Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Which isn't the actual name of the recipe.

Ok. I’m still tap dancing on the line. What I love about these recipes is that they take advantage of what is available seasonally. Well at least what’s available in New York at certain times of the year. The author is French, a Benedictine monk and lives in a small monastery in New York. The recipes are eclectic, largely vegetarian, but he does use eggs and dairy products. Also a lot of wine. If you don’t want to use wine you can probably use vegetable, chicken or beef stock.

The book is divided by months. This one is from September.
I thought this recipe makes a lot but this soup can be canned so you can enjoy the tastes of the harvest when the snow is on the ground. Or you can cut the recipe in half.

Monastery Harvest Soup

10 Tbsp olive oil
8 medium tomatoes coarsely chopped
7 garlic cloves chopped
2 gallons of water
2 leeks, white and tender green parts thinly sliced
5 celery stalks thinly sliced
3 potatoes peeled and cubed
4 medium sized carrots thinly sliced
2 zucchini cubed
1 winter squash, peeled and cubed
4 Swiss chard leaves chopped
1 small cauliflower, cut into small pieces
24 or more flat pole beans, shelled
1 bunch parsley finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Using an extra large (really extra large) stock pot Put tomatoes and garlic in blender or food processor. Chop. Add puree and olive oil to stock pot and cook over medium heat for two or three minutes stirring constantly. Add water (I prefer to use stock, actually) and vegetables bring to a boil after twenty minutes lower heat and simmer for another thirty minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Soup can be poured into hot, sterilized jars, processed according the canning directions. Boil at least fifteen minutes and make sure those jars are sealed.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Well, it looks like the PBB series isn’t going to pan out right now. At least not the way I plannned. Frankly rereading the material is just too damn depressing at the moment. I’m not sure it’s an exclusively American trait to find a product we can exploit, do as quickly as possible, ask few or no questions, stonewall when the problems finally get too big to ignore and then leave the mess for our system of reverse socialism to clean up the mess.

I was shocked but not really surprised to discover that the abandoned factory site that manufactured the PBB and the nearby landfill didn’t start the clean up process until 2012. There is a book by the farmer who was the first to sound the alarm titled Bitter Harvest. I got most of my material from the book The Poisoning of Michigan by Joyce Eggington. Also, Vandana Shiva’s group Navdanya has been working to shine the light on the effects of pesticide poisoning in India.

And to the nut jobs who complain that the US is ignoring the plight of malaria ridden Africans because we don’t allow DDT to be manufactured in this country, here’s a news flash for you. The chemical is manufactured in India. I wonder how their bird populations are doing.

There’s a not bad TV movie by the same name that’s out on DVD. It was made in the eighties, packs a punch and to my knowledge hasn’t been rerun in years. The main character is a composite and really emphasizes the problems these farmers had even getting the word out to the mainstream media. If all else fails, herd your dying dreams into a pit, call the neighbors and destroy your herd in time for the five o’clock news.

In real life protesting farmers hauled cow carcasses into town and camped out in front of the Michigan capital building. The state didn’t want upset the farm lobby and the feds wouldn’t step in because the problem was pretty much confined to Michigan and hadn’t spread to other states.

In other words, at almost every step the bureaucrats and organizations that were expected to help didn’t. Either because they didn’t want to stir up trouble with interest groups in an election year or the problem was beyond their ability to handle.

To be honest it’s hard to find the needle in the haystack when you don’t know what the needle looks like. All they knew was that the Magnesium Oxide that was supposed to be there wasn’t. And identifying the PBB was almost pure serendipity. Instead of shutting off the machine that was analyzing a feed sample the tech went to lunch. When he got back there was a big pile of paper and at the end were a series of dips and peaks that he couldn’t identify. Finally, finally they found someone who could say “hey that looks familiar and boy are you in a heap of trouble.”

And for the acute poisoning cases no one knows what the PBB levels were to start with. Every time those cows were milked some of the chemical was excreted with the butterfat in the milk. What was finally realized was that because the chemical is fat soluble there was no “safe” level of exposure.

As I said at the beginning. Find something you can market and exploit it to the max before you know how dangerous it might be, Don’t monitor the process and leave the mess for somebody else to clean up. American capitalism  (reverse socialism) at its finest. (sarcasm intended)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I’ve been reading English history circa the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII and we’ve been catching the PBS series The Roosevelts. I do love on demand. Channel 310 on Comcast showed the whole seven part series this last weekend. And maybe some folks can absorb all the information and not come out semi conscious but I’m not one of them.

And both have reminded me how lucky we are, in spite of out of control medical costs and Ebola scares, to live in this century and not the fifteenth or even the nineteenth centuries. Everybody has heard of the Black Death that wiped out up to fifty percent of Europe in the mid 1300’s. The plague reared its ugly head periodically for over three centuries. And nobody really knew how to fight it. It wasn’t until another species of rats with different flea populations displaced the black rats that were hosts to the plague bearing fleas that the epidemics stopped. That and the great fire of London in the mid 1660’s. When the city was rebuilt, it was rebuilt with stone and brick. Wider, paved streets and marginally better sanitation didn’t hurt either.

Anyone ever hear of the “sweating sickness?” The disease appeared in England in the late 1400’s. The last recorded outbreak was in the 1570’s/ In between there were irregular outbreaks that, frankly, scare the living shit out of everyone. We still don’t know exactly what the disease was. /Some scientists lean towards a hanta type virus. The symptoms included a cough, disorientation and violent chills to start with followed by a high fever and the sweating that gave the disease its name. What scared everyone was the speed the disease killed. Man, woman or child you could wake up in the morning apparently healthy and be dead before nightfall. It was extremely contagious and killed prince and peasant alike.

And here’s one you don’t hear about in this country these days; child bed fever. Henry VIII lost both his mother and one of his wives to the disease. And reading the description of the rooms Elizabeth of York retired to for her “lying in” had me wondering how she managed to avoid it earlier. Draperies and tapestries and shrouded windows.; I get claustrophobia just imagining it. Frankly I’m surprised she managed to have six children and survive. Of the six, three made it to adulthood. The seventh, nearly a month premature and weak, barely survived her mother.

Once doctors were convinced to cover their street clothes and most important, WASH THEIR DAMN HANDS, the disease practically disappeared. At least in the first world.
When Elizabeth died Henry made it through the funeral and then disappeared from public view for at least six weeks. It was assumed that he had collapsed from grief. He probably did, accompanied by a flare up of the TB that finally killed him and a set of severely infected tonsils that almost did kill him. We still have TB with us. How many of us have heard of anyone who almost died of infected tonsils in this country?

Jump ahead a few hundred years. We have letters from my great great grandmother in Kansas about the turn of the last century. It was summer and there might be small pox in the neighborhood. Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and wife on the same day. Mother to typhoid, wife to kidney disease that flared with the birth of their first child. Also mentioned were measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria.

Ah, the age of antibiotics, improved sanitation, paved roads, sewers, septic tanks, indoor plumbing and fabrics you can wash. Hopefully the world will get a handle on the Ebola outbreak before the damn virus mutates and goes airborne. And that is a scenario that we do not want to see.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Or a (non) comedy of errors. And near as I can tell, it is now illegal to manufacture products meant to be eaten by someone or something in the same plant as products that aren't. Another one of those pesky regulations.

I hope this will be the first of several entries on what still stands as worst case of chemical contamination in Michigan and the surrounding states. The chemical plant is now closed. In a shining example of American socialism the parent corporation got its profits and the taxpayers got stuck with the nearly four hundred million dollars in clean up costs. And that didn’t start until late in 2012. It may still be going on since it includes not only the plant site but the nearby land fill where the chemical company dumped damn near anything, including DDT.

The beginning of this story would be almost funny, if the results hadn’t been so tragic. It begins at the Michigan Chemical Plant in Saint Louis. Michigan Chemical manufactured a range of chemicals including DDT and PBB (polybrominatedbiphenol). PBB was used as a fire retardant. The most common form came in orangish, sticky chunks that looked like toffee. However, the company had started marketing a crystallized version that came in a grayish white powder shipped in fifty pound heavy duty paper bags. The trade name was firemaster and the bags had a distinctive red, diagonal stripe on the front. At the time no one knew just how toxic PBB’s were. Turns out there is no such thing as a safe level of PBB’s in your body.

Michigan Chemical also marketed magnesium oxide as an additive to cattle feed. Mag oxide acts as an antacid. It was marketed under the trade name nutirmaster and was shipped in fifty pound bags with a distinctive blue stripe across the front. In theory firemaster and nutrimaster were shipped from different loading docks in different parts of the plant. Sometime in the late summer or early fall a series of human errors lead to the poisoning of nine out of ten citizens of Michigan and a massive cull of farm animals, especially dairy cattle.

It started innocently enough with a paper shortage. The company was unable to get the usual printed bags with the stripes that I suspect everyone was relying on to tell the two apart. Unprinted bags were stenciled with the names of the product and, I guess, everybody assumed that would be enough. Didn’t seem to occur to anyone to label firemaster as a chemical that wasn’t meant to be consumed by living things. Or to label nutrimaster as an additive to animal feed.

When the Michigan Farm Bureau placed an order for Mag Oxide for its manufacturing plant near Battle Creek, somebody screwed up. And several somebodies continued to screw up. Years later, at least one plant worker admitted that he could barely read. Maybe he made the first mistake, but no one else caught it.

At least a ton of firemaster was included in the shipment of Mag Oxide. Once the shipment reached the feed plant no one checked through the bags to make sure they were all what they were supposed to be. Every bag was supposed to be mag oxide so they were all stored with the rest of the additive. When it was time to add the magnesium oxide to a batch of feed whoever was tasked with bringing it in apparently just grabbed a bag or bags off the stack. And whoever was in charge of weighing it out at eight pounds per ton apparently didn’t double check either. Although at this point the stenciling may have been unreadable. Who knows?

I suspect that everyone was relying on those red and blue stripes/ I also suspect that no one at that feed plant even knew the PBB product that looked so much like the feed additive even existed. Still, you’d think that someone at either end of the chain would take the trouble to make sure that what was going on that truck was what had been ordered. Or that what was being received was what the company actually ordered.

As the author of The Poisoning of Michigan phrased it; once the bags of firemaster were mixed in with the nutrimaster what happened next was almost inevitable.


Monday, September 15, 2014


Mom takes the Response Magazine put out by the United Methodists. I signed up for Sojourners when Newsweek went digital and I should have done it years ago, because frankly even when it was still in print Newsweek had become something more suitable for lining a birdcage than a source of anything resembling real news. I was just too lazy to cancel the damn subscription.

I grew up in a logging town that provided TV coverage (all two stations) with a repeater that carried the two stations headquarted in Eugene. ABC and NBC. And somehow we survived. Personally, I spent a lot time in the local library.

So now we have cable and hundreds of viewing options, and most of it is pure, unmitigated crap. There's even a "reality" series that puts a couple naked people out in the boondies and I'm not sure what happens after that. I ran across it while watching program on the first responders on 9/11. Which I didn't finish because there were more commericals than program Arrrrrrrgh!

And while Bill Maher is currently blaming Fox News for the dismal state of the American psyche. (I partially agree with him) pre Fox wasn't a whole lot better. Perhaps there was decent coverage of the carnage in Central America back in the eighties if you lived in the NE metro area. Didn't hit the papers out here.

I first heard about El Salvador in a Miami Vice episode for cryin' out loud. What I see when I look at these two lists is a prime example of the sorry state of jourhalism itself. Most of the information in the right hand column you can get with a good web browser. You don't have to send people out into the field to find out what Kimmy is wearing or not wearing this week.

You have to put boots on the ground to get good information for the stories in the left hand column. Talk to beekeepers about the dying hives. Search out the sources that can verify that for every ton of corn that comes out of Iowa they're losing X number of tons of topsoil. Search out why Dow wants to market crops that are immune to 245D. Hint. Round Up doesn't work so well anymore.

And so many of these problems are on the frontlines in what we call the third world not here in the good old USA where you can go interview your sources and either be home for dinner or at least put up in a decent hotel. Deforestation, desertification and debt ridden, suicical farmers are half a world and several flight changes away.

Frankly I don't have many answers. All I can do is keep chipping away and hope somebody notices. More later.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


And this is one of them. If I still had both feet on the reservation this would still tick me off. IMHO this ranks right up there with a chain letter that threatens dire consequences if you break the chain. And anything else I could say would be judgemental so I'll stop here.

Friday, September 12, 2014


There will be a slight delay in any entries about the Kafkaesque events surrounding the statewide contamination of Michigan with PBB's back in the seventies. I was rereading the book when it literally fell apart. Turns out the binding wasn't stitched, just glued. Thank heaven the pages were folioed. Anyway I found a really good use for those heavy duty rubber bands they use for bunches of asparagus. Got rid of the bad binding and used a lot of glue. I'm going to let it sit for a couple more days to make sure it's really dry before trying to read it again. And I'm still trying to figure out how to explain events that, frankly, would be totally improbable if someone wrote a novel using what happened. I mean, how many people could screw up at the same time? Looks like the barely good enough mentality has been around for decades.

Meanwhile I'm rereading Matthew Rothschild's You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression. Although most of the events happened right after we invaded Iraq some of stories might be good for an entry or three. Just to keep us on our toes.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


were the size of a football field, including the end zones, what we understand would be about the width of one of those yellow lines. It's like those shots of a galaxy with an arrow pointing to an invisible dot and labeling it "you are here."

Friday, September 5, 2014


When I first read this poem I'd never heard of fracking, but the Gulf was still reeling from the BP oil spill. I hope the fine they have to pay for their negligance puts them out of business, but they'll probably pay pennies on the dollar. The drought down south hadn't hit yet. The forcast on ice melt was bad, but not dire. Nobody had heard of the Polar Express. (sixteen below in Eugene, ulp.) And I hadn't run across a movie called Bitter Harvest or the book, The Poisoning of Michigan that details the whole sad, sorry chain of events that lead to the whole sale poisoning of an entire state by PBB's (polybrominatedbiphenols). Somehow, someway I need to figure out how to do some entries on this, because the story isn't over. The plant that produced the chemicals is closed...and one of the worst superfund sites in the country.


I am your mother, do not neglect me!
Children protect me-I need your trust;
My breath is your breath, my death is your death,
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I am your nurture; do not destroy me!
Love and enjoy me, savor my fruit;
My good is your good, my food is your food,
Water and flower, branches and root.

I am your lodging, do not abuse me!
Tenderly use me, soothing my scars;
My health is your health, my wealth is your wealth,
Shining with promise, set among stars.

The Creator is our maker, do not deny,
Challenge, defy or threaten this place.
Life is to cherish, care, or we perish!
I am your mother tears on my face.

Adapted from a prayer by Shrley Erena Murray in a Methodist Womens’s study guide for mom's UMW fellowship.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Seriously, not really.

Midge about a week after she came to us. She was so adoably bow legged and so determined to explore her new world.

And Midge at two. The collar lasted exactly three days and we still haven't found it. Kept telling her how pretty she was. How elegant it was. She wasn't buying it for a minute.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The second one is the one that grabbed my attention. After all the right wing, the TP'rs, the fundies are all united (usually) one belief when it comes to education. That curriculum should be locally controlled. So, to mandate that EVERY high school student read a POS novel by a Russian emigre who just happened to be an atheist is really over the top. I the evil of federal mandates are in the eye of the beholder. Or these dipshits just don't see the irony of it all.

I tried to read that book once. I don't remember if it was high school or college. It didn't take me very long to realize that the characters were cardboard and the dialog wasn't much better. I did skip to the end where John Galt makes the sign of the dollar. I've always found it interesting that devout Chirstians like Paul Ryan and Santorum are so devoted to her hyper individualistic, capitalism on steroids philosophy. But then, I've always suspected that the cross in their sanctuaries has a dollar sign attached to it,