Food Stamps

Argh! One should never read Facebook comments regarding a topic like food stamps. I get so frustrated by them. Obviously most of the commenters have not ever had to use food stamps, do not live in situations even close to what folks on food stamps are living in, and have no concept of how the “other” is living, working, or cooking.

I see comments like, “Provide the necessities only” or “Make food stamps only for FOOD.” I have questions for those folks commenting: Have you ever used food stamps? Have you ever tried to get the food stamps? Have you tried to buy those non-food items with food stamps? Did you know that if the person buys that steak dinner that one night that their entire monthly budget is likely gone? Have you thought that maybe they are celebrating that they got a job that will allow them to get off the food stamps? Maybe they got a second or a third job that will help with getting off of assistance? Do you know how much a month those folks are getting in assistance? Could you provide food for your family on that amount? You tell them to eat healthier food, not the processed junk. Do they have a way to cook that healthier food? Do they know how to cook? Do they have the time to cook? Do you have any idea how much fraud is actually involved in the food stamp program?

All these questions and more. So, why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I have had to use the assistance at two points in my life. I was not the exception to the rule. Most people I know who have used food stamps have used them for a little while and then quite happily gotten rid of them. Did I have a job? Yes! Almost full-time and I was a full time student. Were the benefits large? No. Around $100/month. Could I buy anything other than food? Not a chance. Even food that has been prepared already is a no-go. They require you to do some sort of preparation. Deli food is not allowed. Nor is alcohol, cigarettes, diapers, formula (this is provided through WIC benefits which is NOT food stamps), magazines, dog food, or any other non-food item. Did I buy steak once in a while? Absolutely! A person has to have a decent meal once in awhile. That does mean that I got that one good meal and not much else the rest of the month.

So how about the process to get the benefits of the food stamp program? Well, you have to prove you need them. How do you do that? Rent receipt, pay stubs, utility bills, school bills, etc. It is about a month or more to get all the paperwork in order to get approved. That is a long time to wait, especially if you have little kids who need to eat in the meantime. I was lucky. I was a “starving student” when I needed mine. Also, to provide that proof I had to take time off of work or school to make the appointments (that are required to be in-person) because like any good government office it was only open on weekdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The other aspect of all this that folks don’t take into consideration as a possibility is that like me, lots of the folks using food stamps have jobs. Probably have since a young age. I never felt bad about using the food stamp program for a total of about year since I’d been paying income taxes since I was 14.

And last but not least; Why is trying to make ends meet and helping your fellow human out such a bad thing? Why are we so bitter about helping someone out? Has no one ever helped you? At any point in your life have you ever had a hand up? If not, I am so very sorry that you have been treated so poorly. I’m sorry that you that much disgust and hate toward another human that you are embittered toward them for trying to provide a basic need for survival.

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Dry winter

Still very little snow here this year. We’ve gotten some but I’ve been hearing about fires starting from sparks from a burning barrel. In December. Usually we’ve had enough snow that isn’t a problem. Not the case this year. It makes me nervous for what the summer will bring.

As the year 2016 comes to a close I always like to reflect a bit on the year past and the upcoming year. This year has been quite the year.

Things that happened or that we did this year:

  • Made a couple of trips to South Dakota with the family (this is a fun easy get-away for us)
  • A trip or two down to the Boulder, CO area to meet up with family
  • A trip to Seattle to visit family
  • I opened a yarn store
  • I’ve decided I really don’t like my office job, but it pays the bills and makes the yarn store possible because it is my safety net. I hope to soon work without a net.
  • I would love to run a farm, but haven’t figured out how to manage the juggling everything with animal care.
  • My kids make me laugh every single day, and sometimes that laughter is because they drive me a little insane.

Those are the major highlights. I’ve been terrible about running this year. I started out the year with an abscessed tooth and it seemed to affect everything so I was off to a bad start, then I got crazy busy and wasn’t good about keeping up on it, and now it gets dark so early it is hard to squeeze a run in. That is one of my plans for the upcoming year is to get more running in. I enjoy it (never thought I’d say that) and it will help me to get my blood pressure back down.

I don’t really do resolutions but I do tend to make some yearly goals. This year my goals are:

  • Run on a regular basis again
  • Fit in at least a 5K race and maybe try to train for a longer race
  • Get my blood pressure down
  • grow my yarn store business
  • quit my other office job
  • new roof on the house (we got hail over the summer that makes this a requirement)
  • re-work the chicken coop so it will be warmer, easier to clean, and accommodate more chickens
  • plant more trees
  • actually garden
  • Do another Eat Local Challenge
  • Clean up our fences
  • clean out the old goat pen
  • fix up some better outdoor shelters for our cats (we got a new one and they’ve gone all strangely territorial so one that has been here the longest doesn’t seem welcome in the garage anymore)
  • Enjoy our travel to Europe in March
  • meditate on occasion
  • write more often again

I think that is a good start to the year. Nothing crazy, just some overall goals. I never have understood the resolution thing. Most folks don’t stick to them for long as it is.

I’m off to continue on my taxes and books for my business. That is by far the worst part of owning your own business. The bookkeeping.

 

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Finally! Some winter weather.

November 17, 2016 and we finally got measurable snow. About stinking time! We have been soooo dry. I’m glad to have a bit of moisture although I’m never thrilled about driving in the snow. You would think learning to drive in the snow and driving in it my whole life I wouldn’t mind it. That’s true part of the time, but depending on the roads most of the time I dislike driving in the snow.

Chores aren’t as much fun in the snow either. Getting bundled up to go chop ice or move wind blocks around isn’t ideal. We’ve had such a mild Fall that I haven’t gotten around to winterizing much at all. Dang! I had to do a quick move on some plywood to help block the wind around the chicken coop, that I need to clean. Both the chicken coop and the dog house need new bedding too. Working two in-town jobs sure gets in the way of doing things at the house.

At least the one job is my own. I opened up my own yarn store on the 12th. I’m hoping it can lead to the end of my other in-town job and I can just work for myself. With that I would like to be able to do more farm/ranch stuff. Critters for my own fiber etc. I toy with the idea of a milk cow but that is just insane. What I may do is go in with my friend who is working with a young heifer to get that heifer to be a milker. I would love to help out with that and get some of the milk. The issue with having a milk cow is that you have to milk them every. single. day. Rain or shine. You do not leave because no one wants to have to ask the people watching their place to milk too. That is actually what my friend and I have been discussing though. They like to travel a little on weekends and stuff to visit family and would like to have the milk cow too. If I am willing to milk while watching their place they could have the milk cow and be able to leave the place once in a while.

So still lots of ideas floating around. Just not sure which will work and what won’t. I will be very excited if I can get back down to one job. Especially if it is working for myself. For now I’m off to work on my many projects.

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Eat Local Wrap Up

Where to begin? This was harder in some ways than I had anticipated. I forgot to factor in that school for us (my husband and I) started on the 15th so the whole week prior to that is a total madhouse where we work. This also means we had zero energy to do anything as far as cooking. And to make matters worse we had a brown out that may have taken out our refrigerator. 😦 We haven’t gotten a chance to work on it. Again, that craziness that is the start of the school year. My kids start school next week, so we really don’t get any slack until September. Oops. I forgot to factor that in.  Oh well.

How did it go? I keep getting asked that. Overall my Eat Local Challenge went really well. Did we fudge it some nights? Absolutely! Did we eat more or less junk? MORE! We have a local creamery and bakery so ice cream and donuts! Yummy. But, talk about junk food. We ended up modifying things mid-way because of this. We thought it was silly that we could have ice cream and donuts but not apples or watermelon. So, we allowed the fruit back in with the caveat that it be USA fruit so bananas were still out.

We got to eat at several great local establishments and even tried a couple of new restaurants. One new to town, the other was just new to us. I didn’t have to go to Wal-Mart! Not for groceries anyway. We still went for school supplies but that was it. Hooray!

We shopped a lot at the farmers’ market for meat and eggs and watermelon and cantaloupe now that the fruit is ripe. We tried our local butcher/specialty meat shop. Not local meat we found out, but local value added. We can’t win completely.

Things that were easy: milk, eggs, chicken, veggies, honey, beef.

Things that were hard: travelling, fruit, flour, spices, sugar, and breakfast. So much so that we ended up giving in and getting cereal and not worrying about the spices and flour. I did not buy anything new other than the cereal.

The best part of the whole challenge? Peoples’ generosity. I was given beef, lemons, cucumbers, basil, squash, and maybe something else. I’m sorry if I am forgetting you. Peoples’ encouragement was another good thing. Every one was very supportive of me.

So could we survive from our own back yard? Not mine this year! Grasshoppers and hail took care of that. But with the whole community pulling together we likely could. I know my family would have a lot of work before we were self-sufficient, but I am happy with my pantry stocking. I do need to adjust a few things to line up more with what we actually eat though.

 

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Eat Local- around 10 days in

My Eat Local Challenge really is a challenge especially when travelling.  I will tell you about that in a bit, but first I need to update you on the basics. Like I thought, fruit is a challenge. A huge challenge for our family. We eat a ton of fruit and even only about 10 days in we have found that we aren’t willing to give it up. What we have done is to allow fruit with the caveat that it must be purchased from a locally owned grocery store and be from the USA if possible. Even better if it is organic, but that isn’t mandatory. Since the main focus of this challenge is to support local businesses buying the fruit from a local producer (not possible at this point or this year for most fruits) or from a local grocer.

What has worked for us? Vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat. My CSA share is huge for this. Right now the list of what I pick up each week: kale, kohlrabi, cucumber, tomato, onion, garlic, lettuce, zucchini, milk, eggs, cabbage, radish, celeriac, carrot, and garlic scapes. I get this each week for a cost of  about $100/month and is certified organic. I can’t buy that much conventional food at a big box store for that price.

The meat I pick up from my local farmers market. I get my chicken from Beehaven Farm Roadside Market and my pork is already in my freezer. If we need beef I can either get beef from my CSA or I can get it from another vendor at the farmers market.

I do have to say thank goodness for our pantry. This would be a lot more difficult if I didn’t keep a well stocked pantry. Pasta would be next to impossible, delicious, but tough for the time it takes to make. My husband made a really yummy lemon basil pasta the other night. Delicious but it did take a while to make. That isn’t a big deal on nights when he hasn’t been at work all day, but to get home after a day of work and crank out pasta isn’t really the way he wants to wind down.

I am lucky too in the fact that my husband cooks to wind down from work or the day. This means that for the most part this challenge isn’t difficult for me. I’ve just been getting to eat delicious food. I do scope out the local foods, but I don’t do much of the cooking.

Exciting news! I have found local citrus. Lemons, oranges, and figs (I know, not citrus but he grows them too). We have a gentleman who has designed a greenhouse system using geothermal heat and he grows citrus in Western Nebraska.  His system is called Greenhouse in the Snow. It is a pretty neat system that enables one to grow plants on our high plains that would never survive otherwise.

Last, but not least. Doing this while travelling: Ugh. It is tough. My schedule did not allow me to go to the farmers’ market while in my conference town. I did find a local coffee shop. Finally. I also found a small grocery store near my hotel that stocks several local products. I ran into the issue of not having a refrigerator or microwave in my room. Apparently when one stays in a fancy place they expect you to eat out. I have done a ton of eating out over the last several days. At least most of the places are not chains and are unique to this town.

Would it be possible to do it while travelling? Yes, if one has a bit more time in an area to research local food and businesses. It is difficult when one doesn’t know the area or isn’t spending much time in an area.

I will try to update you all again next week.

 

 

 

 

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Eat Local Begins

Today is the big day. July 15 through August 15 I will be trying to eat local food only, with local being defined as within a 200 mile radius. So, how am I going to do this? My family is joining me on this little endeavor. This means I have the opinions of my husband, an eight-year-old, and a five-year-old to consider. I also have the rule that we can use pantry items.  I have a couple of main goals with this: Use up things from my pantry that have been in there too long. Support local farmers/friends. See how hard it would be to truly be self-sustaining.

I will say that this year if I had to do this challenge totally out of my yard I would be done. I have the grasshopper invasion from %$#*. They have eaten my catmint, parsley, cilantro, irises, hollyhocks, grass, oregano, asparagus, strawberries, and more. And now they have started on the tomato fruits and on the trees. I have lots of not nice things to say about them. I got chickens again and that has helped some, but has still hardly made a dent. It is amazing to watch the utter destruction from a relatively small creature. No I’m not spraying for them, but I squish any I can and we are testing out some homemade deterrents. Time will tell. What it boils down to though, is that I am very glad I am relying on others for my food during this challenge.

Breakfast this morning was more of a clean out the fridge moment than anything. My family had decided to have pizza last night as it will be mostly our last night of eating out. Luckily we have a couple of places that qualify for the Eat Local challenge but everyone wanted pizza last night. That means my son snagged leftover pizza for breakfast, I’m guessing that my husband did too, and my daughter probably either did pizza or cereal that was still in the pantry. I did my normal morning smoothie, but all of our breakfasts will be changing by the end of next week I’m sure.

What do we plan to eat this month? Lots of vegetables for one. We are part of the Meadowlark Hearth CSA so every week I pick up vegetables and milk. We have pork in the fridge from a friend in Harrisburg (about 25 miles south of us) and I have chickens I will pick up from another friend in the Harrisburg area. I’ll pick up beef from the farmers’ market or from my CSA. We generally lay out a rough meal plan for the month since we do one big grocery trip for basics and then we supplement with the stuff that goes bad quickly.

Some ideas so far:

Breakfast – eggs and veggies, scrambles, Quiche

Lunch – salads, tacos, sandwiches, leftovers

Supper – zucchini fritters, Basque chicken, Quiche, tomato tart, beans, casseroles, homemade pizza

I need to do things like make some yogurt and bread. And I am hoping to plan our meals more like a week at a time so we can make use of the farmers’ market and CSA items as they come into season.

Would anyone like to join me in this challenge? I will be putting together a list of area producers and foods to help you out. As we go along I will also put together a group of local recipes as well.

 

 

 

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Eat Local Hiccup

With my eat local  challenge it just dawned on me yesterday that I’m travelling for a week right in the middle of it. I won’t have a ton of time outside of my conference but I am going to try to see what I can do about getting a hold of some local food to where I will be. So… I just went looking to see what is available in Austin. There is a farmers market a couple of blocks from me!! Even better? They have a program that is just starting where they use the UberEats App and a box is delivered. I’m really excited about that because I will be in a seminar when the market runs. This way I’ll be able to get my local produce, lower my food bill, and stick mostly to my eat local challenge.

I really don’t foresee being able to stick 100% to the challenge while flying, staying in a hotel, and being in an unfamiliar town. I would like to get as much food as I can locally though.

I keep debating just how strict to go on this. Do I go ahead and buy locally made products and not worry about where they get their ingredients, or do I get super strict and say that even their ingredients need to be local? We have a yogurt company that is local to us and makes wonderful yogurt, but I know no all of their ingredients can be local. Coconut simply does not grow in our climate. I’m thinking for the most part even the ingredients in products should be local. That is the whole point. Besides, it is only for a month. One can go without a lot of things for a month. And I will be eating a whole lot of not local on my business trip.

So a bit more to iron out I see. Good thing there is a little over a month before it starts. I wonder if anyone would like to do the challenge with me. My local paper has a reporter I will be working with. Maybe we can get a few of us to do the challenge.

 

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