Archive for November 13th, 2009

Just Don't Be Poor

Sharon November 13th, 2009

Robyn at her Adapting-In-Place Blog has what I think is a superbly dark and funny piece about the pains of accepting public assistance.  I think it is well worth a read:  She lists the rules that people who accept public assistance are forced to adhere to:

Two of her rules:

“3. Never engage in any luxury activity at all, ever. Remember, you are currently taking public aid, which means of course that you must never, ever, find any way to enjoy your life that costs any amount of money at all. Do not ever do any of the following: go to movies, rent movies, go to the theatre, go to a restaurant, take your children to amusement/skating/other fun activities, or anything else that might cost money. You are poor-you don’t deserve a moment’s enjoyment of life. If you did deserve it, you wouldn’t be poor, right?

3a. In addition to money-costing activities, also remember that free activities that you might enjoy are also forbidden. Every moment you are enjoying yourself is a moment you are not spending trying to find a job, keep a job, find another job, or find a third/fourth job. Obviously this must be your only focus. As such, all of the following activities are also forbidden: walks in the park, taking children to the playground, having a picnic, sitting on your porch with friends, visiting family, going to parties, etc.

4. Never possess any item which could be construed as you spending money. This rule is a bit confusing, so examples might serve well here: do not let your SIL give you a manicure for your birthday, or fix your hair in any fancy way. Do not dress in business clothes, even purchased secondhand. Do not borrow your parents/in-laws nice car to go to run errands. Never dress your children in the expensive clothing purchased for them as gifts by loving relatives. Do not use public aid to buy your child a birthday cake and soda, which was the only thing they asked for for their birthday. Obviously, if an upstanding, tax-paying citizen sees you in a grocery store with nicely done nails & hair, driving a nice car, and buying a cake and soda, they are entitled to decry loudly (and post everywhere possible online) how abusive you are being of the system. Just because they have no idea how or why you have these things is no excuse-it is your responsibility as a poor person to never make taxpayers have to think about, well, much of anything.

4a. To maintain the personal moral indignation of the taxpayer to our situations, it is acceptable to on occasion breach rule #4 in limited fashion. This allows the taxpayer to continue with their prejudices, which is crucial for our status quo.”

You really do need to read the whole thing - she brilliantly articulates the way that our society punishes you for becoming poor.


Movin' On Up

Sharon November 13th, 2009

I head off into the weekend with a reminder that if you are in the lower Hudson Valley and want to come say hi, I’ll be at Millbrook Winery from 1-4 on Saturday signing books and chatting people up! 

I’ve also got some news. Over on facebook, I’ve been hinting at big changes in my blog.  No, I haven’t been invited to be a guest columnist at Fox News Blog, nor have I decided to pretty up the space with ads from Shell, Monsanto and Satan himself.  Nor am I going to an all-celebrity format, since I don’t know any.

What is happening is that I’m changing internet digs.  Contracts have not yet been signed, but your friendly neighborhood Apocalyptic Prophetess of Doom has been invited to blog in new territory, and it looks like I’m going to be moving on up, to the Deluxe Blog Address in the Sky.  All the old rantings and ravings, challenges and such will come with me, and I’m going to be trying some new stuff as well. 

The new site will have more ads on it, I’m afraid - but the chance for me to blog at a high traffic, fairly mainstream audience site, where I’ll maybe have a chance of reaching more people and maybe effecting a bit more societal change is not one I want to miss. 

And they will pay me for blogging, at least a little (hence the ads), which gets me off the horns of a dilemma - you all know that once my Adapting in Place book is complete, I plan to go back to farming as a primary project, and spend less time writing and teaching.  The question is how I balance the time I do spend writing and teaching.  Agriculture is not so remunerative that I  can afford to give up all the work that I do that actually pays decently, but the blog is my first love. I was hoping the blog wouldn’t suffer from my need to balance agriculture and the stuff that actually buys your working girl’s stash of pinto bean seeds.  This means that there’s no conflict - the blog can be my primary project, because it is at least mildly remunerative. 

Look for an announcement of the new site next week, and an eventual transition over.  I’m excited about it.  I hope it is a good move for everyone.


Friday Food Storage Quickie: The Three Sisters

Sharon November 13th, 2009

Hi Folks - The weekly Friday “what to put in your pantry update” is here!  This week, we’re going to focus on the three sisters - corn, squash and beans.  It is a useful mnemonic, I find, to choose items that seem to be related to one another in some way.

The beans are particularly important, because they provide much needed protein.  You can actually use any dry legume - there’s a lot of them.  If you don’t like beans, how about cowpeas, split peas, or lentils.  You can also get canned beans, which are convenient, but mostly come in BPA lined cans, and are comparatively more expensive.  I don’t find cooking beans to be that onerous - in the summer, it is easy to throw them in the solar oven.  In the winter, they can go on the back of the woodstove, or in the crockpot during transitional times.  I prefer dry beans, although I do keep a few canned beans (Eden are expensive but no BPA) around for sudden bean-related emergencies ;-) .

How much to get?  Well, generally speaking you want a 1-3 ratio of beans to grains if they are your primary staple.  Beans are one of those things that are much cheaper per lb if bought in bulk.  Plus there’s less packaging - but if what you can afford is a supermarket package, don’t let that stop you from having enough to eat in a crisis.

What do you do with beans and legumes?  Soups, of course - black bean, red bean, lentil, split pea… Obviously chili.  Dal.  Beans and rice.  Bean dips and spreads.  What’s not to love?  If, btw, you are one of those people who get gas from beans, you might want to throw in a couple of bottles of beano, or start growing epazote, which both help.  Also, generally if you haven’t eaten a lot of legumes, you should add them gradually, rather than all at once.

This time of year, a lot of people are selling winter squash very cheaply, and it is an excellent time to stock up.  Good keeping varieties of winter squash - Pink Banana, Hubbard, Butternut will keep the whole winter at around 50-60 degrees, so in your house in a cool spot.  They do not keep as well at cold temps, so don’t put them in the root cellar.   Most pumpkin varieties don’t keep nearly as well, but pumpkin or squash with lesser keeping qualities can be cooked and dried or canned.

This is also a good time to purchase canned pumpkin, if you are not overly concerned about canned goods.  It is usually on sale now, and over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be focusing on foods that go on sale between now and New Years due to the holidays.  Whether fresh, dried, frozen or canned, the squash or pumpkins provide rich flavor, vitamin A and important nutrition.  If you are dealing with whole ones, don’t forget to eat the delicious seeds as well. 

What can you do with them?  Bake them, add mashed squash and pumpkin to biscuits and baked goods, stuff them, make pies and puddings….yum.

Finally, I’m going to give corn short shrift here, because we already added popcorn to our storage, but if you are just starting now, one form of corn to add would be popcorn.  You might also want to add grits, cornmeal or masa - tortillas, tamales, cornbread, johnny cake and cornmeal mush are part of the traditional foods of our culture.  It goes without saying that if you can get good local dry corn for grinding or making into hominy, that’s the way to go.  If you have to get pre-ground cornmeal, make sure that you rotate it regularly, because it will go rancid - replace every six months.

Also, if you live in a region where sweet corn is still available, now is a great time to cut some off the cob and dehydrate it - mixed with beans it makes a delicious sweet succotash, on its own, a wonderful corn chowder, added to chili or soups it has a great flavor and wonderful texture.

As you are picking up food for your own storage, please don’t forget your local food pantry.  They’d appreciate popcorn, canned beans or bean soups and fresh squash as well to give away in thanksgiving baskets.

As for a non-food item - this is a good time to pick up candles and lamp oil in case of a power outage.  Or, for a more modern option, consider buying cheap outdoor solar lighting - you can pick the sticks out of the ground and set them in buckets or vases around the house for lighting.  Adding even a few sources of light is the difference between safety and comfort and misery and accidents in a power outage.