goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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All That is New…..

Yesterday I realized that I have not written anything on this blog for about a month. Just now “what” to write hit me, thanks to a conversation on Facebook. No, for a change, this will NOT be about politics.

It is about my new life as a pothead. Well, actually not quite a pothead. One of my Oregon friends thinks I may be the only cannabis user in Oregon who is not driving under the influence.  This may (does)  have its pleasurable effects, but this is not a recreational activity for me.

I was a senior in high school when someone close to me (who will remain nameless and blameless) introduced me to weed. That definitely was recreational.

In college the drug of choice was booze and that was illegal enough thank you.  But I was an RA and would knock on the doors of the rooms where smoking was obviously happening and instruct them on how to use a wet towel.  That was definitely pro-user activity.

In the late 1970s I lived in a city in the South and a friend invited me to his family’s home to watch Superman when it was first shown in HBO. He lit up a joint and offered it to me. I enjoyed the show and I don’t remember if I was uncomfortable driving home after, but since there is no memory about it, it must have been fine.

In the mid 1980s a friend and I went on a weekend getaway to her family’s vacation home in New England without any husbands or kids.  Another friend handed me a small gift, as it was my birthday and told me to open it when we got to our destination. Inside a Sucrets lozenge box, several joints. It was a chocolate weekend.

That is not all, but the jist of my prior life with pot. Not regular at all. Never enjoyed when responsible sobriety was needed. Definitely recreational.

Since then I heard sometimes that people with cancer smoked marijuana and it helped. It helped with nausea was one thing and when we were dealing with nausea from chemo issues in the 1990s, the meds the doctor gave took care of it, so no need to search out the underground market…probably available next door, right?

And then we moved to Oregon and they already had medicinal cannabis. The dispensaries were established and things were regulated.  The referendum for recreational use passed with 56% of the votes.  I suspect there were as many “yes” votes among the Baby Boomers as there were in the Millenials.

The legal requirements for legal grow operations, laboratories for testing, kitchens for preparing edibles, and shops for selling had to be worked out, so it took over a year after the law was passed before the recreational shops were open.

Today, some shops sell only recreational pot. Some sell only to people who have medical cannabis cards. Some sell both rec and medical. The medical side has different recordkeeping to meet the legal requirements of that early law.  I prefer to go to a dispensary that sells both as I am, at this point in my life, using the cannabis to help a medical condition.

I have not asked my doctor for a medical card. It is at least a 3-step process including an appointment with another doctor and can cost $800 altogether for people like me (not a veteran,  on disability and elderly-I’m too young. LOL). The benefit: no sales tax. In Oregon we do not have a sales tax……except on recreational marijuana. (It probably was THIS benefit to the state financial coffers that convinced the “weed is evil” side to vote yes.  After all, they can enjoy thinking the stoners are paying for their sin.)  Since I do not use a lot of pot over the year a card would be valid, I did not think the little bit of additional in tax would offset the fees.

So when I realized the last bit of cannabutter was used up, it was time to go purchase something.  Asking three different friends which dispensary they preferred gave me three places to check out. (There are about 8 within 10 miles, but only 1 state-run liquor store. The dispensaries were not really busy while that liquor store is always crowded.)

Anyone my age who purchased weed in the 70s and early 80s purchased a sandwich bag (ounce) for $10. The pot in late 1970 was $40 for the baggie and was a strain known as Acapulco  Gold.  The baggies had leaf, stems, some seeds generally.

Now you can buy seeds, you can buy bud, sometimes you can buy leaf (shake), you can buy pre-rolls. You can buy extract, you can buy creams and salves. You can buy candy. You can buy infused products like tea or oil. The bud is the most popular. The strains sell for about $200-400 an ounce (that sandwich baggie) so most people buy a few grams, sort of like heading to the store for a 6-pack.

Me, I bought half an ounce. I prepared the canna butter yesterday and the gingered pear bars are out of the oven now, aroma wafting through the house.

Why do I turn to cannabis? Two reasons.

Simply, I am in pain almost all the time now. My stupid ski accident at age 19 was exacerbated by the bacterial meningitis I worked through about 15 years ago. The pain in the knee started the next year and the doctor assured me it was “only” arthritis. For years advil was my help. Then I switched to glucosamine in all its combinations. When we moved here almost 4 years ago, I started getting acupuncture and that helped me be pain-free for 10 days. But last June I twisted my knee and have minor meniscus and ACL involvement. Two docs say it is “only” arthritis. But a year later, I am not back to where I was before the knee twist and now having sympathetic pain on my other leg because of my screwed up gait. Again, if you are about my age, you may be feeling some joints now too. I hope not.

Second, my asthma. I have been concerned with the Congressional shenanigans. I promised it will NOT be a political rant, but I feel I’ve been on the “am I going to die because I can’t afford medical insurance” roller coaster.  My two medications that help me breathe cost $1000 a month out of pocket. Simply can’t do that. Can’t afford it.  And THEN I started hearing how inhaling pot helps asthma.  That’s insane! People with lung disease like asthma can not smoke!! That’s why I make edibles! Smoke pot to help me breathe? Yes, it dilates the bronchi; in fact I read a medical research extract dumbed down for non-medical readers that said it was the THC specifically that helps the deeper sections of lung also dilate.

Being Oregon, I got into a short discussion about pot at the UFO Festival in May. The guy handed me a joint telling me it will help. (Yes, I love Oregon) Over 3 days I tested the concept and yes, within a short time I could draw a deep breath without any “pulling” tightness. The next morning, still good.

Then my friends stepped in with their recommendations. One vapes. One gave me a bong. Decision made.

So, why did I write this? Because medical marijuana is available in 29 states, while recreational pot can be (or will be able to be once they get it set up) in 8 states.  And, of course, your neighbor still buys his from his coworker’s cousin, just like he always has. In other words, marijuana is around you.

And yes, there are people smoking to get high or stoned. Just like there are people getting drunk or pissed on booze. And just as others seek their escape in street drugs.

But there are more people of all ages using the beneficial aspects of cannabis for a medical reason.

 


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Refreshing Old Ways: Sharing the Path

Those of us who remember our Beowolf readings from high school English class merrily purchased our first cup of mead at Renaissance Festivals and were rewarded with a sweet drink. Perhaps we were young and that was palatable. But  it was the last time I drank mead until I moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley about three and a half years ago.

Living in the middle of wine country is a joy in many ways. Not only does it offer a lot in terms of oenophile enjoyment, but the countryside is beautiful.  And twice a year (Thanksgiving weekend and Memorial Day weekend) almost all the wineries open their doors, even if they normally do not have tasting rooms. It was our first Thanksgiving weekend here and avoiding a popular location with the Portland crowd, we headed up Highway 47 north of McMinnville. When we got to Yamhill we stopped, on a whim, at a meadery at Kookoolan Farms.
Yamhill Oregon Local Farm

Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor and her husband Koorosh met as engineers for Intel and purchased a  farm in Yamhill. Kookoolan Farms has evolved over time to work with other nearby farms to offer vegetables and meat to consumers throughout the region and its reputation for quality is well known. To find out more about the farm and all they do check out their website and their Facebook page.

Like me, Chrissie remembered her Beowolf and started making mead from local honey.  She perfected her craft, moving well beyond the sticky sweet stuff so many of us experienced at those Ren Fairs. In her quest, she started gathering mead from other places in the United States and from around the world. This is when I met her. We visited her mead tasting room and was amazed at the variety of tastes offered.

And why not, when you really think about it. Beer, which has the same basic components, has amazing variety. Wine, of course, varies not only by the type of grape but, as I have learned first hand, by the weather, the terroir, and the skill of the winemaker.  Why not discover the same breadth and depth with mead?

Mead has been enjoyed by people for thousands and thousands of years. It seemed to be found often in monasteries which produced honey for the beeswax to make candles. The mead was a fortunate byproduct of that task.  Today, home brewing shops throughout the country can attest to an upsurge in interest and currently there are over 400 commercially licensed meaderies in 46 states, up from 30 in 1997!  Mead is considered to be the fastest growing beverage business.

Many meaderies, like Kookoolan, are very small with only a limited and local distribution. However, there are many that have larger production and a number of bottle shops are expanding into offering a wider selection.

As interest grows, so do the number of books available on the subject. So far, however, most recent books about mead have been in the “how to” genre. Home brewing is highly popular and there are plenty of tips and lessons available to ease the learning curve.

However, as mead started becoming more popular, Chrissie realized there was something missing. Her clues came from the visitors to the tasting room. Not only “Where can I find mead besides your tasting room?” but “What would be a good dish to pair with this mead?”

She realized she had a definite advantage over just about everyone else in the field. When she went to make her lunch in her kitchen, it was fun to grab a small pour, or two or three in the adjacent tasting room and see what tasted good with the dish she had prepared for her meal. As she kept her notes, the light bulb started to burn brightly and the book concept was born.

The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Pairing (ISBN 978-0-578-18895-9) took three years to produce.  It is a joy to read…and even better to work through by cooking and tasting. Chrissie has not only explained the various kinds of meads that are available, but offered well tested recipes to pair with the various kinds.  Imagine, if you will, you have a pretty terrific chicken pot pie you have made, either from your own recipe or the one in the book.  You might be tempted to pair it with a white wine for supper, but your enjoyment can be enhanced with the right kind of mead pairing.

From spicy (check out the shrimp gumbo!) to sweet there is something in here for every palate. 

The books is also divided into regions of the world, as mead is produced everywhere there is honey. One photograph really caught my eye; it showed an archaeological find at Tel Rehov, Israel with a multitude of preserved hives. This discovery proves that ancient civilizations, this one dating back to 900 CE, had a great appreciation for bees, honey and its byproducts.

The book explains mead history as part of the Paleo world, in Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean region, northern Europe, eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America. Recipes and pairing suggestions are offered to get your exploration rolling.

And through it all, gorgeous photography. Even a simple photo of the collection of meads Chrissie obtained from meaderies around the world in the research for this book is beautiful, even as it began to overtake the floor space in their dining room.

My hope is in your own life adventures you make room for new challenges.  Part of exploration may be of new places, but some new learning may take place in the known and safe nest of your own. Open your willingness to try not only new foods, but new  beverages too. Perhaps this concept of mead pairings will get you thinking and not only check out the book, but start checking out the shelves in a local bottle shop. At a recent visit to a local grocery store yesterday I found this.

 

 

and now I get to figure out what food will go well with it. Ahhhh, time to reread the book!
15713 Highway 47, Yamhill, Oregon 97148                                                                                                                                                                                                                             503-730-7535   kookoolan@gmail.com

 


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Six Decades of Medical Care

So many changes. Any time you can talk to someone whose life has spanned more decades than your’s, an interesting discussion could result if you asked about big changes they had observed. I thought I’d take you through a small walk about health care as I have experienced it. I suspect this post will be longer than most I write.

doctor-norman-rockwellMy mom trained as a nurse in the 1940s and met a doctor studying to be a pediatrician at the hospital in New York City. When she and my dad moved to New Jersey they were thrilled the doctor had set up practice in the next town and I was told years later that I was his first baby, whatever that implies. Anyway, we would go to his office, located in the first floor of a multi-family house and wait to be called in. I read Highlights magazines and graduated later to Reader Digests. (I guess some things never change.)  I had my first asthma attack at age 5 playing with a hula hoop. I received allergy shots with needles that were sterilized with the glass syringes in the doctor’s office in their autoclave.  When I was too sick to go to his office, he came to our house. The house call that no longer exists.

In college I went to the college infirmary. The health care fee was covered in our overall  tuition which was about $500 a year.  My 19-year-old skiing accident where I banged up my knee was ignored and over a few weeks I healed. I developed arthritis in that knee in my 40s.  (Life lesson…if you get hurt, even if you are young and can heal well, go get help to make sure you are healing correctly.)

My first job after college was for the State of Tennessee in Nashville. I really do not remember the insurance plan provided but it would have been a large group of state employees. I didn’t see the doctor at all except my annual checks for health and I ended up with a minor surgery. I did not take any medication in those days.  I don’t remember the fees but I do remember there was no stress in paying even though I was making about $6,000 a year.

herniated-discI changed jobs and moved to Memphis a few years later and in the course of the move, hurt my back. My new insurance was through my company and even though the injury happened before my first day of work, there was no waiting period.  I saw a chiropractor a few times and then an orthopedic specialist for a year before opting for surgery. There were no MRIs in those days and I was in the hospital for 4 days. My portion of the bill was under $100.  I also started allergy shots again while living there and paid $1 per shot.

I ended up a few years later  in Connecticut. My husband worked and had Blue Cross through his employer. He needed counseling and later a short hospitalization. I started taking blood pressure medication.   We had two babies (one by c-section).  One baby needed a couple of surgeries.  Our copays for medicine were $1. The hospital bills were $500 for the c-section, $300 for the next delivery VBAC, and the other surgeries were about $300 each.

That husband and I split and I was able to pick up coverage for a Kaiser Permanente HMO plan through a small business group. I paid $400 a month for a family plan which included my two kids and me, and later, a new husband.  It had no copays nor prescription costs. I fell and hurt my back again. Again I saw a chiropractor for a while and then he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Still no MRI in those days. The hospital stay was 2 days and I think my bill was about $700. I later had a miscarriage and the D&C cost nothing since it was done in the office. My last baby was born in the same hospital as the first, 11 years before but was also a VBAC and cost about $500.

Then I moved back to Nashville and my husband started working for the State of Tennessee and we had HMO plan through Aetna. Prescriptions were $2 or $5 each. Doctor visits to our primary physician were free. Specialists were more and this was when things started getting really interesting since my husband was soon diagnosed with brain cancer.  We were sent for a C-Scan one day and then an MRI the next. The specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center ran a kazillion tests to determine where the tumor was located and the potential effect removal would have. Surgery was scheduled and became the day my life seriously changed as he had the equivalent of a stroke on the operating table and was not expected to survive. But he made it through the night, improved in fits and starts in 8 weeks in the ICU, another 2 weeks in a regular room and then home. Physical therapy was provided at home for a few sessions and then we went to the clinic for that. I understood the coverage for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy was for 5 weeks. The clinic suggested visits twice a week. We asked for and went daily every weekday of those 5 weeks.  At that point he had improved enough that they wanted to try the surgery they had had to stop 5 months before. It went well, with 2 weeks in ICU and then home after another week. The bill, when it got to us and I finally figured out the in and out and all around nonsense, was $7500 to us.brain-tumors-fig4ab_large

(Now, we step aside for a minute. Recognizing that $7500 is an amazingly low bill for all the scans and surgeries and special tests and ICU and medicines, it still was something above and beyond what we could afford. He was the wage earner. I was home with the baby, something both of us had wanted to try to do for a couple of years and I was just starting to look for work when his seizures started. So, we had no income, no savings and we had that $7500 bill and of course all our normal living expenses and rent, utilities, food, car expenses and then I needed migraine medications, I’m sure you can understand why.

At that point I did a few things. First, I called our landlord and asked him if he had a smaller, less expensive place for us to live and he listened to the why of the question, was silent and then said “The last thing you need is to move. Pay me when you can as much as you can and don’t worry about it until then. I am in a position to help you.” That man is one of my life angels. I have used this story whenever I hear anyone talk about how people who are homeless are all drug addicts or drunks and basically did it to themselves. There but for the grace of that wonderful man, we would have been homeless.

I also called and talked to someone at the county level to find out if I qualified for any assistance program for the six months until the social security disability payments kicked in. They said no. The problem was we had a VERY few thousand dollars in our IRAs and they wanted us to use that up before any public assistance would kick in. The fact that it was a temporary need and very little set aside for our future did not work into any equation for help.

Finally, I called the credit card companies. We had 3 cards and each had about $2000 on it. I asked for the cards to be frozen. Basically I would not use them but asked for no interest or penalties. I owed the $6000 but did not want to see it go ridiculously higher when we could not make payments. They refused to work with me.)

So, back to the medical care. Cancer is expensive. We had radiation therapy. We had chemotherapy. And then, something unexpected happened. He did not die. I was told to expect him to not live beyond five years and when all was said and done, it was about 10 years. I had gotten a job after the first round of chemo so we would start having more income. I was lucky to get a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center and later the University. In those days the issue of pre-existing conditions meant that he would have had no medical coverage at all and I would not have had coverage for my blood pressure, allergies and stupid migraines for at least 12 months. But the year before the Democratic Congress had passed a law that any employer with more than 100 employees would offer health plans with no pre-existing conditions limitations.

So on we went. The plan each year at Vanderbilt changed. Sometimes it was strongly limited to Vanderbilt with very low fees inside that medical center and higher rates outside. No big deal to us since we were relatively new to town, but it caused messes for people who had relationships with doctors outside the system. One year it was equal inside and outside the medical center. I had sinus surgery that year at a different hospital.  By that time my share of our medical bills were topping $15,000. Still not a ridiculously high price but too high for us.

I went to talk to a debt counselor. After hearing my story he got up and shut the door and said they were not supposed to suggest bankruptcy but our situation was exactly the reason the law was there. I refused. Maybe not my wisest decision but I felt we owed all we owed except for the stupid interest and penalties for the three credit cards. He suggested if I chose bankruptcy my credit would be okay in seven years. I still said no. I felt morally obligated to pay my bills. I just needed help getting them reduced or a time payment plan set up.bankruptcy-causes

hospicemedallionAnd on it went. About eight and a half years into the illness my husband could no longer stay home safely by himself. The option of me quitting working was not feasible, so we needed to find a nursing home for his care. The one that had a bed at the time was my third choice. The top two had a medical director that was our primary care physician so I thought the continuity with the same practitioner would be beneficial. But they had no beds, so he went to #3.  It was fine, as those kind of places go, but week after week he “failed” the test to be able to become a Medicaid patient. He could put the pills in his mouth and swallow them when they were handed to him. He could dress himself in two hours when the clothes were given to him. He could still manage to shuffle to the bathroom. But the time came when he couldn’t do enough of the things on the checklist and so, became eligible. All bills were sent to Medicaid. The nursing home had a fire three days later and 13 patients died. (The story of that night is for another time.)  Ironically, my husband got transferred to one of the places we wanted.   Once Medicaid took over, I had no more additional costs for him. We stopped taking him for MRIs when it needed to be by ambulance and really, why bother after a while. Hospice got involved and visited him three times a week to provide supplemental care issues.

I stayed at Vanderbilt another 18 months after he died.  By that time I had moved to the university side of Vanderbilt and was voted to the Staff Council. My project was to track the amount we shared in our  paychecks to pay for our medical insurance (and parking) each year (the payroll deduction increased about 10% annually) while noting our raises each year (about 5%). While I appreciated the benefits, I wanted people to realize that we were slipping backwards all the time. I quit the Council when I was told to stop; that the administration did not want that kind of information shared with the staff who could not figure it out themselves.  Meanwhile,  Graham, who I had met online in a chat room about 8 years before, asked me to marry him and have my youngest and me join him. He was teaching at a state university in West Virginia, so had a health insurance plan through the state.  He was able to add my son as a dependent pretty quickly but I paid COBRA until we got married.

copayThe new plan was challenging. It was a more standard system with copays and deductibles that had to be met and  with a cap on lifetime use.  Having been exposed to the world of cancer I knew sometimes patients ran into the lifetime limit and care ended, with death soon after. It was horrific to watch knowing a maintenance dose could keep a person alive longer with a decent quality of life.  I started allergy treatments again as my sinuses and lungs were getting horribly affected with the pollution in the Ohio River Valley.  We had no dental care coverage, minimal eye health coverage, and limited options for specialists because West Virginia is one of those places in the nation that just does not have all the choices other places do.

And then the young one left for college. We had to take out an insurance policy of about $1000 a year on top of all his tuition and fees and room and board for him to access the medical care on campus. Then Graham retired and we made our move to Oregon. Graham had enrolled in Medicare and the first problem we had was there were no primary care doctors in our town who were taking new Medicare patients. I paid $500 a month for a COBRA plan from the State of West Virginia when the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act allowed implementation. I was pleased because the time limit for COBRA was going to run out before I became old enough for Medicare.

ohpWorking with someone trained in all the offerings, I selected a plan that was good and did not cost “much” It was $550 a month just for me. Since our rate was based on the prior year’s income and we had now retired, we resubmitted about 4 months later with our current income. We wanted to find something in the $350 a month range but instead they enrolled me in the Oregon Health Plan, the expanded Medicaid offering.

I was concerned that I would not get adequate care but was extremely surprised and pleased for the most part. The one issue where the specialist decided not to order an MRI when I injured my arthritic knee (“You have arthritis” he said. “I know,” I answered, ” but it feels different and I can’t walk right.”) and told me to go home. Otherwise, the clinic was friendly, competent and ON TIME.

Last September it was time to re-enroll and our joint income was $200 a month too high to qualify for the same plan, so I had to go back out to the Marketplace and found something for $530.  And OHP dropped me in September but I could not pick up the new plan until January 1. I went three months without my breathing meds ($1000 out of pocket per month) and that set me back to a 20% lung function rating. It will take me about three months to climb back to something better. I have copays and a deductible of $2500. I’m partway there….got that MRI for the knee and that cost me over $700 out of picket because I am working down my deductible.

So, the point here was not to bitch and moan. The point is to show that health insurance has ALWAYS been confusing and ALWAYS has been inaccessible to a large group of the American public.  Prices ALWAYS go up. Benefits ALWAYS go down.

But I sure enjoyed the Medicaid plan. I would be willing to pay an affordable monthly fee for a plan that allowed me to get care without any copays or deductibles or lifetime limits.  THAT was a joy.cost-of-healthcare

 


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Farm to Table Pork

For those of you who started reading recently when I have been writing about my reaction to the political hoohah of the past year, you might not know that I have been involved in the farm to table movement for the past six years or so. 

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My business, Can-Do Real Food, works with small local farms capturing their surplus produce and preserving it either by canning or dehydrating. This helps reduce food waste, offers the farmers another income stream, and provides local consumers shelf-safe local food that can be eaten any time of the year. I work with produce only; vegetables, fruits and nuts.eat-local

Most of the farmers, however, have animals for eggs or meat production. One of my farm partners, Wooden Mallet Farm, is located northwest of the small town of Yamhill in the foothills of the Coastal Range.  They offered the opportunity to buy a whole or half hog and we plunked down $50 about 6 months ago to help with feed and reserve our half. pigs

This morning I went to the farm to observe the processing. Why? Because I am curious. I get the meat all wrapped up in white butcher paper, so if I lived in a fantasy land I could imagine there is some “immaculate conversion” from hoof to plate, but instead I wanted to honor the animal by being there.

Several years ago I naively went to a farm in West Virginia to observe chicken processing and ended up being involved literally up to my elbows.  So I understood the general process.

One amazing aspect of farming in Oregon is that mobile slaughter is allowed to occur on the farm. The processor butcher explained that the regulations are not as strict as the indoor facilities and we discussed the differences between this winter time processing with the low temps (we are having unseasonable cold weather…it was maybe 30 degrees this morning) and the need to work fast while there is light. Summer time processing has the issues of flies and other insects as well as concerns about higher temperatures affecting potential spoilage.

So from the time the 22-caliber bullet was fired into the brain and the carotid artery was severed, until the time the carcass was hanging in the truck was perhaps 15 minutes. Hoofs were saved for a friend of the farmer to make dog treats. The processor collected the hides and offal for someone else who processes the skin and renders the rest. The livers were inspected and several rejected; winter hogs apparently often have some liver damage. The ears and hearts were saved by the farmer.

The carcasses will be weighed and I will receive an email tomorrow about the hanging weight. That check goes to the farmer.

The email will also give me contact info for the butcher and I will call to give him the cutting instructions. We like our pork chops one inch thick for example. We will get a small ham and the rest cut into ham steaks. We want the baby back ribs and country style ribs. And the bacon. There is never enough bacon. There will be some roasts and a few other steaks and then the rest will be ground. We will request Italian sausage.  There will be a fee for that butchering, the curing for the hams and bacon, and the wrapping for all.

All in all we will purchase a whole lot of pork that will feed us for about a year for about one-third the cost of purchasing the same amount at the store. In addition, we know our farmer so we know how the hogs were raised, the food they ate, and the way they were treated.  And, as much as you love bacon you get at the supermarket, I want to tell you that this bacon is better….way better.

I could take a few hours to honor the animal that will be feeding me. hogs


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Each One Counts

I grew up and voted for the first time in New Jersey. My parents had taken me into the voting booth with them every year while I was young. It was the kind with a curtain. You would move the handle, the curtain would close (did anyone else besides me think of the Wizard of Oz?) and the levers would be there for the pushing. It was possible to push down a party lever and all the votes would be moved, but my parents said it was important to always check out each candidate, no matter the party, and vote for the best person to represent you.  They voted line by line. All levers moved, the handle would be moved back and the votes counted as the curtain opened.1960s-voting_booth

I moved to Tennessee and then on to Connecticut and then back to Tennessee and then to West Virginia before moving to Oregon.  I voted on similar machines and then, as computerization was implemented, a variety of electronic machines.  When we moved to Oregon we didn’t have enough friends to explain the fine points of the vote by mail system. We ended up not getting our ballots mailed on time.  Since then I try to help newbies.or-vote-envelope

The vote by mail system is really very easy for people to use. There is no issue about taking time off from work or waiting on lines at the polls. We get our ballots about 3 weeks before election day and can mail them in up to 5 days before. At any time during those 3 weeks, we can drop the ballot into a ballot box, similar to a mail box but painted white and sporting a lot of signs that say BALLOTS ONLY!!!!  At least one ballor box is located in each town and many more in cities. (Here in McMinnville we have three. ) The box is open until 8pm on election day when a team (at least one each from the major parties-volunteers needed) pick up all deposited ballots and lock the box slots.or-vote-drop-box

The ballots are taken to the County Clerk’s office.  Still sealed, they are set facing the same way and then a team of people scans each exterior envelope’s bar code. Yes, the envelope has a bar code, right near the signature line, that identifies the voter. The scan enters the name into the database for the next step, verification of the signature.  A photo of the signature at time of registration is on screen and the worker verifies the signature on the envelope with the signature at registration. If the signature matches, the data base is updated with the information that that person has voted.  Any envelope that has no signature (a requirement) or a signature that is different from the original are put aside for further work.oregon-sign-here

(The people whose  signatures were missing or that didn’t match receive a letter asking them to come into their county clerk’s office for further verification. Sometimes the person is elderly or ill and the signature is a bit spidery or illegible in comparison to the original. Typically, people respond and go verify if the election is close or they want to make sure their vote, if different than the election results, is counted.)

Once an envelope is confirmed to be from a legitimate voter it moves to a different work station where all envelopes are opened but contents are kept intact. The next station is where contents and envelope are separated. The contents are still folded and most often in the privacy slip provided.  This station works as a team, 100 ballots at a time. One worker is a registered Democrat, the other a Republican. A lot of repetitive work…envelope to one side, folded ballot to the other. Then a count is made to confirm they have the 100 they started with, and then move to another work station.or-vote-workers

This station is where the ballots are unfolded and visually scanned by another Republican-Democratic team to verify any write-ins or markings that cover any area of the ballot.  Again a count is made to confirm, 100 in to that station, 100 out to the next.

Folded once more, the ballots are sorted by precinct….that number is printed on the ballot that was originally mailed to the voter.  The precinct information is obtained to provide basic voter turnout data.

From there, boxes of 100 ballots are then sent to the next area where the next check is to see if there is only one selection marked for each race. If a ballot marks two candidates in the same race that required selection of one, the ballot is set aside for voter confirmation.

Only then, at the next step, are the actual votes tabulated.

There is no way to match any given ballot at the last step to any specific voter.  Privacy is ensured.

This vote-by-mail system is, as you read, pretty labor intensive. A computerized machine can give results almost instantaneously.  So yes, it takes longer. So there has to be a benefit, right?

Actually several, but there are two main ones:

With the system in place in Oregon, there is no concern for manipulation of computerized hardware or software. With most areas having pairs of workers, each with a different party affiliation, with all the counting before and after to verify no ballot was moved away, there is a security in knowing how you vote is how it is counted.

The largest benefit is voter participation. Election after election Oregon has one of the highest voting percentages in the nation.  This time, it was interesting to note that we had a higher turnout than ever. Last year we the people approved a referendum to start motor-voter. That means that for any DMV transaction the person will be registered if not already on the rolls. (Lots of verification for citizenship and other aspects that restrict voting done before a new person is considered legal to vote.) So Oregon’s turnout for this election was 2 million voters.

But the percentage of participating voters was down a bit.  It was 78.9 %.  However, nationally it was 56.9%, significantly lower.

Why do people chose not to exercise their right to vote?  They could be unable to actually get to the pools, either because of transportation issues or a work schedule that won’t permit it. They could be sick, unable to go to the polls.  All these people forgot they could vote with an absentee ballot. Others, could think it is not important. They could believe that their one individual vote won’t make a difference. They could be so disgusted at the whole thing..the selection process…the advertising…..the rudeness….that they just step back. And more.

At least here in Oregon it is easier for us people. And the protections leave me confident that the results are an accurate portrayal of each participants vote.

every_vote_countsInformation is from experience. Not only am I a voter but I am also a volunteer. For the past three elections, Graham and I have been ballot box closets. This past Tuesday we also observed the process for a couple of hours.  Anyone can sign up to do that.


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Something New Learned

I think I wrote about feeling a bit like George Plimpton a few years ago when I was writing for The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia.  (To bring the youngsters up to speed, George Plimpton was a writer/journalist who decided he would actually have the experience before he wrote about the Detroit Lions. That experience became a book, Paper Lion, and then a movie. He wrote of other sports as well, always having participated fully.)

At the time I was visiting farms and other food producers for the year-round local food market, there was a lot I did not know. I still don’t know much about farming, but it is because of all the questions I asked and the experiences I had that I have learned a bit. For example, milking a goat and processing chickens. That last one was never on my bucket list but I am glad for the experience.

Well, yesterday I had a similar chance to do something related to farming and processing that I never expected to.  The fact that it all was legal means I can tell you about it!

A friend vaguely asked me if I would help with his harvest and I asked, simply, winter squash?  It’s that time of year, after all, and Can-Do Real Food has a killer Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup recipe, so you see where my mind was.winter-squash

No….he kept me guessing and then showed me a photo. Ahhhh….here in Oregon we are permitted to grow our own weed. There is a limitation and rules about how much you can grow for personal use. What I didn’t know at the time was his is a licensed medical grow operation, so we really were helping legitimately.

It has to be dried….a lot like tobacco. Anyone who has lived or visited the South or the Connecticut River Valley has noticed the drying sheds and barns.Image result for tobacco barn

It has to be trimmed….the unused portions removed from the good parts so the drying surfaces are smaller and easier to treat.

It has to be checked for mold….always something can go wrong but even with the recent rains, this harvest had only minimal amounts of decay.

3" Thickest Best Quantity Steel Rings Foldable Heavy Duty Hanging Dryer Rack,2Feet Diameter 4 Layer Collapsible Mesh Hydroponic Drying Rack Net w/ Clips&Storage Carrying BagI saw some awesome drying racks he was using that we have ordered for curing garlic next year! The synergy of learning new things in action.

 

So, why share this small blip in my education? Because I like to show you that learning can be very fun indeed. Be a life-long learner. Do not be afraid to step away from your comfort zone and learn new facts and abilities.

You never know who will invite you to an awesome activity!

 


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Why I Bother

I just finished helping make phone calls for a local candidate running for state office. It’s early in the campaign season so I only had one rude person on the other end of the phone. Based on my experience when this candidate ran two years ago, it will get worse the closer we get to November’s election day. People get pretty sick and tired of all the campaigning that goes on, especially this year with a Presidential election. phone bank

So why do I bother to put myself in a position for potential abuse?  First, I don’t take any of it personally.  I’ve had enough sales training in prior chapters of my life to know an upbeat voice (have a smile on your face) can make a big difference in how you sound to the other person. But still, calling at supper time, in the middle of a family crisis, following someone’s bad day means many won’t answer the call and if they do, they may be short tempered. Not a big deal.

I do it because I like the candidate. I think he is a good person making a tremendous effort to reach out and really listen to the constituents. When he lost by a narrow margin against the incumbent 18 months ago he said he would run again, and essentially he has never stopped. He got even more involved in the community and people on all sides of the issues know him better now. They know him to be someone who will listen and search for the commonalities.  THAT is a huge reason why I support him.good listening

I do it because I agree with the candidate.  Before I felt comfortable to work on his campaign I actually spoke with him and heard him speak at a small group meeting. I saw how he listened and interacted. I learned how he did additional research and how his position on that issue matured based on what the person had brought to his attention. I liked his viewpoint but I also liked the way he never assumed he knew the answer right off the bat.

I do it because good candidates are hard to identify. Certainly you can’t tell from the advertising on tv or what you get in the mail. Everyone sounds pretty similar, all promising to fix problems. But whose problems? How will they fix them?  Many candidates seem to run on generalities or flip flop depending on their audience. It is amazingly wonderful to find someone who has a good moral compass and is genuinely interested in what people have to say, and be willing to learn from that person’s  experience.

I do it because in a local contest my action makes a tremendous impact. Sure, I have a favorite Presidential candidate but any effort I could make would be a drop in that national bucket. Here, in our state representative district, I can really have an influence on sharing my feelings about this candidate to others AND sharing my opinions with him.

So, if you live in this state house district and I call you about Ken Moore, please feel comfortable to chat with me. Even if you are angry about issues, please share. We have someone who wants to do what he can to help.Moore-for-Oregon-logo-final2

People who chose to not get involved, to never really learn about their elected representatives in any level of government, who may not even vote, are losing out on a tremendous freedom. It is our responsibility to be involved. We The People means each one of us.