Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I tossed around a few ideas before Drew and I settled on giving up China.

"Should we buy local-only for a year?" I wondered, before remembering that the clothing boutique I duck into every once in a while doesn't actually make the clothes locally - the dress I bought there was...well, you know the rest.

"Maybe we should only buy American-made goods," I said next. But there was something wrong with that idea too. If you haven't noticed, there are very few products made in this country of ours. I would have to resign myself to buying next to nothing for a year: no clothes, linens, tools, odds and ends, you get the picture.

We decided on China because I had always wanted to give it up and it seemed do-able.

I've acquired a lot of new interests this spring. One is a keen desire to know where the things I buy and the food I eat come from. And I do believe I have Asheville to thank for it. Imagine a brightly colored piece of art - circles here, horizontal lines sprouting from there, dabs of paint mushrooming in a corner to the left - set against a very neutral backdrop and you have Asheville. I find myself harboring a passionate love/dislike relationship (more on the latter later) with this city. If you find yourself pondering green thoughts, nibbling on locally raised meat and produce, and wondering how you can be a good steward of this great earth of ours, you might want to seriously consider moving to Asheville. That is what this place and the people in it are all about.

I began thinking about food first. My mom fullfilled a long-time passion of hers by getting chickens. This meant that I began receiving fresh eggs (brown on the outside, with a very orangy-yellow yolk inside) and I was able to see, first hand, what the life of a happy, healthy chicken looks like (versus that of a
factory chicken cramped inside with thousands of others).

*Note: my mom's chickens aren't free-range. That would mean they are free to roam where they please and her flock would quickly dwindle down to nothing, as hawks love chicken for dinner.

Mom's chickens have a fenced-in run made of chicken wire, a portable run (or what I call their play-pen) that Mom moves to different parts of the yard so the chickens can scrounge up a new supply of grubs, and a snug coop for egg-laying time. Hermione, Henny, and Hannah (last name "Montana") live a very good life. When they don't lay, Mom doesn't pump them with hormones or kill them. Chickens have a laying cycle and sometime, the ladies just don't produce any eggs.

1. When Mom down-sized from six chickens to only three, our supply of free, locally grown eggs ran out (for me and Drew, at least!). I decided that I wasn't going to buy anymore $1.99 eggs from Ingles. Instead, I started buying eggs from Hickory Nut Gap Farm - a farm I've personally visited - via my organic food store for $3.50. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. I know that my eggs are antibiotic and hormone-free, they're laid only thirty minutes away in the town of Fairview, and the chickens they come from enjoy a free-range lifestyle.

2. I try to buy only locally raised meat. It it can't be local (for example, I believe the local farms only slaughter their chickens at certain times of year, so it's not always available), it's organic meat that came from Pennsylvania or Montana. Again, my meat is anibiotic and hormone-free and comes from animals that aren't being penned in with thousands of others.

The eggs'n meat thing began last fall. Following that train of thought, I started thinking about communist China and all the Chinese products I buy.Two questions loomed in front of me: a) What am I putting into my body & bringing into my home? and b) Who is being hurt in the process?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those animal activists who thinks animals = humans. Drew and I will not take out insurance on our cats, bury them in a pet cemetery one day, or equate their life in any way as being equal to that of a human's. I do, however, think that all living things should be treated with respect. If I live in freedom, going where I want and seeing who I want, why should I support a government that enslaves its people? If I don't force my cats to live out their lives in a tiny, dark, closet, why should chickens and cows be forced to live this way?

There is a lot right with our country right now and a lot wrong with it. I don't want to focus entirely on one or the other. If I think only about the first, I'll spend my life wearing rose-colored glasses. If I go with the latter, I'll lose sight of all that IS good and beautiful in America. Contrary to the vibes I sometimes get from my libral Asheville neighbors, this country is not quite running to the dogs at 156 mph.

A healthy balance is what I'm looking for...

As I ruminate on my China boycott, I've decided that I might occasionally address other matters, such as the evils of corn, why I passionately dislike Walmart, or how excited I am about canning salsa this fall. Oh, the glories of free speech!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


My brain is numb, eyelids are drooping, and the lovely idea of watching an hour of television has fled. It is 11:21 at night and I'm up, putting an article together. While shaping the mess of isolated paragraphs into a comprehensive, working whole, I've come to realize that I am a puzzle addict. I won't go near the real thing...nothing about a physical puzzle-on-a-table attracts me. But studying an article - pulling a paragraph from here to there, nudging a sentence up one line, pulling out the right voice for a particular magazine - is a challenge I relish.

The lopsided candle, my faithful companion for the evening, has burned steadily for hours now. The flame sways slowly against a cavernous backdrop, illuminating a pool of liquid wax. It is lost in its own musings.

Perhaps it's time to let say goodnight. Tomorrow is almost here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Small article = Very Important

I have known for several months now that I need a bulletin board. It doesn't have to be a big one. Just a small rectangle to hang outside my kitchen. On it will be a scrap of paper that reads "BLOG" in cartoon handwriting. Maybe then I won't forget about my dear friend Blog!

I don't get the newspaper. Physically, I mean. ;) That being said, my mom has taken up the task of scanning the Asheville Citizen-Times and USA Today for any key buzzwords that may pertain to our boycott. FYI, next time you're flipping through a newspaper, zero in on the tiny articles. I'm finding that they're the important ones. She dropped these two landmines into my lap the other day. I'll be the first to admit that if I saw articles posted on a blog, I would be very tempted to skim them. But keep in mind, folks, 1. these babies are tiny and 2. they're very interesting. I promise!


The Associated Press
OAKLAND, CALIF. - Target Corp. said Tuesday it was pulling its Valentine's Day "Message Bears" from the shelves after California's attorney general, Jerry Brown, said tests found levels of lead that violate federal law.

The products were identified as two of Target's "Message Bears."

One is a pink stuffed bear with "XOXO" across the chest. The other is a brown stuffed bear with "I Love U" across the chest, with "love" represented by a heart.

Investigators found that the bears' inflated vinyl letters contained well over the federal limits for lead in products for children younger than 12.

The bears were made in China.

But you already guessed that, didn't you? This second one isn't specifically about China. But for all we know, these wind turbines are being manufactured in said country. And yes, I typed the first word as it was printed. Editing mistake, there.

Fto a report from ABC News showing that stimulus funds for green jobs are creating them - overseas. According to the report, "nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent on wind power, funding the creation of enough new wind farms to power 2.4 million homes over the past year. But the study found that nearly 80 percent of that money has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines." Russ Choma at the Investigative Reporting Workshop told ABC, "Most of the jobs are going overseas. According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple of hundred have been created in the U.S." The goal is laudable. The approach is completely wrong and should be fixed immediately.

So this is what our government's stimulus money is going to. To all those who say, "But we're saving money on labor and parts! Look how many homes we're able to powers because of it," I'll respond with, "I thought the point of a stimulus package was to actually stimulate our economy - not someone else's."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ahh, confession!

Being Catholic means I've gotten really good at confessing. "Bless me Father, for I have sinned, it has been X days since I've been to confession." You want the skinny? I've got the skinny. There's nothing like standing in line, unfocused eyes pinned to a stained glass window. Pondering sins past, I wipe one sweaty palm against another as I wait for a chance to bare my soul.

I felt the need to participate in this age-old ritual today while at Starbucks. No, the confessional hasn't moved. I was having a coffee date - minus the coffee - with a friend and she asked how the embargo was going.

"It's okay," I said.

"You're still boycotting China, even after one month in?" she asked, looking impressed.

My confession radar was humming wildly, desperate for a chance to kick into gear. "It's been easy the past two weeks because all I've bought is food." There it was, confession #1. For some reason, house-sitting had served as very effective shopping obstacle. Maybe I felt compelled to be at the house with the dogs when I wasn't working? Who knows.

And then I decided to continue. What IS it with Catholics and confession? "Well," I hedged, "It might be cheating, but I have bought a few things that say "Made in the U.S. of U.S. and/or imported materials." It was out: confession #2.

But wait - hadn't I admitted to this very thing posts and posts ago (think: green sponge incident)? If you recall, I had called the so called "green sponge incident" our first boo-boo. I should insert here that Drew would vehemently disagree - it was certainly not a boo-boo in his book. If I recall correctly, he was ready to throw the whole boycott to the wind if I insisted on being so picky as to refuse to buy something that "might" be made of imported materials from a country that "may" (or may NOT) be China.

"But," I hastened to say to my friend, "It says 'and/or' so the thing could be made entirely of U.S. materials. And who says 'imported' means China? It could be from anywhere."

Ahh, confession. I've always been the sort of person who spots miniscule faults in myself and then proceeds to blow them up into sins of gigantic proportions. Please realize that any other sane person would laugh long and hard at my blown up sins. I was born with enough guilt for twenty-three Catholics.

But this is one "sin" that I refuse to ponder any longer. There are many "why not's" in our situation - and I've asked them all. Why aren't we boycotting India and Pakistan - their working conditions probably aren't much better than China's? Why aren't we buying strictly American for a year? Why don't we just go local?

My answer is that we have to start somewhere...and China is where we decided to start. So take that, my dear nagging little conscience. Drew and I are boycotting "Made in China"...and that's that.

P.S. We'll be opening the discussion for next year's resolution on December 31st, 2010.