Tag Archives: sustainable living

30 Days On The Homestead

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30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.comToday marks the end of our first month in our new (old) place. We have been loving every minute of it!

Well… maybe not every minute.

Between the toddler, the dog, the rabbit and six chickens it seems I spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning up poop. Not my favorite thing, but it’s amazing what you can get used to!

Also, I have determined that our basement is the creepiest place on earth.  I saw it when we looked at the house – the constantly dank floor, dark creepy tunnels to access the plumbing, the hidden, shadowy corners behind the gigantic furnace, all locked away behind a 900 pound creaky wood-plank door – and I swore I would only go down there if I could SEE the funnel cloud and make a realistic determination that it was moving toward me. But then the internet guy came and needed me to go down and show him where to bring the cable lines in. I considered just forgoing internet but I’m pretty sure that would be worse than being sucked up into a tornado. Then Crazy Hippie Drummer decided he has a dream of being a tech reviewer and he wanted to start a blog along those lines. Just as he was getting started a circuit blew and the only way he would be able to continue is if I went down there AGAIN and flipped the switch back over. I swear, getting to the fuse box was like a scene out of Arachniphobia! That boy will never know the level of love I have for him to have braved it out on his behalf!

Aside from that, life is good. Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to:

Lots of time in the garden!

30 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Just starting out…

After a month of sunshine and rain!

After a month of sunshine and rain!

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We’ve loved watching the grapevine flourish. I can’t wait to taste all the fresh grape juice!

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We built a coop and run for the chickens.

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We’ve been amazed by how entertaining they are, but the funniest thing is that Harry Bunny seems to have come to believe that he, too, is a chicken.  (I keep checking for Cadbury Eggs… just in case.)

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We’ve added all manner of fun things to our yard!

The fairy garden

The fairy garden.

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

A home for the toads.

And another. I'd MUCH rather have toads than mosquitoes!

And another. I’d MUCH rather have toads than mosquitoes!

I love this candle holder made from part of an old crib!

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

Another part of the crib went to make this “skateboard” swing.

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We cut down a bunch of over-grown half-dead shrubs… now to do something with that space! (*Note – by “we” I mean Handsome Hippie Hubby and our neighbor worked really hard while I took pictures.)

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We started a butterfly garden for all those little pollinators to have a safe haven. This may be the world’s easiest project since the most important part is to STOP mowing and cultivating and let the grass and wildflowers grow. Of course, being me, I had to add a few little knick knacks. I think hanging a couple of colorful planters on the pallet/fence would be perfect. I’m keeping an eye out for just the right ones.30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We explored the swampy area next to the riverbed across the street and found some fabulously huge tadpoles.

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We had great fun celebrating with friends!

30 Days on the Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com

We’ve still got a lot of work to do. At some point we should probably finish unpacking.

30 Days On The Homestead | LazyHippieMama.com Of course… we’ll have a whole long winter to finish the indoor projects. Maybe I’ll get to those boxes then.  I think I’ll spend today with my bare toes in the warm grass!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

Why not follow Lazy Hippie Mama  by emailFacebookGoogle+Twitter or Instagram to get all the updates?  

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

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The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them

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The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them | LazyHippieMama.comMy family avoids eating GMOs.  I can’t say we NEVER eat them. We had GMO corn taco shells this week and cookies from a local bakery that almost certainly uses conventional ingredients. A recent trip to a nearby burger joint was what our family refers to as a “crap fest.” It was delicious! Healthy? Well… uh… it was delicious. As a rule, though, we go for food that is as close to all-natural as we can get it, even though that means our grocery budget is higher than average and we have to make cuts in other areas to pay for our food.

I’ve been working on this post for quite a while now, trying to put together the reasons we make the choice to eat a GMO-free (more or less) diet.  This morning, Wanda from Minnesota Farm Living posted this link on her Facebook page and it was just the motivation I needed to tie all this together and post it.

Wanda and I are on opposite sides of the GMO debate but I have immense respect for her. She runs a farm that is clean and humane. She goes out of her way to know the latest research on how to keep her animals healthy and, therefore, provide healthy meat to the public. Also, she has been endlessly patient with me as, for nearly a year now, I have been occasionally pestering her with questions about why so many farmers make the choices they do when it comes to bio-tech if it’s “SO OBVIOUS” to Joe Public that bio-tech is evil.  She helps me see that my viewpoint isn’t always the only one and that, as a consumer but not a producer, I don’t always understand the bigger picture.

The article she posted today, entitled, “How Scare Tactics on GMO Foods Hurt Everybody,” was an interesting read and I agree with a lot of what they said.  The author, Prof. Pamela Ronald, was speaking specifically in reaction to a new bill that has been passed in Vermont, requiring the labeling of GMO foods.

Let’s start with the common ground.

Prof. Ronald says, “…farmers’ use of GMO crops has reduced by a factor of 10 the amount of insecticides sprayed on corn over the last 15 years… decreased carbon dioxide emissions…”

I live in a rural area and I have asked dozens of farmers why they buy GMO seed. Universally they say it reduces the amount of pesticide they have to use and the amount of gas they would use applying it to their field. Additionally, fossil fuels are burned in tilling fields and GMO crops require less (sometimes no) tilling.  I would add that several of them go a step further and say that using GMO seed has decreased their topsoil erosion as well. So, in these ways, GMO crops are a big benefit to the environment.

She also states this:

“The bill is a contradictory hodgepodge of requirements and exemptions. It doesn’t require labeling for cheese made with genetically engineered enzymes, or red grapefruit developed through radiation mutagenesis. It doesn’t require labeling for animals that have been fed GMO crops, or for crops sprayed with carcinogenic compounds. The law doesn’t require crops sprayed with the organic pesticide Bt to be labeled, but crops genetically engineered to produce Bt must be labeled, and so must certain types of hybrids (including triticale, which can be found in most natural-food stores).”

To which I reply, with a sigh, “Yup. That’s government for you.”

The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them | LazyHippieMama.comNo doubt some law maker was trying to please the organic foodies (who are often backed with surprising amounts of money and clout) and the National Board Of Name Your Favorite Food (who, no doubt gave them money and clout) at the same time and they ended up with some kind of weird compromise that singles out a handful of items while creating special tax breaks for others. Sadly, I’ve come to realize that’s just how government works these days in far too many cases.

There is this statement: “So the law… won’t give consumers access to food that’s… less “corporate.”

True. Organics and natural food is some seriously big business in America these days. Pretty much every major food manufacturer has a branch or “child company” that sells organic products. In fact, the cost of organic certification is so prohibitive that there are very few small farms that can afford it.  If you want to avoid doing business with Corporate America you need to grow your own food or buy from a neighbor who does.

She concludes with this:

“So let’s label food, but let’s do it right. Instead of adding a general label about the process with which a plant variety was developed, let’s use labels that provide details about how the crop was grown and what is actually in the food. Let’s apply these labels to all foods, so consumers can make comparisons and draw their own conclusions about the risks and benefits of each seed or farming practice. Let’s create a national sustainable agriculture standard that is science-based and that has as its goal the health and well-being of consumers, farm workers, and the environment.”

Yes, yes and yes! I couldn’t possibly agree more! What a lovely idea! Let’s do it!

The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them | LazyHippieMama.com

In the meantime…

Did you notice that the quotes, above, have a lot of pieces taken out? Those are the parts that are, for me, not common ground.

Right off the bat she says that there is not “a single credible report” that raises issues about the health consequences of GMOs.

If you click over to the first post I ever wrote on this topic you will find links to several reports from all over the world that raise concerns over everything from decreasing fertility rates to Leaky Gut Syndrome.  Some of them come from more credible sources than others but it is important to remember in any hot topic debate that one side can almost always find some reason to discredit the other.

For instance, I could try to discredit Prof. Ronald by mentioning that she makes her living by producing and promoting GMO products so it is in her personal best interest to put the best possible face on bio-tech. Is she knowledgeable? No doubt she knows so much more than I do about all of this it’s laughable. Is she unbiased? Not a chance. Does that mean she lacks credibility? I guess that’s up to you to decide.

She points out that these products have been widely consumed for 30 years now with no ill effects.

She could be right. Presumably, if you’re reading this, you’re still alive and well enough to read. I wonder though… We are told there is an obesity epidemic. Severe food allergies are more common than ever. Children have higher rates of respiratory illness than ever before. Adults are suffering from chronic pain and illness at younger ages and more severely than previous generations. Mental illness is on the rise. Autism is on the rise. We are not a society that has been experiencing improved health in the past generation.

Is that because of GMOs?

I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

It certainly seems prudent, though, to consider that ONE of the MAJOR changes in the world in the last generation has been the introduction of genetically modified food.

She hails GMOs for reducing food costs and insists that labeling will increase them.

Uhm… has she been grocery shopping lately?! In what world is food getting cheaper?!

She argues that GMOs enhance biological diversity.

I would argue that buying ONE type of seed from ONE company does the exact opposite. Further, there are side-effects of Round-up Ready Seed. One example that comes to mind is the reduction of milkweed growing in soy bean fields. Great news for soy bean farmers. Bad news for the pollinators who live primarily off of milkweed. If the pollinators die off a massive portion of the food on this planet goes with them. That is not a good thing for biological diversity!

The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them | LazyHippieMama.comMy favorite argument from the pro-GMO side is one that is made in every conversation I have ever had on this topic.  “Everything we eat has been genetically modified in some manner.”

That’s true. If you looked at food from 1,000 years ago it would barely be recognizable to you. We have domesticated and cross-bred and hybridized everything. We’ve been doing it for as long as we, as a species, have been intentionally growing our own food.

Here’s the difference, IMHO.  Keep in mind, I am not a scientist. I never claimed to be. If you come back at me with a line about aminopeptides or some such thing I won’t understand a word you are saying. I’m just drawing on a decent under-graduate education and a LOT of reading on this topic.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have a black cow who is an awesome milk producer and a white steer who is totally tolerant to the coldest conceivable temperatures. You might decide to play Cupid in the pasture and see if you can’t come up with a spotted baby cow who grows up to be one extremely hardy milk-making beast.  Congratulations! You just manipulated the gene pool.

Now, let’s say your black cow almost drowns one day because she fell into the river that runs through your pasture. You decide to take one of her ovum, extract the DNA, splice it with the DNA of a fish and create a cow-fish that is a great milk producer and has the ability to breath through gills.

The Evidence May Show That GMOs Are Safe But I Still Avoid Them | LazyHippieMama.com

That’s the difference (in ridiculous, over-simplified terms) between the genetic manipulation that has been going on for centuries and Genetically Modified Organisms.

Is the milk from the cow-fish healthy? Maybe.

Do scientists in the year 2014 have a strong enough handle on the workings of DNA and the effects of food on overall health to guarantee that cow-fish make healthy milk?  Hmmm… well, have they definitively answered what role DNA plays in cancer? Mental illness? Diabetes? Can they “fix” autism or down syndrome? Can they even, with 100% accuracy that never fails, trace the genetic lineage of humans?  They’re getting there. The amount of knowledge and the understanding of practical application increases every day, but the science of genetics is not perfectly well developed yet.

Add to that the track record of foods that were once deemed not only acceptable but hailed as better than anything from nature – they range from cocaine to saccharine to trans-fats. “All doctors agree this is safe,” they said.  “There is no evidence that it’s harmful,” they said. But now we know better.

Pile on a healthy dose of Big Biotech being in bed with the lawmakers, the pharmaceutical companies and everyone else who stands to make a dollar.

Toss in a dash of truly bizarre controversy surrounding scientists formerly hailed as THE experts in the field (thinking of Dr. Don Huber, specifically).

And, just for good measure, throw in a pinch of, “The hippie in me just can’t trust a company like Monsanto,” (I never claimed to not have a few biases of my own!),

and now you have the reason why I still avoid GMOs, even though the evidence may show that they are safe.

*** I didn’t provide many links to research or further reading in this post because much of what I was drawing on came from what I’ve learned in the past, when doing research for the post, “What I Learned About GMOs From 9 Farmers, A Monsanto Employee and A Whole Bunch of Reading.”  If you want more information I strongly encourage you to head over there and click through to the various links on both sides of the debate. This is not a cut-and-dry issue and there is a great deal to be considered when making the right choices for yourself and your family!***

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

Why not follow Lazy Hippie Mama  by emailFacebookGoogle+Twitter or Instagram to get all the updates? 

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

Why Are We So Excited About The Zombies?

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Why Are We So Excited About The Zombies? | LazyHippieMama.comLast night I saw a tweet in which the author admitted that she was actually a little excited about the prospect of a “zombie apocalypse.”  It reminded me of something our oldest boy said, about a year ago. After watching Back To The Future he commented, “it seems a little sad that people in the 80’s looked forward to a future of flying cars and clean-burning garbage-fusion and now, when we look to the future, we just see the end of the world.”

Why Are We So Excited About The Zombies? | LazyHippieMama.com

I had to wonder why our perspective has changed so much in the past generation.

There are bad things these days – school shootings and tough economic times and so forth. But every generation faces their challenges. When I was little we feared invasion from the Russian army. My children’s generation is more frightened of the idea of a “mass shooter.”  My grandparents, a young married couple in the pre-WWII era, would look at our “tough economic times” and call us whiners. I think the folks who worshiped in fear of being tossed to the lions and those who tossed their dead on plague wagons probably felt pretty strongly that times were tough in their day, too.

There are good things these days. There has never been more information in the hands of more people. It’s easier than ever to keep in touch with one another. We have sound treatments for diseases that were considered a death sentence just a generation ago. Much of the world’s population has access to running water and deodorant. I’m a big fan of living in the age of reduced B.O.!

I have to think that what has changed is our perception of where the current “norms” are leading us. 30 years ago we looked at the explosion of new technology being developed and marketed and we saw endless possibilities. Clean energy! Abundant food! Extraordinary advances in healthcare!

Today we see that, for various reasons – be they scientific, political or monetary – much of what we hoped for is not coming to pass and we can’t imagine that it will.  Big oil and coal have largely suppressed the development of truly marketable clean energy. There is plenty of food but we can’t seem to get it into the hands of the hungry. Advances in the science of growing even more food have been met with massive controversy over health effects and environmental safety. People are experiencing unexplained chronic illness at a rate unheard of by previous generations while drug companies are focusing more resources on drugs to enhance our sex lives than finding a cure for cancer.

I think that such things sap our hope for a bright, shiny tomorrow where cool kids wear their pants inside out and ride to school on hover boards.

image source: bananascoop.com

image source: bananascoop.com

The glimpses of hope we see are often in things like an increase in the number of community gardens – spaces where people learn to provide for themselves and care for their neighbors. We see families coming together to find real solutions to local issues of poverty, crime, and lack of access to quality education.  There are those advocating for a more holistic approach to wellness, fighting for equal rights for all persons and celebrating the creativity of the human spirit.

Now, consider a TV show like, “Revolution.”  Before the lights went out people were living as we do today.  Afterward they live in small communities where they grow their own food, care for their neighbors, fight crime and injustice together and so on…

Why Are We So Excited About The Zombies? | LazyHippieMama.com

Of course… there’s the whole issue of murdering, raping, thieving bands of militant maniacs roaming the countryside and blowing up entire chunks of the nation but… well… we’ll just set that aside for today.

image from disaster.nicolasherold.com

image from disaster.nicolasherold.com

I wonder if, on some level, we are coming to long for an “apocalyptic” scenario because we see ourselves as hopelessly mired in a massive, badly broken system and the only way we can imagine getting out is by the total collapse of society.  Once the slate is “wiped clean” we would be free to start fresh.  Kind of like declaring bankruptcy for the entire human race. There would be serious consequences to deal with but maybe we’re coming to think those consequences would be preferable to what we’ll face without some kind of massive change.

All of this is just one Hippie Mama, pondering things that are really too large in scope for my puny brain to wrap itself around in any real, comprehensive way, but it makes me curious to know your thoughts:

What do you think?

Do people actually look forward to a coming “apocalypse?”

Can real change happen without major catastrophe?

Is the path our society is on sustainable for the long-term?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

Why not follow Lazy Hippie Mama  by emailFacebookGoogle+Twitter or Instagram to get all the updates? 

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

 

Re-purposing An Old Crib

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Just for the record - we haven't made him sleep in this one for quite some time, he just decided to spend a little time remembering the good old days.

Just for the record – we haven’t made him sleep in this one for quite some time, he just decided to spend a little time remembering the good old days.

Toddler-saurus Rex outgrew his crib several months ago. We knew that it was time to move him into a big-boy bed but we already had the crib. He liked it! And for some reason this boy… the boy who will jump from the top of the staircase, launch himself into the deep end of a swimming pool and climb a ladder like a spider monkey stayed in the crib. He would wait, patiently calling for Hubby or me to come get him, every morning.  We would come into his room and tell him he could get up, at which point he would easily climb out of bed by himself and follow us downstairs.

I don’t get it, but I wasn’t about to complain!

Why would I end this arrangement?!

But, alas, then we moved into the new house.  The crib was used when we got it and, though I never checked, it’s probably been recalled because every crib in the US that’s more than 10 minutes old has been recalled for one reason or another. It was getting a little rickety. It really wasn’t safe for him anymore and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable giving it to someone else for a younger baby to sleep in.

Maybe he can sleep in the dog bed? He seems pretty content in there!

But it was still so pretty! And I couldn’t see just tossing all that loveliness in the landfill.

What’s a Hippie to do?

Repurpose it, of course!  I had Handsome Hippie Hubby tear it apart to its pieces and drag them all to the new house which he did with no complaining – even though at least one full load of what we moved was “pieces of stuff I’m sure I can use someday.” He’s a great husband!

Yesterday was the day… I figured it out!

We had a spot in the yard where an old tree stump had been ground out and the hole filled in with dirt from the field next door.  The grass hadn’t yet grown over it so it was just calling for some kind of creative treatment.  As I stood there, staring at the bare earth, trying to figure out what I wanted to do it came to me.  The rectangle of earth was just a little larger than a baby crib.  EUREKA!

I dug out the corners and buried the legs enough to give it some stability, tied the corners together with a length of wire and planted peas all around the edges. As they grow they can climb the sides creating a little “hidden fort.”

I painted an old piece of plywood I swiped out of a friend’s burn pile (Yes. I admit it. I save other people’s garbage, too.) as a tic-tac-toe board with painted rocks as the markers. A few colorful touches added some fun and it’s ready to go!

The finished product! Now to wait for the peas to grow...

The finished product! Now to wait for the peas to grow…

I am having so much fun at the new house – with all this space to build things like this.  What whimsical creations have gone in your yard this summer?  Tell about them or share your links in the comments.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow Lazy Hippie Mama  by emailFacebookGoogle+Twitter or Instagram to get all the updates?

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

Should All People Have The “Right To Farm?”

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Should All People Have The "Right To Farm?" | LazyHippieMama.comShould all of the residents of Michigan have the “right to farm?” That is the hot question around town this week as it became known that the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development made significant changes to the state’s “Right To Farm” legislation.

Here’s how it breaks down (skipping many details and hitting the highlights):

30(ish) years ago people began leaving the cities for a quieter rural life. After making the move they realized that, with the quiet of country living comes dust and mud, smells and noises from the neighboring farms. The newcomers would then file lawsuits against the long-standing farms to try to force them to be perfectly clean and silent which just wasn’t possible.

The “Right To Farm” laws were born.  They said that people had a basic right to raise livestock animals and grow food as long as they were meeting the state standards for safety and cleanliness.

Over the following three decades the urban/suburban farming trend hit big. People in downtown Detroit (and downtown everywhere else) started saying they wanted to grow a garden and raise a few small farm animals.

Some municipalities were all for it. Others banned every aspect of “backyard farming.”

At some point someone read the “Right to Farm” bill and realized that the wording left a loophole. It didn’t specifically say anything about rural settings or zoning regulations. They spread the word and people began taking their cases to court, forcing their cities to allow them to raise farm animals on a residential lot.

The MDARD, with significant backing and support from Michigan Farm Bureau, decided it was time to put an end to the loophole.  The closed it as follows:

Local governments may now choose to ban goats, chickens, beehives and other farm animals on any property exclusively zoned (by their local municipality) as residential or where there are 13 homes within one eighth mile or a residence within 250 feet of the property, or with any home within 250 feet of the proposed facility.

The new guidelines also relaxed oversight of CAFOs (very large farming operations), but that’s a can of worms for another day.

Social media exploded with headlines that said things like, “Michigan Residents Have Lost Their Right To Farm.”

That isn’t really the case.

The state did not take away the right to own farm animals. Rather, they put it in the hands of local government.

Here’s the problem that many are having with that:  Local government can be flakey.  They can change zoning. They can, much more easily than state government, create new laws, rulings and restrictions. Further, the cities are sprawling into the suburbs which means that there are a good many parcels of land that have been farmed for 100+ years that are now surrounded on all sides by shiny new suburban tract housing. Those long-standing farms now have no legal protection from their neighbors deciding they don’t want to smell cow poop or listen to roosters crow in the morning.

My, how times have changed!

My, how times have changed!

If you’ve visited this site before you know that I’m biased. I think every family should have a hand in growing their own food, even if that just means a Topsy-Turvey strawberry planter hanging in a window.  My village does not allow farm animals (though they should!). I was aware of the “Right To Farm” loophole but chose not to push the point because in a town this small being the one who forces the hand of your neighbors rarely yields happy results.  Rather, we decided to buy a house outside the village limits.  Our new house sits on about 2 acres and it has been part of a family farm for 140 years.  It is the FIRST house outside of the village limit.  In fact, we are on a sort of peninsula, surrounded on three sides by village land. We do have neighbors within 250 feet and there are 13 homes in a 1/8 mile radius. As things currently stand it is perfectly legal for my family to farm our little homestead. We fully intend to do just that, but we now have zero protection from the state if our township decides to change something.

Here’s what I can’t help but wonder, silly Hippie that I am:  Why does anyone need to fight for the “Right to Farm?”  Why is it perfectly acceptable to have a dog but not a pygmy goat? Why is it OK to have a parrot but not a chicken?  Who decided that cats are alright but rabbits are not?

You say farm animals are noisy? I say dogs are noisy, too.

You say farm animals are stinky? I say cats are stinky, too.

Every town, big or small, I have ever lived in has ordinances in place that state residents must respect their neighbors by keeping noise to a reasonable level, keeping their yard tidy, safe and free from foul odors, and by keeping their pets contained so they don’t harm any person or property.  There are guidelines about pollution, waste management, composting and every other aspect of life.  When many people live in close proximity there needs to be a system of guidelines in place for what is acceptable or you end up with an Old West type of situation.

Why should people be forbidden to have a garden or raise animals of any kind (so long as it is safe for all of the people and animals involved)?

In a country where formerly prosperous business people are now holding down two and three full time minimum wage jobs just trying to survive wouldn’t it make good sense to encourage folks to raise their own food as much as possible?

In a nation where we are being told one of our primary concerns should be the fact that our children are severely overweight and under-nourished, wouldn’t we want to promote allowing those children a hand in raising healthy food for themselves?

I see the point of those who say that “Right To Farm” was never intended to protect urban farmers.

On the other hand, laws evolve as society moves forward and this law did come to be a protection that many valued and counted on. Now those individuals have been “hung out to dry” by their own government while the same board of decision makers has offered more special allowances for huge corporations.

Michigan Farm Bureau has stated, “We support the development of a separate set of management practices unique to new and expanding urban agriculture, which also include provisions for local zoning requirements, livestock, care standards, crops and cropping standards, and environmental protection standards.”

I hope those new management practices are fair and quick in coming because I can’t imagine anything good coming from the weird limbo that has been created by the recent changes.

I would so love to hear your input on all of this!  Tell me – what do you think? About all of this… the old laws, the new laws, the changes, the rights of individuals vs. the good of the community.

Should All People Have The "Right To Farm?" | LazyHippieMama.com

For more information from both sides of the debate:

MFB (Michigan Farm Bureau) Statement Regarding Changes To Right To Farm GAAMPs

Michigan Loses ‘Right to Farm’ This Week: A Farewell to Backyard Chickens and Beekeepers

Michigan Did Not Lose The “Right To Farm” This Week

Changes in Rules for Michigan Farm Animals Creates Confusion For Some Farmers, Satisfaction For Others

Michigan Agricultural Commissioners Define How Close Is Too Close For Livestock Facilities

Removing Michigan Right To Farm Protection From Suburban, Hobby Farms ‘Closes A Loophole,’ Agriculture Official Says

No More Farm Animals In Residential Neighborhoods, Michigan Agriculture Committee Advises

If you would like to take action against the recent legislation:

Michigan Small Farm Council

MoveOn.org petition to revoke changes

What’s At Stake and What Can You Do?

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow Lazy Hippie Mama  by emailFacebookGoogle+Twitter or Instagram to get all the updates?

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve! 

 

 

Building with Old Pallets (AKA: A Hippie Mama With Power Tools)

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I have never owned a power tool of any sort.  Not ever… not growing up (I’m sure my father must have owned some but I lived with my mom and 2 older sisters.  We were rock stars with a hammer and duct tape but that’s pretty much where our skills ended) or in the young and single post-college days or… ever.

A few weeks ago I went to the ReStore in search of something fabulous to upcycle into shelves for Sweet Hippie Daughter’s hoarder’s warehouse of junk room full of cherished belongings.

First, I must say that if you’ve never been to The ReStore you really must go at least once.  It’s this amazing trove of anything that has ever been/could ever be used to build/decorate/furnish a home.  It’s kind of like the Hope Depot version of the Salvation Army Thrift Store and the proceeds go toward helping Habitat for Humanity so you get to feel good about coming home with that super-cute screen door vintage 1962 that you just KNOW you are going to find the perfect place for.

Anyway, the shelves were a bust.  Nothing was calling my name…. until….

I heard it from across the room.

“Elizabeth!  I’m over here!”  I wandered toward the televisions.  I didn’t need a TV.  We already have 2 extras stashed in the attic.  “No! Behind the TVs. Don’t leave me here! I want to go home with you!”

And there it was!

A tad rusty (no worries.  I’m up to date on my tetanus shots.) and blanketed under a layer of dust.  It was beautiful!

With this I could build an entire shelter for my family!  Well... you know... if someone else cut all the wood up for me first.

With this I could build an entire shelter for my family! Well… you know… if someone else cut all the wood up for me first and I didn’t have to work too far away from the electrical outlet.

I convinced Handsome Hippie Hubby that he really wanted to spend $5 on this Craftsman beauty and we brought it home.

Then, because God knew that I was now equipped to be a true craftsman (Hey! It says so right there on the side of my new drill!) He gave me a veritable treasure trove of wood pallets.

Do you know how many things you can build with wood pallets?

Me either.  But you can make a whole play structure!  And this person built a garden gate! And here are instructions for making a potting bench!  And here is a super cute porch swing!  This website gives FIFTY other projects you can make with old pallets!

For now, what I really needed was a compost bin.

We composted with such incredible efficiency that our box itself became compost and rotted down to nothing.  So, not having a proper bin, we have been chucking all of our kitchen scraps and yard clippings into a hidden corner of the yard.  That’s  all well and good but… you know… it’s garbage.  And it’s rotting.  And the squirrels occasionally spread pieces of it around.  And… it’s garbage.

So I drove the Hippie Van to my friend’s house and loaded up with 5 lovely wooden pallets.

I came home and carefully read the meticulous instructions on this website to build a very sturdy, level compost bin with a hinged accessibility panel.  It was beautiful!

Then I pretty much forgot all of the instructions and, with great enthusiasm, grabbed up my 90 pound drill (why are they so heavy?!  If hair dryers weighed that much women everywhere would have arms like Madonna) and box of shiny screws and headed outside to build something with my power tool.

I stood my pallets on end and screwed them together, skipping the “L” brackets from the instructions but adding 478 extra screws just because I could.

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Then, standing there in the one spot in my yard that is ALWAYS mucky and muddy and dank, I was inspired!

I knew that one of my pallets was slightly smaller than the other 4 so I lay the last big one down like a bridge over the muck, supporting it with a few old bricks and I set my smaller pallet on top.  This way, the hinged gate would be kept up out of the muddy earth and so would my shoes.  Genius!

Know what’s not genius?

Starting a project without making sure you have everything you need.

So I loaded my children into the Hippie Mobile and we went to the local Hardware store.

This place is great!  It is everything good that people remember from the old days of “ma and pa” stores.  It’s locally owned and the staff truly knows their customers and they are genuinely helpful and knowledgeable.

That’s why I’m quite certain, when they see me coming, they quickly have an argument over who is going to have to deal with me…. the over enthusiastic Hippie Mama with 2 kids in tow who knows the name or intended purpose of NOTHING that is sold in the hardware store.

So, today, the sweet older lady drew the short straw and approached me with a cautious smile.  “Can I help you find something today?” She asked, with a slight fearful quivering in her voice.

“Yes, thank you.”  I said, removing the screw from Chubby Hippie Baby’s fist before he actually got it all the way to his mouth and snatching Sweet Hippie Daughters hand back from the display bins of decorative rocks.  “I need some… uhm…. you know the fasteners that move… like on doors….”

“Hinges?”

“Yes! Hinges!”  (One would think that a person who writes for several hours each week would have such a word right on the tip of her tongue but  one would be wrong.  I’m telling you I get stupid in the hardware store.  Perhaps it’s the paint fumes.)

She nodded, sagely.  “They are on the back wall. Do you need help finding a specific size?”

Oh crap! They come in different sizes?!  

I smiled.  “No, thank you.  I think I’ll just take a look and see what will work best for me.”

I think I heard a happy little sigh from her as I made my way back to the shiny brass odds and ends aisle.  She’d gotten off much easier than they guy that was there the day I first tried to figure out how to glue plastic water bottles together.

I found some hinges that seemed pretty reasonably priced and said that they could support a door that weighed up to 100 pounds.  I don’t have a clue how much my pallet weighed but, as I could lift it, I was pretty sure it weighed less than 100 pounds.

After taking a moment  to pretend to be a pirate with a giant iron hook for a hand in the chain aisle and spending a few minutes with Sweet Hippie Daughter cataloging “Things in a Hardware Store That Should Not be Touched by Babies”  (there are several, to be certain) we paid and came back home where I attached the door in the wrong spot.

That didn’t matter, though!  With my beautiful new/old drill it was a simple matter to reverse the screws back out and do it over.  The second time was just right.  (If you know anything about carpentry and it’s not right, please don’t tell me.  I really don’t want to know.)

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I finished up by adding a hook and eye latch to hold the door closed and a cinder-block step for short helpers.

Voila!  My beautiful new compost bin!

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Isn’t it lovely? A little crooked, perhaps, but quite sturdy and a big improvement over a pile of garbage in the yard.

Being vertically challenged is no excuse for not taking the compost out now.

Being vertically challenged is no excuse for not taking the compost out now.

The face says it all.

The face says it all.

I'm just like Steve and Blue.  I can do anything I wanna do!

I’m just like Steve and Blue. I can do anything I wanna do!

I was promised full support on project #2 as soon as I got project #1 finished.  Now I just have to decide… the swing?  The lawn chair?

Maybe I should swing by The ReStore tomorrow and see if they have a saw.  Just think what I could do then!

* Photo credit goes to awesomehippiegirl.  Thanks, Sweet Pea!  🙂

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!  

What I Learned About GMOs from 9 Farmers, a Monsanto Employee and a Whole Bunch of Reading

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**Please don’t let the length of this post deter you! This is a very big topic.  If you just want the highlights I lit them up for you. If you want the details, I tried my best to provide those too.

This is me, enjoying an especially wonderful meal grown right here on earth.

This is me, enjoying an especially wonderful meal grown right here on earth.

I am not a farmer, scientist or businessperson.  I am a consumer. I am a mother. I am a citizen of earth.  As such, I believe I (we all) have a right to know what’s going on in agriculture and to have a voice for or against certain practices. That’s why it  concerned me when I began to see quotes like this from the Institue for Responsible Technology:

“It appears there is a direct correlation between GMOs and autism.”  –Arden Anderson, MD, PhD, MPH

And this from The Daily Paul:

We know that GMO consumption has been linked to a host of serious conditions…

I was reading one such article (honestly I can’t even remember, specifically, what it was about or how I came across it) recently that used the word, “obviously.”  As in, “Obviously GMOs are going to be the death of us all.”  (That’s not what it said, I’m sure, but that was the gist.)  It was if a little bubble burst in my mind.  I snapped a little.

IF IT’S SO FREAKING OBVIOUS WHY IS ANYONE USING IT?!

I really want to understand!

Because my family tends to lean toward the “natural living” side of the aisle I follow a lot of blogs and Facebook pages that cover topics like herbal medicine, organic farming and sustainable energy.  The people and groups that put these pages out have been, pretty much across the board, VERY outspoken against GMOs and biotech in general. But I want to look at both sides of the issue. So I went in search of farmers. This is a picture of the county in which I live:

image from airphotona.com

image from airphotona.com

It is not very hard to find farmers around here.  The major crops near me are corn, soybeans and tomatoes.  Since 93% of soy and 88% of all corn grown in the US is GMO (source) I’m guessing I know quite a few folks that use biotech. I sent out a plea.  In addition to posting my questions on this blog, I sent out emails and a Facebook request to my friends.

I eventually received input from 8 “conventional” farmers, 1 “homesteader” who grows her food naturally, though she is not certified organic, and 1 Monsanto employee.

One response I got said, “Why not just do a Google search?”

I have done dozens of searches.  The problem I’ve run into is that the majority of the results that come up are posted by those with a vested interest/political agenda that runs toward one side or the other and they don’t seem objective in the least.  Many (not all, but several) of these use terms like, “evil, ignorant, intolerant, backward, controlling and greedy” when describing the other side.

MP900262287I thought of the farmers I know.  Unlike people in most professions, many of them have been working in their current profession since they were toddlers.  They have grown up with their fingers in the earth.  They are college educated in the science and art of agriculture.  The farm is not just where they work.  It is where they are born, live and die.  It is their home. They pour countless hours into caring for their fields and their animals.  Their personal wealth is deeply invested in the equipment and tools of their trade.  These are not men and women who are going to read a flashy advertisement and say, “Oh, look!  We can buy these new-fangled seeds that cost 4x more than the old ones and we’ll never have to weed again and now we can all just sit around eating bonbons and watching Toddlers and Tiaras!”  Are farmers looking to make money and make life a little easier?  Sure. Aren’t you?  But if 8 out of  10 farmers are using any given product you can bet that there is a very good reason!

Then I thought about the folks working for the biotech companies.  These people have a true passion for solving some of the most serious problems facing the human race.  When I was a young girl I can remember everyone making a big deal about the world population reaching 3 billion.  We are now right at the threshold of 7 billion with the UN forcasting a population in excess of 10 billion by the end of this century.  That is a whole big world to feed!  Especially when you consider that the climate is changing, creating new problems to be solved. Is there corporate greed? Well, sure. That seems to be a given that no one disputes.  But I think there are thousands of scientists and businessmen working in biotech who are truly dedicated to using science to make life better and more sustainable for us all.

It is not fair for either side to dismiss the other.

Keep in mind that they are all eating these foods and feeding them to their families as well.

Nor is it fair for either side to dismiss the concerns of the citizens of this nation.  Yes, people can be terrified easily as this great illustration  shows.  However, individuals are justified in questioning how new technologies will affect their health and environment.  History has proven time and again that big business will NOT offer up full disclosure or pull a harmful product from the market at a cost to themselves.

I’ve tried very hard to cut through the hype and the propaganda and the political posturing and find the solid ground beneath.  Here is the good, the bad and the big gray in between that I found  that seem important for consumers to understand:

THE GOOD STUFF ABOUT GMO

Farmers use GMOs because they are concerned about the environment and want to have the lowest possible impact.

Farmers must make a certain number of “passes” through their field each year.  The ground must be tilled, fertilized, planted, weeded, sprayed for insect and disease control, harvested, etc.  An average diesel powered tractor gets about 3 MPG.  That is a whole lot of fuel being burned.  How many resources go into creating that fuel? Shipping it?  How much greenhouse gas is released from using it? Biotech seeds are engineered to have the insecticides and herbicides that are crucial to the best possible plant development already tucked inside their genetic makeup.  This means that there are less passes of the tractor and fewer toxic chemicals being dumped onto the earth.

While some argue that herbicide use will be increased in the overall population (lawn care, gardeners, etc) because of the evolution of “super weeds” all of the “conventional” farmers that I spoke with first hand said that GMOs significantly reduce their chemical usage and they LOVE not exposing themselves, their workers, and the consumers of their food to these poisonous chemicals. It also means that farmers don’t have to keep tilling up the earth (or at least they don’t have to as often) to get the unwanted stuff out and put the needed stuff in. By tilling less farmers are reducing top soil erosion.  Erosion and nutrient depletion are serious concerns and the farmers I heard from see GMO as a possible solution to these problems – or at least a step in the right direction.

Farmers use GMOs because they are cheaper.

Again, based entirely on the farmers I heard from, engineered seeds are a cost savings.  The seeds themselves are significantly more expensive and it is illegal to save them from one crop to be replanted the next year.  In some cases that can’t be done anyway but, despite these facts, farmers feel that the overall amount of money saved in other resources such as insecticides and labor costs, make them a good financial choice.

Remember, farmers are in business too.  They need to remain profitable just like any other business.  They use all of the same modern profit and loss tracking tools that other businesses use and they make choices accordingly.

Farmers have more choices than ever before.

Some of the anti-GMO folks out there would have you believe that the average American farmer has been reduced to nothing more than a serf by the big biotech companies.  The farmers I spoke with strongly disagree. It is NOT true that farmers are being forced to use products made by Monsanto or any other particular company.  Nor are they under contract to use any particular chemical (ie. RoundUp) on their GMO crops.

Biotech manufacturers do design their seed to be most effective used with certain chemicals that they produce and so they will “highly recommend” their own products.  If you read the back of your shampoo bottle you will likely see that hair care companies do the same thing.  “For best results with this shampoo we recommend you also use our conditioner and styling products.”

If you are curious about the details of the Monsanto/farmer contract here is a great link for you to follow.

Several of the farmers I heard from used the phrase, “I have more tools in my toolbelt than ever before.”  100 years ago if you had harmful insects you went out and picked them off, one at a time.  50 years ago you could pick them off or spray them.  Today you can pick them or spray them or use engineered seeds that chemically resist them.  That’s over-simplified, but it’s the general idea.  The more choices that are available the more empowered farmers are to achieve maximum efficiency.  None of them thought that “designer seed” was the great magic solution to every farming problem.  They simply view it as one of many ways to solve certain problems that are inevitable.

GMOs produce higher yields.

I have seen some anti-GMO blogs that say this isn’t so and they have very impressive and complicated-looking charts explaining why but every single farmer I spoke with (including those that expressed some concern about using biotech for various reasons which I will get to) said that they had a higher yield with GMOs.

Higher yield isn’t all about more money in the pockets of farmers.  This video does a great job of explaining how much land is available for growing all the food for all the people on earth.

THE BAD & THE BIG GRAY IN-BETWEEN

GMOs may be linked to a variety of health problems in animals and people.

When new technology that sounds “sci-fi” comes out people are always a little leary.  We’ve all seen “I am Legend,” and “Jurassic Park.” We recognize that these movies are fiction but what makes them frightening is the very true reality that things can go wrong.  There is a law of unintended consequences.  You can’t make, “one little change” in nature.  It just isn’t possible.

Keeping that in mind, people have questioned the wisdom of genetic manipulation since the days when it was just a dream of the future.  When it became reality there was serious concern despite over a decade of research regarding the safety of GMOs.  But something unpleasant truly hit the fan in early 2011.

Dr. Don Huber has long been considered one of the nation’s leading experts in plant pathology with more than 50 years of experience and over 100 scientific papers published. He has held prestigious posts within academia and the US government and he wrote a letter to the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture warning of some very serious concerns he had about “the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.”

Dr. Huber’s letter spread like wildfire around the globe.  He was not the only one expressing concern.  There are a wide variety of scientists saying, if not the same thing, very similar things.  Here is one link that gives the entire content of Dr. Huber’s original letter as well as information from others.

One part of Dr. Huber’s letter stated:

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations…

Here is something I found very interesting.  Around the time all this happened, about 2 years ago, these were some actual comments on blogs discussing Dr. Huber’s allegations.

“wouldn’t meat and dairy prices skyrocket if cows were dying and becoming infertile?”

From here in  2013 I can say, well… yes. We have seen that happen, as this link points out. Now, this link is old and there are dozens of factors ranging from weather to politics that can have an effect on food prices.  I’m just saying… meat and dairy cost more now than they did then.

Another commentor said:

Debunking this is like debunking the rumors that were spread that food safety bill was going to ban seed saving and force farmers to use Monsanto seeds.  (Feb. 28, 2011)

Said bill has been passed… sort of.  Farmers aren’t being forced to use Monsanto seeds (see “choices,” above) but seed saving has been banned and biotech has, just in the past month, been granted power over the authority of the court that no business has ever had in the history of our nation.

So the crazy conspiracy theorists of 2 years ago were right, at least in part.  It makes me think about the old saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

But here’s where it gets gray:  

Dr. Huber never put any evidence behind his study.  At least, not the kind of evidence that makes it difficult for other scientists to disagree with his findings.  As far as I can find, he continues to stand by his statements but he still hasn’t convinced the majority of his peers.  In her post, “Extraordinary claims… Require Extraordinary Science,” Anastasia Bodnar discusses all of this and she concludes with this:

Why would a reasonably well published scientist suddenly throw away everything we know about the scientific method to make claims about biologically impossible organisms with no evidence? Why is so little evidence presented and why is the evidence that is presented given as anecdotes instead of hard science? Most importantly, why would he make claims without going through the peer review process to ensure that his claims would be at least vetted by his peers?

Why, indeed?

Monsanto responded (see full response here) to Dr. Huber very quickly, standing behind the safety of their product, as you would expect.  And they provide on their site links to Purdue University Extension Science, Iowa State University, and Ohio State University.

Feel free to slog through all that, if you like, but here’s the gist.

From OSU:

Based on the number of acres I’ve walked, the samples we have received, the talks and literature I have attended and read; and our own research here at the OARDC, this statement just isn’t true.  I cannot document that there has been an increase in over 40 diseases in this state, nor in the north central region since 1998 when roundup ready soybeans were first widely planted in Ohio. 

From Purdue:

…evidence to support these claims has neither been presented to nor evaluated by the scientific community. The claim that herbicides, such as glyphosate, can make plants more susceptible to disease is not entirely without merit. Research has indicated that plants sprayed with glyphosate or other herbicides are more susceptible to many biological and physiological disorders The claim that plant disease has “skyrocketed” due to glyphosate usage is also unfounded.

And I may as well take this moment to mention that Biotech got this endorsement from the head of the European Union’s Chief Scientific Adviser:

“There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health, animal health or environmental health, so that’s pretty robust evidence, and I would be confident in saying that there is no more risk in eating GMO food than eating conventionally farmed food,”

So then, why, you may ask, is all this included under “bad?”

Well… because as this site, and this site, and this site, and this site, and this site, and this site,and this site, and this site, and hundreds of others (Admittedly a random sampling. Some I read very carefully.  Some, not so much.) are expressing at least some level of concern over a growing body of anecdotal evidence that people and animals eating GMOs are experiencing a variety of health issues ranging from increased allergies to respiratory problems to infertility.

Anecdotal evidence is not good science and it is not proof of anything.  But it should be enough to warrant serious ongoing investigation from the scientific community.

Two of the nine farmers I spoke with had anecdotal evidence that GMOs were causing negative issues on their farms.

We fed our hogs from our own GM crop and started seeing health problems we’d never seen before with spontaneous abortion and some major digestive problems.  We switched feed and the problems cleared up.  (I asked if the new feed was still GM, just a different brand, and did not receive a response at the time of writing this) We still grow GM on our farm but we have cut back.

When my father switched to Monsanto seed we thought it was great because it was less time intensive and yielded a higher profit.  Within 2 years we had experienced 100% colony collapse in our honey bees.  He blames it on the new plants and won’t grow them any more.  Our new hives have been unaffected.

Confused yet?

It gets murkier.

Beekeeping.com says that so far there seems to be no indication that GMOs negatively affect honeybees.  In fact, less use of insecticides may be helpful.

Insecticide-resistant GMOs is another situation Dr. Williams says. Plants may be modified to contain Bt toxin, proteinase inhibitors, and chitinases. The benefit of such plants is that they require little or no insecticide application, decreasing, or in some cases eliminating, chemical application altogether. In a similar argument paralleling that related to herbicides, it is suggested this is a potential benefit to honey bees because it minimizes their potential exposure to harmful chemicals. In addition, the materials mentioned above are generally far less toxic in general than so-called hard or synthetic insecticides.

But this article links the very effectiveness of GMOs in preventing milkweed to a decrease in habitat for pollinators (in this case, butterflies) which is causing them to die off.

According to this Ag Weekly article there are about 10 possible contributors to CCD, with the most likely scenario being that it is an interplay between several of them.  GMOs, pesticides and monocultures are only 3 of the 10.

Likewise, there is hearty debate over the existence of “super weeds,” the long term effects of GM on the soil, the ways that GM crops change the non GM plants around them and more.

I put all this under “THE BAD AND THE GRAY” because it seems obvious that the jury is still out on the GM issue.

In the mean time, these crops are being grown all around the world.

humanityinthemirror

Image from humanityinthemirror.com

We can not be CERTAIN that they aren’t harmful.

Crops have been naturally bred to enhance certain traits for a millennium or more but what we are doing in this generation – short-cutting the process –  has never been done before in the whole history of the planet.  Our understanding of genetics is vast and growing every day but there is still much to learn.

And we are throwing these modified seeds into an environment which is already toxic from a whole host of sources.  It is very difficult to establish a clear link between GMO and… say… autism, for example.  It is not difficult at all to see that the youngest generation is suffering from a myriad of health issues that were considered rare or even unheard of just 50 years ago. What has changed in 50 years? Our food has changed in a big way… but other things have changed, too.  So where does the problem lie?

The greatest concern that I have, after researching more on this topic than I have any other topic in a very long time is that history repeats. If you look at the history of DDT, Thalidomide, tras-fats, and countless other examples new science is not always good science and by the time concerns are proven to be valid massive damage has already been done.  Just because a product has been studied extensively doesn’t mean that we know everything there is to know about it – especially when people use that product over prolonged periods of time.

Further, the new legislation protecting Biotech from legal action gives these companies unprecedented authority to move forward with their business despite what scientists find in the future.  This means that, assuming someone comes up with the millions (billions?) of dollars needed to host such a study and figures out a way to conduct it without interference from other environmental toxins and takes the several years needed to observe the test subjects and evaluate their findings and publish it and be reviewed by their peers and accepted by the scientific community and present those accepted findings to congress and let them debate about it and the US government deems there to be a problem… an entire generation or more will have been irrevocably affected.  The process will take decades.

Why can’t we just trust Monsanto to provide a product that is safe?  Here’s a quote from them:

A Monsanto official told the New York Times that the corporation should not have to take responsibility for the safety of its food products. “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”  (source)

I don’t mean to put everything on Monsanto. They are a bit of a fall guy in all this.  There is good reason.  You can thank Monsanto for historical gems like PCBs and DDT which, while extremely effective in doing what they were created to do, were eventually deemed to be horrendously dangerous as well with the detriment far out-weighing the benefit.  In both of these cases and others Monsanto knew the dangers and downplayed them for decades but didn’t want to pull their product because it would have hurt their bottom line.

That said, they haven’t stayed in business so long or become so big by creating crappy products.  Nor are they the only game in town.  Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Bayer (yes, the drug company), Aqua Bounty, Mendel Biotech and dozens of others around the world are working to develop new biotech products, using genetic modification on crops as well as animals.

It’s not unlike McDonald’s in the fast food industry or Wal-Mart in retail. If McDonald’s disappeared tomorrow we would still be a chubby nation and if Wal-Mart were to close its doors forever there would still be big retailers preventing the revival of the “mom and pop” store. Therefore, when you hear things like, “Monsanto protection act,” keep in mind that if Monsanto were to go out of business tomorrow GMOs would still be around.

SO WHAT THE HECK ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THIS INFORMATION?!

You, as a consumer, need to be informed.

Be aware of legislation that is in the works.  Know why it is being proposed and don’t just fly off the handle in response to something that “seems” bad.  Remember all that stuff in the beginning of the article?  Farmers… the people who know the land the best… are widely in support of the use of biotech.  Ag science must move forward to meet the demands of the world.

Know what labels mean.  Big businesses of all types got big by doing several things well.  One of those things is marketing.  Clever advertisers know that people fear what they don’t understand and they will play on those fears.  One example that was pointed out to me is that there is an expensive brand of popcorn being actively marketed as, “Non GMO.”  What that label doesn’t mention is that, at this point, there is no GMO popcorn on the market in the USA.  In that case you are paying extra for the label.

Understand that, if your choice is between a “conventional” piece of produce and a “GMO” piece of produce you are choosing between one set of potential risks and another.  Most farmers would choose the GMO.

Organic is great and growing your own may be even better (all 9 farmers and the Monsanto employee I talked to agreed strongly on this point) but, when voting and putting forth your opinion, keep in mind that there are billions of people for whom that isn’t an option at this time.  New technology in hydroponics, “vertical farming” and more is great but still new.  Biotech is one aspect in the massive field of Ag Science.  That said, if you have concerns, be empowered!  Take your food destiny into your own hands!  Our family is doing this more every day and we find it deeply satisfying to feast on food we’ve grown and prepared ourselves.  There is more information available today than ever before about urban homesteading.  Heirloom seeds are being circulated at a rate much higher than 20 years ago, thanks to the internet.

Be aware that the market is driven by consumers.  If you cry about GMOs but you make no attempt to avoid purchasing them all that crying is just white noise.  For better or worse your dollars count more than your words in this country.

When it all comes down to it, I can’t say it better than Mike Haley who emailed me this comment:

The simple act of farming impacts the environment we operate in, both in positive and negative ways.  This is true for all types of farming large or small, conventional or organic.  I think its important we are constantly monitoring the effects our practices have on our environment and work towards ways that we can minimize any negatives while working to satisfy the needs of our customers.

or Katie Pratt who said this:

The gold standard would be for people to develop an appreciation for the places and people who raise their food and an appreciation for food in general.  

A few notes:

I would like to take a moment to send out my sincerest thanks to the men and women who took the time to answer my questions and help me sort through all of this information. It was clear in speaking/emailing with each of you that you have all given this subject a great amount of thought and want what is best for us all.  I hope that I presented the information you shared fairly and accurately.

If you would like to know more about GMOs and, like me, find the mountains of rhetoric and propaganda online to be intimidating, here are a few links in addition to those already mentioned that were passed on to me by those closest to the debate.  They were very helpful!

“I Occupy Our Food Supply Every Day” by Brian Scott

Monsantoblog.com “New Pathogen Claim Spreads Like Wildfire” by Janice Pearson

G is for GMOs & Why Do Farmers Plant GMO Crops?” by Janice Pearson

GMOs are Unnatural? And Other Thoughts On Biotech

It is my most sincere hope that this post is helpful to someone and that it can generate a conversation that is productive.  Along those lines, I would love it if you would comment, debate, agree, disagree, add, edit and question.  I only ask that you be polite.  As always, here in LHM land where I am queen, mean spirited name-calling and excessive foul language will result in your comments being deleted.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!  

I’ve been eating it my whole life and I’m OK!

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VegetablesOver the past few months I have written a few posts (like this one) in which I discuss the importance of eating real food.

These posts have each been met by one or more people saying, “I’ve been eating this way my whole life and I’m OK.  I think you are making too big of a deal about it.”

Let me begin by saying, I understand where you are coming from!  I have only given “real” food any serious thought at all in the past year or so and, even with strong feelings about it, I often cave in to things like frozen pizza, fast food and lunch meat because they are cheap and easy and… let’s face it… awesomely delicious.

Go ahead, real foodies.  Tell me your cauliflower patty is JUST as tasty as a Big Mac.  I don’t believe you.

Anyway… I digress…

The point is, I understand.

Further, I would like to say that if you were raised on a steady diet of Poptarts and Bar S hotdogs (you know who you are) and you now make an earnest effort to add some canned peas to your pasta I applaud you!  All progress is good progress!

And I recognize that it is virtually impossible to live in our modern society without ingesting SOMETHING that SOMEONE says is “toxic.”  For example, I switched from a popular brand of canned beans to Meijer brand organic canned beans and was feeling pretty proud of myself until someone pointed out that canned goods almost universally contain BPA. Well… again, all progress is good progress. I can only do so much.

So, now that I’ve said all that, please allow me to say this:

Unless you are under the age of 20, you have NOT been “eating this way your whole life.”

American food has changed DRASTICALLY in the past generation!

In the past 50 years, the nutrient and mineral content in our food has decreased drastically.  Selective breeding, genetic modification and poor treatment of the soil itself means that we have larger food, that is more carbohydrate-intense but lacking in protein, amino acids and as many as 6 key nutrients.  (Click here for more)

In the past 2 generations, mercury levels in seafood have doubled.  (Click here for more)

The first GMO (genetically modified organism) food (a tomato) was marketed to the public in 1994 – a mere 18 years ago.  They were touted as the perfect solution… plants would yield a higher production, bigger fruit, and be more resistant to drought and disease.  The problem is that some research shows that the human body does not recognize these new creations as food.  The result is damage to the kidneys and liver and digestive tract, poor metabolism of the nutrients, and more.  Worse, some studies show that the effects of GMOs are cumulative through generations (see picture, below).  If that is the case, we don’t know what it is doing to our children and their children because the first generation of people who have eaten GM foods their whole lives are only just beginning to have children of their own.   None of this even touches on what happens when the animals we eat are fed GMOs.  If they are affected on a very basic, cellular level, and then we eat that “tainted” meat (eggs, milk, etc), how does it affect us?  (Click here for more)  The fact is that there simply has not been enough research done on GMO foods to know if they are safe.  Maybe they are fine.  But there is a good chance that they are not.  For that reason dozens of countries have partial or total bans on the use of GMOs or they require companies to label their products if they have been modified.  The US has no such restrictions or requirements because it would be too expensive for the food manufacturers.  Don’t even get me started on the politics of THAT!   Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

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Since the 1950s the use of antibiotics in farm animals has skyrocketed.  The result?  We now have “super bacteria” that are resistant to antibiotic treatment.  This means that now, when we get sick, it is MUCH harder to treat than it was 50 years ago because the drugs we have are no longer effective.  (click here for more)

In 1993 rGBH was introduced to milk-producing cows in order to produce more milk from each animal.  This hormone has been linked directly to an increased risk for breast, prostate and other cancers in humans.  Again, the children who were raised drinking this milk are only beginning to reach adulthood.  The effects of this drug on the animals that provided their food will only begin to show up in the next 10-20 years.  By then, a whole new generation will have been affected.  (click here fore more)

A cow, treated with rGBH, now infected with mastitis.

A cow, treated with rGBH, now infected with mastitis.

I could go on and on telling about new additives, drugs, science, etc that have been introduced in relatively recent times.

There is another side of all this, as well.

What do all of these “advanced” farming practices do to our planet?

They result in massive soil erosion  the pollution of ground water, the disruption of local ecosystems and more.  In turn, that results in the need for MORE chemicals, genetic modification, etc which results in more problems, and so on.  (click here for more)

And where are we, as a society,  in terms of health?

Life expectancy in Americans is actually decreasing. Children born now can expect to die at a younger age than their parents and grandparents.  (more)

In 1958 1.5 million people were diagnosed with diabetes.  In 2010  there were nearly 19 million people being treated for the disease. (more)

In 1962 about 13% of the population was considered obese.  Today those numbers are fast approaching the 50% mark. (more)

Liver, thyroid, breast, testicle  cancers (all mentioned above as being connected to pesticides and GMOs) and more have increased steadily since 1992. (more)

Rates of autism have increased by an astonishing 78% in the past 10 years. (more)

Mental disorders are on the rise among young people. (more)

The number of women struggling to get pregnant and maintain their pregnancies rose  40% between 1982 and 2002. (more)

Is it coincidence that, in the same time period that we have altered our food in nearly every conceivable way we have watched our population’s incidence of health issues rise exponentially?

The solution (or at least progress toward the solution) lies in organics.

Organic food, by legal definition can not contain any GMOs, artificial chemicals or preservatives, hormones or antibiotics.  Organic food goes through minimal processing.  (There are exceptions, but the rules generally follow those guidelines.)  And if a farmer wants to label his food “organic” he must farm in a way that gives back to the earth as much as he takes out.

Some researchers have tried to say that organic food is no more nutritious than “conventional” food but this article from US News explains very clearly the fallacy of the famous study in question.

When all is said and done, I again have to say that any nutritious food (fruits, veggies, lean meats, eggs, milk, etc) is better than none.  I know that, for some people, the luxury of spending even a few extra dollars each month is just not possible.  I get that.

But for many, we are making a conscious choice to save money on food so that we can spend it on the latest technology or the nicest name brand clothes or…. so so many other things.

If there is even a CHANCE that all of those health concerns can be minimized for your family by simply purchasing one brand of apples instead of another, isn’t it worth a little sacrifice?

It is time for all of us to open our eyes and be aware of what the food industry is pushing on us because, if you are an adult, the fact of the matter is you have NOT been eating like this your whole life and, chances are you are NOT OK.  Chances are you are suffering from cancer or diabetes or digestive issues or attention problems or arthritis or migraine headaches or sleep disorders or fibromyalgia or some combination of the dozens of diseases linked to “frankenfoods.”

One last thing:  one person said that they had no issue with the pesticide and GMO companies because they provide jobs and contribute to the economy.  In response, I have to ask, how much has the exponential increase in sickness cost our nation?  Where will our economy be when the resources of our land have been plundered to the point that the very ground under our feet becomes toxic?  What job is worth stealing years of healthy living from the current generation of young people?

I’ll climb off my soapbox now.  Thanks for reading today’s hippie rant.  Here’s to a tomorrow full of healthy nutritious food!

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort? 

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates. 

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Happy National Coffee Day!

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Today is National Coffee Day! I LOVE COFFEE! So, in honor of my favorite beverage, I’m re-posting this ode to the benefits of coffee from a few months ago. Enjoy!

Lazy Hippie Mama

So… it’s like this.

I’ve been tired.

I’m not talking about a 2pm slump.

I’m talking about the kind of tired where I’ve dozed off doing my business in the bathroom.  At least I haven’t done my business while dozing off elsewhere!  There is always a silver lining.

I started to explain exactly WHY I’m so tired (it’s not health-related, I promise), but then realized that you probably have better things to do with your day than read 1,000 words about how busy my summers are.

I’ll sum up:

Summers are lots of fun.  We get to have a lot of great family time.  I have the privilege to serve my community in wonderful, enjoyable ways.

Add all that fun and community to a 14-month-old who refuses to sleep and you are left with one Sleepy Hippie Mama.

The only reason I haven’t collapsed in a gooey heap of Hippie?

Coffee.

Lots and lots…

View original post 664 more words

Good News For Sleepy People

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Today is National Coffee Day! I LOVE COFFEE! So, in honor of my favorite beverage, I’m re-posting this ode to the benefits of coffee from a few months ago. Enjoy!

Lazy Hippie Mama

So… it’s like this.

I’ve been tired.

I’m not talking about a 2pm slump.

I’m talking about the kind of tired where I’ve dozed off doing my business in the bathroom.  At least I haven’t done my business while dozing off elsewhere!  There is always a silver lining.

I started to explain exactly WHY I’m so tired (it’s not health-related, I promise), but then realized that you probably have better things to do with your day than read 1,000 words about how busy my summers are.

I’ll sum up:

Summers are lots of fun.  We get to have a lot of great family time.  I have the privilege to serve my community in wonderful, enjoyable ways.

Add all that fun and community to a 14-month-old who refuses to sleep and you are left with one Sleepy Hippie Mama.

The only reason I haven’t collapsed in a gooey heap of Hippie?

Coffee.

Lots and lots…

View original post 664 more words