Internet Rumors

Internet Rumors: How did the Latest Begin?

Horehound in bloom
Horehound

Internet Rumors abound. The latest one suggests the country of Australia is proposing a ban on home gardening. So, I am including this link to actual parliament testimony for those of you interested in reading the propositions. I could see no outright ban on growing your own vegetables. But I admit I just performed a brief scan of the document.

However, I did see enough to understand how an Internet rumor could begin. Testimony included discussion of invasive species of both flora and fauna. Since I live in a rural agriculture area in the United States, such discussion was not novel. However, one of the species mentioned, horehound, thrives in my garden. I consider it less a problem than either oregano or mint. All three are groundcovers that spread.

The other plants mentioned in the testimony were blackberries, lantana and pampas grass. All are spreaders. Plants that grow where they are not wanted can be considered weeds. So even though blackberries are delicious, residents of the Pacific Northwest might find them as noxious as I do bindweed.

Controlling Nature

The testimony also discussed the problem of Asian Honey Bees and Fire Ants. I am not a fan of fire ants, but as long as they stay away from the house, I leave them alone. They are very beneficial in the garden eating many pests. The key is for nature to stay in balance. I would not like to have fire ants everywhere.

Asian Honey Bees are dominators. They eliminate other types of bees from their territory. Many governments restrict their import. But like other living things, such as viruses, the spread is difficult to control.

Two Opinions

Several years ago an acquaintance voiced an opinion which greatly differed from mine. The belief is that growing food in the garden took away jobs for others. The impact goes beyond the farm owner and worker. The middle producers and the grocery store employees also depend on people needing food.

My argument is that I cannot produce enough to eliminate those jobs. My garden supplements but does not replace. And I have a big garden. Truly, I think most individuals do not realize the work it would take to be self-sustaining. For those, I suggest they find a copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Division of labor has led to both more productivity and longer lives.

The biggest reason I prefer to grow my own is the taste. Many vegetables bought at the grocery store are picked prior to a ripe stage so they can be shipped without damage. The result is the food is not at peak ripeness. When I pick from my own garden, I pick for that day. Only farm markets come close!

More Internet Rumors: Taxing and Permits

Other Internet rumors suggest various governments will tax home grown foods. Or prohibit them altogether. This is widely circulated without the details. As the saying goes the devil is in the details. Most of these incidents involve local governments or HOA’s. (Home Owner Associations) Restrictions may include no vegetable gardens in alley ways or front yards. Plus any seed packets are usually taxed. As are plants from the nurseries or the Big Box stores.

At the moment, I have had no push back for my big garden which is in my side yard. But I am proactive. A fence now separates the garden and the street. Furthermore, a new flower bed is in front of the fence. The garden house/green house is on hold because of permits and building costs. Our small town charges fees for almost everything. I will need to pay the city a minimum of a thousand dollars if I move a small building onto my property. The fee increases if it is built from the ground up.

Impact of War and Covid-19

The invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic are still impacting the supply chain. Supplementing my supper table with home grown vegetables makes sense to me. Since I live in a town on a small lot, goats and cows are out of the question. Furthermore, I am on the edge of town so coyotes can be a problem. Thus I will not attempt chickens. But I do look forward to tasting the first tomatoes of the year.

In my opinion Internet Rumors try to sow dissension and disharmony. I prefer sowing seeds. Both flowers and vegetables. Between the wars and pandemic there is enough strife. This summer plant some beauty and nutrition instead.

Lose The Clutter Lose The Weight

The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down

I was skeptical when I spotted Lose The Clutter Lose The Weight on the same shelf as The Prepared Home at my local library. But I checked it out anyway. The author posits clutter and obesity are tied together psychologically. After reading the book, I can see the possible tie-in. My daily activities keep me in the normal range, weight wise, but the effort to declutter does burn calories.

Peter Walsh is the aforementioned author. Apparently he is famous. Since I don’t watch much television I was unfamiliar with his work with hoarders and those who simply live with clutter. (I am-was- guilty of the latter.) But after just two weeks of following the decluttering to a tee and attempting the mindfulness and fitness aspects I am a believer.

Lose The Clutter

Several self-evaluations begin the book. My analysis indicated I was not a compulsive buyer but I did have a hard time discarding things. In fact I am an expert at saving things. First, all the gifts from family and friends. Second, things that worked and I might need someday. Finally, I don’t want the money spent on the item to be wasted.

Walsh’s psychological discussion made sense. And gave me a justification to declutter. A personal example: My parents gave us a crockpot when we married. This was in the days before you could remove the cooking part from the heating element. Later they gave us a newer version. But both were in my kitchen cupboard until last week. Now only one remains and the other was given to the local second-hand shop. Along with three boxes of kitchen items, mostly duplicates.

Lose The Weight

So far, I have not lost weight. Perhaps I enjoyed Easter dinner too much. Or maybe I weigh what I should. I am older and quite active. But I was hoping to lose the inches around the waist reported by the individuals followed in Lose the Clutter Lose The Weight.

A most likely culprit is the fact the early exercises are less than what I already do. Perhaps by the end of six weeks this will change. Most impressive to me is the twenty-seven pages of strength training exercises. None requiring expensive equipment purchases. I am tempted to buy a copy of the book just so I can have these illustrated techniques to refer to.

Mindfulness and Mindset

A key component to the Lose The Clutter Lose The Weight program is the mindfulness sections. I find these helpful and encouraging. Guilt over purging items is addressed as is sadness. Best of all is the release of negative feelings by tossing the malignant items. I am still working on trying not to be so self-critical. Everything takes time.

Recommendation

This is a great book for those who have hoarding tendencies and a good book for anyone with a messy or disorganized home. I think large households or individuals who have saved things for decades will benefit the most. Buy a copy for yourself or gift it to someone you love. Walsh offers a positive approach to a difficult problem.

Good Friday 2022

Good Friday

Good Friday is observed by many in Western Culture. Christianity is a significant, but not the only religion practiced. So the holiday is not universally recognized. Nor is it marked with celebration by those identifying as Christians.

Since the day marks the crucifixion of Jesus, sadness and sorrow are the emotions I associate with Good Friday. In 2021, I grieved over the loss of my mother. This year a cousin is mourned. Her recent death unexpected but not surprising. Meg was battling cancer. Somehow, some way, her body shut down. Literally overnight.

Absorbing Death

My cousin was much younger than me. Her only child still in Middle School. Such a loss is difficult to absorb and comprehend. For all. Yet, a young teen will seek concrete answers in a world of gray.

Parents burying offspring goes against nature’s circle of life. Unfortunately, I have witnessed this aberrant occurrence too often. And the loss of a young one is part of nature-just a part humans have bypassed more than other species.

A sibling is hit hard. I know from my own experience nearly thirty years ago. The loss will continue as the challenges of family responsibilities fall on Meg’s sister.

The greatest loss belongs to her spouse. Soulmates. I cannot even imagine the devastation. Their wedding is still fresh in my memory although it was a lifetime ago. The exchange of vows, and the washing of the feet. Surrounded by family and friends.

My heart aches for all.

Faith on Good Friday

Christianity is just one of many religions in the world. Furthermore, it is not the only monotheistic religion. Nor is it the only one with Faith. But a Christian’s Faith centers on the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And the belief His death absolves sins.

So, today I will be reflecting on much. For me, remembering those who have gone before me is part of the observance. Another component is the spiritual connectedness. This is not something I can explain. It is just there. Finally, I will embrace life, striving to live up to the epitaph on our great-great grandmother’s tombstone: Life’s Work Well Done-Life’s Course Well Run. Rest in peace Meg. You are missed.

The Prepared Home Book Review

Relatable Author

The Prepared Home by Melissa George is a good resource for getting a home and family ready to face any natural disaster. George is not a doomsday survival type. Instead, she runs a common sense, ready for anything household. This book came out in 2021, partly as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I found George very relatable. Perhaps because we ran out of the same item during the 2020 lockdown-trash bags. Another reason is her desire to keep an organized home. (I am a work in progress.) Most of all, I liked her positive and pragmatic attitude. Far from being anti-government, much of her work stems from FEMA guidelines for emergency preparedness.

Prepared Home Strategies

The Prepared Home Book Cover showing storage.In a prepared home, organization rises to the forefront in a common sense fashion. George recommends keeping a binder. Many things go into that binder. Emergency contact numbers, non-disclosing financial information (name of bank-but not account number), “restaurant menus” for home cooking and an evacuation plan-only if necessary- are a few sections suggested.

But most importantly, the author provides thorough information on FEMA’s recommended 72-hour emergency guidelines. Then she goes beyond. Because disasters such as hurricanes, floods and fires may carry the emergency longer.

Ten chapters encompass the strategies to meet an emergency head on. They include a much needed chapter on evaluating your own risk. And then planning accordingly. For example, I live thousands of miles away from either coast. So, I will not experience a hurricane. However, as discussed in recent posts, hurricane strength winds can sweep across the High Plains.

So, my planning needs to revolve around high winds, blizzards and wildfires. And an occasional tornado as we live just west of tornado alley. The Prepared Home helps one evaluate their risk from Mother Nature.

Food, Water and Power

Key chapters involve food and water storage and back-up power. Again, George addresses all three from a preparedness stand. Not hoarding. She specifically talks about how a prepared home keeps one from the tendency to empty the aisles as seen on news channels prior to any major weather event.

Water storage is also important. And to me, the most difficult aspect. We can go months without rain in my locale, so rain barrels would not do me much good. But many of her other suggestions were viable.

Finally, The Prepared Home offers quite a few suggestions on how to mitigate power loss. Again the author breaks the suggestions into short versus long term needs. Power loss can transition into loss of connectivity. So, George covers this possibility as well.

When all else Fails-Evacuate

The author makes a case for staying put in a prepared home as the best possible scenario. But we have all seen the natural disasters of the past few years forcing thousands out of their homes. And George addresses this type of situation. Prior planning provides positive outcomes. She stresses life over loss of belongings. Something we all should remember.

The Prepared Home- A Beautiful Approach

Pictures throughout the book demonstrate preparedness is not hoarding. George suggests and shows stylish storage containers. A key is to get rid of clutter and only keep necessities. And of course staying on top of everyday chores. For example, if the power goes out and laundry hasn’t been done in ten days, there will be trouble.

Same with the kitchen sink. As suggested in the review of Cleaning Sucks, an empty sink is an everyday step toward organization and that leads to preparedness. I believe The Prepared Home belongs in every home library. Kudos to Melissa George for wisely using her lockdown time writing instead of worrying.

Organized Kitchen Cabinets in Prepared Home
Organized Kitchen Cabinets
Storage units under a bed
Storage Under the Bed
Laundry Room
Water tucked into Laundry Room

The Fields Book Review

New Genre for Author

The Fields belongs in the crime novel genre; fiction not true crime. And the gripping story is superb. But don’t be fooled by the “debut” crime thriller tag. Because, Erin Young is a veteran storyteller. Her other works are found under the name Robyn Young.

Although switching from historical fiction to crime might be difficult for some authors, Young doesn’t miss a beat. A complex plot moves along through dialogue and action scenes. The novel is billed as a first in a new series. And as such, plenty of background is provided for the characters. Furthermore, Sergeant Riley Fisher is compelling. Strong enough to carry a series. And human enough to care about. She is great.

Setting

Man standing in front of a corn field where stalks tower over him.
Corn grows tall in Iowa.

“Rural” Iowa during a gubernatorial election year is the setting for The Fields. The author captures the reader’s attention with a victim running for her life through the cornfields; chased by a drone. Corn grows tall in Iowa. So, a field is a good refuge. Young captures the essence of the state. So impressive. One would think she was a native. And not a visitor from another country.

Black Hawk County is actually one of the more populous counties in the state with around 130,000 people spread out over 573 square miles. So, the clash between farm and urban use is keen. As is the struggle between corporate and family farms. Young depicts the conflicts with accuracy.

Plot

The novel tells the story of murder. And mutilation. Also, rape is a significant thread in the storyline. Both current and past.

After the third victim is found, the Sheriff’s department fears a monstrous, cannibalistic serial killer. Fisher suspects the husband of the first victim. But her boss doesn’t agree. Her ability is questioned mostly for her gender. And her family connections. So, personal factors are at play. Other suspects appear and the FBI is involved. In the end there are multiple culprits. But the author neatly ties everything together.

Furthermore, the multi-faceted nuances are a core piece of The Fields. Complexity keeps churning. The political campaign ties into the murders. So do the homeless. And naturally, corn. The fields are a staple of Iowa. And at the heart of the story. Finally, intrigue is the key to the novel.

The Fields

Erin Young does an excellent job on two levels. First, the story is compelling. Good versus evil never fails to intrigue. The novel is a standalone-a complete story. Yet, the writing serves a basis for an entire series. Fisher proves herself. And she confronts demons from the past. One can easily imagine her character growth through subsequent books.

Second, the cast of characters is rich in diversity. Again, plenty of ground to explore as new books are written. Plus, the setting is such that many plots can be conjured. I look forward to reading the next in the series. Master writers who capture the essence of a locale and its inhabitants are rare. Erin Young is such a writer. You would never know she wasn’t raised in Iowa herself. Absolute brilliance.

 

March 2022 Wrap-Up

Wow, March 2022  is already gone. This month needs more days in it! I think the shortness of February has something to do with the fact March always seems to disappear. Plus, this time of year has so many demands on me.

March 2022 in the Garden

Spring arrives in March and so does the beginning of the yard work. Since President Biden told us to expect food shortages this year, I decided to expand the garden and plant more. Two new beds were rototilled. Asparagus, which takes multiple years to establish will grow in one. The crowns will also be planted in the next day or so. They will reside between the grapevines planted last year and the fenced garden. Deer tend to turn their nose up at this crop.

A snow fence now encircles the Big Garden as an added deterrent against the wildlife that wander in and out. Next, I will need to build a new gate. Additionally, plans to repair the blown down fence are started. Utility lines are marked. So, the project should be finalized this weekend. Hopefully it will be a few years before hurricane force winds visit us again.

Two hundred forty-four plant seedlings are nestled under the grow lights. Not counting the sixteen peanut plants. Nor the sweet potato slips. Of course quite a few of the starts are herbs and flowers. The latter really draw in the bees; key for pollinating the fruits and vegetables of the garden.

Snow fence built in March 2022
A snow fence adds another barrier against wildlife and wild winds.

Quilts and More Quilts

I am hand quilting a small baby quilt and have another waiting in the wings. A third quilt for a toddler is in the design stages. Fabrics are picked out along with the pattern. A diagram with numbers will keep me straight. Then, there is a key to the diagram which lists each quilt by description. There will be about twenty-five fabrics altogether in this latest design. The name of the pattern is Trip Around the World. One of my favorites. If you keep to the diagram everything comes out great.

March 2022 in the Library

More books were read than reviewed in March 2022. I reread one of my favorite Helen MacInnes books as a way to protest the Invasion of Ukraine. But, I did not include a review. I also read two new board books before giving them to a mom-to-be. They were cute. Maybe I will review a series of board books this summer.

Furthermore, I think you will enjoy the next two reviews. One for each of the upcoming weekends. Both are fiction. So I need to rebalance and find a non-fiction entry that I can finish. I much prefer to lose myself in the world of imagination. Too many dry texts in my past.

Inflation Challenge

The month of April will include an Inflation Check Challenge. It will be interesting to see how prices compare. I know petrol is higher. And housing. I am glad I am not young and just starting out. That would be a real challenge! Maybe things will slow down in April. As interest rates and prices climb, the supply/demand mechanism will come into play.

Ramblings From The Countryside

Countryside Ramblings

Today I am sharing various ramblings from the countryside. Thought rambles, not hikes or treks. Because winter is officially gone. And spring is still chilly. But chirping birds and cooing doves wake me even though the dreaded time change means it is still dark out. I feel like we have been thrust back into mid-December.

Too bad we haven’t been. Gasoline was still reasonable. Although supply chain issues were ongoing. Yet the severe spike in inflation was still not yet rampant. The third and fourth inflation check challenges indicated creeping inflation. I predict next month’s list (yes I plan to continue another year) will outdo all of last year with respect to percentage increase.

A Covid-19 Lull

Even though a new variant is spreading across Asia into Europe, here in the rural part of the High Plains we are in a lull. Absolutely no new cases the last two weeks. Since the report from the County Health won’t be out until tomorrow, I do not know if the trend will continue. But it very well might. I hear little coughing as I run my errands.

Another indication is the big drop off in the number of medical helicopters flying overhead. Small towns dotting the countryside lack the volume of cases requiring specialty care. So, severe illnesses are often flown out.

A bit of a Catch-22 with regards to medical care exists in the countryside. For example, the one pediatrician can be overwhelmed. But in reality, two pediatricians would have a lot of down time. This is true for all the medical specialties. And flying patients out is standard protocol. Unfortunately, the flight costs are very high and many cannot afford the flight insurance. But without this specific insurance, a single flight can wipe out all savings.

Proms and Graduations

The young people in town are preparing for traditional spring events. Such as prom, a symbolic dance in America. A key departure from my youth is how the flowers are now picked out. And worn. Instead of being surprised by what flowers are presented by the young men, the young women play a key part in the design. No longer are lapel corsages worn. Instead, flowers are attached to bracelets which are then worn on the wrist, the arm or even the ankle.

The month of May will bring about graduation. Unlike the heart of the pandemic years, the ceremonies out here in the countryside will return to in-person events. So will the parties afterwards. We have multiple high school graduations and one college graduation to celebrate this year.

Spring in the Countryside

The crocus blooms are spent. But the hyacinths, daffodils and tulips are now poking through the ground. By April, blooms will be abundant. And more than just the potatoes can be planted outside.

Livestock are also bringing life to the countryside. Cow-calf herds dot the landscape with newborns following their mother’s paths. Baby goats and sheep frolic in the brisk air. And lots of baby chicks everywhere. When the bleak pictures of war get me down, a drive around this rural land reminds me of the rebirth of spring.

Small yellow chick living in the countryside.
The youngest of the chicks. Libby the farm dog keeping the older chicks corralled.

Hobby Farm Book Review

Book Cover-Hobby FarmHobby Farm-Living Your Rural Dream for Pleasure and Profit by Carol Ekarius is one of the most extensive “How-To” books I have found on rural agrarian living. This book is a library check-out. Somehow, I missed seeing this for almost twenty years. Yet, the information is impactful,  So much, I plan to buy a copy.

Rural Life

The city-to-farm exodus accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is evident in rural areas with rocketing home prices and a squeeze on housing availability. But life in the country is still a bargain. Many newcomers can benefit by the wisdom proffered by Ekarius. Because, outsiders need time to become insiders.

Ten chapters cover everything from agricultural history in the United States to developing business plans to worker safety. The approach is well thought out and the information flows logically. Hobby Farm stresses the different lifestyle found in rural living. So, for anyone truly interested in leaving traffic jams and shopping malls  behind, the book is a must read. Since life can be difficult away from the convenience of city living.

Crops and Critters

The heart of the book begins with a chapter combining farm safety and the troublemakers farmers face. Here, Ekarius stresses the importance of disaster preparedness.  For example, advanced planning is needed for fires, floods, blizzards and drought. And livestock operations make this critical. Barn animals cannot escape a fire on their own.

Farms and ranches face other threats. Raccoons can decimate a crop as well as a chicken coop. Coyotes target many types of livestock. The author utilizes a chart to identify the predators. And she presents the best ways to thwart attacks.

Personally, the most enjoyable chapters focused on gardening. Again, Ekarius includes helpful guides listing everything from companion planting to soil temperature for germination. Additionally, special topics receive highlighted sections. For example, information on seed saving is presented in this format.

Chapters on livestock receive similar treatment. Details from breeding to processing provide valuable information for the novice. Furthermore, Ekarius addresses the many government regulations involved in producing meat for consumption.

Hobby Farm Ultimate Guidebook

Small towns in rural areas are a microcosm of community living. Doctors, teachers and bankers live and work alongside farmers and ranchers. Many small farms are supplemented by the second earner both in income and health insurance. A hobby farm can be lucrative. But that is not always the case. Ekarius discusses the good and the bad.

The final chapter on agripreneurship is a winner. Marketing is a key component and is well presented. And the information on creating a business plan is thorough. Furthermore, the author offers up various types of agribusinesses and how to make each successful. An appendix of resources completes the book.

Recommendation

Hobby Farm is a fantastic resource. Carol Ekarius is knowledgeable and her writing is easy to understand. The subject material is vast. But not overwhelming. And the photos are beautiful. The book includes many charts. Also, the definitions are clear and helpful. Furthermore, recipes are an added bonus.

Anyone thinking of joining the city-to-farm movement will benefit from reading Hobby Farm. But, individuals who have never lived in a rural area are the target audience. Life hours away from a metropolitan area takes an adjustment in attitude. But, it can be done. I am living proof.

Guide Page giving info on livestock
Second half of livestock guide
Pages from Hobby Farm by Carol Ekarius depicting cattle on a sloped farm on one page and a fall mountain ladscape on the othet.
Fruits and Vegetable chart in Farm Hobby by Carol Ekarius
Full color photo of cabbage and beans from Hobby Farm by Carol Ekarius

Gearing Up for the Spring 2022 Garden

Spring 2022 starts in a few days. So even though I woke up to a single digit temperature I am making plans. Changes to the hardscape of the garden are a key component. But, I don’t intend to try many new crops this year. There were too many failures last year. Therefore, any additions plant wise will be extensions of successfully grown veggies.

New Fence

The great wind storm last winter took multiple sections of fence down. Since the cost of wood is sky high, we will try to salvage as much as possible. But we will convert to metal poles to anchor the fence sections. We still need to wait a few weeks for the ground to thaw.

The time to put a more permanent fence around the Big Garden is here. Unfortunately, inflation is rampant. So, I have decided the most economical method will involve T-posts and wind fence. I had thought of landscape pavestones, but the price has tripled since last spring. And I still need to find a suitable gate for the entry point. The wire one I cobbled together is just about worn out. Its current state is more of a danger than just about anything. Fence blown down by wind

New Asparagus Bed

I am very excited about adding a long narrow asparagus bed. Last year, the area for the bed was covered by some black landscape fabric and topped with grass clippings. This should give me a head start on eliminating weeds.

A rototiller will be used and then the bed will be enriched with compost and minerals to give the crowns a good start. I plan to put in two dozen new crowns. So, the bed will need to be thirty-six feet in length to space the plants eighteen inches apart.

My current bed is nearing twenty-five years. Production was off last year, so my actions are proactive. It takes three years at a minimum to establish a good bed of asparagus. This is my main planting task of the Spring 2022 garden.

Spring 2022 Starts

Spring 2022 starts of lettuces and pak choi
Spring starts under the grow lights.

Even though snow covers the ground outside, young starts have sprouted under the grow lights. Pak Choi and a variety of lettuces have a head start on the peanuts which are always slow to germinate. Once again the spinaches are also slow. I may need to change the soil type as the seed is new.

In an attempt to outsmart the flea beetles, I am only planting the larger brassicas in late July for a fall crop. However, potatoes will go in the ground sometime next week. I am going to try to start my own sweet potato slips, but will order a few just as a back-up.

Saving seeds and tubers for the following year works best with heirloom varieties. Other seeds will germinate, but the produce may turn into an interesting shape, if it even germinates and gives output. If any of the garlic planted last fall survived the wind, I will immediately re-plant a few as I know my harvest this spring 2022 will be poor.

Spring Notes

My calendar notes from 2021 have aided my planning for 2022. Weather patterns change but other observations can help. For example, last year was an early end frost date. April 13th was the last freeze. So plants went in early, but some still were leggy before planting. So, I am delaying the start of the tomatoes since it would be very unusual not to have a freeze in May two years in a row.

Spring is a season of renewal. I plan to offset the heartbreaking photos of war in Ukraine with flowers as well as veggies. Vibrant blooms always lift my spirit. Intercropping the flowers with the vegetables will attract pollinators. So, my soul will feast on flowers while we grow plenty of food for our summer table. I encourage everyone to plant a garden this year.

 

Spring 2022 notes aided by earlier year planners

You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here Book Review

First Time Author

Frances Macken’s debut novel You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here is a coming of age story. And a bit more. Friendships, families and a mysterious disappearance pull the reader along.

The novel begins and ends in Glenbuff, Ireland. Sandwiched in between this rural setting is an important stint in Dublin for the main character, Katie. But is that all there is to the world?

Protagonist

Complex, altering between secure and insecure, mature and immature, loyal and disloyal best describes Katie. Her tight knit group of friends extends to two cousins, Evelyn and Maeve. One rich and one poor. And a pair of brothers. On the fringes is the girl gone missing.

Katie makes new friends and acquaintances in Dublin as she completes school and starts out in life. Or at least she tries to make a go of things.

Family is also a key component of Katie’s life. Parents and a younger brother influence her decision-making. Sometimes, they make the decision for her as they prod her through life. Letting go is a hard part of parenting.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the author’s character development is the accuracy of how people interrelate. Macken involves the reader as if a bystander. Present but unable to interfere. Just watching as Katie develops into an independent thinker.

You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here

The title alludes to the rural life of Glenbuff. Furthermore, the idea transfers across boundaries and borders. Cities come complete with their attractions in place for discovery, but the rural areas of the world rely on imagination. Another level exists besides physical location. Growth and maturity are not guarantees. Perhaps this is easier to see in a small town.

Frances Macken wrote You Have to Make Your Own Fun Around Here in first person. As an American, I struggled at first with the dialogue. Yet Macken’s writing is so profound the extra effort is well worth it. Katie’s inner struggles are so relatable, and so meaningful.

I highly recommend this debut novel. Hopefully Macken is working on her next release. This book is a winner and book clubs, classrooms and bedside tables are all better with a copy from this new author.

International Women’s Day 2022

History

Research into the origins of International Women’s Day indicates the recognition began in 1911. Yes, over one hundred years ago. Key countries involved include Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The day of recognition was first tied to the suffrage movement. Now, gender equity and equal pay are key components.

A Difficult Achievement

Equity should be straight forward. But it isn’t. This concept of fairness is difficult because inherently life itself is not fair. Just by being born in Country A instead of Country B gives one an advantage. But the gap can be closed to a certain extent, if conditions allow. Unfortunately, differing cultures preclude the elimination of gender equality. A specific example would be Afghanistan. 2021 saw the return of rule by the Taliban and subsequently a reduction in rights for females.

Starting with equal pay for equal job duties may be a goal in countries where women are respected. But in the case of countries where women are not even allowed an education, striving for equal pay is meaningless. And to be honest, I have no ideas on how to change a culture of such a country. It must come from within, not imposed upon by outside forces.

Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility may seem a strange topic to discuss as part of International Women’s Day. But I think it is a key component. Respect for women begins on an individual level. Both by men and women, particularly by the former. And unfortunately, a woman can be another woman’s barrier with regards to career movement. This absolutely needs to stop.

Equality is not an exact measurement. Partnerships (including marriages) work best when the partners are on equal footing. This does not mean identical input. Instead, gender equality relies on a recognition of the important contributions of women and girls. Their empowerment is vital to sustainability. Respect for women’s inputs and outputs is necessary on key issues today. Such issues as climate vitality, education, corruption and violence need women’s voices.

International Women’s Day 2022

Continued gains in gender equality will take more than a single day. However the importance of International Women’s Day is not insignificant. The celebration serves as a reminder. Women deserve respect. And equal opportunities.

The recognition on March 8th, 2022 is symbolic. And meaningful. Worldwide, we have yet to reach the day when a child’s birth is celebrated the same regardless of gender. Furthermore, we still classify careers as traditional for women. Or categorize them as non-traditional. Gender equality is attainable, but there is still work to be down. So, remember to recognize the important women in your life today.

Reflections on a Life In Exile Book Review

A series of short essays comprises Reflections on a Life in Exile by J.F. Riordan. Somewhat chronological in nature, the writing reflects brief moments in time over the span of a few years. The excerpts are eclectic. The topics are wide-ranging. Perhaps that explains the book’s initial appeal.

Everyday Life

The author attributes much of the musings to various posts on her blog, one I hope to find. Her dogs are a key feature. But the topics vary from the arts to thoughts on procrastination. Former students also appear. Indeed anyone with an impact on her life.

Another focus is the rural land she turns to when seeking a self-exile. A reprieve from hectic life. Washington Island is part of Door County, Wisconsin. But one must take a ferry to access this outpost. Door County is famous for cherries, many summer tourists and of course location. The waters of Lake Michigan are in every direction.

Reflections of a Life in Exile- Death and Dying

Riordan also examines the emotions surrounding death and dying. Both of beloved pets and parents. Even though the reader is enveloped in the sadness, there is kinship. And happy memories. Life and lives are examined. The past is cherished. Loss is acknowledged.

Discovery of J.F. Riordan

I owe my discovery of J.F. Riordan to Twitter. While others may seek argument on that platform, I seek grass roots information and upbeat posters. One such person, @stan_sdcollins posts exquisite photos of his corner of the world daily. At some point this winter he recommended Riordan’s work. I took note and ordered Reflections on a Life in Exile from Barnes and Noble.

Other connections to the author include a mutual appreciation of rural places and shared dislike of Daylight Savings Time. Many small towns on the High Plains reflect the population of Washington Island. The hundreds of humans outnumbered by thousands of four-legged and winged creatures.

Riordan’s comments on Daylight Savings Time mirrored my own feelings thus cementing a connection to the writing. And the author. Perhaps the past two years of the pandemic have made me more philosophical. I still read for fun, but I am also quite moved by writers such as Riordan. Her essays struck a chord. The writing is melodic and rich even as she discusses everyday life.

Recommendation

North of the Tension Line is a fictional series also written by J.F. Riordan.  If the essays are any indication of style, the novels should engage the reader every bit as much as her non-fiction work. I intend to find out and I will let you know! Reflections of a Life in Exile is a highly recommended addition to the home library.

Reflections of a Life in Exile Book Cover depicting a road meandering through a forest of trees in full fall color

February 2022 Wrap-Up

Short Month

The shortest month of the year often gets away from me and February 2022 is no exception. Quilting was the focus for much of the month. But I read quite a few books were as well.

The super cool air has kept me from starting seeds. Many nights the temperature dropped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. A check on the ground indicates a freeze point just a few inches below the surface. So, I will wait another week before starting seeds.

Political events on the international level are the center of attention. Since I only watched one night of the Olympics,  most memories of a united world competition were wiped out. Instead, the tensions abroad are on stage. How quickly events can change one’s thoughts!

February 2022 in the Hobby Room

February 2022 featured hours in the hobby room. Because, hand quilting takes a considerable amount of time. If I owned a long arm machine, projects would be completed much faster. But, I do enjoy the hand quilting in small spurts.

The queen size quilt just completed took a lot of small spurts. Since this is a wedding present, I spent much care. The lines of quilting are in long rows. Furthermore, the binding is included in the backing. quilt showing backing, binding and topI think it will be treasured forever.

A crib quilt is now layered and the stitching will commence. I created the pattern myself and love how the colors blend together. Since the youngster has an engineer and an architect for parents, the trig calculations on the white background will be appreciated.

The fabric prints shift along the diagonal.  First, the upper half is baby-themed. Then the quilt transitions to teenage themed. Thus extending the use of the quilt. However, as the little one grows, it will most likely transition to a lap quilt.

Finally, the third quilt has the borders pieced. Now I need to calculate the length and width measurements required of the panel center. A seam allowance must be taken into account. Another key factor is which of the borders I attach first, sides or top and bottom.

Busy Reading Month

February 2022 provided plenty of time for reading as the weather was typical-cold. I am still trying to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. The Angry Earth became a DNF (Did Not Finish) as the length overcame my attention span. The work is well written and I took away quite a bit from the sections I did read.

I very much enjoyed both fictional novels finished this month. Janet Evanovich is a favorite and I enjoyed new to me author Kate Atkinson. Both authors will remain on my radar.

War

War Rattles over NATO Inclusion did not receive much attention when first published on February 12, 2022. I can understand the lack of “likes” as war is not something to promote. But I was surprised at how few people read the post. Perhaps world interest lags mine.

Unfortunately, the war rattles are now front and center on all news outlets. Furthermore, the topic is now critical. My hope is that a global war is avoided.

There are many novels covering clashes of political ideals. Two authors in this genre I have reviewed are Helen MacInnes and David Baldacci. Both worth reading. In a world of gray, good versus evil does exist. The conflict in real life is daunting. Now all eyes are glued to Russia and the Ukraine.

Queen size quilt in browns, cream and blue
Queen size quilt, hand quilted
Baby's quilt in reds, blues, golds, and whites
Farm animal panel quilt with border of yellows and purples

Life After Life Book Review

Life After Life book cover with a reflective image of a red roseLife After Life by Kate Atkinson was another Christmas gift. The lengthy novel was published in 2013. Somehow, I missed the debut. But the book is historical and thus timeless, in more ways than one.

Inventive Style

The author was creative in the writing approach. The opening has quite a hook. An assassination attempt on Hitler in 1930. Then the story reverts to 1910 and the first birth of the protagonist, Ursula. You read that correctly- first birth. Yet the book is not quite one of reincarnation. More like having multiple do-overs. For the most part, the repeats work.

A Different Look at WWII

Even though the book incorporates both World Wars, the focus is on the second. By giving Ursula do-over lives, the author presents life in both England and Germany. The bombing raids are quite graphic, especially in England as Ursula “lives” as a rescue squad member for a period of time.

Ursula- Protagonist

Ursula Todd is born multiple times throughout the book. Her memory is special. Moments of Deja vu are the key element of the book. When something terrible happens, death later occurs so that she can “fix” things next time through. But the fixes need fixing. And the author does not hold back in the descriptions of tragedy and tragic lives.

As the novel progresses, Ursula becomes a stronger person. The character is well-developed. Yet some of the tangents are hard to follow. Not emotionally hard, just confusing. Others knock your breath away because of the emotions.

Brutality of War

The secondary theme is the brutality of war. Death is not the only abhorrent outcome. Physical damage to humans and structures are not always repairable. Emotional damage is an even bigger problem. Atkinson does an outstanding job of conveying the horrors. Those who welcome war are truly heinous in nature.

Life After Life Ending

The author does end the story happily. Although there is a hint of repetition, or continuation after the reunion. A ploy to keep the reader wondering.

Life After Life is very complex. The characters do grow through the various reiterations. The ending is satisfactory. But almost a letdown and I am not sure why. Perhaps, I wanted more details of how life continued in the final chapter. For after five hundred pages, I was quite attached to the Todd family.

Century of Life

A century of life. One hundred years spanning from 1922-2022. Independent to the end. Unusual, but very real. The time line is overcrowded. So much happens in a lifetime. Both for the world and the individual.

1922- Start of the Century of Life

Each year has key events. 1922 had several. A detailed month-by-month list can be found on Historic Newspapers which can be accessed by clicking here. Political upheaval topped the events. Fascism was rampant in Europe. Although Hitler did not attain power that year, he was shortly jailed and was flexing his muscles. Benito Mussolini did become the Italian dictator in 1922.

Of other key political events, the most notable was the formation of the U.S.S.R. in December of the year. Other incidents of unrest included the Irish Civil War and the Rand Rebellion. So even though World War I had just concluded, peace was not present throughout the world.

Women’s Rights

1922 also marked the U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing the validity of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. The suffrage movement continued across the globe. Women were experiencing many firsts. Most notable was Rebecca Felton of Georgia, first United States Senator. Across many fields of study and occupations, women were beginning to be recognized for their work.

Friend and Fellow Zontian

Friendships are hard to explain. Often they revolve around shared interests. In this case, the shared interest was the work of Zonta International. A group I have discussed before. I have been a member almost thirty years, my friend for over sixty. Only a special cause spurs this type of loyalty. Empowering women is such an ideal.

Century of Life for Beverly

Beverly was born in 1922. She grew up in Michigan, graduated from Northwestern University and took a long train ride west to begin the rest of her long productive life.

During her first years on the High Plains, she worked in her field of study for a large hotel/restaurant. Then she jumped ship and started a business of her own.

This wonderful women, sole-proprietor of a small clothing shop in a small town was a living example of work ethic. She maintained both her home and store right up to her death. And she showed up to meetings and events continuously. Just a few weeks prior to her death she attended a Chamber of Commerce dinner where she was pleased to witness a fellow Zontian win the Chamber Person of the Year.

Beverly was an active member of Zonta International. My friend served on all levels from the local club to the International level. I have much respect for her work. And her humility. She often commented that her only merit was her longevity. Fortunately, this was not the case.

Community Recognition

Movie Marquee with Birth and Death Date 1922-2022 a century of lifeIn the United States, communities recognize outstanding citizens in a variety of ways. People of the Year awards, newspaper articles, movie marquees and often the last if not the least is eulogies. At Beverly’s funeral a review of her life was definitely part. But the best of the service were the poems read by her great-granddaughters: I Am Standing by the Seashore and The Dash.

Both poems reflected the century of life lived by the Christian. Faith and good works. A life well-lived. Rest in Peace Beverly. 1922-2022.

War Rattles over NATO Inclusion

Ukraine: Focus of War Rattles

Saber rattles are a thing of the past as war rattles now take other forms. Yes, troops are amassing along the border of Ukraine. Russian troops. As of now the outcome is uncertain. Perhaps war games as military training is now called. This is the claim of Russia. Another possibility is an invasion. And the instigator? A desire to add Ukraine to NATO.

What is NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed after World War II with twelve countries, most of which were in Europe. The European countries were a primary battleground during the Second World War. It is easy to understand a desire for a joint force given the history.

NATO provides an agreement among countries to join forces in cases of aggression from outside agents as was the case during World War II. Member nations have been added through the years and now thirty countries are protected by the pact.

Former President Trump disliked NATO. But I think his reasoning stemmed from an economic point not a philosophical one. The United States of America spends great amounts of money on the military budget. NATO expenditures approximated 3.7% of the defense budget or about $811,000,000,000 in 2021. This amount is double what all the other countries chip in. So, in essence, the American people, through their tax dollars are acting as policeman to the world. A debate for another time.

Why is Russia Concerned?

Since 1999, fourteen countries have joined NATO. The majority were once under the control or actually part of the former U.S.S.R. Thus, Russia perceives a threat as a United States backed security force edges closer to their border.

Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia has drawn a Red Line in the Sand with regards to Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Belarus border Russia. Foreign troops in these two countries are seen as a threat.

Putin has been the leader of Russia since the beginning of this century and he created a law in 2021 allowing him to continue until 2036. Such control defies the description of a democracy. Thus, it is easy to understand why war rattles are on the horizon.

Will NATO Intervene?

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So there is no defense agreement in place. Without a commitment, there are no grounds for force. But wars do not need a reason. Unfortunately.

War Rattles

Are we looking at a traditional war? Perhaps. Troops are massing at borders. Military equipment is being stockpiled. But, I expect a different type of war may be upon us. Economic sanctions have been utilized for decades and most likely will play a part in this altercation.

So, how will Russia respond? “Sabre rattling” may play a part. But human capital is precious. Cyber- attacks could certainly come into play. Computer hacks can and do interrupt commerce and offer a response to sanctions. Putin is a skilled former KGB intelligence officer. Not someone to be underestimated. So just one question remains. Will there be a rattle of war or the tranquility of peace?

Game On Book Review

New Stephanie Plum

Game On is the latest in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The fun read brings back Diesel, a character introduced a few years ago and then spun off into the Lizzy and Diesel series. A contemporary problem, hacking, is the catalyst for the usual murder and mayhem. However, Game On is not just the same.

Freshness in a series that dates across decades can be elusive. Evanovich accomplishes the task with Game On. However, identifying the source of the novelty eludes me. Perhaps tighter editing? Maybe a change of focus for the lead character? The result is satisfying.

Protagonist in Game On

Stephanie Plum is the lead character in Game On. For readers unfamiliar with this comedic series, Plum is a bounty hunter with extraordinary luck in capturing elusive quarry. And the luck? Mostly bad. So she has a bevy of support characters. The regular cast ranges from sexy to spasmodic. Plum’s luck in Game On has a twist.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the book, is the return to character development. The protagonist shows growth lacking since the novels in the mid-teens were released. A much needed change.

Game On Story Line

The plot of Game On centers on the competition between Stephanie Plum and Diesel (Just Diesel) to capture the elusive Oswald Wednesday, hacker extraordinaire. But Wednesday’s evil deeds don’t end at hacking. Thwarted by amateurs, the villain of the story begins to knock off his victims one-by-one.

Plum and Diesel work together to keep two young hackers alive. Melvin and Charlotte portray nerdy IT geeks, only interested in computers and each other. Thus, they are no match for a supervillain intent on crashing the International Space Station. The nerds need saving and Stephanie and her co-horts are ready to rescue.

Entertainment

The Plum series is pure entertainment. Zany characters and unbelievable situations keep readers chuckling. One can only take so much strife. Game On balances out a library containing tomes on climate change, social behavior and the like.

An added benefit to reading an Evanovich release is the good natured humor sprinkled throughout. The light-hearted novel provides a needed escape for a few hours. Then the reader can return to reality with a game on approach.

January 2022 Wrap-Up

Start of a New Year

The time for the January 2022 Wrap-Up is here. It always amazes me how fast the first wrap-up arrives. We are already finished with eight percent of the year. Here on the High Plains the weather has run the gamut from high winds to gentle snow with a few gorgeous almost spring-like days thrown in.

January is a time for planning the upcoming garden, quilting and reading. Especially on the dreary days. Wonderful walks and some travel accompanied the pleasant days. In between we gathered in small groups of family. Perhaps the larger gatherings can resume in the summer.

January 2022 In the Library

Quite a bit of reading took place this month. Non-fiction led the way, although not all have made it to this forum. There were two fiction reviews, a cozy mystery featuring Mac ‘n’ Ivy and a hard to categorize selection in Piranesi.

Since the alternating of fiction and non-fiction works well, I plan to continue in this way. Perhaps, I became bogged down last year with too many similar books. Finding the balance is key. Reading is both relaxing and inspiring. Although, sometimes not at the same time.

January 2022 In the Garden

High winds created havoc in the garden. A row of garlic was blown out even though heavily mulched. Fence and fence posts were sheered and netting and supports shredded. Repairs are planned. But may not be completed until March. The ground is too frozen in shady areas.

Seeds are mostly purchased. Early starts will be made indoors in February. Since the destruction of the garden hardscape was great, I am also toying with ideas for more permanent structures. I will be certain to share.

Projects and Hobbies

Chandelier refinished with gold paint on the frame and the lampshades remain a frosted white.Currently the main focus of my quilting has been the hand stitching of a large bed quilt. But I also made some changes to home décor. Kitchen lights have arrived and are waiting to be installed. But an agreement can’t be made with regard to the entryway. One household member prefers a dungeon look of iron and wood while the other more of a Broadway theatre look with gold and crystal. Thus a compromise was struck and the current light fixture stays for now; with a paint job!

Needs and Wants

The light fixtures are key representatives of the needs versus wants dilemma. In this time of rapidly rising costs, we all need to be cognizant of expenditures. The kitchen lights had become faulty. New bulbs short out. But the entryway fixture works well. So, no need to replace.

Tracking expenditures should be basic economics. Budgeting needs to focus on current needs. Wants are fun to have items that we can do without. I think 2022 will be a year to focus on needs, not on our wants.

The wrap-up of the Inflation Check Challenge points out the importance of separating needs from wants. While we are most likely avoiding hyperinflation, significant inflation is on tap for 2022. Only a perfect storm will lead to the former. A storm we do not want. So, I for one will be quite careful with my budget in 2022. Purchases and investments will still occur. But only after much due diligence.

Talking to Strangers Book Review

Communication Insight

Talking to Strangers was authored by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is the most thought provoking of the several I have read from the author. It is not a self-help manual as the title might imply. Instead, Talking to Strangers takes a hard look at the many communication failures of recent times.

The subject matter is intense. Rape, murder, pedophilia and suicides join terrorism, con men and unsuspected spies as the focus of this look at miscommunication. Quite a few of the stories will leave the reader unsettled. And many if not all the stories will be familiar. Thus, these are the stories behind the headlines.The book cover of Talking to Strangers

Malcolm Gladwell Tackles Tough Issues

For those of you unfamiliar with Gladwell, he has quite an interesting writing style. At times the writing feels disjointed because it is not chronological. He circles back again and again. In the end, his points are valid. And very, very potent.

Gladwell begins and ends Talking to Strangers with the arrest and subsequent suicide of Sandra Bland. A case I had almost forgotten about. Bland was a young African-American hassled in a rural Texas setting by a dogged Hispanic police officer. An unfortunate occurrence which led to Bland’s death and Officer Encinia’s termination of employment. But unfortunate is too benign. For, Bland’s death, like many others was an absolute tragedy that should not have happened. Gladwell provides the background that leads not only to this particular incident, but a better awareness of the causation of conflicts from Ferguson to George Floyd.

Communication

The above case is just one of many examples of the lack of communication found throughout life. Key points are given from failure to recognize a spy to spotting a pedophile. All stem on the theory that people expect the best and reject the worst.

Gladwell posits that society is better operating in this fashion and that in contrast, assuming the worst of people contributes to situations like the Texas traffic stop of Bland. But, it also creates opportunity for the Sandusky’s of the world. So, a Catch-22.

Talking to Strangers and Local Customs

The most salient part of Talking to Strangers in my opinion was the focus on cultural differences. This came up with both the Amanda Knox case and the fraternity rape case. One involved mismatched behavior expectations due to cultural differences between countries. The other accentuates how the United States differs greatly in the approach to alcoholic consumption.

Gladwell devotes a chapter to each of these examples. The former is not surprising to anyone having travelled internationally. However, the latter was quite interesting and ties somewhat into the post on Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events.

The author carefully contrasts the drinking patterns of The Camba of rural Bolivia to that of American college students. In this comparison, information on the rapidity of alcohol consumption and the impact on the brain is included. Fascinating facts that I was unaware of.

The conclusions drawn in both cases are on target. It is difficult if not impossible to interpret the meanings of strangers. Insight becomes blocked in both the case of cultural differences and brain impairment. Thus challenges remain. And questions. Should the onus be put on travelers? Possibly. On binge drinking? Absolutely, yet the drinking is a cultural phenomenon. In America, we do not look at the science behind the problem.

Econogal’s Recommendation

Talking to Strangers is an important book to read. The author gives good insight into some of the mistakes being made. Both from assuming everyone is good as well as mistakes made when there is a universal approach to believing everyone is a danger.

However, certain groups may need to take a pass. Any victim of pedophilia or rape and anyone at risk of suicide would certainly have trouble reading the details. Furthermore, the same holds true for close family members of victims.

On the other hand, quite a bit of understanding can be gained by reading through the traffic stop sections. So, those not understanding what is happening between police and minorities in the United States, Talking to Strangers points out where communication fails. This is critical if we hope to move forward. And we do need to move forward.

So naturally I highly recommend Talking to Strangers.

Understanding Inflation and a Final Look at the Inflation Check Challenge

Complexity of Understanding Inflation

Understanding Inflation can either be simple or complex. A simple look just compares prices over time periods. An example is the Inflation Check Challenge covering the last 12 months. Complexity arises when we search for the whys and how comes. Today we will take a look at both.

Inflation Check Challenge

Early last year I became concerned with the possibility of inflation. Interruptions in the supply chain were becoming a problem. So, I issued the Inflation Check Challenge to the readers of Econogal. I shared an example of a market basket and began tracking prices. Throughout the year, I posted quarterly comparisons. To review previous graphs, click on the month that interests you; January 2021, April 2021, July 2021, October 2021. Below is a year- end comparison with additional comments.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Listing the CPI throughout 2021 would have been less work, but personally not as meaningful. This figure is closely watched and often influences everything from the stock market to government entities and individuals. Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) are based on the CPI. But the CPI has some shortcomings. Especially for those of us living in rural areas.  The index is weighted heavily toward urban life.

A second argument concerning the CPI is whether or not to include items whose prices are volatile. Food and energy costs fall into this category. These two categories are represented in the below table by the highest increases. Thus, arguments such as this Wall Street Journal opinion piece on transitory inflation by Alan S. Blinder need to be considered.

Thirdly, the CPI does not reflect the impact of substitute goods. Without a close substitute, inelasticity of a particular good or service is great, so prices shoot up. Conversely an elastic good will not show much of a price increase. (See Elasticity of Demand and Supply in Regards to Covid-19.)

Transitory Inflation

Over the last six months or so the term transitory inflation has been bandied about. There are nuances to the definition. Short-term, temporary, and not permanent are all a bit vague, but certainly apropos. Recently, Federal Reserve Chairman Powell dropped the description “transitory” when discussing inflation. Why?

Economists are split (Still!) on what the future holds. Individuals like Mr. Blinder above, defend the current rates of inflation as transitory. This school of thought believes prices will self-adjust in the coming months. And that Fed action will be harmful. This is very much the Classical School approach.

Deflation

The argument for transitory inflation also reflects a belief that deflation is a possibility in the near future. Both with and without governmental interference in the economy. Understanding inflation means grasping disinflation and deflation.  Disinflation occurs when the inflation rate slows down. We are currently not in a period of disinflation.

Nor are we in a period of deflation. However, if you look at the table below one item represents deflation. Why did toothpaste decrease in price? Was this an anomaly? Most likely. If the price check were to continue, I would expect this item to also increase.

Those studying the market understand not everything moves in the same direction. But to have a deflationary period, the majority of goods would be offered at lower and lower prices. Deflation and recession often go hand in hand. The United States has not experienced prolonged periods of recession in almost three decades. Nor have we faced high inflation. Instead we experienced a steady low inflation rate interrupted by a handful of short-lived recessionary periods. Most notably the financial crisis of ’08 and ’09.

Understanding Inflation: Demand-Pull and Cost-Push

How high will inflation go? Will we experience hyperinflation, stagflation (high inflation accompanied by a recession) or will the current increase lead to deflation? All are possibilities.

The supply chain disruptions triggered the economic change. Shortages of goods play into demand-pull inflation. Regardless of whether the demand is a need or a want, too few goods leads to higher prices as the market tries to reach an equilibrium. So, even though the shortages were thought to be temporary, an upward price movement took place.

Unfortunately for present day consumers, demand-pull inflation is concurrent with cost-push inflation. The Covid-19 pandemic is greatly impacting labor. And labor is a key cost in production.

Cost of Labor

Even before the pandemic hit, there was pressure to raise the minimum wage rate. Urban areas in particular had an imbalance between wages and the cost of living. Add onto that the aging of the Baby Boomers into retirement status and a squeeze begins in the labor market.

Then Covid-19 struck. Early on the focus was on the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Thus the impact on the labor market should have been negligent. But, other factors came into play. Health care workers and other essential workers remained on the job during the early waves. Many were repeatedly exposed. Non-retirees began to become severely ill. Deaths occurred across all demographics. Long-Covid disabilities popped up randomly. If you are near retirement age or a non-essential second income, do you want to take such a health risk? For many the answer was no.

So, early retirements are occurring. Non-retirees are also leaving the workforce. Replacement labor is costly. Salaries are pushed up by fewer individuals available to work. The hardest positions to fill require specialized training. Employers compete by offering higher wages. Cost-push inflation is here.

Government Intervention-Fiscal and Monetary

Understanding inflation can be quite complex. The current situation reflects this. Shutting down the economy in 2020 as a response to the novel coronavirus will have long term implications. In addition to national defense, governments have a responsibility for the social wellness of citizens. So, the shutdown was an effort to control viral spread.

To offset economic losses, a number of fiscal policies were put in place. Congress passed trillions of dollars in aid. The various stimulus packages injected dollars into the money supply. Economic growth was not occurring-indeed production was inhibited by worker illnesses. Thus more demand-pull pressure occurred.

Monetary Actions

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors attempts a juggling act. In theory, the Federal Reserve is an independent entity charged with the stability of the economy. The goal is one of high employment with a low level of inflation.

But in recent years, “The Fed” has been pushed by both sides of the political aisle. Most recently as mentioned in the Random Thoughts of Mid-January 2022, the entity has been tasked to include non- monetary functions such as Climate Change in its decision making.

So, rate hikes to discourage inflation were put on hold. The signal is for an increase in March of 2022. In my opinion the rate hike is overdue. Zero percent interest rates sound good on paper, but in reality may have done great damage to the economy. Time will tell. But, easy money through monetary policy coupled with tremendous amounts of stimulus signal inflation. Combine that with both demand-pull and cost-push market influences and you have a recipe for a perfect storm.

Hyper-inflation

Is hyper-inflation next? A possibility exists albeit slight. Keys to hyper-inflation, which is defined as a 50% increase in prices month-over-month, are demand-pull inflation and a large money supply. Both are in place. Usually, developed countries escape hyper-inflation. Production can be ramped up which results in enough supply to defeat demand-pull stressors.

But, the Covid-19 pandemic is interfering. Wave after wave of variants undulate across the world. Production is impacted. Supply chains are broken. The labor market is skewed. Easy money amplifies the problem. How much will the March rate hike be? Will it be in time?

Conclusions

Last year at this time I felt confident we were in store for inflation. The prediction was accurate. This coming year? I have no idea. More inflation in the short term is likely. But after that? Cases are being made for both deflation and hyper-inflation. Compelling arguments for each. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence supports the latter. Less than 48 hours after compiling the Inflation Check Challenge List, gasoline prices hiked another four cents. Three increases in a week do not make hyper-inflation, but the trend is ugly. However, I will not panic unless the price of a gallon of gas is locally $4.50 at the end of February. The important word is local as I have heard this amount is already charged in parts of the United States.

Politics and pandemic waves are interfering with the supply and demand mechanism. Thus, economic theory, difficult to apply in the best of times, might not be relevant in 2022. Now is a tough time for understanding inflation.  The only certainty is uncertainty in the near future.

Year End Price Comparison

ItemAmountJanuary 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
April 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
July 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
October 2021
Price
Regular/Sale
January 2022
Price
Regular/Sale
2021-2022
Change in Price
Regular/Sale
% Change + Inflation
(-) Deflation
Regular/Sale
Comments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 OZ.$3.49$3.99$3.99/$2.99$3.99$3.99/$3.79$0.50/$0.8014%/27%Double digit price increase for both regular and sale price.
Small bag Signature Select Sugar4 LBS.$2.99$2.99/$1.99$2.99$2.99/$2.49$3.29$0.30/$0.5010%/25%The sales price inflation is calculated over a six month period.
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 OZ.$0.69$0.79$0.79$0.79/$0.65$0.89$0.2029%Sold Out in January of 2022. Unable to calculate inflation impact on sales price, only on sale once.
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 OZ.$6.99$6.99$7.19$7.49$7.49$0.507%Surprised at the single digit inflation rate as item often sold out.
Bananas1 LB.$0.59$0.55$0.59$0.59$0.69$0.1017%This is a January over January comparison and did not take into account the lower April 2021 price.
Kraft Real Mayo30 OZ.$4.99/$3.79$4.99/$3.99$4.99/$3.79$5.29/$3.99$5.29/$3.99$0.30/$0.206%/5%Sale price bounced around a bit. Regular price steady upward movement.
Meow Mix6.3 LBS.$7.78$7.78$7.78$8.22$8.22$0.446%Steady Increase
Morton Salt26 OZ.$1.19/$0.94$1.19/$0.99$1.19/$0.99$1.29/$0.99$1.29/$0.99$0.10/$0.058%/5%I have never seen salt NOT on sale. Glad both indicators are in the single digits, otherwise one would have to take the stats with a grain of…salt.
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 OZ.$5.99/$4.99$5.49/$3.99$3.99/$3.49$3.99/$2.99$3.99/$1.99(2.00)/(3.00)-33%/-60%Definitely flies in the face of inflation to have this large of a decrease.
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.5800Price Control? The lack of change defies common thought on prices and inflation.
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 OZ.$11.97$11.97$11.97$11.97/$11.39$11.9700No change to regular price and only on sale once.
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.88$3.38$2.28($0.90)-28%Decrease in price perhaps reflects seasonal demand? Plenty of product in stock.
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1 Count$15.88$15.88$15.88$16.38$17.47$1.5910%Even with the additional increase in price, product was sold out in January 2022.
Dunkin Donut Boston Cream1 Count$0.99$1.09$1.17$1.09$1.17$0.1818%Return to July pricing. Newness of competition has worn off.
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gallon$2.36$2.79$2.79$2.79$3.05$0.6929%Ties for the largest percentage increase on list. Price is still way below what a gallon costs in other areas. Local market leader changed hands so more increases would not be surprising.

Piranesi: Book Review

The Tale of Piranesi

Piranesi written by Susanna Clarke was published in 2020. The novel recently came to my attention when it popped up on several end of the year top books to read. I follow bloggers from across the world and have favorites in Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. This book made the list on all. So even though the fantasy genre is one I don’t often read, Piranesi jumped to the front of the line.

To be honest, the book is a blend of approaches. Certainly fantasy with a bit of science fiction and mystery added. I categorize it as a fantasy mostly due to the wonderful descriptions given of the “house” or “world” Piranesi lives within. The science fiction piece stems from the notion of parallel worlds. And the mystery, well that is for the reader to discover. Along with Piranesi himself.

Few Characters

For the majority of the book, only two living characters appear. The protagonist, Piranesi, is a young man living off the middle floors of a great house. He fishes and harvests seaweed from the lower levels and collects fresh water from the cloud filled upper rooms. Piranesi fills his days cataloguing the multitude of marble statues and tracking the tides.

He also assists The Other with his scientific research. The Other is a much older gentleman. His research is as old as time. He seeks immortality. As the only other living person in the world, Piranesi is quite attached to The Other.

Clarke surprised this reader with two additional characters well into the book. Both lead Piranesi forward albeit while facing danger. Both from within and without. Piranesi develops into one of the most compelling main characters encountered in recent reads. A tormented man shining with virtuousness. His outlook on life remains upright even after grappling with extraordinary happenings.

The Author

British author Susanna Clarke is new to me. One of my offspring is currently reading her first book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In a world of authors churning out manuscripts, this coincidence would not even register. However, Clarke does not fit that description. Her writing is compelling and thought provoking.

Books affect people differently. I learned this long ago in a high school literature class. Piranesi should be included in such a class. Or a book club. There is so much to discuss! But I do not want to spoil this fantastic novel. I highly recommend Piranesi and I hope the main character leaves a positive impact on you as well. There is much evil in this world. We need to balance it with goodness from within.

Planning the 2022 Garden

A cold wintry January day is perfect for staying inside and planning the 2022 garden. My planning involves reviewing the diagrams from last year showing what was planted where. Then, buying seeds is another key component. But, looking back on my notes is the most important of all.

Diagrams of the Garden

I began drawing out plant placements of my garden the second year I lived here. Because, I couldn’t quite remember what was planted where. And I wanted to rotate my crops. Crop rotation is necessary to not deplete the soil.

Before I can create a new plan, I check last year’s and then I research. There are so many facets of crop rotation that I can’t remember them all so I check and re-check with my resources both in print an online. Since I am new to growing brassicas, I need to experiment a bit with them. This year I plan to plant one section from last year with potatoes. The other area will see a repeat of legumes following the brassicas.

Last year I planted quite a few flowers in the big garden to attract pollinators. I will expand on that this season. So many people use/overuse pesticides and bees are not as abundant as in the past.

The squash were decimated by squash bugs last year so I am undecided as to where they should go or if I should skip a season. It is a fact that I need to be more diligent next summer in examining the vines. Not sure if both virus and bug repellant seeds are on the market.

Buying Seeds and Planning the 2022 Garden

Seed Packets
Need to organize the Seeds

In addition to the seeds I save from the garden, I also scour seed catalogues during the winter months. I am almost done with the winter purchase of seeds. However, they still need to be organized. Starting seeds indoors is just around the corner.

Reviewing notes is a key part of seed buying. Varieties that worked are bought again. One of my favorite slicing tomatoes was discontinued a few years ago. I still have an unopened seed packet for this year. The plant is a hybrid so saving seed from the produce does not guarantee successful reproduction. Alas, once these seeds are gone…..

I love looking at the new varieties featured in the catalogues. Experimenting with new types makes the garden fun. And if I don’t like the outcome, an easy solution for the following year is to try something else. This will be the case with cucumbers in planning the 2022 garden.

Just a few recent arrivals

Reviewing Notes in Planning the 2022 Garden

For each of the past four years I have kept notes in my yearly planners. The notes encompass weather, bug attacks and crop yields. Notations are also made on the health of the crops. The year over year comparisons are insightful.

Garden Planners from 2018 to Present

Adjustments on starting seeds as well as outdoor plantings are made from these notes. These changes are not infallible as weather changes year to year. Climate change is also making an impact over a longer time period. (Most farmers I know recognize climate change regardless of their respective political beliefs.) Bumper crops one year can turn into failed crops the next. But the overall trend in my part of the world is drier and hotter. I need to adjust for this reality as well.

Looking Forward

As the snowflakes drift down outside, I am warm and cozy inside and dreaming of the mornings where I am up with the sun poking through the garden rows. I feel such incredible joy watching the little plants grow and then produce wonderful veggies for the dinner table. There is a satisfaction hard to match and I swear the food tastes better. Winter is here for a few more months, but planning for the 2022 garden is a productive diversion from the dreary cold.

Vail History: Two Book Reviews

Two Looks at Vail

As long time readers know, I love visiting Vail, so I was delighted to receive two Vail history books for Christmas. Vail Triumph of a Dream by Peter W. Seibert with William Oscar Johnson tells the story of the first 40 years through the voice of Seibert, a key developer of Vail. The other, Vail: The First 50 Years is part of the Images of America series produced by Arcadia Publishing. This volume is written by Shirley Welch.

Images of Vail History

Both books provide a plethora of photos. Black and white photos are dominant in the early days. Perhaps by design, the Arcadia publication is entirely in this format. This definitely lends an historical flavor.

Meanwhile, Vail Triumph of a Dream includes breathtaking views in full color. And full pages of color. The images transport you onto the slopes.

Just The Facts

Vail: The First 50 Years was read cover to cover in one sitting. The format offers extended commentary on each photo. Welch includes backstory information on the area itself. The settlement of Eagle County predates the development of Vail by over 50 years. Prior to the establishment of the ski resort, inhabitants of the valley were primarily sheep ranchers.

The books in the Images of America series tantalize the reader with a multitude of facts in an easy to read format. The only glitch in the book was through no fault of the author. Vail: The First 50 Years ends with a look forward in the resort town’s future. As of the writing, an expansion called Ever Vail had just received preliminary approval. Welch included this proposal but it failed to materialize and permits expired in 2021.

In Depth Insight of Vail History

While Vail: The First 50 Years provides a nice overview of Vail history, Vail Triumph of a Dream is much more in depth. However, the latter is also as much an autobiography of Seibert as it is record of historical fact. Quite an interesting personal account!

Seibert’s account of Vail’s development is as much a story of his life as it is a description of Vail. This Vail history encompasses so much background, after reading one feels as if they grew up in the valley and more. The insight into the business of Vail is shadowed by the glimpses of passion for No-Name Mountain. While it may be difficult to replicate the devotion Peter Seibert had for Vail, anyone who has spent time on the mountain whether hiking or skiing can emphasize. Vail Valley is truly spectacular.

Random Thoughts 0f Mid-January 2022

Covid-19 Pandemic Continues with Omicron

Mid-January 2022 may be ushering Omicron into my hometown as I type. Numbers had been consistent and in the single digits per day for the past few weeks. But numbers jumped, really jumped this last week with almost one hundred total cases just reported. This will most likely continue for a month if we follow the pattern seen in the cities.

Hopefully our little hospital won’t become overwhelmed. Not many medical choppers lately to rouse me from a sleep. I pray that continues. But the vaccine rate is low and Omicron evades the vaccine. This novel coronavirus remains a puzzle, one that most are too tired to solve.

Masks are scarce here. School is in person. Businesses are open so staffing may be a tad bit difficult but doable. My corner of the world leans toward the approach of inevitableness.

I long for a remote cabin in the woods stocked with six weeks of food. Enough time to get past Omicron. But the reality is this is not possible for me. Furthermore, what happens when the next variant hits. And the next. Quite depressing.

Psychological Impacts of Mid-January 2022 Milestones

Setting Covid-19 aside, this week is a bit of a hardship from a psychological standpoint. It marks a year since my Mom’s death. Also, the week brings two more birthdays, with one a milestone.

Ten years ago, to mark the mid-century milestone, we travelled to Denver to celebrate in style. We attended the National Western Stock Show and stayed at the historic Brown Palace. Truly a treat! But this year there are no plans to celebrate with a special trip.

Instead, we will stay at home. A shared (the two birthdays are consecutive) chocolate sheet cake with a cooked pecan frosting will be baked. To be honest, I don’t have the rest of the meal planned out. Priorities, right?

What is happening at the Federal Reserve?

If you are still keeping track of your market basket, you know first-hand there is inflation. Price increases are popping up everywhere. In the case of Dollar Tree, the inflation rate is 25%. The Federal Reserve last raised rates in 2018. Isn’t it time? Nay, past time.

But perhaps the Central Bank knows something the rest of us don’t? Or, more likely the Federal Reserve is juggling too much. After all climate change is now part of the task list. Just what will a climate stress test look like for banks? Finally, what prompted the Vice-Chairman to resign just a few weeks before his term ended? Were things that unpalatable? I think the resignation is a statement.

Mid-January 2022 at the Grocery Store

Are your grocery shelves full? Two full weeks went by without Fritos. Thank goodness these chips are not a staple. Furthermore, many substitute goods exist. But Fritos atop homemade chili can’t be beat.

This past trip, cream cheese was sold out as was my favorite kind of grated cheese for pizza. In the case of the former, no direct substitutes. I do not know if the supply problem is at the manufacturing level or is due to transportation glitches. But the chain is broken.

Media pictures show many empty aisles but neither I nor my many relatives have encountered this. Just individual items such as those discussed above. So, it is hard to get a clear picture.

Random Thoughts of Mental Wellness

Think Positive.

Take Calming Breaths Throughout the Day.

Enjoy a Bubble bath with a relaxing beverage.

Spend some time outdoors.

Read for fun.

Eat Dark Chocolate.

Tell someone you love them.

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles Book Review

Mac ‘N’ Ivy

Lorena McCourtney is keeping busy and That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is her latest release. The book, part of the Mac ’N’ Ivy series picks up the narrative after the two lovebirds finish their honeymoon. They are still looking for a place to park the RV and settle down. But the requirement of no murder in the vicinity keeps thwarting the silver fox and his Brillo gray bride.

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles Plot

Mac and Ivy motor to San Isolde, California in search of a permanent home and as a favor to a new acquaintance met along the coast of Mexico. Blake Houston is concerned about his eccentric Aunt Eleanor and her questionable boyfriend.

Shortly after arriving, Ivy and Eleanor-who now prefers Elena- stumble upon the body of Miles, the boyfriend now fiancé. Thence, the sleuthing begins for the newlyweds. Of course, McCourtney weaves many zany characters into her storyline. Elena perhaps the oddest of all.

There are twists and turns and Ivy and Elena clash on fortune telling; cookie reading signs, as performed by Nicole. Nicole’s ex-husband is a prime suspect and he is a nephew of the victim. McCourtney uses misdirection to keep the reader guessing.

Christian Fiction and Cozy Mystery

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is a mixed genre. The book offers up murder and mayhem alongside Christianity. This combination works because the characters do not come across as preachy. The tone is a traditional approach versus an evangelical push. Plus, Mac and Ivy come across as humans not saints.

Recommendation

I recommend this zany story. My husband downloaded the ebook over the Christmas weekend and I read it during our snowy New Year’s Day. We both enjoyed the light hearted escape.

Previous reviews of McCourtney’s work include Invisible and In Plain Sight, both part of the Ivy Malone series. Additionally, Blue Moon, part of the Stanton series appeared in Econogal reviews. The Ivy Malone series segued into the Mac ‘N’ Ivy series of which That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles was a 2021 release. Mac is a great balance for the “Invisible” LOL.

Lorena McCourtney is a master of both misdirection-a key component of a good mystery- and of bringing characters to life. Even those characters that are terminated before the story begins. I envy her character development. Even tertiary characters “breathe.” During this ongoing time of uncertainty, McCourtney’s books are a welcome diversion. That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is a worthwhile entertainment.