Prairie View

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Retirement Celebration

My heart is full of many happy reflections.  On Saturday, at the Pilgrim School award assembly, I got an amazing sendoff upon my retirement.

My sister Lois captured a video of some of the proceedings, and I'll post it here so that I can keep track of it, and also to give you a chance to share in my pleasure.  In the video, everyone refers to me as Mrs. I, my teacher name at Pilgrim. This video was a belated idea, and, regretfully, got started a little too late to catch all of Norma's speech.  Shane's video (he actually had a forewarning--but not from me) didn't upload properly, so Lois offered hers to the family to see.  That's how this version happened.

Mark Nissley is the man who gave me the envelope containing the cash, and who arranged for and introduced the former students who spoke.  He is the school board chairman.  Arlyn Nisly is the school principal.  He is the other man on the platform.

The first person you'll see speaking is my longtime co-teacher, who is also leaving school.  She got married during Christmas break and will be a full time homemaker now, after ten years of teaching at Pilgrim on the secondary level.  She came on board at my first sabbatical and has been a steady and positive presence ever since.

The student speakers are Arlyn Miller, Seth Yutzy, and Rani (Nissley) Schrock.  Arlyn and Seth live in this area.  Rani moved to Ohio when she got married.

I find it hard to watch myself on video.  In this one I think I act and talk like an old lady.  I wonder why that would be the case.  Also, the battery died in the middle of my little speech, and you'll notice a gap while a corded microphone was set up.

Oh yes, that blue envelope?  It contained a stack of bills in the largest denomination available.  Former students made voluntary donations to a gift fund.  The money was given without specifications as to its use.  I'm still thinking about what to do with it.  I never spend money impulsively, and this gift will be treasured until it's used for something else that I can treasure.  I'll take suggestions. . .

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Wrap Up--April 22, 2018

First, exciting family news:  Elliott Wade arrived on Thursday, April 19, born to Shane and Dorcas.  He is their fourth son, and our sixth grandson, and the eighth grandchild.  He resembles his older brothers in various ways. 


In a message from our daughter-in-law, she said this (I've abbreviated some names.):  L. [the granddaughter] had some plans for you that I thought you should know about. Tonight when she was praying at bedtime she said, "Dear God, help Grandpa and Grandma I [that's us!]. have a safe trip to BD. "

I responded by saying that I wouldn't have any trouble getting on board with my sweet granddaughter's plans.


Two-year-old Cedric sat with me in church this morning.  He's become quite a courteous little communicator.  Whenever he wanted to access something in his little "church bag," he asked first for permission--in whispers: "May I play [with the "quiet"  toys in the bag]? and May I have pretzels?" Whenever I suggested a slight delay (because of an impending transition in the service), he waited agreeably.


Next, an update on the garden:  We had very low (record-setting) overnight temperatures several times recently.  Once it was 19 degrees and a short while later it was 20 degrees.  The 20-degree night occurred on our average frost-free date--April 15.  The great news is that our laborious measures to save the garden plants apparently paid off.  From the "garden fabrics" wooden box in the shop we extracted old sheets, blankets, bedspreads, tablecloths, etc. and spread them over the rows and held the fabrics in place with long rebar and steel fence posts.  Whatever was covered looked good after we took off the covers.  I'm not ruling out the possibility of damage to some of the less hardy cole crops, but we'll have to wait to see whether the cauliflower and broccoli button up or bolt rather than develop full-sized heads.

All the planting in my garden was done on schedule according to the timing recommended by calculating from the average frost-free date, although it was slightly delayed by taking into account the recommendations for timing according to phenology.  According to the phenological stages of the common lilac, the time was right too.  We waited till after bud break to plant the earliest crops outdoors.  This spring season has just been very late and strange.

The food production class hopes to help plant a garden for one family whose difficulties with gardening over a hardpan layer have made raised beds seem like the best option.  They're constructing the beds in a circular pattern using cement staves from a dismantled silo on the premises of their old farmstead.  I really like this evidence of flexibility in using what is available and affordable.  Most of the seeds and plants will come from my supply. 

After a very dry fall and winter, we've have one wonderful soaking rain (2.7 inches here!) and another six-tenths of an inch in the past few days. 


I've finished another of Dr. Jason Fung's books recently.  This one was The Obesity Code.  I read The Complete Guide to Fasting before that.  Next up is The Diabetes Code.  Before that I had read (mostly) the book that Dr. Fung named as the book that started him on his journey of questioning the conventional wisdom of causes and treatments for metabolic disorders.  That book is Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes.  The Taubes book was published in 2008, and Dr. Fung's latest book was released earlier this month.

It's too early to call this a lifestyle change, but I'm pleased that I've been able to do one form of intermittent fasting for several weeks now.  Some of you will laugh at this pompous-sounding name for what is essentially skipping breakfast five days a week, with only one cup of coffee with cream in the morning.  My regular breakfast is going into my lunch basket instead, so I'm saving time in the morning on several fronts:  no time needed for eating breakfast, and no additional time for fixing a lunch.  I started this the second week in April, joining the regular monthly group event when Dr. Fung's office organizes a group fast.  In May, I may change up the routine a bit.  I'm committed to doing the next thing the Lord shows me to do, which is how I started skipping breakfast.  Till now I have believed what I've been told--that skipping meals--especially breakfast--is A VERY BAD IDEA.  Dr. Fung's research and writing have given me the confidence to begin ignoring this bad? advice.  Usually I hardly miss breakfast.

I'm taking my regular vitamins, but am skipping the regular morning dose of metformin.  I've done some monitoring of blood sugar, and no alarm bells are ringing on that front.  In general, I'm trying to limit carbs, but not necessarily on weekends, and not when I eat other people's cooking.  I  never "pig out" on sweets, but I am not in that habit anyway.  Sustainability is what I'm focusing on here in following this approach for now. 

Dr. Fung states categorically that obesity and diabetes are hormonal problems, with a genetic predisposition and lifestyle triggers combining to initiate a cascade of hormonal events that stars insulin excess as the main player resulting in obesity.  High stress levels are on par with poor dietary choices as triggers.  Diabetes and kidney failure are common downstream problems of obesity.  Since Dr. Fung is a nephrologist (kidney specialist), he became interested in addressing the "upstream" precursors of kidney failure. 

I like several things very much about the approach Dr. Fung recommends.  One, he recognizes that requiring the ingestion of more things (medications, special diet foods, etc.) is often not affordable for people, and keeping track of all the right things to do can be completely overwhelming.  Fasting addresses both of these concerns.  It's cheap and simple. 

Two, Dr. Fung recognizes that various eating traditions have worked well for people for many generations, and he is very slow to recommend forsaking them.  Instead of forsaking them, he recommends returning to them in several key areas:  Avoid constant snacking, and avoid refined, processed foods.  He believes that constant snacking keeps insulin levels high constantly, and that causes big problems because insulin levels should have a chance to fall multiple times each day.  Refining and processing of foods often strips them of many of their nutrients, alters the food in ways that interfere with our body's utilization of them, and sometimes introduces harmful additives to our diets.  I love feeling free to eat like my parents grew up eating--from the farm and garden mostly. 

Three, Dr. Fung is convinced of the benefit of eating fermented foods, and notes that most culinary traditions include fermented foods. He recommends several tablespoons of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, taken whenever carbohydrates are ingested, to help moderate the insulin response.  So simple and inexpensive.  Fermentation of grains occurs when people make sourdough bread, and this apparently results in a product that also moderates the insulin response.  From Judy, I got a sourdough starter, and have been making sourdough bread successfully in a routine that utilizes my bread machine, my multi-grain, mostly whole-meal bread recipe, and works very well with my work schedule. I've already written about making yogurt painlessly in my Instant Pot.  At least once a week, we eat several fermented foods that are part of the traditional breakfast food in Japan.  We love dill pickles and sauerkraut--fermented foods familiar to our European ancestors.  Fermented foods too fit seamlessly into our eating routines. 

Four, Dr. Fung's office crew regularly reminds every person fasting that if they begin to feel ill, they should stop the fast immediately.  I appreciate how this advice respects the wisdom and choices of patients. This respect for the patient permeates all of Dr. Fung's work.  This is a very different stance from what many obese patients have encountered from medical professionals who gave traditional dietary advice. Non-compliance was usually blamed for unsatisfactory results, even when patients took great pains to be compliant.  In other words, lack of success was always the patients' fault.  Dr. Fung realizes that the treatment protocol probably needs adjusting when a patient does not feel well or cannot experience improved health.  Finding a solution is a cooperative effort--not a top-down issuance of directives from Those Who Know Best.

Dr. Fung is apparently a skilled, caring medical professional, and I respect his expertise and appreciate his willingness to apply it to problems that others have not been addressing very helpfully.  I appreciate even more, however, how Hiromi is taking responsibility for providing good food for our household.  His shopping has changed a great deal since he's learned more about nutrition.  Most of all, I appreciate God's faithfulness in showing what makes sense for me for now.  I know that what He shows others may not be exactly like this, and what I do in the future may look a little different than this, but for now, I have all the help I need, and I'm very thankful.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break Saturday Message

Here is a message I'm sending out to the members of my food production class on this Saturday morning. of spring break.

The Kansas Gardener's nightmare is coming true.  Lows here on Sunday night are predicted to be 26 degrees and on Tuesday night 24 degrees.  I honestly don't know how much cold our transplants can tolerate, but anything below 28 scares me. We're not expecting a nice thick blanket of insulating snow, but possible sleet or light snow or rain--none of which would do a lot for keeping things toasty warm around the plants.  I'm afraid the early-blooming fruit trees will be fruitless this year.

If you have milk jugs over your plants, I would suggest putting the lids on the jugs at 4:00 PM today (while today's temperature is still at its peak), and leaving them on at least through sometime Monday, and then replacing them again before Tuesday night.  The idea is to not allow them to overheat while the sun is out (so the lids should stay off then), and then replacing the lids in time to trap some of the warm air inside the jug to help protect the plants through the cold nights.

Another measure you can take to help plants survive the cold is to water well early in the day today.  Wet soil absorbs and stores more heat than dry soil.  Also, dark soil (it's darker when it's wetter) absorbs more heat than light soil.

Hiromi and I plan to water everything early today, and then cover everything with fabrics from our big box of "garden fabrics" in the shop.  The box contains old sheets, blankets, big pieces of plastic, row cover--anything that might keep heat trapped around the plants.  We'll undoubtedly have to weigh them down somehow to keep them from blowing away.  This is a big pain, but fortunately our lettuce and cole crops are on the south side of the shop, so they'll have some wind protection from the north.  The onion patch is directly south of the lettuce and cole crops, and will therefore have less wind protection.

Covering plants with straw could also work--especially for onions, which you might wish to mulch anyway.  We've done this in the past, but--fair warning here--straw in the trench of Mittleider beds can be a problem.  All my plants are in Mittleider beds.

This is a good time to ponder what you might do to protect your garden area from strong winds.  Spring winds are brutal for tender plants, and north winds usually usher in cold air.  Summer winds--usually south winds--can be very drying.  Storm systems often are accompanied by east (early in the cyclel) and/or west winds (late in the cycle).  Weighing these factors leads me to believe that windbreak trees (like Red Cedar) are ideal on the north and west (the protected area extends to ten times the height of the trees, so you don't have to plant them too close to the garden).  On the south, deciduous shrubs with multiple stems all the way to the ground and dense summer foliage make sense.  I like the idea of planting a row of small or dwarf fruit trees on the garden side of the shrub row.  If you plant evergreens there,  make them low-growing ones, or you'll never be able to enjoy a cooling breeze while you're working outside during the summer.  On the east, a solid or semi-solid fence seems like a good thing--not too tall for the sake of the air circulation, which keeps the gardener cool and helps limit disease pressure for plants.

I'm also praying for your and my plants' survival.  If they don't survive--well maybe that's what seeds and Stutzman's are for.  And, as my dad used to say . . . It's a lot easier to be at peace with a loss if you count the value of the experience high enough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fourth Spring Break Post

Dorcas Smucker has been writing a series on poverty from the perspective of one who grew up in it while being part of an Anabaptist community.  It's posted on her blog "Life in the Shoe."  I identify with some of what she wrote, and thank God that other parts of her experience were different in my parental family's case.

Here are things I am newly thankful for:

1.  My parents accepted help to pay for school lunches, after my uncle, the school principal, told my father about the help that was available.

2.  My father was able to serve in ways that utilized his gifts and training (he and Amos Yoder were similar in that they both attended college as Old Order Amish young men), although he could usually not earn money doing such things.  At times he paid out-of-pocket for the privilege.

3.  We lived in a community where we belonged and where we were not disparaged for being poor.

4.  We enjoyed many rich relationships with relatives and friends.

5.  I don't remember my parents ever saying What will people think? 

6.  We didn't have shameful family secrets.

7.  Our family had a lot of fun together.

I learned from Hiromi that frugality doesn't need to be the deciding factor for every financial decision--that money can actually be treated with some ambivalence. 

I also learned after I was married that free school lunches wasn't the only kind of help the government offered.  Hiromi was laid off four times during his working years.  Each time, he applied for and was granted unemployment benefits.  The last layoff happened about six weeks before he was eligible for social security benefits.  He applied for benefits as soon as he could.  The financial help has always been very welcome.  The fact that applying for this help always happened at Hiromi's initiative spared me a lot of conflictive emotions.  One of the people who commented on Dorcas' Facebook link to the last post said much that I could relate to from our family's experience. 

Here's the quote from the comment:

 I think too that a good honest discussion on how the church handles situations where a family has fallen on hard times is very, very necessary. So Dad loses his job - let's say he is laid off through no fault of his own - how does the mortgage get paid? And the car loan, if they have one? The home and car insurance, the phone and electric and gas bills, gas in the car etc? Oh, they shouldn't accept food stamps or unemployment benefits because that's taking from the government? So now no money for food? The thing that really gets me is Christians who are secure in their protected subculture which is their support system - who look down on others who have fallen on hard times - who RESENT these "freeloaders" of their hard-earned tax money - who call loudly for drug testing and more hoops to jump through to even qualify for benefits - I'm here to tell them that many of "those freeloaders" are their brothers and sisters in Christ! They say that "the church" can take care of its own poor. There is not a chance the church can do that in the large picture in this country. When my husband lost his job during the Economic Downturn of 2010, I went to work, I scrimped, we made do or did without, we used a government program to save the house (which we paid back when we sold it), we were feeding six teens and two adults with our EBT card, we used the food bank, etc. My husband, who has a degree with a double major, applied for over 500 jobs through this ordeal, receiving a handful of phone calls back. All applications are done online - you see the problem with that in an impersonal society? We were living in a very small Mennonite community, and again, our church couldn't have financially supported us through this whole hard time which lasted two years. My point is (I apologize for talking too much!) that our society's safety net is vital in this country. Nobody likes taxes, but there are hundreds of verses in the Bible regarding our attitude towards those in need, and the attitude of some Christians is incredibly hurtful. Yes, Dorcas, you struck a nerve here. This is actually the first time I have said anything publicly about what we went through.

Reading this comment clarified for me why I find it hurtful too when I hear strong denunciation for the "freeloaders" who benefit from public assistance.  In an additional comment, the same person spelled out very clearly what Hiromi and I also realized--the hazard of taking the first available job that comes along.

 On another note, people don't understand why a person wouldn't take the first offered job and get off benefits. However, if, say, John had taken that night-stocking job that Walmart offered him for $9 an hour, we would have lost our house and car. Why? Unemployment benefits are based loosely on one's previous income, but don't go much above $2,000/month at best. Taking a job at $9 an hour doesn't begin to support a family, and doesn't even come close to $2,000 a month. So no, you wouldn't take that Walmart job if you weren't forced to.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Day Three of Spring Break

This was a chilly, drippy day with a delightful lack of drama and pressure.  I did forget to show up to pick up strawberries at Center from the semi that shows up periodically with fruit for sale.  Rachel Yutzy is the local contact person. 

I did my laundry, which usually is a Saturday chore.  No drama there.

Hiromi's cough and wheezing made him decide to call in sick at work and see a doctor instead.  The doctor diagnosed a virus and prescribed steroids   He's feeling a bit better, but still is quite congested.

I transplanted the rest of the tomato seedlings in the greenhouse.  I couldn't quite bestir myself enough to do more planting in the garden.  We didn't have much rain, but it would have been a bit muddy, and it was generally not a pleasant day to work outside.

Our paper is now being delivered through the postal service instead of by a paper carrier.  This means that we get no paper on Sunday, and it comes around noon instead of early in the morning. 

My cousin Landon showed up at church yesterday.  He stopped here for the weekend rather than spend the time in a truck stop somewhere.  On Saturday he and Leroy H. took a 50-mile bike ride, Leroy's first training for this year's Bike Across Kansas, which both Landon and Leroy plan to participate in.  I understand others from this area also hope to make the trip.  Landon keeps a bike in his semi and often goes biking after his trucking run for the day is over. 

Around this time three years ago, my brother-in-law Matthew died.  This year my sister Clara, his wife, is preparing to be married to Paul Stoltzfus in June.  Oregon will be her new home after the marriage.

Last week I saw on Facebook that my niece Luisa M. was inviting her friends to attend a concert in Harrisonburg, VA presented by a community choral group.  She sang a solo in the program.  The interesting thing I noticed right away was that Wendell Nisly directed the group.  Wendell and Jeanene also invited friends to the concert.  The Nislys did not know that Luisa was part of our extended family, although they know most of our family well.  Another connection that must have gone undiscussed is that Luisa's home church in PA was pastored by Wendell's uncle Paul Nisly.  Paul, my brother Caleb, and Wendell were all part of our church here in Kansas at one time, though they are not very nearly the same age. 

Willard Mast is part of the cast that will present Fiddler on the Roof soon, in Hutchinson.

I'll end this abruptly here and head for bed.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Second Spring Break Blog

Hiromi has spent most of the day in bed, sleeping.  He also spent a long night in bed, sleeping.  He went to bed early this evening to sleep.  When I got home from church and took his temperature, he registered a fever, so I called Dwight and Karen's house to tell them that we wouldn't be able to come after all for the Sunday dinner invitation we had accepted yesterday.  Yesterday he was unusually tired and had a deep cough.  The cough is still present.


On Saturday we planted onions.  That sounds like an abysmally small gardening accomplishment, but the first gardening efforts in spring are always like the first of many efforts.  Getting started is the hard part.  Gathering the supplies from wherever they've been stored, and doing the preliminary planning, measuring, and marking are all time-consuming, perhaps especially if you have Hiromi's and  my combination of obsessions and passions. 

Hiromi and I usually work together peaceably and harmoniously, but gardening together sometimes does not fit this pattern.  Maybe if I write about it I can figure out how to avoid more dramatic exchanges like the one we had yesterday.

Hiromi never complains about doing the measuring for the garden layout.  "Just tell me what you want," he says.  That's the first little hint of trouble brewing.  What that means is that he is not the slightest bit interested in helping me remember where we planted what last year or the year before that.  He's also not going to help me figure out how much of anything to plant.  He isn't interested in grouping the early things together or the things that will need watering throughout the year.  He doesn't know what plants are already growing in the seed house and what seeds have been ordered.  I'm supposed to have all these things figured out so that he can get right to the measuring. 

What we have figured out over the past few years is that the Mittleider Gardening method has many benefits (except that we make significant alterations for tomatoes and vine crops), so we usually lay out our garden in a pattern of beds 18 inches wide by 15 feet long.  Each bed is separated by 3.5 feet of unplanted space, with five feet at the end of each bed.  Our garden is 105 feet long (or wide, north to south), so that gives us five ranks of 15-foot beds. Along the north side of this area is the shop.  Hiromi measured out five feet from the side of the shop and marked the end of the first bed.  He kept on measuring along that whole 105 foot length, marking the beds and the paths.  So far, so good.

Then he began to extend the 5-foot paths to the west.  I arrived on the scene after this, and was dismayed to see that the paths angled off toward the south instead of heading straight west, according to my sense of where that was. I find this very disconcerting.  He patiently explained to me that the shop is not parallel to the sheep barn, and that the raspberry rows were aligned with the sheep barn and the new beds were aligned with the shop, so it couldn't come out right.  My suggestions on how to make it "righter" (like letting the path next to the shop be wider at one end than the other so that the rest of the paths would look straight) fell entirely on deaf ears.

Besides the fact that one asparagus row runs from east to west roughly in the center of the garden, we have other complications.The other north-south perimeter of the garden is much messier.  For starters, the remains of an old barn occupy the southwest corner.  Because it provides a windbreak, we planted the raspberries on the north side of it. The raspberries make the "take-out" corner bigger.  The northwest corner has a bit of bindweed growing there.  The weed is difficult to control, and Hiromi takes his control duties very seriously.  He has banned the use of that area for gardening while he takes care of the bindweed.  This is not the first year of the ban.  I hope it's the last.  That leaves only one section of the far side of the garden that is available for cropping.  The strip is too wide for one bed and not wide enough for two--unless we alter the length of the beds and allow the five-foot end paths to jog to accommodate this space most efficiently.  Hiromi wanted none of either of these options.

My garden mapping plan had that far west section designated for the early crops--so that we wouldn't have to stretch a hose to water there when the weather is hot and dry, as it usually is during the summer.  That's why getting things figured out for that area seemed important for now.  I soon began to look for alternatives when I saw how complicated things would be with that plan, and because Hiromi had already proceeded with another plan. 

When I got home from school on the day the garden was worked, besides doing the afore-mentioned measuring, Hiromi had cut a roll of welded wire fencing into four lengths for enclosing the perimeter of the five beds he had created near the shop.  He had decided that this is how we would protect the early transplants from the rabbits and the chickens.  Oooooookaaaay.

I had my onion plants in hand.  I also had potatoes ready to plant.  In the seedhouse, I had transplants ready of cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, and lettuce.   I had seeds for peas (English, snap, and snow), spinach, beets, chard, and carrots.  I had planned for small amounts of most crops, but I saw right away that not everything would fit inside the fenced area.  Reasoning that the onion plants were not likely to be attractive to the chickens and rabbits, I decided that they would go outside the fence in the next rank five of beds.  When those were planted, only one remained empty, and we had run out of time.

The major disagreement occurred when Hiromi proceeded to begin making the first onion bed with nothing marked except the center of the beds at both ends.  I protested and he replied that "it doesn't have to be precise."  I was adamant that we place two strings exactly 18 inches apart to mark the bed--for reasons that had become very clear to me while I was introducing this method to my food production class at school.  In short, I saw that some of the problems we had with the beds in past years was because we had made the beds too narrow, and because we had not first raked soil into the 18 "area.  Hiromi was all set to perpetuate these problems, and I wasn't about to settle for that this year.  I wish I had been able to convey that in calm conversation. 

After the strings were in place, the planting could proceed in an orderly way. 

Before I go further, I should explain just a bit more about the Mittleider Method.  I believe I did so a number of years ago, but we've learned more by experience now, and I'll incorporate some of what we've learned in the explanation this time.  You should know that it involves the regular addition of very small amounts of minerals and other plant nutrients, and regular watering by flood irrigation between the two (usually) rows in each bed.  The rows are one foot apart, positioned at the base of ridges all along the sides of the beds.  The ridges are formed by raking soil out of the center of the bed (which was raised slightly earlier by raking soil from the paths into the beds).  The techniques were refined by those involved in a Morman charity, and have been utilized for teaching people in many parts of the world to grow good food crops in almost any climate and soil.  I'll begin with a list of the advantages:

1.  Water and fertilizer* can be applied where it benefits the garden crops and is not wasted on areas between rows.

2.  Aisles and paths are wide, making it possible to inspect, tend, and harvest the crops easily.

3.  Productivity is  maximized.

4.  Weed control inside the beds is very simple after the crops reach enough size to shade the area between the rows.

5.  Weed control in the aisles and paths can be done in a variety of ways--by hand or by machines, or by mulching.

6.  Adding fertility by means of compost is not required.

Since fertilizer is applied every week after plants are up and growing, till the crop nears maturity or the end of the growing season approaches, large spreading crops like tomatoes or sprawling vines like melons, cucumbers, and squash are a problem in the Mittleider Method.  They recommend trellising.  We tried doing so for tomatoes, and didn't find it satisfactory.  We had guineas at the time, to help eat the grasshoppers that were threatening the garden, but they took a shine to the low-growing (and very visible) tomatoes on the trellised, pruned plants, and pecked them and made them unsaleable.  When the plants higher up on the vines started ripening, they often got sunburned.  We've gone back to growing tomatoes in cages.  We still usually plant one row to each Mittleider Bed as we have always done, and try to do regular fertilizing, although it's not easy.  They're watered with drip lines connected to a header line.  Mulching between rows usually happens. 

We allow the vine crops to sprawl.  We also start these plants by planting them along one side of the beds and try to fertilize them as long as we can manage.  Watering happens by drip pipes as it does for tomatoes.  Ten-feet on-center spacing for vine crops is more nearly right than five feet.  Mulching is critical for weed control.  I've done some experimenting with growing cucumbers in cages.  It was successful enough to try again, although the vines eventually range beyond the cage. 

*A package of Micro-nutrients purchased from Mittleider headquarters is combined with locally available N-P-K fertilizer and Boron (from Borax) and Magnesium (from Epsom Salts).  Various N-P-K ratios can work--usually with equal amounts of all elements or with K (phosphorous) lower than the others. 

Before planting, a three-part mix is applied.  This contains either lime or gypsum (depending on rainfall--gypsum for areas of low rainfall) and again, Borax and Epsom Salts.  This is a one-time application for each crop.  This is mixed into the soil of each 18-inch-wide bed. 

While using a petroleum-based nitrogen source does not seem ideal, Dr. Mittleider argued that it is actually made from plants that have decayed over eons of time.  The other elements can all be described as powdered forms of what can be mined from the earth. 


Saturday, March 24, 2018

First Spring Break Blog

I'm on spring break, and one of my goals for a good break is a little blogging every day--or a lot, if that's what comes.

Today I'll write about some of the pieces of eating wisdom I've also committed to for spring break.  It helps that many of these are already part of my regular habits, of late at least.

1.  Homemade yogurt every day (for the wonderful probiotics).  Also, I found an easy way to make the yogurt in my instant pot.  I scald, cool, and inoculate (using two tablespoons of yogurt) two quarts of whole farm milk in a kettle on the stove.  Then I divide it up into four peanut butter jars, and put on the lids.  I pour an inch of so of warm water around the jars and settle the lid in place.  Then I push the yogurt button.  This time I left it alone for the next eight hours and then got it out and refrigerated it.

2.  One-half cup of beans every day (for the fiber).  I added only salt and fat to the beans while cooking.   I cooked the pinto beans in the instant pot after soaking them for most of the day--all the time I was away at school.  After I got home I discarded the soaking water and added the bacon drippings.  Then I used the automated beans/chili button and cooked it under pressure.  Next time I believe I will also use the + option to add a few minutes to the cooking cycle, since a few of the beans (presumably those not under water) were a little "toothsome."

3.  A handful of pictachios and three Brazil nuts every day (for detoxing and for the eyes).  This is Hiromi's idea, based on something he's been listening to online.  I know that they both contain good fats, and Brazil nuts also contain selenium--which reportedly binds with any stray mercury in the body and makes natural removal possible.  Both of them are reputed to promote good health for the eyes.

4.  Adding healthful fats, especially oils, to foods at every opportunity (for energy without insulin spikes).  This means choosing oils that are not chemically extracted or created, and that do not come from genetically modified crops.  Hiromi and I already have some coconut, olive, sesame and flaxseed oil with breakfast most days.

5.  Raw vegetables and fruits every day (for the vitamins, minerals, and phytosterols).  Fiber is another benefit here--and enzymes--which promote good gut bacteria.  Avocadoes are rich in good enzymes, and are part of most days' breakfasts at our house--along with parsley, spinach, and blueberries. 

6.  Very limited amounts of sugary desserts or snacks.  I don't have a sweet tooth and don't prepare desserts regularly for consumption at home, so this is not a big departure from the usual fare.  Being at school and attending other functions where food is served are times when I usually encounter offerings of sweet desserts or snacks.  At those times and places, I don't abstain.  I don't want my food choices to create unnecessary social barriers and I want to enjoy the generosity of those who offer me treats in a spirit of goodwill and kindness.

7.    Limit food intake to a ten-hour window (that lets me call the rest of the time intermittent fasting--which sounds virtuous).  We usually eat a late breakfast to accommodate Hiromi's late lunch hour--1:30--on the days he works at Walmart.  If I don't eat after 7:00 in the evening, I have a 14-hour fast every 24 hours.  This week we'll plan to eat our usual generous breakfast, and I'll copy Hiromi's salad lunch habit on the days he works, with a cooked meal in the evening.  On days we're both home, I think we'll try for a cooked meal at 1:30 and a small (salad?) meal in the evening.


Hiromi came up with the plan for the breakfast that we usually eat Monday through Friday.  I consider it a great improvement on the breakfasts he used to prefer, and I used to eat also, because he preferred them.

We usually eat one egg fried in sesame oil.  Mine is always over-hard.  Besides that we eat one fruity dish with a yogurt base, and one savory dish with a tuna base.  These high-protein bases provide vehicles for many good nutrients in fruits and vegetables, seeds, spices, and oils.  The homemade yogurt is a recent change from commercial cottage cheese, and we're on a quest to replace the tuna (which can be a source of unwanted mercury) with another fish.  I know this sounds like a strange breakfast, but we like it.

We have individual bowls for the tuna dish.  First, Hiromi melts a bit of coconut oil in each bowl, and then adds olive oil and sesame seed oil also.  At some point he adds flax meal, lemon pepper, and a bunch of spices chosen for their healthful properties--cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and turmeric--probably about 1/4 t. each.  To the tuna also is added chopped parsley and, in season, chopped garlic chives.  After this is thoroughly mixed, I usually do the rest.

This is in response to Hiromi asking me early on if I could do something to "make it look good."  In a clean bowl I put baby spinach leaves and place the tuna mixture on top.  Then, I cut apart an avocado and, on an unseeded side, I make narrow slices by cutting crosswise across the avocado half, with one final cut from "stem to stern."  With a spoon, in one motion I scoop out half of the slices in a neat row, placed along one side of the bowl.  Then I place a lemon slice,  also along the edge.  A cherry tomato and a sprig of parsley are placed next, either in the center or near the lemon slice.  It looks pretty and the lemon juice flavors the avocado.

The yogurt dish has olive and sesame seed oil, to which Hiromi adds several tablespoons of pineapple juice.  Then he adds chia seeds and flax meal and mixes it up thoroughly.  I top this mixture with about 1/3 cup of plain homemade yogurt.  Then I add several tablespoons of frozen (& thawed) blueberries, and sliced fresh strawberries.  Lately we've been using some stevia-sweetened frozen strawberries or red raspberries.  Each serving requires only the tiniest amount of sweetener--maybe 1/32nd of a teaspoon.

This ends up being a high-fat, low-carbohydrate breakfast with many healthful nutrients.  It's definitely not fast food, but at our age,being fast isn't a reasonable priority anyway.