Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good morning, All.  Sunny so far this morning with temperatures in the 50s expected.  So some gardening is on the agenda.  The whole week should provide nice weather bouncing between the 60s and 70s with dry patches.  On one of the weather segments on a local news program the weather person quizzed his colleagues on where they thought the April temperatures stood in relation to the norms for the month.  They all guessed between 5 and 10 degrees below normal.  Actually, April was just about 5 degrees above normal.  We were so thoroughly spoiled by March that April's weather felt like a return to winter.  Well, May will be here shortly and the temps are going up a bit and it is time to get serious about finishing the soil prep and start on the planting and transplanting.  How are your gardens doing?

I noticed the other day that I have put up 1000 posts here.  And I have been doing this for nearly five years.  My goodness, how time has flown.  It has been an interesting five years.  Back then I was looking for a new job and we were watching the economy, news, politics, and Bush's two military screw-ups.  It feels like we have been mired in amber on so many fronts.

  • We still have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq but on the whole I don't see that we are really any more secure, at home or abroad.  
  • Two years before I started this blog, I was still working at a small party supply shop and finding that the price of gas was getting painful.  A gallon then cost me the equivalent of between half-an-hour to forty minutes of work (taking taxes and other deductions into account.)  The price today is considerably higher.  The job I found just after I started writing here lasted four months.  I will be thoroughly honest--it was the only job I ever had for which I was totally unsuitable and abysmally unsuccessful.  Looking back, I am surprised that I lasted as long as I did.  But two-and-half years later I was still unemployed with a string of rejections (when I got a response at all) and one interview which really ended after five minutes when the manager commented on how over-qualified I was for the position.  I am still unemployed but now I can call it "retirement."  Thank FDR for Social Security and a pox on all the Repthuglican, Teapublican, and other assorted assholes who somehow think it would serve the 'public good' if it were privatized or eliminated.  I have news for you, pinheads--it wouldn't serve this public at all.
  • At the time I put up my first musings here (and for a several years before) we watched the soaring housing markets and asked (as very few others did even among the so-called experts) when the collapse would come.  We just couldn't see how that mess could be sustained and we were right.  And then a good bit more began to go to hell--AIG, Lehman Brothers, the bank bailouts, soaring unemployment, the sub-prime mortgage crash.
  • The political atmosphere was absolutely poisonous and has only become more toxic with time.
So, you might ask, what has changed?

  • I have more gray hair.  I haven't seen the inside of a hair salon in about five years.  But I haven't missed the salon and I am fine with the gray.  I have earned every one of those gray hairs.
  • I don't have as many clothes and shoes in my closet and most of those are jeans, sweats, tee shirts and other casual items.  I don't dress up much any more.  Goodwill got the rest.
  • Five years ago we had three cats and a few decorative fish in a small tank.  Today we only have one cat.  Don't be sad though.  The fish lived long lives for their types.  Sawagimasu and Damarimasu were 19 and had provided good companion ship for the entire time.  They came with me from Colorado through Missouri to here.  They are missed just as their predecessors (Captain Hook, Gilraen, Fang, Galadriel, Grayboy 2 and Grayboy 1) are.
  • About the time the party supply store job ended (when the shop closed) Sister gave Mom a potted tomato.  We had forgotten how good a homegrown, vine-ripened tomato tasted.  And, about that time, our landlords put in a fence and extended the cement patio.  How are these events related?  Well, we re-acquired our taste for home grown veggies and got a secure space in which to have a few container gardens.
  • We have also become far more conscious of what products we are consuming (edible and otherwise).  We have eliminated almost all processed or prepared foods.  We don't buy much in cans anymore.  We have found the local farmers' markets and patronize those.  And we do the processing ourselves.
  • As you can probably tell from that last we have also become far less trusting of our commercial system.  We no longer assume that what is out there for sale is safe and wholesome.  I don't know that we ever really assumed that but now we think about it more.
  • And we are also less trusting of our political system.
Ah, well, enough reminiscing.  Let's see if there is anything worth commenting on.

I found this Burning Platform post by way of Chris Martensen's Blog.  I think it quite accurately assesses our economic 'progress' over the last five years.

I can totally relate to this post by Joe Nocera at the NY Times.  I didn't plan to retire.  Whether I could 'afford' to retire or not I did not have much choice: two-and-a-half years unemployed, savings gone, no job prospects.  Combine that with a long history of minimum wage jobs, a long marriage to a man who never saw a penny that didn't burn a hole in his pocket to get out and made sure any savings I managed to make got spent also, and long periods preparing for jobs that managed to disappear before I was fully ready to compete for them.  A 401k??  A pipe dream.

This MSNBC article makes me ask: if a government has to go to these extremes are the Olympics really worth the trouble?

Crooks & Liars can always be counted on to highlight the political idiocy that has been passing for a legitimate 'campaign' and karoli gives us the new and improved Mittens.  Unfortunately for those asshats I may be a senior citizen but I don't have dementia and my memory is fine.

This article provides a sad commentary on our economy.  It would be bad enough if the story concerned only one person living is storage units for a short time.  But the evidence says they had families living in the units for months.

Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds expresses very well what I have been thinking about our much-ballyhooed but nearly invisible 'recovery' for a long time:  it is all smoke and mirrors.  Sooner or later reality intrudes.  The powers that be are simply hoping that the reckoning won't come soon or hurt them much.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good morning, again, to you all.  The thermometer on the patio read 32F when we got up this morning.  But all of the plants outside are fine so far.  I will take a closer look later after it warms up a bit.  Even the tomatoes and pepper in the greenhouse are still standing up.  (Update: I think the Brandywine won't recover and perhaps the Fresh Salsa.  The cherry tomatoes may. I will wait and see.  I guess I have found the limits of the greenhouse.  The larger pepper and tomatoes are fine.) (2nd update:  Just checked the greenhouse again.  The little tomatoes are standing up!!  They just might make it!!)  The weather people say we will have 70s next week.  If so I will transplant some of my seedlings.  The yardlong and dragon's tongue beans really need to get out in the gardens.  They are rapidly outgrowing their current space.  I did get another five-gallon bucket filled and one dug out yesterday before the wind really kicked up.  I guess I should be grateful after the pictures the morning news showed from the Grand Junction area of Colorado--hurricane level winds with lots of blown dust.

I don't know how many reports I have seen over the last few months claiming that TARP would not only be fully repaid but actually make a profit for the treasury.  I have always taken the reports with a big grain of salt.  Like any other statistic the result always depends on the accuracy of whatever data goes into it.  As the famous computer saying goes: garbage in, garbage out.  This BBC story indicates that we have been fed a whole lot of garbage.  I wonder if our nearly useless mainstream median will pick this up.  No, I am not taking any bets.

Got something in the mail I hadn't seen in a very long time: a credit card offer that had an actual credit card in it.  Some years ago the companies stopped sending those out because too many were stolen in the mail before reaching their target consumer.  I saw a small item on some news broadcast that credit card companies are so desperate for new customers that they have begun mass mailings again.  I know I have received more offers over the last couple of months than during the previous several years.  Given the debt that we are drowning in as a global society, one would think the banks and finance companies would be far more cautious.  Evidently, one would be wrong.  Well, the old saying holds that a committee is the only form of human life with four or more legs and now brains.  I would say that that goes for companies also.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  Sunny but cool this morning.  But a stiff breeze has started up.  I think I will let the temperature get a bit higher before I go out and see what I can get done.  We stopped by one of my favorite garden centers (the year-round farmer's market) yesterday.  They are rapidly getting in new plants.  I found my stevia and lemon verbena.  I don't have any more plants on my shopping list so any future purchases will be something that intrigues me not something I need.  I saw some really cute plants over the last week.  The candy corn plant produces tricolor blossoms that resemble candy corn (surprise!!) and the shrimp plant was formed into a topiary with shrimp shaped flowers in shades of red and yellow.  But with as small a space as I have I would rather have utilitarian plants.  Many are very pretty but the primary concern is that they produce something useful or perform a useful service (like bug control).

I found this entry in the 'oh, my.  What weird weather!' file on the BBC this morning.  How often have you heard of tornados in England?

I absolutely hate the new climate of more intensely money driven politics.  And I hate the anonymous donors even more.  If they are going to give those megabucks they should acknowledge their gifts and be up front about what they hope to gain from them.

Grist posted this interesting article this morning.  I have been reading about the increasing resistance insect pests are developing but the article puts a real twist on the issue.  Apply insecticide and after a while you get resistant insect--we have known this for a while.  But, it appears, you also get bacteria that thrive on the insecticide and when those bacteria set up in the insect guts they confer immunity on their host as well--in a lot quicker time than if the insect pest alone became resistant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Good morning to you all.  We expect possible thunderstorms later today  I hope to get some spinach and lemon balm for our chef salads for supper.  Those are doing very well outside.  I saw a couple of the new planting of peppers breaking the surface.  I may actually get some of the Lipstick and Bullnose peppers this year.  Next spring I will definitely shift to vermiculite for seed starting.

I saw a brief article on this about a month ago.  State and local governments are rushing headlong to 'privatize' various services and facilities only to find that the companies they are dealing with are not as trustworthy as they thought.  Maybe the latest company running the Mississippi juvenile detention center inherited bad actors when they acquired the old corrections company--maybe not.  But I think two years would have been plenty of time to clean house.

ETF Daily posted this commentary today that reflects my own thoughts on our debt 'problem.'  Some years ago I started asking what would happen in a consumer driven society if the consumer couldn't consume any more.  Well, as a society, we answered that, temporarily, but extending a huge amount of credit.  But with private debt at nearly five times the GDP and national debt equal between 80 and !00+% of GDP (depending who is counting), the debt pyramid has to collapse sooner or later.  For another take, and not an optimistic one, on the debt and the too-big-to-fail banks look at this ETF Daily article.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Tuesday to you all.  Last Tuesday of April.  So far it is sunny and calm.  And the temperature is supposed to rise to about 70.  See what I get done in the gardens today.  Have to keep reminding myself that we are still three weeks away from our average last frost date.

Last night NHK news (Japan--English language) had a segment on the Miharu-Takazukura in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, a waterfall cherry tree thought to be over 1,000 years old.  I found this Asahi Shimbun article with a picture of this amazing tree--designated a living treasure.  The city has received numerous inquiries about the health of the tree that survived the earthquake.

I have been totally irritated by the news coverage this morning of the latest report from the Social Security/Medicare trustees which says that the 'trust' fund will run out of money three years earlier than previously projected.  This article was on MSNBC and it simply increased my irritation.  I notice that the reasons listed for the predicted shortfall include: increasing baby boomer retirements, longer life expectancy, longer unemployment periods which lowers the amount of funds coming in, increased Medicare costs which will necessitate transfer from the trust fund, and the fact that the Treasury bonds the Social Security holds will have to be redeemed from the general fund.  What really pisses me off is what not a one of the accounts mention: the fact that the so-called tax holiday for workers came from the Social Security tax and it has been extended once so far.  I asked when they put that in what the effect on Social Security would be.  Now we know--this is simply another way to kill the program the Repthuglicans have never liked.  Crooks & Liars has a similar take on the coverage.

Just saw another segment on CNBC this time that has me a bit irritated.  Evidently there is a controversy over recent attempts by some politicians to allow write downs of mortgage principle or allow forgiveness of student loan debts.  Rick Santelli railed against either on the grounds of 'moral hazard' or the notion that such forgiveness basically encourages future bad behavior.  I might agree with him except for a few very uncomfortable facts.  First, the notion of 'moral hazard' or fiscal responsibility or any other such ethical notion is applied so unevenly.  The banks were bailed out in spite of arguments against on those very grounds.  Why the banks and not others?  Second, student loans are among the few that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  So the lender is protected first by government guarantees and then by the fact that the student cannot get out from under short of dying.  Santelli brought up the notion of 'tough love' and I would say "Fine.  But for both the lender and the borrower."  The first step is to reduce the mortgages to the current value of the house and forgive whatever is underwater.  Second step would be to enforce the criminal penalties on mortgage originators who falsify information on a mortgage loan and on applicants who knowingly supply bogus information.  Third step is to forgive student loans for those who have no reasonable possibility short of winning the damned Megamilions lottery of paying the loans back, allow bankruptcy discharge and remove government guarantees to lenders.

I had a couple of comments on the meaninglessness of the employment statistics last week.  Joshua Brown at Reformed Broker makes similar comments on the housing data.  Our government statisticians have been reading 1984 way too much.  Double think done with numbers!!!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Good sunny Monday morning to all of you.  We should see temperatures in the high 50s today.  I hope so and I hope the winds die down.  They have made the last few days feel like early March.  Do want to get the last of my digging done this week.  Otherwise, nothing to report on the garden.  All of the outside plants are looking good.  I found a couple more strawberries and two of the tomato plants have blossoms--one has a couple of little tomatoes forming.  That always makes us smile.  I was surprised this morning when I saw a heavy frost on the roofs and Mom told me that the car was well frosted also.  I quickly checked out all of the plants on the patio and in the greenhouse.  They are all fine.

If we needed proof that our weather is really weird this year all we have to do is read this article and follow it with this one.

Watching the converge of Wal-Mart's Mexican bribery scandal.  Two threads are somewhat amusing.  First, has been the number of commentators who seem to think that Wal-Mart should be somewhat excused from allegedly breaking U.S. law because the actions took place in Mexico and everyone knows Mexico has a 'culture of corruption.'  Crap!!  Second, one of the reporters read her story from outside a Wal-Mart store in New York somewhere and noted that people were still shopping.  Evidently, the low prices trumped the scandal.  Double Crap!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hi, Everyone.  Here we are starting the last full week of April.  Where does the time go?  I don't have much gardening planned.  I am watering some of the seedlings inside.  But the temperature is only in the low 40s and we may get rain so I doubt I will get anything accomplished outside.  We definitely need the moisture because we are short on precipitation by about 2.5 inches for April.  We went to one of the large greenhouse/gardening markets just to look around.  If I had the space I saw several beautiful and unusual lowering plants.  I did find a pot of marjoram that I bought to provide in case my seeds don't produce.  I am getting a nice collection of herbs.

I am constantly amazed at what the news media considers news.  I just sat through about 3 minutes of a non-story about New Jersey Governor Christie photographed apparently sleeping during a Bruce Springsteen concert.  Who the hell cares?

We were just commenting on what is the most pathetic aspect of the Secret Service sex scandal.  Not only could these guys not keep their pants zipped but one of them, stupidly, agreed to an outrageous sum for a prostitute that he tried to renege on the next morning.  Somehow he expected that the working girl would settle for less than 10% of what he agreed to pay and keep quiet about being cheated.  Now that boy had a serious 'entitlement' problem.

This tomdispatch post should be filed under the 'what's old is new again.'

I just looked at the new AARP (from an e-mail alert) poll on Social Security and Medicare.  You can find it here and look at it yourself.  I didn't fill it out because I think it is a meaningless piece of crap.  Although you can register, to a certain extent, whether you think the systems should be tweaked or overhauled or left alone, it doesn't ask what options the respondent might think should be enacted.  It doesn't commit AARP to any specific program.  Does this really give us a say in what happens???  I don't think so.

And here is another case of what the right hand does the left know nothing of.  They keep bleating about the 'epidemic' of obesity and the subsidize the ingredients of junk food.

Media Matters posted this little piece on three stories that have received so little press they are invisible. How many of the oil spills have you heard of post--Deepwater Horizon?  I have seen only a couple of stories on other-than-mainstream venue on the Pacific garbage patch and the Gulf dead zone.  I saw on segment about the eyeless shrimp and ulcerated fish in the Gulf on a mainstream outlet and that report did his best to denigrate (as unconfirmed) and minimize the story that I wondered why he bothered--unless the purpose of the story was to preemptively neuter it.

Annie's Granny posted an example of a bit of commercial idiocy.  Sometimes all I can do is shake my head at the lack of common sense.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Good Saturday morning, Everyone.  Right now we have sun and temps in the high 30s.  I checked out the plants in the greenhouse and they are fine.  In fact, the little Brandywine seedling that has looked like it was on death's door of the last month has perked up.  It might actually survive and bear fruit.  If we get into the mid 50s I will get some more work done outside.  My marjoram has started to sprout along with my second planting of pyrethrum.

I just love articles that take on the 'conventional wisdom' of mainstream media pundits and show what a sham some of the pronouncements.  This Media Matters article does just that with a CNN article which, once again, insists that we ned to address the growing problem of Social Security and Medicare if we are ever to get a handle on the national fiscal problems.  What is especially delicious abut the take down is that the CNN article provides the evidence against their position in the article itself.  The share of the GDP that will be consumed by Social Security is projected to remain essentially the same through 2085.  The entire growth of the GDP percentages devoted to the programs is attributed to Medicare alone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good morning on this changeable Friday.  Changeable, you ask.  Well, we had a tiny bit of sun and a temperature in the high 50s.  The sun has already gone away and the temps will be dropping.  The weather people say we have a very good chance of rain, on and off, today.  I will be watching the forecasts early next week and I may set out some of my plants.  I am glad you like the early garden, Kay.  I have had, as I said over the last couple of weeks, a lot of difficulty getting some of my seeds started.  The Big Rainbow completely failed and the Brandywine looks weak.  I think the chocolate cherry and Sweet 100 cherry will make it.  Only got one of the Fresh Salsa.  I already have my backups--a Roma, Mr. Stripy, and Cherokee Purple from Home Depot.  I started some new peppers (Lipstick and Bullnose) in vermiculite.  If they don't sprout I will get seedlings to replace them.  I already have one--a mild jalapeƱo from Bonnie by way of Home Depot.  I don't always succeed with my plants but I am a stubborn old biddy and will try again.  I talked to one of the associates at Home Depot who confirmed my research on the internet about the difference between potting 'soil' vs potting 'mix.'  I won't make that mistake again.

I found this on USA Today--file under 'unknown history bites residences.'  A couple of weeks ago, my nephew brought his kids and his brother's over for a visit.  The kids were very interested in my container gardens and, evidently from the conversation, his girls have been interested in growing some plants in their yard.  I suggested he put in raised beds because I have read reports of high lead contamination in urban areas.  The articles I read cited the lingering high levels of lead remaining from when we used leaded gasoline.  I had no idea that lead smelting factories long closed were in so many areas and the contamination is just as persistent.  I love the term they use for those factories--'ghost plants.'

I love reading articles that cite John Williams 'Shadowstats.'  This King World News article does that nicely.  Anyone really think that we are in a recovery?  I wish I had the money to subscribe to Shadowstats.

I have to reconstruct a short paragraph on this article.  Blogger lost what I originally wrote.  You are all luck you couldn't hear me when that happened.  As you may have guessed I like to grow unusual and/or heirloom veggies here in my little containers.  My rule is if it isn't interesting or it doesn't taste good--why grow it.  I don't mind hybrids--they do have some advantages: vigor, resistance to disease and pests, and high yield.  But without the old varieties we wouldn't have hybrids which rarely produce viable seeds that show the hybrid characteristics.  One of the unfortunate consequences of our industrial agriculture, which favors varieties that produce uniform fruits that mature simultaneously and travel well over long distances (notice flavor and nutrition are no where in this list of desirable characteristics), is that the old, traditional varieties have disappeared.

Natural News writes today about an attempt in Vermont to pass a 'right to know' law requiring any foods containing 'genetically modified' ingredients to be so labeled.  So far Monsanto's threats to sue if the bill is passed has stalled the bill in committee.  I feel about this as I do on 'pink slime.'  Just label the damned thing as what it is and let who ever wishes buy and consume it while those who don't won't.  But these companies don't want to informed consumers.

The first paragraph of this article struck me as odd because I just saw a headline and teaser on Market Watch that was directly opposite.  The price of oil (whether Brent or West Texas) has stayed above $100/barrel but the prices at the pump have declined from about $4.10/gal to (at the lowest I saw locally) $3.79.  The analysts and economists are at a loss to explain the persistence of $100+ oil because they have their numbers tell them that we have an 'over supply.'  This article says the supply is actually not keeping up with demand.  Therefore no over supply.  I wonder where those analysts and economists get their numbers?

Perhaps they get their numbers from the same place a pundit who appeared on CNBC a bit ago got his facts.  He said he was bullish about the U.S. recover.  After all, he said, 71% of our economy is comes from consumers and that doesn't involve imports.  My question: where the hell does he think the goods consumers buy come from?  And not one of their talking heads thought to ask that.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hope you all liked the tour of my early, and definitely not finished, gardens.  Now let's see what the Internet has to offer this morning.

We are in much the same boat, Kay.  We don't drive very far, very often.  Lately we have driven more because Mom needed to see both her main doctors over the last month and I still have dental work to do.  We recently decided that we really did need to incorporate more fish into our diet and that is expensive.  I do love Undernews.  I find, there, important stories none of our mainstream media think we need to hear about.

Well, Huffington Post picked up on the Al Jazeera story about deformed fish and crustaceans in the Gulf. Good!!  I linked to Al Jazeera yesterday.

I am often amazed by the disparity between any news reports and especially those dealing with the economy.  I found this bright and perky article at MSNBC this morning.  Supposedly the economists were pleasantly surprised when the unemployment claims fell by 2000 last week indicating an improved job market.  I might have been more optimistic if I hadn't read the Market Watch coverage a bit earlier.  Evidently the surprise wasn't all that pleasant.  The drop came on comparison with the adjusted numbers which were 8000 more than originally reported.  I wonder what adjustments will be made in this weeks numbers.  And the numbers came in higher that what the economists had projected--374k.  Anyone really wonder why I don't trust statistics or the news related to statistics?

I simply couldn't let this idiocy go by without comment.  I get really tired of morons describing everything they dislike as either communist or Nazi.  There is no parallel between the Nazi laws requiring Jews to wear a Star of David and those county laws requiring people to refrain from smoking in a designated area.  

I wasn't going to comment on the latest Supreme Court inconsistency--the decision that torture victims can't sue under U.S. law unless they can identify (name) individuals.  They can't sue the organizations or governments for whom the torturers worked.  But this Daily Kos article makes an interesting point--in the Citizens v United the Supreme Court basically decided that corporations are individuals with respect to freedom of speech however, considering their individual responsibilities for criminal behavior, they are not.  As I have read on some blogs, I will believe corporations are individuals when one is executed for a crime its minions have committed.

John Aravosis at Americablog presents a horror story that shows what a lie the notion that we have the number 1 health care system in the world.  If we did no one would be subjected to this treatment.
Good morning, Everyone.  I thought it was time I took you on another tour of the patio and show you my plants.  I may not get anything done outside today.  Right now the sky looks like it may rain at any time.

This is half of the lemon balm that spent the winter outside in one of the large containers.  I split the original plant almost two months ago.  The two should provide more than enough leaves to dry for winter tea and maybe for some experimental lemon balm beer.
And this is the German thyme that overwintered in another container.  We got a very nice harvest last year so I may not dry any this year.  I told Mom she could harvest any fresh she might need. And she may be able to harvest through next winter as well.  The plant didn't die back at all.
 These, from left to right, are my mini-roses, cat grass (which Kuma loves) and mums.  The roses and mums also spent the winter in outside.  The roses were trying to bloom into December.  I have had a bit of a problem with black spot but the spray I found seems to have it under control.  I found a few very small buds on one of them.  I think our strange weather has confused it.
 This is my strawberry bed.  I bought eight plants about a month and a half ago.  This is the first bed I reconditioned.  I have often said that I like to repurpose things.  The containers is an old litter box.  The strawberries are supposed to be ever-bearing and hardy to zone 4, I think.  So these should survive outside with minimal protection.
The mini-greenhouse has been well worth the expense.  So far the temperature inside has stayed between 5 and 20 degrees above the outside temperature.  I have tomatoes, rosemary, spinach, a couple of varieties of lettuce, beets, and radishes in it now.  Can't see much because of the condensation.
 I have reconditioned all of these containers so they are ready for planting at any time.  I have to restrain myself because we are still about a month away from our average last frost date.  I may be putting some plants in the ground soon but with hot caps or plastic covering.  The plants are, left to right, orange mint, lemon balm (the other half) and one of the Top Hat blueberries.  All of these are hardy plants and all will spend next winter outdoors.
This is one of the two spearmint plants I got when I split the original plant I left in the gardens last winter.  I had originally put both plants in gallon vinegar jars (with the top cut off) that fit in my fence hangers.  I still need to transplant the other one because the vinegar jar is already too small.  I should have a nice lot of the leaves to dry for tea.  I found that one of my favorite mixes last winter was Red Zinger with spearmint, lemon balm, and stevia.
 I am going to have to bring these down sometime and take better pictures.  From left to right, I have the other spearmint, lavender, and oregano.  The lavender was a pleasant surprise.  I wasn't at all sure it had survived the winter.  It looked like a bunch of dead branches.  But it had enough green on it to transplant and see what happened.  Well it has sprouted all over the place.  The oregano came from Home Depot because the seeds I planted this year didn't sprout.  I have had trouble with a number of varieties of seed that hasn't sprouted or simply didn't thrive when they did sprout.

 Here are the other two Top Hat blueberries.  Right now they are about one-third their full size. I don't expect much this year.  Most berry and fruits take a couple of years to become established and start producing.  But I will gratefully take what ever they do produce and augment with berries from our farmer's market.
My inside shelf space is full now.  It won't be much longer as I move plants either to the greenhouse or into pots.  So far the two varieties of beans, marigolds, Betterbush squash, and vine peach have done fairly well.  The pyrethrum, lemon squash, tomatoes, peppers, basil, and oregano have not.  I am not sure why.  I have never had a problem before with tomatoes and peppers especially.  I did notice that the potting soil was not what I had been getting.  It was coarser and seemed to be shredded bark and twigs with some other stuff.  Reading on line I found out that there is a difference between potting 'mix' and potting 'soil.'  I usually get the mix.  I didn't know there was a difference.  I will be more careful next time.  I restarted the peppers, pyrethrum and started the dragon's tongue beans in vermiculite.  The pyrethrum and beans are sprouting nicely.  I hope the peppers do as well.  Thankfully, I have Home Depot and the farmer's market to fall back on.  I will see what happens.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Howdy to all on this, for now, sunny Wednesday.  Low today was around 40 and we expect a high around 70.  After today we go back to the 50s and 60s.  I did get the sage, oregano, and orange mint transplanted.  I think I will move my tomato seedlings into the greenhouse; perhaps some of the others as well.  While I work out on the patio I will try to remember to take some pictures.  The greenhouse is doing very nicely with the temperatures inside between 5 and 20 degrees above the outside temperature.

I wonder if we will see the same angst over India's planned long-range missile test that we saw over North Korea's failed missile test/satellite launch.  At least the Indian government is being very clear about what it is doing.  I rather expect that Pakistan will also start testing new long-range missiles.  That is normally the way these things go.

It is nice that the NATO ministers are planning for when the troops leave Afghanistan but I really wish the money would leave as well.  If Afghanistan's 'government' can't support its security I don't see why we should foot the bill.  The $3billion thrown out there could be better spent here.  Or not spent at all and applied to the deficit.

Oh, how I wish this vote were binding on Citi.  I also wish the compensation for all of the bank CEOs was tied to performance.  Right now,  it doesn't matter if the bank does well; the CEO will get massive pay and bonuses.

This is an intriguing article that highlights a serious flaw in society--the nearly unquestioned authority of credentials or other pieces of paper that indicate a degree of learning and expertise.  Though the author details her own experience in obtaining a certification as a forensic consultant, the situation can be replicated across all disciplines.  On the one hand you have a certifying organization which is simply a mechanism for generating the most money with the least effort.  On the other you have people who want an advantage in a tight job market with the least investment of time, effort or money.  And then you have employers whose HR departments rely on computerized scanning of resumes to weed out rather than to evaluate prospective employees.  The whole system is wasteful and fraudulent.

I have seen a couple of other stories on the topic of  convictions based on seriously flawed forensics evidence from the FBI labs.

Well, gas prices have moderated a bit--as we saw at the gas stations we passed Monday on our errands. According to this article we are adjusting to $4/gal gas even if our politicians aren't.  The Repthuglicans insist that Obama is to blame--as though he has some magical powers that give him control over oil prices or production.  And the Damnocrats insist that 'speculators' are to blame.  The talking heads on CNBC had a field day yesterday with the President's challenge to Congress to get tough on the speculators.  A couple were brave enough to try to distinguish speculation from normal investing behavior--not very successfully.  Perhaps that is why the traders on the floor took great umbrage at the Obama's remarks because those poor misunderstood guys can't be held responsible for what the big bad market does.  The best discussion, however, was on the Nightly Business Report on our PBS station.  The guest didn't really come much nearer to defining where the line should be drawn between normal investment speculation (trying to divine where the market would go to maximize investment profits) and manipulation (trying to make the market go in your desired direction) but he gave presented some of other factors that influence price far more than alleged speculators: the on-again-off-again tensions with Iran, the tensions and uprisings in North Africa and Middle East, on going rebellions in places like Nigeria, the conflict between the Sudans, and growing demand from developing countries.  The only factor the guest expert didn't mention were the plateau in production over the last eight years and the fact that the estimated volume of new oil discoveries aren't coming close to making up for the decline in production from established fields.

Mark Morford shreds a so-called 'micro-trend' I saw on the news yesterday--the female idiots who are paying some doctors to insert nasal feeding tubes so they can lose up to 20 pounds in ten days.  I have a standard description for such idiocy--more money than brains.  Morford also takes a good whack at Pizza Hut's new hot dog stuffed crust pizza.  For my part I prefer to savor my dietary sins singly and fully.

Smart Money at the Wall Street Journal has a nice little article on fake foods that anyone might find in the supermarket and buy without realizing they aren't getting what they thought.  I have heard of several of these scams--the low price fish marketed as high price varieties, the honey, the olive oil.  We noticed that all of the juices we buy are advertised as 'orange-pineapple,' 'orange-pineapple-banana,' or 'orange-peach-mango' but the second juice mentioned on the label is apple juice. We still buy them but at least we know what is in the juice to the extent anyone can. We also learned to check the amount of actual juice because many of the products are as little as 10% juice.  Those we don't buy.  We resent paying juice prices for water.

I found this Al Jazeera article by way of Undernews.  My only question: why do we have to read this in Al Jazeera and not in our own media?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hello, All, on this sunny but cool Tuesday.  The wind has died down and the sky is clear.  Hopefully the soil had time to dry out a bit.  I wan to transplant sage, oregano, and orange mint. They are all hardy for this area.  And I should put the spearmint and lavender back on the fence.  Other than that--I still have two large containers and 8 five gallon buckets to get dug out and reconditioned.

This NPR article demonstrates why I am already thoroughly sick of the election year politics.  If Obama made the recession worse, I would argue that he was saddled with programs that came out of the end of the Bush Administration: TARP, the other bank bailouts, the stimulus (supported by both parties), the auto bailout.  And, if the recovery has been slower than everyone would like, I suggest the Repthuglicans look in their mirrors for the source of the 'problem.'  What the Obama Administration have passed after that first year came in spite of their obstruction.  And, I would argue, holding the Democrats to the standard that the economy 'could' have been better if different policies had been enacted (presumably by a Repthuglican president) is self serving and hypocritical and entirely hypothetical.  Don't you just love their rose colored crystal ball?  My crystal ball shows that if those thugs had gotten out of the way and cooperated with the Obama Administration our recovery would have been stronger.  My crystal ball is just as valid as theirs.  Or invalid as the case might be.

However, I doubt either party has any real handle on the economy and forces are gathering (and have been for a while) that may make the arguments between the parties even more inconsequential that they have become.  This article illustrates some of the fundamental problems.  The non-farm payrolls stood at almost the same levels in 2011 as they did in 2001 in spite of a population growth of nearly 30 million.  And the world production of oil has oscillated around the same level for the last 8 years--around 73 million barrels per day.  It is rather hard to grow an economy in the modern age when the population grows but the primary source of energy to run what supports that population doesn't.

And to add a bit to that discussion, John Mauldin on his Outside the Box post presents a guest post with another interesting graph depicting the average family income (adjusted for inflation) which show current income is at the level achieved in 1995.  The authors focus on debt as a major factor, a point I will agree with.  The drag of debt means that economic pie is smaller and that pie has to be divided among more families which means small pieces.  Debt is one part of the problem but so is the fact that oil production, in spite of all of the political hot air expended on the issue, has remained essentially flat over the last 8 years.

The Washington Post has a thoughtful and thought-provoking article on plastic related chemicals in the food supply--not because they are added to food directly but because of the wrapping or containers that touch the food.  A couple of days ago we noticed that the little cardboard containers for half-and-half that used to be coated (inside and out) with wax are now covered in plastic.  We wondered while reading the article what coating is used on the butcher paper our butcher used to wrap our chicken yesterday.  It probably isn't wax any more--probably plastic.  I wrote a week or so ago about my surprise that the lid for the canning jars are coated with plastic that leaches BPA.  The question is how much exposure you can or need to eliminate.  In our modern world, total elimination is probably impossible.  And the article made one very good point--even the most conscientious consumer or producer may not be able to get complete information.  Given the extended supply lines feeding into our economy no one can control everything that feeds into any given product and its packaging.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good morning on this soggy Monday.  We had episodes of heavy rain last night--heavy enough that it woke me.  But everything outside looks good still.  I have to look at the soil to see whether it is dry enough to work.  We still have a month before our average last frost date.  My seedlings should be ready to transplant in two weeks.  I think it will be safe with hot caps and plastic covers.  I will wait and see what the weather is doing at the time though.  The bigger problem today may be the wind.  The tall trees are dancing now.  And the current temperatures are the high for the day--we will see the 40s by this evening.  It has been a strange year (already)--the Boston Marathon officials are warning people that they might consider not running because the temps are forecast as high as 90.  I won't even mention the tornadoes over the last two days--or earlier.

You know I agree with you on the politics, Kay.  I also think that, no matter who wins the elections this year, the real losers are those in the lower two-thirds of the socioeconomic ladder.  We both have noted that the candidates promises mean very little because they all require cooperation from others to keep those promises.  I don't see any new age of cooperation dawning in Washington.  And I think a number of economic and other 'tsunamis' are coming that no on can fully mitigate.  And most of our politicians appear to ben in denial or are busy boosting the so-called recovery.  They will be as helpful teats on a bull.

I am glad to see that I am not alone in my beliefs.  Jess at Jess' Cafe Americain writes in a similar vein.  And, compared to his assessment, I am rather kind to our socioeconomic 'betters.'

On that topic I promised, yesterday, I wouldn't comment on any more--Tina E. at Another Old Woman makes some very on point comments.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good morning on this overcast Sunday with the possibility of thunderstorms today.  I don't think I will get anything done in the gardens today.  The temperatures are warm enough but it is too wet.  The only thing I fear right now is the possibility of hail.  Update: we have rumbling thunder now and the wind has picked up.  Kuma is not happy.  He was happily surveying his patio kingdom from the trash tote before I brought him in and shut the door.

I will make only one more comment on the faux 'mommy wars' and then I intend to ignore the entire thing.  Huffington Post had this piece that I think sums up the entire issue and highlights the Repthuglican hypocrisy.  To paraphrase the pigs in Animal Farm--all mothers are equal; but some are more equal than others.  Somehow the hard work of raising children is not as dignified if done by poor or working class mothers.  Those mothers need the 'dignity' of paid work outside the home.  Just as poor kids, according to Newt Gingrich, need the 'dignity' of working for a pittance cleaning their schools to 'develop good work habits' which rich kids somehow acquire by osmosis.

Chris In Paris at Americablog put up this post this morning.  Unfortunately, it doesn't say much about the work values the Murdoch's developed.  They just can't seem to get the hang of following the law much less any real code of ethics.  And isn't globalism wonderful--these giant corporations can demonstrate their inability to behave legally/ethically around the world.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Good Saturday morning to you all.  We have had rain over night.  I did get some of the soil reconditioning done yesterday and filled four containers.  I don't know if it will dry out enough to do anything more.  The week looks like it will provide every other day rain.  I have to remind myself not to complain because we do need the moisture.  We are one month away from our average last frost date but I think the oregano, sage, and orange mint could be transplanted.  Those are hardy enough to withstand temperatures lower than what we have had over night.  I found one slug in my compost bin, some aphids on my roses, and, amazingly enough, a couple of very small rose buds.

Will the real Mitt please stand up?  This is one reason why I watch less and less politics.  Sometimes I wonder if these guys are running for 'chameleon in chief' instead of 'commander in chief.'

Hi, Kay.  I didn't see the comments the Repthuglicans found offensive as criticism of Anne Romney's decision to be a stay-at-home mother.  I saw it as challenging her credentials as an expert on the economic problems of ordinary Americans.  She may have been a very effective mother but she is no expert on the conditions those in lower socio-economic levels experience.  As I said mothers have the hardest job this society doesn't pay for.  To think that Anne Romney has some expertise in economics simply because she has some far more considerable experience in raising children is ridiculous.  But we tend to do that in this country--attribute expertise in some area to people who have become famous in some other area.  Some years ago I saw a news show in which Katie Couric was interviewed and was asked what advice she had for women who had to juggle kids, husband, and career.  She bluntly told the interviewer she didn't have any.  She was well paid and married to a successful, well paid man and between them they were able to afford all the help she needed--nannies, maids, etc.

On the other hand, I find it very interesting that the Teapublicans (and the Repthuglicans) aren't up in arms over Joe Walsh who denigrates Tammy Duckworth's very real experience (in uniform and in government) by citing her gender.  Isn't it amazing that a good Repthugican wife and mother suddenly has expertise in economics that can't be challenged because she is a wife and mother but a woman candidate's real expertise can be mocked, belittled, dismissed simply because she is a woman.  As a woman, I am not sure which half of that sentence is more insulting.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Good morning to you all.  We saw frost on the roofs yesterday but none today.  The temperature is starting in the low 40 and will, hopefully, rise into the mid 60s before rain comes in over night.  I hope the predicted wind doesn't come up.  I started the dragon's tongue beans yesterday and some more pyrethrum.  And restarted, yet again, the peppers.  I don't know what has happened this year but my peppers have not done at all well.  And, although I have one of all of my tomatoes, except the Big Rainbow, they haven't down as well as usual.  I haven't been very happy with the potting mix.  It feels a bit coarse with wood chips and twigs.  I used the vermiculite for the peppers this time.  If these don't work I will have to get transplants.  Everything else is doing fairly well.

I didn't see much I wanted to comment on yesterday.  To be honest the major stories have disgusted me for the last several days.  Much ado about damned little.  One blogger (sorry I don't remember which) summed up a couple of the stories very nicely when he wondered why Tim Tebow has the right of free speech but Ozzie Guillen doesn't.  For those fortunate enough not to recognize who Ozzie Guillen is, he was the manager of the Cubs before he moved to the Florida Marlins and recently made some mildly favorable comments about Fidel Castro.  Of course a large segment of the Cuban population went bat shit over it and Guillen apologized.  Then there was the tempest in a tea pot caused by the Damnocratic (female) pundit who noted that Anne Romney's credentials as an economic expert are somewhat thin because she hasn't 'worked a day in her life.'  Of course, the Repthuglicans went bat shit and did their little bit of ideological jujitsu converting it from a comment on economics to a disparagement of the hard work of motherhood.  I don't doubt that Anne Romney worked hard as a mother--it is the hardest job we don't pay for in this society.  But what she did not have to deal with were the economic problems of working two jobs to provide for her children's basic needs because she was a single parent or because her husband was unemployed.  What she didn't have to deal with was the lack of time because she had to work outside the home and still do all the work of motherhood.  That was the point of the original comments.  I am so glad Anne Romney was able to make that 'career' choice but let's not give her credit for being an expert on the economic conditions of lesser mortals--because she isn't.  Nor is her husband.  But then we also have to ask why the Damnocratic pundit doesn't have her right of free speech while all those Repthuglican idiots who criticize Michelle Obama do.  And I haven't heard any Repthuglican taking umbrage with Joe Walsh's disparaging remarks about Tammy Duckworth's military service and service related injuries.  I just turned the news off in disgust as our political news has degenerated into 'Mommy Wars.'  Crap!!!!!!!!

I found this USA Today article which says that the highest percentage of the U.S. is either extremely dry or in some stage of drought in five years--even though recent rains in eastern Texas have relieved their situation to a degree.  Why would I follow such dreary news?  Last year the price for sweet corn doubled from the year before but I wasn't all that surprised--annoyed but not surprised.  Our area was very dry which cut the crop significantly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good morning to you all.  It is cold this morning with frost on the roofs and cars.  But looking out the closed patio door at the plants and they all appear to have come through the near freezing temperatures overnight without damage.  I will take a closer look after it warms up a bit.  If we don't have a high wind, as we did over the last two days, I will get some more of the heavy work of mixing and reconditioning the soils.  I had to go out to restock on cat food and litter yesterday so I stopped at the local Home Depot to see how much of their garden center is stocked.  They had Cherokee purple tomato plants and the orange mint I wanted so I picked got one of each along with a Roma.  The Cherokee will replace the Big Rainbow that didn't come up this year. The garden is coming along, Kay.  It is still early season yet so the only plants not inside or in the greenhouse are the very hardy ones.  As you said: we had May weather in March and are now getting early March weather in April.  I saw news stories that indicated the Michigan asparagus and apple crops may have been damaged by the cold snap.  (Update: I just went outside. Everything is fine.  What surprised me is that, while the outside temp has risen to 40F, the thermometer in the greenhouse is reading 60.)

I agree on the implants, Kay.  But that is just a small part of the story about products, high tech or not, that can bite us in surprising ways.  Electronically controlled implants that can be hacked yesterday; nail polish that contains several toxic ingredients today.  That last was featured on the news this morning.  You can make the best informed decision and still suffer badly from it.  And then there is the most toxic product of all: politics.  Don't you just love how Romney is trying to paint the problems women have had in the recession (which largely was the result of Repthuglican mismanagement--admittedly with pre-Obama Damnocrat collusion) as the 'real war on women?'  What really had me scratching my noggin was the reminiscence that two years ago the news media and economic pundits were talking about a 'man-cession' because so many high wage masculine jobs had been lost.

We had wondered what it meant that Santorum had 'suspended' his campaign.  The Political Wire explains: by suspending the campaign he gets to keep his delegates, his position with the party, and can raise funds beyond what he needs to retire any campaign debt.  A couple of the stories and headlines this morning indicated that if (when, we pray) Romney fails Santorum is the lead candidate for 2016.  I won't say what I think of that possibility.

As I have said before, I am an accomplished skeptic.  After watching supposed scientist twist the numbers to suit their or their bankrollers' political agendas, I don't even trust numbers much.  I found The Contrary Farmer's blog this morning and all I can say is 'Amen, Brother.'  Most of our urbanized citizens have forgotten how much we depend on the whims of nature.  Over the last couple of years many of us have been reminded in very brutal ways of that dependence.

Grist has an interesting post this morning concerning antibiotics in the food chain.  Most of us are aware about the controversy surrounding the use of subtheraputic doses in the industrial concentrated animal feeding operations.  The problems concern the increasing incidents of drug resistant microbes, the flow of the drug through the animals into the environment, and how much goes into the consumers who eat the meat, milk, or eggs.  However, this story indicates that the problem of what is deliberately added to the feed animals are given may be exacerbated by what may be in the feed if it includes the distillers grains (byproducts of ethanol production).  The distillers use antibiotics to make sure bacteria don't compete with the yeast and reduce the ethanol yield.  But the antibiotics remain and are passed onto farm animals that eat the waste mash.  And, though the results of the study Grist discusses are not definitive yet, they illustrate a fact of life in our modern world.  The problem with most of our industrial production now is not necessarily what the end manufacturer adds to his product but what his suppliers (or the suppliers' suppliers) have added.  The longer these production chains the less control anyone has over the final product.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  A bit frosty this morning but the wind kept the frost away.  Tonight, the weather people tell us, will be colder with a freeze warning.  I plan to do what I did last week--put five gallon vinegar jugs filled with hot water in the greenhouse.  So far everything out on the patio, in the greenhouse or outside, have done very well.  We visited our favorite farm market.  We get our eggs there and we checked out the greenhouses because they have the best selection of herbs.  They didn't have much out yet but I did get some sage and oregano.  I did plant some oregano but haven't had much success with it.  Quite a contrast to last year when the oregano grew like the weed it once was.  The basil hasn't done all that well either.

I decided to transplant my tomatoes into larger containers.  They were getting too lanky and tall for the ones I started them in.  They are all looking happy to be in new pots.  I noticed that the garnet rose lettuce has produced well and my lemon squash, dragon's egg cucumber, and vine peach all emerged.  I still have to start the corn, dragon's tongue beans, and marjoram.  I am rather glad we had this stretch of more normal (or slightly below normal) temperatures.  It reminds us that we still have a bit more than a month till our average last frost date.

We are lucky, Kay.  We have two year-round farm markets.  Our seasonal ones don't open till May and June.  We look forward to it every year.  I agree about the restaurants.  We don't go out to eat often either and we prefer local as well.  Your observation about jobs is exactly what we have noticed for some time.  About 8 years ago I worked for about 18 months as an inventory counter where I started at $9/hour.  A year after I left I saw an ad for the same job at the same company which started off at $8/hour.  We have had wage deflation while the inflation rate has been jiggered to show lower inflation that we ordinary Americans actually experience.  And you are absolutely right--there are fewer good jobs with benefits and a livable wage, and more dead end, low-wage jobs.  If one can find even those jobs.  I saw a blog yesterday where the blogger described the local free job guide for his area: 8 pages with 39 ads for schools drumming up business and some probable scams.  That is exactly what I saw the last time I went to the on-line job boards.  The unemployment numbers have supposedly gone down but I think they did only because a large number of the unemployed fell off the rolls or stopped looking.

Now this is a worrisome development.  But I guess something like this should be expected given how dependent we are on computers and wireless communication.  There are a lot of advantages to technology but the downsides can be a b----.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Good Monday morning to everyone out there.  In spite of the wind yesterday, which made the temperatures feel significantly colder than the mid 60s, I got a good look at all of the plants on the patio.  I am getting the best growth ever for lettuce and spinach in the little greenhouse.  The new stands of lettuce inside hare sprouting.  Got the lemon balm transplanted into bigger pots.  Would you believe they were already pot bound?  Everything else is doing very nicely.  I should start pinching the mums soon to make them bush out more.  The morning news yesterday had a segment from the Lurie Gardens in Chicago which was very nice.  They noted that the tulips and other bulbs are about five weeks ahead of where they should be.  My plants are also much farther along than normal.

Your comments, Kay, reflect some that we have made fairly often over the last few years.  We also recall when eating out, especially eating at Pizza Hut or McDonalds, was an occasional treat not a daily routine.  But no one thought anything about it either.  Now taking the kids has become the nutritional sin akin to denying the trinity in Christianity.  And, unfortunately, we have all too many Nosy Parkers all too willing to intrude.

News story after news story for a good while  now have been telling us that the 'real' problem with the long term unemployed is a mis-match between workers and the skills the employers need.  Business spokesmen and political idiots have hammered this message home.  Given that does this story make sense?  And for anyone over 40, going into debt for job training is a losing proposition.  It is a crap shoot whether the jobs they train for will be there when they finish and they will probably never recoup the costs if they have to pay the full cost themselves.  This is yet another example of how out of touch the politicians, especially the Repthuglicans, are.  We are seeing the true impact of the so-called 'ownership society' the Shrub pushed: we are all on our own as the heartless bastards funnel government funds to their friends while cutting funds for the less well off.

I was surprised by this story--not the notion that American farmers are getting older as a group.  After all, the fastest growing segments of the population, generally, are the over 60s.  But the extent of the 'graying' of the farmers and ranchers was a surprise.  However, it will take more than pep talks from a Deputy Agriculture secretary to change this trend.  After all, the cost of an ag degree coupled with the cost of land, equipment, seed or livestock (or both), equipment, fertilizer, pesticides, fuel represent a massive investment which is not readily available to most.  That level of investment makes it very hard to make a profit in an economy when even established farmers are finding it hard to stay in business.  The most promising trend I have read about lately involves young people going into farming but doing so with more limited technology, and using organic and more sustainable methods.

While we did our grocery shopping this morning, we stopped by the fish displays.  We are trying to add a bit of fish to our diet which for some time has been pretty well limited to canned tuna and salmon.  Since we are limiting the salt in our diet and Mom has taken thyroid medication for years, we figured that fish would be a good way to make sure we got a sufficient supply of iodine.  This morning we saw 'basa' fish displayed but because we had never heard of that variety we didn't buy.  I am rather glad.  I found this article researching the topic this morning.  We will stick with American catfish and leave basa (and the related swai) alone.

I have been reading about the problem of Round-up resistant 'super-weeds' for a while now.  Dow is scrambling to introduce new varieties of genetically engineered crops that are resistant to Round-up and other herbicides so that the spraying can continue unabated.  This article describes exactly why that is the wrong strategy.  And I think the author is exactly right when he attributes the whole process to the desire of big agribusiness for uniformity.  They want uniform procedures that will produce a uniform product and more of that product.  They selected for varieties that have a uniform size, shape, and that matures all at the same time so that it can all be harvested at once and processed immediately into a final uniform merchandisable product.  The final result: vegetables and fruits that look good, travel well, and ripen all at the same time but are tasteless and have significantly lower levels of nutrients than older varieties.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good morning to you all.  We have frost on the roofs of the houses and on the cars.  But all my outside plants appear to have come through the cold night.  Most of the temps across the region stayed above, often just above, freezing.  Our own thermometer registered about 33F.  I will check more closely after it gets a bit warmer.  I am glad I restrained my gardening enthusiasm during our string of 70s and 80s.  The temperatures are more normal now.

I am sure everyone remembers poor Anne Romney's comment that she didn't 'feel rich.'  Well, this article provides a contrast that shows exactly how out of touch the Repthuglican leadership is.

At last!! A little bit of sanity in the food wars.  I don't necessarily like McDonalds (or any other fast food chain) and haven't eaten at one for over five years.  But I also absolutely despise the 'food police.'  They are quite free to patronize or not--their choice.  They don't have the right to make that choice for others.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good Thursday morning, Everyone.  It looks like we will start out sunny today but the temps won't go out of the 50sF.  I got some seeds started yesterday including the yard long beens, vine peach, winter squash.  It was too cool to do much else.  I have had a problem with my peppers this year.  They simply haven't thrived and I am not sure why.  The tomatoes on the other hand (except for the big rainbow) have done so well I have to transplant them into another container.  Can't put them outside just yet.  The weather people predict frost for overnight tonight.  I'm not too worried.  The plants outside are either very hardy or are in the mini-greenhouse.  All I will do is take the plants off the fence and put them on the large containers for the night.  And I will fill several of the empty vinegar containers with hot water and put them in the greenhouse.  That should provide enough warmth for that space.

Welcome, Accidental Housewife.  I, also, hope 'pink slime' doesn't get a foothold in Australia.  However, the way our modern food production industry works they will make and sell anything they can convince consumers to buy.  And they assert their right to not tell customers what is in the mess.

As I read this article this morning an interesting thought came to me.  If you were on the board of an international bank searching for a new president which of the following candidates would you choose: a finance minister who was also a former international bank director, a person with experience in international development and the U.N., or an expert on public health and college president?  Now guess which one is the candidate the U.S. has proposed to lead the World Bank.  If you said the college president you are absolutely right.

I hope we aren't headed for this, or this.  Unfortunately, all too many Repthuglican and Teapublican politicians would probably consider these 'collateral damage'--after they finished blaming the victims, of course.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  Our thermal roller coaster is in full operation.  Had low 80s here yesterday and today we won't get out of the 50s.  Couldn't take full advantage of the good weather because Mom had an appointment with one of her doctors and we had to fill a new prescription so that took a chunk of time out of the day.  And the temperature didn't stay high long.  It dropped 20 degrees between 2pm and 4.  I did get another tray of spinach started along with some of the garnet rose lettuce and lemon squash.  Later I will throw on my sweater and get some more done.

I noticed something a bit strange between the news last night an this morning.  The CBS national news noted that the producer of 'pink slime' had petitioned the USDA to allow venders to label the products containing their product.  They mentioned several wordings that a consumer could look for to clue them into the presence of 'finely textured lean beef.'  But I haven't seen any mention of the move this morning.  I have to amend that.  I have found one summarizing article on MSNBC but I had to search for it.  It hasn't been given the same coverage as the original controversy.  We'll have to see how extensive such labeling will be and how long producers will continue to label the product.  After all labeling is voluntary.

Hello, Kay.  Glad you are getting around on the internet at least.  I agree that independence cannot be over-rated.  I am glad you have people who can and will help out.  Take things a bit easy for a while and recover.  I am enjoying the spring even though it has settled into what I have called the pneumonia roller coaster.  I also agree on the food contamination issue.  I have a couple of Google alerts geared toward the news of food recalls and we pay attention to that news.  Some years ago, when we had several recalls of the mixed, ready-to-serve salad greens contaminated with e. coli and salmonella, we simply stopped buying the product.  We have gradually eliminated most of the canned goods because of the salt load and the BPA.  We buy fresh and process it ourselves.  And so it goes.  The only way to protect ourselves it to be aware of the risk, weigh it carefully, and take our own steps to mitigate it.  As I wrote before--the agencies of government that are supposed to protect the health and welfare of the public are more concerned with protecting corporate profits.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good morning, Everyone.  We are supposed to have warm and sunny weather today.  I have a bunch of seeds to start or,  in the case of the lipstick pepper, restart.  The pepper seedlings aren't looking all that healthy.

Nancy Huehnergarth posted this opinion on Huffington Post this morning that pretty accurately assesses the problem with 'lean finely textured beef' (a.k.a. pink slime).  We have resented for some time paying meat prices for fillers--of any kind.  That is one reason why we bought a meat grinder and ground our own.  Then we knew that the product was ground round or ground chuck and not some generic 'beef' of unspecified origin.  And we knew the product came from one or two identifiable pieces of meat not from a hundred different cows of unidentified origin.  We did that before we first heard about 'pink slime.'  Though we now patronize a local butcher shop whose product is antibiotic and hormone free, and the ground beef is labeled as to the cut from which it was made.  We haven't got rid of our grinder because, if necessary, we can always grind our own again.  With the 'pink slime' episode we have developed another resentment--against a food industry who thinks that they should be allowed to put any kind of junk in the food and not have to tell the customers.  As Huehnergarth wrote there is not free market without free access to information--when the industry can, with impunity, withhold information from the customer.  And, as she also wrote, we should turn our attention to the FDA (and other agencies) which now assumes its job is to protect the profits of industry over the health and wellbeing of citizens.  And we should apply Reagan's old Cold War dictum broadly and consistently: trust, but verify.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Good morning to you all.  I did start a blog yesterday but didn't get very far.  Just didn't see anything I wanted to comment on or link to.  Welcome to April.  The weather people said that if the March temps had occurred in April we would have had one of the warmest Aprils on record.  As it happens,  it was the warmest March--ever.  I finally cut the milk jugs and juice cartons for plant starting containers and checked out my outside plants.  The only one that worries me is the rosemary.  I moved it to a place in the mini-greenhouse and will see how it does.  I also noticed the lemon balm is already close to being pot bound so I plan to transplant them again.  I didn't expect that.  I have to watch the mints and the lavender --they both are doing very well.  I think I saw flower buds on the blueberries.  I don't expect much fruit this year.  I transplanted them last fall and, though they have grown well, they are only half their expected full size.  I think it is about time to plant the rest of my seeds.  And get the rest of my containers refilled with remixed soil.

We just came back from our weekly grocery and other shopping run.  We had to get some light machine oil so Mom could oil her sewing machine so we stopped by our local Ace Hardware.  They just finished putting up their garden quonset hut/greenhouse but it isn't stocked yet.  But the seeds are on full display.  I was rather restrained and only picked up a packet of beautiful red lettuce and marjoram.  Then I broke down and got a hot water bath canner.  I plan to put it to good use over the summer.  We were somewhat bemused by one sign this morning at the gas station: the least expensive pack of cigarettes costs the same price as gallon of gas.  It is sad to not that gas has caught up to cigarettes.  I wonder when it will catch up to steak.

Triplehelix has a post this morning which makes a point we have thought about frequently over the last couple of years: the consolidation in the food industry makes a serious (as in widespread and lethal) contamination event very likely.  When the beef industry, the example the author gives early in the article, is dominated by 22 slaughterhouses (79%) and 4 producers a single contamination issue can reach coast to coast and involve a huge amount of product.