Save milkweeds, save monarchs. March 7, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: milkweed, milkweed for monarchs, monarch butterflies, Monsanto, save the monarch butterflies
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Another reason to hate Monsanto. Our friend Ben read an article on LiveScience this morning that said that monarch butterfly populations were being driven to extinction because of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (generic: glyphosate). Because Roundup is so widely used in this country, milkweeds are being killed countrywide. And because milkweeds are the only food of monarch butterfly larvae and the only plants on which monarch females will lay their eggs, the monarch population has declined drastically, from over 1 billion to 3.3 million in just ten years. Our yard used to be full of monarchs; last summer, we didn’t see one.
People sometimes ask me why I hate Monsanto. Is it because of their “Frankenfoods,” GMOs (for “genetically modified organisms”) like corn and soybeans created out of things like mouse DNA to withstand massive applications of Roundup, with no thought to how these so-called foods might affect the animals and humans that eat them? No, not really. Is it because of the trick Monsanto pulled on farmers, forcing them to buy the GMO seeds, which they produce and sell, AND the Roundup in ever-increasing quantities every year to keep weeds at bay? No, not really. Surely farmers are smart enough to figure out this devil’s bargain for themselves.
What really frosts my flakes about Monsanto is its ruthless pursuit of world domination. When its horrible GMO pollen gets into the field of a small farmer who’s nurturing an heirloom strain passed down in his family for generations, instead of the farmer suing Monsanto for contaminating his crop, Monsanto sues him for “stealing” its seeds. And wins. Money talks, and Monsanto has ever so much of that. Every time a state wants to have GMO ingredients listed on food labels so its citizens can make an informed decision about whether to buy them or not, Monsanto throws big money around and buys so many votes that not one of the many GMO-labelling initiatives has passed.
Worst of all, Monsanto goes to Third World countries and persuades their small farmers, who have grown crops suited to their areas for thousands of years, to give them up in favor of Monsanto’s supercrops. And suddenly, they too find themselves paying for seed every year instead of saving their own, seed that isn’t suited to their climate or their diet. Or else.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with Roundup residue in our food and water and soil and pet food, whether we want it or not. (Soon to be combined with 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange, to give its waning efficacy a boost.) And we’re seeing the die-off of beautiful species like the monarch butterflies as a result, and wondering why our own cancer rate and our pets’ is shooting up.
I’d like to encourage everyone who loves monarch butterflies to stop using Roundup on your property and to plant milkweed. If you feel the need to fight weeds on your property and don’t want to pull them up, use one of the flamethrower weedkillers, sort of like a bigger version of a grill starter. (Except in the case of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; you really need to keep after these while they’re small and pull them up wth latex gloves, then toss them and the gloves out in a plastic bag. Flame could blow the active ingredient, urushiol, on you, and give you a rash like you can’t imagine.)
We have encouraged the growth of our native milkweed (showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa) here at Hawk’s Haven, as well as planting the aptly named butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Both are highly decorative; showy milkweed has dense heads of pink flowers, and you can now find butterfly weed in every shade from yellow through orange to red. Showy milkweed will form sturdy colonies if you let it, and butterfly weed is one of the perennial joys of summer. Please try to help the monarchs. And defeat Monsanto.
As the Catholic crusader for workers’ rights Dorothy Day said, “People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”
And now my watch begins. March 5, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, long waits between seasons, long waits between series releases, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games
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Fans of “Game of Thrones” may recall Lord Tyrion Lannister saying these words on his unfortunate wedding night, alluding to the vow of perpetual celibacy made by members of the Night Watch. But those of us who enjoy the occasional movie or TV series are in the same boat when it comes to waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for the next installment of our series to come out.
Mind you, we’re just starting 2014. Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood just read that the next season of “Sherlock” won’t be aired until 2016. The three “Hobbit” movies have been stretched over three years; the three books of “The Hunger Games” series have been made into four movies to be aired over four years. As for “Game of Thrones” itself, if, like us, you don’t get cable TV, you can’t rent a season on Netflix or buy it on Amazon until a year after it’s aired. We finally received season 3 from Amazon last week, over a year after ordering it, because HBO wouldn’t release it any earlier.
It strikes us as amazing in the age of instant gratification, when people complain on social media if they have to wait ten minutes to receive their food in a restaurant and use that as a perfectly justified example of unfair, awful time wasted, that everyone seems perfectly happy to wait years to see movies and series they’ve been eagerly anticipating.
We don’t understand what holds their interest as year after barren year goes by. If you’re a child growing up with the Harry Potter books, you could keep reading and keep watching. But if you’ve already read The Hobbit or the Hunger Games trilogy years ago, how do you sustain your interest or even remember what happened, as eons go by between films? We’re not elves, after all, we don’t live forever.
It seems to us that studios are losing money and we’re not getting any younger while waiting and waiting and waiting. Please, people, won’t you hurry up?
Lentsanity and the meat police. March 4, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ash Wednesday, Lent, Lenten fast, Lenten sacrifice, Lentsanity, meat police, PopeAlarm
Silence Dogood here. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is tomorrow. As a result, I’ve been receiving some unintentionally hilarious e-mails from an organization called “PopeAlarm” (which, despite its name, isn’t trying to alarm anyone about the Pope but rather to spread the faith through timely updates). This year, they’re promoting “Lentsanity,” featuring a giveaway of 20 spiritual books plus two “special penitential prizes” (a whip and a hair shirt, no doubt).
The concept of the special penitential prizes, well-intentioned though they doubtless were, just about killed me. But today’s update was even more hilarious: You can now get a free Lentsanity app featuring the meat police. Every Friday in Lent, as you’re about to shove a forkful of bacon or slice of pepperoni pizza or burger in your mouth, you’ll get a warning from the meat police part of the app reminding you that meat is off-limits on Friday. Bad dog! No, no!!!
As a vegetarian, it’s screamingly funny to me that it’s considered such a huge sacrifice to give up meat for a whole day a week for the 40-day period of Lent, even though, of course, fish, which is somehow not considered meat but is definitely considered a sacrifice, is still allowed.
There are so many foods that don’t contain meat or fish and are perfectly delicious and filling: fettucine Alfredo with vegetables, penne with vodka sauce, good old spaghetti with marinara and cheese, mac’n'cheese, cheese pizza with veggie toppings, eggplant parmigiana, Szechuan bean curd and rice, eggplant with garlic sauce, vegetable fried rice, vegetable lo mein, General Tso’s bean curd, vegetable curry, dal, falafel sandwiches, hummus wraps, bean and cheese burritos or tacos, vegetarian bean chili, black bean soup. And on and on and on.
But even these don’t reflect the true spirit of the Lenten sacrifice. The Church in her wisdom recognized that most people in the Middle Ages who lived in cold climates, such as France, England, and Germany, ran out of pretty much everything by February, and were left cold and hungry with little to nothing. So they made a virtue of necessity and instituted the Lenten fast. Today’s Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Carnivale, etc. were the final feasts, meant to use up the last of the butter, oil and sweeteners and revel in abundance one last time before the hunger set in. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, everyone could suffer daily, hourly deprivation and relate on a very physical level to the sufferings of the Lord who died for them.
In modern times, our sacrifices and sufferings have been a bit reduced. Giving up meat for fish one day a week doesn’t really seem like much of a sacrifice. But neither does giving up Coca-Cola and chocolate, my favorite indulgences, which I used to “sacrifice” every Lent. In my own family, there was a saying that long predated modern supermarkets, “I’m giving up watermelon for Lent.” Watermelon was only available in late summer, long after Lent was gone.
All of which is simply to say that perhaps the idea of “giving up” for Lent is a mistake in our comparatively opulent age. The whole point of giving something up—be it meat, your morning cup of coffee, your favorite creamy salad dressing, doughnuts or muffins, beer or wine—is that, each time you mindlessly reach for whatever you normally mindlessly indulge in, you recall the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord who died that you might live. The more banal, trivial, the thing you give up, as in chewing gum or your favorite TV show, the more often you automatically reach for it, the more effective giving it up is as a Lenten sacrifice.
But what about adding on instead? What about adding morning prayers to your family’s pre-breakfast routine, reading the Bible together, going to church more often, volunteering at a soup kitchen or assisted-living facility? Our Lord never turned His face from anyone in need. He cherished the poor and outcast. This Lent, rather than bemoaning that we have to give up meat for—gasp—a whole day every week and eat fish instead, still taking life but oh what a sacrifice, we might try to think what a meaningful Lenten sacrifice (such as actually fasting, refraining from food) or adding-on (such as serious prayer and meditation and helping those less fortunate than ourselves) might be.
Meanwhile, watch out for those meat police.
‘Til next time,
It’s okay to hate vegetarians. March 3, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: hatred of vegetarians, persecution of vegetarians, Plenty, prejudice against vegetarians, vegetarian cookbooks, vegetarianism, Yotam Ottolenghi
“Nobody likes vegetarians.”
Silence Dogood here. I was reminded of this quote, which took my breath away when I read it, casually inserted into some op-ed piece a few months ago, when I ordered a cookbook from Amazon this morning.
Now, picture opening a paper or magazine or clicking on an article and seeing statements such as “Nobody likes people who go gluten-free,” “Nobody likes biologists,” “Nobody likes Zen monks,” “Nobody likes people with heart disease,” or “Nobody likes female racecar drivers.” (Or pick any “Nobody likes” ending you can think of.) If anyone made a statement like that, there would be a huge uproar. But there isn’t, because people don’t make sweeping generalizations about others, at least not in print, unless their name is Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” infamy. Apparently, however, vegetarians are (un)fair game.
It’s sadly true that being a vegetarian really pushes people’s hot buttons. I’ve been attacked by numerous people, many of them virtual strangers, who felt it necessary to defend their consumption of meat upon learning that I was a vegetarian (and often not learning it from me). I’ve even been attacked in comments on a post I wrote about being vegetarian on my other blog. The immediate response seems to be “How dare you assume you’re superior to us because you don’t eat meat?! Hey, you’re killing vegetables!”
I have never once claimed to be superior to anyone, for being a vegetarian or for any other reason. To do so would be ludicrous, stupid, arrogant, and pathetic. I have chosen to live my life as a vegetarian, as I have chosen to garden organically, for the good of all life and for the health of our beautiful home world. Others choose other ways to do good in the world, ways I would never be brave enough or smart enough or rich enough to attempt. As Pope Francis would say, “Who am I to judge?”
And yet, people can’t distance themselves from even the possibility of vegetarian leanings fast enough. Getting back to that cookbook, it was Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling, beautiful, innovative book, Plenty, which “happens” to be vegetarian.
The reviewers couldn’t wait to proclaim that the dishes were great, even by their standards, though of course—they hastened to announce—none of them were vegetarians themselves. That Chef Ottolenghi isn’t a vegetarian, which is, according to them, why his vegetarian cookbook is so brilliant. That every meat-eater would love this book and “never miss meat.” (Perhaps they should ask celebrity meat-lover Tony Bourdain about that.)
Every single reviewer felt compelled to declare their non-vegetarianism and reassure apparently terrified omnivores everywhere that the book was nothing to fear. God forbid that the publisher, wishing to maximize sales, should have even one person review the book who actually was a vegetarian, such as acclaimed Chef Deborah Madison. Cooties!!!
After all, nobody likes vegetarians.
‘Til next time,
Is it safe to eat food from a rusted can? March 2, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: can you eat food in rusted cans, canned tomatoes, food safety, rusted cans, safety of food in rusted cans
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Silence Dogood here. I was making chili on Friday and grabbed a can of pureed tomatoes, only to find that the top had rusted around the rim. Yikes! I had never encountered a rusted can before.
Considering that tomatoes are acidic, and that acidity and rust sounds like a pretty bad combination, I tossed the can. But I hated to waste the food, especially when the can was showing no obvious signs of peril such as warping and bulging. (Unless you want to die of botulism poisoning, throw a can with a bulging lid out!)
I was still curious, so I Googled the topic of rusted cans. The general consensus was that if the rust had reached the inside of the can, throw it out. If it was just on the outside, and the can was still the appropriate can shape, the food was safe to eat. The way to tell was to empty the food out of the can and make sure there was no rust on the inside.
My can’s problem was that the rust wasn’t on the inside but on the rim. To open the can, the can-opener would inevitably drop rust into the pureed tomatoes. Better safe than sorry!
Why this one can rusted when no can had ever rusted before continues to baffle me. But I think my safety, and our friend Ben’s, is worth tossing the occasional rusted can, however much guilt it produces.
‘Til next time,
Shut up about “healthy” comfort food. March 1, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: health food, health food lies, health food stupidity, healthy food, no such thing as healthy junk food
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Silence Dogood here. This morning, I was online and read yet another article about how hey, you could enjoy all your favorite comfort foods, they weren’t unhealthy after all! I am SO sick of this stupid lie, it makes me want to scream.
The article said that you could eat popcorn—as long as it was air-popped as opposed to oil-popped and you didn’t put any butter, salt or shredded cheese on it. Which is to say, eat it completely dry. What kind of comfort food is that?
Enjoy coffee, it’s good for you! As long as you drink it bitter and black.
Eggs are also actually good for you! As long as you poach them in water and eat the horrid wet things plain or make that omelette without butter or oil, using eggwhites, and stuff it with veggies, no cheese, no sauteed veggies (of course), just raw. (How do you make a “dry” omelette?!) No toast, of course, much less, God forbid, buttered toast or toast with marmalade or whatever.
Have some peanut butter, as long as it’s all-natural and made from nothing but peanuts, no added salt or sugar to make it taste like, say, peanut butter.
Of course you can enjoy fried chicken, as long as you don’t fry it, make sure you take off the skin, coat it in whole-wheat breadcrumbs and bake it in the oven. Hey, doesn’t that taste just like home-fried?!
How about that ultimate comfort food, mac’n'cheese? Sure you can eat it if you make it with whole-wheat pasta and fat-free soymilk and granulated garlic and nutritional yeast instead of cheese. It will taste just like Mom’s, you’ll love it!
And sure, you can eat red meat, if it’s been stripped of every shred of fat. There was a reason beef marbled with fat was prized: The fat was what gave beef its flavor. But no, now we have turkey substitutes instead, of course fat-free and stripped of skin, but somehow they’re supposed to taste just the same as pork barbecue or burgers. Uh-huh.
Ditto for so-called French fries that are baked, not fried. Bread and pasta and pizza that have been so adulterated they bear absolutely no resemblance to the real thing. Desserts that substitute every single ingredient for something else, yet claim that they’ll satisfy your “sweet tooth” just like real brownies or cookies. Eeewww!!! Please get them away.
Could the health-food people please stop the lies and tell the unadulterated truth? Sure, our genetically programmed food preferences—for fat, salt, sugar, and carbs—may not be the healthiest for our current sedentary lifestyle. But trying to satisfy ourselves with low-fat, low-cal substitutes is the cause of our so-called obesity epidemic. We can’t satisfy ourselves with these “healthy” junk-food alternatives, so we just eat more and more to compensate.
As I see it, we have two options: Eat less of the foods we crave, but when we do eat them, eat the real apple fritter or slice of pizza or Cinnabon or mac’n'cheese or whatever, not some so-called healthy option that strips away every single thing we loved about our food. Or eat something totally different and totally delicious, like Chinese or Thai or Indian food, cuisines that are naturally healthy because they had to be for their populations to survive.
Eating less of the foods we love without giving them up for unsatisfying substitutes and eating luscious healthy food from other cultures strikes me as a great way to avoid the health police. And don’t forget your daily, crunchy salad!
‘Til next time,
Can’t get that ring off? Try this. February 23, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: getting rings off, offbeat uses for Windex, rings, Windex
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Silence Dogood here. We’ve all done it: forced a ring we really wanted to wear onto our finger. And then, because it was hot and our fingers swelled or we were working and our fingers swelled or we’d gained a little weight or for whatever reason, when it came time to take the ring off, it either wouldn’t budge or wouldn’t go over the knuckle.
If this has happened to you, you know that if you just keep pushing and struggling to get the ring off, your finger will swell even more. Not to mention, it hurts.
I have generally managed to get stuck rings off by running cold water over my hand to reduce swelling, then lathering up with soap to help the ring slide off. I’ve also had success by slathering on hand lotion and slipping the ring off over the lotion.
But sometimes, it seems like nothing will get a ring off. (How on earth, we wonder in retrospect, did we ever get it on to begin with?!) This happened to me last summer, when I managed to get a favorite ring on, then couldn’t get it off no matter what I tried. Weeks went by. I was beginning to think I’d have to have a jeweler cut it off, and believe me, I wasn’t looking forward to that.
Fortunately, as it happened, before I resorted to this, I happened into a shop that sold both rocks and fossils and jewelry. I’d gone up to the counter with a few rocks I couldn’t resist (alas, passing up the $550 fossilzed turtle shell for some reason), when I had what a friend’s mother pricelessly referred to as “a rush of brains to the head.”
“Excuse me,” I said to the proprietor, “but do you know how to get stuck rings off?” I held out my hand to indicate the ring in question.
“Let me show you a little trade secret,” he replied. “It works every time.” Then, grabbing a bottle of Windex from under the counter, he sprayed my finger. Because the ring had been stuck on for so long, it took two sprays, but then, poof! The ring flew off painlessly. I was so relieved!
I’ve tried this at home when another ring got stuck and wouldn’t come off with my usual methods, and sure enough, one spray did the trick. I’m so grateful to know that a simple, inexpensive household product can work such a seeming miracle, saving both the ring and your sore finger. Try it and see for yourself!
‘Til next time,
Grab that lucky charm. February 20, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: brain function, brain function and charms, Katniss Everdeen, lucky charms, lucky charms work, talismans, The Hunger Games
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Katniss Everdeen was right. Fans of “The Hunger Games” may recall how Katniss held on to her lucky charm, a mockingjay pin, to help her get through the gladiatorial bloodbath she was forced to fight in. Well, brain science is backing her up.
Turns out, the secret to optimal brain function under stressful conditions—such as combat or, say, work deadlines—is a feeling of being in control. And the feeling is apparently as good as actually being in control of your circumstances, as far as your brain is concerned.
“Even a good luck charm can help—because good luck charms really do work,” says Eric Barker in “”The samurai secret to always being at your best.” He continues: “Good luck charms provide a feeling of control, and that feeling of control actually helps people perform better with them.”
He quotes The Courage Quotient: How Science Can Make You Braver:
“…people with a lucky charm performed significantly better than did the people who had none. That’s right, having a lucky charm will make you a better golfer…and improve your cognitive performance on tasks such as memory games.”
So go ahead and grab that four-leaf clover or evil eye deflector or piece of eight or even a mockingjay pin. Even if you’re not heading for the Hunger Games arena, it might get you through your next performance review.
Sochi’s strays steal the spotlight. February 19, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: animal shelters, dogs, homeless dogs, mixed breeds, mutts, Olympic dogs, pet adoption, Sochi dogs, stray dogs
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have never understood why the Olympics, or any sports for that matter, exercise such a fascination for the general public. If you’re not playing, what’s the big deal? (Admittedly, we feel the same way about watching musicians sawing away for hours at a symphony performance; why not just listen to the CD, unless you play yourself and are trying to pick up technique?)
But we’ve been watching with bated breath ever since we learned of the 2,000 stray dogs in Sochi that were going to be killed before the Olympics to make everything nice and tidy. As dog lovers, we were horrified by their casual disposal—just another trash pickup—and were delighted to read of the international outrage once the news got out, and of the stray who joined the opening ceremony and became an immediate viral celebrity.
While not even Sochi’s strays could make us actually watch the Olympics, we’ve been following their plight closely: How the construction workers who spruced up the city for the Games fed them. How Olympians like Gus Kenworthy are trying to adopt them. How Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska funds and has expanded PovoDog, a Sochi pet shelter. How others are trying to import Sochi dogs to the U.S. to place in shelters here, believing that they’ll have a better chance at adoption.
Ultimately, the fate of Sochi’s dogs remains unclear, and for most, as for most shelter dogs, not too bright. But their presence at the Winter Olympics has done more to showcase the plight of homeless animals, and the lovable nature and attractive appearance of mixed-breed dogs (“mutts”), than any campaign launched by the Humane Society, PETA, and all other animal-welfare organizations combined. Let’s hope more people start visiting their local shelters and really seeing the dogs instead of dismissing them if they’re not purebred. And let’s hope adoptions skyrocket.
This year’s Winter Olympics produced 2,000 stars.