Monday, May 27, 2013

Myth Class

Medusa on a Shield in Nymphenburg Statue Garden 

"If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which helps to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in society, then mythology has no claim to the appellation. But if that which tends to make us happier and better can be called useful then we claim that epithet for our subject. For mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness."
Thomas Bulfinch

I am taking a Coursera class about Greek and Roman myths. It is different than taking actual university classes because there is very little stress associated with it. I recently earned a Biology degree but I prefer to study myths. I used to have a blog with over 400 posts almost exclusively devoted to the Bible because I enjoyed analyzing familiar myths. I found that many of the Bible stories are really calendars in disguise.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nest Egg Economics

Double Yolk Egg in Center

I searched for the origin of the phrase "nest egg" and have found the following incorrect explanation:

The allusion is to putting a real or china egg into a hen's nest to encourage her to lay. The connection between this and the 'savings' meaning isn't exactly clear. It may be that the idea was that the egg that was put into the nest could be later retrieved, after the hen had laid.

The practise of putting eggs into nests as an inducement to laying more is recorded from as early as the 14th century. The use of nest-egg' to refer to savings goes back to at least 1686. In 1927, Locke & Clarke printed a set of letters from that date, which included this:

"The rest, I perceive, he is not troubled should remain as a nest egg till a farther occasion."

The person who attempted to explain the origin of the phrase has obviously never raised hens. I place a wooden egg in the nesting box to encourage the hens to lay eggs in that spot. I do not ever remove the wooden egg because it has no value other than to show the hens that I would rather have the eggs there instead of randomly all over the yard. The number of eggs a hen lays is dependent on several factors, such as her breed, the amount of food she eats, and a low-stress environment. For the past few thousand years, the best egg layers were allowed to live and the others were used for chicken soup. During the 14th century, the best hen in the flock probably only laid about 50 eggs a year and the best investment would have been to leave a certain amount of eggs in the nest to let them hatch rather than eating all of the potential chickens. A broody hen is one hen in a flock that will sit on the nest day and night during the spring and early summer. The broody hen will hatch the eggs and protect the young chicks in their first few weeks of life. In our language the word "brood" means to worry or think about something obsessively. The eggs in the nest were an investment to the farmer, but without setting aside a few eggs every year, the farmer would have quickly run out of chicken soup!

A friend recently asked me if it is cheaper to buy eggs or have a flock of hens. I guess the cost is dependent on the number of eggs he eats. I eat on average about two eggs each day or 730 per year. Because eggs in this country are typically sold by the dozen, I would have to buy 61 cartons at around $3 per dozen or $183 a year. My eight hens cost about $150 per year in feed and laid 1579 eggs last year alone. The biggest cost involved with chickens is building the coop, but I've met people who have built their own coop from scrap pieces of wood and chicken wire for free. Hens also take 6 months to mature and cost $3 per chick, which can be frustrating because $100 is spent before the first egg is laid. I will keep these hens for 4 years and then sell them again at $3 a piece to whomever wishes to butcher them for themselves. From a financial perspective having your own hens is a better investment than buying eggs. If I sold the extra 70 dozen eggs instead of giving them away, I could potentially make $210 a year which would subsidize the cost of feeding the hens and yield a small profit over time. With the profits from selling the eggs I do not use, I could create my own nest egg or possibly buy some chicken soup!  

Data from Eight Hens
Egg Count Table with Monthly Averages


 Total                    1579            4.314

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Two Months Later

Newly Plowed Garden

I took the above picture right after my brother had plowed on the first day of spring, March 20th. I look at a freshly plowed garden as a blank canvas. I put a lot of planning into where the plants will go to get the best sun or by companion plants. I always find it amazing that every year I carry buckets of rocks out of the garden and every year there are more.  

I have met a lot of people who espouse the wonders of a no-till garden and yet none of them actually have gardens. Tilling the soil is a basic fundamental property of advanced agricultural systems. It’s the reason that ancient people groups all over the world have gods associated with plows. I’m not switching to a no-till garden, but I will wish all of my non-gardener friends luck in their no-till no-garden method. I do allow a strip of grass to grow like a walkway but that is because it keeps my shoes from getting so muddy.
Garden Two Months Later

Here is a list of when I planted everything this year:

23rd – Transplanted some garlic from near chicken coop to raspberries

16th – ½ row of sugar snap peas (~20ft)
20th – row of potatoes (~20ft)
23rd – carrot seeds in 1x1 box

6th – onions; ½ row of sugar snap peas (~20ft)
9th – onions; Row of potatoes (~20ft)
17th – First asparagus sprig emerged
20th – 12 small broccoli plants; row of potatoes (~20ft)
23rd – marigold plants

9th – row of potatoes (~20ft)
12th – row of potatoes (~15ft)
13th – onions
16th – 6 green pepper plants; 2 red pepper; 7 tomato plants in pots
17th – 2 cantaloupe plants; 1 swiss chard
18th – 3 rows of blue lake bush beans (~25ft)  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Complicated or Convenient?

Some of the vegetables from last summer.

When I first started my garden project, a couple of years ago, a friend of mine said that it seemed like I was trying to make my life more complicated.

Here is a list of how much less complicated my life has become:

1.       Instead of shopping for eggs every week, I only have to buy chicken feed once every three months.
2.       I no longer have to wait in check-out lines so frequently.
3.       I don’t have to spend time clipping coupons or searching for weekly grocery sales.
4.       I have more time to learn, such as listening to audiobooks while gardening.
5.       Eating mostly non-processed foods may prolong my life.

1.       A dollar’s worth of seeds can grow enough of that particular food to last for a year… or possibly a lifetime.
2.       The fruits and vegetables I grow are typically more expensive to buy than to grow.
3.       I no longer spend money on the medications I used to need.
4.       I’m no longer lining the pockets of large food companies.
5.       I don’t have to pay for gas to drive to a grocery store every week or even every month.

1.       I no longer need to take acid reflux medication and rarely have pain from my gallbladder.
2.       I’m physically very strong from working in the garden… no gym membership for me J
3.       The eggs I eat are from healthy happy hens.
4.       I know for a fact that most of the vegetables I eat have not been sprayed with pesticides.
5.       It makes me happy to watch a seed grow into a plant.

I guess the view of gardening as complicated or convenient is dependent on the individual. For someone who hates gardening or has an aversion to birds, my lifestyle would not be suitable for them. There are also people who will waste too much money gardening because they have an endless list of what they believe a garden has to look like… such as having a greenhouse, raised beds, 10ft high fences, pre-packaged compost, heirloom seeds from one specialty seed producer , a $2,500 tractor and the list goes on and on.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Sufficient Spring

This spring used to be more accessible.

I have been thinking about digging out a spring located in the woods about 100ft behind my house. I would like to study it and make it a usable water source. My elderly neighbors told my family a story about how in the 1950s most of the wells and the streams in Maggie Valley dried up, but that particular spring still had water flowing from it. I think the story is true because since my parents moved here 35 years ago the spring has always flowed. The area around the source of the spring is wooded but 80 years ago the whole area was a pasture. During the mid-late 1800s, there was house right where my house sits. It is one of the best places to have a home and farm because it is in a cove. The ground is not rocky and is fairly flat, so the soil is excellent for growing crops. There are three streams on the property, but the house will never be at risk for flooding.
View from below the spring. 

Lately, I have been reading a lot of literature on self-sufficient living. I want to find a new term for “self-sufficient” because self-sufficiency is an illusion. It doesn’t matter if I somehow managed to move into a cave, grow my own food, drink spring water, have no electricity and never speak to another human again, I would still not be self-sufficient because I have gained knowledge from others. I’m not only reliant on the people who are living but also on the billions of humans who came before me. As individuals, we are a lot like the spring which took a lot of rain, over a long period of time, and the right kind of soil to come into being. There are no human islands because all of our thoughts, ideas, words and knowledge originate from others.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Virtues of Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

This is a picture of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) or it is also called poison oak where I live. It’s not really an ivy or an oak, so I think it should be called, “annoying vine-shrub-thing that causes an itchy rash to appear on skin when touched.” Poison ivy is especially potent this time of year. It isn’t hard to identify at this time because many of the leaves have a red-brown color and are glossy, but as the plant matures the leaves turn to a lighter green without any glossiness which makes them less noticeable. A good thing to do if you have been in a patch of Toxicodendron radicans (I like the name) is to take a cold shower. There is also a common belief that crushed leaves from jewelweed (touch-me-nots) will act as an anti-inflammatory after exposure to poison ivy. Never burn the plant, even if it is dead, because inhaling the smoke can be fatal.  

The best advice I can give about poison ivy is to know what it looks like in the first place and avoid it as much as possible.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin

I love reading John Muir’s writings, but he’s a little over my head when he writes about the good points found in poison ivy. 

Here is the excerpt from “Nature Writings”:

Poison oak or poison ivy (Rhus diversiloba), both as a bush and a scrambler up trees and rocks, is common throughout the foothill region up to a height of at least three thousand feet above the sea. It is somewhat troublesome to most travelers, inflaming the skin and eyes, but blends harmoniously with its companion plants, and many a charming flower leans confidingly upon it for protection and shade. I have oftentimes found the curious twining lily (Stropholirion Californicum) climbing its branches, showing no fear but rather congenial companionship. Sheep eat it without apparent ill effects; so do horses to some extent, though not fond of it, and to many persons it is harmless. Like most other things not apparently useful to man, it has few friends, and the blind question, “Why was it made?” goes on and on with never a guess that first of all it might have been made for itself.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

April Food

April Food Cost

January Total: $39.48
February Total: $43.39
March Total: $35.51
April: $33.91
Year Total: $257.62
Total Remaining: $107.38

This month I had a few days when I didn't count the cost. If you don't like it, I don't really care because it's my project and I can do whatever I want with it :) For the first and second, I didn't count because I was still eating Easter leftovers and the last two days of the month were very stressful due to university tests.

I found a local source for butter this month, so I will no longer have to include it as a food cost. I like the taste of butter from the Farmers' Market more than the store-bought and it doesn't burn as easily.

If you look at my food list from last year, I was eating asparagus on the 1st of April which shows how wacky the weather was last year. This year my first day eating asparagus was on the 23rd.

The red is food I grew myself, orange is sourced locally and purple is for honey either from my hives or from someone I know. 

April Food List

1st and 2nd - Easter break
3rd - 3 eggscr, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 1tbs butter, 4 biscuits (1-1/8c bisquik, 1/3c milk) 1/2 pack white gravy, easter chocolate, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee  (GO: white gravy mix 3/$1.00, (2) cake mixes $1.00, (8lbs) potatoes $1.99) (Dollar General: pint milk $1.30, bisquik $3.50)(walmart- butter $2.78)
4th - 1-1/2c potatoes, 1tbs butter, 1 box mac&cheese (3tbs butter) 3 magnum ice cream bars, 2 tsp honey, 2 pots coffee (GO: mac&cheese $0.89, magnum ice cream $1.00)
5th - 1c potatoes, 1 garlic, 2 eggscr, 1/2tbs butter, 1/3 box cake mix (1 egg, 1/9 canola oil), 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
6th - pancakes (1/2c milk, bisquik, egg), syrup, mac&cheese (3tbs butter) 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, lemonade (GO: mac&cheese $0.89, (10) lemonade $0.89, syrup $1.19) (dq: $2.49 choc blizzard)
7th - 1/4c broccoli, 1c bush beans, 2 eggscr, 1/3c rice, 1/3 box conbread stuffing, teriyaki sauce, 2tbs butter, 1/3 box cake mix (egg, oil) 1/2c honey, 1 pot coffee, 1/2 mickey cookie, trail mix (gift: mickey cookie, trail mix, creme cookies)
8th - 2 eggscr, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 1/2tbs butter, 1/3 box cake mix (egg, oil), 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
9th - 1c bush beans, 1c potatoes, pancakes (bisquik, 1/2c milk, egg) syrup, 1tbs butter, ramen noodles, 2tsp honey, 2 pot coffee, lemonade  (DG: (5) ramen noodles $1.00) (free from florida: grapefruits, key limes)
10th - garlic, 1c potatoes, 2 eggscr, 1/2tbs butter, lemonade, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
11th - 1c applesauce, 2 eggscr, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 1/2tbs butter,  1/2 spaghetti sauce, noodles (finished), 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee (school: doughnut $0.89) (GO: 0.89 spaghetti sauce, banana peanut butter $0.79)
12th - 1c bush beans, 3 eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 2tbs tomato sauce, 1/2tbs butter,  ramen noodles, mac&cheese, lemonade (3tbs butter), 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee (GO: mac&chs $0.89)
13th - 2eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 2tbs tomato sauce, 1/3 box cake mix (oil, egg) (work: hushpuppies, onion rings, dr pepper)
14th - 1c applesauce, spaghetti sauce, noodles, 1 snickers egg, lemonade (GO: $0.89 noodles, 0.89 spaghetti sauce, $1.05 (3) snickers eggs) (work: coffee, sugar, fried pickles, cheese sticks, dr pepper, 1/2 pear, 1/2 apple)
15th - 1 wild onion, 1-1/2c potatoes, 2 eggscr, 1/2tbs butter, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, 2 snickers eggs
17th - 1c bush beans, 1-1/2c poatoes, 2 eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 2tbs spaghetti sauce, 1/2tbs butter,  papa johns garlic butter, peanut butter, ramen noodles, lemonade, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, magnum ice cream (GO: $0.33 ice cream)
18th - 2 eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, 1/2tbs butter, peanut butter, 1/2 spaghetti sauce, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee (Sm B-day party: 2 cupcakes) (GO: $0.33 ice cream)
19th - 1c blackberries, 1c raspberries, 2 eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese,  tomato sauce, pizza, soda, 1tbs honey, 1 pot coffee (little caesars: $5.00) (DG: $0.85 lemon-lime soda)
20th - (made bread) garlic, 1/4c broccoli, 1c bush beans, 1c potatoes, spaghetti sauce, 2 eggomlt, 1/2oz pepperjack cheese, butter, 1/3 box cornbread stuffing, noodles, banana bread, 2tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, lemonade (GO: bananas $0.30) (farmers market: local 2lb Amish butter $7.40( not counted b/c local))
21st - 1 wild onion, 1c potatoes, 2 eggscr, bisquik pancakes (milk, egg), butter1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, soda (nick&nates w/ family: chicken sandwich, onion rings, fries, ice cream)
22nd - pancakes (leftovers), syrup,  1/3 box cupcakes (egg, oil) 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
23rd - 1c blueberries, 1c blackberries, 2tbs spaghetti sauce, 3 eggomlt, 1 goat cheese (frozen from goat cheese pizza), butter, 1/8 bread, peanut butter,  soda, mac&cheese (butter), 1tbs honey, 1 pot coffee (GO: $0.89 mac&cheese)
24th - 1c applesauce, 1/3 broccoli, 3 eggomlt, 2tbs spaghetti sauce, 1 goat cheese, butter, 1/3c rice, brown gravy, 1/3box cake mix (egg,oil) 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
25th - 1c applesauce, 1c bush beans, 1/3c asparagus, 3 eggomlt, 2tbs spaghetti sauce, 1 goat cheese, butter, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee, tortilla chips (school: free tortilla chips, choc chip cookies)
26th - 1c blackberries, 1c raspberries, 1c bush beans, 3 eggomlt, 2tbs spaghetti sauce, 1 goat cheese, butter (mom's school: free dr. Pepper)
27th - (made bread) 1c applesauce, blueberry syrup, 1c bush beans, garlic, 1c potatoes, 2 eggscr, 1 eggfrtst, 1/3 bread, butter, peanut butter, 2tsp honey, 2 pot coffee
28th - 2c applesauce, blueberry syrup, 2 eggfrtst,  1/3 bread, butter, peanut butter, 1tsp honey, 1 pot coffee
29th - chinese $7.00, cherry slushi $0.65, doughnut $0.89
30th - pizza $5.00, cherry pepsi $1.25