Hi There!

(For my Dutch-English translating and proofreading business, please go to my D-E Translating WordPress site. Thank you.)

Welcome to my blog.

I’m an energetic, slim, reasonably pretty thirty-year-old. However, I reside in a rather shocking, obese, aching, apathetic 55-year-old body. I love living in Austin but I’m chock-full of criticism of America in general. The Rockies bring me to tears, but so does the health care system. I’ve adopted Thanksgiving, but not the Pledge of Allegiance. If I seem elated and unbearably grouchy in sometimes schizophrenically quick succession, this is why.

I love the usual: my husband, my children, my friends and our pets. I hate heat; stupidity; bone spurs; spiders; and walking, cycling and stair-stepping in place.

I collect raft books and I’ve developed a weird obsession with the bottoms of bridges.

When I lived in the Netherlands, twenty-two years ago, I loved hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end, and I walked and cycled everywhere. Now that I live in a pretty darn hot part of the US, with kids that have to be driven everywhere by car, I love reminiscing about hot tea, wild camping in Great Britain, gardening, reading for days on end and walking and cycling everywhere…

My blog is a crazy—some might say completely unhinged–collection of posts about any of the above-mentioned issues and then some. Nothing is sacred. I blatantly ignore all American no-nos. Which means I talk politics, religion, I don’t idolize  teachers and I swear (but not that much).

As you read my posts you might laugh, seethe, weep or shrug your shoulders. If you like a post, great. Let me know. If you hate a post, great, let me know. I’d like to think I’m always right, but don’t let that stop you from telling me if you disagree. We Dutch love a good argument.

If you want to know more about how I ended up in America and an overview of how that’s been, visit my About page.

Otherwise, have at it!

(Oh, and it would really help me if you like my Facebook page. You can like it in the little widget on the right.)

(In my posts, I refer to my husband as T, my 18-year-old son as B, and my 16-year-old daughter as R.)

Democratic Socialism or Social Democracy?

image: rawstory.com

image: rawstory.com

I promised a while ago that I would write a post about the difference between democratic socialism and social democracy, but the article below does the job just fine.

There is no such thing as socialism that is at the same time democratic. Although he’s otherwise pretty shrewd, I’ve never understood why Bernie Sanders can be so stupid as to call his ideas democratic socialism. It puts too many people off and it’s not even correct. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist and neither are his ideas. They are social-democratic. Democracy and capitalism, but always with the welfare of everyone in mind, not just the few who can pay their way through anything.

The following article by a Finn explains it perfectly. It’s not about paying for others, but getting the benefits yourself.

Take universal healthcare. Sure, if you’re in your twenties and you’re never sick, it might sound unfair that you would have to pay into a pot that you don’t directly get anything out of. But the thing is: you do eventually; everyone gets old and everyone gets sick sooner or later. By the time these twenty-somethings are older, their healthcare is free as well, because other twenty-somethings and everyone else is paying into the pot. And since not everyone is sick at the same time-quite the opposite-the amount everyone puts in the pot can be a whole lot less than you pay as individuals in an everyone-for-themselves society like America.

Anyway, here’s the article:

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-americans-dont-understand-about-nordic-countries-2016-3

Hamilton Food Cupboard

A slightly different post here.  Everyone’s heard of the unavailability of fresh foods in urban areas, and of projects to change that. But fresh food isn’t necessarily available for the rural poor, either. Not only that, but I was flabbergasted to learn that many people wouldn’t even know what to do with fresh food if they had it.

That’s where my awesome sister-in-law and two other ladies come in. Please read, donate if you can (anything helps) and share this post.

Thanks!

So here’s the article Christina wrote on Facebook:

Hello friends! Some of you may know about my garden project withSuzanne Collins (from the Hamilton Food Cupboard) and Kerri Hudson. I will tell you a little of the project’s history and where we are now with meeting our goals; then, I’ll get to the important part (I’m going to be asking you for money).

Last summer I was working on a campaign to change the ordinance in the Village of Hamilton to allow residents to keep a small number of hens. Ultimately the village board did not share my enthusiasm for chicken keeping. However, during my research to find wonderful and compelling reasons to keep hens I came across a variety of information about self-sustainability.

One topic of particular was the Victory Gardens of WWII. In short, the war effort put a tremendous strain on the countries resources. Programs, such as the Victory Gardens, were developed to encourage those who could to garden and to raise hens in order to provide produce and eggs for their families. This allowed more industrial agricultural efforts to be directed to the war effort.

I wondered if such a program would have benefit outside of a war effort. In particular, I tried to learn if there are barriers to accessing nutritious food for many of the people in Madison County. On November 19, 2015 I met Suzanne Collins who was speaking at a forum on Poverty in Madison Country. At this forum I listened to her speak about the struggle to feed families in need. Suzanne spoke – in her capacity as the director of the Hamilton Food Cupboard – about how many families rely on the Food Cupboard to supplement their food needs to survive. Suzanne, taught me several things:

• Lack of transportation limits many families access to the Food Cupboard.
• There is a hesitation to try fresh produce due to lack of exposure to it. Families often lack knowledge of how to prepare it.
• Fresh produce is considered a luxury item. When financial resources are scarce, families are more likely to go for items that will not spoil such as canned and processed food.
• Most importantly, people are willing to use fresh produce if familiarized with it. Suzanne spoke of her experiences of taking the time to explain how to cook and prepare items, such as squash, to people who have never purchased or prepared it. She helped people grow simple garden items like tomatoes using techniques such as planting tomato plants in bags of garden soil.

Suzanne’s talk inspired me enough to reach out with her and collaborate on a new project to help families in Madison County. I knew whatever we did it was going to have to meet the challenges that I learned about:

• Transportation-we have to find a way to bring the food to people.
• Education-we have to find a way to teach others the basics on where fresh fruits and vegetables come from. We also have to teach them how to prepare fresh produce since many of the families had never had any contact with unprocessed produce.

To combat the transportation issue, I presented Suzanne with the idea of bringing produce to families instead of expecting families to find produce. In order to reach the most people to do the most good, we decided to start a community garden next to the mobile home park on Route 12 –next to Price Chopper. After several meetings with the mobile home park owner and a nearby land owner, we have been allowed access to an amazing piece of land to start this garden.

Even at this very early stage, we have had a lot of positive feedback from the residents at the mobile home park. We also hope to include the experience of other community groups who participate in community gardens as well.

In addition to teaching gardening skills, we also plan to teach cooking classes on site. I basically have a mobile kitchen from my farmer’s market stand (sorry y’all no fried green tomatoes this year); we can easily have on-site cooking demonstrations.

Our beginning plans for the vegetable garden includes asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onions, parsnips, potatoes, peas, peppers, spinach, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes. We also hope to have a pumpkin, watermelon and cantaloupe.

To increase food yield, in addition to the gardens, we will plant edible landscaping throughout the mobile home park. Plants such as apple trees, pear trees, blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, cherry trees, and grapes will provide beauty and nutrition to the residents.

We have some long term goals as well. For 2016 we hope to establish the garden and landscaping and teach the basics of gardening skills. In 2017 our goal is to teach skills such as canning and long term food storage.

If these two goals are successful, and if there is interest in the community, in 2018 we are looking to introduce a chicken coop for egg production. The goal is to both provide residents with an affordable and local source of protein as well as the option of selling surplus eggs (and possibly produce) at the local farmer’s markets. At the end of three years we hope to have a community that is empowered to feed themselves while helping supplement their income.

In order for this project to continue, we need to raise money to purchase the supplies needed to build the garden. This includes the plants, garden tools, and materials. If you would like to support our efforts you can mail a check for whatever amount you wish to the Hamilton Food Cupboard and please write “Access Planted” in the memo line. If you are local and wish to volunteer or donate items, please private message me.

THANK YOU!!

Christina LaValley, Suzanne Collins, & Kerri Hudson

Hamilton Food Cupboard
1 Mill Street
Hamilton, NY 13346

Now click here to donate.

Thanks,

Barbara

Continue reading

Harmony

154This week’s photo challenge: Harmony.

Last summer we stayed a week in upstate New York with my wonderful brother and sister in law. They took us to visit their friends’ small farm. About thirty acres, if I remember correctly. A stream, a pond, wooded area, swamp, meadows. An open barn where the animals can come and go as they please.

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During the day most of the animals were wandering the wild landscape, and towards sundown they gathered around the barn and by the time we left in the evening the chickens, guinea fowl, geese and ducks were roosting inside and the horse, the calf and the goats were walking in as well.

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The guinea fowl keep the deer ticks in check, the horse, somehow by its presence, keeps raccoons and rats away. Everyone contributes their natural fertilizer to the lush ecosystem.

As we gathered chairs around a cable table in knee-high grass and tasted some absolutely to die for goat cheeses, two of the goats were standing around, as if waiting to be complimented on what they had produced. And then we ladled out a stew made from one of their aunties…

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But this is what I felt a farm should be. These animals live in farm paradise. Literally free-range, eating what they choose, strolling around in so much space, through a wide variety of plants so lush it made me want to be a cow. I just couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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The photos aren’t great quality, I know. Taken from my phone in a the end of the day, and on my new computer I still can’t access my new Photoshop, so I haven’t edited anything in a while. But hopefully you get the idea.

American Crossroads: Reagan, Trump and the Devil Down South

Image: ew.com

Image: ew.com

I posted this awesome article by Ben Fountain on the Resident Alien Facebook page, but that only has fifty readers. So here it is as well, my borrowed submission for yesterday’s writing prompt “Inevitable“. (And it’s never too late to like my page for more stuff that’s relevant to my blog posts.)

How the Republican party slowly but surely got Americans ripe for a …hm…man, person, specimen, angry goldfish like Trump. Also, I now know what “dog whistle politics” is.

I Question Your OCD

Image: fanpop.com

Image: fanpop.com

Do you recognize a lot of yourself in Monk?
Are you detail-oriented in your cleaning?
Is your house in perfect order, everything in its place?
Do you feel the need to straighten crooked pictures?
Do you dislike getting dirty? Continue reading

Seasons

The week’s photo challenge is Seasons.

I took this road trip photo last May in Wyoming, but it sure looks like winter to me.

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No Pat On My Back

image: camstockphoto.com

image: camstockphoto.com

Today’s writing challenge is to tell someone that I’m proud of how proud I am. Continue reading