The Ancient Paths Family Farm

Getting Back to Basics in Health and Nutrition

Archive for the ‘Good Stewardship’ Category

The Seed and Round-Up Monopoly

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on May 28, 2008

I’ve been wanting to write about the struggle between the big agricultural industry and the small farm for some time, but I’ve not had the chance to put it together just yet.  Small farmers are really struggling to make ends meet when the “big guys” push for legislation that makes things hard for the little guys and when the big guys do things that should be illegal, they just hire better lawyers and work through loopholes.

However, there are other industries that are out there that are making things hard for the big guy and the little guy alike.  Have you ever thought about where the farmers get their seed?  Have you ever thought about the monopoly that a seed producer could have?

What if that seed producer was genetically modifying those seeds so that their other products would work better or to require their other product(s) be used in order for their seeds to grow well?  America didn’t like it when there was a monopoly on telephone services so why would they sit by and say nothing when a giant monopoly is taking over in the agricultural world?  Because the scientists at the seed plant have better lawyers!

Pa over at Taking Root has written an article that I appreciated and addresses, quite well, the issue of The Green Revolution and Big-Ag.

or the past several years, Monsanto has been patenting seeds. Once a seed is patented, it is now owned by the entity that submitted it. As an example, let’s say there are 10 different varieties of corn seeds available in our national seed bank. As long as Monsanto is the first entity to them, they may submit each of these seeds for patenting. Once the patents are secured, Monsanto will hold 9 of the varieties to themselves but will genetically alter the other variety that is left. The primary genetic modification that they have been making is to make the seed “Round-Up Ready”…

Swing on by Taking Root and see what Pa has to say.

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Saving Money At The Grocery Store

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on May 1, 2008

Several years ago our family began scouring through our lives and our lifestyle to cut costs wherever we could. We had some tough seasons, financially speaking, and it was critical that we cut back wherever we could. I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve done that have been helpful. Maybe someone else can benefit from our experiences. Not only have we cut costs but we’ve found that we’re healthier from this process as well.

Saving Money At The Grocery Store

One of the biggest ways we have saved money at the grocery store was to stop buying pre-prepared and processed foods. While it may be “cheaper” to buy a box of something to mix together on the stove and feed your hungry family, it will not yield long term benefits. Pre-prepared foods are most often full of fillers which have no nutritional benefit. The example has often been used of snacking on potato chips or cookies vs and apple. In the early afternoon when we tend to look for a small snack, many people tend to grab a handfull of chips or cookies or something similar. What we notice is that later on, we’re hungry for another snack. The snack we had first may satisfy our taste buds but our bodies are still crying out for some sort of nourishment. An apple, for example, as a snack may not be what your taste buds are wanting but it will surely ward off those recurring snack-attacks and give your body the nutrients it’s needing. Fillers don’t benefit the the body at all and leave us as hungry, if not moreso, later on.

Not buying pre-prepared foods means that we eat all homemade meals. It may take a little longer but it’s worth it – both in the satisfaction that you get from creating a tasty meal and in the nutritional benefits your family finds. Homemade meals don’t have all of the fillers, additives and preservatives that pre-prepared foods have. Let’s use bread as our example of homemade vs store bought. Rather than a loaf of bread full high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, chemical additives and highly processed flours, your homemade breads are so much more delicious and nutritious. Again, it may take a little more time to bake the bread than it would to go buy it at the store but your family will only benefit from it. And like the other foods, a sandwich made with homemade bread is so much more satisfying and filling than one with store bought bread. You can ensure that the flours used are more nutritious and even add things like sunflower seeds, raisins, or whatever suits your fancy.

It’s much cheaper to buy all the ingredients for making bread separately, than buying them already made into bread. You can easily save $30 or $40 a month by baking your own bread.

This is especially true if you buy as many of your bread ingredients as you can, in the bulk department of a supermarket.

An entire bag of whole wheat flour (enough to make 4 to 6 loaves) could cost $4.00 or less. This is just one example of how cheap baking your own bread is.

source: Should You Bake Your Own Bread?

Change some of your meal routines. For breakfast, have oatmeal or toast with homemade bread rather than a boxed cereal. Our children used to have 3 or even 4 large bowls of cereal for breakfast and not bat an eyelash at the amount. Some boxes of cereal don’t hold much more than 5 large bowls of cereal to begin with. When we switched everyone to oatmeal or toast and jam for breakfast, the volume of food they consumed changed drastically. One bowl of oatmeal was much more filling and satisfying than 4 bowl of cereal. Not only that, but they could hold out till lunch time without being hit by a severe snack attack. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eating Fresh Local Produce

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on April 6, 2008

In an effort to eat fresh whole foods, we often wonder how we’re supposed to get fresh local produce all year long.  We don’t always know what is fresh in our local area, but we do know that strawberries aren’t fresh and local products in January.  The National Resource Defense Council has a helpful site where we can find out what products are available in our area by season.  For example, here in Washington State

What’s Fresh

Washington: Early April

  • Apples*
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic*
  • Green Onions
  • Herbs
  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Winter Pears

* Indicates availability from local hothouse or storage

Now, contrast that with this little blurb from the NRDC site:

Here’s a hotlist of commonly air-freighted foods and their country of origin. Try to get these at a local farmer’s market when they’re in season. (They’ll taste a lot better, too).

  • Asparagus (Peru)
  • Bell peppers (Netherlands)
  • Tomatoes (Netherlands)
  • Blackberries (Chile)
  • Blueberries (Argentina)
  • Cherries (Chile)
  • Raspberries (Chile)
  • Peaches (Chile)
  • Nectarines (Chile)
  • Papayas (Brazil)

** In our county, Raspberries are distinguished as being produced in larger quantities here than anywhere else in the US.  We are privileged to have “fresh frozen” raspberries and strawberries in some of our local markets all year long.

Fresh and local produce not only tastes better but they are better for you.  They have not been transported over long distances which means that they have been allowed to ripen on the vine/bush/plant long enough to contain the vitamins and minerals that we expect them to have.  Produce that is shipped over long distances aren’t allowed to ripen before being harvested (think of green bananas in the grocery store).  But another big benefit is that your hard earned money stays in your local community – your neighbors benefit from your purchase.  And if you’d like, I’m sure that local farmers wouldn’t mind your stopping by their farm to see how your food is grown.  And in the summer months, go as a family to pick berries for yourselves.  Make it a science or social studies lesson for the kids, or for yourself.  Know where your food comes from, how it was grown – be an educated consumer.

It’s time for local farmers markets to start up again and I’d like to encourage my readers to frequent them, if they are able.  Not only will you benefit, but your community members will too.  In our area, the local farmers markets are open on Saturday’s, making it unavailable for those of us who keep Shabbat.  But they do have a Wednesday market as well.  Take a few minutes to look into what is available in your local area and feed your family more fresh, local whole foods.  It really is the way we were intended to live.

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Bottled Water – Did You Know…?

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on March 12, 2008

Our county public works department has a recycling department and we received a regular mailer from them this week. I wanted to share what they included in the latest newsletter. It makes me SO glad to have well water and that we don’t use plastics!! DH was up late the other night and learned (for himself) just how toxic fluoride is to our systems, he was horrified! He thanked me the next morning for eliminating toothpastes with fluoride in them. LOL At any rate, here’s what the newsletter said:

Gallon for gallon, bottled water costs more than gasoline – and at least 25 percent of bottled water is just processed tap water.

Tap water is much less expensive. In some cases, you’re paying for little more than the bottle itself: At least 25 percent (some experts say as much as 40 percent) of bottled water is nothing more than processed tap water. Beverage companies aren’t legally required to disclose the source of their water. If it doesn’t say “spring water”, chances are it comes from the same or a similar source as tap water.

Tap water is regulated more rigorously than bottled water. Municipal water is overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has more regulatory oversight than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which oversees standards for bottled water. It’s impossible to make any water totally free of contaminants, but most amounts in tap water are tiny – and tap water has to meet higher standards than bottled water.

It’s better for the environment. It takes three to four times the amount of water in the bottle just to make the plastic for the bottle, and that’s not including how much oil is used and how much carbon dioxide is created when the water is shipped to the store.

Take it with you.To make tap water more convenient for travel, put it in a washable stainless-steel bottle. (our family uses glass bottles) Water bottles made of regular plastic, when reused, can harbor bacteria, and they aren’t made to withstand the heat of a dishwasher.

Buy Domestic. If you can’t break the bottled water habit, look for a brand that hasn’t been shipped across the world. The less distance the water has to travel, the fewer greenhouse gases are produced.

  • 28 Billion – Number of plastic water bottles purchased in the U.S. annually.
  • 1.5 Million Barrels – Amount of oil used to make those bottles
  • $11 Billion – Amount Americans spend on bottled water annually.
  • 16 – Percentage of plastic water bottles that get recycled annually.
  • 2.5 Million – Number of plastic water bottles Americans discard hourly.
– From Women’s Health Magazine

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Natural, Non-Toxic Cleaners and Personal Products

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on December 19, 2007

Smoke Stack Does this make you think of “clean”? household cleaners - toxic

Some of the worst culprits contributing to environmental pollution are found right under our noses – under our sinks even. Petroleum based household cleaners can contribute to air and water pollution and consumers are often concerned about potential health problems stemming from the use of such products. There are alternatives to the traditional cleaners that are safer, cheaper and just as effective.

What are common ingredients in traditional cleaners?

  • Ammonia is toxic when inhaled in concentrated vapors and is considered a hazardous waste. Ammonia is found is all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, laundry detergents and metal polishers.
  • Chlorinated cleaners can be especially toxic. Some cleaners contain dioxin, a known carcinogen that can build up in the food chain, is stored in fat, and is believed to affect the endocrine system. Chlorinated materials are used in bleach, dishwasher detergent, and toilet bowl cleaners.
  • Glycol ether is a central nervous system depressant and can poison the kidneys or liver. It is often found in all-purpose cleaners and some laundry detergents as well as personal products, more info is listed below.
  • Oxalic acid is caustic and corrosive to skin and mucous membranes. It is commonly added to cleanser, toilet bowl cleaners and metal polishes.
  • Petroleum-based detergents contain neuro-toxins and central nervous system depressants. Exotic-sounding chemicals like nonyl phenol and alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs) are found in detergent, furniture polish, cosmetics and household cleaners, and contain environmental impurities.
  • Phosphates are added to dishwashing and laundry detergents because it acts as a water softener. Phosphates are released into the environment through waste water and are not removed by waste water treatment systems.
  • Sodium Hydroxide or Lye is in most oven cleaners. It is a corrosive poison and hazardous waste.
  • Formaldehyde is found in some air freshners and deodorizers as well as cosmetics. In its liquid state, formaldehyde, present in the ingredients DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15, can be absorbed through the skin and nails. As a volatile organic compound, or VOC, formaldehyde evaporates when the product is wet; levels drop sharply once it’s dry. The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen.
  • Ammonium hydroxide and Perchlorethylene or Trichloroethane and Sodium hypochlorite are found in spot removers.
  • Diethylene glycol is found in window cleaner.
bubbly burn
As alarming as the above information may be, it is also alarming to discover what resides in our personal care products – shampoo and conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, etc. These are things that we use on a daily basis, often times several times a day.
  • Triclosan encourages the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, according to studies.
  • So-called coal-tar chemicals are found in many “FD&C” or “D&C” colors used in makeup and hair dye. FD&C Blue 1 and FD &C Green 3 are carcinogenic, and impurities in other colors — D&C Red 33, FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Yellow 6 — have been shown to cause cancer when applied to the skin.
  • Widely used in shampoos, DEA is a suspected carcinogen, and its compounds and derivatives include triethanolamine (TEA), which can be contaminated with nitrosamines — compounds shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Contamination is more likely if the product also contains Bronopol.
  • Formaldehyde, listed above, is found in cosmetics.
  • Glycol Ether found in nail polish, deodorant, perfumes and other cosmetics, some glycol ethers are hazardous to the reproductive system. Other effects of overexposure include anemia and irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Avoid those listed on labels as EGPE, EGME,EGEE, DEGBE, PGME, DPGME and those with “methyl” in their names.
With all of this lovely information at my disposal I have tried to find household cleaners that will not make us sick or leave a negative impact on our property (septic system and livestock or garden) or in the health of our family. Sometimes science can truly be scary!

What We’ve Done In Our Home

Our family has switched all of our cleaning products and our personal care products to basic products that clean just as well as the traditional cleaners. What do we use?

Household Cleaners

  • Instead of a bleach product to clean counter tops, use hydrogen peroxide and water.
  • Instead of a powder abrasive cleaner, use baking soda. Add water to make it a paste to use instead of the liquid abrasive cleaner.
  • Instead of other general cleaning products, we use Natural Green Soap.

Personal Care Products

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The Co-Op Advantage: All About Natural Cleaners NCGA

Posted in Good Stewardship, Health, Product Reviews | Tagged: , , , | 38 Comments »

Our Health In 20 Years is the Report Card for How We’re Living Today

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on October 11, 2007

** I wrote this at an old blog on January 11, 2007. I thought I’d share it here as well. **

—–

I’m taking a break from the mental overload of the end of the year bookwork for the business, farm, and rental properties – not to mention our personal finances. While the kids work on a few crafts together I’m going to ramble. Wanna join me? LOL

We were watching “Assignment Discovery” the other night about acids and bases (yes, a bit too “much” of a science lesson for our kids but it’s always amazing just what they do understand – even when they think they don’t get it at all). There was a nutritionist on the program who said something that really hit home with me. He said something along the lines of:

Report Card

“Our health 20 years from now is our report card for how we’re living today.” He was talking very quickly about how what we put into and do with our bodies doesn’t tend to show up in our lives until much much later. He made another statement about how the rates of disease has increased dramatically in recent generations and how that is directly related to how we are taking care of ourselves when we’re younger. I’ve heard this similar thought often in the past few weeks related to the ‘obesity’ of our nations population and the increase of things like diabetes.

Then I heard a lady on the radio today talking about a particular health plan that she was promoting and she said something along the lines of:

Live as long as I live!

“I want to live as long as I’m alive. I don’t want to have a condition that prevents me from living my life to it’s fullest. I want to live my life as fully as I can in order to serve my Father as fully as I can.” She was talking about quality of life when we so often talk about longevity of life. There’s nothing wrong with living long, but we need to take care to live well so that our longevity is filled with as much life as He allows us. (did that just make sense?) If my hands hurt too bad to write a check, my eyes can’t see very well, my body can’t handle my walking through town, or something else along those lines – I may not be able to be as useful to my Father. My mind will be spending more time on my condition than on Him, I’ll be slowed down more than I would like to be, etc. At the same time my grandmother, of blessed memory, had the worst case of rheumatoid arthritis I have ever seen. That is eventually what killed her. She didn’t ever let it stop her from life, as much as I know. He used her in spite of her conditions (which also included breast cancer and other ‘smaller’ conditions) and she grew in spite of her conditions. Please don’t think that I feel that someone with a health condition can’t be used by Him, I don’t feel that way at all. I’m merely trying my best to repeat the concept that this lady was relating.

I’ve noticed a theme of things that I keep bumping into in my daily life the past few weeks – ever since a friend of mine told me that she felt the L-RD tell her that her favorite treat – ice cream – is “the nectar of death”. It seems that almost daily there are a few things that come into my life that I find myself chewing on related to health and our family diet, why we do some of the things we do. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all and see if any of you have anything to share with me on the subject.

First of all, we do our best to keep Biblical kosher. Outside of our congregation, people think we’re strange. Giving up marshmallows, the kids tell me, was a million times harder than giving up christmas or easter (for a bit of an explanation as to why that is, see Worshiping G-d in His Holidays). Summertime bonfires just don’t have the same appeal without s’mores, yams just aren’t the same without the marshmallow topping (the cream just isn’t the same…). But all in all, nobody misses anything that we used to eat that we don’t eat anymore. Well, except for marshmallows… Other than kosher, there’s no more store bought cookies (homemade instead), no more candies (except for special occasions) but a lot more dried fruit these days, we don’t eat much processed food – as little as we can, and we never eat out anymore. Our families think we’ve lost our marbles.

Cast Iron

When we moved into our new house almost two years ago we switched from using regular cooking pots & pans (you know, the teflon kind) to cast iron. My reasoning was more the novelty of it all more than the health aspects of it, but after I had decided on this move I started hearing quite a bit about how teflon is now being found in the blood streams of infants, imagine how much it’s being found in the systems of those who are actually eating the food cooked in those pots and pans. I also read an article that was saying that after the common use of cast iron for cooking the rates of anemia increased dramatically, this author was connecting the two (you know, the iron factor). I don’t know if that’s a correct assumption but it was interesting anyway. We really have liked the taste of our foods in the cast iron and I really like that they’re so easy to clean. Health benefit or not, we’re sold on the cast iron. We still have a few aluminum pots, and some say there’s a connection between aluminum and alzheimers. We’ll see. I think the Coke in a can might be worse for me than the pots are.

Long before we moved into the house I started to cut out all plastics in the kitchen. My reason for this was mostly taste – I hated the plastic taste that the foods would have. I also had heard that the plastics leeched toxins into the food and liquid, and that was of great concern to me. I had heard about the pseudo-estrogens in plastics and was sure that those weren’t a necessary part of my families diet. I switched to glass bowls for storing/reheating left overs and sending DH to work with his lunch in ceramic/glass containers rather than plastic. We found some water bottles that were a harder plastic and didn’t leave that plastic taste to the water, and we’re assured by others that these harder plastic bottles don’t leech any “stuff” into the water.

Seed Packets

Then there’s the seed catalog that came this week. We started talking as a family about what we’d like to grow in the garden this spring/summer/fall. Is it ever too early to start planning the next garden? Our oldest daughter, Myriam, has been reading about various herbal remedies lately in her constant quest for medical/veterinary knowledge. She was talking about certain plants and their uses medicinally (like rutebega and honey for a sore throat). I found it quite interesting and my mind started going to Shmuella (our youngest “daughter”) and her constant battle with sickness before she came to our family – all the medicines and chemicals that have been put into her system. We soon found ourselves talking about our meat – since we raise it ourselves. Our goal is to raise more and more of our own fruits and veggies too, and to store them (freeze them) for use througout the year. It really struck us this spring when Reuven and Shmuella came into our family just how “strange” our diet is compared to most. Now that they’ve become accustomed to our diet the school lunches make them sick and the thought of going out to a restaurant with their family makes them groan. LOL But the dark circles under their eyes are gone and their skin has cleared up almost completely. We have moved farther and farther away from traditional medicines and things of that nature, unless there isn’t anything else to treat the problem and we feel it’s necessary (like Shalom and DH’s inhalers that they haven’t needed for over a year now). We’ve been growing quite the herbal remedy cabinet over the past few years.

These bunny trails all seem to go along with the ones about how we’ve cut out almost all of the refined sugars (except my Coke and the white sugar we have on hand for people to put in their coffee and in a very few things we eat **Update: Coke has been successfully cut from our ‘diet’**) and replaced the sugar with honey, or how I’m a water-pusher or fruit/veggie pusher. LOL I have people ask me, more often lately than not, “Do you use a microwave?” which completely dumbfounded me at first. Yes we have one. Do we use it? Not much really, DH uses it to melt butter for his popcorn. I started making my own bread just over a year ago and now we can’t hardly stand store bought bread (never mind that we’ve discovered that commercial bakery and pastry products contain the highest amounts of those nasty trans-fats). Besides, it’s not nearly as fun! I’ve come across more than a few articles/radio programs related to processed foods and the increased rates of various diseases since WWII (when the popularity of canned food took off and hasn’t looked back) . Is it just me or is all of this health stuff a very popular subject these days?

uncle sam vegetables

I guess the theme of all of this has been how I’ve been trying to make good choices for our family for several years now and how I’m trying to ensure that our report cards in 20+ years show some good healthy habits. I am not one to stand on a soap box and preach about health or diet or exercise – my soap boxes are of a different nature. But there is a part of me that wonders – is there more to this than I previously thought and is He revealing something to me that I’m at the early stages of grasping? I know that my body is the temple of the Ruach here in this world and that when Messiah returns that I’ll be given a new body/temple/mansion. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of the mansion I have now. (LOL Yes, I do have some weight I could drop.) My primary goal is to teach my kids good dietary habits, an appreciation for exercise, and a good foundation for overall health. My kids won’t learn if I don’t do it myself. “More is caught than taught” I hear.

So check back with me in 20 years and let’s see how our families general health is then. Maybe we can say that because we didn’t use plastic and we did use cast iron that we’re better for it. Maybe we will find out how horrible those things really were for us. Who knows. Maybe the aluminum will have done it’s job and I won’t know what on earth you’re talking about. LOL I don’t usually spend much time thinking about such things but lately it seems to be a theme somewhere in my every day life.

Kids Dancing

 

I’ve rambled WAY too much and I hear all the kids dancing to “Jew & Gentile” in the other room. I need to go interrupt them so we can get our evening Bible reading in before bed.

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Antibacterial Soaps

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on October 8, 2007

Our family has stopped using anything that is labeled as “antibacterial” in the past 6 months. Part of the reason is that the antibacterial products are indiscriminate about what bacteria they are killing. There is such a thing as good bacteria. And because we have a septic system I have been a lot more cautious about what I put down our drains (household cleaners as well as soaps). Our septic system needs bacteria to work properly. I don’t know if soaps and such are enough to kill the good bacteria in our septic system or not but that was where the original thought process originated.

Our primary reason for eliminating antibacterial soaps and lotions was that I realized if we’re working to kill all bacteria, what does that mean for our health? Are these products that every soccer mom has in her minivan or purse really benefiting our health? Have they been on the market long enough to determine if they have been beneficial or harmful? So I did an internet search and found two interesting articles. Well, I found more than two but I thought I’d share these two here:

Plain soap as effective as antibacterial but without the risk

Antibacterial soaps show no health benefits over plain soaps and, in fact, may render some common antibiotics less effective, says a University of Michigan public health professor.

Effect of Antibacterial Home Cleaning and Handwashing Products on Infectious Disease Symptoms

Conclusions: The tested antibacterial products did not reduce the risk for symptoms of viral infectious diseases in households that included essentially healthy persons.

With no real evidence that these antibacterial soaps and lotions are benefiting our health, the claims and hopes for these products aren’t holding up. If our population is not staying healthier after years of high volume use of these products, why continue to make them? (answer: because people buy them) I believe it’s too early to tell what negative impact they might be having as far as those “super bugs” that are resistant to our current medical practices and technilogical advances. The lack of benefit and possibility of negative effects are enough that at least in our home, we have stopped using these products.

If one is concerned with being healthy and fighting bacteria, stay healthy and strong. Part of being healthy is, contrary to popular opinion, getting sick. Once we’ve been exposed to illness, our bodies are created in such a way that they create an antibody and can then fight that illness the next time it tries to attack. Think about the famous childhood ill, chicken pox. Very few people get it twice, and that is because of those handy antibodies that our bodies create. I’m certain that nobody gets it three times. Granted there are seriously life-threatening illnesses that the body cannot fight without help, or fight at all even with help, but those bugs are few and there is nothing that antibacterial soaps or lotions could ever do about them anyway. The common cold and flu is nothing for a healthy person to be concerned with.

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UPDATED 12/19/07:

I recently discovered this link: Triclosan where I felt that my earlier premonition to not use antibacterial soaps was validated. WOW!

The latest rage in the arsenal of antibacterial chemicals, triclosan is included in detergents, dish soaps, laundry soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, creams, and toothpastes and mouthwashes. In 1998, Americans snatched up $540 million of these products, without proof that they even do what they claim.

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Power Encouragement Follow-Up

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on September 18, 2007

I posted a bit ago about our decrease in power consumption. I’m happy to report that our power bill last month was well under $40. For a family of 6! This months bill is hovering at $40 as well. Not bad for running an old freezer, a well pump, and two septic pumps on top of all the regular household appliances (fridge, oven, etc).

I’m looking forward to seeing what our power bills will be this winter…

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Power Encouragement

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on June 13, 2007

An update to how it’s going with our attempt to reduce our power bill as mentioned in this entry, Going Green.

We have successfully cut our power bill for the month of May (which is really the last half of April through the first half of May) to less than any previous month in the past 12 months. I would have to dig out the bills from previous years to compare beyond that, but our simple measures here have given us some encouraging results. 🙂

Now when DH gets his parents garage finished this weekend and we move their freezer out of our garage and into theirs, I expect another decline in the power bill.

Has anyone else taken any action to reduce their utility costs and how has that been working for you?

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Going Green

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on May 23, 2007

Why my interest in conservation and “going green”?

Regular unleaded gas costs $3.45 today and tomorrow it will likely cost more. We live in a county with two oil refineries and still our gas costs more here than it does in the larger cities. Energy is costing more, everything from the propane which runs our furnace and hot water tank to the electricity that runs everything else.

Milk prices have gone up also. A little while ago it was less than $2 a gallon, which was more than a gallon of gasoline. Today milk at the local dairy costs $2.35 and at the grocery store it costs closer to, if not over, $2.75. Everything at the grocery store is costing more these days. When the price of fuel goes up, so does the price of consumer goods.

So what can we do to lessen the impact of rising costs on our family? This is a thought that has been cooking in my mind for quite some time, several years. I’m sure it’s a thought that cooks in the minds of most wives and moms as well as most husbands and dads. How do we make our dollar stretch in the most efficient ways?

We started raising our own meat several years ago. This was born out of a desire to raise our kids with a particular lifestyle. We wanted to be on a small farm and raise our kids with all the benefits of farm/rural life. We have raised chickens and sold dozens of eggs a week to friends and neighbors in the peak seasons. Then we eat the chickens. With the beef and lamb we sell what we can and pick a few for our own freezer. It’s a lifestyle that we love. The benefits of these things are quite substantial. We know what we are eating, what went into it while it was alive and that it was healthy when it was butchered. Besides, it costs less for us to raise our own meat because we grass feed. Grass is free. We can “eat like kings” every Shabbat without having to pay a king’s ransom. But the benefits far outweigh these aspects listed. There are also opportunities to learn how to raise and care for the animals, limited veterinary experience, unlimited science opportunities, etc.

We have also grown a fair share of vegetables in our back yard garden. Not only do they taste better but the cost is simply a packet of seeds, some gas for the rototiller, and a lot of elbow grease. We love it. It reduces blood pressure and stress, we use it for it’s abundant science opportunities and we often have excess produce that we can share with friends and neighbors. This year Miriam and I are planning to learn how to properly can. But we planned on doing that last year as well and it simply didn’t happen. Not only do our vegetables taste so much better because we can pick them at their peak of ripeness and eat them right away but we know what kind of things went into the soil and on the plants themselves – no chemicals, just compost (which is another perk of having sheep, goats, cows and chickens around). The only price is time.

So having a good chunk of our diet covered in this way affords us the ability to buy more spendy, yet better for you, foods at the grocery store. I make my own bread now after we hit a financial tight spot a few years ago and I remembered that old bread machine in the cupboard. We haven’t gone back to store bought bread since! Not only do we not prefer it but it’s cheaper to buy the ingredients in bulk and make it on my own than to buy loaf after loaf of bread. Then Shalom read that those trans-fats that have been making the news are found in very high rates in baked goods – breads and cookies, etc.

So what else can we do to cut costs here at home? We built our own home and moved into it just 3 years ago now. Everything is insulated well and sealed well. The house stays cool in the summer because of the trees on the west and south side (which also protect us from the harsh winds in the cold months) and because of the larger covered porch that wraps around the house. Very little of the main floor gets direct sunlight and in the summer that means less heat. We have no trees on the east side and that is nice for winter sun. All of our appliances are the “energy saver” kind and we have lots of windows which let in a lot of light, we rarely have a light on during the day. There are a few rooms, like bathrooms, with no windows though. I do my best to use a clothes line to dry our clothes when it’s dry, but in the Pacific Northwest it’s not dry as often as it’s wet. Also DH and Shalom struggle with bad allergies certain times of the year so things dry in the dryer during those weeks. I’m thinking of getting a good sized portable clothes ‘tree’ to put up in the basement for the wet months. We do our best to heat our home primarily with wood, which is also free. But we do have a propane furnace as back up. Sometimes our back up is our primary, we’re working on keeping the wood shed full.

I do my best to keep my trips into the larger town in our area to once a week, at the most. I also try to keep our trips to the smaller closer town to as few as possible. This is one area that I really want to cut way back on, especially since gas prices keep rising. Besides the price of gas, I really prefer to be at home.

These kinds of thoughts have propelled me to become obsessive at times about things like solar energy, water barrel systems and even considering the future hybrid vehicle (though for a larger family, I don’t think those little cars would be a good investment). I’m not nearly as concerned with “saving the earth” as I am saving my family in terms of their health and our costs. My opinion is that the people who work to ‘live off of the land’ tend to care more thoughtfully for the environment than those who consider it an industry. I don’t buy into the global warming idea, mostly because the evidence shows that there was farm able land in Greenland not too many centuries ago and that pollution is shown to have been at higher rates in Southern California centuries before now due to various reasons. People forget the facts when emotion gets involved. The earth has cycles and we’ve simply not been keeping records for a long enough period of time to be able to accurately determine if our nature trends are indeed harmful or if they are simply part of the cycle, as I believe they are.

Our situation is a unique one. We live on property that my parents bought when I was a baby. The old house is about to fall over, as are the barns. But because the property was in two parcels we were able to acquire one parcel and build there. The thing is that the property is in a family trust. This means that the property can’t be sold very easily and not for a very long time. We will have to determine what to do with the land after my dad passes away and who will stand to inherit our house after we pass away. This means that one of our children will likely live in our home as adults, maybe even our adult grandchildren. This is one of my primary thoughts as of late. What can we do now to help our future generations who will live here? Knowing what it costs to run our house today, which isn’t a lot, I wonder how much it’ll cost in 10 years or in 30 years. Never mind the kids, will we be able to afford it when DH retires?

I’ve thought about getting solar panels to run the well pump and the septic pump. Those are why we have a generator for the winter months when we tend to have several power outages. We can stay plenty warm and even cook on our wood stove. It’s the flushing of the toilets and having drinking water that is the second closest necessity/connivence that I like having available. I’ve also thought of running the freezers in the garage off of solar panels too since they tend to be the largest power suckers. I’m also thinking of seeing if DH will install solar-tubes in the bathrooms and upstairs hallway. We wanted to do this when we were building but at the time they cost more than we were willing to spend. Now we wish we had been more willing. Very few rooms really need light and even though those rooms have those compact fluorescent bulbs, we have a hard time reminding a child to turn off a light in the middle of a bright and sunny day even if it is in the windowless bathroom.

Another thing I’m looking for is a good (though inexpensive) wood stove to put in the basement. The basement is insulated quite well and stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We used the Quad-Lock system (styrofoam lego looking material) when we built the basement for the very purpose of having a well insulated basement. Before we even had the furnace installed in the house the basement was maintaining a warmer regular temperature than the old farm house we lived in at the time – even with the wood stove and heat pump running! Back to the wood stove – this would help keep the house warmer in winter and cut back on the furnace more but it would also warm it up enough that my indoor clothes line (in the basement) will dry the clothes faster. Eventually the basement will be living quarters with two bedrooms, full kitchen and living room. This will make for a third separate living space – the daylight basement suite, the in-law suite and the main part of our house. This will be able to eventually accommodate us and two of our kids/families in the future (if it works out that way). We could also rent the spaces if we find we need the extra income.

Okay, back to my conservation. We’re trying to conserve our finances, our health, and our property all in one. Knowing that some initial investments cost more but expect to yield long term results make them very appealing. Whether it’s higher quality food or something like solar panels to power specific power hungry or necessary parts of our home, trying to do it with least financial cost is truly a task. But it seems to be a task that I enjoy because like I said, it’s a thought that seems to be constantly cooking in my mind.

I think that this mindset honors HaShem, too. He created the earth and man to care for it. Man is the peak of the pyramid but that doesn’t mean that the lower levels of the pyramid don’t need proper care. We need to care for what He has given us to be stewards over – the land, the animals, finances and our families.

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