Category Archives: Food for Thought

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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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest, Gardening

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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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest

We can all offer helping hands across America

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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Filed under American Character, Food for Thought, General Interest

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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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest, Politics

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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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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Don’t turn your home into a crisis center

Expanded my container garden, because the plants needed more space.

Finding inner peace can be hard in challenging times, so it’s important to find ways to relax, focus on the positive and most of all work hard to keep calm in your home. Your home should be a place of refuge, not turn into a 24/7, all hands on deck, crisis center, where frantic emergency preparedness efforts take over.

Back during the beginning of the pandemic lockdown craziness in 2020, I recall a news pundit tweeting that she was so upset that she was crying all the time and not knowing what to say to her child. I quote tweeted she should turn off the news and focus on keeping her home as normal as possible. I’ve written blog posts on my views about this, which are based on my experiences as an Army wife and having my husband deployed to war twice, plus the many years of moving frequently with military life and my husband being away from home frequently for more than a month at a time, while training. He was always an infantryman – in the 82nd airborne when he was young, and that’s a dangerous job, soldiers do get hurt occasionally during training, so there’s always some things to worry about. And soldiers do die in combat and even in training accidents sometimes. The same is true in everyday life – accidents and bad things happen.

Zinnias starting to bloom.

There’s a lot of well-meaning advice on prepping, gardening, homesteading online and naturally a lot of people offer different opinions on what road they think leads you to being “prepared” for bad times. I also see a lot of alarmism and dire economic predictions every day, both in the news media ecosystem and in the online social media ecosystem.

Fear is more contagious than Covid. That’s the truth. Each of us has the ability to boost our immune system against fear, but it takes some practice and some people are naturally worriers or more prone to getting worked up than others. Of course, millions of feminists will likely disagree, but it’s been my experience that women, especially women in groups are way more prone to getting emotional and also in a group, they are experts at spreading fear and panic. I saw spreading of fear and hysteria many times over the years dealing with Army wives when their husbands deployed and I’ve seen it in everyday life. I saw it during the pandemic and now, I’m seeing it in social media, as people go bonkers about the economic crises. Although, in fairness, I see some male online preppers who spread fear and paranoia every day too, especially a guy who quotes zerohedge constantly, so there are some men who race into panic mode too. I found zero hedge to be a far-right site when it first began (long before Biden) and I think the sole agenda of that site is to undercut belief in America and stoke distrust in America. Zerohedge is big on spreading conspiracy theories about global cabals and entities.

Yellow crookneck squash. The grow bags work fine, but it’s already very hot here and the tomatoes and squash dry out quickly in these grow bags. We had some rain last night, which perked up everything in my garden.

Perhaps, some of the hype on social media is clickbait to draw attention and attract views, but it’s amazing to watch the conspiracy theories spread online, both on the left and on the right. As I keep saying, if you’re a right-wing person and you shook your head at the Trump derangement among the left and then were disgusted as the facts came to light that the Trump-Russian Collusion narrative spread by the Clinton campaign and liberal news media was a deliberate false narrative meant to inflict political damage on Trump, well, this same thing is happening among the right-wing now as they race to buy into conspiracy theories about Biden, Democrats and global elite cabals.

The modern global economic system is both vast and complex, with lots of moving parts, in fact, it’s really multiple complex systems – not a single system. Most countries in the world are players in this system, so there are a multitude of countries, corporations, financial institutions, goods and services, and even geopolitical events affecting world economic events. There are certainly rich and powerful people and entities who have a lot more influence on economic situations than you or me, but the complexities of a vast, global system can’t be harnessed by a handful of elites. There are billions of people, who play a part in the world economy, climate, weather events, war, disease and yes, even fear and hope play a big part. Human emotions impact the economic system, especially if fear starts spreading. To use an analogy, just think of how quickly bad Covid social mitigation ideas spread among world leaders, as medical experts and scientists stoked fear about this new virus and world leaders rushed into imposing more and more restrictions on people in their own countries. Fear is taking hold with the economic crises brewing too and likely many of these actions will exacerbate economic problems, as world leaders fall prey to fear-driven actions.

I accidentally dropped some birdseed in an open bag of potting soil and picked out all of it I could. I missed some sunflower seeds and they grew in my bowl of salad greens.

Fear is one of the most powerful forces in human life. If you let fear into your heart and home, it will literally start stealing all the hope and happiness from, not only you, but especially from your children. Parents should set the tone of hopefulness in their own homes. It’s important that no matter how much awful stuff is going on outside your doors, you keep your home a place of refuge – a place of calm, a place of hope and a place where your family feels safe.

When we moved around the Army, I carted around certain things after we had kids, like I travelled with a large, deep skillet, a large pot that I could cook soup, stew or pasta in and a lid (plus a few kitchen utensils). If we stayed in a motel or temporary lodging, I’d be cooking normal family meals rather than getting fast food. I considered wherever we were staying as “our home” and tried to maintain as normal a home routine no matter where we were. My husband used to tease me about this whenever we stayed in a place more than one night, because I would start setting up our things like it was our home. He would tell me we were only sleeping here, not living here. I did this during long road trips too. I packed food, drinks, pillows, blankets, coats, rain gear, etc. I wanted to be sure that if we broke down somewhere, we could have managed a couple days living out of our car.

If you turn your home into a crisis center, where all you think about or talk about is “the coming collapse” and about how awful everything is, you have surrendered your family’s peaceful refuge to fear.

I bought a cheap planter on amazon, not the Greenstalk, for some bareroot strawberries I bought at a local store. As you can see, no strawberries, not a single one grew – so I filled the bottom sections with stuff I started from seed in square Dollar Tree containers and I bought three small portalaca plants for the top.

Yes, it’s important to prepare and stock up, but it’s important not to lose sight of what it is you’re trying to preserve, besides food and supplies to get you through the coming hard times. Most of all, we should be trying to preserve our way of life, our family traditions, our joy and our happiness. If you let the fear and anxiety take over your mind, it will take over your home and rob you and your family of peace every single minute.

I think it’s important each day to rejoice in the many blessings in my life, not just obsess over the bad news and each new conspiracy theory racing through the social media and news rumor mill.

Bell peppers growing.

Stocking up food and supplies is very important and working on other ways to be prepared, like gardening and learning new skills are important too, but it’s really crucial to not turn your home into a crisis center, where you overreact to every bit of bad economic news, online rumor and let panic and anxiety have a seat at your kitchen table every day. The entire point of emergency preparedness, especially food storage is to give you peace of mind and it’s insurance that in an emergency you can feed yourself and your family. Often I feel the online “Pinterest perfect” images many people post of their vast, organized food storage create a “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude, plus can fuel unrealistic expectations.

My life is filled with lots of trial and error learning and plenty of failures. This spring I decided to attempt gardening by myself and it’s not anything like the garden my husband set up decades ago. I hadn’t gardened in years, as our life changed. For many years I was working full-time after our kids grew-up and my husband and I both had lots of health issues. The garden was still a dream that lived on in my mind, but in reality, as my husband’s condition worsened over the years, he needed more and more assistance with daily tasks and I didn’t have the time or energy to take on a garden.

At first this spring I kept thinking up excuses about the heavy-lifting tasks I couldn’t handle and I was missing my husband being there to just go ahead and do stuff – he didn’t like a lot of sitting around discussing stuff. He wanted action. I had been walking around my backyard since last spring, after my husband passed away, feeling loss and thinking about how dead and lifeless the backyard looked. Things had changed over the years, like I had our sons take down the clothesline, take down the chain-link fence and gate around the garden area, my husband built and I had them take apart two large three-tiered raised beds my husband had built for me. One was filled with strawberries and one had herbs. We hired a lawn service to mow and weed-eat, so streamlining the backyard for easier maintenance made sense, but it broke my heart a little.

I started with some “winter sowing” effort in empty gallon water jugs, which was a waste of time in my growing zone, then I bought a shelf and some grow lights to start some tomato and pepper seeds inside. I kept thinking about how I wasn’t up to tilling and doing all the amending soil required to start an in-ground garden like I used to have. Then I got to thinking about a patio garden with containers, but quickly that expanded to lots of grow bags. I bought two small bags of seed potatoes and planted those in cheap Dollar General 18 gallon plastic totes, plus two grow bags for a few extra potatoes.

Each time I expanded a bit, I felt a little bit more optimism about this container gardening effort and all along I kept trying to keep things neat and tidy, so the backyard didn’t look like a disorganized mess, because I am prone to clutter things up fast and my husband liked the yard looking nice.

The pot with five succulents comes with a garden inspiration story.

I have an elderly friend, who is 85 and on home hospice care. I visit her often. She has elderly neighbors across the street and the man is 81, his wife told me. She is in her 70s, I think and she’s from Korea, but has been in the States decades. She’s always bringing Korean food to my elderly friend and I have talked to her many times. I’ve admired her yard for a long, long time, because it’s a showcase type yard with stunning flower beds and her knock-out roses are gorgeous. It’s been an inspiration garden image for what I hope to create.

Several weeks ago, when I was visiting my friend, her neighbor was working in her flower beds, so I told my friend I was going to be nosey and go across the street to talk to Me-Su, because I wanted to see her flower beds close-up. She was delighted to show me around and I didn’t see her gigantic clay container of these succulents from the road view. That container was at least two feet across and filled with these succulents, which have an orange tint around the edges. In the terra cotta container they were stunning. I absolutely love succulents and have several kinds, but I didn’t have any like this. She started breaking off pieces and giving me planting tips. At five I told her that was plenty and I am so grateful for her kindness. She even wanted to show me her vegetable garden in the backyard. She showed me how she saves her radish seeds. She also insisted I taste some herbs she has growing, which I have no idea what they are, but she uses them in cooking. And she wants to cook Korean food for me sometime. What a lovely lady and I’ll think of her kindness and generosity every time I look at this pot of succulents.

Store up hope and optimism, as much as you work to store up food and supplies.

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Some good advice:

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Finding small flickers of hope in hard times

Throughout this blogging journey a constant drumbeat of mine has been talking about my belief in learning self-reliance and emergency preparedness, which now seems more important than any of the partisan politics or culture war turmoil. While being aware of those things is important, in our everyday lives getting angry, alarmed or worried isn’t going to change a thing and it’s certainly not going to help us be better prepared, develop useful skills or navigate through difficult times.

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Townsends, which is devoted to cooking and culture in 18th century early America. There’s never any politics on Townsends, just early American history presented in a very engaging format. I learn something new in every episode and yesterday’s was perfect for the times we’re facing with rising food prices:

What’s fascinating with many of the recipes in the very old cookbooks Townsends refer to is many lack precise measurements and give sparse cooking instruction, but he does a lot of research and often compares similar recipes from the time period and then he sets off and experiments making these foods. The Townsends team sets off on bigger adventures too, like making an earthen oven or even building an actual functional cabin using only tools available in the time period. The Townsends cabin-building adventure covered several episodes focused on different aspects of the project, like making their own tools, selecting and chopping down trees, and dealing with problems, including weather.

Few of us posses the type of rugged individualism to set off into the wilds to start a new life or even to learn how to construct a building on our own, but I’ve been following a YouTube channel, My Self Reliance, produced by Shawn James, a Canadian man, who built a log cabin by himself, from chopping down the trees, to building the entire cabin by himself, on his remote property. His videos are fascinating, because in most of them there’s no talking, just him working and going about his daily tasks. He later added some outbuildings, but then decided to move to an even more remote property and has been working on constructing a bigger cabin project by himself. James started another channel where he explains the challenges and his views on various topics, including why he chose to move into the wilderness:

My late husband was one of those rugged individual type people – he just set out and tackled hard tasks and he was forever using that saying, “How do you eat an elephant?” – one bite at a time, which means that often monumental tasks seem overwhelming, but if you start tackling it “one bite at a time,” each day you will see progress and the more you accomplish, the more you’ll believe you can do more and more… and more. I, on the other hand, doubt myself a lot, second-guess myself too much and often waste too much time overthinking things rather than just getting busy doing things. I’ve never regretted trying something and failing, but many times I’ve regretted not attempting to do new things.

You don’t have to move off into the wilderness or take on building a log cabin with your own two hands to get motivated to learn new skills and learn to become more self-reliant.

I’ve said this many times and I don’t want to be taken the wrong way here, but you can’t just shop your way to emergency preparedness or becoming more self-reliant. That doesn’t mean I am suggesting people not stock up on food and other items, because stocking up is a good thing, especially with the chaotic political and economic crises escalating almost daily now. By all means stock up, but here’s the thing, stocking up and being able to utilize all those items you bought are two different things entirely. A long time ago I saw a crafting meme that captures this sentiment: “I’ve decided that buying craft supplies and using them are two separate hobbies.”

I mentioned Townsends and My Self Reliance, because they show the days, weeks, months and yes, even years of hard work that goes into living without modern conveniences and they’re constantly learning more and developing more skills.

Most of us aren’t going to set off into the wilderness or build a log cabin, but developing the type of grit and determination to learn new skills, fail, then pick yourself up and start over is crucial to not just surviving, but thriving in bad times. Each day strive to learn something new.

As a child I got only one real Mattel brand Barbie doll and it was Midge, that I received as a Christmas gift. My mother bought me other cheaper brand Barbie size dolls and other dolls and she bought my sisters and me a few sets of plastic doll furniture. I yearned for a fancy doll house and doll furniture, like the kind I saw in toy catalogs. I made a doll house out of a cardboard box and I began using small empty boxes and plastic containers to make my own doll furniture to augment the plastic doll furniture. My great-grandmother was a quilter and she had boxes of fabric scraps she had collected when she worked in a blouse factory and was allowed to take home the fabric scraps that would have been thrown away. She let me use whatever fabric from her fabric boxes that I wanted for my crafting projects. I was around 8 years old when I began gluing fabric to cover little boxes and my great-grandmother showed me how to thread a needle and gather fabric together with long running stitches, so I could create ruffled edges on some of my cardboard furniture creations. My sisters and I got a small round plastic loom in some Christmas craft gift that we used yarn scraps to knit umpteen Barbie dresses too.

I still like to figure out how to use things I already have for projects. Sometimes they work, but often they don’t. My oldest sister, who is eight years older than me, has always been a very talented crafter, gourmet type cook, talented cake decorator and the list goes on. She’s very creative. Something I learned from her is to think in terms of creating a prototype, then working out the glitches and problems in the next ones. Most new things we try won’t turn out perfect the first time and whatever project or skill you’re learning, it’s much more likely there will be some problems or failures and it will be back to the drawing board. Rather than get frustrated by failures, try to use your failures as opportunities to learn more.

I rarely watch TV these days and the odd thing was I completely disliked the “reality TV” stuff from the beginning, but now I watch a lot of YouTube, which is real reality TV, without professional producers. I started watching YouTube looking for information for various needlework and crafting projects, then it moved to cooking and from there gardening and now I watch some homesteading and prepping channels too. I realized that I could learn some needlework and crafting techniques easier watching videos, where I could pause, rewind and replay, as I attempted it myself. I learned how to make Amish knot rugs that way:

An Amish knot rug I made a few years ago.

I’ve made 4 or 5 Amish knot rugs and plan to make some more. For my first rug I didn’t have the actual Amish knot rug needle, but I watched a video where a lady showed how to make your own tool with wire, so I used a large paperclip and bent it into the shape she showed. Yes, my first bending up a paperclip for recreational use was to make an Amish knot rug needle, lol.

There are so many excellent how-to videos on YouTube, so just look around. There’s also a lot of contradictory and bad advice, so take some time to browse around before you begin a new project.

I randomly came across a Canadian lady, Jessica Wanders, YouTube channel as she embarked on a No Spend Pantry Challenge, cooking meals with only food in your pantry for a month, that I was interested in. This young lady cans a lot, but she also has a lot of store bought items too. She makes her own yogurt using a very low tech method, which got me wondering about how you could make yogurt if you didn’t have store bought yogurt with live cultures. The creative ways she uses what she’s got and tries new dishes was very interesting.

Recently I’ve been thinking about making some simple soft cheeses and learning to make yogurt. Almost every yogurt how-to begins with using some yogurt culture from store-bought yogurt and with the current shortage problems I wondered how people made yogurt before they had store-bought yogurt. People have been eating yogurt for millennia. Voila, I found a process on a YouTube cooking channel I really love, Sweet Adjeley. This lady offers clear and precise instructions, in addition she has a lovely lilting accent, so it’s a pleasure to watch her channel. She has a video on how to make your own yogurt starter using chilies in milk and she says a cut lemon can also be used. So, I’ll be attempting making my own yogurt starter in the near future.

I’ve also been trying various keto bread and low-carb bread recipes I found on Pinterest and YouTube, which might be more diabetic-friendly. I recently stumbled across some bread recipes using bean flour, which would be a great use of some of these dried beans I’ve stocked up on and also a red lentil bread, I’d like to try. Beans aren’t low carb, but the carbs in beans are slower to digest and might work better for my blood sugar levels than regular wheat bread. Most keto bread recipes have too many eggs in them for my taste. I also ordered a used cookbook (very good condition,) Country Beans for $5.33 from amazon and it’s filled with all sorts of ways to use dried beans that were new to me. Sara Lee makes a low carb bread, that I like and it’s way cheaper than the keto breads, but I want to have some alternatives, in case I can’t find the Sara Lee bread.

YouTube is filled with channels on various types of gardening and homesteading, so you can find tons of advice, how-to videos and inspiration. You can also find how-to videos on almost any type of home repair, making and using tools, doing just about anything, but you can also find a lot of bad advice, political commentary of every stripe, end-of-the world prognostications and every type of crazy imaginable. I have also found some very thoughtful motivational videos, ranging from religious to secular themed. I urge you to listen to people who motivate you to feel like you can do more things and who inspire you to keep a positive attitude, then take a deep breath and get busy working to learn new skills and get things done.

There’s plenty to be worried and fearful about with the chaotic times we’re living in, but each day I try to remember to thank God “For Lovely Things,” which are all-around us. It’s a prayer I read as a child, from a little book of prayers I received for Christmas in 1964 and still have. I rarely part with books that matter to me. I wrote about this in a 2017 blog post:

How an individual responds to challenges really does depend on that person alone, but most of us turn to other people for encouragement, support and often guidance or advice and that’s where community comes in.

America doesn’t have to end up like other countries that fall apart, unless we let it. A lot of people in online communities are talking about building community these days and that’s a very positive sign. All across America ordinary people can create small flickers of hope, whether it’s an entire community effort, one church group or even just a small group of 2 or 3 people working together. Some Americans already are doing just that, which I’ll write about soon. We don’t have to turn out like Venezuela or Argentina falling apart, which I hear about constantly among online preppers.

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Where are our American leaders?

It’s hard to keep a positive attitude if you follow the news about what’s happening here in the US with our political dramas and the economic problems compounding almost daily and then look beyond our shores to the crises swirling abroad. Everywhere you turn there’s another looming situation that’s like a flashing warning sign that major system failures are moving closer and inevitably going to impact all of us.

Yesterday I saw this report from Ukraine that made me think about the importance of carrying on, as best you can, no matter how terrible a situation you find yourself in:

None of the decisions I have made with personal preparedness come anywhere close to Ukrainian farmers making a decision to plant crops in a war zone. At 1:27 in this video the sound of a military jet flying overhead catches the farmer and reporter’s attention and they both look up at the sky, neither knowing if it’s a Ukrainian or Russian jet. That moment made me think how small my problems are compared to millions of other people in the world.

It feels surreal that we’re now seeing world leaders talking about nuclear war, looming global food and gas shortages, inflation climbing daily, talk of major economic collapses, oh, and warnings of likely major cyberattacks too, in the news these days. While things seem very likely to get much worse and chaotic in ways none of us ever thought possible in America, at the same time I believe there are millions of Americans, in communities all over our great country, who will show every bit as much courage, determination, resourcefulness, and resiliency as the Ukrainians have mustered with their country being invaded by Russia. I have a lot of faith in the American spirit.

However, I wonder where our leaders are in America, where both political parties flit from one media sideshow to the next and none of them seem focused on coming up with real solutions for any of the looming crises that keep hitting the news. It’s rather bizarre that nowhere in America are leaders standing up and offering leadership, advice or offering any coherent direction for any of these problems. It’s all talking points and gimmicks (usually more grandstanding pushing pointless legislation & government spending that doesn’t address the problems).

The government of Ukraine is urging their farmers to stay and plant their crops this spring. Where is our government on figuring out solutions for the sky-rocketing cost of fertilizer and looming fertilizer shortages? Do our states and federal government have food reserves to feed America in a crisis? What’s the state of government fuel and food reserves? What about the escalating inflation, the growing shortage problems, the gas prices?

Less than 8% of Americans are on Twitter, but I can guarantee you most of our American political leaders, the journalists and political pundits who try to rile up people in the news are on Twitter every single day – trying to outdo each other with the clever hot takes and driving spin cycles. President Biden likely doesn’t tweet, but he has a Twitter account where someone posts tweets and former President Trump has spent the past 14 months fuming that he’s not on Twitter and trying to come up with a social media platform that can compete with Twitter. That’s what our leaders are concerned about – owning spin cycles.

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