Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Food Safety Modernization Act

Lawyers and such swear up and down that S.501 ("The Food Safety Modernization Act") won't affect anyone's small farm or backyard garden. Psh, how's this?
It all starts with a farmer named Roscoe Filburn, a modest farmer who grew wheat in his own back yard in order to feed his chickens.

One day, a U.S. government official showed up at his farm. Noting that Filburn was growing a lot of wheat, this government official determined that Filburn was growing too much wheat and ordered Filburn to destroy his wheat crops and pay a large fine to the federal government.

The year was 1940, you see. And through a highly protectionist policy, the federal government had decided to artificially drive up the prices of wheat by limiting the amount of wheat that could be grown on any given acre. This is all part of Big Government's "infinite wisdom" of trying to somehow improve prosperity by destroying food and impairing economic productivity. (Be wary any time the government says it's going to "solve problems" for you.)

The federal government, of course, claims authority over all commerce (even when such claims are blatantly in violation of the limitations placed upon government by the Constitution). But Roscoe Filburn wasn't selling his wheat to anyone. Thus, he was not engaged in interstate commerce. He wasn't growing wheat as something to use for commerce at all, in fact. He was simply growing wheat in his back yard and feeding it to his chickens. That's not commerce. That's just growing your own food.


If you can control the food supply, you can control the people. It's like NAIS, only with plants.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today is September 11.

Nine years ago today I was nine years old and I lived in a Green Apartment. It would be five months before we moved from to Utah. Some people flew planes into buildings and I didn't know why it was a big deal.

I first heard the news when my ride to school came that day. My friend's father said someone had purposely crashed an airplane into the Pentagon. I didn't know what "the Pentagon" was (what did a shape have to do with anything?) but it the way he said it, I knew it was important, so I tried to look very serious and pretended I knew what he was talking about.

When we got to school, we didn't do very much in my 4th/5th grade class. Mostly people talked about how surprising it was that someone would do this (do what? I wanted to know. Why were these building more special than any other news story?). The teacher turned on the TV in our classroom and kept it on the news all day. Eventually I understood at least a little.

I leave you with a tribute. Please keep in your thoughts today all those who lost their lives, families, friends, and peace of mind that day. Let us not forget.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blogging....

I'd intended to blog more with my phone, but there were so many limitations, I gave up after the first entry. Now, though, my sister and I have a laptop and internet, so I can get back to my usual chatty self and catch up on my blogroll.

We've finally moved, so now here we are in Southern Arizona (the picture to the left is from down the street) living in campers in my Aunt's backyard. It's good to be away from my Evil Stepfather and all the reasons we left, but I miss everyone I left behind like crazy! Also, as the seasons start changing to fall, I'm missing the chill in the air, the smell of smoke from everyone's woodstoves, the leaves changing color, harvesting the garden, and all the fun I have with my friends in the winter (everyone travels a lot in the summer, so we're rarely all home at once), and when winter comes this year, I'll miss the snow.

Here, the climate is a lot different. In October there, you can look forward to frost and leaves on the ground. Here, October is when the weather becomes perfect, not too hot, not too cold. There, you have cold weather and four seasons. Here, you've got two seasons: unbearably hot and temperate. The leaves don't fall off until December and spring comes in February. And it snows something like once every five years.

Ironically enough, it's a lot greener here, even though technically this is the desert, not there. Thing is, here is a "major agricultural center" kind of thing, located in a river valley, while where I used to live is more of a "gateway to the nat'l parks" thing. In closing, here's a slideshow of my new home.

Friday, March 19, 2010

We Don't Have Internet Anymore

...but my cell has internet so it's ok. I didn't think I could cuz of how lo-tech the browser is but here I am!

Right now I'm at this multi-level marketing party thing where they sell tacky home decor. I'm here but I don't like it. If you go and watch "The Story of Stuff" (it's in my sidebar), you'll understand why I'm so danged irritated. People come here, they buy the dishes, candle holders, framed pictures, baskets, potpourri, statuettes...all of it tacky and overpriced; none of them worth the unsustainable practices they support. It's not that I don't understand buying things that aren't earth-friendly, it's that I don't understand paying so much for things you don't need, won't last, aren't pleasing to the eye, and will just end up in some landfill somewhere.

It epitomizes everything I hate about the consumer society we live in. You should buy it cuz you need it, not cuz it appeals to your inner shopaholic!!! Grrr!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Decide Where to Live in the Country

So, I'm researching desirable places to live in Colorado. I had a very scientific method (*snort snort*) if you'd like to try it yourself:
  1. Go through your four back issues of Country Magazine and that book you have, A Year in the Country, 2nd Editon. Very Good. Now, whenever you see somewhere you like the looks of, write down the name of the town. If it's a nat'l park or something, get out your atlas and find a nearby town. If you like, only write down names of placesin a particular region. Like, I only wrote down the places in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountain states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado). 
  2. You should have a nice, list of about twenty five various places by this time. My list included: Jackson, Wyoming. Telluride, Colorado. Noxon, Montana. Silverton, Colorado. Bozeman, Montana. Winston, Oregon. Chattaroy, Washington. Yampa, Colorado. Belgrade, Montana. Alsea, Oregon, Montrose, Colorado. Monument, Colorado. And several more. At this point I could see I had a definite preference for Colorado scenery, so I made a new list of the Colorado locations only. 
  3. I definitely wanted to live in the Rockies, so I got out my big Rand McNally 2010 Road Atlas (you can usually also get maps of states for free from the states' tourist site, Colorado's is here). Next, I looked at the index of towns in the back and all the towns farther over than column 14 (just past Denver's longitude) got crossed off. I now had a list of about ten towns which I listed in alphabetical order on a page in my notebook I have where I write all the details of my homesteading plans. I wrote down the Rand McNally coordinates (you can find those by looking up the towns in the index in the back). Then I went on and found the county, population, elevation, and temperature average for each location and wrote that down next to each town. 
  4. That's when I noticed this handy little link on City-Data's home page: Small Towns. If you follow the link, you will be taken to a list of all fifty states. Click on whichever state you wish. Naturally, I picked Colorado. I was now at a page with fairly long list of all the towns in Colorado with less than 1,000 residents and a map with pins on it showing their location. I copy and pasted the entire list into a blank Notepad document. Then, I used the index in my Atlas to take all the towns off the list that were farther over than column 14. There were a few towns that weren't in the Atlas. Those I left on there to look at later. 
  5. I decided to take the elimination process a step further and cross off all the towns that were farther over than column ten (in other words, keeping only the towns on the left page). Then, I went to the map on City-Data where the list of small towns were and invented my own coordinates for the towns not on the map. Mountain Village, CO--for example--is not on the Atlas or found in the index. It's coordinates are K-6 (row K, column 6). Rico, CO was on the atlas but not in the index (also located in K-6). 
  6. Temperature came next. Using the information found on City-Data, I crossed off all the towns whose average temperature at the hottest time of the year (usually July) was less than 60 degrees or so got marked off. Then, I got rid of all the towns that I felt were too close to Denver. At this point, the entire list (a culmination of the previous steps) was down to twenty-seven. I decided this was enough. You may wish to continue narrowing down. If so, you can use any of the following criteria:  county/state, snowfall, sunshine, precipitation, distance from major metropolitan areas, proximity to houses of worship, population, taxes, laws, average age, employment opportunities average income, schools, grocery stores, etc. Most of that info can be found on the City-Data page or one of City-Data's forums. 
  7. Once your list is as short as you wish, open a word processing or similar document and type in the following categories on the first line: Name, Population, Rand McNally Atlas coordinate (I shortened it to just "RMcN"), Temperature at different times of the year, County, and any other details that are important to you. Now type in your list of towns and their information in each of your chosen categories (one town per line is how I organized mine). Now it's time to decide which category to sort your list by. Mine was originally sorted by name, but I decided that temperature was most important and so I sorted that way. The quickest way to do that is to highlight your list and click the button that makes it a bulleted list. Then, use the bullet toolbar to move each bullet point up and down the list as desired. You can highlight the list and click the bullet button again to remove the bullets if you don't want them there later. 
You now have a fine list of different areas to check out. You don't have to visit them all in person (especially if your list has about twenty-five places on it like mine does). Start by trawling the internet. Read its page on City-Data and the forums on City-Data that it's mentioned in. Google the town's name in quotes (ie, "Crawford, CO"). Request tourist info (to look at the pretty pictures). Read the state, county and town websites (if they exist). Find out about building codes and remodeling codes (did you know Cheyenne County in Colorado doesn't have building codes? Think of all the different alternative buildings you could construct without worrying about convincing Planning & Zoning!). Check out climate maps and gardening zones. Look for population maps and county maps. Read the Wikipedia entry for the state, county, and town, then visit all the relevant links in the article.

You are, of course probably looking for rural land, so use the town as a jumping-off point to find an area that suits you best. You're not really looking for the town, so much as the area. Google search the name of your town and "real estate" (ie, Pagosa Springs, CO real estate). Look through the listings. You don't have to be looking seriously. The point of this exercise is to get a feel for the land before you spend money to go scout it out. Real estate listings will reveal what kind of land is available, the going rate for the different kinds, and (best of all) it will probably provide pictures of the place which are always so much fun, but also give you a good visual of the area. Note things like what kind of vegetation grows there, is it too cold for deciduous trees?

Go on GoogleMaps and find the town on there. With this tool, you can look at traffic, road maps only, the terrain and road map together (it's called "Satellite"), and under "More" there's photos, videos, Wikipedia, webcams, etc so you can see the land from more than just a bird's-eye view. Another favorite of mine is "Terrain." With this filter, you can see a map of the terrain and if you zoom in to a certain level, the different elevations are labeled to about every 1,000 feet. This way, it's easy to tell the location you're viewing is in a valley, on a mountain, in the midst of flatland, etc and how high above sea level it is.

This is fun, whether or not you're seriously looking for a place to live or just daydreaming about "someday." After all this internet exploring, you'll probably be able to narrow down the area to just a few places. I have found that area I like best is Southwest Colorado, specifically the area that includes Delta County, Gunnison County, and Hinsdale County. 

Blah, Blah, Blah

Wow, that last post was looong. But I think I stayed on topic for that most part, so it's all good. Our plans at this point are so up-in-the-air at this point that we don't even know what we're doing. So far we've come up with the following locations:
  • Southeastern AZ (where my acre is located)
  • St George, UT
  • Spokane,WA/Coeur d'Alene, ID
  • Tacoma, WA (where a cousin of my mother's lives)
  • And Rural Colorado. But I think that at this point it's kind of one of those castles in the air that Louisa May Alcott frequently referred to in her books. Ooooh! A pertaining quote!
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
--Henry David Thoreau
Of course my vote is all for Colorado (except I did mention once that I thought we should move to Romania). Right now what we're doing is hoping and praying. Tomorrow my mom is going to call about some rentals in St. George, UT since that's the closest and therefore most feasible of the five.

But enough with the Realism already lol. I've been researching a lot of places and even considered other places outside of Colorado, but I keep coming back to Colorado. The more I research, the better I like it. Why? Well, it's fairly natural disaster-free: it's not particularly earthquake prone, no tsunamis or Hurricanes (since it's nowhere near any oceans), it's mountainous and therefore tornadoes are unlikely. Also, out of all the states, it is the only state where all of it is above 3,281 feet. Its lowest point (where the Arikaree River flows into Kansas) is the highest of all the states low points: 3,315 feet.

It's amazing the things you can learn from Wikipedia.

Of course Colorado has the Rocky Mountains which naturally makes it my favorite (shhh, don't tell her that Idaho and Wyoming and Montana do, too!). There are points against it of course: Daylight Savings Time is one big one. Arizona doesn't have that and that's one thing I really like about it. Also, it gets really cold in some places. Cold doesn't necessarily = bad thing, but cold + short growing season does = bad thing. Greenhouses are a solution, but having all your gardens and orchards in greenhouses just seems...sad...

Also, the testing part of the homeschooling laws are just dumb (Arizona and Idaho don't have homeschool student testing). I do see the upside to testing (making sure that the children are actually learning), but, in my mind at least, the downside is worse. You see, if you're homeschooling your child because they're doing poorly in school, then if they don't improve enough to pass that year's testing then back to school they go. There are ways around this evaluation (like having a teacher who's a family friend come in and do it in a non-testing way), but it's still a drawback. On the brighter side, they don't require school/teacher supervision for the actual schooling part.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

So Is This My Lucky Day...Life...Place?

Things have been strange today. Everything has been exactly right for me. A lot of it are just little things like just as I reached the corner and pushed the button for the crosswalk, it immediately turned to "WALK" as soon as I pushed the button. Or at the buffet we went to for lunch today and as soon as I finished my last bite of food, the waitress would be right there to take my plate away.

Then, when we went out to the car, my door was unlocked even though all the doors had been automatically locked. Or yesterday when my little sister and I went on a walk and just happened to walk behind the motel just as my mother opened the door to see if we were out there because the pizza had just come. And today when my little sister and I went on another walk, they called my cell and I didn't hear, but we walked into the motel parking lot just as they'd gotten in the car to go get ice cream.

The whole time we've been down here, everything has just been working out to perfection. It just makes me want to be here that much more because it feels like my lucky year. The last few years have kinda sucked in a really bad way, but they're getting so much better!

So, Here We Are

We're here in Southern Arizona. I'm using my mom's laptop and the free wi-fi to blog. It's kind of nice. I keep meaning to save up the money for a laptop of my own, but $500 will take some time to save. Oh well, I'll figure something out.

Today we went out to my lot and looked it over. I actually like it quite a bit (I was kind of dreading what might have happened to it). The neighbors were squatting on it for awhile, but then they sold their property to one of their younger sons (unlike his parents and other siblings -- whom we knew when we lived there -- he's quite nice) and so he's clearing the junk cars his brother and father were keeping on both lots. He and his girlfriend (or whoever she is) are living in one of the towns (all the towns are right next to each other like one big coterie of small farming towns lol) until their property and trailer are fixed up.

Next, we went into the nearest town of the group (population: 2,165) and talked to the post office about mail. Then, we headed over to the County Seat (the biggest of the group of towns; population? 9,823) to talk with Planning and Zoning about building on the property. Right now, the property has nothing on it. It's just 1.08 acres with a sort of Mesquite Tree Forest. :)

My property is located in a "flood plain" so our house will have to be raised pretty high off the ground. The neighbors' trailer had to be three feet off the ground so they brought in dirt and only raised the trailer, itself, about eighteen inches off of the ground. Also, we have to figure out water and power. We'd like a well, but water out here is hard to find. The guy at the Health Department (where we went next) recommended looking at hydrology maps. As for power, we thought we might try solar. The solar company in town (SunPumps) had a deal where you could get huge rebates. Like, there were two people at Planning and Zoning who put in solar systems. One (who was an old schoolteacher of mine back when I was in 4th-5th grade) put in a $14,000 system and got about half her money back. The other one was a man who put in a $65,000 system in at his ranch. After the rebates, it cost him less than $10,000.

IDK if the rebates are still going on or not, but it's something for us to look into. The power is in across the street so it'd probably cost us $7,100 for the electric company to bring it over to our property. The solar system might be cheaper. And as for water, the last time we lived here, the water companies had water available in the upper and lower neighborhoods, but not in the neighborhood we were in.

Also, because my mother plans to have the divorce finished in February (if my Evil Stepfather doesn't drag it out), we'll need a place to live. The plan we've got is to install the septic system, then bring our travel trailers down to live in, and get a car to haul water. Then we could live in the trailers while building. We'll have to get a $100 permit to put the trailers there.

Money to build is, of course, an issue since we have to bring in an engineer to tell us how high our house will have to be off the ground and that sort of thing. On the bright side, the Building Inspector is open to alternative building materials. He said that if we brought in something he'd never heard of, then he would research it to see if he thought it was up to code. If he couldn't find enough to satisfy him, then if we brought in an engineer's stamped statement saying that the idea would work, then he would approve it.

We are thinking strawbale specifically because it gets really hot down here and plenty of insulation combined with the correct combination of the right kind of roof and windows in the right places should make it pretty simple to cool (heating is not a big deal; passive solar will be enough most of the year because of how nice the climate is in fall and winter).

Of course my mom is trying to find any excuse not to move down here. When we moved away almost eight years ago, I don't think she ever intended to come back here. I don't know what her problem is. I mean, this place is my home; a lot of my family is here (on my father's side) and has been here for ages. The property I own is a small part of the land that his family used to ranch until they decided to subdivide it. The lot I have was in trust with my father.

I never quite understand my mother. Our personalities are so different. I go through life being me, sometimes a little bit more fiery and dangerous. I rarely if ever care what people think of me and I'll stand up to anyone. Fear is not my nature.

My mother, on the other hand, is very timid. She can be outgoing and is willing to talk to strangers, but when it comes to just being herself, it scares her. What people think of her always weighs in heavily. Even when she does do something different than what people tell her, she agonizes over it the whole time. She'll tell me "I don't want to [do such and such]." And I'll say "then don't." I have to remind her that there are no laws that says everyone in the whole world is her boss.

Meanwhile, I want to get down here. I think the traveling around would be fun, but not for more than a year tops and not right now when the only home we've got is tainted by the horrible man that lives there (although he's been spending most of his time in Texas the past two years, thanks to God!) and I want to have some time to heal emotionally before we take on something so draining as traveling everywhere. Plus, I want to start college in the fall and that isn't possible if I'm everywhere. For college, being down here is best because we'd be less than 20 min from the cheapest two year college in the state.

So it's better logically, but for her, it's not any good emotionally. Whatever. :P

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On another subject, I really need to stop researching the world.

At this point, I'll never find just "one" place to live when I decide to find a "Forever Place." You see, I've always loved Arizona, especially southeastern AZ where I was born and live for the first 10 years of my life. It's a pretty laid-back state. It's hot, but I've never minded and in October, the temperature is perfect. And best of all, I like that there's NO DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!

Then there's Colorado. I like the Rockies. I like clear mountain air. I like how cozy and comfortable it feels to be so far inland. I like mountains and snow and pines and wilderness and the harsh, cold, rugged beauty the Rockies possess.

Well, that was hard enough to choose, but then what do I do? I go and start researching the Olympic Peninsula, specifically Clallam and Jefferson Counties. This just makes it that much more difficult, especially when I start reading up on that area on City Data. Why? Because the way the people there talk, it sounds brilliant. There's rain all the time and the ocean and there are also MOUNTAINS (IDK if I've said this before or not, but I can't stand living without my mountains. In Southern AZ there are the Gila Mountains, in CO there are the Rockies) where I can go if I want more than a half inch of snow at a time. Their economy is almost non-existent and best of all, there are few people (AKA, "seclusion," something I like better than anything in a home).

Washington State sounds so marvelous, with a few exceptions. It's far away from my family in the extreme sense. It's close to the ocean which is good and also bad because it doesn't feel as safe as the tops of the mountains in the middle of the country does. Also, I have no idea what the laws are or what kinds of alternative energy are best for the area (if the area is usually cloudy, then that rules out solar energy...or does it? and what about wind? and if neither are good, then what else is there?). Also, in the winter the days are a lot shorter than out here where I live because they're farther North.

The only solution is to combine all my favorite parts of my favorite states....but that's impossible and mutually exclusive. Like, how do you get the sun of the southwest and the overcast weather of the northern Olympic Peninsula? That's just one example. You also can't have the ocean and still be hundreds (or even thousands) of miles from it.

I guess the only solution is either to keep looking for place that's a good compromise (Idaho? But the name is so weird!!) or else to visit them and continue researching until I find the place that feels like home the most. I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter where on God's earth I go to homestead, so long as I find a pleasing bit of land free of the issues rural land sometimes comes with (clearcut land anyone?) and where it is legal for me to even have chickens and other farm-type animals.

But still....when I choose some place to stay for a long time or maybe ever, I want it to be a place that will make me happy. And that has pleasing weather. That's why I like Washington. Weeding is so much fun in the rain (or in the early morning after a rainstorm). But then that's where I come into the Rockies because the beauty there is so much different than Washington's...which -- in its turn -- is vastly different from the beauty you find in Arizona...and you can't really have all three at the same time....

I Bet You Thought I Was Never Coming Back...

...Well I have to admit, I wondered that too. Mi vida loca has gotten more loca and less vida and I wondered if I'd ever really have anything to put on this blog that would be worth it. I found a couple of recipes that I thought I might post. One I can probably post soon, but the other is written in a notebook that's packed up cuz we're moving.

We aren't sure yet where we're going. Right now we live near the Grand Canyon but we're considering moving to the other side of AZ. Also, my mother and I were talking today. We've been kinda worried about "where to live," cuz we can't really find anywhere to go. I do own a piece of property (many hours from where we live now) that we are planning on moving to. In fact, we're leaving tomorrow for a three day trip to see about setting things up down there. The problem we're having is mainly that my orthodontist is up here and I still have about another year's worth of braces to go.

But, back to the subject at hand. We were talking about all that and then the thought occurred to me. Who says we have to have "a place to park our bodies" (that's what my mom calls it)? Who says we have to live in a living place? Not that I'm against it as someday I want to have a Forever House -- a place I live for so long as I live...but who says we have to live in a house right now? I graduated last spring and my brother and sister are both registered for homeschool.

So I brought it up. At first we were just talking about doing this in the "oh wouldn't that be interesting to do in an alternate universe" way, but then I thought, why couldn't we do this now? Why couldn't we figure out something to live out of (like a four door truck with a camper shell or a van or another vehicle pulling one of our travel trailers behind) and then spend the next year or more (depending on how we like it) driving across the country visiting everywhere and coming back once a month (to check the mail and for my orthodontist appointments)?

My mother is from the hippie generation and thinks it sounds perfectly reasonable. My sister is all for it; she wants to visit all fifty states and this seems perfect to her. My brother says he doesn't want to be a "hobo." I bet I can talk him into at least trying it, though.

The only thing leftover is for me to think it through and make sure that I really do think it's a good idea. I think it would be best to try it for a limited time first and then decide if we wanted to keep it up, because I don't know if I really would like never having a solid home.