The sun is just beginning to cast its fiery orange hues over the horizon, with a dramatic foreground of black trees and a blue sky that lies somewhere in the middle of the layers of the Illinois sky. Our weather here is like it is everywhere … unpredictable. This week we will have a low of thirty-two degrees (last night) and a high in the upper eighties; a fifty degree swing in temperatures for the week. It seems inconceivable that people still don’t believe that climates are changing all over the world.
For those of you who remember the earthquake in Haiti, you may not have heard the little talked about result? The earthquake was so powerful that is actually moved the entire planet. Yes, the earth shifted one whole degree on its axis. One degree doesn’t seem like much, but it is certainly enough to throw the calendar out of whack a bit and delay seasons here and there. My advice to you is to roll with it because there will be more changes, due to the fact that global warming was already beginning to make some changes.
This morning, as I sit here, I can hear the birds happily chirping from the nightly roosts. Here in the country, there is no sound of cars. Once in a while, a car will go buzzing past, interrupted by the seasonal tractors that are beginning to be seen in fields. In the city, people judge others by what they wear. In Illinois, people judge each other by their favorite type of tractor. Are you an International Harvester fan? John Deere? There are others….but I can’t bring myself to mention them. I’m a John Deere country girl. Yes … the only green I care for is dotted with yellows and probably on a combine. Even when I am in the city, as I often am, I can be seen wearing my camo boots or even my Carhartt baseball hat. If you are very lucky, then you may even find me wearing my cowboy hat and leather boots. You can take the girl out of the country, but I assure you this – you can NOT take the country out of the girl!
For the past few weeks I have been enjoying hunting wild morel mushrooms and wild asparagus. I have found a stand of cattails and I am anxious to try some recipes for those, so I will be waiting for them to come into season later in the summer. The berries won’t be ready to pick for a while, but the bushes found are plentiful. I can taste the goodies now. Yes, I love this country way of life, I admit. No doubt, the way I was raised and where I grew-up has a lot to do with the way that I view the world and the way I prioritize things in my life now. You see, I LOVE this planet and I really want it to last. I want the next generations to see what it is like to admire Mother Earth in all her beauty and to know the pure, untainted joy of reaping the fresh fruits and vegetables that she provides for us.
I see so much that is wrong with the world to be a result of getting away from nature and “country” by people today. I see people beating themselves up to work 40+ hours per week to earn as much money as they can. For what? To pay for the car that they need to take them to work! To pay for groceries that are poisoning them with GMO crops and pesticides. As a nation, the United State’s health is declining. We have become a country of people who are over-stressed, over-worked and have no time to raise our own children. This I see to be a snowball effect.
When I was a restaurant manager, part of my duties were the hiring and training of new crew. I considered myself a “people” person and I managed from the viewpoint that my employees were the most important part of my business. When customers come into a restaurant, it is the employees who greet them, seat them, take their order, make small talk and laugh with them that will keep them coming back. The food is only part of the equation and the fact is that even if your food is mediocre, people will return if the customer service is outstanding. So … for that reason, I set aside time in my schedule to personally train and mentor each new employee. Other managers would ask me how I found time. They considered it crazy on my part with all else we had to do. My response to them was always, “If you don’t make time to do things right in the first place, when are you going to have time to fix mistakes later? By training them exactly the way I want, I save time in the long run.”
Getting back to our children, this same philosophy applies. So many parents are working so hard to pay mortgages, car payments, grocery bills and utility bills that they scarcely have any time left for their children. What if everything you had been taught was wrong? What if life wasn’t about having a “career?” What if you stayed home, had a garden large enough to feed your family, raised a milk cow and a beef cow? Maybe you have a hog for bacon if that is your thing? Not only would you not get out of bed with an alarm clock ( an extremely offensive way to start any day!) but you would also be able to plan your day around your own schedule. That means you can plan around your children. What a novel idea!
“How would I pay for my SUV,” you ask. Well my answer is simple – “who says you need it?” Now I realize you are thinking I am a little crazy right now, but I assure that if you stick with me you will begin to see what I am saying here. The average SUV is never driven off-road. WTH do you need it for? I mean REALLY NEED it for? If you live in the city, you can plant a yard full of vegetables. If you are an apartment dweller, you can plant vertical gardens on patios, balconies, etc. Even if you have to work to pay for other necessities like rent and power, you certainly would not have to work as hard if you supplied all your own food, now would you? In fact, the average family could work HALF as many hours as they do right now, if they didn’t spend money at the grocery store.
Cities all across the nation are allowing people to grow gardens in their front yards. In large metropolitan areas that have little grass, people are planting community gardens in empty lots and using strips along curbs and sidewalks to plant ‘free’ gardens for the entire neighborhood. If you are lucky enough to live on the outskirts of town, raising one goat to supply milk for your family will give you more than enough milk to even make your own soap! A small goat can yield more than a quart of milk per day. As soon as her kid is weaned, you can sell it to pay for having the goat. Incidentally, goats will exist on grass if you have room to graze them. Goats will eat bushes and most any ground cover, small trees and whatever they can reach. Fence them away from what you don’t want them to eat! As far as them eating tin cans and “anything” – nothing could be further from the truth. While they do ‘mouth’ things, they are very selective about what they eat. Grazing a goat with cattle is good because goats tend to eat what the cows will not eat and they both eat things that benefit the other. For examply, goats will eat the parts of plants that tend to harbor parasites that are harmful to cattle. Grazing them together or one right after the other is beneficial!
Let me talk about foraging for food. This is one of my favorite pastimes. Walking along the bottom of ditches in the spring, April-May, you can find a lot of asparagus growing wild. This is FREE FOOD. This is my favorite type of gardening….the kind I don’t have to plant, weed or water. Mother Earth provides a lot of free food if you are willing to look for it. Morel mushrooms grow in the spring as well. Both asparagus and mushrooms can be frozen. Berries grow wild too. This foraging can and SHOULD be a family affair. Walking is good for the soul and it is fantastic exercise. The food you gather is GMO free and good for you.
When health issues plague us like they do now, shouldn’t the food you eat be considered your most important investment? Let me go to some statistics, taken from the article referenced below by Eva Jacobs and Stephanie Shipp. In 1903, a full ninety-seven percent of a household’s annual income went to the food that they consumed. By 1960 that percent had declined to only seventy-nine percent. People were making choices to spend money on mortgages, cars, gasoline and other non-necessity things. By 1987 only seventy-three percent of income was spend on food. These figures certainly do not mean that the cost of food went down. We all know better than that. A gallon of milk in 1980 averaged $1.25. A gallon of milk today will run anywhere from $3 to $4.50, depending upon where you live in the country. So, what these statistics mean is that people are opting for more of what I call “crap food.”
More and more families are existing on Ramen Noodles and Hamburger Helper to fill their bellies, while nutrionally starving themselves. Not only do we, as a society, not eat properly but we also pump ourselves full of soft drinks for numerous reasons. The makes of soft drinks have laced them with ingredients designed to make you crave more, for one thing. Secondly, it is often cheaper to buy a soft drink than it is to buy 100% juice or even a bottle of water. People choose what is cheap. Period. For many years, this resulted in increasing cancer mortality rates. In 2003, cancer and heart-disease fully accounted for 51.1% of all deaths. That is an astonishing number. In the 1930s, just over 50,000 men and 50,000 women per year died of cancer related illness. By the year 2000, this number had grown to almost 300,000 for men and just over 250,000 for women. Is it purely coincidence that we are now relying on what the grocery stores sell us, rather than eating fresh foods? I highly doubt it, personally.
Companies like Monsanto have virtually taken over our food. Small farmers are being put out of business because of these corporate behemoths. This is a true David vs Goliath problem, with us being David. I’m trying very hard, this morning, to show you that there are other ways of living. There are choices that you can make, no matter where you live, to simplify your life, give yourself some relaxation time, have more time for your family (which is a whole ‘nother blog) and truly be more healthy! We cannot let companies like Dow, Bayer, Monsanto, Proctor and Gamble and so many others take over the food we put in our bodies. Americans have sold their souls and their health to corporate America. Not only should you be worried about it, you should be angry! This is another freedom that has been taken away from you – the freedom to be healthy and choose what goes in your body. Bit by bit, Americans have given up their time to work more hours to pay for what amounts to less, only to find out it is starving them and killing them in the long run.
While you may not be able to do like I did and move yourself into an RV that you can park most anywhere for free when you need to, you can learn to forage for wild food. You can grow vertical gardens in very little space and you can begin making small changes in your diet right now … today. You will not be sorry if you do. My own personal experience on soft drinks should ring true with some of you:
Diet Mountain Dew was my drink of choice for a very long time. Not only is it a diuretic, but it is also laced with chemicals that are used in embalming bodies after death. Artificial sweeteners used in it are not only addictive, but very harmful. Aspartame has been linked to many issues. There are NINETY-ONE symptoms of Aspartame poisoning. Here are a few:
*numb-tingling hands and feet
*Fibromyalgia-like hot spots (all over)
*chronic-fatigue like exhaustion
*vision problems/blurry vision
*burning/tingling in feet and legs
*shooting-stabbing pains in my legs and other joints
I stopped drinking soft drinks about a month ago. It was a HARD habit to break but here are the results for me: No more body aches, the chronic back pain has completely subsided. The shooting pains in my shoulders has completely stopped. My energy levels have stopped. I am not running to the bathroom every 30 minutes anymore, even though I still consume over a gallon of water and/or juice each day. My vision has cleared up so much that I have stopped wearing bifocals to read and type. My focus is getting better, the mind fog has gone away. My bones had stopped creaking. Just in a MONTH!
So stop and think about. How many of today’s chronic illnesses are a result of the things we put in our mouths? How many of you are investing more in the car(s) you drive than you are in your food each month? Shouldn’t YOU be the biggest investment in your life? I challenge you to make just ONE change your dietary habits this week. If you are a soft drink lover, perhaps you should start thinking about removing it from your diet and see how you feel? If you have space to plant a garden, even on a balcony, try growing something…anything to start!
Forage for food, even in urban settings. I used to walk all over Denver and pick wild plants.In fact, I knocked on doors and asked if I could pick apples that I saw going to waste! People are happy to not have to pick them up! Get yourself a good guide book. If you would like to get a copy of my newest book, “Incredible Wild Edibles – Eat For Free,” send me a message or comment here and I will send you a link to the book that releases THIS week! Full of pictures, information and even recipes for enjoying your findings, this book will take you from start to finish and show you how to slow down, enjoy nature and appreciate the food you put in your mouth.
Jacobs/Shipp article http://www.bls.gov/mlr/1990/03/art3full.pdf
Aspartame Poisoning http://rense.com/general10/term.htm
Cancer statistics slide show http://www.slideshare.net/MiamiDadePA/5-cancer-statistics-2006-presentation