Minecraft anyone? An addiction on a platter perhaps?

I keep making the decision, over and over again that my 7 year old will not play the highly addictive video game, minecraft. Just startpage “minecraft addiction” to see why for yourself. We have one family in our lives who are video game free and I really appreciate that. Without them, we’d have no one to pattern after, and I’d be out here on this limb of consciousness all alone. Every single one of my son’s other friends talks about minecraft ceaselessly. I’ve asked the moms, “If you could go back and say no to minecraft, would you?” They have all told me that they would have. Once your kid has the jones for it, there’s really no taking it away. The only adversity coming my way on this particular decision is from my son.

My son gets to play some video games now and then, stuff that’s pretty benign like RC mini racers or Jewels. He gets an hour of screen time a day and if he wants to play video games, so be it. As a “natural” mama, some of you may wonder why I allow video games at all, or sugar, or tv – well, it all comes down to the forbidden fruit factor. My children are being raised in the USA after all. I believe that allowing them to experience some of the apple pie that makes America America is probably a good idea. I don’t believe in creating the forbidden fruit or in depriving my children. Far from it. This addictive video game thing, however, is certainly a battle I choose to pick. When I told one of my mom friends that he was asking every day to play minecraft, she replied, “If you let him play, he’ll be asking even more.”

World of Warcraft, Skylander, crack, meth…

I understand there is a game for adults called “World of Warcraft” aka “WOW” where you get to be anyone you want, as powerful, beautiful, special, rich, you name it. Adults would so rather be their character, that they lose their jobs, their families, their marriages. Apparently 40% of people who play the game become addicted. The WOW product geared toward hooking youngsters is called Skylander. I just don’t see the point in handing your children an addiction on a platter. Once again, search “WOW addiction” and you’ll see countless stories from deeply miserable human beings. It just so happens that if you search “Skylander addiction” that someone already patented that and is making it cool. The problem is that many parents don’t know the dark underbelly of these “games” until it’s too late. Since new games are being unveiled constantly, I will simply research the addiction factor of the game before I allow it in my child’s repertoire.

I’ve heard that the three things that will ruin your life (because they ultimately undermine your ability to be happy) are credit card debt, drugs, and porn. I’d add video games to that. There’s way too much out there in the way of amazing life to spend it glued to a screen in a virtual world. I’m not judging those who choose to spend their lives doing this. Whatever floats your boat. I’d just rather my children take off on a real boat – that’s paid for. And if they are going to spend thousands of hours doing a particular thing, it’d be nice if they had something like a talent or a skill to show for it.

So, to minecraft, as worn down as I’m getting,  I say no. Yet again. And then it passes. It will resurface in another week or two, but no minecraft for us. We will not conform – as long as there are gardens and zoos and real games like capture the flag and cards and chess and beaches and fishing and painting and reading and friends and sports and you get the idea.

And – some afterthoughts:

  • The only parents I’ve come across who defend these addictive games as harmless are addicted to the games themselves.
  • It’s okay for my child to be the only one on his sports team who can’t talk minecraft. Lead by example for one. And for two, the other parents might appreciate, as I do, the child who changes the subject. The road less traveled usually rocks.
  • I also realize this post might be a yawner for most considering minecraft is nothing new. However, these are my two cents for when the next big “must-play” game comes out.

Growing Food in Difficult Climates – the Mittleider Gardening Method

1. Water like crazy.



2. Fertilize every week.

3. Allow no weeds.

4. Use vertical gardening techniques.

5. Harvest when ripe

Growing Food in Harsh Environments

I went to a gardening workshop back in February with this title. It rocked my world. It was taught by Jim Kennard who teaches the Mittleider gardening technique. Without going into too much detail, I’ll break it down for you and tell you where to find more info. I can not express how excited I am to finally grow some serious amounts of food in the Central Texas heat and caliche.

Just like Mittleider, Jim Kennard goes all over the world and teaches people who live in difficult climates and terrains how to grow more food than they can eat. Jim’s foundation is called Food For Everyone, or FFE. He is obsessively dedicated to the idea of everyone in the world being able to grow and eat their own nutritious food. I feel beyond blessed to have spent 5 hours in his presence.

Jim recommends building 18″ wide grow boxes, but you can make them as big as you fancy. Dirt is not what your plants need. Think hydroponic here – plants need sunlight, water, and nutrients, 16 nutrients to be exact. That’s all. So, as crazy as it sounds, Jim recommends filling new grow boxes with a mixture of 1/3 sand and 2/3 saw dust. I personally, did not do this, because I didn’t find a “clean” place to get saw dust. I used garden soil that was 25% sand, 25% rice hulls (which substitute for saw dust) 25% topsoil and 25% compost. Whatever dirt you already have in your garden is just fine. You just might want to amend it with sand and/or sawdust.



My grandfather, rest him, wasn’t completely right

My granddad was a farmer in East Texas in the 1920’s. He used to say, “Water deep or not at all. You want those roots to go deep in case of a drought.” Well, for him, there and then, that may have been the best policy. But Jim explained that if you have unlimited access to irrigation, never ever let your plants get thirsty. As soon as you see that droopy, parched plant, you can be sure that it is putting no energy whatsoever into producing fruit. It is only putting it’s last little vestiges of life into its roots. If the whole purpose behind all of your hard labor in your garden is to produce produce, then you will water water water. In Central Texas in the summer, that will be every single early morning.

Fertilizer, not compost

As much as I LOVE composting, it pains me to say that Jim doesn’t use compost at all. After much experimentation between using the best compost available to mankind and the Mittleider fertilizer recipe, Jim has science behind his teachings. The fertilizer simply produces more pounds of fruit without introducing pathogens and weed seeds into your garden. Also, all you “organic” gardeners out there, fear not. The word chemical refers to everything under the sun. You are chemical and so is the chair on which you perch. Kennard and Mittleider are not going to tell you to use harsh pesticides all over fruit. Far from it. However, they are going to tell you to mix the fertilizer chemicals you need in order to derive maximum yield.

Here is the fertilizer recipe:

  • 25 lbs. of 16-16-16 (15-15-15, 13-13-13, 20-20-20 will do) – that’s nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus – get it at any gardening supply
  • 4 lbs. of Epsom salt – that’s magnesium and sulfer
  • the 10 oz. package of trace minerals you can purchase at FFE
  • You also need to add a bit of perlite to keep the stuff from getting weepy and sticking together. I add about a pound.

Mix well and keep it with a lid on. You use one 15 oz. vegetable can for every 30 feet of 18″ bed. Just sprinkle it between the plants and water it in. Easy.

Keep the weeds outIMG_1478

We all know this, but it’s true. The FFE foundation even sells an awesome little weeding tool that you attach to the end of a shovel handle. Once your garden is established, you simply run the little tool between the plants once a week to uproot any weedlings.

Vertical Gardening and the brilliance of the T-post

95% of what your plants need is sunlight. The vertical garden makes the most use of space by encouraging the plants that are capable of growing up to do so. These plants include tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, and even some melons. T-posts are big and heavy, but they need to be because they are eventually going to provide support for 100’s of pounds of produce. The LDS Prepper on Youtube has become one of my heroes. Here is his explanation of T-posts and building them. Mr. LDS Prepper is a Mittleider fiend. He has hundreds of hours of how-to video on Youtube. I will pass you off to him after you read this article.

I will say that the PVC watering system which Mittleider teaches and LDS Prepper uses has been surpassed in my opinion. The PVC system is labor intensive to install. At hardware stores these days, you can find a plastic brown and black tubing water drip system that is super user-friendly. You can attach sprayers for when your seeds are in the ground, and then quickly attach the dripper hoses whenever you are ready. It doesn’t flood the garden the way the PVC system does, but it’s working for us. Put it on a timer. Between the automatic watering system and the magic weeder mentioned above, all we do in the garden is pick fruit. ~ Pleasant sigh ~

Year-round gardening

Notice the curved PVC piping above the LDS Prepper’s Tposts. That serves two purposes. In the hot summer, you can put a cloth across it to shade the plants in the heat of the day so that they don’t just give up and die. When the weather starts to cool in the fall, you can roll greenhouse grade plastic up there and drop the sides down all the way to the ground when it gets cold. You then have a makeshift greenhouse right in your garden. Even the small stuff in your garden can have these PVC “rainbows” over them with the clear plastic and you can have produce all year round.

IMG_1481Harvest when ripe

And finally, when your massive crop reaches its peak – harvest it. Don’t just pick a few today and a few tomorrow and let some rot on the vine. Harvest. Wash. Put in your fridge what you can consume, and give the rest away. It’s mid May and my zucchini is already producing like crazy. This gardening method is proving itself. I started in February, and look at my photos. I’ve been envious of gardens that look like this in Central Texas. :) Now, it’s mine that looks like this. I can’t tell you how happy I am.

The book to get is this one. It will take you from here. Have fun growing food – where ever you are in the world. And do not miss the LDSPrepper.



Essential Oils and Aromatherapy make a magical home

Whether or not you believe in magic, magical is lovely.

Once Upon A Time

We took our children to a Renaissance Faire yesterday and I came home with some hand made soaps – tea tree, patchouli, peppermint, lavender, rosemary – all blends. The paper bag of soap in my bathroom has reminded me all day of how magical essential oils are. When I used to be a massage therapist, I created my own oil blends from carrier and essential oils. Some oils have a relaxing effect – lavender, rose, geranium. Some are stimulating – patchouli, peppermint, citrus. All have healing qualities which you can research to your heart’s content.  They all make your home smell mysteriously beautiful.

IMG_1242My three year old is in the bath right now. I just snuck in a little patchouli, lavender and tea tree. He has a little rash that the tea tree will take care of quickly. Tea tree is an antifungal, antibacterial agent that acts like a natural Bactine. I also added a little carrier oil – olive, coconut, avocado or the like to dilute the essential oils. Some people have sensitive skin so it’s usually recommended to add some carrier oil and not to use pure essential oil – in the bath, or in massage or moisturizing oil.

However, you can absolutely use essential oils straight in a diffuser or in your mop water. When I mop I use two cups of vinegar and whatever essential oil I want in my mop water. That’s it. The vinegar cleans the floor and the essential oil leaves my house – well, as I said earlier – mysteriously beautiful. All natural goodness.

Get Some Essential Oils

We don’t have much time here on the planet. 70-80 years if we’re lucky. I am certain I will not regret anything that made my life more magical, more fragrant, more musical or more fun. Life is short. Essential oils are fun. If you don’t already use them, you should get some. Look up their uses and start using them liberally. Try tea tree, orange, lavender and eucalyptus for starters. Other wonderful additions are myrrh, patchouli, and geranium.

As an aside, for those of you who follow my website, it will be undergoing some changes soon. My name doesn’t really need to be the brand. What interests me most is Natural Living, from essential oils, organic gardening, home birth and DIY to homeschool and getting the government out of our lives. To me, libertarianism and natural living are one in the same. My revamped website will attempt to encompass this natural thinking. I am also going to be creating a new website that has to do with learning fiddle and improv.

Namaste – Betsy

Hey grandmas – Flame retardant pajamas? Only if you want to give the gift of poison this Christmas

Flame retardants are found at unbelievable amounts in children’s blood these days. Studies are showing that high levels of flame retardants in the blood are causing neuro-developmental issues.

How are they getting there? The government, of course. We are putting them there. In the name of “safety,” regulation, for decades companies have used toxic flame retardants in many of our household products like carpet, electronics, and mattresses. Our skin takes in what we put on it as if it is eating it. A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. We also breathe in the molecules as they are sloughed off into the air.

Many of those cute pajamas out there these days are treated with flame retardants. Just imagine the percentage of time a child spends in their pj’s absorbing away. Look on the tag before you buy them. They will either say they are flame retardant or to “wear snug fitting – not flame resistant.” The flame retardant ones are usually polyester and waxy feeling, while the non-flame resistant ones are just plain ol’ cotton. And honestly, I don’t think they need to be too snug. I guess your take on this should depend on how often your children are hanging around open flames or smokers. Stop, drop, and roll, baby. Do people even teach this anymore? Knowledge is power.

Always opt for natural fibers. When you have to be exposed to something new like carpet or a car interior, air out the house or the car for weeks. Raise your consciousness. Be kind. Don’t buy flame retardant pajamas for babies and kids. Oh, they’re also finding flame retardants in peanut butter.