American Exceptionalism On The Ropes?

 

The prospect of military action in Syria seems a lot less likely than it did a few weeks ago, but I think that even if it doesn’t go to blows, this event will still be looked back upon as being historically significant.   Right now it looks like we’re witnessing the government of the United States attempting to go beyond their political, moral, economic and military limits in Syria and these guys are definitely not used to not getting what they want in the world.   After over 20 years of being the world’s sole superpower, I believe this incident highlights the world’s transition into a multipolar world.

I should also say that war is not completely off the table at this point and if it goes to war it’s going to be a huge shit-show because there’s the potential for a lot of bad things to happen, ranging from only further pissing off the world as the best possible outcome and world war at the worst possible outcome.   Our recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as prisoner abuse scandals and drone warfare left a sour taste in much of the world’s mouth and adding another preemptive war to that laundry list of complaints against us surely wouldn’t help improve our public image.    At the more extreme end of potential outcomes, Russia has beefed up her naval presence in Syrian waters and Iran has hinted towards retaliation against the United States and/or Israel if the US strikes Syria.    Israeli involvement could flare up tensions in the regions beyond their already turbulent state (although they did strike Syria in the spring).   The possibility of this going from an in-house affair to a regional conflict to a world war involving NATO & friends against Iran, Syria and Russia is certainly there if cooler heads do not prevail.

Between hurting feelings abroad and full-scale world war lies many other potential outcomes we could face:  terrorism, being bogged down in proxy wars, economic warfare, cutting off petroleum supplies and diplomatic blowback.    With all the other problems we have in our country, we do not need more of them thrown onto our backs.   Fortunately, it does seem like the situation is deescalating and military action looks less likely.    If we’re lucky, the American public will get out of this with only a case of shame over the guys we collectively voted for.

A decade ago we had carte blanche in the world and undertook two separate wars.    Today we’re facing serious diplomatic resistance from Russia (and to a lesser extent, China) and the support/goading we’re getting from Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey plus the toadyism from the UK, France, Germany, etc. on the issue doesn’t seem like a sufficient “consensus” from the world on the situation.   I think this is notable on how far the balance of power in the world has headed to the east since we last decided to flex our muscles in 2003.   I think it’s still safe to say we’re the world’s premier superpower, but it’s looking like we’re a stoppable one with limits today.

In addition to the balance of power in the world shifting away from complete American hegemony towards a multipolar world, I think another significant reason for this operation falling flat is that our leaders in the US and Europe have failed to make a convincing enough case for it to the public.   Parliament in the UK resoundingly swatted down David Cameron’s request for authorization to use military action and there’s little enthusiasm for military action from American rank-and-file politicians.   Not only has the Obama administration and their cohorts failed to muster up the political clout to gain the world’s approval, they’ve failed to even do it within their own countries and political parties.   I think this shows a sharp decline in the power and prestige of the United States government and its figurehead.

 

On the home front in pretty much all Western nations (including Turkey) the overwhelming majority of the people strongly disagree with the prospect of aggression against Syria to the point where there’s not even a real national debate over this on main street.    The divide between regular “folks” (as Obama is so fond of saying) and governments is pretty damn big at this point.    I don’t believe they’ve made a convincing case to the public on this one and I don’t think that I’ve talked to a single soul who thought this was a good idea.   If something does end up happening with Syria, it makes a pretty good case to reject the idea that our politicians “work for us”.    It’s particularly disheartening knowing we have a president who was basically elected on the unpopularity of the wars in the Middle East, a secretary of state who protested the Vietnam War on the grounds that it didn’t serve our interests and Vice President who threatened to impeach George Bush over an unconstitutional war.   John McCain is just being, well, John McCain.

As a member of the American public, I personally don’t feel they’ve made a compelling case to convince me of the urgency of the issue.   So there’s this guy in Syria who has chemical weapons and maybe he ordered the use of them against his own people but we’re not sure so we want to go bomb them?   How thoughtful.   If we’re really just wanting to be good Samaritans, why haven’t we gone into North Korea yet?  They have some scary weapons in their arsenal and that guy is truly a dick.  My guess is because North Korea isn’t next to Israel and their economic output revolves around the cabbage harvest and not fossil fuels.   This inconsistency does not go unnoticed in the world and takes away from the moral creditability we once enjoyed as a nation.     In Russian President Vladimir Putin’s September 11, 2003 Op-ed piece in the New York Times he states “Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”, summing up the world’s distaste with our foreign policy.

I believe another issue on the American public’s mind is the idea that we can’t afford another war.    We’re currently a little shy of $17 trillion in debt and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost a couple trillion dollars and still counting – we’ll be paying veterans benefits for quite some time if everything goes to plan.    It should also be noted that we didn’t pay cash for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we would probably put this one on the credit card as well, thus raking up higher interest payments on the debt.   The average American can look around and see government services being slashed, a declining economy and our cities and infrastructure crumbling down around them and rightfully be outraged over some of our politicians wishing to go on another seemingly pointless military adventure on the other side of the world.   What’s really interesting to me is that I believe this is the first time that I know of in modern American history where “we can’t afford it” actually gives the government some pause when it comes to military action showing that we do actually have limits on how far we can go with our current paradigm in the world.

It should also be noted that if we step on Russia and China’s toes too hard and for too long, one way they could retaliate against us is economically.   Both hold significant amounts of US debt and could force the value of the dollar downward if they really wanted to.    We are definitely not untouchable in this regard today.   When we have an economy built around confidence, a little confidence shattering can go a very long ways.

Secretary of State John Kerry seemed hell-bent on war and made an off-the-cuff comment about how an American attack could be taken off the board if Assad turned over Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.   Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly got the ball rolling on a plan to have Assad turn over his chemical weapons and forced Kerry to eat his words.   I think much of the world realizes that Putin had outfoxed the Americans and after decades of dysfunction Russia is emerging as an important player on the world scene again.    In fact, the international edition of TIME magazine featured Vladimir Putin with “American is weak and waffling.   Russia’s rich and resurgent – and its leader doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him”.   The American edition featured a football player on the cover instead.    As it stands now, this appears to be a diplomatic victory for Russia and definitely a diplomatic loss for the US that will probably haunt us for a little while.   The deal with Assad doesn’t guarantee that there will be no military action against Syria, but it definitely took some of the wind out of our hawkish politicians’ sails.

For the record I believe that Russia’s intentions with Syria aren’t exactly altruistic (i.e. power, money, prestige, oil), but I think Putin is looking better in the world right now than our guys and that the situation has been handled very well on the Russian end.   Ours?  Not so much.   I found it distasteful when Barack Obama snubbed Putin at the G-7 meeting, knowing that he had a list of very difficult questions waiting for him.   I also thought it was interesting that right about the time of the G-7 a massive human rights crisis magically appeared in Russia involving the persecution of homosexuals in the American media and then magically disappeared just as fast as it came, giving President Obama another arrow in his quiver on reasons to not meet with Putin.

So here’s where we are in the world:   Our government, quarterbacked by our Nobel Peace Prize recipient president, looks like bullies to the rest of the world and hasn’t been able to coherently justify this endeavor to anyone but themselves.     We’re a little shy of 17 trillion dollars in debt and the idea of shelling out more to pay for this is unpalatable to most.    Other nations are using soft power (i.e. diplomacy, world opinion) against us and winning.  Our military is still overstretched and worn out over the past decade.  Our leaders look like complete assholes and the American public aren’t behind them on this one, despite pressure from the mainstream media and our politicians.    Vladimir Putin looks like a saint and well, Obama doesn’t.   Neither does Hollande, Cameron or Merkel.     In short, I think we’ve found our limits on how far we can carry on successfully with our current geopolitical paradigm and we’re currently somewhere on the wrong side of that line now.

I really hope we duck out of this one gracefully and use it as a learning experience because the mile-high view of this situation looks like this could wind up being one of the key events that mark the end of America’s position as the world’s sole superpower and shattering the idea that America is exceptional.   I’d rather we see that the easy way than the hard way…

 

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

Article

I usually don’t think much of what I see from the Huffington Post, but I thought this was kind of a cool article on how things for Generation Y (those of us born between the late 70’s and mid 90’s.   I was born in 1981.) haven’t exactly panned out to our expectations.   To sum up the article, we received a lot of bad (but well intentioned) advice from our parents’ generation that didn’t reflect current reality and we were told that we were special and could “do anything we wanted to do”.     When it turns out that we really couldn’t do anything we wanted to do by following the prescribed path (going to college, putting time in, etc.) we become unhappy.   Makes sense.    I bet this article hit home for a lot of the HuffPost’s readership.

After reading the article it made me think of some of the conversations I remember having with my parents and other “authority figures” in my late teens/early 20’s.   My dad worked at the same factory for about 35 years, from the age of 18 or 19 until retirement and my mom has been at the same place for over 25 years.   That mentality that it’s best to get hired on somewhere and stick around was definitely put into my head and I actually ended up working at the same factory as my dad but I’m probably in the minority of my generation with that kind of opportunity.

My sister had a boyfriend  years ago that worked in the jewelry industry.   In the year or so he was around, I think he worked at half a dozen different jewelry stores.    He was constantly talking to other people in the industry and going wherever he could get the best deal.   This absolutely blew my dad’s mind…  he was worried that employers would think he was flaky and that he would be better off settling in somewhere and working his way up, just like he did.    He ended up doing pretty well in the jewelry business because he thought outside of the box and wasn’t afraid to make changes.

I heard both “if you don’t go to college, you’ll wind up flipping burgers” and “it’s best to get hired on somewhere, put in your time and get your pension” quite a bit.    I don’t know a lot of people with college degrees flipping burgers, but I know a shitload of people with college degrees doing entry level work that they could have gotten without the college experience, often at places where their positions are precarious and they wind up having to find a new job after a few years.

Growing up I also remember the “you can do anything you want” line too.    I think there is some truth to that, but I think we fail to teach exactly how you go about doing “anything you want”.   The path I was taught was basically go to school for whatever it is and work really hard, like there’s always going to be someone there to hand you an opportunity if you can just present that magical diploma.   I knew a lot of people that went to school for things like marine biology, sociology, history, English, etc. figuring that in the worst case scenario they would just end up teaching it somewhere and they wind up processing mortgage applications at Wells Fargo….if they’re lucky.   A lot of people who “followed their passion” could only follow it so far and wind up not having the skills to truly be competitive in the economy.

I also know a lot of accomplished un-accomplished people if that makes sense.   People that have checked off the boxes they were told they were supposed to check off (i.e. going to college for something) and haven’t quite gotten what they feel they deserve in life yet (and probably won’t) and end up in a perpetual state of limbo doing work “beneath them”, but believing it’s just temporary because their boat will come in soon enough because, well, it has to.   I’m not making fun of these people, just pointing out that they exist and that it’s a problem in our society.

The author concludes with some advice to stay ambitious, stop thinking you’re special and to stop listening to other people.    Pretty good advice.   Fortune favors the bold, no one is entitled to anything and conventional wisdom usually isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The article doesn’t touch the student loan debt issue which adds another dimension to it.   I’m sure it sucks to work at Starbucks when you thought you were going to wind up studying dolphins in the South Pacific, but it probably really sucks if you’re paying down $60,000 in student loans while you’re doing it.

I also think that we’re set up for a huge generational wealth gap.    As the baby boomers who lived in an extremely prosperous period retire, much of their wealth will probably wind up disappearing into thin air and/or being sold at rock bottom prices to whoever will be available to buy.    I honestly don’t know a lot of people (myself included) that come from average backgrounds who seem on pace to outperform their parents economically.    When it comes time for mom and dad to cash in the 401k, sell the McMansion and on a larger scale in society assets like farmland, machinery, businesses, etc.  who is going to be there to buy it?   Probably not little Jimmy with $40,000 in student loan debt and an entry level job.    We’ll probably end up with greater wealth inequality and/or more foreign control over our economy.      It should be an interesting next 20 years to see how this pans out.

This Year Sucks For Gardening, The Present and The Future.

It’s been a pretty disappointing year garden-wise.   We got a ton of rain early off in the spring which made things a little difficult and then the great earth goddess shut it off by the time shut it off by the time summer rolled around.  It’s currently past labor day and it looks like we have a week of 90+ temps and no rain.   The only thing that seems to be growing is weeds.    I can see cracks in the soil in my yard, some of my perennials are croaking and everyone’s yard is completely brown.   Anything I tried to grow in containers on my full-sun deck is completely fried and it’s honestly just kind of miserable to be out there on my deck amongst the dirt, death and disappointment.    I used to like to sit and have breakfast on it in the morning or dinner in the evening, but it’s been too hot for that shit.     Oh yeah, fleas have been a problem too since it’s so hot.    Some things I’ve planted are doing ok and I’m thankful for that.    I’m currently trying to turn things over into a fall garden and hoping I’ll have better luck with that sort of stuff, but I get the feeling it’s going to be too hot for those things to germinate and then it will be too late.     I’ll try winter gardening again too, for sure.

So I’ve been really unactive here this summer.   I’m getting divorced, so that’s changed up my lifestyle a bit.    While married I had a ton of time between when my wife went to bed (say 10:30pm) and when I did (4:00 or so) to do things like blog or write books about Red Dawn.    I had that online permaculture design certificate class this summer that took a lot of my computer time and I put some other projects on the backburner when all of this went down in early June – I still have a 3/4 finished chicken coop sitting in my back yard.    At least I can say I spent this time doing just about everything but moping around over the pending divorce.    I feel pretty good about things overall.    I haven’t been keeping close tabs on some of the things I normally keep up on and it’s been a shitty year garden / urban homesteading wise, so there really hasn’t been much for me to write about.     I hope to get back into writing regularly….and doing more things worth writing about.

The future:    I have an idea for a book, but I’m going to hold off on committing to that until I’ve dwelt on the subject matter for a little longer.   I would also like to get a few articles published in some other mediums.    I kicked around the idea of podcasting in May before my wife and I split and then put it way on the backburner once that happened.   I’m starting to consider it again.   Some of the technical things are a little intimidating but it doesn’t look THAT bad.     The dust still hasn’t completely settled in my life, but everything will depend on what that looks like when it does.  I really enjoy this kind of thing, so I’ll try to make it happen if I can.

Midwest Self-Reliance Expo Wrap-Up

This weekend was the Midwest Self-Reliance Expo at the Val Air Ballroom and I made it out every day.   Honestly, I feel a little a drained right now just because it was such a busy weekend.

I got off work at 6AM on Friday,  fell asleep at about 8AM and made it to the expo at noon right in time for the concealed carry permit class.   As a veteran, I can just submit my DD 214 in the state of Iowa to get it, but it’s good to know the laws so it was worth my time.  I took the class several years ago and let my license lapse because I never actually carried.   It was cool that they offered the class for free though.

I listened to Jackie Clay of Backwoods Home Magazine give a presentation about her background as well as a Q&A session.   Unfortunately Backwoods Home Magazine sold out of most of their books, because I was meaning to pick a few up.

I met Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast on Friday and talked to him for a while.   I was surprised that he knew who I was after I introduced myself.   He’s a very approachable and personable guy.   I was talking with him about the Permaculture design course and said that I had difficulty explaining permaculture in a sentence or two when I tell people what I’m doing – this seemed to stump him.   The official definition of permaculture makes sense if you know what permaculture is about, but it’s very hard to explain to the average person with no background in these things.   Hopefully someone can come up with a good two sentence definition.

Spirko’s presentation on permaculture Saturday was very good and it seemed like he was effective on explaining what it is and what it can do to an audience that might not have known what it was.   If you listen to the show religiously, there wasn’t much new material but still a great speech.

I took a suturing class from Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy (both very cool and approachable people) on a pig’s hoof.   It was a little unnerving how human-like a pig’s hoof is when you’re up close.   I now feel confident that I can give stitches and staple up wounds.

I sat in on a beekeeping class, which was from the perspective of what bees do and what’s possible with them rather than a direct how-to.     I learned a few interesting things from this.    I missed classes on cheesemaking, soap making, water purification and herbal remedies.  A local rancher that I buy meat from also gave a presentation on nutrient-dense foods and I missed that unfortunately.

There were about 15-20 vendors.  I only picked up a couple of things, nothing too exciting.

I did meet some new people in the area and reconnect with some other like-minded folks, so that was pretty cool.  I hope it comes back around next year…

Backyard Beekeeping

Beehives

So I’ve been a beekeeper for a couple of days now.   The picture above is of my hives the day before I picked up my nucs.     So far, so good.

I ordered nucs from a local guy who raises Russian bees this winter and due to some weather setbacks, they haven’t been ready until recently.   The guy lives about a mile away from me as the crow (or bee?) flies, but the drive home with thousands of pissed off stinging insects in the cab of my truck was a real white-knuckle experience.

Actually suiting up and transferring the frames from the nuc into the hives was another white-knuckle experience.   I’ll admit that I probably should have been a little more careful and calculated with the process, but I wanted to get it done as fast as possible.   You get a little nervous when a huge cloud of bees starts swarming around you.   Unfortunately some of the bees were killed by my clumsiness, but that does happen.   I should have taken the time to do a little more observing in the process.    At any rate, it looks like it was a success so far.

I got a little worried when a large portion of the bees from one nuc didn’t leave the box.   I got all the frames in with about half of the colony, but the other half stayed in the box for about 24 hours.   I think they were just trying to eat up all the honey on the sides of it.   I wondered if it was a swarm forming already or maybe the queen got knocked off the frame in the melee.    As of right now it looks like both hives are functioning as they should, but I’m not going to actually get into the hive for another week or so to confirm this.

I’m also surprised on how unobtrusive two beehives really are.   They take up enough space to fill a roughly 4×4 pallet, they don’t really make any noise and once you’re about 10 feet away you don’t really sense any presence of the bees.   Right now they’re kind of in a nice spot because if I look down from my deck, they’re right there and I can see them come and go and I think I’m at a point where I don’t really bother them while being able to see everything that goes on outside of the hive.     As the hives get stronger and the population grows, they might have a little more of a presence in my yard though.     I’ll probably post more about backyard beekeeping as I learn and experience more with it.

My Mini-Orchard and Backyard Fruit Production

The third time is a charm.    Two years ago I planted two mini-dwarf Jonagold apples in containers.   They looked great until one windy fall day a strong wind snapped them in two.    Last year I ordered several mini-dwarf trees and ended up killing them all due to the weather and a few really stupid mistakes (like forgetting to put drainage holes in the containers and then getting a torrential downpour, possibly over-fertilizing with rabbit manure, poor mulching and not having enough organic matter in the soil to allow oxygen to circulate).       So I’ve made some expensive mistakes, but I figure that if I don’t learn from then and try again it will be a complete waste…. This year is going to be different.

So far I’ve put in two mini-dwarf Jonagolds and an Enterprise.   I just picked up a two year old columnar apple from a garden center as well.   I’m planning on visiting that garden center again right before they close on the 4th of July to see if they have any more of these trees on sale.    I also put a Pix-Zee mini-dwarf tree into the ground in my front yard and right now it looks great.      I ordered three beach plums, which are kind of like a shrub.    Only one of them is growing, but that’s ok.   They were only a couple of dollars and if one takes, I’ll be happy.        My crabapple and stella cherry I put in the ground last year are growing, although they didn’t grow as much as I would’ve liked last year.

I have four or five large containers open that are suitable for mini-dwarf trees and I’ve been doing what I can to get the soil ready for trees.    I’ve been stirring up the dirt and trying to work more carbon material in.   I drilled a lot of holes into all of my containers so they should have good drainage and I’m hoping to get some good worm activity in each one, so they’re more like an extension of the earth rather than a large plastic bucket with a lot of dirt in it.      Hopefully I’ll be able to fill them this fall.

I planted three currants (two red, one black), three lignonberries and one gooseberry in containers.   I put one blueberry into the ground and that’s doing well.      My blackberry patch is three years old now and going apeshit.   I can’t remember if I started with two or three canes of two varieties and now there’s probably about a dozen including a few black raspberry canes that made it over from the guy next door.    I have three aronia bushes which are growing kind of slow due to limited solar exposure.   I tried to transplant them the other day to a sunnier area, but their roots were too deep so I gave up – I guess that’s a good sign.  Hopefully this year they bear fruit.    Last year was rough because it got warm quickly and then we had a late frost while everything was flowering.

Last year my kiwis didn’t do anything because of that cold snap.   All they did was stay alive, which I guess I should be thankful for.   I think they’re starting to grow this year and hopefully I get some kiwis out of them.      I put in two grapevines this year, one that I’m going to train to climb my deck and one that I want to train along a privacy fence.    Both are growing, so we’ll see what happens there.

Last year I didn’t get any strawberries, or at least not many.    I think this was in part due to the cold snap and a puppy that trampled them.   I think there was also a bit of confusion between me and the wife over who was going to water them and pick them that year too.     This year I have about twenty plants in whiskey barrels that are starting to put on baby strawberries.  They’ve also spread outside of the barrels into the ground around them.    I put in about fifteen plants, including a few everbearing varieties into a rockbed on the front of my house.    Hopefully they go nuts.   The nice thing about a sprawling plant like that is that they’ll go anywhere they can grow.   My front yard is shady so planting anything can be hit or miss – the strawberries themselves can determine the right spots to grow better than I can.       I don’t know if I’ll get much out of the new plants, but if so that should be a pretty good haul.

The funny thing about having all of this is that my average-sized yard really doesn’t seem all that busy.     Here in Zone 5, there’s all kinds of things that can grow here.    There’s all kinds of things that grow anywhere.   If people would open up to the idea of putting in plants that produce fruit over purely ornamental ones as well as the idea of eating a wider variety of fruits, we probably wouldn’t need to fly in as many strawberries from California or Mexico or apples from Chile.

Another cool thing about most of these plants is that once they’re established, they don’t take much work.     My blackberries, for instance, I took about five to ten minutes to prune back the canes this year.   I haven’t watered them at all (but then again, we’ve had a ton of rain).   I know where they’re going to grow every year and when.   That takes away a lot of the guess work/planning that comes with annual plants.

Right now I’m working on the soil in a few of the containers and hopefully I’ll fill them with some more mini-dwarf trees in the fall.    I’ve been stopping by a certain garden center to see if they have trees on sale – if there’s a good enough discount, I’ll clean them out of columnar apples.

I also planted about a dozen ground cherry plants around the yard, hoping that they end up taking off on their own next year.   They are a wild edible in this part of the world.

Here’s a few photos:

DSCF1238

A line of mini-dwarf apple trees behind my raised beds.   The first one is a columnar something-or-other and then there’s the jonagolds and enterprise.   Further down the line are currants and gooseberries.

 

DSCF1250

 

Pix-Zee mini-dwarf peach tree with some strawberries in the rock bed.

I’m Taking an Online Permaculture Design Course

http://www.geofflawton.com/sp/13753-sales-page

I’ve been wanting to take one of the permaculture design courses for certification for a while, but it’s never worked out for my schedule.    Usually at best they take a week so in addition to the sizable fee, there’s travel and lodging costs if the classes aren’t being held in your immediate area.    I could see it reasonably hitting over $2000 plus a week of vacation time to do it.   Geoff Lawton, one of the premier dudes in that field, just announced an online certification class for a lot less than a traditional class plus no travel expenses.   The course is spread out over twelve weeks.

I didn’t plan on taking the course this year, but if the opportunity falls into my lap like this, I’m going to jump on it.   I can’t see the circumstances in my life making this more convenient sometime in the future than it is now.

What am I planning on doing with permaculture, should I pass the course?    I don’t know for sure.   I’ll use it on my own yard, that’s for sure.   I’m planning on moving to a few acres sometime in the next few years and I’ll use it once I get there.    Technically I could go into a permaculture business, which is something I would consider at a part-time level.   I’d be into giving workshops locally.    We’ll see.

The Gold Sovereign

Gold Sovereign

Gold Sovereign

 

When people start to look into precious metals, I understand how gold can feel kind of prohibitive with its high price (compared to silver) and the fact that sometimes it’s hard to get it in small increments.  If you don’t have much money to spare picking up a few silver rounds or some junk silver at the end of the month seems more reasonable than looking at gold.    Plus if you’re looking at hoarding precious metals for barter potential, silver seems to make more sense due to the difficulty of getting reasonable increments of gold.  The gold sovereign from Great Britain is a good option for buying a little bit of gold at a time, along with Swiss and French 20 Franc pieces.

The coin is .23 ounce (so just about a quarter of an ounce) of 22 karat gold.   Just like the French franc there’s a bit of copper in there to make it more durable for circulation.    The front has the Queen with something in Latin and the back has St. George slaying the dragon, which is pretty sweet.    St. George is the patron saint of England and according to legend while on a crusade he slayed this dragon that was terrorizing a town and the town converted to Christianity.    There’s all kinds of depictions of this legend in religious imagery, particularly in the east (St. George is also the patron saint of Greece and Georgia, as the name suggests).

The markups on these coins aren’t too bad.  I just bought some at about 4% over spot and just recently they jumped up to 7% as physical gold is in higher demand.     You definitely get a better deal when you buy an ounce or more, but it’s not bad, all things considered.     I think looking at these coins (as well as the Francs) are a good way to build up your gold position a little bit at a time if that works best for you.

Vegan Ham and Bean Soup and Other Mother Earth Products Soup Reviews

Recently I received a box of samples of various products from the new affiliate Mother Earth Products and over the past couple of weeks I’ve tried a couple of the different soups.

So I’m married to a vegan.  Sometimes we eat the same things, sometimes we don’t.   It works out pretty well and all things considered, she’s a decent cook and cooks with recognizable foods like beans, grains and vegetables (i.e. not all vegans live off tofu dogs and boca burgers).   One drawback to our different diets is that if I want to make something with meat in it, I had better really like it because I’ll be eating it for a long time.   This ends up discouraging me from making certain recipes that make more than a couple of meals sometimes.   I think one victim here is ham and bean soup.   It’s not one of my favorite foods, but it’s something I think about a few times a year and something that wouldn’t be too practical for me to make.   I think I’ve gotten my ham and bean soup fix over the past handful of years by just happening to have shown up at my parent’s house at the right time.

When I looked at the label and saw that MEP’s ham and bean soup (made with ham TVP) was vegan, I was pretty stoked to be able to have one of these classic cool weather comfort foods.     It definitely filled that void and I’m going to order some more.  The ham TVP does have a nice smoky flavor and I could see this soup really hitting the spot if I were out camping or something on a cold day.   I think this soup mix is probably the best and most efficient way I can think of to really replicate ham and bean soup for vegans.   Dedicated omnivores won’t be disappointed either.

I also tried the Greek lentil soup mix.   This one seemed similar to a soup I make all the time and smelled great while cooking.  This one has beef bouillon in it, so not vegan.   There was a good mix of spices and the addition of tomato to it was nice.   Unfortunately at the consistency I like it the soup was still a little salty.    They say 1-2 quarts and I went at about 1.25 quarts.   I might have just gotten one with more salt than the others, but I don’t know.    Honestly I don’t think I’m going to order more of this one because I already make something that’s very similar but I might try adding dehydrated tomatoes to the soup I make after trying this one.

The other one I had recently was chicken and vegetable soup, which really came in handy for me considering I just came down with a cold and really craved chicken soup.   I suppose you could keep a can of Chunky Soup around for those times when you want chicken soup but don’t feel like leaving the house, but this one tasted better and had a more agreeable list of ingredients.  The chicken TVP was very, uh, convincing too.    I did add a bit of oregano to the soup to spice it up a bit though.   It was nice to be able to throw this package into water, boil the water and then eat it half an hour later instead of making it myself (which is what I usually do).   I’ll probably pick up more of this.

The prices are actually pretty good and right now they’re doing 20% off if you use the code “spring”.   Theodore runs a pretty good Facebook page too with a lot of good articles daily, so like them if you’re into homesteading/survival/gardening/etc.

Now we’re not quite talking apples to apples here, but as far as long term food storage goes you can buy three pouches of soup mix that make 10 cups each for less than a can of a Mountain House entree with a little bit of change left over.

Click on this link to get to their page:

Mother Earth Products
 

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