Monday, July 13, 2009

Our weekend out of town; The Story.

Our weekend;   The Story.  I have a peridontist appointment about every three months, in a town about 2 + hours from where we live.  So we have turned it into a weekend getaway, and a visit with my mother who lives in a nearby town to the town where my peridontist is located.

Had my peridontist appt Friday and the report was good - some small improvement actually.  Not much improvement, but far better than deterioration.    Then we went to my mother's home, spent the weekend. and then came home to our animals.   Our cat and dog remain at home, and so our time away is limited to a safe duration for the cat and dog to fend for themselves.  Now that my cat bite is healing and the cat is healing, life is returning to normal.   (A couple weeks earlier the cat was bitten by an animal, and in not knowing she was bitten, I picked her up, more rather tugged her out of her hiding place and she bit me…not at all her usual behavior, she is a very loving cat.   We didn’t see her wound at the time, but knew something was wrong with her.  Arthur spotted her wound, and we took her to the vet, who gave her a vaccine, and told me was more concerned that I get myself to hospital to treat the cat bite.  I did, was vaccinated and given antibiotics, the incident reported to County Health, the cat quarantined at our home for 10 days and we are both mending without incident, the primary concern being exposure to rabies).   When we returned home, our dog Jake resumed eating again.  He misses us when we are gone and gets sad - depressed.  Dogs have feelings.  Oh, and our cat too, she has feelings, misses us and glad when we return home. 

After my peridontist visit on Friday afternoon we drove to my mother’s home, picked her up and went out to eat.  We live in a rural town, and there aren’t a lot of restaurants or places to eat, so we enjoy the opportunity of eating out at different restaurants on the days of  my peridontist appointments.  It’s an eating out together date we look relish.  Choosing a restaurant in the town where my mother lives proved not to be as obvious as it might seem.  We kind of scoured what we knew to be restaurants in her neighborhood, opted to go further away, settled on Black Angus, since I was hankering for a nice steak lunch.  We got there and it no longer has lunch, open for dinner only.  Must be the economy.  The hour was growing late into the afternoon, I was hungry now, and we had not eaten breakfast that day,  or at all, so we wound up at (oh yuck!) Old Country Buffet.   Arthur likes the many choices of buffet restaurants, and sometimes so do I, but Old Country Buffet is not one of my favorites.  We both really enjoy the buffet variety of primarily healthy choices at  Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, but there were none the town where my Mom lives.    

Saturday Arthur spent the day home, defrosted Mom’s freezer for her because it had become so full of ice that the ice on all the shelves were touching each other, no room for food.   He took care of some other taskings for her, then spent the rest of the day fooling around with installing stuff in  his old fashioned computer.  Not the laptop kind, the big bulky kind.  Some guy he knows had given him some Linus software to download or told him about it.  Anyway, it was a dead computer (not working) and when Arthur finished the download it sprung back to life, installed Windows XP and is sort of functional again.  He was delighted.  Still needs an audio driver and something else that would permit it to link to internet.  He was just intrigued that it started working again...kind of like a guy tinkering in his garage with his power tools, only Arthur likes to tinker with puter.

Saturday I took Mom to Farmers Market in Proctor area of Tacoma.  That is a district that more resembles Portland or some Seattle districts; organic, green living, conscientious choices - that sort of thing, and an amazingly cool, fun grocery store with very upscale item choices.  For a mere $309.00 you can purchase a wheel of gourmet cheese!  An experience in itself.  (I’m being a bit snarky – it would be very unlikely we would ever spend that kind of  money on cheese.)  We visited a new consignment shop in her immediate neighborhood – delightful items, colorful, fun, upbeat, cheerful.  I liked it.   But I didn’t buy anything, because in truth, neither of us need another thing!

And more for the hunt of treasure than because either of us need anything more in our homes, we went to a few garage sales. What was being offered wasn’t the kind of garage sales we were looking for - more like junk sales.  We had fun anyway because we toured many of the University Place neighborhoods, the million + $$ homes with breathtaking views of the Narrows water, Narrows Bridge, the outlying island.  And alongside the million + $$ homes, are more modest ranch style homes.  You can be on a ‘house of dreams’ street and turn to go down the the next street which could well be a quiet and modest street of different ranch style homes.    University Place neighborhoods are in interesting mix of income levels.   After our tour of neighborhoods,  I took her to visit Charlie at cemetary where his ashes are placed.  It is a beautiful, peaceful cemetary, a place of quiet serenity amidst the hubbub of getting from here to there.  Nice place to quietly reflect on life.  I know, it may sound like a strange juxtaposition to reflect on life when at a cemetary where the dead are buried…..but that is how it works for me.

We went back to Proctor district that evening to have dinner at a niche Mexican restaurant (not a restaurant chain) because Mom said she heard good things about the food and atmosphere there.  Lively atmosphere with mix of old and young people dining.    I had a Taste Assault dish called Chicken Mole, although it would be better named Chicken in Mole (prounounced molay)  Sauce, because the sauce was Outrageous -  6 ingredients, and I can remember plums, almonds, mole (an unsweetened chocolate), and some other ingredients.  It wakes up your taste buds like wowza!   Not hot or even spicy, flavorful would be the word I would use to describe it.  Flavorful with each bite.  Arthur took a menu and will experiment at home with making the mole sauce because I liked it so well. 

Sunday we took Mom to her church (St Andrews Episcopal Church).   A bit of history here; my mom lost half her sightedness recently and is vision impaired now.  Mom had been saying she felt she needed something inspirational amidst all the doctor appointments and bad news.  Along the way, I decided to call the Priest at St Andrews to talk to him about Mom.  When she was a child, she attended Episcopal church in Spokane.  I explained to him her childhood church exposure, and her current medical condition with being sight impaired, being told by her doctors not to drive anymore. He agreed to visit Mom immediately and arranged for someone to pick her up and take her to church on Sundays.  

She has been to St Andrews now, a few times, and wanted us to visit her church.  We wanted to visit it also, as I enjoyed the upbeat conversation with the Priest - he was energetically young, even though he isn't young.    That Sunday they had special guests, a singing group who livened up the entire worship service with renditions of the hymns done to foot tapping music.  Guitars, tambourines, horns, and one of the gals playing guitar was barefoot!   Felt like we were at a campfire gathering!  Geesh!  But the worship service having a combination of traditional liturgy, the laying on of hands for healing, the Eucharist, and the lively music with a welcome invitation to all does reflect ‘The Emerging Church’.

We loved the church, it had accommodations our little church building isn’t equipped to have, and if we lived in that area, we would likely attend that church.   Afterwards we ate at a restaurant in her immediate neighborhood that she is fond of - an old fashioned restaurant left over from approximately the 1950’s era.     So lots of eating this weekend, way too many calories, and Mom had a nice weekend.  So did we.  

Oh and at the Farmer's Market I bought some snow peas that were priced below what is usually charged for snow peas, so I bought enough to freeze.  Bought a couple of tomato plants already bearing tomatoes, and a basil plant.   I didn’t plant a vegetable garden this year, and haven’t spent much time outside with the herb and flower gardens, so keeping it light this year.   Weather hasn’t been too cooperative where we live – cold, rainy, then unseasonably blistering hot, then cold again.   At the market, I found a growing salad bowl planter that I wanted and Mom bought it for me for my birthday gift.  The planter has growing  lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro plants  - salad ingredients, and that is the extent of my vegetable garden this year.   Except all the herbs I have been growing for a few years now. 

And I was delighted to learn about a lovely tasty sauce called Chimichurri?  Oh, I tasted some at the market, and just had to buy one - lime Chimichurri.  Great to use as braising sauce for grilled vegetables, on meats, or just straight on healthy chips or fresh veggies.   Taste delight!

It was a rather sweet weekend.  Last year around this time, we had visited Mom and she and I went to Lavender Festival on Vashon Island, ferry ride over and back, a beautiful, clear, sunny day, making the waters deep blue and picturesque. There was a Farmer’s Market there too, and we visited that Farmer’s Market

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Craftivism, what is it? Where did it come from? Who thought that one up?

Well, whewww, someone put it together – activism + craft = craftivism.  That works for me! 


Because it is possible to go beyond banners, email petitions and chants as ways of fighting for a cause you believe in. You could have a knit-in, papier-mache puppets, teach a crafty class for kids- all ways of turning that energy into a more positive, more useful, force. Atrocities are happening in our front yards and on our televisions and we need to find ways to react against what is happening without either giving up or exploding.

This is less about mass action or more about realizing what you can do to makes things around you better.

Read more - link here   -, created by Betsy Greer, who advanced ‘craftivism’ as a Masters thesis.    Now she’s talking, no, excuse me, now she’s crafting --- with a message!   

Gives me that elusive concept that I have been struggling with for over a year now.  How can I go from 5 years of intense and passionate activism to end the Iraq war to dabbling in exploration of hobby crafts – how are those two things congruent at all?   Looks like maybe there is a common thread, after all.  

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Making this blog work!

Too many blogger template choices these days, and as the years keep passing, what people can now do with blogger compared to those early years…..why, I remember when you got the bare bones basics with blogger.  Then I learned enough html to be able to add to my blogger html template.  I thought I was doing pretty great, until the ‘feeds’ came along.  I couldn’t quite figure out how to make that work for me too well. 

Blogger then went into Beta and changed some things around, and the html templates didn’t work as well.  Blogger then offered updated user-friendly layouts, and keeps adding some competitive new features that helps bloggers keep up with being 'cool’. 

You know back in the days when I was at least on the computer technology curve, sometimes even ahead of the curve – as a user, not a techhie – I thought it was way cool.  As the years have passed, the technology has become absolutely amazing, and a whole new generation is being raised with computers, I know I’m no computer whiz.   So, with that, I’m glad that blogger technology along with those creative people out there who like to make lively, fun new templates has made it easier for me to give my blogs a periodic update with a whole new look.

Consequently, I have changed most all of my blogs several times by now, using the blogger features as they have upgraded over the years, using cool new templates as they have evolved over the years – primarily thanks to creative people who just weren’t satisfied with the limited choices of blogger templates.

So, in line with updating all my other blogs, this blog, Bundelz, is getting an overhaul now.   When I put this blog together a ways back, I had intended to try to blend and integrate various aspects of my life, and thought I could do it with this blog, or at least compile a list of all my different blogs and websites in one place.  I wasn’t altogether successful.    But maybe I can give this blog some attention again, now that I’ve dressed it up anew.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Who killed the electric car? - video

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Independence Day Challenge 2008 - Good practice to get in better shape for food management challenges headed our way.

I'm pleased to have found this great challenge and it is a challenge - Independence Day Challenge 2008 - at Casaubon's Book blog. The blog is full of useful information and worth a look. We (husband and I, oh and our dog and cat) are already into our efforts of trying to learn how to take care of ourselves (primarily feed ourselves) as the oil/food/economic crisis continues. And we recognize we will fall seriously short in our efforts unless we learn the skills and make them part of our daily habits.

Much of the blogging that I've done to date has felt more like 'heed the warnings' sort of messengering. But I think the 'warnings' now are coming from many messengers, and I want to change the direction of my blogging efforts.

With that in mind, I'm liking what I'm seeing in taking the Independence Day Challenge 2008. It seems like good practice to get in better shape for food management challenges headed our way.Read the details at Casabon's blog - Independence Days; My First Challenge. Simply stated --

That means in each day or week, try to:

1. Plant something.
The idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly. Remember, that beet you harvested left a space - maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil. Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something.
From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips dragged out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can. Be aware of the bounty around you realizing that there’s something - even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad - to be had every single day. Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.
Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter. And it adds up fast. The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.

4. Prep something.
Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket. Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal. Sort out and inventory your pantry. Make a list of tools you need. Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does. Fix your bike. Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it. Plan for next year’s edible landscaping. Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you - or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill. Independence is being ready for whatever comes.

5. Cook something.
Try a new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making. So experiment now. Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven? How are your stir-fried pea shoots? Stuffed squash blossoms? Wild morels in pasta? Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.
Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it. Label those cans. Clean out the freezer. Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season. Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag. Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever. Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry. Make sure the squash are holding out. Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.

7. Work on local food systems.
This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source. It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store. You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry. Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks. Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA. Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school. Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too.

Sharon does have one of those challenge buttons at her blog and provides the html code. I couldn't seem to get the html code to work so don't have the button on this blog -- yet. But I will make weekly reports, I think, about how I'm handling my Independence Day Challenges.
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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Doing Something Positive - The Urban Pioneers are doing it, so can we!

Excellent video encapsulating wide array of concepts in Sustainable Living. These Urban Pioneers got a jumpstart back when it was called self-sufficiency- meaningful living, abundant living, simplistic living, getting off the grid. And they go even further back ... see the video below. Big hat tip to Path To Freedom Journal blog.

from the Path to Freedom Journal blog 'about us'
On 1/5th of an acre, this family has over 350 varieties of edible and useful plants. The homestead's productive 1/10 acre organic garden now grows over 6,000 pounds (3 tons) of organic produce annually,providing fresh vegetables and fruit for the family’s vegetarian diet along with a viable income.

In addition they have chickens, ducks, goats, brew their own biodiesel (made from waste (free!) vegetable oil) to fuel their car, compost with worms, solar panels provide their electricity needs, a sun and earthen oven is used to cook food in.
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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Fun video 'The Store Wars' May the Farm be with you.....

'The Store Wars' May the Farm be with you. A fer fun video to offset the very serious video below.

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Nutricide - Criminalizing Natural Health, Vitamins, and Herbs

The video starts off looking like some lecture and I started to hit the stop button, but decided instead to hear it out for a bit, and then I was intrigued. Because she was talking about something as if I should already know what it is and I realized I hadn't even heard of it, let alone realize what it is, so I listened.

Do you know what Codex Alimentarius is? And if you do, then you're ahead of me on the knowledge scale. Do you know how it will be affecting our food supply - and somthing so vital as our food supply will be in another of what feels like 'corporate take-over' in every aspect of our daily living.

Maybe you're interested, maybe not, and the good Dr in this video does a fine job of explaining by building the foundation steps so that even if you think you don't care about Codex Alimentarius, you likely will after watching some of this video!

The Codex Alimentarius is a threat to the freedom of people to choose natural healing and alternative medicine and nutrition. Ratified by the World Health Organization, and going into Law in the United States in 2009, the threat to health freedom has never been greater.

This is the first part of a series of talks by Dr. Rima Laibow MD, available on DVD from the Natural Solutions Foundation, an non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about how to stop Codex Alimentarius from taking away our right to freely choose nutritional health.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

United States Food Supply in Danger?

I'm not altogether sure that I agree with the slant or bent of why this was posted - as it has a somewhat anti-illegal immigrant cast to it , which I don't share. But the information pointed out about contaminated and compromised food, food recalls is pertinent.

United States Food Supply in Danger?

The latest in the craze of America 's food supplies being contaminated. Mini Chip Ahoy Cookies from Nabisco, a Kraft Foods project. A toddler in Texas opened a bag of these cookies for a snack and was surprised by a rat leg, covered in a thin layer of cookie dough and cooked, sealed inside the bag of treats.

But this is just the latest in a rash of food source contamination harming, and even killing Americans this year alone. Since January, 2006 the following food recalls have been issued on a variety of food products. The numbers are startling, the variety of foods involved shocking, the fact that the majority are of the same type of contamination eye-opening.

February 2007:

* Peter Pan Peanut Butter (ConAgra Foods) - Salmonella
* Earth's Best Organic Baby Food - Botulism bacteria.
* Wellesley Farms Fresh Sliced Mushrooms - E-coli
* Cantaloupes - Salmonella
* Oscar Mayer/Louis Rich Chicken Breast Strips - Listeria (Meningitis) Contamination.
* Wild Kitty Cat Food - Salmonella Contamination


* Chili Powder - Sudan 1 poisoning ( Sudan 1 is a red dye used in coloring solvents, oils, petrols, polishes and waxes)
* Worcestershire Sauce - Due to Chili Powder contamination.
* Garden Leaf Foods "Trader Joe's - Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad" - Listeria Monocytogenes contamination (meningitis) . - CA
* Natural State Meat Co - Ground Beef Product Recall - E-Coli
* Gold Star Sausage/Franks - Listeria
* Pap's Louisiana Cuisine Head Cheese - Listeria

2006 Recalls:

* Cantaloupes - Salmonella - AZ
* Taco Bell Restaurants - E-Coli outbreak
* Frozen strawberry recall (used in Jamba juice, used in fruit smoothies). - Listeria Monocytogenes contamination - Cleugh's Frozen Foods Inc (SunOpta Inc.) - CA
* Cooked Ham and Turkey - Listeria monocyogenes - HoneyBaked Foods, Inc - OH
* Birds Eye Frozen Cooked Winter Squash - Ammonia contamination - MI
* Little Debbie Nutty Bars - May contain small particles of metal. McKee Foods - TN
* Everyday Value Kalamata Olive Tapenade - May contain glass fragments. - TX
* Spinach - E Coli - Natural Selection Foods - CA
* Almonds - Salmonella - Paramount Farms CA
* Green Leaf Lettuce - E-Coli - CA
* Davis Mountain Beef - E-Coli - Iowa
* Tuscan Sun Turkey Sandwiches - Listeria Monocytogenes - WA
* Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice - botulism - CA
* Salads of the Sea, Hen House, Southern Home, Fisherman's Market - Krab Dip Supreme, Supreme Krab Dip, Cajun Smoked Salmon Spread, Krab Artichoke Spinach Dip, Krab Dip, Cajun Krab Dip, Jalapeno Krab Dip, Cajun Crawfish Salad, Smoked Salmon Flavored Spread. - Listeria Monocytogenes contamination - TX

* Classic Salads - Baby Spinach/Spring Mix Recall - Salmonella - CA
* Stouffer's Meatloaf - pieces of plastic - Nestle Prepared Foods - SC
* Spring Hill Cheeses - Listeria
* Cahill's Farm Porter Cheese - Listeria MO
* Thumann's Inc Boneless Prosciutto - straphylococcus aureus enterotoxin.
* Caribbean Dreams Cerasee Tea - Salmonella
* Moveable Feast Smoked Scottish/Smoked Norwegian Salmon - Salmonella - NJ
* H.E.B. Baby Food/Mom's Organic Choice - pieces of glass.
* Gentlease powdered infant formula - metal particles
* Lean Cuisine Asian Style Pot Stickers - plastic particles. - Nestle Prepared Foods - SC
* Herman Falter Smoked Pork Neck Bones/Jowls/ Frankfurters/ Italian Sausage - Liseria - OH
* Krisp-Pak Fresh Fruit - Listeria
* Reese's Shell Topping - Salmonella
* Omaha Beef Company - Beef Products - E-Coli
* Ballard's Farm Sausage - Macaroni Salad, Cole Slaw, Egg Salad - Listeria
* Portillo's Food Service - Roast beef - Listeria
* Jim's Market and Locker Ground Beef - E-Coli.
* Monterey Mushrooms - Listeria
* Dinner Bell Beef - E-Coli
* Fullei Fresh Alfalfa Sprouts - Salmonella
* Southeastern Meats Ground Beef - E-Coli
* Plains Meat Ground Beef - E-Coli
* Orientex Manila Style Hot Dogs - Listeria
* George G. Ruppersberger and Son's Inc Ground Beef - E-Coli.
* House of Thaller, Kroger Brand, Mrs. Gerry Dairy Fresh, The Fresh Market, Southern Gourmet, Southern Style, Ham salad, chicken salad, turkey salad, tuna salad, seafood salad, pea salad - Poisoning/bacteria.
* Ground beef recall to restaurants and institutions in Arkansas , Kansas , Oklahoma , Missouri - E-Coli
* Jimmy Dean and State Fair Cheeseburgers - Listeria
* Town and Country Foods, Ham salad - Listeria
* Griffin's Pork Barbeque - Listeria
* Whole Catch Lemon Pepper Garlic Hot Smoked Trout - Listeria
* JHC Brand Cooked Seasoning Anchovy - Salmonella
* Quaker Maid Meats Frozen Beef Patties - E-Coli
* Fortuna Sea Products Frozen Cooked Clam Meat - Salmonella
* Dole Lettuce Salad - E-Coli

This is more then coincidence. With American's dependency on pre-processed and pre-packaged food sources nearly complete, and along with it just as dependent upon the government to insure the consumption of this food is safe for
them and their family. This makes for a toxic cocktail to the safety of Americans. It is not surprising in some fashions to the finding of a rat leg in a bag of Chip Ahoys when one considers the all sources involved before this food is able to come to our stores, homes and consumption.

According to a report on _www.wehirealiens. com_ ( , Kraft Foods is a known illegal alien employer in their South Carolina processing plant. They also are listed as having several processing plants in Mexico which package pre-packaged food products for human consumption. Mexico is not known for its strict food processing laws like found in the United States , another reason many food companies chose to outsource their processing, packaging and production plants there. Kraft itself has various plants in the following locations:

Kraft Food Plants - Ecatepec , Mexico
Nabisco Food Plants - Guatemala City , San Jose , Costa Rica

Other food processing companies who take advantage of Mexico 's cheap
labor and lenient food processing laws are:
* Ralston Purina
* Pilgrim's Pride
* CPC International
* Philip Morris (Kraft General Foods)
* Campbell Soup
* Pepsi Co
* Quaker Oats
* Universal Foods
* Coca Cola
* Bordon
* Kellogg
* Hershey Foods
* McCormick & Co
* Gerber Products
* Tyson Foods
* Sara Lee
* RJR Nobisco
* Cargiel/Excell
* J.R. Simplot
* Frito Lay (part of Pepsi)

(from Old Ways Living yahoo group)
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Disappearing Apple Varieties in the South - 1,400 to 200

1,400 apple varieties in the South - only 200 still known to exist

The Genius of Apples; by Linda Burnham, Oct 2004

There's a hearty band of hunters ransacking the South, says Lee Calhoun, hunting for old Southern apples. They are tracking down apple trees in the front yards of old country homes that may disappear tomorrow. Time is running out for these hunters. Of the 1,400 apple varieties known to have originated in the South, only about 200 are still known to exist. "The others are totally extinct," says Calhoun, "and when that happens, you lose a whole apple. Most of these trees were planted in the early 1900s. I'd say we only have about five years left to find them."

Creighton Lee Calhoun is a pomologist. Etymologically, that means he loves apples. On his land in the Saralyn community in the heart of old Chatham County, he is growing 450 kinds of heirloom apples. Calhoun's Nursery on Blacktwig Road has become legendary among those who are trying to rescue a history that is slipping away. There he collects cuttings of old varieties, grafts them onto root stock and plants and sells the results, all in the name of preservation and propagation. Our own Johnny Appleseed.

One hundred years ago, apples were a staple of the Southern diet. Time was, says Calhoun, when every farmhouse in the largely rural South had apple trees in its yard. Apples provided fresh fruit from June to November, and were kept in the root cellar all winter. The varieties were myriad, providing fruit through the whole summer -- early, midseason and late. Southerners dried the tart varieties, made applesauce and apple butter from the soft ones, and fashioned pies from the firmer fruit that held its shape during cooking.

Read more The Genius of Apples

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Monday, April 30, 2007

How much per week on food according to Dept of Labor stats?

The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out some very detailed statistics about how much Americans spend on different parts of their budget. Part of that, obviously, focuses on food. The most recent data that they have published is from 2005.

1 person in the family, one wage earner: $68 a week
2+ persons in the family, one wage earner: $121 a week
2+ persons in the family, 2 wage earners: $144 a week
2+ persons in the family, 3+ wage earners: $184 a week
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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Subprime Lending Crisis: Millions of Families Face Losing Their Homes to Foreclosure

Subprime loans have led to one million American families losing their homes in the past decade, a new study by the Center for Responsible Lending has found. In the last ten years, the subprime loan industry has emerged as a major, and controversial, player in the housing market. We speak with an attorney at the Center for Responsible Lending.

Subprime loans have led to one million American families losing their homes in the past decade. This according to a new study by the Center for Responsible Lending. In the last ten years, the subprime loan industry has emerged as a major, and controversial, player in the housing market. Under a subprime loan, customers with low credit ratings are offered mortgages in return for high interest rates. Proponents have advocated subprime financing as a way for low-income residents to own their first home. But new figures suggest the subprime industry is having the opposite effect.

The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that between 1998 and 2006, about 1.4 million first-time home buyers purchased their homes using subprime loans. But the study also finds that the number of projected subprime foreclosures in that same period to be a whopping 2.4 million. This means subprime lending results in a net loss of home ownership for almost one million families.

Here in New York, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project put out a report showing foreclosures rose fifty percent last year -- with more than 9,000 homeowners facing the loss of their homes. By the end of this year, foreclosures are now on track to rise to fifteen thousand.


This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Subprime loans have led to one million American families losing their homes in the past decade. This according to a new study by the Center for Responsible Lending. In the last ten years, the subprime loan industry has emerged as a major, and controversial, player in the housing market. Under a subprime loan, customers with low credit ratings are offered mortgages in return for high interest rates. Proponents have advocated subprime financing as a way for low-income residents to own their first home. But new figures suggest the subprime industry is having the opposite effect.

The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that between 1998 and 2006, about 1.4 million first-time home buyers purchased their homes using subprime loans. But the study also finds that the number of projected subprime foreclosures in that same period was a whopping 2.4 million. This means subprime lending resulted in a net loss of home ownership for almost one million families.

Here in New York, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project put out a report showing foreclosures rose 50% last year, with more than 9,000 homeowners facing the loss of their homes. And in this year, foreclosures are on track to hit 15,000.

We now go to Durham, North Carolina, where we’re joined by senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, Keith Ernst. Welcome to Democracy Now!

KEITH ERNST: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, in the last few months, we have seen many news articles basically about the lending companies and the financial crisis among some of these subprime lenders, and we’ve seen some coverage of the impact on homeowners around the country, but could you put this crisis in context, from your perspective, what is happening around the country?

KEITH ERNST: Of course. You know, for years, the subprime market has been this just burgeoning industry, and the lenders have been making loans to millions of families. And for a while, it looked like things would go on smoothly, but as housing prices softened and weakened, what we saw was the weakness in these mortgages they were making exposed to the light of day. And essentially, now the sad ramifications of this is an uptick in foreclosures, sometimes in places that haven't really seen a spike in foreclosures in years, places like New York and California and Northern Virginia, where, you know, for all intents and purposes, we’ve been in a boom for the first half of this decade.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the -- your group issued a report at the end of last year projecting what the potential impact would be over the next few years in terms of foreclosures. Could you talk about that?

KEITH ERNST: Sure, that's right. So we projected that more than 2.2 million -- now 2.4 million families -- will lose their homes ultimately to foreclosure as these mortgages come to a halt, or at least as these mortgages play out. And that's deeply concerning. These are families who, in many instances, this house is their primary asset. It’s how they’re holding their wealth. It’s their nest egg for retirement. And those homes are a just tremendous jeopardy right now, and largely this is because of the shoddy underwriting that's taken place in the subprime market in recent years and these so-called mortgage resets, where a borrower’s interest rate could go from 8% to as high as 12% just two years into their mortgage. And this results in a payment increase of 30% to 40% on their mortgage. Families who are just sort of struggling to get by day to day are faced with this just insurmountable hurdle two years into the mortgage. And, you know, what they’re finding now is that foreclosure may be the only option for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Keith Ernst, can you explain the difference between a prime and a subprime loan?

KEITH ERNST: Of course. You know, for years, borrowers in this country could only get a mortgage if they met fairly narrow underwriting criteria. You know, they had to put 20% down on their home. They had to have stable incomes. And, you know, they had to have a relatively blemish-free credit record.

Over the last ten or so years, what's happened in this nation is that lenders have gotten more flexible in who they're willing to lend to. And in principle, this is a good thing, because it means that families who need to tap into their wealth, whether it's to send a child to college, to pay for a medical procedure, or, you know, for other purposes, can do that. And that, in principle, is a good thing. But what's happened in the subprime market is that lenders have gotten overly aggressive, made loans that borrowers simply can’t afford, and that’s sort of the story today.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you talk about the role of major banks in this whole process? I did a story in the New York Daily News last week about the role of Credit Suisse First Boston in repackaging these loans in the securities industry, and they actually had a whole division called their NINA department -- “No Income, No Asset” loans that they were repackaging.

KEITH ERNST: Right. One of the interesting stories here underneath all of this is how these mortgages came about in the first place. You know, we like to think, or I think most Americans think, that mortgages are made by banks and depository institutions, but especially in the subprime market that's not the case. They're largely made through state-chartered finance companies that don’t have any bank deposits, and so they don’t have any bank regulators.

Where do they go for their money? They go to Wall Street. So Wall Street will supply them the money to make the loans, will buy the loans from these lenders, and then will repackage them into securities and sell them to investors. Now, again, in principle, that's fine. It can make low-cost capital available to families who need mortgages. The problem comes when the insatiable appetite builds for more and more mortgages and lenders get reckless with regard to the quality of the mortgages they’re originating.

AMY GOODMAN: Keith Ernst, what kind of regulation, federal regulation, is there of this, and also local regulation?

KEITH ERNST: Right. You know, Amy, the regulators are really -- they’re just scrambling to catch up now. What we’ve seen is the federal regulators just this spring have come out with proposed subprime lending guidance that would require lenders to insure that borrowers can afford their mortgage when those payments jump up, so not at the initial introductory rate, which is only going to be in effect for two short years, but at the fully indexed rate, the rate that’s going to apply after the introductory period is over. And we think that's a tremendous step forward.

But it's coming too late for many families. Many families are finding that their mortgages are resetting and are in trouble now. You know, that's at the federal level. We’ve got that regulatory action. Congress is looking into bills to protect borrowers from these sorts of practices and also from other sorts of predatory lending practices, like putting borrowers in loans with abusive back-end prepayment penalties that can cost thousands of dollars if they try to refinance, you know, the month before these payments reset, while they can still -- while they’re still current and can afford their mortgage, and other similar abuses. And in the states, they're starting to take a look and ask, “How can we really help protect the borrowers in our backyard?”

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you’ve been doing a series of pieces in the New York Daily News, and you’ve been profiling families. Tell us about some of them.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yeah, and I’d like to ask Keith Ernst about that. For instance, there was one woman that I profiled, Sandra Barkley, who's part of a whole lawsuit now against a big developer in Brooklyn. Here was a woman who was working for the New York City Housing Authority, was barely making about $24,000 a year, and these predatory lenders got her into a home where her mortgage payments, monthly mortgage payments, were higher than her total gross income. There was a lawyer that they supplied to her, who sat at the closing for this home and actually told her to sign these papers, and because -- what I’m finding is that the appraisers, to some degree, are involved in over-appraising these houses. There are crooked lawyers that are in cahoots with some of these lenders that are allowing their “clients” to sign these mortgages that they could not possibly pay.

And you were mentioning the interest rates. Well, I have a story in today's Daily News about an elderly couple who was basically forced out of their home -- they weren't even in the market for a home -- and put into two mortgages totaling about $600,000. One of them, the interest rate can go up to 18% on one of the mortgages, and the other is an interest-only mortgage. They are guaranteed not to be able to pay the $4,000 payment that they had, when before they were paying $1,200 a month.

So where are the regulators in this situation, where these lawyers, the appraisers and the brokers are being able to manipulate and bamboozle folks into these kinds of loans?

KEITH ERNST: Right, well, first let me just say that, you know, those family stories you’re recounting are not at all unusual. And it goes back largely to what are the incentives in place to originate these mortgages. If we think, you know -- I think we should recognize that there are powerful incentives, that brokers and loan originators make thousands of dollars on each mortgage and, in fact, make more on larger mortgages, and so there's incredible incentives to provide borrowers with the largest mortgage they’re willing to take out.

Now, as that demand has grown in recent years, we have seen skyrocketing rates in mortgages with less than full income documentation. Some are these so-called liar loans, where the income is just put down on the application. Many times, borrowers have told us, when we showed them their paperwork, that they had no idea that income was reported. Now, their signature was on the bottom of the paper, but that signature was put on there at the blizzard of closing, where they were told to initial here, sign here, sign there, initial here, about 1,500 times. And so, you know, what's happened is these mortgages -- there are tremendous incentives to originate them. Borrowers are looking to the person opposite the table from them as an expert who can help provide them with some guidance, and the person on the other side of the table just doesn't have their best interest at heart.

Now, “Where have the regulators been through all this?” is a good question. I think the federal regulators are scrambling to catch up now. State regulators are likewise following suit. And Congress is taking a look. You know, unfortunately, I think the reality is that it often takes a crisis like this to provoke us to take action to protect people.

AMY GOODMAN: Keith, we have to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion. Keith Ernst is an attorney, senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, speaking to us from Durham, North Carolina. And when we come back, we'll also be joined by Danny Schechter, “the News Dissector.” His latest documentary that's opening tonight in New York is called In Debt We Trust.


AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Keith Ernst, senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, North Carolina. We're also joined in studio by filmmaker and journalist Danny Schechter, who has a new film called In Debt We Trust. Your response to the subprime lending and this unprecedented number of foreclosures in the country?

DANNY SCHECHTER: You know, Amy, when we talk about this, I think of a phrase we used to use back at ABC when I worked there, it’s called “MEGO,” and that refers to “my eyes glaze over.” Whenever people hear about economic issues, they sort of tune out, because it sounds very complicated. What this reduces itself to is a crime. We're talking about a crime -- CSI, crime scene -- and we're part of this crime scene. We're talking about a cesspool of corruption implicating some of the biggest banks and financial institutions in the country, inattention by the regulators. 52% of the agencies making these loans are not even regulatable, because they're not federally regulated organizations. We're talking about millions of Americans who can't make their bills, who are squeezed beyond belief.

And this is not just an issue for regulators. This is an issue for progressives to respond to. We need a movement here to try to take up these issues of economic justice in America, because we're not paying attention to it. And this cuts across racial lines. It cuts across ethnic lines. It cuts across also political lines. We’ve set up Americans for Debt Relief Now, an organization like Bono does in Africa for debt relief. We need it in America. We have a website, as a way to fight back, as a way for people who are in debt to stop being demonized by the media, which is what’s happening now, and to be recognized as the victims they are.

AMY GOODMAN: Danny, we're going to lose our satellite in Durham, North Carolina, and I just wanted to ask our guest there, Keith Ernst, about the federal laws -- for example, the possibility of a reintroduction of the Prohibit Predatory Lending Act that was introduced, I think, two years ago.

KEITH ERNST: I think it's clear that legislation will be introduced in Congress, and we're hopeful that it will move forward this time. You know, it’s been talked about for years now. And we're hopeful that this year can be the year that legislation can move forward and help borrowers, because, you know, as your guest there is saying, it's sorely needed now.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Keith, could you talk -- because one of the things -- those of us who have a little bit of a historical memory on the housing crises in America recall that this country goes through periodic crises on speculation and abuse in housing from the HUD crises of the 1960s, the savings and loans crisis of the ’80s, and now we're confronted now in this decade with this huge crisis, and it seems like many of these characters just reappear with new companies and new banks or new lending procedures, but the same kind of scams. What can be done on a more consistent level, as Danny is raising, to be able to protect people who do not necessarily know all of their rights in terms of lending, especially when it comes to homes?

KEITH ERNST: Right, well, I think you're right that, you know, we’ve seen many episodes in, you know, not-too-distant memory, where mortgage lenders have essentially been betting people's houses, you know, so that they can make profits. And that’s what ties all of these cycles together, is the mortgage lender says, “Hey! You know, take a loan from me. Don't worry about it. In two years, if you need to refinance, we'll be able to get you out of this loan.” And, you know, eventually that house of cards comes crashing down.

Now, moving forward, what can be done? I think, you know, the law should recognize the reality. Borrowers look to the person sitting opposite them at the table -- most, usually nowadays, in subprime market, a mortgage broker -- as an expert, as someone who’s helping them pick out their best mortgage. Sadly, this often could be -- you know, could not be further from the truth. And so, what the law should do is recognize what borrowers expect and need, which is that the person who's helping provide them a mortgage actually do just that: help provide them a mortgage that meets their needs.

AMY GOODMAN: Keith Ernst, we're going to leave it there. I want to thank you for being with us. We'll link to your website at the Center for Responsible Lending, speaking to us from Durham, North Carolina.

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