Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Just Don't Get It

People are all about "saving money", you've got Clark Howard on TV and all sorts of folks in all sorts of ways repeating the same old "here's how to save money!" garbage from 10, 20, even 50 years before, recycled from books they've read and magazine stories they've ingested from the supermarket checkout counters.

Coupons? Worthless pieces of paper. I remember the "Coupon Lady" who spent hours salvaging coupons from magazines, newspapers, mailouts, etc. She was touted as "saving" hundreds of dollars a year. Here's a hint, genius - when you spend money on newspapers and magazines to get the coupons, you aren't saving a damned thing. When you buy the overpriced name brands with a 15 cent off coupon for 30 cents more than the store brand, you are wasting 15 cents a can/package. Store brands come from the same places as name brand products - they just have different labels.

Buy in bulk, carve out a closet space with shelves, and rotate your purchases so that the cans you bought 3 years ago don't explode, and you'll save money - especially since prices are inching up weekly. Better yet, buy another freezer and start buying the BIG cans and bags and freezing portions; or learn to can, and buy farmer's market produce and can it yourself. A dented can that is not leaking can be bought at warehouse and big box sales; buy them. If you are uncomfortable with particularly deep dents, open the cans and freeze or recan them.

Many of the 'cheap' imported produce "specials" have rotted or green produce in the mix - not to mention that anything grown outside of the US isn't regulated as to fertilizer and pesticides. That poor Brazilian is just as likely to use human feces to fertilize or American-banned DDT to de-bug his produce as you are to drop by the Home Depot and pick up a can of bug spray on your way out.

Meat is a common staple where I live now; I can buy 1/4 of a grassfed free-range cow and have it cut to order - 300 lbs of beef for $400. That includes everything from ribs to ribeyes, burger to brisket. There are still meat processors in every major town, though, and they usually have good deals on bulk meat purchases, and will cut/grind it for you too. My cow in the freezer shares space with the remnants of last year's deer hunt of 2 big 60-lb-after-butchering mulies, and until recently the carcasses of several hunted turkeys. (I LOOVE turkey and it doesn't last long at my house). If you can't or don't hunt, most hunters only want the cape and head of the deer, if you ask them for the meat they will often give it to you.

Learn how to do things. Learn how to bake bread - and buy 50 lb bags of flour instead of the 5 or 10 lb sacks. You'd be surprised how much cheaper it is than buying 1-3 loaves of bread once or twice a week at the store - and it is better for you; no preservatives and you can put in REAL whole wheat flour, make French baguette bread for garlic bread, etc. Learn how to make pasta - pasta is soooo simple; one egg, a cup of flour, a dash of salt, a little water and a sharp knife and a rolling pin, and you can make a bunch of pasta, enough for 2 meals for 4-6 people. Better yet, you can add spices and flavorings and make everything from garlic/basil pasta to almond-flavored dessert pasta. Once you really get into it, a Kitchen-Aid mixer with attachments will make ravioli, lasagna, and all types of pasta shapes easily. Another thing I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer for is not just kneading bread but (with other attachments) grinding meat into hamburger, slicing it for jerky, juicing fruit, and even finely grinding fruit for rollups and other desserts. Yes I can do all these things by hand - but since I buy in bulk and make things in bulk, the Kitchen-Aid makes the process faster and more uniform. Learn how to grow vegies, and learn how to treat them so that they are bigger and better than last year. Raspberries will keep those bratty kids down the block out of your yard. Fruit trees are not only decorative, but will produce for years - as long as you can keep said brats down the street away from them.

The 4 must-have implements in my kitchen for bulk buying and processing are: A BIG pressure-cooker canner (to water-bath low acid fruits and vegies is dangerous, and you can even can meats, soups, and whole dinners under pressure!), a dehydrator (sundried tomatoes without the flies, dehydrated onions, dehydrated cabbage for soups and stews, banana chips for snacking or preservation - the opportunities are endless), my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer - or you can use a blender, a grinder/chopper, and/or a knife - and a freezer. I have two of the latter - a big standup that we use for 'now' stuff like the homemade bread, butter (bought in bulk) milk, opened bags of vegies that we are using, etc. The big chest freezer in the basement is for the big meats and big veggie and fruit bags.

Don't tell me, "ooh, that's a lot of work!" or "I don't have TIME" or "I have KIDS!" - I have been doing this for 40 years. Yes, 40 years, usually holding down 2 jobs; and my kids not only learned how to cook but how to shuck corn, how to can, how to dehydrate, how to garden, how to do every and anything for themselves - and they learned how to butcher and process chickens and larger meat as well. Clark Howard and the Coupon Lady be damned - they don't have a CLUE how to save real money over time. Let them natter on about credit cards and things that most people don't have or can't afford any more - it's time to get back to basics. The basics I've lived for 40 years, through good times and bad.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lovely Beef

I have several definitions of mendacity. One is "wolf cookies". Another is "bat guano". Another -which I am given to in sudden extreme circumstances - is my "Ahhhh...AAAhhhh...BULLSHIT!" sneeze. I've been sneezing a lot lately...

This morning, like most Saturdays, I woke up with the full intent of chillin' online, checking out the prices on the drapes I plan on buying at JCPenney's, watching the weather, chatting with my online friends. I thought that today was a good day to investigate recipes that involve raspberries or strawberries with chocolate, too. It just felt like a fruit-and-chocolate day... having a freezer full of fruit and a shelf of hard-candied and liquid chocolate is comforting. I buy supplies twice a year now, and knowing what I have on hand, and that I can make anything without running to a store, is kinda fun. It was not to be.

I had forgotten that today was the much-touted "Restore Honor" rally in Washington DC. I had a friend send me a live link to it. So I watched. As usual, there were hundreds of thousands of people there - and little media. The MainStream Media likes to pretend that the Tea Partiers and conservatives are small in number, sorta like Jim Jones' adherents or Branch Davidians - just a bunch of kooks who will immolate themselves, or eventually do something stupidly illegal so that they are immolated. I know that they are much more. And what they are should sink dread and fear into any unemotional observer.

Because, you see, much like the AntiWar movement, the Martin Luther King movement, any social movement that stirs hearts and minds, the Tea Partiers have been co-opted. Co-opted by snake-oil salesmen like Glenn Beck, a heretofore unknown who vented spleen and spittle on staunch Constitutionalists as little as two years ago. People like Sarah Palin, who supported John McCain - McCain, who intentionally used her as "th' woman" in his campaign, who is a friend of LaRaza and a notorious two-faced liar. Sarah started out as a maverick and ended up as a mouthpiece for the status-quo neo-conservatives. These two, and many others like them, have worked tirelessly to deny the stark realities that are staring millions in their faces - the realities of job losses, home losses, doubled taxes, increased costs, deflation and inflation that are eating their homes, families, and pocketbooks alive. A bunch of soothing wolf cookies and bat guano spread over the deeply passionate and unthinking masses, who lap it up like chocolate.

While the Tea Party movement started as a virulent protest against a two-party, entitlement-minded oligarchy, it has been neutered and soothed by the neo-cons into believing that the Democrats are the Evil Ones, that only a return to a Republican, religion-based oligarchy can save them. The names will change, but the thievery will remain.

We did the same thing to our bull calf last week. We already have a herd bull, thick-muscled and strong, black as night, hung like - well, a bull - who carries three colors and is naturally polled (dehorned) to breed cows that will be of different colors, but of strong lineage and polled as well. Our bull is going to be our herd bull for many years to come; he has already enthusiastically mounted the cows we bought with him after the cows gave birth to two lovely (and unrelated) calves - a bull and a heifer. A rampant and handsome, born to breed, well-hung young bull was one too many bulls in the paddock - so we banded his testicles and 'nutted', 'steered' him - whatever suits your delicate sensibilities. We will keep him tame, calm him, fatten him, and butcher him when he is full-grown and weighted. You have to do this when you are trying to maintain a line of specificity; the breed traits the bull calf carried (horned, small female udders, only two colors) were not what we wanted to continue in our herd. He will make some lovely beef, though.

And that is what the neo-cons have done to the Tea Partiers; they have seduced them with soft lies, petted and stroked them, lured them into the stalls, flipped them over and slipped bands of glorified promises onto their balls, then turned them loose among the herd, to mouth their platitudes until their balls atrophy and drop off. Then they are ripe for the butchering; the herd bulls will continue their own lineage, undaunted by and ignoring the ball-less, ignorant steers who walk briefly among them, mooing helplessly and ineffectually for their own place at the hay bales.

Monday, August 9, 2010

But - But - We're Saving the Planet!!!

Two months ago, I drove 2.5 hours to Rapid City, South Dakota. It is the closest place with a Cabela's - from which I order online a lot of the time, as well as shop the store whenever I am up that way. I dearly love Cabela's - Bass Pro Shop is a piss-poor imitation. Cabela's has sold me a wonderful cast-iron grill/smoker, some excellent silk long underwear, all manner of fishing and hunting equipment. On that last trip, I picked out an outstanding 30.30, a great fitted scope, and some ammunition for all of my varied weapons, as well as the 30.30. They treat you like gold at Cabela's - one gets all manner of stuff from all of the different departments, and they hold everything for you behind the individual counters until you go up to the checkout - then the personnel bring everything to you at the register, and even load it onto the truck for you.

I live in Nebraska, but am perfectly able (with the usual background check) to buy a rifle or shotgun plus ammo in another state. They are a little more chary about handguns - but it's possible as well.

Today I learned that the States, my own among them, are putting on - painting classes. Sounds insane, right - I mean, who hasn't gotten tired of their wall colors and planned a new decorating scheme, taped up the corners and outlets, and renewed a room or two - or even a whole house, inside and out? How hard can it be? Who the hell needs a CLASS to PAINT??

Well, the EPA says that you do. And every single state has to hold these classes so that people can get certified in the right way, the GREEN way, to apply paint. Here's the kicker - If you DON'T pay the $200 per person for the class - you can't paint your house. Ever again, after October 1st, 2010. Not one interior wall. Not one inch of trim. If you get caught painting your house, inside or out, you can be ARRESTED, CHARGED, and FINED.

This is all part and parcel of the Federal Government directive on the steps you must take to sell your home. Even if you never have any intention of selling your home, the fact is that all homes must now be maintained - to EPA standards. The painting classes are just the start - there are also windows, doors, and insulation, as well as heating and air conditioning that, if replaced, repaired, or installed, you will have to take classes to do so - and if you do not meet the EPA's standards for maintaining a "green home", you WILL BE FINED.

So, let me make this clear for you. I can go across state lines, purchase enough weapons and ammunition for my own private war if I so choose, and people will nod and smile, joke and laugh, fit the scopes for me, even let me take practice shots, and load the things for me if requested. They'll even load them into my pickup and thank me for my patronage. But - if I go to the Home Depot in the same town as Cabela's, and buy paint, insulation, or parts for my heater, I can be investigated, ARRESTED, CHARGED, and FINED by the Federal Government - or any designated representatives thereof.

Does anyone else find this LUDICROUS?