Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ants Begone! Diatomaceous Earth...

We have ants! As my kids sit here and watch Born Free, I realize that I want all of us in Nature to live in harmony and to truly be free. But, that unfortunately doesn't really apply to uninvited guests like big, black, fast, scuttling ants in my kitchen. Sorry, but it doesn't.

They arrived a few days ago and seem to have settled in, establishing all sorts of scented paths so their buddies can find their way and also move in and have a party in my cupboards and across my floor.

(Pictured above, an ant in Mexico--beautiful and not in my kitchen...)

My husband and I stomp on them when we're in the kitchen, which is not really an organized form of pest control, but it is effective for the ones under our heels. My son hates this.

He earnestly questions whether we think that the ants know that they're in our house and if they mean to bother us. It's all about intent for him. And, I do see the justice in that. It's not their fault and I wish them no harm, in principle. If they could just go away, I would be fine with that. But, since my son is right--they don't know that they're in our house, they won't feel the territorial pressure and go away from our turf. If I could mark our territory to make them back off I would. But the only scents I have are old perfume that I no longer wear, and lovely essential oils-- lavender, tangerine, clove, tea tree, eucalyptus-- that I use medicinally. That won't work.

I have, however, found something that seems to be working. I have liberally sprinkled Diatomaceous Earth all around our kitchen baseboards. Diatomaceous Earth is a powder comprised of ground up fossilized sea creatures. It feels like flour to the touch, but is quite abrasive and when pests walk through it or have it sprinkled on them, it cuts their skin or exoskeleton. After that, they succumb to extreme dehydration and die.

Sounds awful doesn't it?

Besides being effective, which is apparent today in my relatively ant--free kitchen, it is completely safe and non toxic. You don't want to breathe it in as you sprinkle it, as it can irritate, but other than that it is harmless unless you are measured in millimeters and then it is biological warfare.

Monday, June 29, 2009

In 3, 2, 1...

Blast off!

My son has been waiting to shoot off this rocket since he got it as a gift at Christmas. On Saturday morning, we went to a big, nearby park.

I give you, my son, the rocket scientist.

My son and his assistant setting up the gear.

Hooking up the battery...

Ready to go. Note the homemade launch pad.

Quickly getting out of the way...

Ready to make contact... in three, two, one...


(Look at the faces--Who is the kid in that picture? It's a tie.)

Trying to spot it in the sky...

Spotted it! Filming and running at the same time...

It's coming down...

There it is!

It landed!

Let's do it again!

No damage. My son just needs to repack the parachute.

Ready to go again...

In three, two, one... BLAST OFF!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Found It! 60 Minutes Swine Flu Segment

I thought I had lost this video--that it had been removed. I'm impatient and looked again and finally found it. Here it is again, just because.

I Don't Like Mikey

Yesterday afternoon, my daughter got thrown from a horse.

Part of the class my daughter takes involves grooming a horse, tacking, and then actually riding. After the ride, the kids de-tack (is that a word?), groom again and then hook up a lead rope to the horse and take the horse back to its stall.

This all takes about two hours and my daughter likes it very much. She feels in charge of the horses and feels affectionate towards them. Hoof picking and strapping on the girth and riding a giant horse or pony is a great lesson for an 8 year old girl. She can do it. She can control things. She is strong and when riding has great poise and feels at ease sitting up on these giant beasts.

Yesterday, it didn't go as planned or as previously experienced.

My daughter's horse yesterday was Mikey. I didn't know, but parents told me later, that Mikey is a skitterish horse and threw a girl last week--we weren't at that class. Instead, we were at my kids' dance recital where both kids received an honorable mention badge for only missing one class. My daughter has been wearing it constantly and pretends she is Hermione Granger with her prefect badge.

As my daughter was riding Mikey around the ring, doing a good job trying to "stay on the rail!" someone drove by too quickly near the stable (there is a strict 5 MPH speed limit around the stables, for good reason) and Mikey got spooked. He started to run and my daughter was able to stay on, pulling as hard as she could on the reins, commanding in a loud voice "Ho! Ho!" But, Mikey kept running and on the next turn my daughter came tumbling off.

Standing outside of the ring, I waited a moment to see if she would pop up and shake it off and then I saw that she wasn't shaking it off. Her teacher told her, "Lie down! Stay down." The other kids all stopped their horses and I ran in to my daughter.

She was scared. She was crying in that can't-get-a-full-breath-totally-shaken kind of way that is thankfully rare and is so heart wrenching to me. I held her and talked soothingly to her. I asked where she hurt and said that I bet that was scary--it really was.

She landed well--on her bum--and was physically OK. Still, thank God for helmets.

After calming down somewhat, she went to sit with her teacher in the center of the ring.
Later, on the ride home, she told me that her teacher told her she was a good girl. That she did a good job trying to control that horse and did what she should do when she fell. I heartily agreed.

The stable got Mikey out of there and someone quickly saddled up Haley so my daughter could ride again, hence the saying "Get back up on the horse." I took my daughter over as they saddled up Haley so she could talk to the horse and feel OK with the idea of riding again.

Haley is a nice horse and my daughter bravely finished the lesson riding her. As my daughter rode around the ring, I could see the strain on my daughter's face as she tried not to cry and actually do the things she needed to do in her lesson.

When we got into the car to drive home, my daughter released all of the tension from trying to keep it together and she cried. I kept holding her hand behind me as I drove and told her how brave she had been--in handling Mikey and keeping it together and riding Haley--she got back up on that horse! I told her that if there really was a Hogwarts, and if she went there, she would for sure be sorted into Gryffindor--undoubtedly. She is a brave girl--one of the bravest people I know.

We got home, I put her in a bubble bath with a few drops of cheering tangerine essential oil and sat on the floor and read her a book.

My daughter doesn't like Mikey. I don't like Mikey either.

My daughter, last year, with La--an ancient pony, with only one eye who would never throw a kid off during a lesson... unlike some other horses I could mention!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lightning Bug/Firefly/Glowworm/Icky Bug Poll Results

In the poll, "What do you call a lampyridae?" I gave the choices, "Lightning Bug", "Firefly", "Glow worm" or "Icky, icky bug". I am pleased to report that no one found them to be icky. Lightning Bug received 2 votes. Firefly received 6 votes, Glow worm got none.

Rock the vote everyone!

Swine Flu Vaccine, 1976: Deja Vu All Over Again?

Here is a 60 Minutes segment on the Swine Flu Vaccine program of 1976. It's pretty clear that they didn't properly test the vaccine and it caused all sorts of injuries. Further more, the powers that be knew there were neurological problems associated with the vaccine, but advised people to take it any way. It's also true that in general all vaccines aren't very well tested now. There's no testing with unhealthy kids, yet they're expected to take the shots, and there's no long term safety studies.

The government didn't realize that the monkey virus SV40 that was in the polio vaccine in the 50's and 60's caused cancer until twenty years later.

The current swine flu (H1N1) vaccine is in development right now by Baxter International Inc. and is expected to be commercially available in July. What kind of testing do you suppose it will have undergone?

By the way, this 60 Minutes segment aired only once in 1979...

Here is also the transcript, for kicks...

60 MINUTES, Sunday Nov 4, 1979


MIKE WALLACE: The flu season is upon us. Which type will we worry about this year, and what kind of shots will we be told to take? Remember the swine flu scare of 1976? That was the year the U.S. government told us all that swine flu could turn out to be a killer that could spread across the nation, and Washington decided that every man, woman and child in the nation should get a shot to prevent a nation-wide outbreak, a pandemic.

Well 46 million of us obediently took the shot, and now 4,000 Americans are claiming damages from Uncle Sam amounting to three and a half billion dollars because of what happened when they took that shot. By far the greatest number of the claims - two thirds of them are for neurological damage, or even death, allegedly triggered by the flu shot.

We pick up the story back in 1976, when the threat posed by the swine flu virus seemed very real indeed.

PRESIDENT GERALD FORD; This virus was the cause of a pandemic in 1918 and 1919 that resulted in over half a million deaths in the United States, as well as 20 million deaths around the world.

WALLACE: Thus the U.S. government's publicity machine was cranked into action to urge all America to protect itself against the swine flu menace. (Excerpt from TV commercial urging everyone to get a swine flu shot.) One of those who did roll up her sleeve was Judy Roberts. She was perfectly healthy, an active woman, when, in November of 1976, she took her shot. Two weeks later, she says, she began to feel a numbness starting up her legs.

JUDY ROBERTS: And I joked about it at that time. I said I'll be numb to the knees by Friday if this keeps up. By the following week, I was totally paralyzed.

WALLACE: So completely paralyzed, in fact, that they had to operate on her to enable her to breathe. And for six months, Judy Roberts was a quadriplegic. The diagnosis: A neurological disorder called "Guillian-Barre Syndrome" - GBS for short. These neurological diseases are little understood. They affect people in different ways.

As you can see in these home movies taken by a friend, Judy Roberts' paralysis confined her mostly to a wheelchair for over a year. But this disease can even kill. Indeed, there are 300 claims now pending from the families of GBS victims who died, alledgedly as a result of the swine flu shot. In other GBS victims, the crippling effects diminish and all but disappear. But for Judy Roberts, progress back to good health has been painful and partial.

Now, I notice that your smile, Judy, is a little bit constricted.

ROBERTS: Yes, it is.

WALLACE: Is it different from what it used to be?

ROBERTS: Very different, I have a – a greatly decreased mobility in my lips. AndI can't drink through a straw on the right-band side. I can't blow out birthday candles. I don't whistle any more, for which my husband is grateful.

WALLACE: It may be a little difficult for you to answer this question, but have you recovered as much as you are going to recover?

ROBERTS: Yes. This - this is it.

WALLACE: So you will now have a legacy of braces on your legs for the rest of your life?

ROBERTS: Yes. The weakness in my hands will stay and the leg braces will stay.

WALLACE: So Judy Roberts and her husband have filed a claim against the U.S. government. They're asking $12 million, though they don't expect to get nearly that much. Judy, why did you take the flu shot?

ROBERTS: I'd never taken any other flu shots, but I felt like this was going to be a major epidemic, and the only way to prevent a major epidemic of a - a really deadly variety of flu was for every body to be immunized.

WALLACE: Where did this so called "deadly variety of flu", where did it first hit back in 1976? It began right here at Fort Dix in New Jersey in January of that year, when a number of recruits began to complain of respiratory ailments, something like the common cold. An Army doctor here sent samples of their throat cultures to the New Jersey Public Health Lab to find our just what kind of bug was going around here. One of those samples was from a Private David Lewis, who had left his sick bed to go on a forced march. Private Lewis had collapsed on that march, and his sergeant had revived him by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But the sergeant showed no signs of illness. A few days later, Private Lewis died.

ROBERTS: If this disease is so potentially fatal that it's going to kill a young, healthy man, a middle-aged schoolteacher doesn't have a prayer.

WALLACE: The New Jersey lab identified most of those solders' throat cultures as the normal kind of flu virus going around that year, but they could not make out what kind of virus was in the culture from the dead soldier, and from four others who were sick. So they sent those cultures to the Federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, for further study. A few days later they got the verdict: swine flu. But that much-publicized outbreak of swine flu at Fort Dix involved only Private Lewis, who died, and those four other soldiers, who recovered completely without the swine flu shot.

ROBERTS: If I had known at that time that the boy had been in a sick bed, got up, went out on a forced march and then collapsed and died, I would never have taken the shot.

DR DAVID SENCER: The rationale for our recommendation was not on the basis of the death of a - a single individual, but it was on the basis that when we do see a change in the characteristics of the influenza virus, it is a massive public-health problem in the country.

WALLACE: Dr David Sencer, then head of the CDC - the Center of Disease Control in Atlanta - is now in private industry. He devised the swine flu program and he pushed it.

You began to give flu shots to the American people in October of '76?

DR SENCER: October 1st.

WALLACE: By that time, how many cases of swine flu around the world had been reported?

DR SENCER: There had been several reported, but none confirmed. There had been cases in Australia that were reported by the press, by the news media. There were cases in -

WALLACE: None confirmed? Did you ever uncover any other outbreaks of swine flu anywhere in the world?


WALLACE: Now, nearly everyone was to receive a shot in a public health facility where a doctor might not be present, therefore it was up to the CDC to come up with some kind of official consent form giving the public all the information it needed about the swine flu shot. This form stated that the swine flu vaccine had been tested. What it didn't say was that after those tests were completed, the scientists developed another vaccine and that it was the one given to most of the 46 million who took the shot. That vaccine was called "X-53a". Was X-53a ever field tested?

DR SENCER: I-I can't say. I would have to -

WALLACE: It wasn't

DR SENCER: I don't know

WALLACE: Well, I would think that you're in charge of the program

DR SENCER: 1 would have to check the records. I haven't looked at this in some time.

WALLACE: The information form the consent form was also supposed to warn people about any risk of serious complications following the shot. But did it?

ROBERTS: No, I had never heard of any reactions other than a sore arm, fever, this sort of thing.

WALLACE: Judy Roberts' husband, Gene, also took the shot.

GENE ROBERTS: Yes, I looked at that document, I signed it. Nothing on there said I was going to have a heart attack, or I can get Guillain Barre, which I'd never heard of.

WALLACE: What if people from the government, from the Center for Disease Control, what if they had indeed, known about it, what would be your feeling?

JUDY ROBERTS: They should have told us.

WALLACE: Did anyone ever come to you and say, "You know something, fellows, there's the possibility of neurological damage if you get into a mass immunization program?"


WALLACE: No one ever did?


WALLACE: Do you know Michael Hattwick?

DR SENCER: Yes, uh-hmm.

WALLACE: Dr Michael Hattwick directed the surveillance team for the swine flu program at the CDC. His job was to find out what possible complications could arise from taking the shot and to report his findings to those in charge. Did you know ahead of time, Dr Hattwick that there had been case reports of neurological disorders, neurological illness, apparently associated with the injection of influenza vaccine?


WALLACE: You did?


WALLACE: How did you know that?

DR HATrwICK: By review of the literature.

WALLACE: So you told your superiors - the men in charge of the swine flu immunization program - about the possibility of neurological disorders?

DR RATTWICK: Absolutely

WALLACE: What would you say if I told you that your superiors say that you never told them about the possibility of neurological complications?

DR HAJTWICK: That's nonsense. I can't believe that they would say that they did not know that there were neurological illnesses associated with influenza vaccination. That simply is not true. We did know that.

DR SENCER: I have said that Dr Hattwick had never told me of his feelings on this subject.

WALLACE: Then he's lying?

DR SENCER: I guess you would have to make that assumption.

WALLACE: Then why does this report from your own agency, dated July 1976, list neurological complications as a possibility?

DR SENCER: I think the consensus of the scientific community was that the evidence relating neurologic disorders to influenza immunization was such that they did not feel that this association was a real one.

WALLACE: You didn't feel it was necessary to tell the American people that information

DR SENCER: I think that over the - the years we have tried to inform the American people as - as fully as possible.

WALLACE: As part of informing Americans about the swine flu threat, Dr Sencer's CDC also helped create the advertising to get the public to take the shot. Let me read to your from one of your own agency's memos planning the campaign to urge Americans to take the shot. "The swine flu vaccine has been taken by many important persons," he wrote. "Example: President Ford, Henry Kissinger, Elton John, Muhammad Ah, Mary Tyler Moore, Rudolf Nureyev, Walter Cronkite, Ralph Nader, Edward Kennedy" -etcetera, etcetera, True?

DR SENCER: I'm not familiar with that particular piece of paper, but I do know that, at least of that group, President Ford did take the vaccination.

WALLACE: Did you talk to these people beforehand to find out if they planned to take the shot?

DR SENCER: I did not, no.

WALLACE: Did anybody?

DR SENC ER: I do not know.

WALLACE: Did you get permission to use their names in your campaign?

DR SENCER: I do not know.

WALLACE: Mary, did you take a swine flu shot?

MARY TYLER MOORE: No, I did not.

WALLACE: Did you give them permission to use your name saying that you had or were going to?

MOORE: Absolutely not. Never did.

WALLACE: Did you ask your own doctor about taking the swine flu shot?

MOORE: Yes, and at the time he thought it might be a good idea. But I resisted it, because I was leery of having the symptoms that sometimes go with that kind of inoculation.

WALLACE: So you didn't?

MOORE: No, I didn't.

WALLACE: Have you spoken to your doctor since?



MOORE: He's delighted that I didn't take that shot.

WALLACE: You're in charge. Somebody's in charge.

DR SENCER: There are -

WALLACE: This is your advertising strategy that I have a copy of here.

DR SENCER: Who's it signed by?

WALLACE: This one is unsigned. But you--you'll acknowledge that it was your baby so to speak?

DR SENCER: It could have been from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It could be from CDC. I don't know. I'll be happy to take responsibility for it.

WALLACE: It's been three years now since you fell ill by GBS right?


WALLACE: Has the federal government, in your estimation, played fair with you about your claim?

ROBERTS: No, I don't think so. It seems to be dragging on and on and on, and really no end in sight that I can see at this point.

JOSEPH CALIFANO: With respect to the cases of Guillain Barre...

WALLACE: Former Secretary of HEW Joseph Califano, too was disturbed that there was no end in sight. So a year and a half ago, he proposed that Uncle Sam would cut the bureaucratic red tape for victims suffering from GBS and would pay up quickly.

CALIFANO: We shouldn't hold them to an impossible or too difficult standard of proving that they were hurt. Even if we pay a few people a few thousand dollars that might not have deserved it, I think justice requires that we promptly pay those people who do deserve it.

WALLACE: Who's making the decision to be so hard-nosed about settling?

CALIFANO: Well, I assume the Justice Department is.

WALLACE: Griffin Bell, before he left?

CALIFANO: Well, the Justice Department agreed to the statement I made. It was cleared word for word with the lawyers in the Justice Department by my HEW lawyers.

CALIFANO: That-that statement said that we should pay Guillain Barre claims without regard to whether the federal government was negligent, if they - if they resulted from the swine flu shot.

GENE ROBERTS: I think the government knows its wrong.

JUDY ROBERTS: If it drags out long enough, that people will just give up, let it go.

GENE ROBERTS: I—I am a little more adament in my thoughts than my wife is, because I asked - told Judy to take the shot. She wasn't going to take it, and she never had had shots. And I'm mad with my government because they knew the fact, but they didn't realise those facts because they - if they had released them, the people wouldn't have taken it. And they can come out tomorrow and tell me there's going to be an epidemic, and they can drop off like flies to - next to me, I will not take another shot that my government tells me to take.

WALLACE: Meantime, Judy Roberts and some 4,000 others like her are still waiting for their day in court.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

Last night at the pool, we were all in the deep end. My daughter looked at my husband for a long time, dunked her head and then came out to comment, "Dad, your fur goes like this *makes undulating movement with her hand*"

My husband said, "It's hair, not fur..."

A moment later my daughter dunked down again, came up and then said, "And, your back fur goes like this *makes swishing movement side to side with her hand*"


Both kids jumped off of the high dive and the low board and there my son did a forward flip as well.

Water bugs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm Going to Make RAW MILK Yogurt!

The other day, along with my sourdough starter, I received a viili yogurt starter from Cultures for Health. We're busy around here, but soon, I will make the yogurt and I will show you how--it couldn't be easier.

In the meantime, I want you to see the yogurt starter and the comprehensive instructions that are included.

The instructions are simple and straightforward. Included is a special note for raw milk users:

Many people have noted the traditional benefits of raw milk and its products and are returning to it in an effort to eat real, whole foods. Cultures all over the world have been sustained by raw dairy products for millennia.

When making yogurt, you usually heat milk and then introduce the yogurt starter to create the strain of good microbes that you want. You want the microbes from the starter and the heating of the milk destroys any other strains. Why not have all sorts of strains for yogurt? Because some microbes will affect the texture and make it stringy. This is true for raw milk as well as pasteurized.

So how will we have raw milk yogurt, if we're going to heat it up? AHA! This is where the handy dandy instructions come in from Cultures for Health. You only heat up a little bit of milk, add the starter to that, and then use that to make your yogurt, maintaining all of the enzymes, vitamin C, antibacterial properties of your raw milk. Brilliant!

Look at this beautiful sight:

It is so seldom that you see these words any where. I am so glad to be able to make a yogurt for my family that will still have all of the benefits of raw milk.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Making My Sourdough Starter

I recently received my Desem Sourdough Starter from Cultures for Health and I was ready to make my sourdough starter.

There were clear instructions and an expiration date on the package so I was sure to make the starter at the ideal time. Easy so far!

I gathered my ingredients: starter, water, sprouted whole wheat flour, giant jar (it doesn't have to be this large, but I'm ambitious), wooden spoon, Nourishing Traditions for inspiration and my pineapple top that I'm sprouting that hopefully will become a plant and will fruit in about three years... if I'm lucky. It's worth a shot.

Don't really need a sprouting plant when you're making starter, but it was there and it hurt no one.

You need flour, however, and I've found a great source for freshly ground sprouted flour. As if souring is not enough, the fact that the grain is sprouted makes it much more digestible--your body recognizes it as a vegetable and no longer a starch. The whole point for me in undertaking sourdough bread making and kefir making and raw milk yogurt making is to improve the health of my family. It's not difficult, but it does take a mindset that you're going to do it. And the more you know, the more you know, you know?

I put the starter in the jar and then my daughter helped me by stirring, as I poured in the water.

Once that was well blended, I added the flour and my daughter stirred.

I spilled some flour--my bad. But, my daughter enjoyed stirring and didn't spill a thing.

That was it! It couldn't have been easier. The starter from Cultures for Health had a great hearty, yeasty smell and I was hopeful that it would actually work. Would the starter develop? Would it create a frothy souring blend? I hoped so. It seemed promising.

I put a cloth towel over the top and held it in place with a rubber-band.

Now we would see how active the starter was. I couldn't wait to see bubbles.

I let it sit for twenty four hours and saw that it was beautifully bubbly. So I then again added water and flour to feed the starter. It's yet another living food, at least until it gets baked.

I have fed it diligently and will let it rest and then make some fresh starter from it that will get used in a recipe for bread.

I can also report that this is a very vigorous and robust starter, not easily messed with, even when someone is distracted by her parents who are visiting for the weekend to go to the kids' dance recital and she starts the oven to make something and then realizes that the emanating yeasty smell is her baking her starter which she had so cleverly put in the oven with the light on to nudge it along. Oh. My. God!! I fried my starter!!

It was OK, thankfully, and I will make a loaf of no knead bread this week.

A total success so far, but almost a total disaster... I dodged that one.

Friday, June 19, 2009

1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade)

It's only getting to the 80's around here this weekend, not 96 degrees in the shade. And, our politics has cooled off, unlike in Iran or other places in the world.

How hot is it where you are, literally and politically? Any rebellions against cruel, fat governors on your island?

Here's a history lesson from Third World.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There's a Book for Everybody

My son is exclaiming and sharing all that he is learning in his new all time favorite book ever, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead, by Max Brooks. Since getting the book on Tuesday, he has learned about Marshall Law, learned the gun terms caliber, magnum, and knows exactly what to do in case of a zombie attack--as you might guess, you should already have a plan...

Yesterday, my daughter came down the stairs, tears streaming down her face, quivery lower lip and sobbed, "Jack is dead!" Poor, poor Jack, Laura's dog, dies in By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My daughter cried for him as we talked about how guilty Laura had felt for not petting him more. We agreed that maybe she should go and pet our 23 year old cat. That would maybe help her feel OK.

I am hunting down vermiculite on line as they don't have big enough bags of the stuff in any nursery or gardening center around here. Why do I need a big bag of vermiculite? Because I am making a raised bed for vegetables and using the approach outlined by Mel Bartholomew in his book, All New Square Foot Gardening. With this approach, I make a soil blend and one third of it is vermiculite. One third is peat and another third is a mix of different types of compost. Because of the third compost, the garden is wonderfully fertilized and is truly organic. Hurray! I'm reading the book and tracking down my supplies.

My husband is reading about baseball or bicycle repair or VW bugs, or something that has a thing as its subject. You can't escape that if you're an industrial designer.

One time my husband and I were in an old post office and when we got out of there, my husband asked me if I had seen the very elaborate system they had for opening the windows that were high up. I guess there were bars and pulleys and cords and I hadn't noticed any of that. Not only had I not noticed the means for opening the windows, I was only vaguely aware that there had even been windows. I don't go around reverse engineering the world as my husband does and I rarely raise my eyes more than 20 degrees above the horizon--if that.

My husband was a bit surprised by that--how can you not notice if there are windows or not? I don't know. How can you not notice a tone of voice or a facial expression and how that contributes to communication? Hmmmmm?

All this to say, there is a book out there for everybody.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Where is My Vote?

That's what they're demanding to know on the streets of Tehran--where is my vote? Hundreds of thousands are marching in Tehran demanding justice over the seemingly stolen election by Ahmadinejad. Mousavi is who they voted for.

Check out the collection of photos at DailyKos. These people want who they voted for. They are demanding justice, and are going to the streets and not sitting idly by while the election is stolen. *cough* Bush first term *cough, cough*

Notice especially the Iranian women in these photos--not in burkas, not cowed. See in one picture how they're running to stop thugs beating up a guy. These are strong women, referred to as Freedom Fighters in the post.

Where is their vote?

A Lightning Bug by Any Other Name

Last night, I was outside on my back porch and I saw a lightning bug glow for a moment in the branches of our maple tree. A few seconds later I saw it glow again several feet to the right. I looked lower at the grass and did not see a female response. Sorry, Charlie.

The scientific term for them is lampyridae. I never knew this and only just now found out. I grew up calling them lightning bugs or fireflies. We loved seeing them on a hot summer's night and tried to catch as many as we could and stick them in jars and see them glow for a while and then we would release them. They would slowly walk up to the highest point, stick out their wings, pause for a moment, and then fly up and away.

My sister D. lived in Seattle for a while and told me once how she was talking with someone and she brought up fireflies and they had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Isn't that amazing? They don't have fireflies or lightning bugs in Seattle. It wouldn't feel like Summer without them.

I wonder what they have there that I have no idea of--I bet tons.

New poll up to the left: what do you call lampyridae?

Have you seen one yet?

Sunday, June 14, 2009


How can four kids ranging from ages 8 to 11 years old reenact scenes from Revenge of the Sith complete with crackling force lightning sound effects and wielding foam and PVC duct tape swords (they can be light sabers if you so pretend) having only had about 4 hours sleep?


Why do I always forget that this is the magical thing that happens during sleep-overs? They need nothing more than movies and popcorn and pancakes the next morning and only a couple of hours of sleep.

The parents, however, may need more. Maybe. Quite possibly, if you stop to think about it. Which I would do if I had more sleep...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Raw MIlk Yogurt!! Sourdough Bread!!

Guess what I got from Cultures for Health--OK, I already gave it away in the title to this post, but I'll say it again any way--viili yogurt starter and sourdough starter!

Cultures for Health has five different yogurt starters and four of them require no yogurt maker and can be made with RAW MILK. That is thrilling to me. Besides raw milk being generally cleaner than pasteurized milk, it is the fact that it is raw that makes it so desirable. It is loaded with enzymes and in tact vitamins and minerals--why would I want to heat it up to make a nicely textured yogurt, but destroy the health benefits? That defeats the whole purpose of buying raw. I want it to stay raw.

On the other hand, I want some yogurt.

Along come Cultures for Health with several choices for making RAW YOGURT!!! Crazy.

I chose the viili yogurt starter and will make it when I pick up my next order of raw milk. In order to maintain the strength of the starter, just a little milk must be heated at the beginning. The starter is added to that and then you add the starter to raw milk, let it culture on the counter (doesn't Culture on the Counter sound like a great band name? No? OK. It's just me then...) set up in the fridge and you have creamy, delectable, RAW yogurt. I can not wait to try it and I will show you, step by step, how easy it all is.

The directions for making it with pasteurized milk are even easier. Homemade, creamy, probiotic-filled yogurt is only a couple of steps away for anyone who wants it.

Cultures for Health also has a huge number of sourdough starters each with subtle taste differences and attributes for making different kinds of bread. Out of the 17 different kinds, I chose the Flemish-Style Desem Sourdough Starter because it is whole wheat based. There are a few rye based ones and several from all over the world: Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark. Many are from areas of North America with a long history of great sourdough bread: Alaska, Yukon Territory, The Pacific Northwest, Ozark Mountain.

Cultures for Health offers a kit that has everything you need to start out making sourdough, and a book filled with recipes for bread, biscuits, pancakes and even cookies.

I am so excited to try my new starters and I will post how to make sourdough bread, pancakes, yogurt, yogurt smoothies, etc.

Let's get cooking!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Warn Your Children...

My friend M. brought her acoustic guitar to the park today. She played Joan Baez songs and others including this old one, The House of the Rising Sun.

Here, The Animals perform their version. It's pretty good too.

Who knew you could rock out with an organ?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Sparrows Have Left Our Birdhouse

With the drama of the robins, who had built their nest on top of a birdhouse right at our living room window, the sparrow family in our birdhouse on our maple tree was almost completely ignored. I would notice them as I came and went through the porch. The male would stand guard and the female would go in and out of the birdhouse on the tree. But, I was so intrigued with the robins that I found myself photographing them and looking at them a lot. The sparrows got short shrift.

The male twittered at us incessantly. He wanted us gone and he meant it--he was angry. We ignored him and carried on with our lives and never got too close to their birdhouse.

It's only recently that I realize that the many sparrows we saw come and go must have included some of the young that had fledged. Yea!

The male on a branch keeping watch.

Checking in, making sure everything is OK.

Keeping watch, as always.

I need to gather more photos of the 8 ft. trebuchet that my husband and son made together... yes, you heard me, I said an 8 ft. trebuchet. It's sitting in front of our shed in our backyard. They made it! And, they intend to fire it!! They're going to shoot off some tennis balls, or nerf balls or some other not-too-painful projectiles and see how far they can make them fly through our park. Practice runs have been disappointing. They've only heaved things into our elderly neighbor's yard. Conversation about increasing the counter weight and shortening the rope... or, should they lengthen the rope?

And, I should really go do the dishes and put in a load of laundry.

I don't feel like doing anything domestic. I'd much rather watch the birds come and go and get angry and twitter at us and feed their young and shepherd them away on their maiden flights.

I could watch animals being domestic forever.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wonderful Words

As unschoolers, we don't generally think about how or when our kids are reaching certain standards of learning. We just know that they are learning, and at this point, that really is enough.

My daughter who was late to give up pronoun confusion--she would say "her" instead of "she", as in, "Her went to the store to buy a book."-- announced to me as she looked for some colorful construction paper, "Mom, you need to get some colorful paper, we have scarcely any."

"...we have scarcely any." The "scarcely" in her sentence just struck me as very erudite for a little 8 year old kid.

She likes her words!

Pronouns schmonouns! My daughter is on her own timetable and is coming along very nicely, thank you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Hairdresser Named Maryam

I got my hair cut the other day. As much as my kids wouldn't like it, I decided to get some layers cut in and to have my bangs shaped a bit better than my rushed feeble attempt of the other day.

I've written about my kids' strong attachment to my hair and how they really don't like me to alter how I look. However I look is me. If I don't look the same, how am I still me? Oh, but I am and they are living with it.

A hairdresser named Maryam took me over to her chair to consult with me and see what I would like to do before she washed my hair. I explained how I wanted the layers cut in and how I wanted the bangs to be and she asked if I wanted them on the side and then I could put in a little gel and that would work. "Um. No. I don't use gel." Maryam raised her eyebrows at this, but she said nothing. I didn't dare tell her that I wash my hair with baking soda and rinse it with vinegar. I didn't think that would fly.

We made small talk as she washed my hair. She had an accent that I couldn't place. She laughed when my kids came over and asked if they could please go to the pet store next door and I said no. They accepted it and went back to the couch to read Cosmo or Vogue or something that I don't ever read. Her daughter, she explained, has two little kids 7 and 5 and they are always asking why? Why this and why that. They never accept an answer and must be told the reason for everything. Maryam said it tires her daughter. I explained that I do my fair share of explaining too, it's just that this time the kids accepted my answer willingly.

I followed Maryam, my damp hair in a towel turban--which as a child I would have arranged so as to look like Cher and pretend I was on the Sonny and Cher Show. Maryam asked if the kids were out of school yet. "No. We're homeschoolers, so we're sort of done, but not really." This is a much better answer than I usually give explaining that we unschool and we don't use a curriculum and the kids learn all the time all year round. 'Cause they're alive, that's why.

She was curious about it and at first thought that maybe a teacher comes to the house--no, it's me, I explained, I'm the teacher and we do what we want. Maryam wondered if we use the same books as the schools do and I explained that we don't. She asked if the kids learn the same things. No, they learn what they learn. They're ahead in some ways and behind in some ways, but they're learning what they need to know and will be fine by the time college rolls around. She got that.

She shared that her granddaughter is a little chubby and gets teased unmercifully at school. I saw pictures of grandkids on her work space counter--cute kids and a shot of an older set of kids. One was a teenager. Maryam told me that he's 18 now and lives back where she's from. "Where's that?" I asked. "Iran." "Oh, Persian", I said. She grinned and was pleased that I know that. I said smugly, "Well, we're homeschoolers..."

I went on to explain about our field trip to my friend's mosque and that it was that kind of visit that was why we were homeschoolers. My kids would never go to a mosque as a field trip in school. "We also went on a behind the scenes tour of Trader Joe's, and wouldn't have been able to if there was a big school group." "Oh, Yes.", she said. She got it.

We talked a bit about the hijab. She asked if my friend wears a hijab. She felt she could never do it. She felt it was an infringement on her person, on her liberty to be told how to dress. Her daughter is married to a Muslim man and does wear a hijab, but she felt she could never do it. She felt bad for the women of Afghanistan in their burkas.

She's Christian and had a very hard time in Iran. At 13, through an arranged marriage, she was given away and had her first child at 15. She said she never listened to others who tried to make her something she was not.

She continued school and her husband didn't like it. She told him she would go any way. She graduated and went on to college where she became a political science major. "Why did you learn how to cut hair?", I asked wanting to know more of her story. As she worked on my head, snipping here and there, she calmly told of her time during the revolution. Her husband, the man she had been given to at the tender age of 13 was killed. She had 12, 10 and 8 year old children. She had to learn something to survive.

Maryam sent her son to Japan and the rest of her family got out of Iran and made their way to India. Eventually, she came here and was granted political asylum.

She continued to look at my hair, taking strands from both sides of my head and pulling them to the front to check if the cut was even. I said something sympathetic, but I was sort of floored by the horror she had endured. I told her I was so sorry and how awful that must have been. She seemed very strong and resilient--she had had to have been--and she was sorry about what her country had become.

We agreed that women in this country have great freedoms. We have freedom that is unknown to oppressed women and girls in other parts of the world.

My kids sidled up to me and I asked them if they would go next door and then come back or wait for me there and not go anywhere else. Yes, they would. Would they not bump on the glass trying to get the dogs' attention and just carefully look at everything? Yes, they would be careful. "OK. You can go." Big grins all around, including Maryam who felt I should let the kids go all along.

Maryam finished up my haircut and gave me her card and I paid her and gave her a big tip. I shook her hand and thanked her for the great haircut and for sharing her interesting story with me. She smiled and thanked me for coming.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Bunny

There we all were: my husband, our friend Neo-agrarian and me with my flute. They were playing guitar and hammer dulcimer...

and Neo-agrarian pointed out a bunny to me in our back yard. I put down the flute and took some pictures.

Looking at a dandelion--eat it, bunny!

It ate it! Nice work, bunny. Just help yourself.

Looking for more dandelions.

Starting to notice me, kind of.

On alert, about to run away.

And then he/she did run away. It was such a sweet, earnest little creature--nibbling gently on dandelions and not on my prairie plants I have in the corner of my yard. Although, I do notice the tell tale sign of angled clean cuts on some of the stems--evidence of rabbit bites. Darn it!

Just stick to the dandelions, please. Thank you bunnies. You're welcome back any time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You Know What You Can do With Quinoa?

Grass/weed of some sort that I'm pretending is actually quinoa.

Do you know what you can do with quinoa? Well, it depends on who you are. POV is very important here.

If you're a 43 year old wife and mother, you can cook it in some chicken broth and vegetable broth and finely chop some left over sauteed zucchini and mix that in and add some garlic and salt and pepper and some fine herbs. Delicious.

If you are a 44 year old husband and father you can look at the little squiggles with some suspicion, but suck it up any way as an example for the children.

If you are a 10 year old son and brother, you can announce to the table that you will try a little (very brave we all thought).

If you are an 8 year old daughter and sister, you can try it with gusto and realize just a few bites in that you don't like it. However, you may find, as my daughter did, that it makes a wonderful sculpting medium. Instead of making a many petaled flower, you might poop out and decide to just make a bunny after carefully placing two petals. They happen to make lovely ears.
Sometimes the medium shapes the form. The bunny was already in the quinoa and my daughter just needed to release it.

Your quinoa bunny will be received with great acclaim.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Word Play

Yesterday, my kids collected a variety of leaves for their new inchworm to eat. I googled it, and found out that the inchworm is a caterpillar of the geometer moth. Really, I should say one of the 26,000 geometer moth species--it's a large family.

How great is that that the inchworm becomes the geometer moth? Makes sense doesn't it? It wouldn't become the I-hate-math moth would it?

After much handling and crawling up and down my kids' arms--and may I say here how impressed I am with the delicate little inchworm's determination? The kids' arms are thoroughly measured now--the kids put the inchworm in a bug hut. (Do you have one of those? If not, get one or make one. If you have one, your kids might see insects in a different light and not respond with the typical *shriek* "an insect--ewwwwww!" grossed out vitriol that lots of kids give to the sight of a bug.)

Bugs, insects, spiders are all fascinating. It's wonderful to let your kids discover that.

It will be exciting if the inchworm becomes a geometer moth. We'll let you know what happens.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I Thought There was no Money There...

I have read in several places that vaccines are not a money maker for pharmaceutical companies. It's all about the well being of patients and public health, I have heard said over and over again. Not true according to the Global Vaccine Forecast to 2012 put out by RNCOS Industry Solutions.

In a synopsis of the report they wrote,

Global Vaccine Market Forecast to 2012”, our new research report, states that vaccines, which were earlier thought as a low margin, low growth industry, have emerged as one of the most lucrative segments in the pharmaceutical industry. With a projected CAGR growth of over 16% in the next five years, the industry will emerge as the fastest growing therapy area. The US and Europe represents the two largest vaccine markets (in fact, these tow countries were the largest markets in 2007) and will continue to experience healthy growth in future.

The synopsis of the report continues by forecasting the growth of the vaccine market, explaining how the pediatric market now dominates, but in the future it will be in the older population.

What kind of growth are we talking about here?

Owing to lower margins and the mature nature of these markets, the basic and enhanced pediatric markets are expected to show stagnant growth in future. On the other hand, launch of a number of new vaccines will make the addiction, cancer and proprietary pediatrics/adolescent vaccine market highly dynamic. On a whole, the global vaccine market is expected to register revenues in excess of US$ 30 Billion by 2012.

That's 30 billion oh-my-God-that's-more-than-some-countries'-entire-GDP dollars by 2012. Who's up for some addiction vaccines? How about more cancer vaccines, or perhaps some obesity vaccines?

You can read the synopsis here. Or, if you'd like, feel free to buy a copy of the full report. It's only $2,000.

That sounds like a lot of money for a report, however, I'm sure the pharmaceutical companies can more than recoup that from the $30 billion.

Oh, and again, it's not about the money. Don't be silly!

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