Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My 'Victory' Garden

My garden last week

My family and I are extremely happy with our garden this year.  Thus far, it has produced a ton of food for us.  The only produce we have been buying this summer has been fruit.  So far in order of abundance we've harvested greens (kale, broccoli, collards and radish), lettuces, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, snap peas, and strawberries.  We haven't yet gotten to the point where our tomatoes and tomatilloes are ready but we will have a lot of those to pick soon.  We are utilizing the Square Foot Gardening Technique to maximize space and it has worked well.  This is the 3rd year we've done a garden and I feel we've learned a lot every year.

I have gotten more involved in the vegetable gardening this year and have done a lot of reading on the topic.  I stumbled on the past concept of a Victory Garden.  This concept was actually promoted by our government during WWI and WWII.  The crux of the campaign was to encourage the non-military citizens of the US to grow their own food.  A lot of the conventional food supplies needed to be reserved for our troops around the world.  Many of our US citizens felt it was their patriotic duty to start their own gardens both at home and at work.  Vegetable gardening became very commonplace where space was available.  

Today as experts ponder how to feed the world in sustainable and natural ways there are millions of people taking matters into their owns hands.  They are converting some of their own space, whether it be their patio, balcony, or yard, into areas for growing food.  The astute gardeners know every little bit helps.  Big or small gardens...they both make a difference.  The gardeners know how their food was grown and know how healthy it is for them compared to veggies at the store.  It positively effects their health in many ways.  They get nutritious food.  They get sun and exercise.   Finally they also get the ego boost of accomplishing something. 

In passing conversations with my 87 year old grandma, she has mentioned how big their family garden was back in the day.  They even had mules come in to help turn the soil.  That is pretty cool.  Well over 2 thirds of their yard was dedicated to the garden.  Very different than the nearly useless grass based yards you see everywhere today.  I remember growing up, my other grandpa also having a very large garden occupying most of his open space.  Obviously I've talked about getting back to our roots several times on this blog.  I am proud to say I don't have to look too far back to find that my ancestors took their food more seriously than many people do today.  

As our garden knowledge and our garden space grows I have noticed something interesting.  We don't have as many food packages to throw away.  Also, we compost our food scraps so some the stuff we grew eventually ends up as compost back in the soil.  It is a relatively inexpensive hobby that has paid us back many times over.  Whenever I go to the store or farmers markets, I see the same stuff I harvest in my garden and know I don't have to buy it.  These are all Victories if I say so myself. 


My Grandpa in his garden August 1960

Monday, July 25, 2011

Do Something.....Anything

Stop being lazy.....stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Challenge yourself physically.  Set a goal and work toward it.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Self Sufficient Healthcare

This post may be boring to some, if not, most people.  Stop reading now because I couldn't care less about appealing to you as a reader.  For those still reading, there is an interesting trend going on in our country that is unrecognized by many.  I will use a series of statistical graphs (click on any to enlarge) to illustrate this trend and my points.  So get your analytical thinking helmet on and come for a ride.

What the above graph shows us is that people are spending much less of their own money on healthcare than they did 50 years ago.  In 2006, 64% of Americans ages 18-64 were insured by their employer.  

The above graph illustrates that despite out of pocket expenditures going way down, the overall national spend on healthcare has gone way up.  The average employer-paid family health insurance premium is $13,871 per year in our country.  That could really add up to a non trivial amount of money for any employer.  No wonder salary increases are stagnant and unemployment rates continue to be high.  This is a tremendous burden on business.  If they are spending all that money, we should be REALLY healthy right?  

So lets analyze the return on investment (click on graph to enlarge).  The above graph shows that the USA (all by itself way on the right) spends nearly twice as much on healthcare per person/per year than any other single country charted on the graph.  Yet, we are not living longer lives than people in many other countries.  Any investment advisor would tell you this is a terrible return on dollars invested. 

People have unknowingly offloaded the responsibility of their own health to their employer or the government.  It is no wonder the health of our country has deteriorated so much.  People don't care because their employer paid health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid has always been there to bail them out.  

Something has to give right?  Well it is and I've seen it at my company and companies elsewhere.  Employers are or will be shifting the burden of paying for healthcare back to the employee.  The graph above shows a projection of increased healthcare spending by families moving forward.  Part of this increase is the shift of responsibility to the employee.  Here are some intersting quotes from a 2010 Washington Post article:
"Most big employers plan to shift a larger share of health-care costs to their workers next year, according to a survey released Thursday.

Many say they may charge more to cover spouses, tighten eligibility standards for their health plans and dispense financial rewards or penalties based on the results of certain lab tests.  At some companies, overweight employees could be excluded from the most desirable plans.
Meanwhile, employees at many companies can expect significantly higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments...."
It's happening at big businesses and small businesses alike.  Companies refuse to continue to be financially responsible for the poor habits and unhealthy lifestyles of their employees.  The trend I am trying to reveal is the shift back to individuals being more financially responsible for their own healthcare.  Things start to get real for people when it hits them in the pocketbook.  So what is a person or family to do to prepare for this? 

The above graph shows that the US is spending much less of their income on food.  Food is an afterthought to most people and most families.  The philosophy of many is to fill their bellies in the cheapest way possible.  This in itself can cause a myriad of expensive health problems.  Quality food is the path to maintaining personal health.  I feel if we were to take our food a bit more seriously and spend a bit more money on it now, it will save us a lot of money in the future.  


Friday, July 15, 2011

Save Your Bacon Grease

It is healthier to cook with than olive oil and other liquid oils.  A recent study showed lower levels of blood triglycerides after cooking with lard (pork fat) compared to olive oil.  Butter and coconut oil are going to be in the same boat as bacon grease (lard) because they are also a safe saturated fat that is solid at room temperature thus having the same properties.  These saturated fats are more stable when heated reducing free radical and oxidation incidence thus making them safer overall.  Just another health myth dispelled.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Support for Quitting the Diet Soda Habit

Water....just drink it.
I talked about this once before here.  In case you didn't believe me or needed more evidence, here you go.  New studies show aspartame sweetened soft drinks increases risk of gaining weight and increases risk of diabetes.  
"Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised," said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. "They may be free of calories but not of consequences."
 "These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans," Dr. Fernandes said.
Some people have speculated there may be a link between smokers and former smokers and the consumption of the diet sodas.  You might also be able to lump in the use of artificial sweeteners in coffee.  Makes you wonder if these sweeteners hit the same pleasure zones in the brain as tobacco?  


Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Fights Back

If you have done much reading on the paleo diet, you'll know that some foods will defend themselves from predation in various ways.  Here is an interesting story where a banana fights back and wins.