Learn More About Gluten!

Gluten is the protein that makes wheat flour such a delight for spinning into pizzas and stretching into pie crusts.  But only a tiny fraction of the world’s population — about 0.6% — has genes that make them immune to problems with gluten sensitivity.  Everyone else — 99.4% of the world’s population — is at risk of developing health problems related to gluten consumption.

Dr. Tom O’Brien has organized a number of experts on the subject who will be interviewed on video for The Gluten Summit.

If you are unfamiliar with the interactions of gluten throughout the body, you may think of issues attributed to gluten as being fringe or even junk science.  Even worse, it may even seem trendy. But the qualifications and positions of the 29 people interviewed for this event show that this is REAL science — and like all real science, it is ahead of the dominant mode of thinking.

The event itself takes place on-line and in real time for free.  Simply register at The Gluten Summit, then log in and watch.

The Gluten Summit is online from Nov 11-17.  I’ll be logging in specifically to see Dr. Allesio Fassano, Dr. Loren Cordain and Erica Kasuli though many other very interesting folks will be interviewed.

If your health is less than you’d like, you have autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety or depression or are just curious — I encourage you to take the opportunity to sign up and listen to what these folks have to say.

Fall is the Time to Get Ready!

The best time to get your beds ready for next year, or prepare beds for the first time, is in the fall.

The reason is because MiniFarming relies on organic methods, and organic methods though superior in the long run, are slow.  The additions made to beds — alfalfa meal for slow nitrogen, compost, dolomitic lime and similar materials — are not instantly available.  Instead, they need time to break down and become fully incorporated.

It’s also inevitable that certain weeds will escape your notice over the growing season.  These should be pulled in the fall before they set seed because if you wait until spring, their next generation will become a problem.  Instead, pull them in the late summer or early fall before they have dropped their seeds.

Fall is also the best time for sowing cover crops.  Keep in mind that bacteria is the actual engine that powers your soil.  Bacteria act as a translator between the minerals in the soil and the plants you are growing.  Making a bed utterly sterile for the winter by removing all plant materials can starve out the bacterial populations that have been thriving all season, and a cover crop helps to keep them in good shape.  If a cover crop is not practical, then at the very least cover your bed with a couple inches of compost to give them something to work on.

Time in the late summer and fall is a bit less frenzied as well. In the spring, to get the most out of your season — especially here in the Northeast — you need to plant on a pretty tight schedule.  Onions get transplanted in early April, cole crops get transplanted in late April, and so forth.  Given that we often have snow on the ground until late March, that doesn’t leave a lot of time.  If you incorporate your amendments in the fall, that leaves you time for last minute weeding, bed preparation and repairing bed frames before planting at a more leisurely pace in the spring.

 

Why BMI (Body Mass Index) is a Crock

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The obesity epidemic?

BMI, also known as Body Mass Index is a simplistic notion that only a government bureaucrat could love.  It divides your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.  If your BMI is greater than 30, you are obese.  If it is greater than 25, you are overweight.  If it is lower than 18.5, you are underweight.

The problem with BMI is that for those who are athletic, especially those who are quite muscular, it vastly overestimates how much body fat they have.  On the other hand, for those who are sedentary and soft, it vastly underestimates how much body fat they have.

I have attached two pictures of myself taken in the past month.  According to the government and insurance companies, even though you can see my ribcage, I am not merely overweight — I am OBESE.  Though I’ll grant that maybe I could stand to lose five pounds for greater abdominal definition, I am most certainly not obese, and am well within a normal and healthy weight range.

And I am not alone.  The simple fact is that I double-dig garden beds, split firewood, swing kettlebells and otherwise develop plenty of muscle that is much heavier than fat.  And lots of other people do those things too.  But all of these people are also labeled as overweight or obese. Because statistics about obesity are based upon BMI, and BMI labels guys like me who do lots of pushups as “obese” — those statistics are not meaningful. There are millions of people who skew the results.

There are many other measures that are far more reliable in determining whether or not someone is overweight.

Body fat percentage is a far better measurement.  It used to be that you’d have to use calipers and skin folds or an immersion tank to measure body fat.  But nowadays, you can use a simple tool that you grasp with both hands that uses bioelectrical impedance to measure your body fat.  Just use it a couple of hours after your last meal and the results will be accurate. I have one that cost about $30. Just measuring your waist also works.  Is your waist bigger than your hips?  Then you are overweight.

This concept is not rocket science.  You can usually tell if you are overweight or not with the naked eye.  If not, then a simple tape measure will do the trick in most cases.  As an added check, measuring body fat percentage using bioelectrical impedance is inexpensive and accurate.  BMI is unnecessarily complex and based on a host of assumptions that are inaccurate for both fit and sedentary people. The problem is that public health agencies are using this erroneous measure as a way of setting public policy, and I’m sure at some point insurance companies will start using it if they haven’t already.

But you and I are neither governments nor insurance companies, so we can feel free to ignore ideas that are clearly flawed, and replace those ideas with measurements that actually work such as body fat measurement and the trusty tape measure!

Obese?

Obese?

Compost as a Hunting Aid

The time soon arrives when hunters all across America will stalk the elusive whitetail deer.

North America’s most sought game animal has superior hearing, eyesight well into the ultraviolet range and a nose with more scent receptors than a dog. Scent control is job #1, particularly when still hunting from the ground. There are a lot of expensive products on the market to help with scent control, but if you are a Mini Farmer, you already have everything you need to do it for free.

Prior to the hunt, wash all clothes to be worn (including undies) using Brett’s handy-dandy no-scent no-UV-brighteners hunting wash: 1 cup of baking soda + 1/4 cup borax

Hang them outside to dry instead of using the drier, which is probably permeated with dryer-sheet smells.

No matter what, during the day, your natural body odors will start to permeate the clothes.  That’s when a cover scent comes into play.  Here is what I do.  After washing and drying my clothes, I go get some finished compost (about a cup) from my pile, and put it in a drawstring muslin bag.  I put that bag and the clothes into an unscented trash bag, and knot it.  I leave it like this in the wood shed for a couple of weeks before the clothes will be used.  When I pull out the clothes, they are filled with a nice earthy compost scent that will last all day.

If you are a MiniFarmer, you already have borax because you use it for micronutrients in your beds, and you already have compost.  Baking soda is in every cupboard.

So, for zero extra cost, you have everything you need to remove human scent from your clothes and replace it with a natural cover scent.

Finally, a bit of a break!

I haven’t kept this blog updated much because I have been working on a massive book. It is finally done and in to the publisher, so it will be out in the spring!

The new book is on the increasingly popular subject of ancestral diet and exercise, along with other lifestyle issues.  It required crazy amounts of digging to get beyond hype and marketing and find truth.  With over 300 citations — primarily of peer-reviewed studies — and weighing in at several pounds, it was simply such a large project that I couldn’t be diverted to do blog posts.

But now its done!

I love writing books, especially books that I believe will help people in various ways.  I love the fact that there are people all over the world whose lives have been materially improved by my efforts.  But I also love coming up for some air, refreshing and renewing.  Its good to write about life, but even better to live it!

And the Results are In!

Folks who read my blog know that just before last Christmas, I scattered parsnip and carrot seeds on some of my beds to see if they would take.

The theory behind this is straightforward: if you duplicate what nature does, nature will lead the seed to sprout at exactly the right time for your area and environmental conditions.

As part of this experiment, I used four beds — two for parsnips and two for carrots.  In each case, one bed was used for randomly scattered seed and in the other bed that seed was lightly tilled into the ground.

Where I live, we get heavy snowfalls after Christmas and it isn’t unusual to have three feet of snow on the beds in March.  Winter temperatures usually get no lower than -5 degrees, and typically hover in the teens at night.

The results are thus:

Parsnips did better in the beds where the seed was randomly broadcast but not tilled.  I have so many parsnips I don’t know what to do with them all!  Carrot seeds did best in beds where they were lightly tilled in.  In both cases, planting just before the heavy snows resulted in seeds sprouting at the perfect time and getting a head start on weeds.  By the time I weeded, the seedlings were large enough to be well differentiated.

Parsnips and carrots are part of the same family as parsley and celery — so it is possible that these latter two crops would do just as well with similar treatment.

So if you live in the North, now you know the deep dark secret for getting lots of parsnips and carrots with hardly any work except preserving them after harvest!

The Sanitation Emergency

Have you ever had a problem with your toilet and while you waited hours for the plumber to arrive it became a disgusting smelly mess?

Now, just imagine if the problem was caused by a total lack of running water, and you were without running water for days or weeks. What then?

Living as we do with instant and unquestioned access to clean running water and flush toilets, it never occurs to us that in places where those amenities are lacking diarrhea is one of the biggest killers on the planet. The diarrhea is caused by lack of proper sanitation. Diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhus run rampant when adequate sewage treatment is not available.

Properly composted human waste is safe, and eliminates the disease risks that come when our regular sanitation systems break down.

In the past few years we’ve witnessed a number of disasters where regions in the United States lacked electricity and running water for periods ranging from days to weeks. Because of this, I decided to cover the proper composting of human waste in my most recent book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting.

Naturally, I have long maintained facilities for safely composting human waste. I don’t usually use them, but I’ve been grateful for those facilities during the handful of extreme weather events that have necessitated their use over the past several years.

Getting yourself setup to handle human waste safely via composting is easy and inexpensive. Because emergencies can manifest when least expected, it is better to be ready in advance than to be scratching your head at the last minute wondering what to do!

It’s a Lot More Space than You Think!

Commercial agriculture requires about 30,000 square feet to provide for the needs of a person. When I come along and claim you can meet 80% of a person’s needs in just 1,400 square feet, I hear two reactions. The first is of course incredulity. I can understand that. After all, why should my methods be any better than a multibillion dollar global conglomerate can devise?

I recently had the unfortunate experience of trying to deal with a couple of multibillion dollar corporations in an outside-the-box sort of way. FINALLY, and I really hate doing this, I got results by going to: the press, their customers directly and (and I really hated doing this) a government agent. Between all three for about a week, I finally got results. They figured out how to actually get a human being to alter 14 characters in a database to help their own customers. I’m not even one of their customers.

Just Friday I was doing what is called a “hot cut” on my day job. A hot cut is a live cut-over of, in this case, a mondo huge Internet feed that costs about $14,000/month. This cut-over involved coordinating the resources of two gargantuan companies. The cut-over had been planned since November of 2012. Guess what? It failed and we had to revert.

Don’t let anyone tell you that multibillion dollar global conglomerates are more “efficient.” They simply manage to bribe (legally or illegally) legislators to pass regulations that pose a barrier to entry for competition. These organizations are not nimble at all. They can’t respond. They can’t even get out of their own way. They have the compassion of the IRS, the organization of the Keystone Cops and the agility of an elephant in glass slippers and a tutu.

It’s not that my methods are particular ingenious that makes them more space efficient. There’s nothing magical going on. Rather, it is that my methods don’t require an implementation compatible with government paperwork, a staff of accountants and lawyers and mechanisms that deal with human beings as fungible commodities. Rather, my methods rely simply on you as an individual. And as a person, you are infinitely more capable of getting things done than some global conglomerate.

Once people figure out that my methods actually DO work, they get very enthusiastic and I’m pleased to say that thousands and thousands of people have indeed started their own MiniFarms!

Pretty soon comes the next reaction. You see, compared to 30,000 square feet, a mere 1,400 square feet doesn’t seem like a lot of space. So they run outside with a digging fork and spade to start double digging. That’s when they discover that 1,400 square feet is actually a LOT OF SPACE. And it is a LOT of work.

One of my recommendations for people is to start small — with just a handful of beds — and then add a few every year until they have enough. The reason is because in general I recommend double-digging, and double digging is serious work. Double-digging a single 4’x8′ bed takes a couple of hours of strenuous labor for someone in shape, and about four hours if you are usually sedentary. For most people, 2-3 beds is all you can do in a day.

There are situations where I encourage people to use sheet composting instead of double digging. That avoids a lot of the work, but it is still time consuming and it requires a lot of advanced planning because you make the beds several months before they are needed.

So yes, you can grow a lot in a little space, but start modestly and grow it a bit every year. Otherwise, 1,400 square feet will be too daunting to be done all at once.

Production for Use Versus Production for Exchange

There are two economies in the United States.

No, I’m not about the get political and talk about rich and poor, nor am I going to discuss the underground economy or black market. That is because all of the foregoing are part of the exchange economy where the only thing that is measured or assigned value pertains to production for exchange.

In fact, every economic number reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve or any other governmental entity measures production for exchange (PFE) exclusively. Because all of our media focus is on PFE, and that’s all that is discussed in economics classes, we often forget all about the other economy — an economy that can create maximum value for an individual.

That other economy, is Production for Use (PFU). In fact, the extreme emphasis on the PFE economy often results not merely in the de-emphasis of the PFU economy, but even outright hostility and a sort of pretentious “looking down one’s nose” at those who actively participate in PFU.

As an example, look at the parent who stays at home with his or her kids. That parent’s contribution to the economy is not measured or considered, because all that is measured is production for exchange.

I remember reading somewhere that if the tasks a stay at home parent performed were compensated, the job would be paid in the top 1% or top 2% of all wage earners. This fact recognizes something important, something that pertains to your self-sufficiency, and I want to convey it in mathematical terms using some examples.

I play guitar among other things. I own two tube amplifiers, both of which I built myself. Comparable units would cost  $1,000-$2,000 each, but my cost was $350 plus a few nights of missed TV infomercials. Since I enjoyed building the amplifiers more than watching infomercials anyway, my net economic gain from that exercise was $1000+$2000-$350 or $2650. In reality, I never would have spent $3,000 on amplifiers, as I would have considered such an expense unconscionable. So through Production for Use, I effectively created a lifestyle commensurate with an income where spending $3,000 on amplifiers for a hobby would have been a negligible expense.

According to the PFE economy, since I wasn’t watching TV to stimulate my desire for junk food, I didn’t sell the amplifiers to someone else and I didn’t go down to a music store and buy them, all I did was buy $350 worth of parts and throw them in the garbage while wasting my time. But in the reality of my household, those amplifiers raised my standard of living just as effectively as if I had gotten a $4,000 (minus $1,000 in taxes) bonus from my employer. I invested 16 hours in building them. That works out to the equivalent of earning $250/hr. Where I come from, $250/hr is a pretty decent wage and the fact I get that boost to my standard of living without having to report it on my tax return is a bonus.

In other PFU  will increase your standard of living just as certainly as getting a big raise.

My father taught me this. Obviously, he didn’t use the same words I am using, but when he had me outside helping him fix cars, build chicken coops or add a heating system to the house, he was doing some really important things. First, he was instilling a sense of confidence that regular people can in fact do things for themselves without need of an expert. Second, he was showing me that doing things for myself should create a sense of pride rather than a sense of shame. Third, he was showing me how to increase my standard of living far beyond my actual income without debt. Finally, he was showing me how to productively use the finite time of my life for the benefit of those around me.

So what does this have to do with MiniFarming? Quite a lot.

I want you to think for a moment about the qualities of food produced by MiniFarming. That food is rich in micronutrients that are depleted in ordinary food, thus being more healthy. It is organic, which many studies show to be more healthful as well. It is better tasting. It is more fresh, retaining more vitamins. If you were to go down to a store and buy it … what would it cost?

Well, for one thing, it cannot be purchased at any ordinary store. Even in the organic section you are still getting food that has been shipped long distances (often from other countries!) and whose varieties have been selected for shipping qualities rather than taste. You are still getting food far less fresh than you get in your back yard. As expensive as organic produce may be, it still isn’t comparable to what you grow yourself using MiniFarming methods.

The only way you can have that quality of food without growing it yourself is to employ a gardener. And, in fact, that is precisely what many of the super wealthy do on their estates that are set far back from the road. People in houses you can see, no matter how large, aren’t usually seriously wealthy. The truly wealthy folks live in houses you cannot see. But if you were to see them, you’d find that they often have gardens tended by a staff.

In the case of a MiniFarm, you are both the Lord/Lady of the Manor AND the staff, but the quality of the food you obtain this way is such that it is only otherwise available to the most wealthy people in the country. In effect, it increases your standard of living dramatically. Organic food in China, incidentally, is grown behind security fences surrounded by armed guards and is provided only to the highest party officials and foreign dignitaries. You get to have it for little more than a bit of effort.

This same idea applies to making your own wine, cheese, beer, vinegar and so forth. Just try the Monadnock Ale recipe in my book on fermenting, or make some wine from fresh apples growing in your yard and you’ll see what I mean: you cannot buy food that good at any price.

In my book on fermenting I explain how to do solera aging — which is something you can apply to both vinegars and fortified wines. Properly solera aged vinegar goes for $30/ounce. No, that isn’t a typo. Only the super-wealthy can afford solera aged vinegar, but once you set up your own solera method, YOU can have it any time you like.

Maybe that won’t show up in the GDP report because it isn’t Production for Exchange, but it will definitely show up on your plate and palate, and it will be divine.

Video Advertisement for the Mini Farming Series

Guess what? My publisher has made a really excellent video to advertise my series of MiniFarming books! It’s a really professional production.

Unfortunately, the video wasn’t completed in time to be run during the fourth quarter of the Superbowl despite the pleadings of the TV station.  (*grin*) Maybe next year?

I strongly suspect that for the cost of running an ad during the Suberbowl I could literally put in Mini Farms for tens of thousands of people. If I had that kind of money, that’s exactly what I’d do too: I’d find people who could benefit from MiniFarms and hire a crew to install them for people and teach classes in how to maintain them and preserve the food. This, I suspect, is why I am an engineer and writer rather than a CEO.