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When the United States was founded, the only people who were assured the right to vote were men of at least 21 years of age who owned sufficient property that they depended on no one else for their income.  A tiny number of New Jersey women had the vote under the same terms until 1807, and some free African-Americans who fit the property and age restrictions got to vote.  Even white male laborers couldn’t vote when this country was founded.  How everyone else got the right to vote is a long story that I’ll cut short here; suffice it to say that people fought and died to be able to vote, with the last big changes not coming about until the 1960s and early 1970s.

Why then do only 40% of voters show up for midterm elections?  I don’t have a good answer, but I do know that not voting is dangerous to the future of our country.  If you aren’t registered to vote, honor the election tomorrow by getting registered.  If you are registered, show up at the polls.  Take a neighbor or friend who might otherwise not vote.  I voted early because I can’t be at the polls tomorrow.  This year of all years I personally felt what so many pundits are calling an “enthusiasm gap,” but I did my civic duty.  I hope you do too.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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On the road . . .

. . . but will try to add a “real” post tonight.

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Gone fishin’

‘Nuff said?

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Homestead Hiatus

Given that readership about our little homestead has been picking up steadily since the beginning of the year, when I started posting daily, I have done everything I could to avoid a hiatus.  Unfortunately, after having been out of town from Wednesday through Sunday, I’m having surgery in about 36 hours, and I have not had time to pre-schedule posts for the week.  Therefore, regular readers, expect me back in a week or so, with new recipes, more gardening, and lots of thoughts on living more sustainably.

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Over the holidays, I visited a relative who made fun of recycling.  I was shocked, to say the least.  Really, how can anyone doubt recycling today?  Places like Madison, Wisconsin, have had mandatory curb side recycling since the 1980s.  We simply don’t have enough room in landfills to store our trash, and while it’s relatively inexpensive today to buy new water bottles and aluminum cans, producing those products from scratch results in subtle increases in our expenses for necessities like gasoline.

We have three small, square recycling bins in our house.  They fit neatly under an overhang on the kitchen counter, almost like they were made to be there.  They are each small step-cans made out of chrome on the outside with plastic buckets inside.  We have them in alphabetical order.

Aluminum is where the aluminum cans go.  Our local humane society gets cash for recycling them, so we accumulate a big bag worth in the shed, and then my husband drops them off periodically.  (I think he takes them so that I won’t be tempted to bring home a pet.)  Next is paper.  It should be obvious what goes in there.  Last is plastic.  We now have found a place that recycles steel cans too, so we’re collecting them also, even though they don’t fit in our neat little bins.  We’re still trying to find somewhere near here that will take glass.

Because we recycle so much and compost our non-meat food waste (more on that later this week), we don’t have to pay the exorbitant rates for rural trash pickup.  We generate very little trash, and we can dispose of it easily ourselves.

Does your community have curbside recycling?  Do you, like us, come up with easy ways to recycle without curbside pickup?

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Today I learned about a new phenomenon in rural North Carolina:  crop mobs.  Using “word of mouth” and the internet, a mob of  “landless farmers and the agricurious,” as Christine Muhlke puts it, meet at a small-scale, sustainable farm to help lend a hand.  The farmer provides lunch.  During the day, volunteers may help bring in a hand-dug potato harvest, or they may clear a field of rocks.  If they have carpentry skills, they may work on a greenhouse.  Most importantly, they may be enabling a farmer who’s trying to do things environmentally right to preserve his or her farm along the way.  Sustainable farming is labor intensive.  These extra hands get a chance to see farming up close and learn about it, to get together with old and new friends, and to contribute to the locavore movement.  Read more about it here.  Now that I know about the concept, I hope to help start an Arkansas crop mob–but I think it’ll have a different name.  Arkanfarmers?  Arkanhands?  If I can get something similar established here, I’ll let you know.

Do you know of other programs in your community?  Do share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Among the seeds that I grew for the first time this year was a fresh-eating soybean (edamame:  pronounced Ed-uh-mommy) called “beer friend.”  “Beer friend” grows on compact bushes and can be harvested in two relatively painless rounds.  My single seed packet yielded two big, full gallon bags of edamame, blanched in salted water and quickly frozen.  Of course, I’m not confessing to how many of the salted, blanched soybeans I munched while I was blanching the rest, plus we ate a whole bunch freshly blanched too.  I will not only grow “beer friend” again; I’m planting twice as much as I did last year.

“Beer friend” soybean is supposed to be a favorite snack in Japan, and I can see why.  To eat the edamame, give it a quick blanch in salted water and then let it cool enough to pop the beans out of the pod.  These are definitely finger food!  They are sweet, buttery, and so fresh flavored that I’m sure the whole family will love them.

Soybeans, as beans, will grow best if you pre-soak them (to give them a little head start on sprouting) and then coat them in an inoculant of helpful bacteria before you plant them.  For that reason, I recommend that you let your younger children calculate how many feet of planting you’ll have for the number of seed and prepare the row but not do the actual planting.  (You can do that!)  At least in our climate, “beer friend” edamame needed nothing more than planting and harvesting.  Since these are a bush bean whose swelling pods will make it clear when it’s time to harvest, I think they’re perfect for little hands to come back in the end and gather.  Let your children harvest them and wash them, and then help them with the blanching.  Then it’s snack time!

If you have soybeans that you’d like to save to enjoy through the winter, dip the soybean pods in boiling, heavily salted water for a minute.  Then drain them well and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually.  As soon as the exterior is frozen, put them in containers and try to eliminate the air.  Now when you want a little bowl for an appetizer, just pull out however many you need, microwave them for about 30 seconds (per small bowl), and serve.

Your soybeans can also help the rest of your garden grow.  I interspersed my soybeans among some of my corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, so that the beans helped return nitrogen to the soil.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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As you select your seed for summer, consider planting a flower garden for your salads this year.

If you look closely in this salad, you’ll see two of my favorite edible flowers, borage and pinks.

Borage is the beautiful blue flower that is shaped like a star.  Borage flowers taste ever so slightly like cucumber or watermelon. The leaves are edible too, but since they are a little furry, they aren’t my favorite.  Pinks are in the same family as dianthus and carnations.  Just be sure only to eat flowers that you know were produced without pesticides.  In other words, please don’t bite into your carnation corsage!

In the foreground of this photograph are the unopened buds of chives.  Chives form puffy, porcupiney balls.  I pull the individual frilly petals out and sprinkle them in salad for a really mild onion or garlic taste.

Are you serving chicken salad?  Consider adding the purple tiny trumpet-shaped flowers of traditional sage.  For a splash of color, add the ruby red flowers of pineapple sage.

Other edible flowers include

  • nasturtium:  one of my favorite, both the flowers are leaves taste like mild horseradish; the leaves look like tiny lilly pads, while the flowers come in brilliant bright colors. Pull the petals out of the tough base.
  • calendula:  like a small golden daisy, calendula has sunset-gold petals that are lovely in salads and sprinkled on top of pasta.
  • violets:  violets are sweet additions to salads of baby greens or as edible garnishes on cakes and cupcakes; they can also be crystalized, but I’ve never attempted it.
  • pansies:  like violets, pansies are sweet, but I prefer them in salads.
  • rose petals:  sweet like violets and pansies, with similar applications.

Consider planting edible flowers this year.  You’ll love how they add vibrant color and new flavors to your meals!

Have you used edible flowers?  Which are your favorites?  Do you have questions about edible flowers?  Ask away!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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A few weeks ago, the Arkansas Department of Education made available a comparison, school by school, of students’ grades and standardized test scores.  Not surprisingly, almost all schools’ grades of A and B were higher than the students who had been judged proficient in basic subjects, and some schools’ disparity was shockingly high.  And schools were only considered to have grade inflation if 20% or more of students with As and Bs didn’t make proficient on the standardized test, a rate that ignores the fact that any student with an A or B who can’t make proficient on the standardized test probably does not deserve the grade that he or she got.  You can read more about the analysis here and here (PPT download–beware; it’ll start automatically as soon as you click the link!).

News like this should serve as a warning to students, parents, educators–and colleges that may now view applicants from grade-inflated schools with suspicion.  The student has not really been doing A and B work.  The student may not be ready for college.  The student may not be ready to graduate from high school.

If you are an educator or administrator at a school with grade inflation, your task is simple.  Grade harder.  Teach more.  Either help colleagues who are inadequate or lax to be better, or help administration to remove them from teaching.  Otherwise your whole school will continue to suffer, and ultimately everyone’s jobs will be at stake.

What if you’re a parent?  Learn how to ask the right questions of your child.  Don’t just ask, How was school today? or Do you like Mrs. X? Ask detailed questions about how your child’s teacher teaches, about how your child spends time in school.  Don’t complain about homework.  Do your best to help with it–but not do it.  Check to see if your child’s school system has grade inflation.  If you see signs that your child is spending more time playing games and watching movies in class than learning, that he or she never has homework, that the student isn’t progressing academically, ask at your child’s school what’s going on in the classroom.  Ask how you can help make it better.

If you don’t live in Arkansas, check with your own state department of education to find out whether your school system has grade inflation.  If the department does not track these statistics, contact your state legislator about making tracking a requirement.  Then follow through.  American education has been on a slow decline since the Reagan years.  If we don’t turn it around, all of our children’s futures are doomed.

Have you been successful in helping to turn around your child’s school’s performance?  What did you do?  Did you enlist other parents?  Did you volunteer at your child’s school?  Did you contact the media?  Let me and other readers know!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Late this morning I was wandering through the kitchen when I saw the twin yearling deer wandering into the yard, no doubt looking for our green grass.  I’m accustomed to seeing them early in the morning and as dusk comes, so their appearance close to midday caught me by surprise.  I reached for my camera and slowly opened the back door, speaking to them softly to let them know I was there. I sat cross legged on the porch and snapped photographs, first of one and then of the other.  I can’t help but notice that they no longer appear to be joined at the hip.  Look above; one is grazing behind the grapevine (upper left of the photograph), while the other is close to me.  Of course, they still stand together often, but not nose to nose like I’ve seem them so often before.Are they getting more alert about me?  I don’t think so.  I know soon I should start driving them away, teach them to fear people, but it’s so nice when they come to visit that I have a hard time doing it.  For now, I justify speaking softly to them by telling myself I’ll share a little of their world with you.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  Short excerpts with full URLs and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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