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In this post, I explained how I need to do some decluttering, and described how I made some space on a shelf in the Tuff Shed.

A few days ago, I continued what I will call my Slow Declutter. I got rid of…wait for it, wait for it; you might be astounded…

four Mother Earth News magazines!

Okay, so that doesn’t sound like much. And it wasn’t. But sometimes when you get rid of just a few items, it opens up organization and storage options that weren’t there before.

Check out the two tall bookcases in the living room.

Bookcase number one:

Bookcase number two:

Two things have been bugging me about them. First, all the picture books (see first photo) that B seems to have lost interest in. Will he ever want to look at them again? Of course, I would keep most of them in case of grandchildren, but in the meantime I would pack them up in a box.

Second, the mess of magazines. In the photo just above, check out the second to bottom shelf. Lots of back issues of Ranger Rick magazines slopping underneath and next to a science kit. Again, B hardly ever looks at the magazines anymore.

And the ugly pile is an eyesore, right in my face when I sit down to relax in my rocking chair. I wanted to make it go bye-bye.

But when I did this bit of decluttering, I actually wasn’t aiming to move the magazines. I began by going through the bottom shelf of this bookcase:

The first thing I did was to go through two notebooks, a folder, and the Mother Earth News magazines (the red you see on the right at the bottom), which supposedly held critical homesteading information I didn’t want to let go of.

I cleared out the folder – recycling almost everything in it; I hadn’t looked at its contents since before moving here – and then went through each magazine.

Out of all the articles – and there were eight or so that had been ripped out of other magazines and stuck inside one of these that I’d kept intact – there remained only one that I wanted to keep, the one about the makeshift ways of storing root vegetables outside in the winter.

After dumping the magazines into the recycle bin, I went through the DVDs and reorganized them so that the most frequently watched ones were in the front, and the rest were stacked in the back. Everything else stayed more or less the same, but between rearranging the DVDs and getting rid of the magazines, a large gap remained.

Just big enough to stow all of the Ranger Rick magazines!

Now, that shelf looks like this:

Here’s what the shelf that previously housed the magazines now looks like:

Neat, huh? One of the reasons I didn’t like the magazines there was that they were burying the long, brown box. This box contains a rock collection which nobody, but nobody was ever going to look at as long as they had to take the trouble of moving all the magazines out of the way first.

So if B suddenly gets a hankering to spruce up on a bit of geology, he’ll no longer have any excuse not to. 😉

Whatever happens in the realm of his education, I am happy that I can sit in the rocking chair now and not have to face a paper chaos.

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I recently started listening to the “School Sucks” podcast. I recommend it to all of my readers; start with the very first podcast, the introduction, and work your way up. If you already aren’t skeptical and cynical about government, you will be by the time you finish listening to the fifth episode!

As much as I recommend it, however, it gave me a problem.

It made me want more than ever to live beneath the poverty line so that we won’t have to pay any taxes to the government.

It all started with a book about chemtrails I read in part a few months ago. I knew before that the government wasted tax dollars, but this whole thing about trying to play God to change the climate made me so angry that I screamed at God. If my tax dollars help the Almighty Narcissists to pollute the air on a regular basis (at least one week out of every month, based on what I’ve seen in the sky where we live), then I was going to do what it took to not have to pay the federal government any taxes!

And then there’s the whole marketing thing

A few weeks ago, I read the novel The Curtain by Patrick Ord. It’s not great writing, but what Ord reveals about the marketing system through his story shocked me. It made me want to, at the very least, unmonetize all my YouTube videos and to quit trying to sell books via Amazon.

I didn’t want any part of the manipulation that takes place in the marketing world in order for the elite to stay in power.

Between the marketing system and the political system, people can only maintain their individuality – and thus, true freedom – if they get informed about the truth of what those two systems are doing (often in tandem; lobbyists, anyone?) and work to unbrainwash themselves from the herd mentality they have been fed since they were infants.

And so informed, I’ve been feeling guilty

I’ve been asking myself some hard questions lately. Do I really want to be helping to make Google money? Are my attempts to market my books unethical because any sort of marketing involves some level of manipulation? Should I be partnering with Amazon and helping Jeff What’s-His-Name make more money, despite what I know about the some of the shady behaviors and beliefs the guy approves of or holds? Is it right for J and I to be living off of investments, much of which undoubtedly comes from companies that indirectly support slave or sweatshop labor, or that pollute the environment?

And – most recently, thanks to the School Sucks podcast – should I even be trying to make an income, since the more money I make, the more taxes we have to pay to the wasteful and evil federal government? Would it be more ethical for me just to lounge around and garden rather than to write and try to sell any more books?

And then, God spoke

I was struggling with these questions the other day as I was preparing our morning smoothies. Really, I was praying. Something along the lines of, “Tell me what to do!”

The voice of God can come in one of several ways. This time, it was an unexpected thought. I hadn’t stopped to try to listen for an answer, and the thought that popped into my head was far from anything going on in my brain at the moment.

The thought was: “I have not called you to fix all the world’s problems.”

That was Father’s neat little package to tell me…

  • …I don’t need to worry about what the government is doing.
  • …I don’t need to feel guilty about being entrenched in this modern, high-tech, marketing-based culture.
  • …It’s not my job to save the slaves or sweatshop workers on the other side of the world; in other words, overturn the governments and cultures of developing nations (because that’s basically what it would take).
  • …I’m allowed the financial abundance Father has allowed us to have because business and finance have always been around, and never been perfect. (I thought later about the Bible verse, “The wealth of the wicked is laid up for the righteous.” Hmm…)
  • …Ditto about making money.

And then, I asked for specifics

After receiving that unexpected yet burden-lifting answer, and the interpretation of everything it meant, I asked, “What am I called to do?”

Write.

Duh. I knew that.

But every once in a while – especially when I’m feeling guilty about having to be part of the marketing system – I need to hear it.

“What about YouTube?”

Only do it if it brings you joy.

Okay, let me think about that one for a moment. The last time I felt joy in asking J and B to leave so that I could make a video; while reading a negative comment on a video; while actually making a video; while editing a video; while looking at my analytics and realizing that after seven years and nearly 600 videos, I’m still only making around $50 per month (and that’s when I’m pumping out at least four videos a week) – the last time I felt joy when doing any of those things was…when?

Can’t remember.

As far as I’m concerned, my channel can just sit there and rot.

My next question: “Should I try to make money with my writing?”

Answer: Price your books at fair market value, then trust Me.

Trust my heavenly Father. What a novel idea! I think I’ll give it a shot.

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Making Money On YouTube…Worth It?

Interested in making money with YouTube? Before you use your precious time and energy trying to build up a channel, you might want to hear…

My sad YouTube story.

I started my channel in 2010. As of this writing (a bit more than seven years later), I have nearly 600 videos uploaded, fewer than 1 million total views, and fewer than 1600 subscribers. My ad income from YouTube peaked at around $70 in a thirty-day period about a year ago. Six months ago, I didn’t upload any videos for a two-month period. Even though I kept getting an average of one subscriber a day, my income went down from a $45-50/month average to $30 per month.

A couple of months ago, I decided I was going to try to build up my channel and started publishing four to five videos per week. My income slowly crept back up to around $50 per month…and stayed there. Actually, it’s slipped down lately, even though I’ve been getting a decent number of views from my most recent videos. 

Subscribers do not equal fans

Here’s the deal: the VAST majority of my video’s views do not come from my subscribers. I probably have around ten to fifteen subscribers who actually watch every single video I put out (if that’s you, thank you). So for most of my new videos, in order to get any decent number of views I have to wait for one of two phenomena to occur:

  1. YouTube starts showing my videos to people who don’t know me in their “recommended for you” section of their YouTube home page, or
  2. YouTube decides to put one of my videos in the sidebar as a suggestion for what the viewer might watch next.

Part of my problem is that my channel has videos on a wide variety of topics. Some woman who subscribes after watching my video about my capsule wardrobe, planning to watch any future videos I put about clothing and fashion, will never watch another video on my channel again.

Ditto for the wannabe Back To Eden gardener who subscribes because he watches my video about my first (and last) attempt at a Back To Eden garden.

The other thing about viewers is I can’t read their minds. What the heck do they want, anyway? The sad (and to me, frustrating) thing is that I have hardly any views on any of my videos about health or personal finance. Self-help videos are on the bottom of the video totem pole compared to entertainment. And then people blame their cancer and heart disease on genetics, and their debt on the economy!

I’d better stop. This is an topic for a separate blog post.

And then, there’s me

I can’t put all the blame on fickle or picky subscribers. While I’m a great speaker when I write a speech and practice it ahead of time, I don’t do so great speaking off the cuff. Which is what I’ve done for most of my videos. And so, a video that ends up being only ten minutes long might require me sitting in front of the camera for thirty minutes or more, because I have to keep going back and correcting myself. Or redoing entire sections.

Sometimes I even have to redo the entire video after I’ve gone through well over half the content.

And even when I get it right, my videos end up with a lot of “you knows” and verbal slips that I have to correct with annotations during the editing process.

Speaking of editing, that takes time, too. Between my mouth and brain having trouble coordinating, and having to sit down and edit each video, I’ve always been frustrated with the process of making videos.

I’m a writer and an actress – but this actress needs her lines well-prepared in advance. You won’t be seeing me on the show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” any time soon (if they still even produce that show).

Then there’s the fact that in order to make my “talking head” videos, I have to kick J and B out of the house. That always feels icky. And I have often wished I could be out having an explore with them, feeling like I’ve been choosing making money with YouTube over being with my family. Double ick.

Gone are the days…

In a recent video I made about true financial independence (you guessed it – I haven’t gotten many views on it), I talk about how the make-easy-money-online ship sailed seven or eight years ago. If you want to make money with books, a blog, or with YouTube, you have to do some serious marketing, especially social media.

I don’t do social media. I’ve never been a social person, and the couple of times I tried to use Facebook or Pinterest for the sake of gaining friends or followers for the sake of eventually making money, I felt like a fraud and a manipulator. I can’t pretend to be social and enjoy having 2,000 “friends”, when I don’t.

It’s a lot easier for me to publish a book, set up a couple of free promo days, and pay a book promotion site to e-mail my book title to their list of thousands.

If you really want to try to make money with YouTube…

  1. Understand that if you’re hoping to make money by becoming a YouTube partner and earning money from the ads YouTube puts on your videos, it takes about a million views in order for you to make a thousand dollars.
  2. Make your channel about a specific subject you are passionate about (and which a lot of other people are interested in), so the people who subscribe will be more likely to watch future videos you create. Don’t have a jack-of-all trades channel, like mine.
  3. Be willing to spend at least an hour on social media every day, including participating in groups so that you gain more friends and followers. And be sure you promote your YouTube channel at least a couple of times a week on the other networks. (Do not post YT videos to Facebook, as YT will not count those views.)
  4. If you decide to allow comments, expect cruel and insensitive remarks. Delete them, but respond to the nice commentators. I don’t allow comments because of jerks, but YT experts would say that’s one reason I don’t get a lot of views/subscribers.
  5. While quality is still better than quantity, because of the high competition on YouTube these days you would do better to produce and upload at least three videos per week, than to produce only twice a month or once a week.
  6. Use quality equipment. If you’re going to use a video camera, make sure it will create quality pictures, and save your videos at a higher resolution. If you’re going to use photos and narrate about them, make sure you have a high-quality microphone.
  7. Be patient. Nobody with any standards of ethics (and of course, that describes all of my readers!) makes a four-figure – not even a three-figure – monthly income from YouTube until they’ve been plowing away at it for some months, maybe even years.

I’m not quitting YouTube, BUT…

I’ve decided not to try to make money from YouTube anymore. It always has felt a little icky to me to be on Google’s payroll. When I upload a video, it will be one that I believe will be helpful to people, like maybe a how-to or me singing an inspiring song.

I’m going to do what I should have been doing in the first place: focusing the time and energy I want to devote to creative projects, mainly writing and gardening.

In other words, I’m going to start practicing what I preach and be true to myself. 😉

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Ending The Conventional Produce Paranoia

Is organic food really better than conventional? Safer? Or is it the biggest racket to come around since televangelism?

If you read this post where I complain about the frustrations of a health nut living so far from a health food store, you were of one or two minds: sympathetic, or cynical. Like, “Good grief, girl, just buy conventional food at the local markets and deal!”

If you were of the sympathetic mind, you’re probably wondering why I’m even thinking about questioning the obvious superiority of organic food, of lowering myself to the level of The Stupid Ignoramuses who persist in poisoning their bodies with pesticides. Let’s deal with that latter assumption first, the assumption that people who don’t buy organic are ignorant.

Organic elitism

I’ve known for awhile that not everybody can afford to purchase certified organic produce. And I mean people who genuinely cannot afford it, not people who would be able to afford it if they’d cancel their cable and stop shopping for new clothes every Saturday.

But when we lived in Plano, we were surrounded by people whose household incomes often equaled, and often exceeded, ours. We were surrounded by people who could afford to shop at health food stores. There were two Whole Foods Markets within a twenty-minute drive of our house, a Sprouts within fifteen minutes, and all of the conventional grocery stores – all well-known chains – carried some organic produce. Mostly wilted and of questionable quality, but they carried it.

So when we lived in Plano, it was easy to forget about “the others”. The majority.

Where we live now, we have encountered few people who have enough wealth to be able to purchase organic produce. Rather, we are surrounded by people who can’t afford to.

Granted, many of these people might be able to afford to if they would kick their chain-smoking, beer-drinking, and/or meth-using habits. I’m not kidding. Stuff like that is pretty bad in the rural South.

However, many more are doing the best they can financially, and are happy they can afford what little the small, local, conventional grocery stores have to offer. They think that people like me, who take a five-hour round trip every month in order to buy certified organic produce, are snobs.

Maybe they’re right.

Sure, what I put into my body is my choice, and I have a right to go where I want to in order to buy my food. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be alone if I admitted to having developed a bit of a superiority complex over the fact that I can and do purchase mostly organic food. “Those poor, ignorant people. If they only understood how they were toxifying their bodies…”

Speaking of superiority, let’s talk about the theory that organic produce is superior to conventional.

Is organic really organic?

When you think of the word “organic”, what comes to  your mind? You may picture farmers spreading manure over bare fields in the spring, then using compost tea to fertilize crops during the growing season. Pests are picked off by hand, or deterred with non-toxic, natural sprays like Neem, Spinosad, and essential oils.

That’s what I used to think. Are you sitting down? Because I’m about to reveal the shocking truth about organic produce:

NEITHER OF THOSE TWO IDEAS ARE TRUE!

Now, I heard several years ago that some commercial organic farmers never replenish the soil – or don’t do it nearly often enough. Which is one reason I’m so keen on figuring out how to grow as much of our own produce as possible.

But I had no idea that organic farmers were allowed to use synthetic pesticides on their crops.

Not all of them do. But check out the graph on this web page. It shows that almost 50% of “relatively non-toxic” (relative to what??) synthetic pesticides – SYNTHETIC – are approved for use for organically certified growers. Even a few moderately and slightly toxic (again, compared to what, and how do “they” know for sure) pesticides are approved for organic farms.

And who knows which crops are receiving synthetic pesticides, and which aren’t? And where those pesticides fall on the continuum as illustrated in the graph?

Could it be that organic lettuce that I thought was so clean? Is that why I never find bugs on my Whole Foods organic lettuce, like I used to twenty years ago when I first started shopping there? What about the carrots, of which I consume one to two every day? How about the organic frozen vegetables?

WE DON’T KNOW!

Come to find out, much of the produce that is labeled “organic”, really isn’t organic!

“You’ve gone off the deep end, Emily. Just because the pesticides are approved, doesn’t mean the farmers use them.”

Okay, then, look at another article from Steve Savage’s website and look at the pie chart entitled, “California Crop Pesticide Use By Category.” The organic farm wedges – the yellow and red – take up more of the pie than the non-organic! And only a small fraction of the pesticides represented are truly “natural.”

From the ecfr.gov website, here is a partial list.

  1. Ethanol.
  2. Isoproponal.
  3. Chlorine-based materials.
  4. Copper sulfate (gets into water, and is toxic to aquatic life).
  5. Sodium silicate (dangerous to handle/inhale, dangerous to aquatic life)

Do any of those materials sound like something that you think organically-certified farmers should be using?

“But farmers shouldn’t need to use pesticides!”

In the ideal world, farmers would not have to use pesticides.

No, in the ideal world, everyone would either grow their own food, or they would grow on just a large enough scale to share with some neighbors, with each neighbor specializing in a just a few crops so everybody wouldn’t have to try to grow all the variety they wanted to eat.

In other words, there would be no large farms, except perhaps to raise emergency food or something.

But let’s face it: those days are over. Actually, they’ve never really existed. So let’s get back to reality.

The reality is, I would never be able to sell much of any of the pesticide-free (and I’m talking both natural and synthetic pesticides) food that I grow. Lettuce and dark, leafy greens all have some nibbles taken out of them. Many strawberries have little bug- or slug-bite holes. As do my peppers and tomatoes. And so on. Imperfections that I tolerate for the sake of not spraying my food would not sell in any farmer’s market. Period.

Remember how, a couple of decades ago, I would occasionally bring home lettuce that had little green bugs on it? Apparently I was one of a few organic lettuce customers who didn’t mind evidence of pure organic growing. I’m guessing that pressure from the picky majority drove organic greens growers to start spraying their lettuce with something so that they would be able to continue selling it!

Here’s my point: even though any farmer you might ask, conventional or organic, would agree that not having to use pesticides on food would be ideal, they can’t. They either wouldn’t be able to produce nearly as much because they would lose crops to pests, or they wouldn’t be able to sell the food because there would be evidence that bugs had munched on it.

Pesticides: as evil as we’ve been told?

These farmers – again, both conventional and organic – understand about toxins. GMO corn and soy growers aside (can you say “Round-Up”?; and anyway, that’s an herbicide), I’m going to guess that most commercial fruit-and-vegetable growers of either camp want to avoid using chemicals that are carcinogenic or that can be deadly to wildlife in relatively small doses.

Look on the graph here again. Even conventional farmers are allowed to use only a small percentage of the “moderately toxic” chemical pesticides available. And from what I have read on the topic, conventional growers try to use the lesser-toxic methods of pest control as much as possible.

What about the chemicals I listed earlier that are approved for organic growing? They are not the best, but they are not the worst, either – and are not known to be dangerous when ingested in small amounts. They are not known carcinogens – and unlike additives that the FDA allows in packaged foods, these pesticides have been well-researched for both health effects and environmental impact.

Further, there are other chemicals on the list that sound quite ominous – sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate, for example – but when you look it up it’s actually quite a benign substance. Many of the chemicals on the list break down into natural parts – oxygen, hydrogen, etc. – in soil and water. The only potential harm most of them carry is to irritate eyes and skin should direct contact with the chemical happen.

Well, that happens with hot peppers and the leaves of many food crops – green beans especially irritate me – too!

Speaking of relative toxicity…

On the same page of the bar graph showing the percentage of pesticides approved for organic use, a little farther down, is another eye-opening graph.  In it, Steve Savage shows the percentage of pesticides that are actually less toxic than substances that many people consume on a regular, even daily, basis. For instance, 55% of pesticides are less toxic than vitamin C. Uh, my husband and I both take a vitamin C capsule every day. We take a vitamin A capsule, even more toxic than vitamin C, every few days. And check out the bottom of the graph – caffeine  is more toxic than 97% of all pesticides used for commercial produce production! Do you know how many coffee-drinkers there are who insist on eating only organic, because they’re afraid of the toxicity?!

And from what I can ascertain from the article, Steve is including the pesticides used by conventional growers!

Are you getting this yet?

Some other interesting points

Another eye-opening article I found while researching the truth about organic foods is on the Don’t Waste The Crumbs blog. The author makes some interesting points; you might want to read the article in its entirety. The one that stood out to me in particular is the whole conflict of interest potential between the the companies that dole out the organic certifications and the organic growers.

“Pay me every year, and I’ll see to it that you get your organic certification.”

Hmm…and maybe since the certification company is getting paid, they’re willing to overlook a little cheating here and there by the growers?

I finally begin to understand the skeptics of the “organic” label.

The nutrition question

What about nutrition? Isn’t organically-grown food more nutritious? If you read study results that came from organically-biased researchers, it probably would be. If you listen in on a conference call of a multi-level marketing trying to sell multi-vitamins, you will probably hear that the soil is so depleted in minerals that ALL store-bought produce, organic or not, is nutritionally deficient.

However, the fact is that relatively unbiased researchers comparing non-organically grown to organically-grown produce haven’t found much difference between the two, if any. Actually, as I mentioned earlier, in some cases conventional produce has more nutrition, because they will use synthetic fertilizers while some organic farmers don’t replenish their soil at all!

Ever go to a website to find out the nutrition in a particular food? This data is based on the nutrition in conventionally grown produce, not organic. Of course, one might argue that if the nutritional testing is done on recently-harvested food, the data may not be accurate for food that has spent two days in a truck and another two days on the grocery store shelf.

But then, that would be true of store-bought organic food as well.

Never buy organic again?

All that leads to the question: is it even worth buying organic? Will I continue to bother with the extra pain and expense of choosing mostly organic over conventional produce?

The answer to both questions is, for me, “yes.” As much as is practical, we will continue making the once-a-month trip to Whole Foods until we get to the point where we are producing most of our own fruits and vegetables. (For fruit, anyway, this will be several years down the line.)

Why? First, organic farmers, though not really “organic” since they use synthetic pesticides, still use pesticides that are overall less toxic to both people and the environment than pesticides used by conventional farmers. Second of all, organic farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers. While such fertilizers are fine in hydroponics or container gardening, when added to the soil they cause an imbalance in the critical micro-organism life within the soil.

I believe it’s worth supporting growers who are taking responsibility to cause as little harm to the earth as possible.

That said, it has become impractical for all of our groceries to be organic. We’ve actually been purchasing conventional almonds and bananas for a while. Organic almonds are at least 50% more expensive than conventional – and we eat a lot of them – and the skin of bananas is so thick that the EPA tells us that it protects the fruit from incorporating chemicals that are sprayed on them.

Now, with everyone in our family basically having turned Raw Food Vegan, the freezer simply isn’t big enough to house all the frozen fruit we need each month at one time. I will buy only what the freezer will comfortable hold, and purchase the rest as needed from the local market.

Certain non-organic foods I will never touch. Conventional apples are waxed. Blech. And to consume conventional grapes from Chile, from all reports, is like eating poison.

But I am done with being afraid of conventional produce in general. And I am done being sucked in by the “organic” label.

Organic produce really isn’t so organic after all.

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