June 11, 2020 – Speaking of Creepy Things…

Today is Thursday, June 11, 2020, also known as, National Corn on the Cob Day. There is no more fitting day for a guy from Iowa than this one! June seems a bit early for a celebration of corn on the cob (it usually isn’t ready for picking and eating until August). Still, any day is a good day for corn on the cob when you can get it…especially if it is fresh picked.

in praise of corn on the cob and small family farms

The ugliest worm in the world…especially if you’ve got to pick it off the tomato plant to get to the tomato.

As a kid, I don’t think I ever ate corn on the cob that wasn’t fresh picked from the garden. It was a staple in our family garden and a wonderful summer treat. We had a very large garden. It was a lot of work but it yielded most of our vegetables for the winter once they were canned. I remember there were lots of tomato plants, cabbage, rows of leafy lettuce, potatoes, carrots, green beans, rhubarb, and strawberries. Unfortunately, I also remember tomato worms. They still creep me out.

In those days my family rarely went to grocery stores, except to get flour, sugar, spices, and coffee. Our hogs, cattle, chickens, geese, goats, sheep, and garden provided everything else.

That is what it was like to live on a small Midwestern family farm in that era. We produced enough to feed ourselves and any extra was shared with neighbors. In the case of eggs and cream, they could be sold for a little extra cash.

The shifting of the U.S. economy from agrarian to industrial meant a lot of changes. Farms were industrialized too with the introduction of corporate farming. Small family farms couldn’t compete. As a result many disappeared and others became part of a corporate farm. A few, with a little help from some pretty big loans, simply became corporate farms.

Our journey to the grocery store yesterday, for the first time since March, was striking because of the absence of many items. As the pandemic wears on, my fear is that we will continue to see a growing shortage of groceries and an escalation in price. Part of the shortage is related to over-production on coroporate farms. The “just in time” corporate supply chain of farm to table is dependent on that chain remaining unbroken. When it breaks, as it did this Spring, the corporate farms can suddenly have too much product on their hands that they can’t move even if they could sell it. As a result, they end up dumping milk, euthanizing animals, and plowing under fields of vegetables and fruit. At the same time, thousands, if not millions, across the country are food insecure and going hungry.

It is unlikely that small family farms could have managed to meet the demand brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic any better than the corporate farms of today. However, small family farming operates under a different spirit that says we’ll not only feed ourselves, but we’ll make sure our neighbors have food too. This “can do” spirit seems absent in corporate farming except in a few exceptional cases.

Can we see a few more of those exceptional corporate farmers step up, please? People, including children, are getting hungry out here.

speaking of creepy things…

TravelFuntu! just appeared in my Twitter feed today with an absolutely irresistible promise, The Most Terrifying Images Captured by A Drone. When you navigate to the site, you find a slightly different title that has a mild calming effect, Scary Images Captured by Drone. Twitter did oversell the images but they are scary, especially as you consider what was happening in may of the photos that people in them just didn’t see. I also found the photos mesmerizing and meditative. You’ll do a lot of scrolling to see each of the photos but it is worth it. Let me know what you think.

Chickenman – Episode 55

Chickenman is duped into joining a protest against the Midland City Library, conveniently located across the street from the Police Commissioner’s office.

Day 51 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Hot Oven


Yes, it is Cinco de Mayo and it is also Tuesday – which at Taco Bell is Taco Tuesday so, I guess it is Cinco de Mayo Taco Tuesday but that all sounds way to confusing. So, I’m going with pizza…a taco pizza.

How to Avoid Being a Guava on Cinco de Mayo

Unfortunately, most of us Americans who are native born, white, and of Anglo Northern European heritage know very little of other ethnicities, cultures, and languages. Let’s face it and be brutally honest with ourselves. Overall, when it comes to any of these, we are ignoramuses. This is especially true with regard to what we know about Latinos and Hispanics.

Case in point: Cinco de Mayo is a strictly Mexican holiday because it remembers Mexico’s victory over France on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. To be clear, it is not Mexican Independence Day. To be even more clear, over the years it has evolved to be a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture, not ALL Latino and Hispanic culture. Still, we wander around on Cinco de Mayo wishing a happy holiday to anyone with a Spanish accent or, we just appropriate the holiday as another reason for drinking beer and eating nachos.

Being an ignoramus, I risked my life when I once – and one time only – wished Clemencia a cheery Happy Cinco de Mayo! The first time I did this I earned a rather lengthy “explanation” (read “lecture”) on the origins of Cinco de Mayo, why it was not her holiday as a native Colombian, and what a gueva gringo I was for not understanding all of that already. Actually, she was right. We gringos are not very good at any history, geography, culture, or language other than our own – and, of course, we tend to think it is all vastly superior to any others.

While Mexico is a Latino and Hispanic country, not all Latinos and Hispanics are Mexicans. Also, just because people identify as Latino does not mean they are from Mexico or even speak Spanish. There is a difference between being Latino and being Hispanic. Latino is an abbreviation of latinoamericano, hence it refers to people living in Latin America. Hispanic, though, refers to countries which are Spanish speaking. Worldwide there are 20 Hispanic countries and 33 Latino countries. Here’s your puzzler for the week: How can a country be Latino but not Hispanic? For a hint, check out this fun video tutorial:

So, to all our Mexican friends, Happy Cinco de Mayo! We wish you a fun, joyous, and safe (socially distancing) celebration!

Love (And Pie!) Makes the World Go Round

I met Beth M. Howard as a result of reading this article in the New York Times. I was captivated by her story, immensely proud to see an Iowan in the news for something good, and decided to connect with her anyway I could. The article also reminded me of a period when, living in Des Moines, I was doing some work in the county next to the one where Beth and her Redheaded Farmer Doug live. My trips from and back to Des Moines would always take me by the American Gothic house and I always loved seeing it.

Intially I reached Beth through her website and then we connected through email. We corresponded for a time and then, on my last trip back home to Iowa in late 2018, I had the opportunity to have dinner with her and Doug. It turns out that Doug and I graduated high school at about the same time and were even on competing high school wrestling teams. We Iowans just love “it’s a small world” stuff like that!

What captivated me about Beth was how she was contributing to the greater good of our world through one of my very favorite things: pie. Beth uses pie and pie baking as instruments of peace and healing in the world. That’s as much of her story I’m going to tell you here because there have been articles written about her, she has a TED Talk, she has written books, and she has a YouTube channel – and most of these are accessible from her website. You can learn more about her in her own words. She has a wonderful story and I hope you’ll take time to learn more about her.

Actually, Beth and Doug have been on my mind a lot recently as I’ve been following the creep of COVID-19 toward my home state. I count them as friends and I’ve had good intentions to drop them a note just to check in but never got around to it with everything else going on.

This morning I opened my email and found this subject line in preview: Love your daily posts. “Who could that fool be?” I wondered. After running through a list all the fools I could think of, I finally opened the email.

I was delighted to find it was not from a fool at all, but from Beth. I felt honored, and a bit embarrassed, to learn she was reading my drivel. But the really exciting news is that she is back to caring for others through the power of pie during this pandemic. She has done six YouTube episodes to teach people how to bake different pies. In episode #7 (below) she features all the pies people have been baking using her lessons.

Check out Beth’s website and subscribe to her YouTube channel, The World Needs More Pie where you can find Episode’s 1 through 6…and start making pie! I bet your mouth is watering anyway so you might as well bake your own, right? Look, Beth has Doug to test the pie she makes and you need a taste tester too. Just sayin’! So, to help you out, I’m volunteering! Email me for my address and box up a piece of your pie. 🙂

Beth, thanks for all you do for the greater good through the power of pie and your caring spirit. At a horrible time like this, the world does need more pie and the love it conveys.

The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: I have to admit that I feel self-conscious doing my regular “7-person family” grocery shopping trip. It may look like I’m getting ready for the zombie apocalypse but it’s just a normal week in a big family!!

The Adventures of Chickenman – Episode 20

Our Fearless Feathered Fighter calls Ms. Helfinger from the Chicken Cave in dire need of her assistance. Will Ms. Helfinger be able to help?

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and bake two pies – one for yourself and the other for someone who needs a pie today.


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