Monday, August 31, 2009

what I've been doing

I've been building a website (!  I'm not very good at it so I've started and stopped a couple times on various hosts.  Webhero's pretty straightforward, so I'm actually getting somewhere.  I even have directions, using mapquest!  Yooohooo!

Also have been hauling stuff out of my house and to the back room of the shop for a yard sale and have posted a bunch of livestock and other stuff on Craigslist.  I need to get serious about downsizing, fixing up the house and moving.

It occured to me that my old rowhouse in Richmond was a good shape for my house on wheels.  It was a big wedge, a rustic Victorian built in the 1880s and I could fairly easily duplicate some of the architectural details on my little bandsaw.  I'll have to build the basic house, of course, and get going, but it will be fun to add stamped tin to the kitchen ceiling, scrollwork above the door...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cheater's salsa/spaghetti sauce - frozen instead of canned

This will also be published in Becky Holm's Douglas County News.

Canning too much work? Try freezing instead!

By Larisa Sparrowhawk

Every August I am suddenly overwhelmed with tomatoes. I used to make cases of both spaghetti sauce and salsa, but lately that just seems like too much work. Instead, I make a couple of batches of a dual purpose sauce to freeze. It can be used on noodles, chips or tortillas, mixed into rice for Spanish rice or poured onto roast before cooking. Because it contains lentils, it has protein and you can eat it as it is or add leftover meat from another meal to it. I’ll give approximate directions that you can adjust according to how bountiful your harvest is.

7 parts tomatoes, cut
1 part tomatillos, cut
1 part chopped onions
1 part chopped fresh basil
1 part chopped bell or hot peppers if desired
1 part lentils
A garlic clove or two, a splash of water, a pinch of salt, a little cayenne pepper, a teaspoon or so of celery seed and some chopped dried tomatoes or mushrooms if desired for a richer sauce.

If you add a little cooked chopped sausage to the sauce, you can extend the flavor of sausage (making it seem like there is more of it!) by adding whatever spice the sausage tastes like—usually sage or anise seed.

I don’t even bother cutting the tomatoes small. I blend them with half of the onions because it is faster and that way I don’t have to add a lot of water for the lentils to cook in. Also blending the tomatoes means you don’t have to de-skin them first. Let the mix simmer for a couple hours at least. At this point I often skim off the thinner part and eat it as soup and then cool and freeze the rest.


By the way, for more inexpensive and wholesome foods to make at home, visit Wardeh Harmon's GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Downsizing and liking it

I've been thinking a lot about downsizing.  I was downsized at my job last year and I didn't like THAT at all, but it has actually become a blessing in a weird round about way.  I never considered myself much of a consumer; I shopped at thrift stores and thought I could squeeze a penny so tight I could put Lincoln IN the Memorial.  But I've learned a LOT in recent months about living lighter on this earth and how I could keep money in my wallet. 

About eight years ago, during a Field Day at Joel's Polyface farm and then again while being interviewed for a job as cow masseuse (I kid you not!!!) at Sunrise Farm, I looked at their chicken tractors on trailers and thought, wouldn't that be fun, to live in one of those, of course without the chicken poop?  When I was a kid I had a fascination with pop up and regular trailers, but they were cold, not so well designed, and they were noisy while travelling.  I had frequent daydreams about running away and living in the woods as I imagined Native Americans did, but without the close tribal society.  A lone Native.  To me it meant big adventure, not hardship and uncertainty.  I tried VERY hard to get my Gold Beach cousin to run away with me to the mountains near Ashland when we were 14.  If she'd been more interested, I wonder what the rest of my life would have turned out like?

I was homeless and near homeless at various times when I lived at Virginia and then I got a fairly comfortable job and bought a little farm.  I started scaling up.  I wanted pigs, I wanted chickens, I wanted cattle and sheep and goats and fruit trees and a garden.  But I've never been much good at picking men, so I had all these projects going but never actually handled any of them well because it was simply TOO MUCH WORK FOR ONE PERSON.  (duh!)  Joel talked about this briefly at Afton Field Farm's Field Day last weekend.  The most successful farms, he said, realized their inefficiencies, and gave something up.  After they streamlined they were able to produce and prosper.  Joel suggested to all of us that we form a farming community where we live, that if we raise chickens, we find a friend with produce, and another friend with milk... or whatever... so we can market together and pool resources. 

I was forced to scale back when I moved across country.  I sold or gave away a lot of my belongings, including things I'd hauled around with me for years.  I reduced my livestock to three goats, three ducks and a livestock guard dog.  I cried many tears over goats I'd never see again.  But once I got here, I started scaling up again.  I bought the fruit trees, multiple dozen chickens, a few more goats... and suddenly found I couldn't afford to feed them all.  There's nothing worse than feeling like a bad parent to so many critters... I did feed them - just look at my fat goats and you'll know they didn't suffer ONE BIT!  But it was a struggle, as were all the other bills.  And I didn't like the guilt. 

How did I get this way?  In a house I can't afford, alone and with more chores and bills than I can handle?  I have the plague of smarts - I have read so much and thought so much, I have huge ideals I can't possibly live up to.  I see so many sides of gray in a situation that sometimes I am stymied and unable to make decisions.  Sometimes I go with the flow rather than expose myself to conflict.  And then, just to complicate things, I also have a fierce need to be independent and to do everything all by myself.  When I moved out here, I should have gone camping then, to save money.  I didn't.  When it was clear I wasn't going to sell the Virginia house, I should have pulled out of the Oregon house and gone camping.  I didn't.  I should have put condoms on the drakes and roosters.  I didn't. 

Relatives are telling me to declare bankruptcy and move back to Mom's and go back to school.  I don't feel good about that.  I don't want desperation reflected on my credit report for ten years.  It costs money to declare bankruptcy, anyway.  $1300 plus.  I do recognize that my training in automotive is of little use to me in this economy and I could use at least skills updating if nothing else.  But I also know I've wanted to own something like the store I have now since I was 19 years old.  I don't want to quit just after opening it.  It only needs a very small cash infusion to grow as long as I can personally reduce my bills so I can keep going without a paycheck from the store. 

Also, I want a degree in Nutrition Science.  I don't want to go back to school for anything else.  I can't afford a bachelors degree while I can't even keep my utilities on, so I figure my best bet is to wait until  I either save money or find a scholarship for a four year degree that will let me take most of my classes online.  I can't see myself accepting the free tuition being offered to take classes in a field I'm not interested in.  I went to UTE1stop and I just couldn't put my heart into it.

Looking back, a lot of my money issues were caused by entering relationships, racking up expenses like houses and cars and kids (not that kids are expenses only) and then suddenly being alone again.  Every bad relationship I got into started with us feeling broke and moving in together to pool resources before we knew each other well.  I'm not necessarily against cohabitation, but only with someone who is your best friend as well as your lover... someone you could at least SEE yourself marrying, whether you do or not.  I married three guys (one at a time!) who stopped drinking just for me, and when they started drinking again, I couldn't extract myself.  I got all caught up in the should I's and shouldn't I's and stayed there, paralyzed, for years with someone I shouldn't have spent months with.  And then I'd live alone for a few months and start the cycle all over again.  This is how I am nearly 44 and single!  Because I never dated, I never shopped.  I was in a relationship or alone, one or the other.  And economics had WAAAAYYY too much to do with it.  I made myself a promise I'd take the proper time to get to know the next guy.  If my economic status is stable, it will help me keep that promise.  And besides, how many men would really be willing to share a house that was 6' x 10'?  He'd HAVE to love me.  One thing I know I don't want, which was actually the stimulus for finally breaking up with a man I dated for years, is to marry a man I'm not excited about, even if he promises to bail me out.  Again, I want to do it myself.  I will be my own bail out plan.

So now I'm thinking seriously, deliberately, trying to separate emotion without being untrue to myself.  What do I really need?  What do I really want?  What can I get rid of?  Where do I want to be next year, in five years, in ten?  When I first began to consider downsizing I wanted to keep nearly every animal I have and find a big piece of owner financed land.  Now I'm thinking if I only take my 47 chicken youngsters and my guard dog, I'll have a lot more possibilities open to me, including cheap rent on the back 40 of a farm owned by someone else.   If I find someone who owns property they want cleared, but they don't want to pay for it, I can take my chainsaw and my goats and probably live there for free for months.  But then I'll have to consider fencing and feeding.  They're not trained to electric fencing and they have horns.  Chickens, however, are easy to put in a flexible electric fence on a roll like they sell at  I need to get the chicken house and my  house built and then see what is out there.  If I take apart some structures I built when I moved in, I'll have about a sixth of the wood.  I have a couple ads posted for partial sheets of plywood, partial cans of paint, any bits and pieces others may have from their projects that they may be happy to have me haul off free. 

As far as material belongings go, I am blessedly unconcerned.  I need to have enough to stay physically clean and to look good for my jobs.  I'll take some of my art supplies.  The rest???

Over the last six months, I have put many signs up on my store window and on feed store bulletin boards to sell livestock, with little success.  Last night I put an ad on Craigs List for livestock and some household goods.  I've gotten a LOT of emails already. 

Over the last week I've been moving things I want to keep from the downstairs to the upstairs, which is one big room.  That simple action is making me downsize.  If I have too much junk in the upstairs room, I obviously won't be able to take it in my tiny house on wheels, so it gets sold, given away or tossed.  I've been hauling around notes I've taken for future writing projects.  Not a few weeks worth of notes - but boxes and boxes of notes from the last 11 years.  I think I'll burn them.  I've been carting around books I haven't read in 15 years. I've done the same with clothes. I finally got rid of all my size fours, realizing I'll never be a four again. I didn't even like how I looked when I was that thin, so why did I keep the clothes? I got rid of all the 12s I was keeping as a fat-again insurance policy. It's stupid, but I think a lot of women do it. I think if I don't have fat clothes, I'm a lot less likely to get fat again. I like my big bedroom, but truly, all I ever use in it is the bed! A loft will do.  I was opening closets and cabinets and looking at my stuff yesterday. How did I get so much stuff? I mean, I have FOUR teapots! Most of my stuff I either got free or bought at thrift stores and yard sales. But even a bargain costs money and even a freebee takes up space.

When I get the downstairs emptied I will have to decide what to do about the little dog.  I either have to crate train him while I am gone every day to keep him from peeing on stuff and scratching walls, or I have to find a new home for him.  He's being one of my hardest decisions because he's cute, funny and loving.  If I met a retired or handicapped person who spent a lot of time at home and needed a companion, he'd probably be a good dog for that person because he could get lots of potty breaks and lots of lap time. 

My mom and daughter want me to get rid of the Great Pyranees because they are afraid of him.  He has growled at my daughter to keep her out of the kitchen (like it was his and not hers!) more than once.  He also needs work.  But he has loved both of my ex boyfriends and is extremely faithful to me.  I think this dog would die for me.  I live alone so this loyalty means both companionship and protection.  He could also be feasibly retrained to do traditional farm guard duties. 

I'm playing with housing designs, and each design gets simpler and less expensive.  I won't go so far as to build the whole thing with pallets because I do have to haul it behind my truck, probably more than once.  But I am downsizing the interior... a LOT.  I want a composting toilet and probably will get one, eventually, but do I need one?  Not to start.  A portapotti will do.  I want my hot showers, but I hate my 100-200 electric bills.  Cabella's sells a propane water heater on a tripod that I can use on those days I must have hot water.  I like cooking, but my store will have a kitchen.  I don't need a full kitchen in the rolling home.  A propane burner and a solar oven for those times I must cook will be good enough.  Otherwise I can eat raw foods, either as whole fruits and vegetables or as items I have prepared at the store that do not need refrigeration or heating.  I'll bet I lose that last ten pounds because when I go prowling at midnight I'll eat an apple instead of making a big meal! 

Since the rains are coming, I intend to build entire panels on the floor in my office (which is huge and mostly empty) and then borrow someone to help me carry them out and lift them onto the trailer. 

Well, got to go back to work, so I'll have to do more of this thinking on computer later.  Thank you for reading through all this.  I'm hoping someone else in a similar boat starts following and we can cheer each other on!  I talked to a couple of other women who were unhappy in relationships and wanted to move out, which got me daydreaming about multiple little houses, like the caravans of covered wagons that came across the country to Oregon.  What if we rented land together and I supplied eggs and another supplied.... ?

Update 8/27:   I went on a blind date yesterday at 6am (coffee in a thermous shared on a blanket in a park) with a man who I was floored to find out has many of the same sustainability books I do and is a green builder.  He is getting a divorce and hadn't decided where he was going next.  I described the house on wheels idea and he became very excited.  We HAD to see each other again in the evening and we poured over internet pictures and scribbled plans on graph paper until 2am!  I think I have home #2 for the "covered wagon community" I was mentioning above.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"food safety" bills in Congress and how YOU can help! - Long but important

Lifted from an email I sent to 222 people from Oregon who expressed interest either while at my local foods store or at events featuring Joel Salatin last week. Therefore Oregon Senators are listed, but you can find your Senators' contact info on quickly and apply the rest of the information.
The US Senate is on recess and this is the best time to contact them before they go back to Washington, DC to vote on "food safety." They may vote on HR2749, which was forwarded to the Senate exactly as it passed in the House, or they may vote on S510, which was sponsored by one of their own, Senator Durbin of Illinois. We will need to let them know we oppose both bills as written and why. S-510 is slightly less damaging, but it would not be a good idea to say you want them to vote for it, not HR2749. Both bills would GREATLY REDUCE the availability of locally grown and produced farm and food products, as they will force us to "get big or get out."

There are several ways you can express your thoughts. The quickest is to call. You will almost assuredly talk to an aide, who will ask your name and address. Then you state thay you want Senator ______ to oppose both HR2749 and S-510 because they would force small farms and producers out of business. Have this email handy because the aide may ask questions. Most of the time, however, they just thank you for your input and hang up. The second quickest way is to email the Senator using the form on his website. You should put "oppose HR2749 and S510" in the subject line rather than something that could be misconstrued to be in favor of the bill, like "please make food really safe." The third way is to visit your Senator at one of his offices. This is obviously the most time consuming, but it is also usually very gratifying, especially if you go in a small group (2-5 people, no more) and each of you is prepared to talk briefly about your area of expertise. Well behaved children are generally welcome. Bring something from your own farm or food business. If you have a charming child who can present the Senator with goat cheese, for instance, and a picture of your family goat, or a jar of jelly and homemade bread in a basket, the Senator is likely to remember the experience a long time. Make sure there is plenty so the aides can share, or bring the aides some, too. Or take a collection of letters. Make sure your name, address, phone # and email are on them. Have letters written by your family and friends and children. (Even children can understand that if farming becomes too expensive they will have to give up their favorite goats, chickens and berry bushes!) Make them look different, so it doesn't look like you sat down at a computer and made them all up yourself. Some can be on note cards, some can be typed, etc. Even three or four letters will be noted. Make sure they all say "oppose HR2749 and S510" on them.

You should call first to make an appointment or plan to go to a town hall or event the Senator will be attending.& nbsp; If you don't call, you will likely see the aides only. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as they are generally friendly and MOST of them will take notes, but in case they don't, that is what your food and letter are for! When you leave, you will know you have done your part to preserve the right of yourself, your family and your community to (as Joel Salatin says) feed your three trillion internal bacteria with the best food available!

Make sure you acknowledge that you know there have been many outbreaks of illnesses in the news lately, and that you know the Senator is only trying to protect his constituents, but that slapping a one-size-fits-all bill on everyone who produces food in the country will only make food LESS safe because it will take away local food options. Say you feel safer buying food from someone you can see face-to-face, someone who processes food in small batches and oversees every bit of it personally. Make sure you do not confuse HR2749 and S510 with NAIS, but that you mention that these new safety bills have a lot of the same problems, including saddling taxpayers and small producers with huge expenses to cover an industry problem, requiring farmers to shoulder an unfair amount of necessary work, and near certainty that the privacy and property rights of individuals will be unfairly violated.

The structure for this email: first, Senator contact information, then de tails about the bills, then information about OCFA, Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association.

Senator Ron Wyden
Email through a form on his website:
Washington, D.C. Office:
223 Dirksen Senate Office Building,District of Columbia 20510-3703Phone: (202) 224-5244Fax: (202) 228-2717
Portland Office:1220 SW 3rd Avenue, Suite 585Portland, Oregon 97204Phone: (503) 326-7525Fax: (503) 326-7528
Eugene Office:405 East 8th Avenue, Suite 2020Eugene, Oregon 97401Phone: (541) 431-0229Fax: (541) 431-0610
Bend Office:131 NW Hawthorne Avenue, Suite 107Bend, Oregon 97701Phone: (541) 330-9142Fax: (541) 330-6266
LaGrande Office:SAC Annex Building, 105 Fir Street, Suite 201LaGrande, Oregon 97850Phone: (541) 962-7691Fax:
Medford Office:310 West 6th Street, Room 118Medford, Oregon 97501Phone: (541) 858-5122Fax: (541) 858-5126
Salem Office:707 13th Street, SE, Suite 285Salem, Oregon 97301Phone: (503) 589-4555Fax: (503) 589-4749

Senator Jeff Merkley
Washington, D.C. Office:107 Russell Senate Office Building,District of Columbia 20510-3704Phone: (202) 224-3753Fax: (202) 228-3997
Portland Office:121 SW Salmon Street, #1250Portland, Oregon 97204Phone: (503) 326-3386Fax: (503) 326-2900
Eugene Office:405 East 8th Avenue, Suite 2010Eugene, Oregon 97401Phone: (541) 465-6750Fax:
Medford Office:10 South Bartlett Street, Suite 201Medford, Oregon 97501Phone: (541) 608-9102Fax:
Salem Office:495 State Street, Suite 330Salem, Oregon 97301Phone: (503) 362-8102Fax:
Bend Office:131 NW Hawthorne Avenue, Suite 208Bend, Oregon 97701Phone: (541) 318-1298Fax:
Pendleton Office:310 SE Second Street, Suite 105Pendleton, Oregon 97801Phone: (541) 278-1129Fax:


S510 includes dozens of requirements that the Secretary of Health and Human Services devise and implement plans regarding specific food issues, but of course since these plans are not yet made, the Senate can have no idea what they are voting on other than that the Secretary will take action of some sort.

S510 will require small producers of value added products to register their property with the government, pay an unspecified fee based entirely on what the Health and Human Resources Secretary decides the costs of business are (remember the government's $600 toilet seats? Don't assume this will be reasonable!)

S510 includes a National Agriculture and Food Defense Strategy that sounds suspiciously like NAIS for value added products like bread and jam. It also contains an indirect but fairly clear reference to NAIS. It includes working with the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security to be consistent with "other relevant national strategies." It includes rapid response detection, communication and "surveillance" as well as "developing and conducting exercises to test decontamination and disposal plans" including "contaminated agriculture and food products and infected plants and animals." It includes "immediately investigating animal disease outbreaks and suspected food contamination... organizing, training and equipping animal, plant and food emergency response teams of the Federal government and state, local and tribal governments." You may find this on pages 23 and 24 of the bill. It is not specified how the surveillance will occur, but the word surveillance is used multiple times in this section, and is sometimes paired with the word "laboratory." Can we assume that inspectors will be posing as customers and purchasing products to send off for secret testing? I know a few farmers who were targets of such stings. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will provide biennial reports about fruit and vegetable "raw agricultural commodities" that include recommendations for "enhanced surveillance, outbreak response, and traceability." In Section 204, "Enhancing Traceback and Recordkeeping," the "Secretary shall select participants from the produce industry to run projects which shall include...fruits or vegetables that have been the subject of develop and demonstrate methods that are applicable and appropriate for small businesses and technologies... that enhance traceback and trace forward." Industry will decide what is appropriate for small businesses! Included in the plans are "working toward automatic electronic searches...The Secretary shall support and maintain a diverse working group of experts and stakeholders..." In "Section 208, Decontamination and Disposal Standards and Plans, " The "Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture shall jointly develop and disseminate model plans for the decontamination of individuals, equipment and facilities... and the disposal of large quantities of animals, plants or food products..." This is on page 46.

On page 3 and 4, "Section 101, Inspections of Records", state that if the Secretary "believes there is a reasonable probability" that the food may be adulterated or make people sick, producers, packers, distributors, importers, processors, and holding facilities shall provide records relating to the food to an agent, officer or employee who is unspecified, but is assumed to be an agriculture or health services employee of the Federal government. Farms and restaurants are currently excluded from this requirement, presumably because farms are the source and restaurants cook and sell food rapidly. However, later in the document, it is clear that farms will be required to produce records. I assume this ambiguity will be removed later.

The Secretary may suspend registration, fine you for your failure to provide adequate records or for other reasons including issues with your processing facility and then charge you costs of reinspection and re-registration. If you are involved in a recall, you will also have to cover the costs of "recall activities." If you do not pay your fees within 30 days of the due date, "such fee shall be treated as a claim of the United States Government," which means they could seize your tax refund or possibly personal property. This part I have not researched thoroughly ; if someone wants to read "subchapter II of chapter 37 of title 31, United States Code" and report back to me, I'd be grateful.

S510 will require even small producers to come up with a HAACP plan, whi ch means you will have to document not only your current food safety measures, but also what could potentially happen to your food and how you will keep such potential occurrence from occurring. This would include using physical structures such as screens over windows and three compartment stainless steel sinks, training employees to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and posting a sign in the bathroom to remind them, and guaranteeing you will not purchase raisins for your raisin bread from someone who is not in compliance (because that would make your bread adulterated and misbranded!), etc. As S510 states, you will "identify and evaluate known or reasonably foreseeable hazards... including biological, chemical, physical, radiological hazards, natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens, and unapproved food and color additives, and hazards that occur naturally, may be unintentionally introduced, or may be intentionally introduced, including by acts of terrorism, and develop a written analysis of the hazards." Then you will have to "monitor the performance of these controls and maintain records of this monitoring as a matter of routine practice." If you find something that does not comply with the plan, you must document your corrective action. You must keep these records for a minimum of two years. The inspector will look for this and will expect an entry EVERY TIME you do anything related to your business. You bake six l oaves of bread for the farmers market or the retail store down the street, you fill out the HAACP form. I suppose you could write that you found the house doors unlocked and you locked them to keep terrorists out!

S510 will require us to have a recall contingency plan and to verify our suppliers. This means we will have to provide name, address and phone number of where we buy our supplies and who we sell the finished products to. If you sell strictly on farm or at a farmers market or you only occasionally produce bake sale food, which you donate to your church and then your church sells it, you will probably not have to comply with this. These folks have been exempted from regulations in HR2749. However, if you sell retail and wholesale, you should plan on having all these records because inspectors will look for them. You will also need to keep very good records of how your income is split between direct sales and indirect sales, including both retail shops and restaurants. Currently a farmers market booth is considered an extension of your farm, and therefore a direct sales venue. However, even if you are the sole owner and employee, like I am, of a retail store, you are selling indirect. I am sure there will be some hair-splitting over this later. Joel and his neighbors band together to sell products. He's the sales person, then, of many different products. Are his sales direct and the other farmers' sales indirect? Or are they all indirect because they are retail products from multiple sources? If Joel suddenly is deemed to have a retail store, he will have to comply with everything in the bill.

S510 will require us to follow the government's current "science-based" standards not only for our HAACP plan, but also our growing methods! Joel and Tyler of Afton Field Farm can tell you all about the ridiculous requirements for poultry processing buildings, I could tell you about unreasonable egg washing requirements; we are all afraid that they will tell us that we can not grow our fruits, vegetables and livestock naturally, as our families have for generations. S510 states that "the Secretary shall prioritize the implementation of the regulations for specific fruits and vegetables that are raw agricultural commodities that have been associated with food-bourne illness outbreaks." In the last few years, this has included spinach, peppers, tomatoes, green onions, cantaloupes, lettuce, peanuts, alfalfa sprouts, peanuts, etc. The Center for Disease Control says that food bourne illnesses have not actually increased, but are being better reported in the press. Hmmm... makes you wonder, since the USDA and FDA distribute a lot of press releases, if they have a reason to fan the fires... like to get NAIS-like plans enforced on producers of value-added products in addition to animal owners? The regulations "include, with r espect to growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to soil amendments, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment and water and consider hazards that occur naturally, may be unintentionally introduced or may be intentionally introduced, including by acts of terrorism." I can't imagine it would be very satisfactory to a terrorist to drive down my gravel drive to contaminate my 18 tomato plants when he could contaminate hundreds of thousands of plants at a commercial farm. He might sicken five people with my plants or five thousand with the commercial plants.

S510 specifies that farms are exempt from anti-terrorist regulations for short shelf life and bulk foods UNLESS these foods includes milk. So if you grow corn, for instance, you will have to have approved growing methods and keep terrorists away from your plants, but you can rest easy about how you store it once it is picked. But if you have dairy animals, you will have to show that your milk storage facility is terrorist proof.

The Department of Health and Human Services will consult with the Departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security for their terrorist prevention strategies. I find it especially nice that these strategies will be published so that terrorists, if there indeed are any, may know what these strategies are.

"Section 113, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management" requires parents to provide schools or other educational programs annually with a doctor's or nurse's documentation that the child has a food allergy, what the symptoms are, if the child has any history of anaphylaxis and a list of substitute foods that may be offered. I would think that every parent should want to protect their child, but I resent the specification that a doctor or nurse must be involved. When my daughter was little, I noticed that certain foods gave her rashes, including milk products, powdered drink mixes and M&Ms. I decided that pasteurized and homogenized milk and certain food colorings were the cause of this. Later I noticed bread products gave her intestinal distress and made her overweight, grouchy and tired. (A doctor diagnosed her as being diabetic and prescribed Metformin, which caused liver damage and repeated trips to hospitals and clinics!) Since she stopped consuming such products, she has been fine. I might have to take her to multiple doctors to find one who agrees with me that raw goat milk is ok, but pasteurized cow milk is not, that flour is bad, but sprouted grains are usually ok, and that dyes that are approved by the government as safe are indeed not safe. Why would I want to do this and subject her to invasive testing when I know from years of living with her what the truth is?

One of the very unfortunate realities of food inspection is that requirements are frequently vague and up to interpretation. The state inspector and the federal inspector may have totally different interpretations of the same words, which can almost be guaranteed to be 180 degrees different from our interpretations. Another unfortunate reality is that sometimes violators are cited, arrested, fined, jailed and even tried in the USDA's court rather than in public courts. Linda Faillace in Mad Sheep documents her experience with how hard it is to win against the USDA in the USDA's own courts.

Not expressly written in the bill, but implied, is that this bill allows the Federal government the unprecedented, unConstitutional authority to interfere with interstate (in-state) commerce. Previously only states and localities could regulate what was sold within their jurisdiction.

So there you have it. I am all for the provision that provides the Federal government the ability to mandate recalls. Currently recalls are voluntary, and producers of contaminated products tend to wait until the problem is huge and many people have been sickened rather than risk the bad press. But much of the rest of the bill tromps on small producers, processors and sales outlets. When our country is experiencing record unemployment and mind blowing debt, why should Congress pass a bill that provides for expenditures of $825,000,000.00 in 2010 ALONE and will put many small producer s out of business? Please do everything you can to help us make sure that the Senate does NOT pass this bill.

HR2749 RFS (The bill as referred to the Senate, available on is similar to S510, but far more specific, and does have differences that would affect us:

Hr2749 exempts farms, restaurants, retail stores, non profit organizations and individual homes where food is sold to or served directly to the consumer, which is defined as not being a business. It also exempts farms that process foods for their own consumption. (Generous of them, isn't it?) This is an improvement over previous versions of the bill, but anyone who receives more income selling food indirectly will have to comply with the entire bill. So a farmer who makes more money selling to restaurants or to retail stores (I assume this includes Joel now, since he's gotten the Chipotle account) will have to comply. The division is done by dollars sold rather than by types of food, volume sold or effort and time expended in such sales. This is probably bad news for a lot of people, since a farm may spend three days selling food at markets and on farm to make as much money as they receive from one delivery to a restaurant. I believe it will force many to keep records just in case an inspector shows up, just to prove that they sell mostly direct. It is also bad news for folks who farm part time or do not like dealing with the public who chose to sell only indirectly. Their operations may be no more "commercial" than the folks who sell only on farm, but they will have to comply as if they were a large commercial establishment. This would include folks like me, who work regular jobs and sell just enough to cover the feed bill so we can enjoy having livestock. There are still no exemptions for farmers and producers who sell only within their own states. Again, the Federal government does not have Constitutional authority to interfere with interstate commerce.

HR2749 specifies fees per facility of $500 for 2010 and allows for adjustment for following years. Someone who owns or operates multiple facilities have a maximum fee per year of "not more than $175,000." I wonder if my homestead and my store count as multiple facilities. HR2749 also contains provisions for additional fees for reinspections, recertifications and recalls. HR2749 requires submission of products for testing. I might be ok with this if this were the only requirement, but since we have to pay the fees and the HAACP plans, pass inspection and everything else, and pay for testing... Also, they get to decide who performs the test. I know two Virginia goat cheese manufacturers who had cheese seized and sent off to labs. They both sent samples of the same cheese to facilities they knew. Surprise! The results were different. One of the farmers said the inspectors did not pack her cheese on dry ice before mailing the package off. If you dispute the results, you get to pay for both tests, a retest, fines, and perhaps a lawyer once your facility is shut down. Plus you lose business and possibly receive bad press over the closure, even if you are not guilty. You’d be surprised if you knew how reluctant newspapers were to handle cases like this where the farm is right and the government is wrong.

HR2749 goes into significantly more detail about the Federal government's ability to interfere with foods sold interstate when they suspect a problem. (S510 allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create unknown new regulations.) HR2749 allows for search and seizure if there is "reason to believe" (as opposed to proof) that a product is unsafe, adulterated or misbranded. Remember that adulterated and misbranded could include simply purchasing ingredients from unregistered sources. It also may include raw milk, even in states where raw milk is legal. HR2749 specifically states that producers "in a state or a portion of a state" where there has been a suspected or confirmed food illness outbreak will be quarantined. It includes not only restriction of food, but also "means of conveyance of food," which for many of us would include the farm trucks we use to take food to market - and also to run errands and go to our day jobs.

The FDA still gets to decide what they consider a risky facility that requires inspection once a year or as often as they wish. HR2749 has stricken the requirement that there be "credible evidence" before search and seizure and has replaced those words with "reason to believe." If you make raw goat cheese, watch out. You are not allowed to refuse or delay an inspection, even though the inspectors will be interrupting you at HOME. They are not required to have a search warrant. A warrant limits the search in time, place and scope. They can be in your house for hours, even days, go into your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and other private places, in addition to your computer, address book and cell phone. They can interview your children, your customers, your neighbors. And at least some of them will be packing guns. My personal observation is that farmers who are registered gun owners tend to be treated the roughest during inspections.

The Secretary of the HHS can provide information to state, federal and local agencies at will, but may not necessarily disclose this information to you. Even better, they may also release information to foreign governments, international organizations, the public in general and the IRS. You don’t have to be proven guilty of selling unhealthy food in a court of law. You could simply sell “misbranded” food.

HR2749 also allows for the imprisonment of up to ten years of any person who knowingly sells misbranded or adulterated foods. It also allows for stiff penalties for noncompliance: $20,000.00-50,000.00 for a single individual, $250,000.00 - 1,000,000.00 per company or other group of individuals, up to 50,000.00-7,500,000.00 if they decide you or your company knowingly violated the rules. And here's a really chilling sentence: "Each violation and each day during which the violation continues shall be considered to be a separate offense." They will fine us so violently we will never, ever be able to recover. Already farmers are among the most risky of professions for suicide.

NAIS - most of you know all about NAIS but just in case a few don't, here's a one paragraph summary. National Animal ID is a plan that will require all owners of animals considered "livestock" by the Federal government (whether or not such animals are intended for human consumption, and whether or not such animals are even kept solely for personal use) to register their homes/farms with the government, using real estate metes and bounds and gps coordinates. All livestock owners will be required to identify each animal with government-approved microchips imbedded in the flesh or eartags and to submit this identification information to the government within 24 hours of the occurrence. Additionally, owners will have to report livestock movements (births, deaths, trips to the vet, trips to the fair, lost tags, etc) and veterinarians will be required to turn in non-compliers or they will lose their license. NAIS allows warrantless searches and seizures. Noncompliers may be slapped with a fee of $1,000 per animal per day.

This information is distributed by Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association to encourage farmers, homesteaders and the consumers who love them to stand up against unfair legislative action. Although emails are free, other activities to protect farm and food rights are not. Therefore I have included an OCFA membership application below. Please consider joining OCFA today!

Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association is a non-profit lobbying association dedicated to action. OCFA peruses national, local and state legislation and acts upon any that violate privacy and property rights of farmers, homesteaders and the consumers who enjoy their products.
Future plans are:
Feed your Legislator: We will reserve a room at Oregon’s Legislative Assembly in Salem to provide delicious home grown and produced foods, friendly smiles and conversation. We will help legislators understand that our food is more nutritious, fresh and tasty than that of multinational corporations, that we are real people, and they should do their best to protect us, their constituents.
Farm Food Voices: We will reserve an auditorium and host an event with locally grown and produced foods, guest speakers, a raffle, a book table and easy, convenient activism opportunities.
Demonstrations: In the event of an impending legislative emergency, or if a member farm is treated unfairly by the ODA, we will send out an emergency response team with picket signs and petitions to peaceably discomfort the aggressors and to capture media attention.
We need help: Please donate your photographs of farm families with animals, or consumer families visiting farms. We include these in letters to legislators and on posters showing who is affected by bad legislation. Send them to the address or email below. We need a central location (Eugene to Corvallis) for our rare but important meetings, a webmaster and of course new members!
OCFA membership benefits:
*Potluck strategy meetings
*Newsletter and private e-group
*Access to NICFA, the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association
*10% discount on related books and goods
*Fellowship and support
Join today!
Send $20.00 for one year’s membership to: OCFA, 3849 Green Valley Road, Oakland, Or. 97462
(Donations above $20 much appreciated!)
Phone________________________ Email_______________________________________
May we email your newsletter rather than mail it to save resources? Yes/no
Questions? Contact: President Larisa Sparrowhawk, 541-459-1259 at Localvore Fresh Oregon Foods,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Joel Salatin's visit to Oregon

It's been a whirlwind several days for Joel, although he often packs his days tightly when he travels. Patrick Donaldson of Portland scheduled it all and did a great job of making sure a lot of people could get their Joel fix.

Thursday they went to the Urban Farm store and Whole Foods in Portland, then to the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland to host a fundraiser for Hollywood Market and Oregon Consumers and Farmers Association (of which I am President). I gave my obligatory speech thanking Joel and Patrick for the fundraiser, added in what OCFA was going to be doing next and plugged the anti-NAIS petition Sharlyn and I have been circulating for a few months. (Patrick and I want to host a Feed Our Legislators event in February in Salem and I'd like to have 2,000 plus signatures by then!) I was pleased that people laughed when I hoped they'd laugh, clapped when I hoped they'd clap and that many stopped by to sign before they left the building. We got one membership on the spot and enough people took brochures and newsletters so I hope more memberships will come in the mail.

Joel got on stage and kept the audience spellbound with his stories of government interferance in the lives of small farmers. Many complain and whine. Part of Joel's popularity is that he can make ridiculous and maddening laws and situations funny. People know the subject is serious and they know they should be angry, but angry speakers are not great entertainment. Because Joel is a natural story teller and because he flashes huge, beautiful smiles often, people will listen to his tales of woe and LIKE IT.

I had to go home and take care of the animals and open the store Friday so I missed the activities then, but Joel and Patrick did the radio and tv circuit. It sounded like so much fun!

Saturday they went to the new farm owned by Patrick's daughter Alisha and her husband Tyler Jones, who used to be an apprentice of Joel's. Tyler and I met in Virginia in 2003 or 2004 I think, when there was a meeting at Joel's house not too long after he became VICFA's president. I was amazed at what Tyler and Alisha had for a home base: a very pretty (although in disrepair) historic Federal style farmhouse overlooking 106 acres. Tyler's only 29. Apparently he is mortgaged to the eyeballs, but he also has an AWESOME family on both his and Alisha's sides. Both fathers help feed and care for the animals! Patrick owns a business in Portland, but comes down a couple days at a time and lets the kids sleep in while he does chores. How incredibly cool is that??? Tyler's father helped build the processing barn. I haven't met Tyler's mother, but Alisha's mother, Patrick's wife, started a food buying club in Portland. How cool is THAT? Wardeh, if you're reading this, I gave her your GNOFGLINS blog info and told her you might have some pointers.

Joel's success as a farmer is also partially due to incredible family support. His success as a writer and public speaker, of course, is partially because he is naturally a go-getter, and partially because his family makes it possible for him to globetrot. Son Daniel takes care good of the farm and Teresa knows Joel will eventually, faithfully come home.

I got off track here. A little side foray into the importance of a loving family.

Joel and Tyler split the spotlight today. They talked about raising and processing chickens, custom grazing other people's cattle, a family milk cow, bees, pigs, politics, etc. I kept mostly quiet until they got to the politics and then I had to throw in my two cents now and then. They took us around the farm and again, I was amazed at the potential. It's an expensive farm, but it is also just barely outside the city, which will help hugely with their customer base. The view from the main house is pretty. They have quite a lot of pasture that is dry and lifeless now, but could be brought back to fertility within a couple of years. Tyler and his dad Brad did a great job building the processing building. It is not finished, but looks professional already.

I collected more signatures and emails on the Anti-NAIS petitition. I didn't get any memberships today, but I felt like several people were very likely to join.

The hard part is I spent $110 on gas, am sitting on E, didn't open the store two days and don't have a lot to show for it yet. The good part is I feel like OCFA and I have turned a corner. I think I made friends today I will keep for a lifetime. I have felt mighty lonely since moving here. I also think Patrick deserves more gratitude than I was able to show him in my little gift of food from my store. He introduced me to a lot of people I really needed to meet. I enjoyed seeing Joel for the first time in almost two and a half years. I have lots of email addresses (I hope I can read) to send information about bills in Congress and in Oregon's Legislative Assembly. I will send them an email version of a newsletter, information about upcoming OCFA events and will hopefully get at least a dozen memberships from these two events.

I found out when I came back that the House has sent HR2749 as they passed it to the Senate for consideration. The Senate already has S510. We will have to watch these closely. I will read and compare the two and write back.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Rolling home

When I first decided to move to Oregon to be near my mother after my dad died, I wanted to camp until the Virginia house sold. My brother and daughter came out here with me and everyone told me camping was a very bad idea. My gut feeling that I couldn't spend money on anything but land (since I refused to move without my goats and livestock guard dog) was correct, though. Now I am deeply in debt because the Virginia house finally sold at a loss 18 months after I put it on the market, I renovated the house and moved out here on credit cards expecting the house to sell faster and my income here is less than a quarter of what it was in Virginia.

My brother moved back to Virginia and my daughter moved out. NOW I AM ALONE, AND I'M GOING CAMPING!!!

I should be bummed, I guess. I have to leave the farm because I can't pay the rent and I can't afford to buy it. I already planted fruit trees and shrubs and put up a lot of fence. But I am mysteriously not bummed. Twice in Richmond I had a roof over my head but was without food, water, electricity and heat for several months. This time I have the ability to plan and make it an enjoyable learning experience.

The only thing I feel bad about is that a relative owns the house I currently live in and I promised to buy it. 2 years later with the housing market still in a crisis, I wish I could keep my promise but will be leaving her with a house that will not sell for what it is worth.

Otherwise I feel ok. Call it my mid-life crisis. I'm actually excited to be almost 44 years old and about to build two tiny houses on wheels - one for the chickens and one for me. The big dog will come with me. The little one will probably have to find a new home because he freaks when he is confined. He was formerly abused. Now he is spoiled rotten but he still remembers the abuse sometimes and shreds walls. Once I sell or give away a few, my favorite goats will fit in the pen I put in the back of my truck. I desperately need to reduce my flock of chickens and ducks, too.

I don't have to move for a few months, which is good, because I have no idea where I am going except that it has to reasonably close to the store. I have the time to source materials for the houses, find the camera that is around here somewhere and take pictures to show progress.

I am determined to build the chicken house for free. I have a 4x8 trailer to build it on and some scrap wood, including pallets. My own house will hopefully be on a 6x10 trailer, but if I can't find one for a good price, I can do 4x8. I have drawn plans for both sizes using minimal lumber cuts and standard sized showers, doors, counters and a composting toilet. In the smaller version the bathroom and kitchen sink are one and the same. In the larger version I have two sinks, both draining to outside. Since these classify as trailers, and I live in Oregon, they don't need a home building permit or to pass a vehicle inspection. I'll wire some lights to the back on a toggle switch to my truck brake lights. My house will have two layers of plywood and bubble wrap between for insulation. Before you laugh, bubble wrap is used by the greenhouse industry, so why not here? And I'm very allergic to most types of standard insulation. A gambrel roof will allow more room in the sleeping loft.

I was originally looking at Cabella's outfitter tents, but a complete set up with solar showers, a stove, etc, is $2,000 and if I brought the little dog that freaks, I could count on it being shredded. I'd also have to put up cattle panel around the outside to keep the goats from tasting and scratching themselves on it. I can build a much warmer rolling home for $1400 if I am careful where I source the wood and fixtures. (The composting toilet is expensive and not figured in either estimate.)

Moreover, I am only spending one day in Portland instead of attending all three days of the Joel Salatin event because I simply can not afford the trip. I would pay more gas hauling a home behind me, but I could park in a parking lot and skip the hotel room charges. Try doing THAT with an outfitter tent.

I thought I had made up the idea of a rolling home on a trailer myself, but it turns out there are a couple COMPANIES that build them now. One started after Katrina, which makes total sense to me. Those FEMA trailers were hard to get and were filled with formadehyde and asbestos. (Don't you wish you could put some of the poor displaced people in the homes of FEMA managers and put the FEMA managers in those trailers? Just for a few nights?) has lots of pictures of various projects all over the country.

Here are the basics:
The bottom is a utility trailer, which can be purchased inexpensively on Craig's List or in a used merchandise newspaper. I'm not going to build a frame for either house, although the pictures at all show people doing that. I'm going to build complete panels under the weather protection of my current front porch - windows, doors, insulation and all. Then I will call a friend over to help me lift and attach two long sides and one short side. I will keep one end open (with temporary bracing) until I install the countertop, closet (that uses a ladder to upstairs for the door!), sink, shower, second story, etc. Then I will attach the last wall. It sounds dicey, but it will be totally sturdy - I'll have to take pictures as I build to show how.

So, what do you think? I've told a couple people who think I have lost my mind, but I personally think I have found it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Inexpensive ways to improve ulcers

Another I sent in to Douglas County News, though I haven't seen it published yet:

Good Food Cheap #6 by Larisa Sparrowhawk

Instead of buying poor quality food and compensating with vitamins and painkillers, why not change your diet? The next several columns will deal with one or two specific concerns and natural options you can try.
Ten percent of Americans have ulcers. Many sufferers take antiacids, which work by alkalinizing the stomach contents. If acid reflux (release of stomach contents to the esophagus) occurs, the patient has less discomfort. However, since the body needs acid to digest proteins and fats, the body sends out a signal to produce additional hydrochloric acid, and so the cycle continues.
Cigarette smoking also inceases the occurance of ulcers. Just think of how much money you will save if you quit!
My guess is nearly all non-smokers with ulcers eat a sugar-heavy diet. Refined sugar, already acidic and enzymeless, is hard on the body and is especially so when used in cola drinks or consumed in amounts greater than 25 grams per sitting. In India, farmers use cola drinks as pesticides because they destroy soft bodied insects. If you crave sweet and fizzy drinks, pour seltzer water or club soda over juice concentrate.
Ulcer patients have been advised for years to drink milk, but many people are allergic to or intolerant of milk. A food allergy to a frequently consumed food can create an ulcer. An option would to be quit all milk, consuming yogurt, which contains probiotics, instead for a few days. If you still have pain, eliminate dairy products entirely and see how you feel.
Avocados, bananas and okra soothe the entire digestive system. Raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes, which help the body digest them. If you have a juicer, juice cabbage, which is beneficial to ulcers, with apples or carrots to improve the taste. If these suggestions improve how you feel, you may consider purchasing an enzyme supplement to take at the beginning of each meal.
Larisa Sparrowhawk is owner of Localvore Fresh Oregon Foods, LLC.

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Yummy and cheap food for your joints

I also sent this in to Douglas County News, a local weekly that features local politics. The owner, Becky Holm, and I believe that government should respect the privacy and property rights of individuals. We also share a delight in good food that happens to be cheap.

Gumbo is Good for Joint Health by Larisa Sparrowhawk
Hyaluronic Acid lubricates skin, eyes and joints. It costs $35 or more for a ½ ounce bottle, but you can get it inexpensively in your diet. HLA is released by long slow cooking of cartilage and bone. Before you go to bed (so you don’t heat up the house), place some rooster combs and feet that have been scalded and peeled of their skin in a pot. Or if you mysteriously can neither find a source nor stomach these goodies, you can substitute chicken necks and backs, which are almost as good. Add water, onion, celery and garlic and cook at 225 degrees or on low in a crock pot. In the morning strain the broth and discard the bones (and/or toenails!) and mushy vegetables. Add brown rice to the broth and cook until almost done. Add chopped green bell peppers, onions, dried tomatoes (or meaty fresh ones), celery and okra if you desire. Season with cayenne, garlic, rosemary, celery seed and basil, all of which are anti-inflammatory herbs. Salt to taste. The basic recipe will feed a family of four well for two meals for less than $6.00. You can dress this recipe up with a pound of good quality hot sausage, ham or tiny shrimp. Alternatively, you can use the same chicken broth and use it with turmeric and ginger (also anti-inflammatory herbs) as a base for curry.
Larisa Sparrowhawk is owner of Localvore Fresh Oregon Foods

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

blogs about nourishing communities

This first blog also shows what I left behind when I moved. Yes, I had tears in my eyes as I got to the last couple sentences of my comment.

Think Local Umpqua out of Roseburg is working hard to help people understand why they should care about the local economy, including local food. And I am, also. But I feel lonely, sometimes.

However, seeing Wardeh Harmon of GNOWFGLINS weekly perks me up, even if she didn't buy from my store. She also is a regular with some of my store's farms, caring enough about feeding her family the freshest and most natural foods to make three or four stops in a single day rather than go to the local Priceless grocery and settle for five week old factory farm eggs and vegetables that were grown in chemicals, picked green and ripened with ethylene gas. Since learning about the teachings of Weston A Price, she has blogged about her family's experiments with making goat cheese, soaked grain breads and other traditional foods. Wardeh's developed a loyal following and sometimes the comments are as good as the posts. See her blog here: