Sunday, March 4, 2007

Peanut butter, spinach, mad cow and national security

I find it amazing how ignorant we can be about our food supply. It seems almost daily we hear about a new threat that is going to kill us all. We never stop to consider the problem just may be our way of processing it. Am I the only person alive that can see this fool hardiness ? We gather crops from all over the country or world to one place for processing. We then scatter them back all over the place for consumption. One contaminated batch is spread from one end of the country to the other. In the old days crops were processed near the area they were grown, then for the most part consumed regionally. The local populace was employed. They were employed making food that would likely be consumed by thier friends and family. The growers were local. The managers of the processing plants were local. Crap happens and we all know it. In the old days when crap happened there was a stigmastism attached to it. There was no potential national catastrophy. Big business will tell you the economy of scale makes the current way better. Sure it does.(sarcasm here) They will well you how great it is for the GDP. Yeah right. And it isn't just limited to plant crops either. The USDA branch of big brother will tell you how the current system can be made more secure, and safer than the old system. see Yeah OK sure it is. (still hearing that sarcasm?) Problem, the small producers are expected to come up with a larger financial burden that large ones. Small producers are being expected to microchip thier animals, while large producers can continue with the current system of tattoos and ear tags. All must register thier premises. So, let me get this straight. Large producers cram animals into living quarters too small for health, force feed large quantities of antibiotics and hormones, then distribute thier product from one end of the planet to the other. The small producer usually growing under much healthier conditions, only using medications when really nessasary and marketing to a local clientele is to be considered the same. This doesn't work logically to me. The current system of local inspectors at slaughter houses and processing plants works fine for safety with the small producers product. I can see a real problem making food from the large producers safe under any conditions. I have heard terrorism being one of the justifications for the NAIS being put in place. I can see terrorists using the large scale producers as a target. But, how are they gonna use me producing a steer every year or two, having it butchered by a local processor, and selling it to people in my home town? Get real, this will only force the small producers to lose money in compliance or raise thier prices out of the market place. I think it's more like this. Somebody who invented the microchips for animals figured it would be a real profitable idea if animals were required to have the chips. They Lobbied somebody somewhere and now it's proposed law. Somebody in the USDA figured it would be great job security for them by inventing a non crises, they picked up on the idea of the chips and premises registration. Now they know the USDA will have plenty of work being the food gestapo. Yes I envision this eventually evolving into real farmers being jailed over minor infractions of a do nothing law. If the US government wanted to do something about food safety, they should be looking into food imports . But, that is a discussion for next time.


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Hmmm..... What can I say.

Here I am. A 40 something year old white guy. A confirmed bachelor until just under a year ago. Raised in a less than typical 60's/70's family setting.  Both parents with gypsy spirit would pack bags and move half way accross the country on a whim. A brother and a sister both younger than me. Spent much of my youth being babysat by mom's 7 brothers and sisters. That bunch consisted of hippies, poets, drug addicts and alcoholics, and very young vets screwed up by tours of duty in asian countries where they didn't want to be, and usually weren't wanted. When I was really lucky I was babysat by my paternal grandmother. She was a blessing. A devout christian and traditional home maker. She filled my childhood with memories of warmth, of lunches being prepared while humming hymns, of safety. The other side of the family filled me with memories also. Only now that I find myself a stepfather, getting drunk a week before my 15th birthday, on a beach in massachusetts, with my uncle isn't held with the same fondness.

As you can imagine such a diverse background as a child led to a just as diverse trip to adulthood. While I was growing up one of those aunts and uncles did the "back to the land" thing. Well sorta at least. Raising a pig and chickens with the garden, reading "The Mother Earth News" and driving a volkswagon bug made them the closest thing I had to homesteaders. Part of a summer spent with them was a catalyst of sorts in my life. Around this same time, dad decided he was getting back into hunting. He also discovered competitve pistol shooting. Now take a young teenage boy. stick a copy of John Shuttleworths "Mother Earth News" in his hand. Next stick a copy of "Guns and Ammo" in his hand. Let him find in that G&A a guy named Mel Tappan. At the same time put him at odds with his left wing mother. Then he discovers a guy named Kurt Saxon and starts reading.

After high school I passed on college. Got a good union job in a glass factory. Nothing like living home and making two bucks an hour more than your dad at 18. Needless to say such causes a little stress between a father and son. That job didn't last long, place went out of business along with many places like it in the early 80's. By then I was 20. Just as well, at that age having that kind of money was a waste. I just bought toys and drank what was left. The event of that plant closing did confirm to me my beliefs in modern homesteading and survivalism were on the right path. The decision then was made to learn as may skills as I could. I've had more jobs than I care to count. Thought it would be cool if I could build a house if I wanted. Did construction enough that I probably could. And with luck in the next few years I plan on doing just that. Worked as a machinist,even built a few prototypes in one place. Spent four years in a plumbing supply house, did side work with many of the plumbers that came in. Also worked part time as a bouncer in a seedy bar during those four years. Learned how to kick a few butts during those four years. Also learned how easy it is to get your butt kicked. Most importantly, learned how to get my butt kicked and still walk away from it. These days I find myself working part time in a small "home center"(We used to call them building supply houses) also doing odd jobs and handyman work.

Last may found me getting married. Having a wife and three stepchildren is an adjustment to say the least. We live on a urban homestead in a small western NY city. We raise, hunt or forage much of our food. Firewood for heat is gathered after storms or from our cities yard waste dump. We make cider both sweet and hard, make cordials, hand crank ice cream, bake bread and garden our entire yard property line to property line.

I use the name woodsrunner online. The term goes back to the era of the fur trade. It has several meanings. Generally it refers to somebody who makes his living and life from the woods or land. Woodsrunner's trail is the journal of my life. If you choose to be a regular visitor here, be prepared to think. Be prepared to be offended. I'm very good at offending people. If you're the person that thinks Al Gore is going to save the world from mankind, we're gonna talk and you're gonna be offended. If you're one of the blind followers of GWB and the war on terror, we're gonna talk and you're gonna be offended. As a matter of fact if you're the type that thinks big government, big business, or big anything is going to save anyone or anything, face it, you're gonna be offended. I'll leave you with a picture taken along my trail of life.


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