Tag: Econogal

August 2020 Wrap-Up

Wrap-Ups can be hard posts to put together and the August 2020 piece is no exception. In addition to the bucolic happenings in my rural part of the world, many events of note are occurring elsewhere. Unfortunately, the news from outside my hamlet is both disturbing and distressing.

Civil Unrest

Most significant from my point of view is the continuation of violence in American cities. Perhaps readers living outside of the United States see the civil unrest as more of the same. But my perception is different.

Some of my earliest memories arise from the year 1968. A year in American history marked by assassinations and protests. The issue of civil rights for African Americans played a significant part of the unrest in 1968 and is a key component to 2020 protests. Additionally, young people in 1968 as in 2020, formed the heart of the disruption. The Vietnam War also played an important part in the history of 1968. The prevailing uncertainty of 2020 is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both years also share the aspect of a Presidential election.

However, in my mind the unrest is different in this year of perfect hindsight. The divisiveness is uncivil. Finger pointing and name calling have given way to bricks, Molotov cocktails and most upsetting, bullets. It seems to be Blue Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter. And God help you if you try to insert All Lives Matter. Those three words are akin to the kiss of death. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Political pundits and others claim outside influences. Multiple countries have been stipulated. This concept dates back to the cold war. Author Helen MacInnis posited this type of psy-ops in many of her books. This is a theory bandied about but to date no solid proof.

Covid-19

The pandemic continues. Much like an ocean tide its’ intensity ebbs and flows across the globe. An area or country is thought to be past the danger when new infections pop up. As of yesterday there are 8 confirmed cases of re-infection. I fear we are far from the end of this virus.

Covid-19 has also caused conflict, and not just here in the United States of America. Mask or no mask, closed borders, restricted travel, herd immunity or flattening the curve, each approach finds opposition among the populace. Each individual must weigh the risks because collectively most nations have failed to balance the health danger with economic collapse. The end result is a failure of both.

Furthermore, the rush to find a cure is problematic. First is the shortened time period and reduced number of trial participants in order to put a vaccine on the market. This leads to the second problem of public skepticism.

In authoritarian run countries, the citizens will not have a choice. The vaccine will be required. In places where individual freedoms are core to the culture, the government(s) must convince the public that the vaccine is safe. This will not be an easy task in countries such as the U.S.A. where the response has been ambiguous at best and disastrous in some states and localities.

Financial Crisis

A distant third in the list of national and global concerns is the financial crisis. The debt levels in the United States are spiraling upward as can be seen in the debt clock by clicking here.

Perhaps more concerning to those with an economic background is the changing role of the Federal Reserve. In the past, the primary role of the Federal Reserve has been addressing inflation and unemployment through monetary policy. This is no longer the case.

Perhaps due to the political climate in Washington, D.C. the role of the Federal Reserve is evolving. An excellent discussion of this change is in the latest newsletter from Allison Schrager. Click here to access her website and sign up for her newsletters. Or click here to read my review of An Economist Walks into a Brothel.

August 2020 for Econogal

August 2020 contained many days of triple digit temperatures. Yet the garden kept producing vegetables. I was able to read quite a few books, scientific papers and blogs. In addition to working on quilts, masks were made as it seems we will be wearing them for a bit longer.

August 2020 In the Garden

The garden continues to produce much of our fresh produce. Green beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, cucumbers, beets, onions and tomatoes made regular appearances at the dinner table. On occasion, enough ripened simultaneously to preserve.

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is a life saver for a home gardener. I do not have space for multiple rows of tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, and it is nice to put a small amount up at a time. This winter we will enjoy opening the garden bounty as well as sharing s Christmas gifts.

I spent a few hours picking grapes at the home of a relative. My own grapes are not yet ripe due to a late freeze. I love grape jelly. However, it has been a bit difficult finding the low sugar pectin. So the full sugar recipe was also utilized.

Visitors to the garden were beneficial insects, bees and spiders. So far, no orb spiders with their distinctive web. But spiders are welcome additions to the garden. I just need to remember where the webs are.

I also had human visitors to the garden. Three family youngsters brought me honey and sand hill plum jelly. I sent them home with enough Swiss chard to make Swiss chard with Raisins and Almonds. As they left, air hugs were exchanged. Such is life during a pandemic.

August 2020 In the Library

I read a variety of novels this month and reviewed the best of them. This month I concentrated on books that were either uplifting or offered escape. Sometimes you need a mental break from the difficulties of life. A balance of entertainment keeps one grounded and ready to face life’s tasks.

Non-fiction continues to be a struggle. Perhaps the scientific and business articles I am reading need an offset of light hearted fiction. Plus, my reading is predominantly from Libby or Kindle. I have yet to make an appointment to browse at my library. A requirement now that Covid-19 is making the rounds of our small community. Nor have I had the pleasure of wandering around a book store. Usually these two places are my sources for non-fiction.

August 2020 In the Kitchen

We continue to create new dishes in the kitchen using fresh produce from the garden. However, I am glad Econogal is eclectic versus solely based on food. I either forget to take pictures, or take pictures and forget to write down the recipe. So you can guess what will feature in next year’s resolutions.

Hobbies

I am so glad I learned to sew many years ago. The quilting offers inspiration. I love working with colors.

But the ability to make my own masks is wonderful. I do not like the elastic around my ears. Nor could I find any until just recently. So my masks have ties. Plus, I can color co-ordinate masks to my outfits. Many sacrifices need to be made with regards to the pandemic, but fashion doesn’t need to be one!

June 2020 Wrap-Up

Writing was a bit thin for Econogal during June 2020. Instead, I read, gardened and quilted. I also kept track of Covid-19 in various United States counties. Unfortunately, I also witnessed via television a lot of civil unrest in my country. All components added to a lack of writing.

Beastly Weather in June 2020

I love my adopted home of the High Plains except for a few weeks in late July-early August when the wind blows and the temperatures are in the triple digits. Unfortunately, those weeks came during June this year. We have low humidity, but the winds are often tropical storm strength. This creates a very unpleasant atmosphere.

We were fortunate enough to receive a bit of rain. Twice we had rainfall of one half inch and the third rain was three tenths of an inch. While the amount was about half of average it was welcomed as the measured precipitation in May was measured in one hundredths. The next two months are our rainiest, with approximately 2.5 inches expected each month. As you can see from the photo, our neighborhood is praying for rain.

Decprated sign saying Pray for Rain
Pray For Rain

Quilt Room

I spent a lot of time in the quilt room during the month of June 2020. Two quilts have been sandwiched together and are in the process of hand quilting. A third is still in the piecing process. My quilt room is in the basement which helps provide a cool location to hang out.

Piecing is time intensive. Even though I use a machine in the piecing, the work can take weeks depending on how many pieces are involved. Some quilt designs have over a thousand pieces. The one I am working on now is just in the hundreds. Five of the blocks are called The Courthouse Square and the other four are a variation on the Rail Fence.

In the Garden

June is the first month of harvesting nearly every day. Herbs are gathered just before blooming and dried. In addition to the cooking herbs of sage, thyme and oregano, I also cut lavender. It smells wonderful and I can use it dried in teas next winter.

I lost my battle with the flea beetles this year. They devastated the brassicas. However, my lettuce crop was outstanding. Even though the early triple digits brought on early bolting in the big garden, the side garden is still producing delicious greens of many varieties.

The first of the beets were picked. I used one of my favorite recipes from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. We love opening our pickled beets on cold winter days. For some reason, the beets struggled at first but now they are growing quickly.

Cherry Harvest

While the old cherry tree was loaded with cherries, harvest was just so-so. Usually the birds split their feastings between the cherry trees and the mulberry trees. This year a frost nipped the mulberries so naturally I had intense competition for my cherries. I did make one batch of jam and enjoyed cherry pie and cherry smoothies.

The younger cherry tree just had a handful of fruit. This is just the second summer since planting. The goal is for it to reach a good harvest before the old one stops producing. I would love more fruit trees but am grateful for the two cherry and two peach trees.

Covid-19

June started with six million Covid-19 cases worldwide and ends with over ten million cases and half a million deaths. I fear we are only at the beginning. At least in the United States.

Draining is probably the best way to describe the feeling I have with respect to the virus. I am being careful. Yet I even hate to type that. Here in America the virus has become political. I am dismayed. A pandemic should not be viewed politically. Especially one so far reaching.

So I have not posted much June 2020. Instead I have read and researched about the virus. Regretfully, biology is not my strong suit. Microbiology seems alien. The only microbiologist I personally knew died years ago, at a far too young age.

I fear we will start to see more and more cases and even deaths among our younger population. The protesters and rioters are not immune to this virus. Covid-19 is truly non-discriminatory. June 2020 was just the start to a long, long summer.

 

April 2020 Wrap-Up

Fair warning: The topics in the April 2020 Wrap-Up are about as eclectic as they come. It has been a whirlwind stay-at-home month. I actually left my home four times. However, on two occasions I did not leave the vehicle. Both times we drove through for a take-out dinner.

Essential Trips

The other two times involved essential purchases. Both occurred the same week. The first was to a greenhouse nursery. The proprietor has a policy of appointment only and masks must be worn. I purchased about a dozen peppers. Even though I have a multitude of seedlings going, the peppers are necessary for my secret recipe salsa. And I have trouble getting peppers to grow from seed.

Then two days later I made the first trip to the grocery store in a month. What an experience! Now, the store has huge arrows on the floors directing the flow of traffic. Apparently, following the arrows is quite difficult for people to adjust to. Furthermore, only about half of the people wore the masks requested by the government.

I had heard tales in the media about shortages. Perhaps it was my lucky day, but there were only two items on my list unavailable; yeast and avocado. The milk was a little light and the expiration date quite close as well. Furthermore, a large amount of stock sat around the aisles waiting to fill shelf space. I just hope they had room for all of it!

Covid-19 Update

The latest case figures worldwide show over 3,000,000 cases with 214,583 deaths. Now many people will divide the number of deaths by the total cases. Easy math gives you the figure .07 (percent) of those infected have died. Not too worrying? Well, I am still worried because I do the math a little differently.

Of the 3,045,993 positive cases worldwide, only 1,006,102 are considered resolved. This terminology is important. A resolved case means an individual no longer has Covid-19. Obviously, there are two resolutions. The negative ending is reflected by the death count. Then, the remainder are those who battled Covid-19 and won.

However, using these figures in an easy math equation indicates a less satisfactory result. 214,583 divided by 1,006,102 equals .21 which gives one a rate of death triple of above. Furthermore, if this is extrapolated over the two million unresolved cases, the world could expect to lose about 640,000 lives to Covid-19—If and only if no one else tests positive.

Caveat for April 2020 Covid-19 Numbers

Please keep in mind a few things. First, not everyone will be tested. Therefore, one cannot say one-fifth of the population will die. The one in five number is only for confirmed, resolved cases. So, there is hope that better treatments may impact this number. However, my plan remains to avoid the virus.

Second, this calculation is based on worldwide numbers. Individual countries vary. If you would like to calculate your country both BNO News and Johns Hopkins University are compiling data. As of today, BNO News is still playing catch-up due to the death of a family member. But I like this online news agency out of the Netherlands because they started tracking stats very early on. The two organizations have different time zones so that also pushes the numbers apart. If you use JHU numbers, the ratio is .18. Rounding gives you the same one in five number.

April 2020 In the Garden

April 2020 showers were on the light side, so I have used soaker hoses to keep the garden alive. The temperatures have been about average. Although the weather forecast gave me a bit of a scare. Today an original temperature forecast of 96 degrees Fahrenheit and bright sun was slated. I am so glad the experts were wrong. At mid-afternoon it is 84 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy. Perfect weather for transplanting.

While I did not have the nice two hour drizzle that accompanied the pepper transplanting, today was ideal. The plants I placed in the garden today were chosen from the seedlings I have started indoors this spring. Transplants include peanuts, basil, artichoke and my hybrid tomato favorite Heirloom Marriage Genuwine. I love these tomatoes but I do think the name is a bit confusing. Hybrids are not heirlooms and thus I won’t save seed from these tomatoes.

Hardening Off

My other tomatoes are still hardening off on the front porch along with more artichoke, basil, and dill. The cucumbers and beans are just now sprouting. I will wait a week or so before transplanting. Even though we are not quite past our last freeze date, the long-term forecast looks safe.

The hardening process can be tricky. Each day, plants are left outside in a protected area to become accustomed to Mother Nature. The goal is to lengthen the exposure daily. However, a few days ago we had a Red Flag Advisory. Since the wind can do so much damage, I skipped a day in the hardening off process.

Transplants that do not receive this gradual adjustment to the outdoors are vulnerable to loss. I would hate to waste two months of nurturing. So I am not rushing the process. The photos are of seedlings nearing the end of the process and/or the seeds started outdoors but in containers for later transplant.

Raised Row Garden

The raised row garden continues to astound. Please read this review of a great method of gardening. I managed to keep Swiss Chard alive all winter with a fabric hoop covering. Unfortunately, the recent high wind ripped the covering. Making lemonade, I just relocated half to protect some young cabbage seedlings.

Landscape Blanket
Protecting Beet Seeds From Starlings

I believe some pesky starlings have been enjoying my sweet beet seeds. So, I have now replanted a variety of beets for the third time. A light landscaping blanket now covers the seeds.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Tree in Full Bloom

Garlic and onions in various stages of growth are sprinkled throughout the garden. I have placed a small amount of garlic under the almond tree to help deter borers. The tree flowered for the first time; Just a sprinkling of blossoms as compared to the fully loaded cherry tree.

Early Harvest

April 2020 included bringing crops to the table. We enjoyed carrots twice. First just cut and boiled and the second time in a stir fry. I sow the carrot seed in late fall and they are among the first green shoots in the garden. We are also enjoying asparagus, Swiss chard, green onions, mint and lettuces. Egg-white frittatas with home grown produce cannot be beat.

April 2020 Hobby Room

The top for the Train Quilt 2 is fully pieced and waiting to be sandwiched. I love the circus theme of the border. The pastel colors are perfect for the little miss who might receive this on her first birthday. Additionally, I have settled on a pattern for the new baby who might be here for the next Wrap-Up. Another great- nephew to spoil.

But the time in the hobby room was also practical. Dozens of masks were made and then mailed to family members. My offspring live in large cities. The hope is the masks are enjoying use. They were quite easy to make and I kept one for myself. As stay-at-home restrictions ease, I believe I will still wear a mask in crowded situations. At least in the short term.

  • Quilt strips before sewing in mauve, blue gray and off white
    Beginnings of a quilt

April 2020 In The Kitchen

Covid-19 has one beneficial side effect. We are enjoying amazing meals. Even before the virus struck, we cooked most of the time. But the stay-at-home orders have created an abundance of extra time in the day-or so it seems. The result is fantastic recipes discovered or just remembered. A highlight of April 2020 was making sugar cookies for Easter as part of the Easter delivery meal.

I am a little concerned about the local yeast shortage. But, if I run out of regular yeast, I will turn to making sourdough bread. Additionally, I am thankful that my bread-making skills have improved so dramatically over the last few years. Soft home-made sandwich is preferable to the bricks I turned out early on. Bread Illustrated remains as my go-to cook book for bread recipes.

Fresh Bread
Fresh Bread

April 2020 In the Library

Just a couple short months ago I asked my librarian about online library loans. Her response was to download the Libby app. I did and I couldn’t live without it! While best sellers usually mean a wait, we both have enjoyed reading the various Lorena McCourtney books. She is a champ at writing cozy mysteries.

However, I do have some non-fiction books on hand. I have started three and have yet to finish one. Perhaps they do not offer the escape from reality I need. At least one of them is riddled with inconsistencies so that is also a factor.  Depending on how long this isolation lasts, I may find a way to finish each of them.

Three books
Reading in Progress

No Travel

Seldom do I have a month where I do not travel at least to a neighboring state. But April 2020 was a month without any travel. I love my corner of the world. But I also like to travel. I had hoped to recognize my Dad’s battle with breast cancer with an in person attendance at the Kentucky Oaks. But the first weekend in May is upon us. No running for Oaks Lilies or Kentucky Derby Roses will occur this spring.

Very few planes fly overhead. The Amtrak does pass through twice a day, but I have no idea how full it is. April 2020 brought a cancellation of the Centennial Zonta International Convention. So I will not be traveling to Chicago this July. No travel and no plans.

Thank you to all that made it through this long post. No venturing outside has cut down on my interaction with people so I jumped at this opportunity. I wish all of you good health. Carpe diem!

Linking Liver Disease to Socioeconomic Events

Numerous alcohol bottles on displayI use Twitter to keep abreast of news. But, I follow-up by searching for source information. Yesterday the Twitter feed piqued my interest with a trending item relating increases of liver disease in the under 34 population with The Great Recession. Naturally, I am interested whenever I see society impacted by economic events. Also, I look for the reverse; societal events which impact economics. The interchange is often life changing.

Increased Liver Disease Since the 2008 Recession

Therefore, I searched for the source of the study and found the publication in the BMJ. The study originated at the University of Michigan. Assistant Professors  Tapper and Parikh produced the work. Please click here for the link explaining the scientific methodology. Some of you may have read articles in either the New York Times or Washington Post summarizing the study. I encourage you to read the actual study found on the above link.

The study covers the time period from 1999 to 2016. A statistically significant correlation between The Great Recession and increased deaths in the 25 to 34 population is discussed. Since my oldest offspring fit this demographic, there is a greater interest on my part. The data analysis and results were of particular note. Table 2 in the study is a good indicator that the onset of economic trouble has a direct correlation with an increase in liver disease.

Validation is important to me, so I searched for other studies. There are quite a few. The Great Recession spurred many scientific studies. Most attributed the decline in health to the decline in prosperity. However, I did come across a scholarly article that posited the opposite reaction.

Health Effects of Economic Crisis

Christopher J. Ruhm produced the working paper Health Effects of Economic Crises. His detailed analysis can be accessed by clicking here. (Note the Economic Bureau of Economic Research does not have a secure website, but the link is to a PDF.) On the surface the two studies appear to conflict. Yet a closer evaluation indicates some correlation between the two.

Ruhm’s study of the interchange between macroeconomic downturns and morbidity rates focuses on cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Everything else is lumped into a category of other disease. (He also includes analysis of death rates due to accidents, suicides and homicides. Although the two latter conditions could be attributed to mental illness.)

Backgrounds play a key role in the approaches. Tapper and Parikh are medical doctors specializing in the field of gastroenterology. Ruhm’s background is in economics. He holds a doctorate with his CV citing Health Economics, Labor Economics and Public Economics as specialties.

My belief after reading both studies is there is an interaction between economics, macroeconomics in particular, and societal changes. Declines in extra spending money leads to a decline in consumption of goods harmful to health. Examples would be alcohol, tobacco and sugar.

Correlation

From what I understand of the two studies, a correlation can be made. Ruhm’s analysis led me to believe the morbidity rates declined due to a money squeeze. Personal observation recalls individuals in my hamlet switching to bikes and walking during the Great Recession. This increase in physical activity combined with a decrease in consumption of deleterious goods such as alcohol, tobacco and sugars would lead to healthier living.

By contrast, the study by Tapper and Parikh seems to me to focus on the aftereffects of the Great Recession. The country has enjoyed a decade of prosperity. Yet it is easy to infer the lingering effects on the age group of 25-34 year olds. Some would include the Millennials in this cohort. Individuals entering the workforce during the Great Recession faced adversity at the time. Many are still struggling to catch-up.

Perhaps this internal struggle coupled with more money currently available for consumer spending is the cause for the findings in the study. Higher alcohol as well as obesity lead to liver failure. Thus a call for an increase in sin tax with regards to both alcohol and sugar by proponents of this particular study.

Health Challenge From Econogal

Taxes are unpopular and only one approach. My suggestions differ. First, as I have written before, maintaining physical health is important. In my opinion, all adults (everyone over 18) should have blood work done once a year along as part of an annual check-up. Second, we should practice moderation. I first discuss this in the book review of The Case Against Sugar.

Alcohol consumption should be limited. I looked up the suggested limits for low risk use. They were more than generous in my opinion. My understanding is those who don’t drink at all are at an advantage with regards to memory processes and only at a slight disadvantage for cardiovascular health.

Thus, I have a challenge for my readers. Starting August 1, 2018, reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption until Halloween. Monetary costs most likely prohibit blood work before and after for concrete results. So, I am asking my readers to use observation. Make weekly notes on energy levels. Note activities. Journal entries will keep you on track. Then share your results via comment. I will let responses dictate space on the blog.

If you are already a non-drinker, reduce your consumption of sugar, tobacco, caffeine or some other unhealthy product. Or those that abstain from alcohol and other sinfully delicious goodies can add a positive. This addition of a healthy alternative would be good for the drinkers as well.

Are you up for the challenge?