Bezaleel – The Powerful (Part Two)

Bezaleel means “under the shadow of God” and is the name of a school in Guatemala where Galen Lehman did volunteer work in July, 2008. #2 in a series of posts on what he learned there.

Last week, I wrote how Guatemala’s indigenous people are mostly poor and often discriminated against by wealthy landowners of European descent.

But, there’s another group adding to their suffering. It’s me, my family and my friends! As it turns out, many Guatemalans believe that the economic, military and cultural power of the USA is tearing at the fabric of their lives.

Here are some examples of how this plays out, given to me by my Guatemalan hosts:

  • The Free Trade Agreement destroys locally-owned industries by allowing the free import of mass-market goods. NAFTA has been much maligned in the USA, but our hosts told us that the detrimental impact on Guatemala has been much, much worse. It empowers American corporations with tremendous influence over Guatemalan government and policy. Many people in Guatemala believe that the machinations of American corporations helped cause the 36-year civil war that just ended in the 1990’s. They also pointed to new Guatemalan laws that make the maximum penalty for copying DVD’s harsher than the maximum penalty for manslaughter.
  • The US military has rights to enter Guatemalan land, air and territorial waters for drug interdiction. Can you imagine the US giving such rights to any other country? Years of paramilitary atrocities by local right-wing militias have terrorized the people. Our hosts told us that just seeing US military maneuvers on their soil hurts Guatemala’s chances for democracy.
  • The US cultural influence is over-whelming. The value systems of America’s R-rated movies are replacing traditional values even in remote villages. I saw amazing evidence of this in my travels and will write more about it more in the future.

The Guatemalans I met were welcoming and friendly. They know and love the American people. Unspoken in their warmth was a simple question: “Why do the kind and gracious American people allow their government and corporations to behave in this way?”

They even had ideas on how to help things improve.  For one thing, they begged us to shop locally. They believe the big multi-national corporations are too powerful. By encouraging small family-owned businesses in our neighborhoods and communities, we undermine the powerful and help bring stability to the world.

And of course, this is a big election year in America.  There are many important issues at stake. We have our own economic problems, a health care system in shambles, and a war in Iraq that it increasingly seems no one wants. They asked me to add one more concern:  Remember that the decisions we make in November may affect them and other people in ways we cannot imagine.

What I learned in Guatemala is that I must live my life thoughtfully and remember that lots of good people in many places have a stake in every decision I make.

Next Week: Read about the tug-of-war between traditional values and modern culture.

Click here for more information on Bezaleel.

Learn more about Mennonite Central Committee, a non-profit relief organization.

Learn about Guatemala.

Digging Thistles and Being Bugged!

Greetings from “Land’s End ” in Nova Scotia

Bugs, the nemesis of all gardeners, are especially persistent in our organic garden this year and in the hot house. Bill has never used anything but organic natural methods in gardening here for twenty-three years.

It took three years , after planting our first garden , to have a decent harvest. The farm was run out and neglected for about thirty years before we bought it. The land was full of wire worms, thistles, wild bamboo, wood ticks and dead grass. Bugs and weeds have been a very real challenge. They were thriving together before we took over this farm.

Those first years our potatoes were full of wire worms. Wire worms are often found in old sod ground that hasn’t been tilled for a long time. Over the space of several years my husband studied the life cycle of the wire worm. He discovered by digging the potatoes earlier than usual he could interfere with the life cycle of the little critters. They were disturbed before they got into the potatoes or had time to reproduce. Eventually the wire worms were gone from that one field. Digging potatoes early meant smaller ones but at least they were free of wire worms.

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Summer Food Safety Reminders!

Summer is a great time for gatherings with family and friends. As you head for the picnic basket, grill and cooler, I would like to remind you of the following tips from USDA to keep your food safe and your family healthy to enjoy the summer activities.

  • When planning your grocery list, put the perishable items last to buy at the grocery and quickly transport to home.
  • Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator….NOT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER!! If your meat is still partially frozen when you’re ready to leave, no problem. Just cook it a bit longer at the picnic. (To avoid charbroiling or burning items, place foil on the grill rack.)
  • Cook everything thoroughly. Hamburger patties, pork chops, and ribs should be cooked until all the pink is gone, and poultry until there is no red in the joints. Use a meat thermometer to be sure. When in doubt, cook it a bit longer.
  • Take what you know about kitchen cleanliness out to the grill. If there’s no water available, take your own or use wet wipes to thoroughly clean your hands before working with food. Keep bacteria on raw meat and poultry from spreading. Wash your hands again after working with raw meat or poultry and before handling other food.
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Milagro the Duck (or, Never Give Up!)

Milagro talks to Brigit

It took 36 hours. That’s an eternity for a child. Or for a hatchling. And that’s the reason the new member of our family got her special name. Our new duckling is called “Milagro”-the Spanish word for “miracle”-because she had a lot of trouble making her entrance into the world. She didn’t give up, even though we almost gave up on her.

Milagro’s story begins, as all births do, with her mother. The mallard sat on a nest of nine eggs for two weeks. She only came off her bed of straw for brief moments to eat and drink. And the whole time she was away she called out loudly, “Leave me alone you ducks, chickens and humans! Can’t you see I’m in a hurry?” And looking back toward the nest she would cry out, “Don’t worry babies. I’m coming right back.”

But then one day she left the nest without any conversation. Two hours later she was still quietly foraging for food. It appeared to the children, who were eager for any excuse to claim the eggs, that the momma duck had abandoned them. Continue reading

Sock Monster Got Your Socks? Fight Back!

We’re all aware of the Sock Monster. That’s the sneaky beast that gets into our laundry and makes off with just one of a perfectly good pair of socks, leaving us with baskets or boxes of unmatched ones. They’re too good to throw out and we think maybe… just maybe, mind you, the mate will show up out of nowhere.

Won’t happen. At least, not until you throw away the one you have. Then you’re still stuck with a half a pair of socks… and what to do with them without feeling guilty for throwing out something in such good condition?

An old trick is to put the sock on your hand, spray it with furniture polish and detail the furniture. It’s easy to get in all the little corners with your fingers that way and when you’re finished, toss it in the laundry. If you’re like most of us, you have enough replacements to last a week or more – certainly until you do the laundry.

“Ok,” you’re saying, “But what about the rest of them??”

Use Farmhouse Furniture Wax instead and use an orphaned sock to buff the wood. Cotton socks really do a great job of that.

Here are some more ideas:
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Protect Animals from Summer Heat

Without a doubt, the summer heat can be hard on humans. But remember, livestock and animals can become sick in the summer heat just like we can.
It can be a time consuming chore to care for your livestock and animals in the heat. For those who have livestock in different locations, a great part of the day can be spent making sure they are ok. Here are a few quick reminders for anyone who keeps animals outside (this goes for dogs, too!):


There is not anything more vital than a fresh water source for livestock and animals in the summer’s heat. Fresh, cool running streams are ideal for cattle, horses and many other livestock. Water containers should be kept clean and full of cool fresh water for animals without access to streams or creeks. Dumping and washing them out can be a hard chore but it can easily make the difference between life and death for your animals. Animals that depend on water bottles such as rabbits and chickens need to have their water filled and refreshed at least twice daily.


Animals and livestock need a place to get out of the sun’s intensity. This can be provided by sheds, barns or even a large grove of leafy trees. Rabbits need a shade hutch or cover to escape the sun.

The movement of the hot summer air can be blessing to your animals. Those kept up in barns or closed in houses need fans to move the air about. Failure to provide this can easily result in suffocation and heat exhaustion.

Take care of your animals in the hot summerʼs heat. Take care of your and your family.

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Bezaleel – The Powerful (Part One)

Bezaleel means “under the shadow of God” and is the name of a school in Guatemala where Galen Lehman did volunteer work in July, 2008. #1 in a series of posts on what he learned there.

Our first stop in Guatemala was an orientation at the offices of the Mennonite Central Committee in Guatemala City.

There the whole group was stunned into silent attention by our local host, who announced with feeling, “Guatemala is a racist, sexist, classist society. You will see it everywhere you turn.

Racist, she said, because while only about 30 percent of the population is “Ladino” (of Spanish descent), Ladinos control virtually everything. Guatemalans of indigenous descent (who North Americans would probably call “Indian”) can be easily identified by their non-European facial features. Generations of undernourishment have made them up to a foot shorter than everyone else in Guatemala. They are allowed to hold only low-paying manual labor and farming jobs. (The minimum wage in Guatemala is $4/day and is often ignored.)

Classist because just two percent of the population holds 92 percent of the land (and intends to keep it that way). We were told that there is virtually no middle class. The poor are very poor and have no way to advance. They have been pushed out of the fertile coastal plantation areas and onto the steep slopes of the central mountains. Higher education, freedom of choice and the ability to move on to better economic opportunities are severely limited. Continue reading

Cows With Leaky Teats or Should You Buy a Leaky Faucet?

Someone recently asked ; although I can’t remember who as forgetting names is one of the quirks of aging ; should they buy a beautiful doe eyed Jersey whose only obvious flaw is she had a leaky teat ?

They also wanted to know why teats leak and is it harmful to the cow?

The answer to the first question is a resounding NO! Never buy a cow , goat or any livestock which has anything that is apparently wrong unless you just want to feed one for a pet and not breed and milk her. Continue reading

Hatching Chickens Nature’s Way

Greetings from “Lands End” in Nova Scotia!

We have for many years set hens to hatch chicks rather than using an incubator or buying chicks. We change roosters every couple of years . After all we wouldn’t want inbreeding problems. Still without Mr. Rooster there wouldn’t be a next generation of egg layers and chicken dinners.

We have found our best hens to set are bantams or half bantam crosses. By the way bantam is not a breed of its self. Bantam is a small variety of any particular breed or cross breed of domestic fowl. These little hens for some reason love to set eggs and hatch chicks. They are excellent mothers and very protective of their young. Continue reading