Saturday, August 31, 2013

The tyranny of low expectations

Here's my WND column for this weekend entitled The Tyranny of Low Expectations.

Not to be outdone by yesterday's homeschooling snark, in response to this column I received an email from Robert, whom I call "my favorite liberal reader." Robert routinely disagrees with every single thing I write, but for some reason he seems to like me as a person (I'm not sure if I should be flattered or not). At any rate, his email is copied below. (You'll have to read the column first for Robert's email to make sense.)

Hello Patrice ! I like you and you seem to be really nice person, but I'm sorry . You're dead wrong here, and this post shows how out of touch with reality you re . Entitlements? This is in fact a term in business meaning "EARNED BENEFITS . People don't feel "entitled" sponge of the government . They NEED government help to stay alive because of extremely difficult economic times . You see, wages have pretty much stagnated while the cost of living has risen steadily , so many honest,hard-working people are out of work through no fault of their own and we be starving on the streets without government help . We dom't have millions of lazy bums in America who don't want to work and want to sponge off the government. That's an urban legend .

Health care is not a right ? You mean it's okay to allow people to die from easily curble diseases or because of serious injuries just because they can't afford medical care ? Medical care is expensive nd not everybody can afford it . It's obscene for a rich person to get the best medical care in the world while a poor one dies of easily curable diseases . CHILDREN TOO.. You think babies and toddlers can support themsleves ?

So you've loist your job , can't feed your family,, can;t pay the mortgage and lose your home . You've got three kids and your wife is pregnant and the government won't give you any help for your wife and kids . But your wife can't have an abortion, because of the "right to life"? What about the right to decent food,. shelter, medical and education for that unborn child ? Tough noogies, kid. You're on your own .

Your wife is too sick to work .. There are complications in the pregnancy nd she could very well die if an emergency abortion is not performed. One of your kids has cncer, and can't get medical help . Things like this would be common if the government operated the way people like you want .

Oh yes. Conservatives like you say that private chrities should provide help for those in need . Sounds great in theory , but there's just one problen with this. PRIVATE CHARITIES AND CHURCHES JUST DON"T HAVE THE MEANS TO DO THIS . Don't get me wrong. I'm all for private charities .

Schools are putting a "cheery face on communism" and painting capitalism as evil ?" Don't believe this urban legend .

Patriotic citizens are now considered "domestic terrorists " by the government?" Puh-leaaaaze !!!!!! Give me a break. This claim is beyond ridiculous . You've been brinwashed and indoctrinated by right-wing propaganda .

Our government wants to mke all guns illegal and confiscate them from everyone ? Puh-leaaaaaze again. The Obama administration has yet to confiscate a single gun from any law-abiding citizen.

But be very afraid of the government under the GOP taking our social security away , denying desperately needed help for people down on their luck , raising interest on student loans and providing far less financial aid for young people who want to go to college, graduate,law and medical school, thus destroying th edreams of so many young people.

Be afraid of the government eliminating nutritional help for helpless impoverished young children young children whose intelligence and mental capacities will be permanently stunted by malnutrition, handicapping them them for life.

Beware of the government arresting , criminally prosecuting, and imprisoning innocent people who have never harmed anyone merely fo r being gay . Beware of thew government making abortion illegal , causing countless poor pregnant women to risk their lives and health at back-alley abortionists and the poorest ones kill themselves with coat hangers. And even wors,e making contraceptives, which can PREVENT so many abortions illegal

Beware of schools trying to force kids who are not Christian to participate in Christin prayer and sitting through Bible readings and punishing them for refusing to do so . Teaching them ridiculous superstition bout creationism as scientific fact, and brainwashing them with bigoted disinformation about homosexuals and homosexuality.

Beware of our government , under the rule of the religious right making non-evangelical Christians second citizens .

All the best, Robert

Friday, August 30, 2013

Let's hear it for "inequal and inept education" by "gun-toting, paranoid weirods"

It's always SO amusing when someone shoots themselves in the foot.

This morning I was reading a horrifically disturbing article about how a German homeschooling family had their home invaded by police and the children forcibly removed. Most of the comments left after this piece expressed shock and disgust at the heavy-handed government tactics used by German police. However one comment was so outstandingly opposite that I thought it was worth highlighting in a blog post.

I left the spelling, punctuation, diction, and lack of paragraph breaks entirely intact as proof of the superiority of this person's public school education.

I agree with the police decision! NO ONE needs to be homeschooling kids. We have a duty as a society ,and our government is to ensure, that ALLchildren receive adequete EQUAL education that prepares them for the REAL world. When kids are homeschooled they are most likely not learning skills and knowledge they need to function later as adults. The "education" they are getting is inequal and inept. Teachers are qualified and trained professionals that are able to instruct and nuture, parents are not. You can't have any hick or redneck coming along and trying to "learn" their kids irrelevant, or even dangerous ideas and false truths. Usually these homeschool nuts are domestic terrorist and religious extremeist. Religion has no place in education, whatsoever! I believe that most of these homes are ran by teabaggers and anti-Obama/anti-govt gun-toting, paranoid weirods that are not educating their children in valuable studies, but rather teacing them how to shoot guns and that the govenrment is "evil" and needs to be taken out. This is what harbors the kids who go into public places and open fire! When the government controls education it can be monitored and studies can be done to ensure there is the same level of academics and testing, and students who are falling behind can get the resources and help they need. If a homeschooled kid has a learning problem, they never can catch up orget the tutoring and professional care required. They essentially fall through the cracks and never learn anything. Homeschooled kids never go to colelge and never have real jobs. They are not intellectual and are generally socially retarded and forever outcasts. The govt gave these idiots plenty of time to copmply to THE LAW.They didn't. They have consquences. I am sure their kids will be better off.Mostlikely the home was abusive in some way anyow. Most parents who isolate their children and keep them homeschooled are abusers and molestosrs, they are tyrying to hide something obviously. If you have nothing to hide, no reason to fear the government. Be good people, respect the president, help the poor, insist on single-payer healthcare, demand gun bans, and send your kids to GOOD schools. Intelligent people realizeall this. Stuid people will disagree. Which are you?

Some hilarious highlights of this rant:

• When kids are homeschooled they are most likely not learning skills and knowledge they need to function later as adults.
• Teachers are qualified and trained professionals that are able to instruct and nuture, parents are not.
• Homeschooled kids never go to colelge and never have real jobs. They are not intellectual and are generally socially retarded and forever outcasts.
• Most parents who isolate their children and keep them homeschooled are abusers and molestosrs, they are tyrying to hide something obviously. If you have nothing to hide, no reason to fear the government.Be good people, respect the president, help the poor, insist on single-payer healthcare, demand gun bans, and send your kids to GOOD schools. Intelligent people realizeall this. Stuid people will disagree.

In the many posts responding to this drivel, someone had the intelligence to write, "In the future, I suggest you have someone proofread your posts before hitting the "Enter" key. Preferably someone who's been home-schooled."

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Happy anniversary!

Today is my parent's 55th wedding anniversary.

They were married August 30, 1958 and still hold hands when they walk down the street. How cool is that?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Broccoli beef

With lots of ripe broccoli in the garden, I decided to make a batch of broccoli beef for dinner. Unlike me, my kids aren't wildly crazy about broccoli, but this is one recipe guaranteed to get them to eat their veggies.

I base my broccoli beef recipe very loosely on a recipe found in a Chinese cookbook I found at a thrift store.

I say "loosely" because if I followed all the detailed directions, it would take me hours to make this dish. So I wing it instead.

I started by cutting a good amount of ripe broccoli.

Garden-fresh broccoli should be soaked in salt water for a few minutes to weed out any critters.

So I filled a bowl and dumped in a few tablespoons of salt, then soaked the broccoli for a few minutes.

Pretty clean broccoli. A couple of little worms, that's all.

I set the girls to cutting up the broccoli.

Meanwhile I took some meat out to defrost.

I like to cut the meat up into very small pieces.

I marinate the meat for a few minutes in a bit of oil, along with equal parts salt, sugar, cornstarch, and soy sauce. By "equal parts," I wing the amounts. I usually put in less salt, for example, and more soy sauce.

While the meat is marinating, I boil a pot of water. When the water is boiling, I drop the broccoli in to cook for about two minutes.

Then I drain the broccoli and rinse it right away with cold water.

Into the same pot that held the broccoli, I add a bit of oil and start cooking the beef. A wok would work well for this step.

While the beef is browning, I add garlic, a bit more soy sauce, and ginger.

While ground ginger works fine, I just happened to have some fresh ginger on hand, which adds a lot more zing. I peeled the ginger and grated it.

The recipe calls for chicken stock and oyster sauce. I keep homemade chicken stock on hand, but oyster sauce must be bought commercially. Can't skip that ingredient, it makes all the difference.

To about a cup of chicken stock, I had a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch for thickener.

Then I started combining everything together. Broccoli...

...spices, and then the entire bottle of oyster sauce.

In fact, to make sure I get ALL the oyster sauce out of the bottle, I take a bit of the chicken stock (mixed with cornstarch) and pour it into the bottle, give it a good shake...

...and pour everything into the broccoli beef.

Then I pour in the rest of the chicken stock mixed with cornstarch. We like our broccoli beef to have sauce with it since we eat it over rice.

It let it simmer a few more minutes so the cornstarch can do its thickening magic.

I also made a fresh pot of rice.


(By the way, my apologies that the photos are a bit dark. I had my camera on the wrong setting.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Please stand by...

Sorry for the shortage of posts recently. We've been frantically busy with our woodcraft business ('tis the busy season, after all) and I simply haven't had much time to compose anything. Don't go away! I'll be right back.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not yet

The watermelons and cantaloups in the garden have been getting bigger and bigger. But were they ripe?

Don decided to find out.

So he went through all the plants and picked the biggest melon he could find.

Then he took it into the house and sliced it open.

Nope. Not ripe.

So we sliced it and gave it to the chickens, who thought it was Just Great.

Later on, Polly chewed on the pecked-out rinds.

But this green melon begs the question, how can you tell when a watermelon is ripe? We tried the old "thump it" trick (where you snap your finger against the rind, and if it sounds dull then it's ripe) but clearly it didn't work.

Determining ripeness turns out to be a subtle science. I found a link to a gardening website which offered much advice, the most useful of which are:

• Look for the spot where the melon rested on the ground; a yellow-white, yellow or a cream-yellow color spot suggests ripeness and a white or pale green spot indicates immaturity. A green watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom. Those fruit that show a change of color from green or olive-grey to yellowish brown should be considered ready to harvest. Also look for a breakup of green bands at the blossom end of the fruit. For best quality, walk the patch daily.

• Check the tendril. If the tendril is green, you should wait to pick the melon. Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem, the "pigtail" or tendril closest to the melon on the vine begins to shrivel and dry up. If it dries while the leaves and rest of the vine looks good, the melon should be ripe.

And, when in doubt:

• Crack a few. You've got a whole field of watermelons, and you can practice a little, right?

• Still confulsed? Guess. All indicators will not always work. Take your best shot and go with it.

In short, there doesn't appear to be an absolute determinant to figuring out when a watermelon is ripe. I'll try checking the "pigtail" tendril as well as the color on the melon's bottom next time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book bomb day for The Prepared Family Cookbook!

Today is the official launch day for our friend and neighbor Enola Gay's new book, The Prepared Family Cookbook.

We've watched and cheered Enola for the last couple of years as she's brought this volume from concept to fruition. This family is renowned in our area for their welcoming and friendly home, and Enola brings a lot of her special touch into this book. She discusses such endearing habits as tea time and hospitality, but also concrete practical subjects as preparedness, canning and food preservation, woodstove cookery, off-grid living, and homestead medicine.

There is also a large section of Enola's favorite recipes. Older Daughter has been thoroughly enjoying the recipe for Soft Giant Pretzels this week.

Besides being a wonderful preparedness resource, The Prepared Family Cookbook gives you a glimpse into the private lives of this delightful family we're privileged to call friends.

If you're looking for an excellent and practical addition to your preparedness library, look no further.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Battling hummingbirds

On August 5, I belatedly hung up the hummingbird feeder after noticing a couple of hummers hovering on our front porch in a very pointed way. Considering I haven't hung the feeder since summer before last, I can only assume these birds either had a very good memory, or it was pure chance that they lingered in front of the window, looking at me crossly.

So I mixed up sugar water (4:1 ratio) and hung the feeder. It took, oh, about fifteen minutes for the first hummer to discover it.

There's just something so endlessly fascinating about these tiny packages of metabolism and mobility.

See her little tongue sticking out?

It didn't take long for more hummingbirds to find the feeder, and then the battle was on.

It got to where there were so many birds that I was refilling the feeder every day. At one point I counted nine hummers arguing over the artificial flowers.

You know how it is with hummers. They let you get right up to them.

And then about a week ago, kaboom. Nothing. No more hummers. The feeder hung there, full of sugar water, deserted.

In this part of the country, it's advised that people not feed hummers past late summer because it will encourage them to put off their migration to warmer climates. But is their departure so sudden and abrupt? Possibly.

At any rate, I guess I'll take the feeder down now. Nothing more to see.