want to indulge in reacting to the latest hot-take conspiracy theory, dire predictions, or news reporting that is more retweeted crap by journalists that none of them fact-checked. I also don’t want to hear reports that random people send to a content creator that haven’t been verified in any way. I don’t want to lose my peace of mind in living a simple lifestyle and succumb to fear-based shopping or financial decisions or feeling America is doomed based on information that will likely completely change in 10 minutes, an hour and in a day most of the current hot take information will turn out to be totally wrong. Very little of “the facts” in the news that create a buzz online holds up in 24 hours.

Spending more time in my backyard has made me think about many things. I felt a keen loss of quiet time that this little container gardening effort has restored as I’ve spent less time online. In a recent blog post I wrote about my quotes notebook and our retired pastor’s wife when I was a kid. Her nature walk came to mind, because of a loud squabble one recent morning sitting on my patio sipping coffee after I watered my garden. I watched a water fowl (could tell from the legs, feet and size of the bird, even though it was a good distance away). It flew and landed in a tall tree in the woods behind my back fence. That bird created a near riot among the mockingbirds, which flew in from both sides of my backyard and one flew out of the willow tree in my backyard. Those three mockingbirds were squawking loudly as they charged toward that tall tree to chase the water fowl away. It was fascinating to watch those mockingbirds. Often I feel like people act like that too.

The water fowl flew away and the mockingbirds settled down. I’m flying away from some contentious things online too – and moving back to reading more books and writing about some topics besides social media drama, current events, politics and doom and gloom economic news.

I want to write more stories from American history

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We can all offer helping hands across America

Photo by Pixabay on

The whole point with my 2015 blog post and this blog post is that there are a lot of alarmingly bad things happening now, even more than in 2015. I expect it to get much worse, as rabid partisans move into high-gear to create more havoc, coupled with the worldwide economic and food shortage crises roiling along. We can add in the self-inflicted disasters due to the fossil fuel situation that President Biden has decided the pain inflicted on Americans to push the green dreams is more important than millions of American jobs and the American economy taking a faceplant.

I remember how disturbed I was in 2020 with the civil unrest and how shamelessly political power grabs and efforts to infringe upon Americans’ individual liberties swept through, by conning us during the pandemic, with slogans – it’s only X-amount of days… just until this, that or the other happens with the “spread.” For the first couple weeks, I was Miss Compliant Citizen, because I wanted everyone safe and feared millions of people dying, but quickly I began watching which groups of people’s movements were targeted and which politicians rushed in with power grabs and pushing mindless rules and restrictions, all in the name of “public health.” Everything was political and my little issues with face masks the other day, with having to go to the doctor and get my medicine, frankly, piss me off a whole lot. I am reliant on the medical system, so I am forced to obey mindless rules and that makes me a little angry at myself every time I go along to get along with something I think is pointless and more about politics than science.

With the economic crises headed our way, a serious global food crisis projected, and promised political theater mayhem, with radical Dem activists promising a Summer of Rage, it’s going to be easy to get sidetracked or let fear and panic take hold. For years, I’ve thought if only there were more people on the right, who would not take the bait and react in fear and hysteria, but instead took the reins of all the things they can control in their own lives and working with others. I’ve hoped they would learn to basically give a middle finger to the political spin information war blazing across American media, that’s used to whip up fear, panic, rage on both sides of the political aisle, all to control us. What if there were millions of Americans who decided to work together with their friends, families, other like-minded people across America and said, “We aren’t going to let you destroy our great country and we are going to work together to keep ourselves, our families and communities safe and fed, and we’re going to work together peacefully – no matter what the partisan lunatics (and crooks) on either side do.”

Too many people believe that some man on a white horse is going to “save America” and that’s never been true. Trump isn’t going to save America anymore than some Democrat is going to save America. There isn’t some federal government master plan that’s going to save America, although, yes, some federal policies could mitigate some of the impact of these crises headed our way. Only we, the American people, can save our country and that means getting as many Americans as we can putting in their oars and rowing to help ourselves, our families and each other. It sounds daunting and impossible, but I believe all things are possible with faith, a whole lot of elbow grease, and teamwork.

Wearing a red hat or wrapping yourself in rainbow banners won’t help feed a single hungry child or help an elderly person in need. Stupid political slogans, getting angry, marches, protests and rallies won’t save America. Working together and doing things that really matter will. Yesterday on Twitter a Dem strategist tweeted that Dems need to keep repeating “they’re trying to destroy our democracy,” no matter what Republicans and conservatives say – this is the level of mindlessness to the spin information war. And if you think it’s only on the left, Trump mastered this same spin game with his stupid spin too, running his rally sideshow, where he went through his schtick repeating lame slogans that incite people.

Years ago when I worked at Walmart, I was the department manager of Fabrics and Crafts and loved that, but management asked me to move to the OTC Pharmacy, where they needed a department manager, then after that they asked me to move to lawn and garden and run lawn and garden. Lawn and garden was much larger and that was my first experience supervising men, because it was only women in fabrics and crafts and the OTC pharmacy. There were some personality clashes between associates in that department and also it was more associates than I had supervised before.

My husband was very good at leading soldiers in the Army. He had strong leadership skills and he knew how to get things done. I asked him what to do, because I felt like things weren’t getting done in lawn and garden and I was struggling to get associates to complete tasks and to work together. I asked him for advice. He told me to get to know my people – their strengths and weaknesses, but also to know about their lives. You have to care about the people you’re entrusted to lead. He also told me to work on being fair and consistent. And he told me the only way to fix some of the problems I told him about was demanding accountability from everyone on the team and that includes yourself. If you’re a principled leader, you have to hold yourself accountable every single day. He told me I needed to decide if I was going to lead or not.

There are plenty of good and decent people in America who still have principles, who still believe in working hard, who still believe in trying to be self-reliant and most of all who still believe in America. We can work together as One American Team, if we make up our minds and just start doing it. Start with your own family and friends, then draw your circle a little bigger and before you know it we can be reaching helping hands across America and networking.

Each person trying hard to prepare, help others, and sharing useful preparedness information can be a leader too. We all can step forward and try to help and guide those who have no idea how to go about working on emergency preparedness.

It doesn’t require some massive written plan or infrastructure or formal organizational structure – it can be just people talking, sharing ideas, information, inspiration and a little bit of help here and a helping hand there. We can all offer a helping hand to someone, whether it’s in our own family, in our group of friends, at our church, in our community, helping an elderly neighbor or a young mother struggling, and the list goes on.

Seeds of hope are like dandelions. All it takes is a small gust of wind and they can spread far and wide.

We don’t need to wait on Washington or any politician to save us. We have the power to work on saving ourselves.

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A repost of a 2015 blog post

If we build it; we can fix it

I want to write this post, which assuredly most people will dismiss out of hand.  This is my explanation of why I think Peace is possible and the fall of civilizations remedied.  I’ve been an adherent of a “God does not give us impossible missions belief” my entire life.  I believe God gave us FREE WILL.  We can choose to do or not to do, to soar or to sit on our butts whining that life isn’t fair and wait for others to do for us.  We can choose to live in FEAR or we can dare to stand up and say, “I don’t care if that’s the way it’s always been, I am going to think for myself and see if I can think, invent, build something better.”

As far as I can tell, the only human unit that is vital is the husband/wife combo, because without them reproducing , the human race will perish.  For a child to survive, requires both the mother and father.  Of course, living in groups – the “it takes a village” idea, definitely makes it much easier for humans to flourish. So, most people live in groups.

I like to analyze systems, even though I have had no formal training to do this.  One of my sons works for a large aircraft manufacturer as a software engineer.  He tells me about his travels to go diagnose and fix problems for customers, whose planes have something not working right.

Now, imagine if their planes had some fatal flaw where, say, inexplicably their most popular deluxe model of planes started suffering engine failure after hitting around the 20,000 mile mark.  The company would not accept the 20,000 mile failure of their planes nor would they want to have to rebuild engines, over and over or replace the ones that died.  They would send someone to do a systems analysis and try to detect what design flaws or equipment failure are leading to this problem.

I never accepted either the “belief” that civilizations are doomed to this endless “rise and fall” cycle, nor do I wander off into utopian pipe dreams.  My observation is that civilizations are built and deconstructed by man, just like planes – they are a man-made invention.  We find on earth some societies that remained content to settle for living in small groups and fighting to survive at bare subsistence level.  Others seek to live in a fancier deluxe model grouping, thus the most advanced civilizations are built to please those customers.  These deluxe model civilizations rely on several complex sub-systems to operate.

My mother used to get frustrated with my unwillingness to accept answers that began with, “that’s the way it’s always been”.   Accepting that premise dooms us to wasting a lot of, not only material wealth, but more importantly human lives and potential (often large portions of an entire generation), because lots of people perish when we have multiple sub-set systems failures.

So, far we’ve got most of the best geopolitical systems analysts (world leaders, scholars, statesmen, soldiers) not working on finding ways to fix the multiple, simultaneous, sub-system failures that lead to a collapse of a civilization.  They study the various sub-set systems and do some disparate diagnostics, then shrug and say, that’s just how civilizations are – “they rise and they fall”. Some try to design quick-fix patches.  Some recoil in fear and are content to be passive spectators to the collapse and murmur, “It’s always been that way”.  Brilliant geopolitics experts, almost to a man, say “that’s the way it’s always been  and I have seen nothing in history to indicate  it can ever change.” Of course, if you accept it can’t change, very few people will even bother trying to change it.

In fact, they invariably insist that when one of those sub-set systems, one intended to safeguard the entire system,  runs amok and helps destroy most of the frame and body of the entire civilization, we’re just supposed  to accept that these most complex advanced civilizations have some fatal flaw – it’s either that’s how God made the world, accept it, quit being a daydreamer and shut up about “utopias”.

I refuse to accept that belief.   I believe that if we build it, we can always improve on the design and come up with better sub-systems to build a newer, better performing model.   If your best systems analysts don’t ever even really try to find the design flaws and fix them, but instead wander off, halfheartedly fixing, only bits and pieces of some of the sub-system design flaws, of course the system will continue to reach the point where these sub-systems start falling apart and down the chute into the dustbin of history goes all that work that went into it. In the process usually many, many people perish, because most of these sub-set failures happen in midair, resulting in spectacular crashes, although some do implode and burn slowly on the runway too, so to speak.  Cleaning up the wreckage from civilizational collapses can take centuries, sometimes those people that survive don’t even bother, they wander off into the wilderness.

The known history of man provides us a great deal of information to study the various sub-sets, how they work together, which models work better and the flaws in the various systems.   For instance, we know that in governmental systems there are good kings and bad kings, dependent on one thing – the king.   For that system to work long term, relies on the accident of birth and hoping the genetic lottery of life works favorably for your kingdom, because all it takes to wreck a good kingdom is one bad king.

Others, say, in America, sat down and studied history and analyzed government systems throughout history and tried to select components that would provide a safeguard against the one bad king, as they had just got done ditching one of those bad draws in the genetic pool kind of kings.  In America, some men gathered together and said, even though no one in the known history of man has tried this first, we are FREE to come up with a better system.  We started with the premise that ALL MEN ARE FREE and constructed a governmental system that we thought would best safeguard individual freedom.  Many people in the world get sick of hearing Americans blabber on about our Constitution.  Lots of countries have constitutions, but none of them starts with the bedrock BELIEFS that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and ALL MEN ARE FREE.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we tried to transplant democracy, but democracy isn’t what leads to a better life for people;  FREEDOM does.  A Constitution is just a piece of paper.  Napoleon was one of the world’s premiere constitution writers in history.   As soon as Napoleon conquered a place, he wrote another constitution for those conquered people to obey.   Selecting a good governmental system, in my opinion, is the most important sub-system in a group’s organizational structure, because that sub-system determines how well any other component sub-systems you design will work.  We shouldn’t be telling the world that democracy makes us different, we should teach the world that the BELIEF IN INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM  does.

Many other governmental systems work, and all governments are subject to engine failure (where America is at now) and a host of other sub-system failures, because any government relies on many other complex sub-systems to work too, just as civilizations do.  Being willing to do the diagnostics and taking the corrective actions to prevent a total breakdown determines the fate of more complex groups, who rely on a more advanced organizational structure than a simple group, like a tribe or religious commune.

My son recently lamented to me that he doesn’t understand why some, way more experienced, software engineers he knows settle for creating sort of patches to fix problems, instead of trying to figure out what’s causing the problem to occur in the first place and fix that.  He asked why people are like that and I told him, that in my opinion, lots of people prefer to take the easiest road – believe me, growing up in PA, our pothole-patched roads attest to that.  Because throwing a patch on is easier than repairing the entire road.  And I should know, because my father built roads for a living.

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Marching forward each day

Yesterday, I got outside early and watered my container garden before heading to the veterans cemetery where my husband is buried. Clouds were gathering, as some boys and men were preparing for a Memorial Day ceremony, but I didn’t want to sit through speeches. The rain hit before I got home.

I think my husband would shake his head at my container garden effort, but he would approve of me not giving up and trying to do the best I could this spring to get vegetables growing again. I’m thinking about more durable infrastructure for my garden, but so far this container gardening effort is working. I’ve found loads of container gardening information and inspiration online, but truly the hardest part was just getting started and taking the first steps to start some tomato and pepper seeds indoors. Once those seeds took off, well, then I was committed to figure out something to transplant them and get them outside.

I picked this Reba McEntire song as one of the music selections for my husband’s funeral service last year:

My husband loved Reba.

Each step forward made me feel a bit more optimistic, but there were plenty of problems and a few failures, like the bareroot strawberries I bought at a local store didn’t grow. I saw several homesteaders and gardeners online recommend Stark Bro’s Nurseries as a good place to order fruit trees and bushes, so I went ahead and ordered some more strawberries and a few other things. The 25 pack of bareroot strawberries was on sale for $9.99 and every single one is growing.

I planted some of the Stark strawberries in containers with flowers and I put these in a rectangular grow bag in my gorilla cart temporarily, until another tiered container from amazon arrives. I’m glad I bought more strawberries and gave it another try.

My first bit of advice is don’t quit when you face failure with gardening (or any other endeavor). If it’s feasible, due to your growing season and within your budget, try again as soon as you can. The longer you talk yourself into excuses and defeat, the harder it is to get started again – trust me on this, because I’m the queen of “I Tried That Once And I Can’t.” I’ve faced slug problems, some bug problems, and made loads of dumb mistakes and I’m sure all three of these gardening maladies will hit again, plus some more. I planted 4 zucchinis and they were thriving, so I gave away two of them, thinking I’d be flooded with zucchinis. I picked one nice zucchini off of the best looking plant, then one day that plant started drooping a lot and by the next morning it had fallen over and the stem looked demolished.

My remaining zucchini doesn’t look terrific, but I transplanted it into an 18 gallon tote container. I also planted a few more zucchinis, because there’s a long growing season here. I have 3 pattypan squash plants that have started producing and two yellow crookneck too.

One of the yellow squash is conjoined twins.
More yellow squash growing.

In previous posts I mentioned that I’ve used a lot of grow bags, but here in the GA heat, these grow bags dry out quickly. I bought small black trash bags and have put the grow bags inside of the trash bags and I can pull the bags up all the way or push them down, coming up only a few inches along the sides of the bags, to hold in moisture.

The trash bags seem to be helping to hold in water with the grow bags. The Burpee seeds for these veranda tomatoes have formed tons of cherry tomatoes, but the foliage is very tight and dense, making it hard to prune them and hard to get at the ripe tomatoes. These are determinate tomatoes.

The cucumber seed packet said “bush variety,” but these were vining out a lot, so I staked them. I see a lot of people online put up cattle panels as a durable trellis. That’s something I might invest in later, after I figure out if I’m going to stick with container gardening, put in some raised beds or go back to in-ground gardening. This year is just getting my heart and mind committed to gardening by myself.

Problems and troubleshooting are just a part of gardening (and life). I hadn’t planted a vegetable garden in probably 15 years. There are pros and cons with container gardening and definitely with using grow bags too.

The portalacas in the top of the tiered container have gone crazy blooming.

Before I forget, the 5 cabbage plants that I started in a gallon milk jug with that winter sowing are still alive – slow to form heads, still in the Dollar Tree bags, had some bug damage, but, well, they’re alive. I will plant more cabbage later this summer to grow through the fall.

Bottom corner, that’s a spaghetti squash growing from that same “winter sowing” experiment.
Basil and parsley in Dollar Tree dish pans, with drainage holes burned into the bottom.
Back in late Feb-early March I planted seeds in some square Dollar Tree food containers and these violas didn’t grow, but then some seeds sprouted and now some are blooming. It’s way too warm for violas here, but no one told these violas that, lol.

Here’s a photo of the overall garden and yes, with all this container gardening on my patio, my patio really needs to be pressure washed:

I planted everything by myself, which I’m proud of doing. I put down almost all of the weed cover and wood chip mulch by myself, One of my sons helped a little with the first weed cover and mulch area, but then I expanded several times since then. On my back fence, there are weeds taking over and I’ve cleared some of that and need to get the rest of it cleared. The area behind my fence is like the woods are encroaching. My husband used to keep that area cleared and mowed to keep the woods further back from our back yard. I miss him, but I’m thankful everyday that he helped me learn not to be a quitter. If I can do this, I think just about anyone can. Just bite off a little bit at a time, then each day do a little bit more.

There’s so much bad news almost everyday now, that finding some rays of hope can be challenging. Working on my small backyard container garden is helping me find some inner peace and being out in the sunshine gets me away from my computer and away from the chaos roiling through the online news and social media world. It’s peaceful in my backyard.

As a child, I spent a lot of time in our garden and following my great-grandmother around as she tended her flowers. She could get anything to grow and taught me how to propagate a lot of plants. My mother was big on saving seeds and it seemed wondrous to collect flower seeds, then plant them the next spring and see beautiful flowers grow all over again. Each seed that has sprouted this year still feels like a small miracle unfolding before my eyes.

Here’s the song I chose to close my husband’s funeral service – it fit him and all the other veterans perfectly:

Don’t quit.

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Filed under Food for Thought, Gardening, General Interest

Some things to think about with stocking up

This YouTube channel showed up in my feed and I thought this nice lady, Lynn Wilson, had some important messages here:

She’s not talking down stocking up or criticizing anyone, but instead is explaining that while it’s important to be prepared and stock-up, it’s also important to not lose sight of stocking up your life with friends, family, activities and doing things that build a life worth living.

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