Celebrating poverty

Celebrate blog hopFor this week’s installment on the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop, I’m celebrating my poverty. Celebrating poverty? Yes.

Poverty actually is a good thing for a writer or poet. It means you can’t afford a lot of the things that might distract you. If you could afford a brand-new sports car, you’d probably spend a lot of time on the road trying it out. Time that could be spent writing, or reading books that would count as research for your writing projects.

And poverty gives you a chance to do creative things other than writing. I sew, make bread, and do a lot of cooking-from-scratch in part because it saves money, but it also gives me a creative outlet that is different enough from my writing to be a good break from it.

Since the business of the writer is to make trouble for characters, experiencing a little poverty first-hand is a way to learn to be more realistic in your writing about characters in poverty. This might not help you with the upper-crust reader who knows all about poverty from reading what upper-crust poverty experts have to say about it. But to readers who grew up poor or are poor now, you can make a strong connection by having this knowledge and personal experience.

Another factor is that the writer-in-poverty can’t just buy any book they want. They are more likely to give library books a try, or temporarily-free ebooks. And I think you can learn a lot more by trying books out of your normal reading rut of the same authors in the same genre. Poverty made me try Amish romance— not my chosen genre by any means, but in good examples, such as those by Beverly Lewis, they are well worth reading, giving you a picture of an entirely different group of people living a different life.

Critters:

Chicken #221 is on the porch in a cage while he recovers from frost-bitten toes. My young tomcat Simon (named after the Chipmunk) is in the house by himself as he recovers from some infected tomcat-fight wounds. Since he’s not feeling all that well, he’s behaving far better than other tomcats do in the house.

Reading:

During my morning Bible reading I ran across the fact that Judas Iscariot was considered a bishop (Acts 1: 20, KJV). Worst bishop ever?

Read some more Elemental Masters books by Mercedes Lackey and realized I am missing book #2 in the series. Shall have to get that one. Then started re-reading the Dragon Jousters series by the same author, which is set in a magical version of ancient Egypt under another name (Tia and Alta). But I’m longing for something NEW to read and so may stop off at the local library.

What are you celebrating today?

Something great, or something nice, or something not-so-nice that has nice side effects? Share your celebration in a comment!

 

 

Celebrate the Small Things; new books

Celebrate blog hopThis is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. Join us at: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Today I am celebrating two new books I read recently. The first is one in the Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey, Unnatural Issue. These books are a series of fantasy-romance novels set in Edwardian England. The first in the series was rather ruined for me because the heroine, a female doctor, had a clinic to hand out quack birth control to prostitutes and other loose women, and there was a certain hint that the doc may have done illegal abortions as well.

The current book in the series doesn’t feature hints at prenatal child killing, but there are the usual Neopagan/Wiccan elements, so I wouldn’t recommend it to readers under 21. The heroine of the story is a girl, daughter of a Earth-element mage, whose mother died at her birth and whose dad handed the child over to the servants with orders that he never see the child again. The girl, Susanne, was raised by the servants and worked as one. Until she grew up and Dad, who had turned to the forbidden art of necromancy, saw she was the very image of her dead mother— and just what he needed for his planned spell to bring his dead wife back to life. Susanne has to flee and runs in to the elemental mages who are tracking down her dad because he’s working forbidden necromancy. The story ends, after much thrilling struggle, with the defeat of the evil mage and a romantic attachment for Susanne.

The other book is one I ordered as part of my current studies on the subject of Islam. ‘The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran’ by Robert Spencer. It’s not so much a religious studies book as a current affairs one, showing why, in the author’s opinion, the Koran and its contents are quite relevant to much that is going on in our world today. I would recommend reading it as part of a reading program that includes other books on Islam by other authors and from other points of view.

Other News

My young tomcat Simon is resting in the house today. He’s got an infected sore, probably from being the victim of tomcat-on-tomcat violence. He really likes the attention he gets being in the house by himself instead of being on the porch with the other cats— most of whom stay on the porch all winter rather than in the barn like good barncats. Because the porch leads to the basement, which has a furnace.

And today I’m finally making the lentil-sprout soup I’d planned for some days now.  I had to put the finished sprouts in the refrigerator for a few days, taking it out some days to rinse the sprouts and keep them alive. Today I finally decided to get the soup started.

Let your light so shine/Via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj

Every Sunday Catholics and many Protestants hear the same set of Bible readings, all over the world.  This is from the readings for today, in two languages. (Don’t worry, the second one is in English.)

Esperanto,

13  Vi estas la salo de la tero; sed se la salo sengustiĝis, per kio ĝi estos salita? ĝi jam taŭgas por nenio, krom por esti elĵetita kaj piedpremita de homoj.

14  Vi estas la lumo de la mondo. Urbo starigita sur monto ne povas esti kaŝita.

15  Kiam oni bruligas lampon, oni metas ĝin ne sub grenmezurilon, sed sur la lampingon; kaj ĝi lumas sur ĉiujn, kiuj estas en la domo.

16  Tiel same via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj, por ke ili vidu viajn bonajn farojn, kaj gloru vian Patron, kiu estas en la ĉielo.

English, King James Version

13  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


The King James translation is one of the greatest works in the English language. It contains the full text of the Bible, not just an abbreviated version of the Old Testament like many modern Protestant translations have. I have read that if all the copies of the King James Bible vanished, it could be reconstructed almost completely from the Bible quotations in other English works.

Many proverbial expressions that are well used in the English language originated in the King James Bible.  There are three of them in this passage alone: Salt of the earth, light of the world, let your light so shine before men. As writers, it is well to know the origin of these common phrases.

In the phrase “Let your light so shine before men,” the word ‘men’ is used in its meaning of “men and women.” In 1611 when the KJV Bible was published, modern feminist jargon had yet to be invented, and so the translators were free to use “men” instead of the ugly and less effective feminist jargon alternatives like “personkind” or “humankind.” (In English, words of one or two syllables pack more of a punch than words of three or more syllables.)

The best writers in the world ‘let their light so shine before men.’  That is, they don’t hide their ‘light’— their knowledge, both spiritual and secular, and their very selves— in order to seek popularity by being just like all the other writers. Hiding your ‘light’ makes your writing seem bland and boring and just like every other second-rate writer. The writer who shares his ‘light’ and his self with readers is going to be a one-of-a-kind writer and can stand out from the crowd.

The Curse of Chicken-on-Chicken Violence

AraucanaRoo221Recently I went out to the barn and found that #221, my sole Araucana rooster, was unwell. At first I thought he had frostbitten feet due to a thawing day followed by a below-zero night. But I put him in to a cage in my kitchen to warm him up and it seems the feet were not the problem. It seems that Rooster 221 was the victim of chicken-on-chicken violence.

The other 2 roosters in the barn are the probable culprits. Both are Brahma roosters, which means they are not big on fighting compared to chickens of most breeds. In fact, it’s wise to raise Brahma chicks in a different brooder than chicks of other breeds. Especially cheap Leghorn male chicks. But my Brahma boys ARE twice the size of #221 and they do think they own all the hens on the farm.

I moved #221’s cage into my front porch a day ago. That was to expose him to colder temperatures. I’m putting him into an enclosed pen outdoors. I’ll put #221’s wife, #224, with him. I’m also giving him two more hens as mistresses— and a home heating system since 2 chickens don’t generate quite enough heat for an upper Michigan winter.

Yesterday I shoveled some snow out of the chosen pen. I also carried a bucket of barnyard manure to put in the pen’s chicken house (a repurposed calf hutch) as bedding. Winter bedding for my penned chickens consists of 2-3 inches of manure to provide warmth, and an inch or two of waste hay on top of that.

One advantage of my current housing plan is that I will have a jump on the spring hatching season. Araucana hens lay blue-green eggs. All of my other hens lay brown eggs. So if there is a blue-green egg in the pen it’s a pure Araucana egg and can be put in the incubator. The eggs from the ‘mistresses’ will be brown and will be used as eating eggs.

Feisty chickens are part of the chicken raising life. That’s an additional reason why I have pens for groups of chickens. The main reason is that I like raising up my own purebred chicks. In order to have purebred eggs, you have to confine your purebred hens with one or more purebred males. If the hens have been running with assorted breeds of roosters, you have to wait 3 weeks after penning with the purebred roo before you get for-certain purebred eggs you can put in the incubator.

Getting fat people to plead guilty

It’s funny how easy it is to make a fat person plead guilty to a dietary crime. I sometimes watch this program where a weight-loss surgeon berates morbidly obese people. Somehow all his patients end up accusing themselves of ’emotional eating.’ Now, unless you count hunger as a emotion, or insist that no normal weight people take pleasure in tasty food, or that normal people don’t eat when they have reason to be down or depressed, this doesn’t make all that much sense.  But this particular doc seems to encourage a belief in ’emotional eating.’ But he’s willing to perform the surgeries anyway.

In older weight loss books the theory was that a fat person was the guy who reached for a extra slice of bread at the dinner table. To understand that, you must know that years ago, people placed a basket of bread at the table for each meal. If you ate your share of the prepared foods and were still hungry, you took a slice of bread. If you were still hungry, you took more bread. I am sure there were plenty of fat people back in that day who WEREN’T filling up on bread at every meal. But it seemed that everyone who bought a weight loss book back then was willing to plead guilty to taking that extra slice of bread. After all, most of them had taken bread at the dinner table at least once.

Fat people tend to have low self-esteem because they are told that their extra weight is caused by their own bad behavior. So they admit guilt to  whatever it is thin people or doctors accuse them of doing. But the science is not behind all these little pet theories. There is research that would indicate that the real problem that causes weight gain has to do with how an individual person metabolizes carbohydrates. If you have metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance, it’s likely you are overweight or will become overweight. If you remove the root of your problem by adopting a healthy low-carb diet as a lifelong eating plan, you will likely lose weight and feel better without the need of massive doses of ‘willpower’ to help you stick to the diet in spite of hunger— because after the first couple of days on a low-carb diet, you don’t really feel hungry.

I think it’s time that we who have weight problems stop pleading guilty to ’emotional eating’ or taking ‘extra’ bread and start realizing we have a physical, biological condition that is not our fault. Read some good books on low-carb/ketogenic diets— I’d recommend the original Atkins diet book, as well as ‘Keto Clarity’ by Jimmie Moore and ‘How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost 40 Pounds’ by Dana Carpender. Because berating ourselves doesn’t cure anything. Knowledge, however, when properly applied, does.

Buying extinct chickens

buff-chantecler-chickenPerhaps you do not know that many old-fashioned breeds of livestock are threatened with extinction. One breed, the Chantecler chicken, developed in Canada (by monks), has already been declared extinct. I feel bad about that. So I just ordered a batch of baby Chantecler chicks.

How can that happen if the breed is extinct? Well, turns out they were not as extinct as people thought. A few survived in small flocks and the breed was able to continue. Chicks of the breed have been available from Ideal hatchery in 4 color variations, and White Chanteclers are now available from Cackle Hatchery.

Chanteclers are dual purpose chickens— meat and eggs— and are a very cold-hardy breed. They are also the only chicken breed developed by monks. To learn more, visit the Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chantecler_chicken

Why do I want Chantecler chickens? Well, most of my laying hens are getting old, and of the chicks I tried to raise last year I have ONE pullet left.  I had Buff Brahmas and Araucanas, but my Araucana rooster has frostbitten feet  this morning and probably won’t survive, and the one Araucana hen doesn’t lay eggs very often. The Buff Brahmas are pretty, but don’t lay that well either. So I decided to go for something different this year.

Bean sprouts as a low-carb noodle or substitute

1227160757My mother has a number of wonderful casserole recipes that she used to cook for the family regularly. (Now that she’s almost ninety, she only makes casseroles once in a great while.) My particular favorite was the tuna casserole. But since it calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shell macaroni, it is not exactly a fit for my low-carb lifestyle.

I’ve tried some substitutes for the noodles. None were good except of Dreamfields, which is a good noodle but not really that low in carbs. So I’ve been making my tuna casserole with bean sprouts subbing for noodles.

The first thing I have to figure out is the amounts. The original recipe called for 2 cups of noodles. But noodles expand when you cook them, while bean sprouts shrink a bit. I made a batch with 2 cups of fresh bean sprouts and it looked like half a batch. So I think I need to use 3-4 cups of fresh sprouts.

My mother always put some tiny green peas in her tuna casserole. But I didn’t have any, and the way the fresh mung bean sprouts smelled when they were cooking made me think I had vegetables enough in the dish with the bean sprouts. I have purchased some peas for sprouting, and when they arrive I may put some pea sprouts into a future batch.

You can buy canned bean sprouts at some grocery stores. But I think it’s better to sprout your own at home. I use the Victorio brand sprouters for my salad sprouts (alfalfa, clover, broccoli & radish seed), and that’s how I made my first batch of mung bean sprouts. I put 1 and 1/2 T (tablespoons) of mung bean seed in a small jar to soak overnight— three jars, actually, one for each sprout tray I was going to ‘plant’ with mung beans.

Each of the sprout trays in the Victorio brand sprouter holds about 2 cups and is 6 inches in diameter. The sprout trays are sold 4 to a set, but you can stack them up to 10 high. I pour off each jar’s contents into a sprouting tray and let the water drain off. The fact that you stack the trays means that each tray stays moist during the day— even if you skip a watering. I left my sprouts for 2 days over Christmas and they all thrived.

You rinse your sprouts at least 2 times a day. The newer model Victorio has a green topper with drain holes (like the sprouting trays do) and so all you have to do is fill the green topper pretty full with water and it will drain down your full stack and water every level.

IMPORTANT: before you water your sprouts, check the bottom water-catching tray. It may still have water from the last time you watered sprouts! So dump the old water before you add new water to the topper. The used water has enzymes so you can use it in soup broth or put it in a water dish for your pets or chickens.

For the first day or two, check often to see that the newly ‘planted’ sprouts are getting fully watered. Sometimes the sprouts in the center get a little dry. A method I’ve seen recommended is to measure your water, making sure it is under 2 cups, and then give each sprout tray a little water individually, making sure each level gets a good watering.

Bean sprouts, like pea and lentil sprouts, are ready in 4-5 days. I wash the bean sprouts in a bowl of lukewarm water to get the green seed hulls off. The green hulls are edible and full of fiber, but most folks like the taste better with most of the hulls off.

TO COOK: I put a suitable-sized kettle on the burner with water and perhaps sea salt. Bring the water to a boil before adding your sprouts, and cook for 10 minutes. You can also steam them if you have the right equipment. The resulting cooked sprouts can substitute for noodles or rice in a casserole.

Nissa’s Tuna Casserole

3-4 cups fresh mung bean sprouts, cooked
1-2 cans of tuna (in olive oil if available), flaked
1/2 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup
Sea salt, pepper and perhaps onion powder to taste, also 1/8 teaspoon of kelp or dulse powder/flakes if you like.
1 small can of tiny peas (optional), or one small can of mushrooms, chopped

Mix the ingredients well and place in casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered for 30 minutes, covered for 5-10 minutes.

My mother used to put crushed soda crackers, moistened with milk and dotted with butter. This adds carbs so I don’t do it. I suppose I could use chopped pecans covered in melted butter for a lower-carb topping, but I don’t like to bother. It’s good enough without.

FUTURE SPROUTING IDEAS

Because my sprouting trays are pretty full, I started the new batch of noodle sprouts in a 1 quart canning jar. I used 1/4 cup of seed. Since 1/4 cup is also 3 tablespoons, I measured out 2 T of mung beans and 1 T of lentils. Lentils are great sprouters and even the brown lentils you find in a grocery store will sprout like the dickens! Plus, I once sprouted some lentils I KNEW had been in my cupboards for 10 years and they sprouted well. So adding the lentils to the mix will save some money.