New Little Book

A story from this blog called The Firefly’s Secret is now up on Amazon and doing well. It is #10 on Amazon in baby and toddler nursery rhyme books.

The little story is on kindle unlimited and selling on kindle for 1.99.

Part 2: The Importance of the Redneck

I’ve been watching news in India of the farmer protests with some concern. India is one of the big four producers of food for the planet: China, India, Brazil, and the United States. We should be watching what happens more closely as it may impact the world quite a lot.

Although agriculture represents a very small percentage of our GDP, here in America food producers make a large portion of the total world food supply, enough to feed approximately 10 billion people.

Wait a sec. The current world population is 7.84 so why are there famines all over the place?

I’m not sure. There are probably a myriad of reasons including a need for better food systems that prevent spoilage.

The U.S. is first in the world in corn production, third in wheat, fifth in potatoes, tenth in sugarcane, and twelfth in rice production.

Why is the U. S. such a powerhouse for food supply? The geographical and atmospheric conditions for farming here are some of the best in the world and we have the quickly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest groundwater resources in the world. It lies under 112 million acres of land and under 8 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska has the bulk of the aquifer and the deepest areas. The aquifer can go as low as 1,200 feet. About one third of U.S. agriculture is irrigated by this great aquifer. Once depleted, it will take 6,000 years to restore. We are taking way more water out for irrigation than is sustainable at this rate. Expected complete depletion year for the aquifer is around 2060.

America used to be plagued by dust bowls and drought or even severe flooding in the Midwest. Two adaptations after WW2 fixed some of this: dam systems to control flooding more and also central pivot irrigators for better irrigating of crops. Many of these dams now are very old, at least 50 years and were created under the great infrastructure plans of FDR and Eisenhower.

Maybe the answer to our joint economic and environmental concerns here is to initiate another set of infrastructure improvements that will hire many men and women to build or repair civil engineering and environmental engineering projects.

When you look at Kansas, my state, it is still called the bread basket making 400 million bushels a year with two thirds of this shipped to other countries. Kansas is ranked third in cattle and produces the majority of the grain sorghum. In 2017, Kansas produced 5.69 billion lbs. of red meat.

Texas leads the states in number of farms with around 247,000. Missouri is next with 95,000. Iowa is third with 85,300.

When you think of farming, you imagine the Midwest probably. But the top supplier of a whole lot of farm food is California.

The U.S. makes 139.5 billion in food exporting but, as I said earlier, is just one of the big four: China, India, Brazil, and United States.

We should really watch what is going on in India with the farmer protests because it may impact us all. Also, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is a major issue. 2060 is only thirty-nine years away.

How do we sustain a growing world population of 7.84 people with depleting resources, older dams and infrastructure in need of repairs, and political strife involving our food producers as well as our food pickers? This topic involves labor issues in regards to immigration policies too. How do we take care of these immigrants that work in agriculture? How do we create more efficient food systems? These are important issues for the upcoming years.

Positive Vibes

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been working on developing two writing projects and they are taking up a lot of my inner daydreams. Thinking about plots and characters and such.

I wonder how many of us have been taking a break from the heavy stuff. The news just makes me sad sometimes and I have to step away for a while, especially the back and forth comments on social media. I feel for the family of George Floyd. I couldn’t even watch that video all the way. It was horrible.

I’m hoping and praying for y’all that life gets better for everyone and things become more inclusive and kind. For all its drudgery and despair, this world is still a beautiful place. I’m sending positive vibes your way tonight.

Unity, peace, love, understanding….these are things I admire and wish for you all.

As the coronavirus ravages and the peaceful protests hit the streets…I’ll be here in my little corner of the world while working my garden, hanging out with my family and pets, and pouring my energies into creative writing.

It’s not much but maybe if we all collectively work on these little things in our lives, it will have a ripple effect of positivity. Focus on building and maybe it will counter the things separating us from our common human connection.

“When it is raining, look for rainbows. When it is night time, look for stars.” Find the silver lining. Keep your face to the sun like a sunflower. Nurture. Grow.

It reminds me of a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony I went to once. The monks spent an entire week building a beautiful, intricate sand design. At the end of the week, the sand was all blown away. Thus is life. But even knowing this reality did not stop the monks from building. And neither should it stop you or me.

Life goes on. We get older. Things fall apart. All is just dust in the wind. What we do now may matter very little in the long run as things we were, things we did, things we tried to accomplish fade away to memories and then become forgotten.

But build we must for what is the purpose of existence if not this. Hope lives through our building efforts and continues through our children. And civilization continues through them and their descendants.

Unity, peace, love, understanding…strive to build these and the world of tomorrow can prosper.

See Keukenhof Gardens in Virtual Tour

One of the most beautiful places in the world is Keukenhof, considered to be Europe’s gardens. Check out this great link from the Daily Mail that talks about a virtual tour by drone of the gardens put together by photographer Albert Dros. Scroll through the brief article and you will see the videos to click on and view the wonderful outdoor spectacle that is Keukenhof. The park is closed for the first time in 71 years but still can be seen through this virtual tour.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/escape/article-8272887/See-flowers-Keukenhof-garden-Holland-virtually-thanks-photographer-Albert-Dros.html

I learned about this oddly enough by researching the Dutch origins of the Snickerdoodle cookie. I’m smiling right now just thinking about how the internet leads you off on various other paths so easily. Yes, I’m making an old family recipe book. It is just a short collection of favorite family recipes that I am planning to give to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day which is fast approaching.

My family name on one side is Schippers which in Dutch means “son of a skipper” or “son of a shipowner.” My family moved to western Kansas in the Midwest United States in the late 1800s from the Volga River region of Russia. They were German-Dutch farmers that lived in Russia under the authorization of Catherine the Great. With all the turmoil of the late 1800s and early 1900s, they re-settled in America.

Snickerdoodles were a popular recipe among Dutch-German immigrants along with other things like Smargs and Beirocks. Here is some origin information about this sweet cinnamon sugar cookie. This is a great article:

https://www.myrecipes.com/cooking-method/baking-recipes/snickerdoodles-history

And here is our family recipe for the cinnamon sugar cookie. It’s a pretty good one:

(Google Images.)

Snickerdoodles

1 and ½ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

½ cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream shortening and sugar.  Beat in the egg and the milk.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Cover dough and chill for ½ to 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  Combine 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Roll the dough into small walnut sized balls.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly colored.  Transfer to wire racks to cool. 

Strawberry Fields Forever

It is strawberry picking season soon.

According to a recent study cited by Whole Foods Market, strawberries rank 27th as the best American food due to overall antioxidant capacity measured against food quantity.  They also ranked as the 4th best fruit behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries.  Strawberries are very high in Vitamin C and also contain Calcium, Iron, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium.

Strawberries require full sun, loamy soil, and slightly acidic to neutral PH level to grow.  Strawberries right off the vine will taste different and usually better than supermarket strawberries.  Why is that?  According to http://www.almanac.com, “supermarket berries tend to be tart with grainy texture;  this is because the natural sugar in the berries begins converting to starch as soon as it is plucked from the plant.”

Strawberries require 6-10 hours of sunlight to ripen and the plants should be well drained.  Raised beds are particularly good for strawberries like the one shown.

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This patch started out with just one plant in the right corner and quickly spread when the owner would bury the runners.  These are also Junebearer strawberry plants that are recommended for novice strawberry plant growers.

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You can make strawberry jam without a pressure cooker using instead a strawberry freezer jam recipe. Once the jam is ready, you just place it direct in containers in the freezer. Just look up strawberry freezer jam recipe on sites like Allrecipes.com.

Petunias = Petun = French Trader Word for Tobacco

(Google Images.)

This month is Lawn and Garden Month.  One flower you will find in abundance at a fairly low price at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Wal-mart is the petunia.

Here’s an interesting fact about petunias.  They are in the same family Solanaceae as tobacco, gooseberries, tomatoes, chili peppers, and even deadly nightshade.

Petun, in fact, is an old French word borrowed from French explorers in the Americas.  It means tobacco.  Petun was a regularly traded item between French explorers and Native Americans.

Along with marigolds and geraniums, petunias are a fairly hardy annual plant that most beginner gardeners can work with.  Petunias also spread out and some varieties cascade over the tops of garden containers.  They are perfect for hanging baskets.

According to the Old Farmers’ Almanac online, petunias grow through Spring, Summer, and Fall.  They come in mostly 5 shades:  red, pink, yellow, purple, and white.  Petunias should be planted in full sun to achieve more flowerings.

The great thing about petunias is that they only require water once a week except in dry extreme heat.  If you plant them in containers, expect to water more.  Pinch back or deadhead the wilted ones and more should grow in their place throughout the season.

Petunias are fairly resistant but you do need to protect them from mold, rot, leaf spots, and insects like caterpillars.