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December 2009

Today's Food for Thought: Dec. 29, 2009

Uwharrie Mountains
Daniel Webster

Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own.

[Daniel Webster, The Works of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1853), Vol. II, p. 108, from remarks made at a public reception by the ladies of Richmond, Virginia, on October 5, 1840.]

Common Sense: Apply it to Healthcare

Vegetables from the home garden      Homemade pizza

     Webster's Dictionary defines common sense as ordinary good sense or sound practical judgment.  Now in the case of Healthcare a little ordinary good sense could go a long way in solving a significant amount of this problem.  Consider this simple example:  you intentionally hit your hand with a hammer and break some bones.  Then you visit the hospital after which an insurance company, the government or you are expected to pay the bill.  Now either consciously or subconsciously you must decide if you will again hit your hand with a hammer.  Sounds ridiculous doesn't it?  Yet, I would like to suggest to you that many of us injure our bodies again and again and again by what we put in them which leads to sickness that an insurance company, the government or an individual must pay for.  As long as we choose to ignore common sense while neglecting and abusing our bodies it is not likely that individuals or the government will ever have enough money to cover Healthcare.  Common sense would say, don't hit your hand, don't abuse your body, don't create so many bills.  Take care of your body, it has to last for a lifetime.

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How healthy can a person be when consuming chemical-laden and nutrient-deficient food with an emphasis on carbohydrates, bad fat, salt and sugar? How many healthcare billions are being spent to address health issues that have their roots in poor diet? It’s a hard number to come by, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of healthcare spending goes to treat “preventable chronic diseases.” Treatment for obesity alone runs a tab of $147 billion, and that doesn’t figure in diabetes ($116 billion) or cardiovascular disease.  Excerpt from Healthcare:  The High Cost of the American Diet

Most of the food we eat that contains corn or soy was sprayed with glyphosate herbicide, and we’re being exposed to higher and higher levels of residue. In response to petitions from Monsanto, the EPA has approved up to 20-fold increases in the legal residue limits for food crops.

“Our bodies are gigantic spider webs of chemical communications that work in the parts-per-trillion range,” says Warren Porter, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin. “When you put so-called ‘insignificant’ amounts of toxic chemicals into the mix, you have a molecular bull in a china shop. The possibilities for impact are endless.”  Excerpt from  Roundup Kills More Than Weeds

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     Our bodies have an amazing ability to function well if we put in them what they need and don't put in them things that interfere.  When we put our food needs in the hands of restaurants, food manufacturers and agribusiness we are treading on dangerous ground.  As businesses, their purpose is not just to make a profit, but to make as much profit as possible.  You, on the other hand, are responsible for protecting your health plus that of your children.  There are a wide variety of food choices available today, from healthy to extremely unhealthy.  I encourage you to educate yourself and make wise choices.  With the start of a new year I challenge you to commit to serving yourself and your family  delicious, nutritious food.  Really, it only takes a little common sense.  A good starting point is to check the Global Grocer to learn where your food comes from.

Christmas Harvest

Christmas Harvest

It is the week before Christmas and I am harvesting fresh veggies here in central NC.  How fortunate I am.  Collards and Savoy Cabbage have survived well in the garden with temperatures dipping into the low 20's on several occasions.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are producing well in our greenhouse.  One of the cabbages in the photo weighed 6 1/2 pounds with the other one close behind at 5 1/2 pounds.  The larger tomato in the photo, weighing in at over a pound, was about half the size of the one picked a few days earlier that weighed over 2 pounds.

The tomato harvest is about half done, the cabbage harvest is coming to an end and the length of the collard harvest depends on how low night-time temperatures go.  Feeding the wood stove that keeps the tomatoes and cucumbers warm keeps us plenty busy. (No need for a gym membership here).  This week I planted the garlic bed then covered it with a blanket of leaves and compost.  Soon the materials we've collected from the chicken coop and cow pen will become a new compost pile.  Finally, as the new seed catalogs come in, I am reminded of all the winters that I have searched through them, like a child in a candy store, anticipating the delicious treats I would choose to grow in the coming year.  Remember these catalogs are a wealth of information.

Merry Christmas and Happy Gardening in the New Year!

Patriotic Quote: William Penn

Snow on Uwharrie Mountains

William Penn

Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men than men upon governments. Let men be good and the government cannot be bad. . . . But if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn. . . .[T]hough good laws do well, good men do better; for good laws may want [lack] good men and be abolished or invaded by ill men; but good men will never want good laws nor suffer [allow] ill ones.

[William Penn quoted from: Thomas Clarkson, Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn (London: Richard Taylor and Co., 1813) Vol. I, p.303.]

How to Grow Great Tomatoes

First Prize Tomatoes     Nothing says summer like that first vine ripened tomato from the home garden.  Now is a good time to brush up on your tomato growing techniques.

     Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, lots of vitamin C and many other nutrients.  However, don't be fooled, not all tomatoes are created equal as a test done at USDA Agricultural Research Service in Albany CA illustrates.  When 13 ketchup brands were tested researchers discovered that the organic ketchup contained far more lycopene than the non-organic.  Also as an organic market gardener I can tell you that our customers tell us ours are the best tomatoes at the farmer's market.  Flavor, texture and shelf-life surpass other tomatoes.

     You have heard the saying, you are what you eat.  Similarly tomatoes and other vegetables are what we feed them.  So how do you grow a first rate tomato?  First rule in organic agriculture, feed the soil.  Healthy soil promotes healthy plants which promote healthy people.  Now what type of tomato are you going to put in your healthy soil?  There are a vast number to choose from.

     Look over the seed catalogs and you will find tomatoes of different shapes, sizes and colors.  Other choices include determinate or indeterminate; hybrid or heirloom; early season, mid-season, or late season; and disease resistance.  I suggest you study over seed catalogs to discover what tomato varieties are best suited for your situation and preferences.  You will find a wealth of information in seed catalogs that you will not find by going to your local garden center and buying plants.  Burpee, Tomato Growers Supply, Totally Tomatoes, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Peaceful Valley are catalogs that I find very useful.   Of all the tomatoes I have trialed over the years First Prize and Health Kick have won out in my situation.  First Prize, an indeterminate tomato, is good for slicing,  has good resistance to disease and nematodes plus it produces an abundance of large delicious tomatoes.  Health Kick, a plum shaped determinate tomato, shows good disease resistance, is very prolific, resist cracking, has more lycopene than other tomatoes and is delicious.  It is perfect for fresh eating and sauces and because it is determinate it is easily trellised with a stake and weave method.

     If at all possible, grow your own tomato transplants.  Prepare a bed or row in your garden that is rich in organic matter and amended with compost.  If the bed or row has not had lime applied in the last 2 or 3 years you should apply 2 cups for each tomato plant and thoroughly mix into the soil.  Lime supplies calcium which helps prevent blossom-end rot.  The planting bed or row for growing tomatoes should receive 8 hours or more of sunshine each day.  After all danger of frost has past and the soil is warm, plant your plants.  Remember that tomato plants benefit from deep planting with the soil pulled up around the stem.  Additional roots will grow from the stem if it is covered with soil.  Apply mulch (leaves, straw, hay) to the planting area and trellis your plants as they grow.  The mulch helps with weed management and water conservation plus when it decomposes it feeds the soil.  Tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and a very small amount of boron.  I fertilize my tomatoes a couple of times with the following mix:

Organic Fertilizer Mix    Pour into a 1 quart container:  1/8 cup liquid fish fertilizer (nitrogen), 1/8 cup Biolink 0-5-5 (phosphorous and potassium), 1/8 cup Epsom Salts (magnesium; if you applied dolomitic lime to the planting bed you do not need the epsom salts as dolomitic lime contains magnesium), 1 teaspoon Borax (boron).  Finish filling the jug with water.  This is a concentrate and should be enough for approximately 40 plants.  Place in a hose end sprayer, attach to the end of your garden hose and water your plants after planting and  again 3-4 weeks later.   Keep in mind that this is a general recommendation.  The amount of fertilizer needed is dependent on existing soil fertility.  

     Keep the soil evenly moist.  Water deficiencies can cause blossom-end rot while too much water or uneven watering can cause cracking.  Summer heat can also cause cracking.  Choosing a crack resistant variety can help with this problem.  Watch for insect pest such as worms and hand-pick them.  In time you should be rewarded with delicious, nutritious vine-ripened tomatoes.

     If you have questions or comments about growing tomatoes, post in the comments section.

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