At it Again!

Agh! Those pesky elitist New York City-ers are at it again! A couple of weeks ago I ragged on Cynthia Nixon, a potential candidate for the New York State gubernatorial position, for wanting to legalize marijuana because the laws around cannabis (and really the entire War on Drugs) are, enforced unequally. (This is not a cannabis issue, but a law enforcement policy issue.) In reality, we should be legalizing substances because it is a personal rights issue, not because one class of people is effected more than another. Essentially, I said Nixon’s ideas of change exist around racism. At the time, it may have seemed a stretch, but lo, she has unabashedly cemented her racist beliefs with her most recent cannabis centered gaff when she claimed that cannabis licenses would be a form of reparations. What! The elitist, self-righteous, progressive left strikes again! This is unfathomable on so many levels.

After mentioning that “black and brown” people are more likely to be arrested for cannabis related crime than white people, she claimed that “We [must] prioritize them in terms of licenses. It’s a form of reparations.” Wait, what? So let’s assume that reparations should even be a thing, giving a particular group of people a license to operate a business over other groups of people based on the color of their skin is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact definition of racism?

Of course, this was also met with a bit of resistance from the black community:

Big Al Sharpton tweeted out: “I’m for legalizing marijuana and I like Cynthia Nixon but putting pot shops in our communities is not reparations. Health care, education !!” (The tweet in itself is, in fact, contradictory – “Let’s legalize it, but don’t put those pot shops in our communities.” But shhhh, don’t tell Al.)

Black Lives Matter also demanded an apology, saying that Nixon presented “harmful stereotypes of African-Americans as drug users and dealers.” Again, maybe a stretch that she called African-Americans drug users and dealers, but she did group a whole class of people, and we all know that’s a big no-no.

Of course, the fodder goes on. But folks, this is what happens when we start using emotions to dictate policy, when we put facts aside and make decisions using feelings. Eventually, the progressive left will eat itself in a fit of statements like we’ve seen from Big Al and Nixon, all we can do is hope they don’t do too much damage before it all goes down in a fiery mess. Because, in reality, the progressive left cannot exist without extreme segregation.

SCOBY Get Your SCOBY

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Wet Kombucha SCOBY, ready to be bagged and shipped.

Making a SCOBY is not super difficult. In fact, I think it is fairly easy. Though for some this is not the case. (My brother has tried multiple times to start a culture, but continued to fail until I gave him one.) Once you have kombucha brewing, you will have an abundance of SCOBYs.

If you cannot get a SCOBY to grow, we offer some of our SCOBYs for sale. All the SCOBYs we sell are raised on organic black tea and sugar (any SCOBYs grown on flavored teas are given to the chickens).

We sell SCOBYs wet or dehydrated. Dehydrated come in packages of two – in case one does not rehydrate properly – wet SCOBYs come individually.

Dehydrated: $6.00
Wet: $6.00
Both prices include shipping fees. Send us an email, and we will get you a SCOBY, or two.

Reasons Not to Homeschool

Another post from the old blog. Some of the things that made us hesitate when deciding to start homeschooling, though all things that can be overcome.

Earlier, I mentioned that my wife and I had many discussions before deciding to not enroll our son in first grade. In those discussions we came up with a number of reasons that we were unhappy with the public school system. At the same time, there were a handful of things that made us apprehensive about homeschooling. Surely, you may not agree with all of our reasons, or think we missed some key reasons to keep a child in public school, but these are what we deemed to be the most consequential.

As adults, we make decisions for ourselves, as parents we also make decisions for our children. Every time we make a decision we are utilizing a recollection of previous experiences as well as synthesizing new information surrounding present circumstances. A lot of the decision making when it comes to whether or not homeschooling is a good option, can be based on our experience in school both educationally and socially. I was a student that thrived in the elementary school setting (fell apart in middle school and was back to enjoying high school by the end.) I enjoyed the projects, I enjoyed reading and writing reports, I enjoyed gym class every other day, I enjoyed running around like a hooligan on the playground. Believe it or not, some of my teachers taught me to enjoy learning and instilled some important values. In the end I would eventually go on to get my Master’s degree in education. Public school also worked for my wife as she went on to get her Doctor’s in Audiology. So if a generic public school setting worked for us (and countless others) why should it not it work for our son? And further, why would I take those enjoyable experiences away from my son? Unfortunately, when you’re making decisions for a third party, you need to keep their best interests in mind, and sometimes what worked for you may not work for them. My wife and I really tried to remove our personal experiences with school from the decision making process, but it was difficult. Compounding the difficulty was the fact that the public school landscape has changed and not necessarily for the better.

One of the biggest factors for everyone to consider when it comes to deciding whether or not to homeschool – and it’s really too bad – is it’s affordability. There are a couple of upfront costs, but there are also some hidden fees that need to be considered. The most obvious cost is curriculum. Even if you create all the curriculum you will use, you will still be using resources: paper and ink, pencils to write, or even just the electric to keep the lights on when they would otherwise be off. Luckily for us, my mother-in-law is a homeschooler and my mother is an Elementary Special Ed teacher, my brother is a high school tech ed teacher, and my father is an engineer with a huge science brain: we have the educational resources. Over the past couple of years we have bought a few boxed curriculum sets and filled in the rest with miscellaneous worksheets from workbooks given to us. If we decided to buy a boxed curriculum for every subject, the cost would add up quite quickly. And while those costs might add up, the biggest cost associated with homeschooling, is that you are essentially working for free. Say what you will about a homemaker/homeschooler it’s a job. It takes time and effort and most importantly – financially speaking – it reduces household income to one salary. Next year both of our children will be school age and we could be sending them to public school which would free me up to work part time or even full time as a teacher. That would be easily an extra $30k per year. Over time, that second income adds up and homeschooling becomes pretty costly. Over three years, it could easily cost $100,000 to homeschool your children. The last prong of the financial fork in your homeschooling steak is tuition. The moment you buy a piece of property, you start paying property taxes and somewhere wrapped in that massive payment the state/county takes from you are your school taxes and you’ll pay them until you start renting or you curl up under a log and die – long after your child has finished with school. Depending on how big your house is, or how vast your property, your tuition will be different, but the fact remains the same, the state is already forcing you to pay for public school, so you might as well use it. Clearly, public school is not free, but the cost of homeschooling can be much higher.

The last big hang up we had (okay, it was mostly mine) is sports. It is one of those things that will not surface for another handful of years, but all the same, it is something to think about – and something I still think about quite frequently. School districts often offer youth rec-leagues and there’s usually some sort of travel program depending on the sport. Though by seventh grade, the youth programs begin to peter out to be replaced by high school sports and the cost of travel programs begins to increase. At a quick glance it seems that most states allow for homeschool students to participate in school sports (you can find a fairly comprehensible list here), but Georgia (our state) is not on that list and when speaking to other homeschoolers, their students have not been allowed to participate in public school sports. (Though I imagine if the student was an all-star QB the district would quickly change its mind.) To me, this is an issue.

I ran all three seasons of high school sports: cross country, indoor and outdoor track. It was something that I recall quite fondly, and I think instilled a strong work ethic and a sense of routine outside of school. Everyday, when school ended – a place I was compelled to be – I would play some frisbee with my friends for an hour and then at 3:30, practice would begin and I would spend the next hour-and-a-half of my day doing something that I technically did not have to do. Sports kept me occupied when I might have had too much free time, and they also gave me certain standards I had to meet if I wanted to keep participating (grades, behavior, tardiness, etc). It really gave me an incentive to work through high school as opposed to fighting my way through.

If the incentive sports gave to work through school was not enough, there was also the team aspect. There was nothing more important in my education than learning to work with others and the camaraderie that comes when aiming to achieve a universal goal. Understandably, this might not be true for all students, but it heavily impacted my high school education and in turn impacts my decision making when deciding to not enroll our son.

As I look back at the decision making process, I think we had some other minor drawbacks here and there, but these three were the ones that came up repeatedly. Almost every anti-homeschool discussion focused on these topics. In the end they were not enough encouragement for us to keep our son in public school, but they might be for others. And as we move along this homeschool journey, we may find other traits of homeschooling we disagree with. There is nothing in the near future that I can imagine would make us want to send out son back to public school, though as we approach high school, different factors may arise.

Starting to Save Seed

Seeds, seeds, seeds! I love seeds; I think it has to do with all the possibilities that a tiny dot the size of a pin head can hold (think brassicaes: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.). Or maybe I love them for all of their different shapes and sizes – beans with their beautiful patterning and cool, smooth skin. Even Cucurbitaceae – squash – with their bland, brown, traditional tear drop shape have their differences from variety to variety that are simply awe inspiring when carefully examined. There’s also some bit of a thrill that comes with saving your own seed from year to year: you get to know the plants, know the heritage of the seed, and it is one more step to self-sufficiency. But before you can just go saving seeds for next year, there are some things to consider.

Often times when we look at a seed catalog, or seed envelope, we will notice some verbiage that may or may not make sense. Typically this verbiage pertains to the seed and the plant that will develop from it.

Open Pollinated: Open pollination means that when a female flower is pollinated by a male flower of the same variety (delicata squash x delicata squash), the seed produced thereafter will resemble the parent plant(s) (delicata squash). When the pollination occurs between male and female parts of the same plant or even the same flower (tomatoes, beans), this is called self-fertilization. Plants that have individual flowers that are self-fertilizing are inherently open pollinated. Some varieties of plants will produce flowers that are specifically male or female. If you notice a squash vine, the first flowers to come out are typically male and later on down the vine, the female flowers start to come out. These are still considered to be open pollinated.

Heirloom: Seeds of an heirloom variety are also inherently open pollinated. The term heirloom simply implies that the seed-line has been kept true for a number of years. Heirloom varieties tend to be less friendly to the industrial commercial market, but can come in many different color, size, taste, and other variations making them ideal for farmer’s markets. (Essentially, heirloom is a subset within open pollinated.)

Hybrids: A hybrid is a seed that comes from two different varieties of parents (delicata squash x sweet dumpling squash): it has been cross-pollinated. Often times hybrids are produced to create faster growing plants, larger yields, or to create a plant that might be less susceptible to certain diseases. A hybrid is the first generation of a new lineage and is considered “F1” (the 1 is typically a subscript) in nomenclature and all plants in the F1 generation will look and produce the same. However, if you save seeds from a hybridization – accidentally or on purpose – the following generation (F2) will have a large number of physical differences, if the seed from the F1 is even viable.

Saving seeds helps us save money, and it gives us further insight into our individual plants. In a sense, by selecting plants that are growing well in our gardens, we’re doing our own genetic modification by selecting plants that are amiable to our soil, temperature, water and light conditions. The problem with saving seed is that it needs to be precise. The easiest way to be precise is only grow one variety of each type of vegetable. There are many books out there that deal with seed saving methods (my favorite is Suzanne Ashworth’s Seed to Seed), and can give you statistics on cross-pollination. For example, corn pollen is very light and can travel by wind up to two miles! It is also important to save seed from a number of different plants as inbreeding depression – a lack of genetic diversity – can occur. Some plants are more susceptible to this than others.

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Squash on top, beans on the bottom.

In short, if you want to save seed, get a good book, stick with one variety of each species, and go for the open-pollinated  annual varieties. A good text like Seed to Seed will give you regional planting information as well as information regarding seed storage statistics, and methods to prevent cross-pollination (corn is wind pollinated and can travel up to half a mile). If you don’t care about saving seeds, plant whatever suits your fancy.