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Sheila Velazquez - page 3

Garbage, the Financial Markets and Preparedness: What’s the Connection?

“The Gleaners,” by Jean-Francoise Millet; oil
“The Gleaners,” by Jean-Francoise Millet; oil

Goldman Sachs has upgraded Waste Management stock from a sell to a buy as a safe place to invest in a downsizing economy. At first read, this made little sense to me, as I think of a recession as a time when you hunker down and buy less, thereby creating less garbage. But maybe it’s a well-run company in an era of companies that produce goods and services that we can actually do without, making it at least a necessity of sorts.

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Working for Legumes

Workers at a counter in a cafe; photo by Afta Putta Gunawan
Workers at a counter in a cafe; photo by Afta Putta Gunawan.

The short-term interests of the financial elite override the long-term interests of society as a whole (the rest of us). Their goal is to keep stock prices and profits soaring by whatever means possible. Currently they are shaking in their boots because they can hear the bear growling off in the woods

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Prepping for the Possible — Part II

It doesn’t take a lot of land to grow enough vegetables for one family and maybe even fit in a chicken coop. Many towns have farm-friendly policies that allow a small number of hens only (for the uninformed, you don’t need a rooster unless you want the eggs to be fertile). There is no piece of ground so small that it can’t be brought into production.

Some pretty amazing wisdom can be found in the pages of the classic self-reliance series, Foxfire; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

Beautiful soil is the result of composting, which also reduces our waste. Keep that bucket on the sink and throw in your peelings, coffee grounds, apple cores, etc. until it smells enough that you must toss it in the pile. We could also use more community gardens where experienced growers could guide others wanting to learn through the seasons. Because I’ve done the farming thing, I often forget how few people still know how to grow food. Scary.

There are many websites that offer help and guidance when it comes to learning the homely arts. For someone like me, who poured (and still does) over hard copies of magazines like Countryside & Small Stock Journal, Grit, and Backwoods Home Magazine, there are articles that instruct on every phase of homesteading. The mother of them all, Mother Earth News, keeps an extensive archive on its website, free to browse and use.

The Foxfire website describes the series that originated in 1972 with the original “The Foxfire Book,” a collection of articles from the magazine that was begun in 1966 by children of the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia. The name chosen for the title is a reference to the glow emitted by bioluminescent lichen that grows on decaying logs in the Southern woods, noticeable on dark nights. Since that time the magazine has been published uninterrupted, a museum has been established, and the core principles, based on self-centered learning and community-based education, have been adopted by families and educators who favor the Foxfire Approach to Teaching and Learning that “promotes a sense of place and appreciation of local people, community and culture as essential educational tools.”

Beginning more than four decades ago, the students interviewed the elders of their area, documenting their lives and skills, and in doing so they became aware of the close relationships and sharing that were an integral part of creating a strong community. We need more of that–relationships with neighbors and an appreciation of lost culture, not only in Appalachia, but in the urban, exurban, and suburban communities where most of us live.

There are now twelve books in the series that began as a sociological work, and millions of copies of individual volumes have been sold. I bought the first six books in the 1970s. I was a city girl learning how to establish a homestead. I had no experience with farming but was a believer, part of the back-to-the-land movement.

It is in these first collections that most of the practical information can be found. You may not plan on butchering a hog anytime soon, but you will certainly want to plan a garden. The original book has sections on planting by signs, building a log cabin, basket weaving and preserving food, as well as making butter, soap and moonshine. For the religious, there’s information on faith healing and snake handling. The next five volumes offer instructions on spinning and weaving, animal care, tanning hides and logging, as well as making cheese, apple butter, wagons, kilns, tools and shoes. And for “when the work’s all done and the sun’s gettin low” (thanks John Denver), you can also learn how to make old-fashioned toys, corn husk dolls and primitive dulcimers, banjos and fiddles–just in case you can’t power up the tv.

The books are available through the Foxfire website, which is a great place to begin if you’d like to secure your future in small ways, and possibly in bigger ones. And remember the Boy Scout motto.

Interested in the prepper movement? Check out this video by the New Yorker shared on Facebook a few days ago!

(Read Part I here)

Prepping for the Possible — Part I

I couldn’t sleep as news and statistics about our future danced in my head. I tried counting sheep, but as someone who once raised sheep, it didn’t work. It just led me to thinking about shearing and spinning and all the nice organic lamb we used to put in the freezer. I won’t go into particulars about what is coming down the pike re the trade crisis, foreign entanglements, climate change, shortages, terrorism, possible shutdown of the power grid, financial collapse, and our corrupt (on both sides) political system.

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Cooking and Cookbooks

I love to cook as much as I love to eat. During my farming days, meat was kept in a large dedicated chest freezer until a particular craving struck. My favorite meal was roast pork, and before the meat was done, I had usually picked off about half of the crusty fat squares and devoured them.

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book, 2nd Edition; 1956; photo by Sheila Velazquez 
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Life and Death in a Backyard

The greens have been washed, carrots pulled and leeks chopped and frozen. Nothing sets me in motion faster than a hard freeze warning. My small garden is now devoid of living things aboveground, and the earthworms who have multiplied and prospered belowground are heading south and into the composting ditches I have dug in circles around the crabapple tree. I grew an amazing amount of food in a tiny space this year, and I am expanding for next.

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Play Ball!

About a year ago I bought myself a new flat screen tv to replace the old one. It was a treat for my birthday, which comes at the end of baseball season, beginning of football season. I hadn’t been watching or listening to much television for quite awhile. Mostly PBS and NPR and Spotify apps, and fast, young, athletic men in tight uniforms.

A cozy New England Patriots fleece throw—essential gear for Pats games in this weather; photo by Sheila Velazquez
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Fishing Fish Pond


Fishing at fishpond.

It’s a perfect day for fishing. The kids are back in school, and there will likely be only a few people at Fish Pond/Windsor Lake–retirees like me, or one or two who work the night shift. The garden yielded some sacrificial worms last evening for the one pole. The other is rigged with Rainbow PowerBait, that sticky dough trout love, at least the trout at Fish Pond.

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Is Banning Literature Ever a Good Thing?

Banned Books Week 2018 is being celebrated from September 23-29. The American Library Association event reminds us that times and mores have changed. Some books have been banned because by today’s standards they are politically incorrect. Others were banned because of eroticism. Hopefully, we will reach the point where the written word is accepted for what it is, merely the view of the person who has put it to paper. We aren’t there yet, but we are evolving.

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