Finally some rain

We finally have had some rain, and my little herb garden is really happy.

DSC_0411

Rosemary and sage – it has taken them a while to begin spreading, but now they are thriving.

DSC_0412

Hyssop – much better fresh than dried.

DSC_0413

And mint. It’s really about to cover the whole patch!

Advertisements

No-Flour Oatmeal Cookies

DSC_0408

Nothing beats oatmeal cookies for a quick and easy snack, and these, a recent experiment, containing no flour or baking powder, are sure to become a favorite recipe. Word of caution: whenever I cook or bake, I’m basically winging it, so if you’re into exact measurements, sorry.

Go ahead and take:

1-1\2 cup of whole or rolled oats

1\2 cup dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut meat

A generous handful of raisins or dried cranberries

A dash of cinnamon

3 heaped tablespoonfuls of coconut oil (and, really, I must digress for a second, because I always feel like I can’t sing the praises of coconut oil enough. It’s delicious in all kinds of baked goods that I want to keep dairy-free, and makes lovely, crisp cookies and mouthwatering, flaky pie crust)

1\2 cup honey, date sugar, or whatever your preferred sweetener is

Mix everything thoroughly in a bowl; it’s best to knead with your hands.

Add 1-2 eggs, just enough to make a sticky mixture.

Take a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Pick up small portions of the cookie mixture (about egg-sized) and flatten them thoroughly with your two hands. Place the cookies on the sheet, evenly spaced, and pop into the oven for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat, just until the edges start to turn golden-brown. Do not overbake.

Enjoy with a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa, or with a glass of cold milk.

Top Cheap and Healthy Foods

Image result for beans and pulses

The more financially challenged a family is (I deliberately avoid using the word ‘poor’, as I believe poverty is as much a state of mind as of the pocket), the higher proportion of its budget is directed towards buying food. It makes sense – you can scrimp on entertainment, clothes, and all sorts of frills, but everyone needs to eat.

Some things are really no brainers when it comes to food choices: avoid prepackaged ready-to-eat stuff, soft drinks, and anything that isn’t food in its basic, natural state. But what if you really need to take this a step further? What foods are the best bargain, financially and health-wise?

Whole, dry pulses and grains – beans, lentils and peas of all kinds have provided a source of protein and nourished healthy populations all around the world for millennia. Combined with barley, rice, bulgur, corn, etc, these create dishes with an amino acid balance that needs only a little animal protein to make a well-rounded, low-cost diet. Learn how to prepare grains and pulses the right way by soaking and/or fermenting them.

You can get a lot of food out of a few bags of lentils, peas and beans, and when properly stored, they will keep almost indefinitely.

Oats – oats are very nutritious and make an excellent breakfast cereal, much better than any cold cereal you can buy. Get your oats whole and roll them yourself for longer storage and to get the most of their health benefits, and pre-soak for maximum digestibility.

Eggs – containing the most effectively bioavailable protein in human nutrition, eggs are filling, nourishing and incredibly versatile. They also have the advantage of being almost universally cheap. Of course, it’s a million times better to consume home-grown eggs with a healthier fatty acid profile and essential vitamins, but even a store-bought egg is a source of wholesome protein when you can ill afford anything else.

Organ meats – the general public has a refined taste when it comes to chicken and turkey, and prefers clean, white meat, breast being the most popular. Stuff like liver, hearts, stomachs, etc, falls by the wayside, and can often be got very cheaply – all the better for you! Organ meats contain plenty of iron and B12, and, of course, are an excellent source of animal protein. They can figure in a variety of soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes.

Vegetables – if you have a productive garden of your own, you’re in luck. If not, you still rely on what you buy – and though fresh vegetables are an essential in a healthy diet, they can be tricky on the budget. Prices go up and down according to season and other factors, and even when you get a really good deal on certain veggies, there’s only so much you can buy, and they won’t store forever. Learn to buy what is cheap and in season, rather than have a fixed idea of what you’re going to eat.

Plain dairy products – commercial dairy products are controversial, but if you don’t keep a dairy animal, plain unsweetened store-bought dairy products are still a good bet, and are usually affordable. Stick to whole milk, plain yogurt, naturally processed cheese and unsalted butter.

Canned goods – don’t automatically dismiss all that comes from a can. Some canned foods are very nutritious – such as canned tomatoes, beans, tuna, sardines, and more – and sometimes you can get very good deals on them, so keep your eyes open.

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to make your meals more palatable or filling by the addition of refined sugar and highly processed vegetable oils. It will only mess up your blood sugar and satiety signals, and will ultimately make you hungrier.

Good luck in finding the best way to feed your family healthy, inexpensive food – I know this can be tricky, but the rewards are well worth it.

Choosing a Chicken Breed

Our chicken-keeping adventure has lasted for some years now, and during this time we have learned a great deal, met some wonderful new friends with whom we bonded over this common interest, and stopped making a fuss over stepping in bird poop. We have even gained the status of something like chicken experts in our local community; but still, when people ask us, “which breed of chickens should I choose?” more often than not we can offer no better answer than “it depends”.

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Whichever breed you choose, make sure you get your stock from a reputable hatchery or private breeder. This is the only way to guarantee you get healthy birds (or fresh, good quality hatching eggs) that come from pure bloodlines. Don’t be tempted by unusually low prices, and shun places where birds are kept in substandard conditions, or are looking sickly.”

Vacations and holidays on the cheap

Image result for picnic

I am just catching my breath after a string of Jewish holidays that lasted nearly a month, and afforded quite a lot of in-between days that are commonly used for family outings. As a family living on a budget, we almost always choose to avoid any sort of entertainment one must pay for (be it amusement parks, zoos, petting zoos, or even the swimming pool).

There are more than enough places, we have found out, that we can visit, and pleasantly spend our time in, without paying a thing, or paying very little: beaches, parks, historical sites, farms that encourage visitors without charging a fee, and so forth. Furthermore, we take advantage of having many friends who farm or homestead, and visit them (and, of course, invite them to visit us in return).

The price of gas, naturally, is a consideration as well. There are some lovely places that open their gates to the public for free, but as they are so far from us, just the ride there and back is pricey. We focus, therefore, on our area, and always find something new to explore. You should try it as well.

If you have family or friends who have gone out on vacation themselves, and left an empty house, they might allow you to stay in their place for free (and will sometimes be quite happy with the arrangement, if you throw some pet-sitting or watering the plants into the bargain). This gives you a whole new area to explore, with a convenient, free base.

Another expense that people often don’t think of is eating out. When you go somewhere, after a couple of hours naturally you will begin to feel peckish. This is even truer for children, who seem to become insatiably hungry the moment they are strapped to the car seat. So make sure to pack up healthy snacks for the ride, a nutritious lunch for the whole family, and a big bottle of water. Ideas for non-mess food: egg and/or tuna sandwiches, cold pasta, sliced fruits and vegetables, cold sliced quiches, hard-boiled eggs, a trail mix of nuts and raisins, and salads with stuff like lentils, quinoa or beans will keep you going for a long time.

Vacationing and family outings in general don’t need to be budget-breakers. Just try it and see for yourself!

The fading summer

A nostalgic post from our old home – a look at our then-garden:

It’s time to take another stroll and feel the strengthening winds of autumn. Pick up some herbs for herb tea…

Look at some of the young trees hopefully awaiting the next season of life and warmth to bear fruit…

And see how the grape vine is waving goodbye with leaves that are falling one by one.

Yes, I know that some of our friends overseas are already shoveling snow, but for us it’s barely fall, and I’m looking forward to cooler weather, rain, and winter flowers.

Women in the IDF: an opinion

fe26a688ebe3d633a99fddca6fa4cb1b

I have read, more than once, articles by people in the US who say, “if the Israeli army drafts women, they must be doing something right, because they’re a darn good army!”

This reasoning is problematic on very many levels.

IDF is really very much the people’s army. Most men (excepting the Ultra Orthodox and, of course, Arabs) serve, as do the majority of the secular women. This is considered a rite of passage, and something most Israelis culturally identify with.

It is worth noting, however, that the idea of “everyone doing their part” is rather based upon old-school communist ideology, the same that instilled children’s homes in the kibbutzim to revolutionize the family unit, an experiment that traumatized a whole generation of children. The IDF is notorious for its ineffective management of human resources – it is commonly known that quite often, women in the Israeli army are assigned office jobs with little value, because there are just too many soldiers in auxiliary positions to dispose of. This leaves many, many young women – and, to tell the truth, many young men as well – in a position of basically killing time (a little less than two years) while they could have worked, studied or started a family. Essentially, the massive draft of women turns into an economic drain, and something that stands in the way of a professional, efficient army.

Israel is, to my knowledge, the only country in the world with an obligatory military service for women. Contrary to popular belief, it is not justified by Israel’s precarious political situation, since advanced technology plays a more important part these days than numbers, certainly more than numbers of soldiers who are superfluous.

This wastefulness and inefficiency, however, is not the worst of it. The feminist agenda of integrating women into combat units which were previously comprised of men only has led to reduced capabilities of said units, and a whole host of problems.

The young women who apply to serve in combat units are often highly motivated and propelled by the best intentions, being little aware of the left-wing agenda that is ready to undermine the army’s capabilities in the name of gender equality.

When it comes to physical performance, it’s a no-brainer, really: women are not as strong as men, on average, and less able to carry heavy loads. The thresholds of acceptance into said combat units have been lowered for the sake of admitting women, which is alarming in itself, but in the moment of truth, men often find themselves performing physical tasks for women who are simply incapable to do what must be done. Nevertheless, the young women are still driven to exertion far beyond their physical capability, sometimes to the detriment of their long-term health.

The second thing one must remember is that the vast majority of Israeli military recruits consists of 18-year-olds straight out of highschool. Put a bunch of teenagers in coed army units, and you get a whole lot of sexual tension, and reduced discipline and unit cohesion.

The third, and very concerning prospect, is what might happen if a woman soldier is taken into captivity. The horrors that would fall to her lot are hardly imaginable (though it is horrifying to think of any soldier in enemy’s hands).

Ultimately, the IDF is supposed to have one single purpose: defending Israel with the utmost efficiency. It’s not a place for social experiments, for gratifying feminists or for indulging individual ambition. If combat units function better when they include men only – and hardly anyone can argue against it being the case – no agendas or prickly egos are supposed to interfere with that.

Furthermore, if a smaller, better managed and more professional army would do better to defend me and my country, I’d take this army any day over a large, clumsily managed “people’s army”.

A lot of people might dispute this, but here is what I, and many others who know far better than I, believe: IDF can do without all its women, and a significant part of its men, with rational management. I believe that such management, and maintaining the safety of Israel, are the only principles that should guide our army.