Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The potting frenzy has reached a climax this week. Just yesterday I finished repotting all 100+ tomato plants into bigger pots. They are growing so well, and so far I haven’t lost anything to damping off or mold. On the subject of mold, however, I would like to expand a bit. I’m not sure if I wrote about the “awesome” peat pots and peat pellets that I had initially used. I thought they were so great because they were so easy. Just soak the pellets in water and POOF! you get ready-to-use pots. Well, they worked okay for about two weeks, then they suddenly started molding from the inside out. A thin green carpet of slimy mold grew just under the cloth containing the peat. I consulted a growing expert at the nursery and she said she didn’t have any experience with the peat pellets, but sold me an anti-mold spray that was safe for use on seedlings. I still have the spray, unopened and unused. Instead of using chemicals, I decided to transplant all of the healthy seedlings into clean plastic pots. They are doing much better now.

Another thing I had trouble with was the potting mix that I got. I decided to go with Miracle Grow since I had good experience with it in past years when we had patio gardens. This time, though, it was a totally different experience. There were so many sticks, wood chips, and other plant matter that hadn’t composted well enough. I had to sift through it to get all the big chunks out. How is a seedling supposed to grow if it is planted right next to a big chunk of impenetrable wood? I think next year I will just go out to the field and dig up some of my own potting dirt. I’ve heard that you can sterilize it by baking it in the oven for a few minutes. Sounds easy enough to me. Of course, I’ll have to build a sifter frame so I don’t accidentally bake worms and plant matter.

Anyway, back to the potting frenzy. I’ve got tomatoes, peppers, leeks, cabbage, eggplants, artichokes, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower going. I’m going to have to build another growing shelf before I can do any more. I’d also like to get all of the melons and pumpkins started early. We’ll see how that goes. I think my husband is getting a bit overwhelmed with all of the plants in the house, even though they haven’t yet overflowed from my new potting room. I have converted the formal dining room in the house to serve that purpose, since the basement was so cold and dank. They seem to enjoy all of the fresh air and sunlight they get in the dining room windows. I’m thinking they will stay there for the next month, until it is warm enough at night to set them in the unheated sunroom out back.

I struggled with how to keep all of the plants labeled correctly, and my mom was the one to give me a super-easy solution. We’ve been collecting egg cartons from family members. Styrofoam is impermeable to water, and easy to cut into strips. Voila! Labels! I make them small enough to be able to write one or two letters on, and I keep a list of all of the letter labels and their corresponding vegetable on a pad of paper nearby.

I’m so proud of how well all of my plants are coming along. So, of course, I took some pictures. The last picture is of the shelf that my dad and I built. I’d like to make another one for the other corner of the dining room. We’ll see if I can actually find the time to build it. Spring is a busy time of the year, and this spring is probably going to be the busiest one I have experienced in my life. How exciting!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Every now and then I get a bit of the dreaming sickness. You know, where you imagine that you’ve suddenly become rich through one means or another, and you can finally start planning out the final stages of completing whatever dream currently possesses you? Yeah, well, I get that sickness a lot lately. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m really anxious for spring to finally be here, or if it’s from something else. What would you do if you found yourself the recipient of an unexpected windfall?

I know my first order of business would be to pay off the last of my debts. It’s not much, but it’s there. That big, fat, purple elephant in the room. Yep. I’m sure I’m not the only homesteader fighting debt. It seems to be a part of everyone’s journey to self-sufficiency. So that would be the first thing to go. Vehicle paid off and student loans kaput.

Next, I would seriously start a search for that perfect piece of land. I would still be frugal. Honestly, I don’t want to engage in large-scale farming, and I don’t want to be the sole caretaker of a hundred-acre parcel. That’s just too much. I think 40 acres would be the largest tract I would consider. Hmm… while I’m in the dreaming phase I might as well go over all the little details that would make the land ideal. I’m thinking I would like it mostly wooded, except for 3-5 acres of meadow. The house would be situated back by the edge of the woods, south-facing, of course, perhaps on a small hill. The entire property would be above the average flood line. Middle of a soggy valley? No, thanks. The driveway would be a small two-track lane winding back through dense woods to the house, hidden from street view. There would be either a continuous stream/river or a few good springs that could feed a pond. It would be at least 10 miles from a railway, and wouldn’t have any easements for power, gas, or anything else. The woods would be a good mixture of hardwoods, sugar maples, nuts, and fruits.

Now that I have dream-purchased my ideal land, I will start thinking about the house. My dream house would be an underground, south-facing structure of 600-1000 square feet. It would feature a large, open living area including a good-sized kitchen with plenty of counter space for food prep and canning. There would be a small propane stove and refrigerator, as well as a wood cook stove and oven. A trap door in the floor would lead down to the cellar where all the walls are covered with canned goods and baskets and boxes full of potatoes and squashes. Onions and herbs would hang drying from the ceiling. The living room would be devoid of a television, but have plenty of board games, books, magazines, knitting and sewing supplies, and small projects. A small central wood stove would provide the main source of heat for the house. The bedrooms would be small, just big enough for beds and minor storage needs. The bathroom would have a composting toilet system, a wide open shower with solar/wood stove hot water piped in, and a built-in linen closet. The floors would all be tile, stone, or concrete. I’m not sure how in-floor heating would work on an off-grid system, but if I could have that I would be in heaven. The entire house would be well-lit whether it’s through the south-facing windows or skylights.

There would also have to be a couple of small guest houses. I’ve been thinking it would be neat to do a three little pigs theme. You know, one house of straw, one of wood, and one of bricks. It’d be a fun process, anyway, and would be a good talking point. I’ve mentioned building straw-bale houses to some of my relatives, and it inevitably results in me receiving an are-you-crazy look. It’s strange how averse most people are to out of the ordinary structures, even if they have been thoroughly studied and easy to construct. The guest houses would all be heated by little pot-belly stoves, and would sleep 4-6 people comfortably. I intend to take over holidays later in life, and think it would be awesome if family could come and stay for a few days. Plus, in the summer I could rent out the guest houses or use them for hired help. I remember my mom talking about wanting to open up a little bed and breakfast when us kids were younger. I thought she was crazy. That’s a lot of work! Now, I think it would be kind of neat, although I wouldn’t want the guests to have free reign of our house. I think a small outdoor kitchen and dining veranda would be in order if we were to rent out the guest houses to people we didn’t know too well. I think it would be awesome to lead people through the gardens and say, “Pick your lunch!” Well, maybe not total strangers, but it’d be neat to do that with family and friends.

My dream property would not have power lines connected to it at all. I would love to be off-grid. Even if it meant giving up things like hair dryers, toasters, microwaves, and unlimited computer access. I would still like to be able to run a clothes washer and some lights, especially around spring time when I’m raising up all of the little seedlings. But for the most part I think I could easily get by on minimal power. I’d love to have a huge, above-ground water storage tank that is filled with the power of a windmill and gravity-fed to the house. I would also love to have a greenhouse attached to the house, with a large vat of water in the middle to retain daytime heat and humidity.

It’s so much fun to dream, to wish. But now I have to come back down to earth. For now, we are stuck renting a house that comes sort of close to our dreams. Don’t get me wrong. I love it here, but I can’t see us being here for more than several years. We’re itching to have something that we can call our own, something that we can put our blood, sweat, and tears into and not have to walk away empty handed. It’s funny, though, how dreams tend to work out if you’re stubborn enough to keep on plugging away at them. It’s also funny how different everyone’s dreams are. For instance, I’m sure my husband would not be all for an underground house. It’ll be interesting to see how that one works out. Maybe I’ll just have to settle for an underground cellar.

What are your dreams and goals? If you could live anywhere and money was no issue, then would you really want to stick it out in the country? I think most of the people I know would move to the city and live it up, but I’ve turned into quite the little fresh-air lover. I think moving back to the city would probably kill me. I don’t mind the occasional visit there, but so much about the city makes my nerves go haywire and my senses dull. I just couldn’t go back there and be happy. The country is my water, and I am a fish.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

I logged on quickly the other day, just to see if anything new was going on, and noticed that I had a few comments on my rant about Big Zero. Yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard, but I was SOOOO upset. Did you know that 70% of the US population, when polled, were completely against the health care reform bill that passed? That doesn’t mean that the entire thing was a bad idea, but that we as a population are smart enough to know when a bunch of sugar-coated bullshit is being stuffed down our throats. Yes, I agree that there are some parts of the health care reform that are good. Mainly, that so many people who were unable to be insured before will have the option now. Well, actually, I guess they don’t really have an option. Anyone who doesn’t sign up for government health care will be fined $695 annually. Huh… well, maybe the fact that people with pre-existing conditions will now be able to get insurance. Oh, wait. That means that everyone’s premiums will have to go up in order to cover the cost of insuring those “uninsurable” people. It started out as a good idea, but the consequences of it totally outweigh the benefits. Ok, here’s a positive. So many more people will be able to sign up for Medicaid. Yikes. But that means that the government will have to come up with that much more money to pay for all of those people on the dole. Where does all of that money come from? It could come from raised taxes. It could come from inflating the American dollar even further. It could come from yet another loan from China or some other country. What a waste.

So, I guess I can see where this reform would be a good thing for so many people in the US. People who aren’t working, can’t find a decent-paying job, and people who are in debt up to their eyeballs because of bad financial choices and a horrible economy… yeah, there’s good in it for the poverty stricken. There’s good in it for people who live off of the government. I know, I know. I’m not judging everyone in one go here. I know there are people who for one reason or another had the rug swept out from under them lately and seriously just need a little help to get by these days. But there are so many ways for this health care reform to be abused. Free healthcare for all citizens AND non-citizens is just one instance. That’s like a golden invitation for sickly aliens to immigrate here. We already have a problem with illegals flooding our system, but this reform will only serve to aggravate that problem.

Maybe I’ve just been taking my news from the wrong sources. Maybe I haven’t heard all there is to hear about this reform. I’m thinking I’ve heard enough, though. It doesn’t matter how much good this reform will do if the good stuff is sandwiched between horrible, destructive stuff. Oh well, though. I guess the beauty of the reform is in the eye of the beholder.

This is one of the summaries I have for the reform. Without internet access at home, I’m severely lacking in the ability to cross-reference and do intense searches like I used to. If my opinions are misinformed, I don’t mind being told so. I’m glad to have a few readers willing to reach out and question me. Anyway, here it is:

From CMS at FreeRepublic.com:

• Page 16: States that if you have insurance at the time of the bill becoming law and change, you will be required to take a similar plan. If that is not available, you will be required to take the government option!
• Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!
• Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!
• Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
• Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
• Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
• Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
• Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
• Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (example: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
• Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.
• Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
• Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens
• Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
• Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.
• Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
• Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.
• Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.
• Page 126: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.
• Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll
• Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll
• Page 167: Any individual who doesn’t have acceptable healthcare (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income.
• Page 170: Any NON-RESIDENT alien is exempt from individual taxes (Americans will pay for them).
• Page 195: Officers and employees of Government Healthcare Bureaucracy will have access to ALL American financial and personal records.
• Page 203: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax.” Yes, it really says that.
• Page 239: Bill will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors and the poor most affected.”
• Page 241: Doctors: no matter what specialty you have, you’ll all be paid the same (thanks, AMA!)
• Page 253: Government sets value of doctors’ time, their professional judgment, etc.
• Page 265: Government mandates and controls productivity for private healthcare industries.
• Page 268: Government regulates rental and purchase of power-driven wheelchairs.
• Page 272: Cancer patients: welcome to the wonderful world of rationing!
• Page 280: Hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems preventable re-admissions.
• Page 298: Doctors: if you treat a patient during an initial admission that results in a readmission, you will be penalized by the government.
• Page 317: Doctors: you are now prohibited for owning and investing in healthcare companies!
• Page 318: Prohibition on hospital expansion. Hospitals cannot expand without government approval.
• Page 321: Hospital expansion hinges on “community” input: in other words, yet another payoff for ACORN.
• Page 335: Government mandates establishment of outcome-based measures: i.e., rationing.
• Page 341: Government has authority to disqualify Medicare Advantage Plans, HMOs, etc.
• Page 354: Government will restrict enrollment of SPECIAL NEEDS individuals.
• Page 379: More bureaucracy: Telehealth Advisory Committee (healthcare by phone).
• Page 425: More bureaucracy: Advance Care Planning Consult: Senior Citizens, assisted suicide, euthanasia?
• Page 425: Government will instruct and consult regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney, etc. Mandatory. Appears to lock in estate taxes ahead of time.
• Page 425: Government provides approved list of end-of-life resources, guiding you in death.
• Page 427: Government mandates program that orders end-of-life treatment; government dictates how your life ends.
• Page 429: Advance Care Planning Consult will be used to dictate treatment as patient’s health deteriorates. This can include an ORDER for end-of-life plans. An ORDER from the GOVERNMENT.
• Page 430: Government will decide what level of treatments you may have at end-of-life.
• Page 469: Community-based Home Medical Services: more payoffs for ACORN.
• Page 472: Payments to Community-based organizations: more payoffs for ACORN.
• Page 489: Government will cover marriage and family therapy. Government intervenes in your marriage.
• Page 494: Government will cover mental health services: defining, creating and rationing those services.

I have one last note for Alice, and for anyone else wondering why I am so fed up with the government. Of course, my emotions are not due to the passing of the reform alone. It’s been a long time coming. Actually, many of the reasons happened while I was younger, some even before I was born. I feel like the US was well on its way to the bottom before I was even aware of what was happening. That is a topic for another post, however. This one was already long enough. I just want you all to know that I don’t just fly off the handle for little things. I’ve thought this through, and I guess I just needed that last piece of straw to break the camel’s back before I took issue publicly. I hope there are many more out there with similar feelings as me. I hope that come 2012 we are able to show the politicians just how smart and powerful we are by tossing them all out on their bums. I hope, but it is a fleeting feeling.

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