Friday, July 04, 2008

Living in America

Happy Independence Day! Hope everyone is having a great, fun day celebrating our nation & all it stands for. Though this country is going through a hard time, I hold onto hope that the best of times is yet to come. As bad as things are, I still think this is a great place to live.

I have had a lot on my mind to write about lately. There's no way I could put it all into one post. So since I can't put everything into writing, I'll write about a topic that's on my mind right now.

I'm not really ready to declare my independence from foreign oil, but I'm working toward doing a better job of it. Oh, I don't dare kid myself that I can do it. I drive 35 miles to work & visit my family 25 miles away once a week or more if I can. And that's just the beginning of what I do to fuel the big demand for oil. But I am trying to do a better job of taking care of my world.

I bought a Honda Civic a few weeks ago. I LOVE it! I am getting about 36 mpg. This is a little less than I'd hoped for (I want perfection!) but it's better than the 27 mpg I got in the Grand Prix. I figure that as much driving as I've been doing, I ought to save about $1000 a year. Of course, I'm paying $4000 a year for the thing. I really needed a third vehicle, though, because Rachel's old enough to drive now, & a third driver in the family will be helpful. Oh, I dread it, but with our busy schedules a third car makes sense.

I have been reading a new book. Well, it's new to me - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It is a little more drastic of a move than I could make. I've tried changing my eating habits to help the "little guys" out in the past, & my fledgling efforts did not get far. I tried buying raw milk & naturally-raised chicken & bacon. It didn't work for me because of Randy. He was afraid to drink the milk. "You'll die because it's not pasteurized. You can't give this to the kids." He didn't have to worry - his fearful attitude was contagious, & the kids refused to drink it anyway. I didn't get sick at all. He thought the chicken tasted "wild" & preferred "the kind you get at Wal-Mart." He loved the bacon, but he totally freaked out when I told him how much it cost. "Well, no wonder we can't afford to pay off our credit cards." I tried arguing that I didn't spend $80 every six weeks to get my hair cut & colored like some of my co-workers. (And this was in the old days at my old job. I have lots more arguments now...but more on that another time.) It didn't impress him much. So, gradually, I cut my ties with that farmer's family. I just quit buying from them, & I still get their emails, but I just don't respond. It was nothing personal, I liked them very much although sometimes I felt guilty after reading their newsletters.

Every year we buy a portion of a calf from a family in our church. Their family is not dependent totally on people like us for their survival. They have a big operation & sell a lot of cattle each year. You can read about them here. Now for the purists here, I know they use artificial insemination & they give soy byproducts in addition to grass. Well, I didn't choose their beef because it was organic. I chose it because a few years ago I wanted to buy beef from someone I knew. When I was a kid my grandfather raised cattle & it just made sense to me to eat meat that's grown up nearby. It doesn't get much more local than less than a mile from the house. Randy goes for that one for several reasons. He loves the taste, for starters! He also likes the fact that overall it's cheaper than buying beef from the grocery store. You might get ground beef cheaper, but the steak & roast prices never fail to make up the difference.

I do buy eggs from a farmer about six miles up the road. Unlike most egg farmers, he charges prices comparable to the grocery store (instead of twice as high). I buy honey from them too. He is a sweet little old man with a fairly small farm, but because the price is not bad & the taste is so good, Randy doesn't give me any grief about that.

I also buy vegetables from local folks. We have a few markets fairly close to us, & there are also some organic farms along the way. Randy doesn't like their prices, in general, but as long as I use what I buy Randy doesn't tend to freak out too much about that.

I don't grow a lot because I just don't live a lifestyle that works well for that, but maybe I can do more of that in the future.

I have a long, long way to go toward lessening my carbon footprint, but I'm learning as I go. I think the Barbara Kingsolver book has helped me in one way for sure - I am doing a little better about eating at home instead of on the road.

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