Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brother Can You Spare A Dime?

The Labor Department reported last week that prices at the wholesale level jumped seven tenths of one percent in March, inflation hasn't been in the news much lately so the report took a lot of people by surprise. The "official" consensus is that we've turned the corner and the worst is over, but a closer look at the numbers showed price increases at the producer level were led by food and energy. Strip away those components and prices rose only modestly, at one-tenth of one percent, however, unfortunately for consumers, food and gasoline make up a big part of their monthly budgets. Food prices for the month rose by 2.4 percent, the sixth consecutive monthly increase and the largest jump in over 26 years. Some watchdog groups, myself included, believe that a major breakout in food inflation could be imminent, similar to what is currently being experienced in India.

"Some of the startling food price increases on a year-over-year basis include, fresh and dry vegetables up 56.1 percent, fresh fruits and melons up 28.8 percent, eggs for fresh use up 33.6 percent, pork up 19.1 percent, beef and veal up 10.7 percent and dairy products up 9.7 percent," the group said in a release. "On October 30th, 2009, NIA predicted that inflation would appear next in food and agriculture, but we never anticipated that it would spiral so far out of control this quickly."

Americans receiving Food Stamps now total 39.4 million, a number that increased 22% over last year. This number has increased for 14 consecutive months with the Government now paying out more to Americans in benefits than it collects in taxes.

As hard as the coming times will be, we have only to look back 80 years to see some real life strategies to cope with another depression. As the Government turned to rationing during WW2 they appealed to citizens to do their patriotic duty and plant a "Victory Garden" to provide their own fruits and vegetables; almost 20 million Americans turned their backyards into gardens in the name of Patriotism. Magazines printed stories about victory gardens and gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers as compared to 66,000 in 1942.

After the Depression ended and with the return of prosperity most urban dwellers no longer preserved food for home use; eventually farm wives would follow suit and begin to rely wholly on store bought food. To make sure that your family has access to wholesome food if a true crisis occurs is beginning to make sense to a lot more people these days. Home gardens and canning supplies are again on the rise. Even if you can't garden you can join a CSA or buy locally from a farmer's market and preserve food. Too many people, anxious to hear what they want to hear, will not be prepared when hyper-inflation hits and stores remain unstocked or close their doors. Today is the day to make your plans, gather your supplies and take care of your family. I shudder to think of people starving and I know it will happen, but I need to make sure that I've done everything humanly possible to prepare and trust God to bless my efforts and I hope you will do the same. It's not too late, and really, what else do you have planned for this Summer that could be more important? Spread the word! :-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Planting By The Zodiac

Planting according to the Zodiac used to be widespread, this ancient knowledge being passed down through the generations, but it has sadly fallen into obscurity in our day and age. Modern agriculture can't account for something that seems embarrassingly like "folk wisdom", which is generally disregarded as bunkum. There is however some firm science behind it. In the same way that tides are highest during the new moon and full moon when the gravitational pull is strongest because sun and moon are lined up with earth, so too does the moisture rise in the earth at this time encouraging growth. The highest amount of moisture is in the soil at this time, and tests have proven that seeds will absorb the most water at the time of the full moon.
The Moon moves through the signs of the Zodiac in the heavens every few of days and each of the different signs are associated with an element of earth, air, fire or water. The best signs for planting are Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces and Capricorn with Libra being the best time for flowers. It is advisable to buy a good almanac, our favorite is the one put out by T.E. Black, it is straight forward and folksy without the modern articles in the more commonly known almanacs. By looking at which sign each day is ruled by and which phase of the moon you're in you can easily ascertain when to expend the effort to get things planted. Well begun is half done.

The first quarter is best for: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, corn, lettuce, oats, parsley, onions, spinach and flowering plants.

The second quarter is best for: beans, eggplant, melons, peas, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes and watermelon.

The third quarter is best for: beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, radishes and turnips.

The fourth quarter is best for: turning sod and pulling weeds. Never plant in the barren signs of: Aquarius, Aries, Gemini, Leo, Virgo or Sagittarius.

Now, though I firmly believe that it is good and right to plant this way, I do not believe in horoscopes etc. I don't consult them and I think that the Zodiac, which is Biblical, has been co-opted into something that God never intended. I believe that the Zodiac is the "gospel in the stars" which God placed to tell His story for all time, not a tool for witchcraft or divination which is clearly wrong.
I have some seeds to sow tomorrow as the moon is waxing and the sign tomorrow is Cancer. These are herbs that I want to have closer to the house so I can avoid traipsing through the fields to harvest them. :-) I also want to check the woods for Coltsfoot, I have it in a raised bed, but I wanted to glean some elsewhere if possible since I use more than I grow. The big shiny leaves are Coltsfoot, they are best harvested when small, the bigger leaves are good to smoke/inhale but the little ones are best for tea. Coltsfoot is an expectorant and is useful for colds, flu and asthma. I put it in our homemade cough syrup.

These Coltsfoot leaves are only about 2" across and ready to be harvested.