Cassandra and Lessons From the Great Depression
Sometimes I feel considerable affinity for
Cassandra. Remember her? Ancient Greece, Trojan War, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, cursed to utter true prophecies? Except no one believed them. Considered a madwoman and liar by her family, Cassandra was raped by Ajax the Lesser when the Greeks finally stormed Troy, taken into slavery, and eventually murdered by Clytemnestra, estranged wife of King Agamemnon. What do you expect? It’s a Greek tragedy, after all.
It’s the making predictions part where Cassandra and I are joined in sisterhood. For several years now, I – and a bunch of other folks much more expert than moi – have been predicting a really nasty financial crash. Except it hasn’t happened. The primary reason for that is that central banks all over the world have printed money and thrown it at the problem. The result has been staggering debt, inflation (despite what the official “statistics” would have you believe) and increasing social unrest. At the extreme end we have Venezuela, followed closely by Spain’s struggles over the last decade and now Germany, Italy and France. Things are even more precarious on the financial scene than they were five years ago.
Eventually, money printing isn’t going to be a solution. There is going to be a VERY LARGE “correction” in the financial markets that will drastically affect the world in which we live. I think we are rapidly getting closer to that point. Actually, I think we’re already in the early stages of correction territory. Since I can’t change it, I offer some suggestions and lessons from people who lived through the last severe economic down-turn: the Great Depression. And by the way, all the indications are that what’s coming will make the Great Depression look like a walk in the park, especially in terms of social unrest.

A little patch job and these five-year-old jeans are good to go.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Credited to Mormon Boyd K. Packer, this became the classic Depression-era motto. When money is tight, the ability to maintain, mend, reuse and stretch will become critically important to your and your family’s survival.
Get out of debt and stay out. If you have credit card or other kinds of debt, put every penny you can toward paying them off. Learn how to barter – which means you need barter materials or skills to swap. If you haven’t already, learn (and teach your kids) the difference between wants and needs.
Get out of the cities. There are multiple issues with city living. First, you are dependent on centralized water, sewage and power. Second, you can’t grow your own food. Third, the chances of severe social unrest – in layperson’s terms, violent riots – are much higher in cities.

Staples such as those on the top shelf (beans, rice, pasta) will store for years.

Stockpile food, water and other basics (like toilet paper), as well as some cash money and the supplies to allow you to maintain and mend.
Build skills. The more things you can do, the more work opportunities you have and the more you can do for yourself. At home, learn to cook, sew, repair your car, tools and appliances. At work, take advantage of every cross-training opportunity, seminar or webinar. Along the same line, diversify income sources so your eggs are in multiple baskets.
Build relationships. When life gets tough, you’re going to be dependent on the kindness of family, friends and neighbors. They will also be the folks who provide you with emotional support, and in hard times that’s critical. For you older folks, you’re more likely to be dependent on the young ones for the things you can’t do any more.

Good old chicken manure and deep bedding for building fertility.

Expect to get your hands dirty – you will be the one grubbing in the dirt, doing the laundry, housework and dishes – because you can’t afford to pay someone else. You may need to take that currently unpopular low-paying job because it’s the only thing available.
Think personal security. Do you have good locks on your doors and windows? Could you fend off an assault? Are you alert to your surroundings when you’re out in public (as opposed to the idiot who nearly walked into a bear because he was busy texting or the fools who died playing Pokémon GO)?
Never give up. And especially, don’t give up hope. There are always bad times, but there are also good times. Listen to or read the speeches of Winston Churchill shortly after the Dunkirk evacuation during WWII. While he made it clear that Britain faced seemingly insurmontable odds, he spoke to the hearts and souls of others, declaring they should “never surrender” and that “freedom should be restored to all.” It was the men and women who survived the travails of the Great Depression who took those words to heart and went on to achieve victory and peace.

Posted in Food, Freedom, Money Matters | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We Eat

One of the women I work with asked me the other day, “So since you have this big garden and everything, what do you eat?” I figured “Pretty much everything” probably wasn’t the answer she was looking for. Just because I try to grow a lot of our food doesn’t mean we eat weird stuff. To me, weird stuff is Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, Spaghetti-Os and bottled salad dressing. So OK, what do we eat?

Chuck Roast.

We eat meat. Although we will buy bacon when we don’t have pigs, most of our meat is grown on the ranch. At the moment I have home-grown beef and chicken in the freezer (and a nice big chuck roast in the oven). Right now we also have lots of venison and elk from hubby’s hunting trip earlier this year. Other wild meats such as goose and duck are also in the freezer at the moment. No lamb at the moment – need to get a new sheep house built that is cougar-proof before we try to raise more woollies.

Morning haul.

We eat eggs. Now that we’re past the winter solstice the chickens are picking up the egg-laying pace again, so most of the time I have four or five dozen eggs in the fridge.

The good stuff – working water out of freshly churned raw butter.

We eat fat. Yeah, I know, not politically correct. We use lard, tallow, coconut oil and olive oil. When possible, I buy olive oil from the local orchard. It shows up in the fall at the health food store in the big town (and goes really fast!). And we eat butter and cream cheese, especially when we have a milk cow and it’s home-made.

Summer apples.

We eat fruit. We have so many fruit trees on the place (not to mention the wild blackberries) that as long as we pick and preserve in some fashion we will never run short of fruit. Apples, pears, plums (plus wild plums), cherries, an Asian pear, elderberries and grapes grow all over the ranch. Some were deliberately planted, while others were obviously dropped by birds or tossed by a ranch hand who took one in a lunch bucket. I think I’m going to have to break down and buy a new Meyer lemon tree, though. The current tree is elderly and I’m pretty sure it’s on its last legs – err, trunk.

Summer squash: Black Zucchini, Early Prolific Straightneck, Cocozelle, Yellow Patty Pan and a few Crystal Apple cucumbers.

We eat veggies. In our climate, I can grow darn near anything. My plantings are limited only by space, water and the food dislikes of family members. For example, I’m the only one who eats beets, but everybody eats summer squash, tomatoes and corn. Good thing about that summer squash, since if there’s a sure thing in the garden surplus department, summer squash would be IT.

When they were little, the kids always wanted “Maybelle” milk – not the store-bought stuff.

We drink milk. Right now, hubby’s drinking the store-bought stuff (which I won’t touch) because he has to have milk in some form. Since Violet’s not going to work out as a family cow, I’m on the lookout for a new milk cow. He also drinks tea and we both drink coffee.
What don’t we eat? Well, I eat very little grain and when I do, it’s not wheat – hubby likes French toast or a sandwich occasionally. Although I buy sugar, the hummingbirds are the primary beneficiaries of the white stuff. I bake a pie or cake about three times a year. I haven’t had any luck with preserving olives, so I do buy those. And occasionally we’ll buy a pizza at my daughter’s store or something like potato chips. I don’t buy canned veggies or prepared foods or fruit (except peaches – the peach trees are still young-uns) or baked goods.

Posted in Food, Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Normals – High Cholesterol

I’m an old nurse. Literally. I graduated in 1968. When you spend half a century in the same career, you are uniquely positioned to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the medical field. If you pay attention, you can begin to put things together and identify certain trends. One of those trends is how “normal” health indicators have changed in the course of those fifty years. That is not a good thing – in many cases, what was once considered normal is now considered a disease. And of course, a disease must be treated, preferably with the newest and most expensive medication. While treatment lines the pockets of the drug companies, it often does the patient no good.
The High Cholesterol Myth
Lots of people track their cholesterol levels and agonize over the numbers. Doctors scold those who “aren’t low enough.” To what end? I’ve talked about this
before, but there is plenty of evidence that high cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease. You need it for brain and nervous system health; your body will make it if necessary. Even the most die-hard believers in the conventional medical establishment have finally admitted that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol levels. So it’s disheartening to see how many people are on statin medications, which may lower their high cholesterol levels but otherwise do them no good and in some cases do active harm.

Ground beef fat in the crockpot, ready to render.

Normal vs. High Cholesterol
Cholesterol levels vary widely in healthy people (by the way, they normally tend to be higher as you get older). The levels in healthy people range from 105 mg/dL to 343 mg/dL. When I graduated, a normal cholesterol level was around 220 mg/dL. These days, normal is supposed to be less than 200 mg/dL. Data on cholesterol levels over the years indicates the average (that doesn’t mean it’s healthy) cholesterol has dropped from 222 mg/dL in 1960-1962 to 203 mg/dL in 2002. During roughly the same period, statin use increased 24% in men over age 60 and 22% in women of the same age. Hmmm – a normal rise in cholesterol has now been dubbed a disease, which means there’s a market for statins. Anybody smell a rat? Even more important, evidence is beginning to emerge that high cholesterol is a biological anti-inflammation tactic. In other words, the real problem is increased inflammation, which your body is fighting by producing more cholesterol. The primary causes of inflammation? Dietary sugar – especially high-fructose corn syrup – a sedentary lifestyle, chemical or toxin exposure, stress and diabetes.
Benefits of Cholesterol
Take this to heart – cholesterol is essential to life. You have cholesterol in every cell membrane. It insulates nerve cells. Without adequate cholesterol, your body cannot build cell walls. It’s a critical component of bile, which is made in the liver and helps digest fats. Liver damage, by the way, is one of the most common side effects of statins. Your body uses cholesterol to make vitamin D and many hormones. There’s evidence that it helps support the immune system, is used in serotonin uptake (which helps you sleep and stay calm) and may serve as an antioxidant. Stored in the liver, it is sent to areas where there is inflammation and tissue damage to help promote repair. It’s also the main dietary source of B-choline, a critical vitamin for the nervous system. So when your doctor says, “You have high cholesterol” and offers statin medications, you might want to answer, “PASS!”
Think about it.

Posted in Farms, Food, Health | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment