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Have a responsible Hallowe’en. October 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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10 comments

Silence Dogood here. Happy Hallowe’en, everyone! This post isn’t about keeping your kids and pets safe this Hallowe’en, important as that is. Nor is it about overindulging at some Hallowe’en bash and getting arrested for DUI on the way home. Instead, it’s about chocolate.

Living just hours from Hershey, PA, as our friend Ben and I do, not to mention also living near Lititz, PA, the home of Wilbur Buds, it’s easy to think about chocolate being made here, and just as easy to forget that the cocoa that goes into that chocolate comes from West Africa. But I was reminded of this by an article in yesterday’s local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, about a group of moms who were trying to make a difference this Hallowe’en by emphasizing Fair Trade chocolates and other responsible treats. (You can read the article, “Trick-or-Fair-Trade Treat!”, online at  www.themorningcall.com.)

Fair Trade, a system in which plants are grown sustainably and the workers who tend and harvest them are paid a fair wage, is best known for coffee production. Fair Trade coffee tends to be shade-grown, which means that the coffee trees are grown in the shade of rainforest trees, as opposed to the rainforest being razed to create coffee plantations. It’s also typically organically grown, saving both the environment and the coffee workers from exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Our friend Ben and I had not realized that cocoa was also typically produced under horrific conditions until I read this article. I quote: “The U.S. State Department estimates that 284,000 children work in abusive conditions—14-hour days with no pay—on cocoa farms in West Africa, and that 64 percent of them are under the age of 14.” The article goes on to explain: “When a chocolate is fair-trade certified, farmers are paid a fair price, their workers are paid a fair wage and no child or slave labor has been involved in growing it. When it’s organic, the environment is not damaged in its production. It is shade-grown in forests, its natural environment. And it’s sustainable, requiring no irrigation, pesticides, or other synthetic output.”

No child or slave labor has been involved. Good God have mercy!

Like Fair Trade coffee, Fair Trade chocolate costs more than its mass-produced counterparts, sometimes as much as three times more. But the moms in this group, the Lehigh Valley Eco-Mom Alliance, are on top of that. Some are offering trick-or-treaters pens or pretzels instead of candy. Others have saved money by participating in costume swaps (brilliant idea!), making their own costumes, getting costumes at yard sales, or finding them free at Freecycle (www.freecycle.org).

The paper informed us that October is Fair Trade Month, and that food isn’t the only thing that can now be purchased under the Fair Trade umbrella: apparently sports balls (www.fairtradesports.com) and flowers (sold by Sam’s Club and 1-800-Flowers) are also available.   

I know that, like us, all of you reading this will already have your Hallowe’en treats on hand. (In our case, Snickers, an OFB favorite, and Butterfingers, one of my own faves; we always buy stuff we actually like just in case we have any leftovers.) Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s no cause for guilt. We didn’t know, you didn’t know, so enjoy that candy (we plan to!). But it’s certainly food for thought for next year—and for the upcoming holiday season. I know none of us want to enjoy our holidays on the backs of children and slaves!

             ‘Til next time,

                            Silence

Ben Picks Ten: Scary Facts about Hallowe’en October 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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5 comments

Actually, our friend Ben must confess, maybe these aren’t as much scary as obscure. Unless, of course, you find turnips as terrifying as our friend Ben does! See how many of these you know:

1. Even the name is scary. The holiday was originally called “All Hallows’ Even” [evening], then condensed to Hallowe’en, now more commonly Halloween. “Hallows” are ghosts, and Hallowe’en was the night when the dead rose from their graves and walked abroad, terrifying all and sundry and encouraging God-fearing folks to bolt their doors and stay in their beds. Presumably, this put them in a more grateful frame of mind for the great holiday that follows the next day, November 1, All Saints’ Day.

2. The first Hallowe’en pumpkins weren’t pumpkins. Pumpkins are a New World vegetable, but Hallowe’en originated in Europe long before pumpkins traveled across the Pond. The first jack-o-lanterns were huge carved turnips with candles or burning coals inside.  Aaarrrgghhh, turnips! Talk about scary!

3. Hallowe’en inspired the first American horror story. This was, of course, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” first published in 1820, in which the Headless Horseman, usually depicted either wearing or brandishing a jack-o-lantern instead of a head, pursues poor Ichabod Crane to a dreadful end. (But at least it wasn’t a turnip!) I say it’s the first American horror story rather than the first horror story because, though Bram Stoker’s Dracula wasn’t published until 1897, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published in 1818.

4. People dress their pets. Our friend Ben found a website listing the most popular pet Hallowe’en costumes for 2009. They are, in order: Dorothy dog costume, Yoda dog costume, cowboy riding the dog costume, Batman dog costume, Minnie Mouse dog costume, Wonder Woman dog costume, Shrek dog costume, school girl pup costume, king or queen cat costume, and Princess Leia dog costume. Now, that’s scary!

5. And they empty their pockets. Here’s another scary thing about Hallowe’en: It’s expensive. Statistics show that most people spend about $45 on treats alone, and that doesn’t count money spent on decorations or costumes (which can cost from $24.95 to $449.95). Yow!

6. It’s a vandal’s best friend. Whether somebody’s sticking a razor blade in your kid’s apple, smashing your mailbox, toilet-papering your trees and bushes, or tossing rotten pumpkins on your driveway, Hallowe’en is a great excuse for acting out. And our friend Ben thinks that’s really rotten.

7. Your pets are in danger. If you have indoor/outdoor or outdoor cats that happen to be black, please try to keep them inside on Hallowe’en. Otherwise, some sickos might capture them for “ritual” torture. This is a real hazard, but the far more likely hazard is chocolate poisoning caused by your dog or cat getting into the kids’ treat bags or your own treat bowl. Pets can’t tolerate chocolate like we can, so please make sure it’s out of their reach at all times. One other danger for pets at Hallowe’en: If trick-or-treaters come to the door in scary costumes and your pet is in the room, s/he may bolt out the door. We’re not the only ones who find those costumes frightening, especially if there are big hats and so on involved. Keep your pet confined in a safe and secure place during trick-or-treating hours.

8. It’s no longer held on Hallowe’en. Our friend Ben doesn’t get this at all, but I do find it frightening: In this area, at least, each community chooses a day for trick-or-treating, none of which is actually on Hallowe’en. Not only do you never know when people might turn up at your door, but it divorces the trick-or-treat experience from the holiday so it’s just meaningless greed. Why?!!  

9. Talk about ghoulish. What’s the most popular men’s costume for 2009, according to one website I saw? Did you guess… Michael Jackson?! Apparently even the vampire contingent couldn’t beat the Moonwalker this Hallowe’en. Get out your glove.

10. Prepare to gain weight. The average American eats 25 pounds of candy a year, and Hallowe’en is a great excuse to pig out—either you’re out trick-or-treating or you’re home with that $45 of Snickers, Milky Ways, Tootsie Rolls, candy corn, Nestle’s Crunch, and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars (statistically the most popular Hallowe’en treats). 35 million pounds of candy corn are manufactured each year, and if that’s not scary—given how horrible it tastes—our friend Ben doesn’t know what is. Not to mention that just 12 of those seemingly insignificant little chocolate and other candy treats in the bag or bowl contain about 30 packets of sugar, in addition to all the fat and other hi-cal ingredients. Given that a whole hour of walking burns just 148 to 302 calories, and that just one of those tiny Snickers bars has 80 calories, if you scarf up 10, you’re looking at 800 calories and maybe 5 hours of exercise to get them off. Are you scared yet?!

What scares you at Hallowe’en?

Frugal living tip #43. October 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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4 comments

Silence Dogood here. As faithful readers know, we’re posting a Frugal Living Tip here at Poor Richard’s Almanac every week in 2009 to try to help folks like ourselves get through these hard financial times. This week’s tip is about sheets.

Yes, you read that right: sheets. If you buy new sheets, you know they’re not cheap. And if, like us, you have six pillows on your bed (we each sleep with three), trying to buy extra matching pillowcases ranges from pricey to impossible. And yow, new (even expensive new) sheets are scratchy. There’s another problem with storebought sheets: They tend to be boring. And I don’t know about you, but since I have to make the stupid bed every single day, I’d appreciate anything that could turn a tedious chore into something more fun—such as colorful and/or entertaining sheets.

So you can imagine how delighted (but also chagrined) I was a few years ago to read somewhere that you could easily add a touch of vintage “flower power” to a bedroom with mismatched but color-coordinated sheets and pillowcases. Why hadn’t I thought of that?! They went on to suggest adding an Indian cotton bedspread to the bed or as a window curtain, tossing some exotic cushions on the floor for seating, putting a bead curtain at the door, and setting up lots of candles, Moroccan lanterns, and incense for a total hippie look. And yes, this would all be cool. But we’re talking about frugal living here.

What this said to me was that I could buy sheets and pillowcases for a dollar or less each at thrift stores and still create a wonderful, one-of-a-kind display. Sure enough, the local Goodwill and Salvation Army between them provided enough flower power for anybody’s spring and summer sheeting: a pink fitted sheet with wonderful clusters of black-and-white flowers, and a pink top sheet with truly psychedelic orange, black and white flowers, along with two matching pillowcases, two plain pink pillowcases, and two pink-based pillowcases with a contrasting pattern. All for less than $5! For a fall set, I was even luckier, since I found the same psychedelic sheet pattern in a different thrift store—a bottom and top sheet and two pillowcases in yellow with green, orange and brown flowers—then went on to get other pillowcases in green, yellow, and orange to go with them.

Nobody could describe our bedding as boring now! But it sure was cheap. And as you know if you grew up with or inherited frequently-washed sheets, the older they are and more often they’ve been washed, the softer they are. Aaahhhh!!!

Too bad the local thrift stores don’t carry Moroccan lanterns.

           ‘Til next time,

                     Silence

Clarification: pumpkin seeds. October 29, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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11 comments

Silence Dogood here, and I need your help. We’re big fans of pepitas (roasted, salted pumpkin seeds) here at Hawk’s Haven. But I’d always been told that “regular” pumpkin seeds (the kinds with the white hulls) were so difficult to hull—and that you had to remove the hulls before roasting them or you couldn’t eat them, which seemed to be borne out by the fact that storebought pepitas are always hulless and green—that your only option was to grow special varieties of pumpkins with hulless seeds if you wanted to roast your own. Fortunately, there are a few hulless-seeded varieties out there, if you can find them: ‘Tricky Jack’, ‘Triple Treat’, ‘Trick or Treat’, and ‘Baby Bear’ (which is semi-hulless).

But what if you don’t have enough veggie garden space to grow your own pumpkins and have to buy them from the farm stand, grocery, or farmers’ market instead? I’d say the likelihood of finding one of these hulless-seeded varieties for sale is pretty much zero. However, I keep hearing that you can roast and eat any old pumpkin seed, without removing the tough white hull. Just this morning, our blog host, WordPress, featured a post about saving and roasting pumpkin seeds that said nary a word about hulling the seeds before roasting and eating them.

Help!!! Have you ever roasted your own pepitas? Have you ever roasted them from any old pumpkin, hulls and all? If so, how were they? What am I missing here?!! Please share your experience with us. Maybe we won’t have to put our pumpkin guts in the compost or give them all to the chickens this year! (Note: For some interesting recipes using pumpkin—pumpkin spaghetti and pumpkin cornbread—as well as directions for roasting pumpkin seeds, see our earlier post, “Picking pumpkins.”)

             ‘Til next time,

                          Silence

Layla: You’ve got us on our knees. October 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
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8 comments

Our friend Ben was quite disturbed to return home last night to find a distraught Silence Dogood screaming and shrieking about the state of her computer. As Luddites, we’re not exactly adept at computer maintenance. We turn it on, we turn it off, the end. So I’d already been perturbed when Silence had accused me of wrecking her computer by checking some sports statistics on ESPN over the weekend rather than turning on my own laptop.

Now, however, it appeared that I’d been exonerated. It wasn’t ESPN but our hefty cat Layla who was apparently responsible for wreaking havoc on Silence’s computer. Silence had twice discovered Layla sleeping peacefully on the computer keyboard, while all hell broke loose as a response on the computer itself. Poor Silence had spent hours trying to regain access to her files, and her nerves were in shreds. According to Silence, Layla was on very thin ice indeed.

But Layla isn’t just any cat. She and her brother Linus were born outside our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, as a result of yet another pregnant cat being dropped off here because we live in the country. There were two other kittens in this litter as well, and, as we always must when some swine drops off a pregnant cat here, our friend Ben and Silence had to steel ourselves to take the kittens to a shelter when they were old enough to be weaned and eating well on their own but still young enough to be adoptable.

It soon became apparent to Silence, however, that Linus was the most gorgeous cat ever to walk the face of the earth. He wasn’t exactly the smartest cat—in fact, his IQ probably rivals that of an orange—but he was definitely affectionate. Silence managed to persuade me to bring Linus indoors.

But on the day we let Linus inside the house, something unexpected happened: His sister Layla rushed inside along with him. Linus had no clue what was happening, but Layla, the smartest cat we’ve ever seen, was determined that she was coming inside and living with us, and she made no bones about it. We watched this performance, looked at each other, and shrugged. If she really wanted to live inside with us that much, we supposed we could survive three indoor cats (we already had our senior red Maine coon, Athena). And it was very clear that she was coming in to be with us, not to keep her brother company: Even Athena eventually warmed up to Linus, but he might as well be the Invisible Man as far as Layla’s concerned.

We’d named her Layla because it was obvious from the start that she had all the brains and her brother got all the looks. (Not that Layla is homely by any means: With her long, plush grey-and-white coat, big plume of a tail, and striking green-yellow eyes, she’s a big hit with everyone who visits us. It’s just that Linus is the, well, John F. Kennedy Jr. to Layla’s Caroline.) We suspected that Layla would, in the words of Eric Clapton, get us on our knees:

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.

Layla, I’m begging, darling please.

Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.  

Sure enough, Layla has proved to be a handful. Recognizing that we humans appear to communicate through vocalizations, she talks to us nonstop. While the other cats are happy to get occasional attention, when Layla wants to be petted, she will not take no for an answer. And she torments our puppy Shiloh to the point that we’re ready to pack it in and move to a deserted island, leaving Layla in charge of our house and grounds.

Layla’s involvement with the computer is a new development and quite another matter, however. As mentioned, our computer skills are primitive, as in Cro-Magnon-like. But we use our computers as our connection to the outside world and our source of income. So when a cat arbitrarily screws up our whole setup by lying down on the laptop keyboard, we go on red alert. Severe fussing seemingly had no effect, since Silence found Layla on the keyboard again when she returned from lunch. And worst of all, our home office door doesn’t really close, so even if we kept it shut, Layla could push it open whenever she felt like strolling in. 

Layla, you’ve got us on our knees. Layla, we’re begging, darling, please. Layla, darling won’t you ease our worried minds. And keep off the bleeping computer keyboard?!!! Thanks.

Layered leaves. October 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, pets, wit and wisdom.
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2 comments

Silence Dogood here. As I took our black German shepherd puppy Shiloh out for a bathroom break this morning, I noticed that the various shrubs and trees in one part of our yard created a waterfall of yellow and chartreuse. Or maybe it was more like a geyser, because for some reason I saw it from the bottom up rather than the top down. (Maybe being 5’5″ had something to do with this. Shut up, Ben.)

Taking it from the bottom, there were the fountaining gold foliage sprays of our colony of Solomon’s seal. Above them, the true yellow scallops of rose-of Sharon leaves. Higher still, the chartreuse-yellow of massive oval pawpaw leaves, then the green-yellow hearts of redbud leaves, and finally, the yellow and gold of maple leaves, all ascending like a cloud of gold to heaven.

The varying leaf shapes and differing shades of yellow were delightful. But accenting them were the carpets of deep green groundcovers I often see contemptuously dismissed: vinca (periwinkle), pachysandra, English ivy, lily-of-the-valley. That emerald tapestry set the perfect stage for the yellows and golds of autumn leaves. Finally, these tough, humble, ubiquitous groundcovers had come into their own.

Today’s skies were grey and rainy, but they couldn’t spoil the green-and-gold effect. And if tomorrow’s skies are a glorious clear fall blue, that ascending symphony of green and gold and blue will take my breath away. No wonder I love fall!

         ‘Til next time,

                   Silence

Benjamin Franklin’s views on Luddites. October 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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7 comments

Our friend Ben was first amused, then intrigued, to see that a reader had come on our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, this morning searching for “Benjamin Franklin’s views on Luddites.” The great Doctor Franklin is our hero and blog mentor here at PRA. And we identify ourselves as Luddites. Our friend Ben had never considered the two as fundamentally opposed, but when I read this query, my first thought was “Well, of course old Ben wouldn’t have thought much of them.”

After all, Ben Franklin devoted a good part of his formidable skills to developing inventions that would make life easier for everyone, from the lightning rod to the Franklin stove, rocking chair, bifocals, and even the catheter. And while we moderns tend to use the word “Luddite” to symbolize those of us who are either technologically incompetent and thus incapable of using high-tech stuff, or who choose to avoid it for the sake of leading a more simple, human-scale lifestyle, this was not its original meaning. (An example of a modern Luddite would be someone who used a paring knife rather than a food processor to chop vegetables.) 

The original Luddites arose in the early 1800s as a response to the Industrial Revolution. They’re named after Ned Ludd, an Englishman who in 1779—during Ben Franklin’s lifetime—smashed knitting machines to protest technology replacing human skill, so actual ability no longer counted for anything and literally anyone could do the same job for the least possible pay, as opposed to fine craftsmen and women being paid according to their abilities. Today’s equivalent would be huge agribusinesses shipping tasteless but long-keeping produce to Wal-Marts for super-cheap prices versus small family farms lovingly growing the most flavorful varieties organically and selling through CSAs (subscription-supported farms) and farm stands.

Then as now, people’s wallets often trump their appreciation of skill, their desire to support their communities, or their concern for their own longterm health and their sense of connectedness to the land and all life on earth. The Industrial Revolution swept through Europe and America in the 1800s, and machines and factories replaced cottage industries. The Luddites’ protests were rewarded with jailings and executions. Mechanization in the name of progress was the watchword of the day, as consolidation and uniformity in the name of progress have become the watchwords of our own.

We modern Luddites refuse to get sucked in. We resist the allure of cable and satellite TV, of microwave ovens and food processors and innumerable other gadgets, of iPods and BlackBerries and texting and Twitter, of Facebook and MySpace and YouTube. But that doesn’t mean we reject technology per se. We have a blog, we get e-mail and voice mail, we have our laptop computer and docking port and subscribe to Netflix. It’s more a question of our technological limitations and our evaluation of the usefulness of these various gadgets than a rejection of technology itself.

Which brings us back to Dr. Franklin and our reader’s query. Ben Franklin was all about building community. It was, ultimately, his highest goal, and his greatest legacy to us all, through his establishment of fire companies and public libraries and universities and medical schools and on and on. We certainly believe that old Ben supported progress, but only insofar as progress supported the community. We think he’d agree that every technological advance should be easily accessible, affordable, and understandable to the general public—that technology should support us, rather than that we should have to spend untold hours trying to figure out how to use the technology. And we’re utterly convinced that Benjamin Franklin would consider it a sin for the self-styled “titans of industry” (or technology) to profit at the expense of the individual.

So, hmmm. What, ultimately, would Ben Franklin’s views on Luddites, ancient or modern, be? Gee, we wish we could ask him. We’d love to hear his answer. Meanwhile, we’re going to climb out on a limb and say that we think Ben would support the advances that support all of us, and oppose so-called advances that destroy us. What do you think?

How old is your brain? October 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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6 comments

Our friend Ben was recently alarmed to see an article on, I suspect, MSN (I’d assumed it was on RealAge, but was unable to track it) about how you could tell how old your brain was. I was alarmed because the article said that the way to tell how old your brain is (or was it how young your brain is?!) was to see how long you could stand unsupported on one foot.

Now, our friend Ben is one of the most uncoordinated humans God ever placed on earth. The reason I never tried out for “Jeopardy” was that I realized that, no matter how much I knew, I’d never have the coordination to hit the button faster than anyone else. And now they’re telling me that the ability to stand on one leg is the determinant of brain agility? Aaaarrrgghhh!!!!!

If memory serves, you were supposed to try for 45 seconds if you were in your 30s and 30 seconds if you were 40 or over. Of course, despite attempting to ignore the article, eventually our friend Ben succumbed to the challenge. I calculate from this attempt that my brain is roughly 3,500 years old, making me an archaeological treasure if nothing else.

Our friend Ben did have a takeaway from this: If this really is the determinant of brainpower, it’s certainly the best endorsement I’ve ever seen for yoga. As I understand it, yogi adepts could stand on one leg for their entire lives if they chose to do so.

More power to them! Myself, I think I have to go lie down on the sofa now. And Albert, we need to talk. The only thing I’ve ever read about your legs was that you couldn’t manage to wear two matching socks to save your life, not that you stood or hopped around on one leg to prove your brain’s agility. But maybe you were too busy thinking about relativity or the meaning of life or the origin of the universe or something. I’m counting on you to let me know. And while you’re at it, could you put in a good word for poor Pluto? Like my brainpower, it’s recently been officially downsized…

10 reasons people hate our blog. October 26, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, homesteading, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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10 comments

Our friend Ben loved the recent post by Nell Jean of Secrets of a Seed Scatterer, “Ten Reasons I Like Your Blogs.” They were eminently sensible reasons, and our friend Ben even learned something I didn’t know (people have background music on their blogs?!!). Read them for yourselves at http://seedscatterer.blogspot.com/.

Unfortunately, just as “Everybody Loves Raymond” presumably spawned “Everybody Hates Chris,” reading Nell Jean’s post instantly brought to mind the many reasons Nell Jean might hate our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, which in turn was a springboard to why everybody else might hate it, too. Making my infamous “Ben Picks Ten” lists as I often do, how could I resist playing on Nell Jean’s post to find the top 10 reasons people would hate our blog? Readers, feel free to contribute others, but keep it civil, please. And Nell Jean, thanks for inspiring a little fun over here. We appreciate it!

1. It always looks the same. One of the things Nell Jean mentioned in her post was how much she appreciated it if people changed the look of their blogs from time to time. We’ve noticed that a lot of the blogs we enjoy do change things every few months, maybe adding more seasonal photos to their head or changing their typeface and background color or even the total look. We, by contrast, will never change anything. Being Luddites and terminally tech-challenged, we can’t tell you how grateful we were to find a header design that actually looked almanac-like. Whew, what a lucky break! If you’re looking for change, you’re looking in the wrong place.

2. There are no photos. Not only do we not have music blaring in the background (well, we often do, but not here on the blog!), we have no photos. Not even one. Our blog is text-only. If you’re reading this and are surprised that anyone ever comes here, we are, too. We assumed when we began Poor Richard’s Almanac that nobody would ever drop by more than once, and then by accident. Being Luddites, we can’t take a decent photo to save our lives, much less post one. And please don’t ask us to learn! There’s a lot we still need to learn in life—Spanish, for example, and guitar, and pot-throwing, and decent watercoloring—and we still have many novels, poems, and songs to write. There are so many great garden photographers out there in the blogosphere that we don’t think our pictures would really add anything appreciable, anyway. But we always love seeing yours!

3. There are lots of us. In addition to the three regular blog contributors—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—we have frequent guest posts from OFB’s and Silence’s puppy Shiloh, our clueless cat Linus, and even the great Dr. Franklin himself. That’s a lot to keep track of. Who are these people, and what are they doing on this blog?!!

4. We tend to go on. Silence insists that I mention this, and is looking at me very pointedly while insisting on it. Some of our posts are in fact relatively concise, but, ahem, others aren’t. We say what we feel needs to be said in the amount of space we feel it needs to be said in, if that makes any sense. For those folks who truly have the fabled 5-second attention span, other options are only a click away.

5. We’re all over the place. It’s no accident that our blog is called Poor Richard’s Almanac. Besides paying tribute to the great Dr. Franklin, we wanted to create a blog that would let us talk about whatever we want, be it Sherlock Holmes or summer squash or Saag Paneer or successful pirates. We think blog creators need first and foremost to have fun with their blogs, whether they’re posting photos of what’s in bloom in their gardens or introducing readers to their favorite books, music, and movies. But as we understand it, some people don’t like blogs that cross topic lines. We know of at least one really wonderful blogger who basically stopped blogging because people criticized her for posting  about things that had nothing to do with gardening, even though her blog’s name should have signalled to all and sundry that she’d be posting about many things. Trust us, we are, have been, and will be, too.

6. Maybe folks don’t like our topics. What, people don’t want to read about Colonial or mediaeval or Renaissance habits or herbs or history or recipes? Nobody wants to know more about chess or marbles or numismatics or dinosaurs or archaeology? People aren’t interested in parrots or chickens or music or pets or Ben Franklin or pirates or movies or Anne Boleyn’s sixth finger or Amish friendship bread or… ?!!! Gee, what a shame.

7. Homesteading ain’t Hollywood. Reading headlines about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian (not to mention the innumerable other Kardashians) and Angelina Jolie while waiting in the grocery line, our friend Ben and Silence perceive the Grand Canyon of interest dividing folks who want to read about anything meaningful versus the life and times of the “celebutantes.” On the one hand are the millions of people who frequent celebrity gossip sites, buy celebrity-focused magazines, watch celebrity reality TV shows; on the other, a few thousand people trying to learn real skills and build real community and create real families. As our friend Ben sees it, for now, anyway, never the twain shall meet.

8. Silence is vegetarian. And she’s vegetarian because she doesn’t want to eat her fellow creatures. Silence often posts recipes, and of course, they too are vegetarian. But she’s not one of those holier-than-thou types who blasts away at anyone who isn’t exactly like her. In fact, she’s the only vegetarian contributor on Poor Richard’s Almanac, and somehow she manages to survive among the rest of us. Her philosophy is that it’s what you do for the greater good that matters, not how closely you adhere to what she’s doing. But we’ve noticed that vegetarianism is a real hot button, and can cause more furious justifications of “why we’re NOT vegetarians” than pretty much anything else. Cool it, folks. You’re not vegetarians, neither are our friend Ben or Richard Saunders. It’s fine. You’re doing something else for the good of our planet. Relax. We seriously doubt that the cow or goat or sheep or chicken or fish god is going to be waiting up there to slap you around.      

 9.  We’re organic. Oh, yes, we are that. No chemical fertilizers/pesticides/herbicides/fungicides and etc. on our property, thank you very much. We love the cycle of nature and beneficial insects and bees and monarch butterflies and toads and songbirds and earthworms, and would prefer not to be annihilating them and sterilizing the soil and our earth for our stupid, short-sighted purposes. We feel the same way about the greed that insists on patenting plants and the agribusiness mentality that keeps people from patronizing small family farms that sell, for example, raw milk. Oh, we are opinionated here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. And oh my, some people seem to hate firmly held opinions passionately expressed.  

10. We aren’t Poor Richard’s Almanack. We once received a furious comment from a student who’d been researching the famous almanac founded by our own hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, and wasted at least a second of his very valuable time being directed here to us, presumably because he left off that all-important “k” at the end, rather than to Dr. Franklin’s famous work. Never in our collective lives have we been subjected to such a violent, virulent, and vulgar tirade. In the time it took the kid to type all this, he could have gone to and read several pages of the “real” almanac. Yikes. At least he didn’t leave off the “k” at the end of the word he used most often.

Okay, that’s it for us. Your turn to say what you love and hate about the blogs you read. Speak up, please. We may learn something!

Captain Kerosene. October 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,
3 comments

Silence Dogood here (again). Our local paper likes to feature a short column of themed statistics on Saturdays, and this week’s topic was obscure superheroes. One of the superheroes that made me and our friend Ben laugh was Captain Kerosene. Ha!!!

Of course, then I couldn’t get Captain Kerosene out of my mind, especially in light (pardon the pun) of our power outage that very morning. Thinking further about it, I realized that while Captain K. might not strike us as very heroic, most of the self-reliant folks I know would be happy to award a hero’s cape to Captain Propane.

Propane can be a lifesaver for folks trying to homestead off the grid. We ourselves depend on it for our beloved and ancient gas cookstove and the backup heater in our greenhouse. Pretty much everyone we know has propane-powered grills, and some have opted to forego conventional oil, natural gas, or electric heat in favor of propane to heat their houses and hot water and run their appliances. Two of our friends have wonderful propane “woodstoves” that provide them with that delightful winter fireplace feeling while heating the house. And of course some groups of local Amish and Mennonites are able to have non-wood cookstoves and even refrigerators thanks to propane.

So we say, hurrah for Captain Propane! And may Captain Solar and Captain Wind Power follow quickly in his wake.

          ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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