Archive | June, 2013

Plea to Farmers

I went to high school in the beautiful state of Iowa.  From the meandering Mississippi to the fields of wheat and corn that stretched beyond sight, it was also inhabited by some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.   I remember in the fall students returning to school  as brown as nuts.  These students had spent the summer detassling corn, a process where the tassle is removed to prevent pollination.  Thousands of Iowan acres were detassled by hand and the students were glad for the income. 

The detassling was done for hybridizing corn.  The tassles of most corn are removed while the pollinator rows are left intact.  This creates the hybridized, higher yielding corn.

Fast forward to present day.   Instead of relying solely on the genes present in the corn, corporations have inserted genes for certain traits into the plants and we call them genetically modified organism, or GMOs.

Over and over I read and hear proponents of GMO’s stating that with population growth GMO’s are necessary to feed the world.  While I disagree with the logic of a statement that says  “the undesirable should be accepted in lieu of something worse,” I am going to give the first statement the benefit of the doubt and test it, and see if it stands up to logic.

A casual glance at the research shows that forty percent (MSN Statistics)  of U.S. corn is used to make ethanol.   So 40 % of each years’ crop isn’t feeding anyone.  People are dying of starvation all over this planet, and here we literally burn food to fuel our cars.   When almost half of the corn produced is literally burnt, the feeding the world argument falls apart.

BTW, Ethanol is very hard on automobile engines that were not created to handle it.  It burns at a higher temperature, decreases fuel efficiency, and destroys the plastic fuel intakes on fuel pumps – very expensive indeed.  And even the EPA admits that it is worse for the environment than its gasoline counterpart.   Despite this, evidently the EPA has signed off on increasing the blend allowed from 10% to 15%.  Google what this will do to your engines.   It’s especially frightening when you consider examples from mechanics that gas companies are already sneaking in higher levels of ethanol.  Here’s what Consumer Reports says about the matter.

So, the single biggest argument for using GM crops falls short.  Here are the ones against its use, and they are substantial. I ask readers, especially those who farm with GM crops to please consider:

  • GM corn has been proven to cause cancer in rats and mice at levels that are allowed in drinking water. 


  • GM crops treated with glyphosphate cause disease, from diabetes to obesity to heart conditions.  This may sound like a stretch, until you see the explanation of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, MIT researcher.  Monsanto claims glyphosphate, the active ingredient in Roundup (c)  is harmless to humans since it affects the Shikimate pathway of plants.  Since human cells do not have this pathway, they claim it is harmless.  As Dr. Seneff points out, however, the human gut bacteria outnumber our human cells in our bodies 10 to 1.  It is estimated that each human carries 10 billion bacteria cells, each of which DOES have the Shikimate pathway.  When our intestinal balance is destroyed, Seneff shows that other health problems emerge. 


  • GM crops creates monopolies.  Imagine all the worlds major crop seeds in the hands of a few corporations.  Nuf said.


  • GM crops are weakening U.S. exports.  Recently, India announced that it would be buying GM free soy beans from Brazil.  Personally, I love Brazil, but I am sad that crops that used to be the strength of this nation are being lost.  I was born in Decatur, IL while it was crowned “the Soybean Capital of the World,” and it is about to lose that crown, if it hasn’t already.   I remember as a little girl driving over a large bridge that went through Decatur past the Staley’s plant.  We called it Staley’s bridge, because the smell of the soy processing was so overpowering we had to warn each other to plug our noses.   Well, many countries don’t want our GM products, including Japan who just cancelled a large wheat order when the story emerged last week of rouge GM wheat found in an Oregon field, as described here by The Wall Street Journal.  Korea and Taiwan and considering their U.S. imports as well.

wake up gm


 This is a nation built of hard workers.  People who took great risks, leaving foreign lands and families to build a better place.  Farmers in this country are the embodiment of the virtues that built this nation – hard-working and self-sacrificing.  It is such a shame to watch their international markets shrivel.  Now more than ever it is important to look at why other countries have banned GM products and to turn the tide before all confidence is lost internationally in our ability to produce safe, delicious and nutritious food.  This country was the bread basket of the world.   Please think about it!


Stowell's Evergreen Open Pollinated Growing in Meduseld Garden

Stowell’s Evergreen Open Pollinated Growing in Meduseld Garden




Disappearing Bees

Dr. Mercola covers the problem of colony collaspe disorder (CCD) and its impact on the almond industry in California this spring.  In his thought-provoking article, he reminds people about the necessity of bees in the world’s food supply and draws attention to the dire consequences if we do not find ways to protect the bees.  Please take a moment to read Dr. Mercola’s article.

Honey bee on Hady Almond at Meduseld

Honey bee on Hardy Almond at Meduseld

Passing the CLEP

Yesterday, June 4, I took our just-turned 13-year-old to Shenandoah University to take a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test for U.S. History I.  I am thrilled to share with you all that Gavin passed the test and now has three college credit hours!  Congratulations to Gavin who worked and studied very hard for the test!

Gavin Passes US History I CLEP

The CLEP tests are administered by the College Board, the same organization that administers the college SATs and PSATs.  CLEP scores are excepted for college credit in thousands of colleges and universities in the United States.

Gavin is very interested in history, and regularly studies about great military battles.  Studying for this test required delving far more into the details of events in this country from colonization through reconstruction. 

Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Ed and Charlotte (RIP) Mauer who provided the funds for Gavin to take the test, as well as providing encouragement.

Meals at Meduseld – Rose Petal Jelly

Rose Angel in Garden

Angel enjoying the shade of David Austin Rose “William Shakespeare.”

While there is so much work to do, the distractions of the garden are so tempting.  Only a few weeks ago, most of the landscape was starting to green up, and now the roses have exploded in bursts of color and fragrance.

Many of the roses here are David Austin Roses that I have selected for their old world appearance and fragrance, especially next to the front porch where we can enjoy their decadent scent.  A small Carolina Wren couple has made a nest in the tree rose and the babies are almost ready to fledge.  It’s easy to forget trials in so much beauty.  What work?



Since we do not use pesticides on our roses, they are available to eat as well.  A few petals are so lovely and delicious tossed into a salad.  Today, however, I am going to demonstrate how to make Rose Petal Jelly.

Using a  large stainless bowl, gather petals from your pesticide-free garden.  I don’t recommend using sprayed petals.  Here I picked an assortment from the garden, filling the 13 inch bowl.


If you’d like the deep red color to you jelly, concentrate on getting fuchsia, red and burgundy roses.   Our white roses are the most fragrant and so I add lots of those for flavor.

Rinse rose petals in a sieve and place them in a large pot.  Fill the pot with water to cover.  I have used approximately 13-14 cups.   Bring these to a boil stirring often since the roses petals will want to float at the surface at first.  Boil until they have lost their bright hue and most of the color and scent has transferred to the water – approximately 10-15 minutes.   The darker petals will give up most of their color, appearing pale like this below.


I have decided I’d like a darker color so I added more dark petals after this photo, bring the water back to a boil to extract their color.

Add the juice of two lemons.  You will notice the juice livens up the color of the water, brightening it.  The acid from the lemons will be necessary for the pectin to work.

Pour the petals and water through a jelly bag strainer.  For convenience, I am placing one in my Amazon store, along with some other items you may need for canning such as my favorite Italian and German canning jars. 

rose jelly bag

Now, measure your liquid back into a pot.  For every cup of liquid, I will use one cup of sugar.  Sounds like a lot, but its standard.  This is one of the few times I use refined white sugar, since it won’t change the color of the jelly.    Bring the rose liquid and sugar to a solid rolling boil.  I will hold it here until it reaches 216-217 on a jelly thermometer.

Here, I add pectin according to the instructions on the pectin, which I bought bulk from the local Amish store.  Please read the instructions on your box, because some differ.  In my case it calls for approximately 3 tablespoons per 3 3/4 cup liquid.    I bring the mix back to a rolling boil for just over a minute, until I can discern the change in texture on my stainless spoon.  When it is ready, it will start becoming solid on the spoon. 

Ladle into sterilized jars.  Seal according to instructions of the canning jar/lid combination you are using.  Process for five minutes in a boiling water bath, and let them cool on your counter.   Enjoy its beautiful color and delicate flavor on toast, English muffins or scones. 

rose jelly done