Thursday, July 29, 2010

Something About a Fork

I just emailed my completed manuscript to my publisher.


It's, like, OMIGOD! I actually wrote a book ... a whole book!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I think I may have allowed this one to get too big. It weighs more than 11lbs.

But I'll be completely honest. I didn't plant it. It was a volunteer, and frankly, other than having cooked a couple of them, I haven't the foggiest clue about when to harvest or what the optimum size is.

Any advice?

There are several more growing out there, and if this one is too big, there are probably several others that need picking - sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

100 Best Contemporary Novels

A few years ago, I spent a week publishing lists of the 100 Best books (which I hope, someday, will include something I've written ;). For a long time, my favorite list was the Modern Library's 100 Best Contemporary Novels, as determined by their board. I was working on buying and reading all of the books. When I read Nabokov's Lolita, I lost interest. The subject matter turned my stomach. As a woman, and as a mother of girls, I hated the protagonist. If you want to know more, you'll have to look it up. Just thinking about it makes me a little queasy.

The kicker is that the writing was really good - phenomenal even - and Nabokov's use of the language was simply amazing, which is why (I'm sure) the book made the list, but I still didn't like the content, and for me, that's enough not to want to read such stuff.

The Modern Library has published a second list of the 100 Best Contemporary Novels - this one compiled by their readers, and I thought it would be fun to post the list, with the books I own and/or have read highlighted in bold-face type.

How many do you have?

1984 by George Orwell
ANTHEM by Ayn Rand

MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
ULYSSES by James Joyce
CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
DUNE by Frank Herbert

A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell

GRAVITY'S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding

SHANE by Jack Schaefer
THE STAND by Stephen King
BELOVED by Toni Morrison

THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov

MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham

WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Connor
UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
YARROW by Charles de Lint
ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
TRADER by Charles de Lint
THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood

BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway

AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
THE MAGUS by John Fowles
THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O'Brien
FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
IT by Stephen King
V. by Thomas Pynchon
DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

What's interesting to me, in looking through the list, is how many of Robert Heinlein's novels are on the list, and many of which I know are "doomer" novels.

It may mean nothing, but it struck me as ... interesting.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Would Eat Them in a House

One of our Araucana pullets has started laying. Her eggs are green ;). We believe that the Rhode Island Red pullet has also started laying (brown eggs). That means seven of our eight chickens are now laying age. On a good day, we can expect ten eggs (including the, like clockwork, three duck eggs per day ... every day). It hasn't happened, yet, but it is now possible.

I am so thankful for the six dozen eggs we have right now. Six dozen! That's so incredible to me, and I simply can not convey - without my listener being able to hear my voice and see my facial expressions - the gratitude I feel.

It's amazing!

And I went out today to just look around the garden a bit. Pumpkin will be a staple this winter. The hybrid small pumpkin seeds I purchased from Johnny Seed have done exactly as the package proclaims. Very short vine with LOTS of pumpkins. Even in buckets, these little vines are producing two to five pumpkins each. It's incredible.

We have been so blessed with our garden this year, and even with all of the failures (you're not going to hear about ;), it's been an amazing season here on our nanofarm.

If I were still doing the IDC, I'd say that I planted lettuce. The one bed that's not buried under squash vine had bolted, and so I pulled all of the plants (the ducks, chickens and rabbits were very happy) and reseeded the space with more lettuce. I was going to plant broccoli, but I didn't have any more seeds.

I'd also say that I made sauerkraut today. I had two heads of cabbage from the Farmer's Market, which equaled three quart jars. In about four weeks, we'll have sauerkraut. I can hardly wait. Have I mentioned that I really like sauerkraut? I'm planning to harvest all of the beets and use them in sauerkraut, too. I've never had beet sauerkraut, but I have heard of others who've tried it with great success.

I might also mention that we just purchased three wall sconce oil lamps. It was actually kind of fun walking into the store. We couldn't find them anywhere, and so we walked up to one of the employees to ask. As we approached, he said hello and inquired as to how he might help. I said, "We're looking for wall sconce oil lamps." He stuttered and said that he'd been expecting a question like, "where's the bathroom?" It was funny, and unfortunately, we had to order them, because the store didn't carry them.

We're experimenting with using non-petroleum based oil for lighting. So far, the best "lamp" we've used is the one Deus Ex Machina made using a canning jar and some cotton thread from the feed sacks. In fact, it provides as much light as our table-top oil lamp filled with kerosene, AND we even roasted marshmallows for S'Mores over the flame.

My neighbor asked me the other day if we could sustain ourselves on what we grow. I thought for a second, wondering, could we? I think the answer is yes.

Between the pumpkins and the potatoes, the chickens and the rabbits, what grains we have in the pantry, acorns that we harvest and process in the fall, apples that we'll pick, the frozen berries we've already picked, and any berries that we find, the Jerusalem artichokes that are in the ground, and wild foraging, we could probably make it through the winter and not starve. We'd be more hungry that we are now, and our meals would be rather bland, but we wouldn't starve.

And, thanks to all of the experimenting we've been doing with off-grid lighting, we're pretty confident that in a pinch, we won't be sitting in the dark ;).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Contest Entry

Phelan is having a contest over at her blog. The prize is a 72-hour bag, which actually goes along with my blog's theme of preparedness ;), and so I thought I would enter, and provide a link to encourage any of the rest of you who might have motorcycle-related stories to enter, also. The purpose of the contest is to bring attention to the issue of downed-bikers. The challenge is to write a "biker" story. Unfortunately, I'm not a biker, but motorcycles figure prominently in my past.

My favorite story is one my father tells that doesn't involve me. Back when we lived in Germany, my father had a motorcyle he used to ride to work. One time, he had needed to travel a pretty far distance from where we lived for a class or something. He'd offered another soldier a ride back to where we lived.

It was a particularly brutal ride. It was raining or snowing, and it was cold. As they made their way south, my dad noticed that he was having a really hard time keeping the bike on the straight and narrow. With the weather like it was, he thought it was the wind whipping him all of the place, and he was afraid that he might have to stop and wait things out.

About halfway home, he realized that it wasn't the weather, however. His passenger didn't have any gloves, and he'd been leaning over every so often to warm his hands with the tailpipes. Every time he leaned, my father had to adjust the bike to keep from falling over.

The not so fond memory involves me trying to learn to ride a bicycle and doing my practicing in the street. We lived in a military housing area, but these housing areas were often smack-dab in the middle of the town. So, while most of my neighbors were American families, we were, kind of, in the middle of German life, too, and there was a little German shop that we used to ride (and walk) up to where they sold candy and stuff little girls like to buy.

There was an intersection I had to cross to get from where our apartment building was to the kiosk. It was a four-way stop, which wouldn't have been a problem, if I had been able to get going faster - although on this particular day, it didn't really matter how fast or slow I went through the intersection.

From what people were able to piece together (because, frankly, I don't remember any of it), I was riding my bicycle along the road and came to the intersection, where I stopped and looked both ways. When I was sure it was clear, I proceeded through the intersection, but I might as well have been walking in the middle of the road, for as fast as I was getting through.

Somewhere in the middle of the intersection, a soldier (I think, one of my father's, who was a company commander at the time) came barreling toward me on a motorcycle he'd borrowed from a friend. He ran into me, and from what I was told, I was thrown some distance and the bicycle I was riding (my older sister's, and no, she never has forgiven me for ruining her bike) was twisted into the a Z shape.

I sustained a head trauma and was unconscious for thirty-six hours, lying in the Krakenhaus in Frankfurt, where I'd been air-lifted (my first and only ride on a helicopter, and I don't remember!). I had stitches in the side of my head near my temple. I also had a pretty severe case of road rash on my shoulder and my lower back. I still carry the scars today. Thankfully, there were no broken bones, and I don't seem to have suffered any ill effects from the head trauma, although my mother will tell you that the portion of my brain where math aptitude is stored was irreparably damaged.

In the military, when things happen to dependants, it is the soldier's fault, unless it can be proved otherwise. It's especially true overseas, and one's commanders will sooner ship a troubled family home as have them stay and, potentially, negatively impact the mission. In the Army's eyes, the soldier has to be there, but his family does not, and it was even more true back in the '70s when this happened. They used to say something like, Uncle Sam didn't issue you a wife ;).

So, my father had to experience a brutal investigation into the incident. Not only was his daughter involved and severely injured, but also one of his soldiers was implicated. He had it pretty rough, and I do remember him being very stressed out and the feeling that it was all my fault, because I'd been riding in the road.

In the end, I (and by association, my father) was found not at fault, at least in the military's eyes. The soldier had been drinking - not enough to be a DUI, but because he had a beer or two, it was determined that his judgment had been impaired. The thing that really helped me, though, was the fact that he wasn't looking where he was going when the accident happened. He was test driving his friend's bike, but it was stuck in second gear, and so he was looking down, trying to get it into the next gear when he approached the intersection, and he didn't see me or the stop sign.

I don't know what happened to the soldier. I imagine he was harshly dealt with, and because a child and dependant were involved, and because it was the company commander's child and dependant, I imagine the punishment occurred at the Battalion, or higher, level. In other words, my father, the guy's CO, didn't sign the Article 15. I also want to stress that I have never held any malice toward that soldier. His punishment was likely more severe than he deserved, and I actually feel bad for him.

The whole thing was incredibly stressful for my father. A company commander has to provide a positive example for his soldiers, and can't have family problems or personal problems. It was very shortly after that, that we returned to the States. I'm pretty sure my little accident didn't have anything to do with it, but who knows.

My parents never bought me another bicycle, and while riding a bike is one of those things you really don't ever forget how to do, until I moved to Maine, I didn't own a bicycle of my own and was never really comfortable on them (I am now, if you're wondering).

I also thought I might be afraid of motorcycles, but I've found that I'm not. I find riding on the back of one exhilarating, and I keep waiting for Deus Ex Machina to make good on his threat to get one. In fact, I keep thinking if I had a motorcycle with a side car, I could give up one of my cars, and the girls and I could tool around in the motorcycle. They're little, and two of them would fit, snugly, in the side car, and one could ride behind me.

I'm thinking about the cost savings and environmental savings in driving a motorcycle that gets much better gas mileage than just about any car, but there's also that cool factor that can not be denied.

Friday, July 23, 2010

You Know You're a Gardener When ...

I was standing outside talking to Deus Ex Machina after lunch today, as he was getting into the car to go back to work. He comes home each day, I cook lunch, and we eat together. It's very nice having him working so close to home ;).

We live on a little dirt road that doesn't see a lot of traffic. We get enough I'm-lost-and-turning-around traffic to make it a *public* road, but not enough that we don't notice strange cars. So, we noticed this strange car. Not only was it unfamiliar, but they drove just past our driveway, then stopped, and backed into our neighbor's driveway, where they sat pointing toward my backyard. I thought they might be one of those town's people who drive around looking for illegal buildings, and as we just put up a new shelter for our chickens, I was, understandably curious as to what they were so interested in. (For the record, though, our chicken coop is not illegal. It is not a "building" by town ordinance definition. It is a frame with a dirt floor, a clear plastic roof, and chicken wire walls, but from the road, only the roof is visible).

So, I stepped back a couple of steps to make sure that they could see me, and I just stared at them with what I hope was a curious smile (more likely it looked more like a a what in the hell are you looking at? scowl).

They pulled out of the driveway onto the road and rolled down the passenger window to inquire if the plant growing over the wood pile was a "flower or squash", and at that point, I did smile and tell them that it was hubbard squash ... a volunteer in my garden that was growing, courtesy of some seeds from a hubbard squash I'd purchased from the Farmer's Market last fall.

I never intended to grow hubbard squash. I did want pumpkin, and I chose a hybrid seed from the Johnny Seed catalog that, reportedly, has a very short vine, but is a prolific fruiter ... so far this is true. Interestingly, though, the hubbard vine in the front yard, that's growing too close to the pumpkins have cross-pollinated, and the resulting fruit has a shape similar to a pumpkin, but with the blue-warty skin of the hubbard squash. It will be interesting to cut into it and see what we have.

What I love about the hubbard squash, though, is that it is a long storage keeper. I bought the squash, either, at the end of the market season in October ... or during the winter market in December. We didn't eat it until March, and all that time it was stored on the floor in my bedroom (we have neither a root cellar nor a basement). It's pretty amazing, and while squash isn't one of our favorite foods, the knowledge that it is such a good grower and has such a long storage capacity makes it a good choice for my homestead.

Except that it most definitely does not have a small vine ..., which is why those people stopped to stare.

In reference to the title of this post - you know you're a gardener when people stop to look at your garden. I don't know that I would really call myself a gardener. Mostly, I'm a seed-planting enthusiast. I pop some seeds in the ground and then take a decidedly wait and see approach.

And I love volunteers.

And, apparently, they reciprocate those feelings.

Growing over the wood pile and into the driveway*

Growing over the potato towers and out into the yard

I only wish I'd invited the folks who stopped to stare to take a tour of my edible landscape.

*Sorry about the pink tint to the pictures. My camera is doing wonky things, and it may be time to find a new one.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Advice to Those Living on the In-Laws' Couch

I've hesitated doing this post, because ... well, because I grew up in the south, and those of us raised in the south made up that Vegas rule. You know the one ... what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. I was raised with the idea that we make sure our laundry is squeaky clean before it goes out on the line. Our family problems are our family problems, and those things that happen within the privacy of our homes, stay in the privacy of our homes. In some instances it's a very bad thing, especially in cases of abuse, but sometimes ... sometimes the absolute best answer is to keep the problem to yourself, until you're ready to work it out with the person who lives with you. In short, if you get into an argument with your spouse, your mother, your sister, you don't run off and tell the neighbor. You wait until every thing cools down, and then, you either pretend it didn't happen (this is what most do ;), or you talk to the person with whom you had the problem.

That's why I couldn't write the post, because for too long, it's felt like airing my dirty laundry, and it felt better to just pretend it didn't happen.

Unfortunately, that don't air your dirty laundry rule that I have (mostly) lived by for most of my life was violated by another person who was living in my house (notice the past tense), and as such, I now feel free to slap those dirty sheets right up there on the line and give them a good airing.

Several years ago, when I first started my journey down Doomer Road, and I started reading other blogs that focused on the topics of Peak Oil preparedness, the Queen of Doom herself (a.k.a. Sharon Astyk), posted a great article about sharing space. Her premise was that as the economy worsens, as Peak Oil becomes more of a reality, as people start to become displaced from their homes, they will start to depend on family and/or friends to help them out by offering a place to live.

After reading Sharon's post, I used to fantasize about how that sort of thing could happen for me. Notice the term I use here, too, because it's important - I say for me, because in my fantasy, it was a good thing. I loved the idea of multiple generations living under my one roof, and I imagined this, almost, utopian sort of enchanted home life.

I always imagined this wonderful community-type of arrangement, where we'd Kumbaya around the dinner table in the evenings, sitting around an oil lamp (to save electricity, because we'd all be deeply concerned about preserving the environment and conserving energy) and chatting about how wonderful our combined household was.

I imagined that we would share household responsibilities, and that everyone - at least all of the adults - would see a need, fill a need, that is, if Deus Ex Machina and I were out late, our housemates would make sure dinner was cooked. If the floors were dirty, they'd get vacuumed or swept and mopped. Mind you, I never pushed it to having them waiting on me (altough ... *grin*), and I never expected that, if we took in housemates, that they'd be doing all of the chores in exchange for us paying all of the bills. There are certain chores that I like to have done in certain ways, and I would be disappointed if they were done differently than I do them, and so I just do them myself. It's easier that way, and it makes me happier.

The point is that in my fantasy, everyone pulled his/her weight, no one ever felt taken advantage of, and no one ever needed to feel as if they were an imposition, because it was all cooperative. Things outside the house were tough, but because we'd all banded together to help each other, we wouldn't feel how horrible the world had gotten.

People who know me and Deus Ex Machina would not be surprised to note that I had that sort of Pollyanna image of what life could be like. We have a very cooperative relationship. If something needs to be done, it just gets done - by one of us. And our girls are helpful, too. They don't always notice when things need to be done (and in their defense it should be noted that none of them are high school-aged yet), but if we ask them to do something for us, they will do it ... usually right then, and they don't, often, have to be asked twice. They are very cooperative, and very willing to help us out.

Twice now, Deus Ex Machina and I have been on the giving end of the housemate scenario. Twice, in as many years, we have given my adult daughter and her family a place to stay while they worked out some financial trouble.

Two days into their first stay with us, my fantasy bubble burst in a stinking heap of disappointment, and I knew that my hopes of a cooperative existence were not ever going to be realized.

Neither time was a very positive experience for Deus Ex Machina and me. We ended up working harder than we normally do, because there were extra people in the house, which meant more dishes, more food to cook, more mess to clean up. Both times, Deus Ex Machina had to be out of town for a week or so on a couple of different occasions. When he goes out of town, I have to take up the slack for him, which means I feed and tend all of the animals and do the dishes, in addition to all of the other chores I do on a regular basis. With the addition of three extra people, my work load increased to a very difficult and uncomfortable level, but they were guests in my home, and I didn't feel like I could ask them to do my chores (I did ask them, a couple of times, to carry in some wood for the fire, and they did, but only when I asked them, and if I wasn't home, they wouldn't tend the fire. In fact, they couldn't even light the fire, and so they just let it go out. There were many times I'd come home, after a very long day, and have to light the fire, and then cook dinner, because they'd done neither - and we don't need a fire to cook a meal. They could have turned on the electric stove, and, at very least, boiled water for pasta).

It was my mistake not to ask for their help with chores.

Unfortunately, the second time they moved in with us, we should have set some ground rules from day one. We should have very clearly defined our expectations, to include things like what, if anything, they would pay us (they both worked full-time, and for the first month, I was providing free baby-sitting, too, but we didn't ask them for any money, and with the exception of giving us a few dollars for food - the equivalent of one week's worth of groceries in the four months they lived here, they didn't offer us any money either), and what their household responsibilities would be. We should have also set some very clear and well-defined boundaries, like don't use my razor, buy your own toilet paper, stay out of the girls' dance competition make-up case.

We should have, but we didn't, and that was our fault, but at the same time, they are adults, who had had their own apartment, and we, fully, expected that they were mature enough to know how to behave as housemates without having to have it all in writing. Remember, this is my daughter. I thought she knew better.

I really hated being wrong.

So, to all of those other sons and daughters out there who screw up their lives and/or finances and have to move back in with Mom and Dad, I offer the following advice:

  • You know that sign that often gets tacked to the walls in workplaces, the one that says, in effect, your mom doesn't work here. Clean up after yourself. If you're an adult, and you're living, for free, in your mother's house, she may live there, but she's not your maid. Clean up after yourself. Including your dishes, and for goodness sake, clean up after your own children. She may love her granddaughter, but it's grossly unfair of you to assume that she wants to clean up your daughter's poop, or your daughter's toys, and finding that half-eaten and now melted popsicle on the couch is not going to make your mom very happy. Really. You're the mom (or dad). It's your job to clean up after your kids. Don't expect your mom to do your laundry, either, not even the bath towels you and your family use, and especially not the clothes your daughter pees in and that you leave lying on the bathroom floor. If you're not comfortable using your mom's washing machine, then hand wash the items and hang them somewhere to dry. I'm sure she has a clothesline outside somewhere.

  • If you're going to be homeless, and your parents have agreed to let you move in with them, DON'T GO OUT AND ADOPT A PET. Seriously. That's just bad manners. Further, if you have pets, but they're not housebroken, find them a new home before you move into your parents' house. They agreed to let you move in with them with your spouse and child, but expecting them to housebreak your dog and clean his shit off their carpets is really too much. Actually, if you're going to be homeless, and you know you're going to be homeless, and you're depending on the kindness of your relatives to give you a place to live, don't expect them to take in your pets, too. Find them a new home before you are homeless. You'll actually be doing your furry friends a favor.

  • But if your parents (or family members) are kind enough to allow you to bring your pets with you, do everything in your power to make sure that those pets are not a burden. Clean up after them, and make sure that there is never a pet odor. Make sure you are providing them adequate food and water, and don't depend on your hosts to do this for you. And even if your hosts have the same pets, BUY YOUR OWN DAMNED PET FOOD. It's your pet. You're already burdening your relatives just by being there. Don't make matters worse by forcing them to feed your animal and their animal. That's just rude and horribly inconsiderate.

  • While it may be true that your mom is a better cook than you are, that's no reason to assume that she is interested in cooking all of your meals. Yes, it's her kitchen, but really, cooking dinner for eight people might not be her idea of a good time, especially if two of those eight people are adults who are hiding out in their room watching television while dinner is being made, and not offering to lend a hand, not even to set the table, but as soon as the dinner bell is sounded are the first people at the table, and are always willing to eat their share. You eat. You should, at least occasionally, offer to either cook a meal or at least offer to help out with the meal that is being cooked. Even just offering to set the table is a huge help.

  • Once dinner is eaten, leaving the table and disappearing into your room without offering to help with clean up is rude. Don't do it. When Deus Ex Machina and I go to his grandmother's house for dinner, we ALWAYS do the dishes after we've eaten. Deus Ex Machina's mother has six siblings. All, but two of them, have at least one child, and most of those children have children. There are a lot of people at these dinners, but we still do the dishes. We don't even live there and never have. If you're living, for free, in your parents' house, and they are cooking your meals for you, the VERY LEAST you can do is offer to wash the dinner dishes.

  • If it's winter time, and your parents heat with wood, occasionally check to see that there is wood in the wood box. If you're cold, put a log on the fire. But complaining about being cold, and failing to even take the most simple steps to remedy the situation (like making sure there's wood in the woodbox or that the fire doesn't go out) really is not very useful.

  • If you move into your parents' house, no matter what you feel about the way they live, you have to remember that it is their house and you need to respect that it is their house. If they ask you not to throw soda bottles in the garbage, is it such a difficult thing not to? If they ask you to close the windows in your room and turn off your electrical equipment (to save energy) when you're not there, do it. It is grossly unfair and incredibly self-centered to act offended and self-righteous at those requests, especially if you are not contributing your fair share to the smooth operation of the household. In short, if you're not paying the bills, you really have no say.

  • And while we're on the topic of respect, make sure you respect their property, including their furniture. Don't walk into their living room, their public community space, and treat it like your bedroom. If you're tired, and you don't feel like you can sit up right, go to bed. You may be living there, and perhaps you treat your own couch like a bed, but it's not your couch. Have some dignity ... and some respect.

  • If you want to be treated like an adult, act like an adult and take some responsibility for yourself, and one hint: hiding out in your room while your parents do all of the cooking and cleaning is not taking responsibility for yourself. In other words, if you're living with your parents, but they are doing all of the household chores and paying all of the bills, you're not acting like an adult, and they will, likely, not treat you like one. Minors, that is children under the age of eighteen, are expected to mooch off their parents, and they rarely have the same decision making power as their parents. If you want to be able to make decisions, you should, at least, do as much as is in your power to heft your own weight. If you can't pay the bills, fine, but you should be prepared to do a little more around the house.

  • If your parents own a house and are paying their bills without any help from anyone else, they are doing something right. Perhaps you should pay attention to what they are doing, instead of thumbing your nose at their lifestyle in the belief that you have all the answers. Newsflash: If you're moving into your parents' financially stable home, because you can no longer afford to live on your own, you do not have all of the answers, and frankly, you're screwing up. It's time to admit you have, basically, f*cked up your life. Stop blaming the rest of the world, shut the hell up, and pay attention to the lessons your parents tried to teach you when you were a teenager, but were too full of hormones and hot air to listen. Maybe if you listen this time, there won't be a next time.

  • Whatever you do, don't, simply do not even consider, calling your mother a fucking bitch to her face in her own home where you have been living for free for the past four months. Even if she really is a fucking bitch, don't ever, simply do not, say it outloud, to her face, in her home. No good will come of it, and you might feel better for a second, but it's kind of like being a kid at Halloween and eating your whole bag of candy before November 1. It might be fun for a minute, but after that, you're going to be really sick. Some things can't be unsaid. In addition, even if you had a valid complaint, once you slander your mother's character with profane epithets, you've pretty much negated any hope of having your concerns rationally considered. Oh, and at that point, you should probably find someplace else to live ... even if she doesn't slap your fresh little face and kick your ass out the door.

Unfortunately, my experience with having housemates has soured my lovely fantasy. The saying is once bitten, twice shy. I hope none of our other relatives or friends ever need to ask us to share our space with them, because after the experience we have had, the answer is more likely than not going to be no, and that's very sad to me. Letting go of our fantasies is difficult - like being forced to accept the popular opinion that there is no actual, flesh and blood Santa Claus. It's a hard lesson.


Pajamaed children, early to bed,
"Or Santa won't come," they always said.
Excitement mingled with a dash of fear,
Would he visit with his eight reindeer?

Young eyes soon close to sugar plum dreams,
But open too soon in the streetlight beams.
Quietly creeping down the endless hall,
On cushioned carpet her footsteps fall.

Peek around the corner at regal tree,
Reveals a visitor. Is it he?
Streetlights illume a glowing, white beard.
Heart races, rabbit's square dance, in her fear

Small feet scurry back to bed.
Warm, down quilt over young head.
Morning, at last, "Rise and Shine!"
Runs to the tree. What does she find?

A giant, stuffed monkey (sibling's gift)
Perched under the tree, shiny, white mid-driff.
Was it this all along? A trick of the light?
Or did Santa sleep in her home last night?

~ Written by Wendy, 1992

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Thought ...

... based on some of the stuff that came out in comments to a recent post, and to some of the posts I've seen published around the blogosphere very recently.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~ attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


As a farmer (of sorts), the truth of the phrase even in the midst of life, we are in death is very much a part of what we live here. Our philosophy is that death is not the end, but rather a transformation, and we see the truth in that belief in the world around us.

In the spring, the green shoots start to peek out from their ground slumber, in the summer, our garden is bursting with life, in the fall the cooler days and freezing nights cause the plant growth to stall and the plants to die back, and during the winter, the garden is little more than a bare patch of dirt. We learn about the cycle of birth, growth, death, and rebirth from watching our plants.

But there's more to our farm than just the plants. We also raise animals for food. Mama bunny has a litter of kits, and we know from the moment that we see those bald little bodies wriggling in their blindness that at some point, we will have to harvest them.

And the chickens, too. From late April until mid-July, we have fuzzy baby chicks in the house and chickens out in the yard at varying stages of development. When they have reached maturity (at about eight weeks), they are butchered and put in the freezer. Usually, we take our live chickens to a butcher and pick up frozen meat, but I have been saying for a very long time that I wanted to learn to harvest my own chickens. Part of it is that in butchering them myself, I will save a great deal of money, and if raising my own food is, in part, a frugal choice, then paying someone else do that job for me doesn't make a lot of sense. The other reason, though, has to do with my desire to be self-sufficient, and if I'm ever, really, going to be self-sufficient here on my nanofarm, then I need to own the entire process - from brooder to butcher.

It's been a real quandry for me, because intellectually, I know this, but emotionally, the thought of killing this animal that has never done me any personal harm is, almost, painful.

The other day, I walked out into the yard to make sure everyone out there was okay. In particular, we have an Americuana chicken who is light enough and lithe enough to make it over the poultry yard fence, which she does, every chance she gets. Then, she heads over to the broiler tractor, harrasses the broilers and eats their food. I didn't see her with the broilers, when I stepped outside, and I started to get a little nervous for her. So, I'm walking around the yard, and I walked over near the broiler tractor, which is open so that they can wander a little in the yard (and they only wander a little, because they're so heavy).

Suddenly, I feel something sharp on the top of my foot, and I look down to see this rooster. At first, I think he's just stepping on my foot, and accidentally scratching me. This particular batch of broilers has been very friendly and will run up to us to greet us, if they're not closed up in the tractor. It's actually been kind of neat (but hasn't done a thing to assuage my concerns about harvesting them myself).

Then, I realize that he is most definitely NOT accidentally scratching me, but he is most definitely intentionally biting me on the foot ... twice.

And, as the sky clears and the sun bursts forth, all concerns about not killing things that have done me no harm evaporated. I grabbed him around the neck and exclaimed, "Why are you biting me on the foot?"

We almost had chicken for lunch ... almost.

And I was thinking, perhaps, when his compadres go to see Ken on Monday, maybe he won't be with the group, but will, actually, have been enjoyed at Sunday Dinner.

Dance of the Adolescent Male

Too full of the rooster swagger
To see the lonely hen,
Patiently nesting in far corner,
Her feathers drooped.

Strut, Strut, and Crow!
Bellow, Baby!
For all the world to hear
Your cock’s glory.

You know someday that strut
Will be a shuffle
And the Cock-a-doodle-doodling
A muffle,
In the hands of the axeman.

Then, your crazy strutting body
Will run wild
Through the barnyard,
And the hen will be roosting while you’re roasting -
Sunday Dinner.

~ written by Wendy, August 7, 1992

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ethical Eating

While the ethics of eating was not the impetus for our dietary choices, it has become an important part of the way we eat.

For instance, we don't buy our meat at the grocery store, because most of it comes from CAFOs,

... and there's a particular chain restaurant in our area that happily admits its partnership with Smithfield farms - which is the poster child for the worst of the worst in factory farming and has been pinpointed as the source of last year's swine flu outbreak -, and I will no longer eat there.

We often have to look for alternatives for the things we want and have been lucky to usually find them. Instead of the Smithfield partner, we have the choice of going to a barbeque place just up the road a piece, which purports to source their meat from Wolfeneck Farm (a former Maine-owned, grass-fed, organic beef farm). It's good food, it's a fun atmosphere, and I happily support them.

Still, sometimes having such strong feelings about the food we eat is very difficult. It's hard to say to your daughter, "I'm sorry, we can't go with your friends to that restaurant because the food they serve comes from abused animals."

So, it's really nice (oh, so very nice!) when companies make my choices easier, like Buck's Naked BBQ serving Wolfesneck Farm beef ... and this article about sustainable fishing practices in the Gulf of Maine and a new policy at our local (large chain) grocery store regarding sustainable fishing and what they will sell in their stores ;).

So, cool!

Hey, Deus Ex Machina ... I think we need to eat more fish.

Friday, July 16, 2010

{this moment}

A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember.

And then, what happened?

I love story telling, but more I love listening to my children's stories ... except, they tend to tell stories, just the way I do - in a flush of words with many digresses throughout the telling and after a convoluted narrative, finally ending up at a logical point somewhere down a long and twisting road. Sometimes, when I'm in a hurry to not listen anymore, but wishing to give them some opportunity to weave the tale, I'll wave my hand irritably and query, "So you and your buds were in the woods catching fish with your hands ..., and then, what happened?"

I was reading this really great article the other day about storing water. Lots of great ideas, but coming from my thrivalist mindset, as I was reading, my mind kept wandering beyond the 72 hour storage capacity the article recommended. Many disaster preparedness writers recommend storing 72 hours worth of water. That's three days.

And to be very clear I do *NOT* disagree with being prepared and having stored water. My concern is with the ... and, then, what happens?

My concern is that some people who are preparing are doing so with the (probably unconscious) hope that at some point down the road, they will be rescued ... or they will be able to escape, and frankly, I don't really believe either will happen ... for most people. I think most of us will be stuck where we are with what we have. While I do think that we need community, I don't think there is some entity, agency or group out there who is just waiting for TEOTWAWKI so that they can swoop in and save the day. Self-reliance, right? Because there is no one on Earth who knows better what I and my family need than I.

Another concern I have is with that false sense of security. If I have three days worth of water stored - enough for my family of five (or about 80 gallons, including some for the dogs), will I be out there looking for water to replace what we've used, or will I be hunkered down waiting for the Calvary to ride in on their white horses and bring me a tank load of potable water?

My guess is that most folks will be hunkering down ... and then, three days later, when they are out of water, they'll come up out of their Hobbit hole, and start looking, but if they haven't sourced a place to find water, even water that has to boiled and/or filtered, they will be in a bad spot. When there is no water, one gets thirsty REALLY fast, and to expend energy looking for water when one is already thirsty is probably not the wisest thing.

That said, I do have some stored water. There's a gallon, or so, in the back of the cabinet. There's a gallon in the fridge. We always have a pitcher of filtered water in the fridge and a two-gallon container of filtered water on the counter. We also have the, typical, residential sources of water: toilet tanks, water pipes leading into the house (our hot water heater is an on-demand variety, though, and so no "stored" water there).

Plus, we have rain barrels - with plans to install a larger water catchment system when we get the new chicken coop built.

But I've looked beyond what I have here, on my property, for places where there is water. There's a brook behind my house; there's a creek behind the subdivision across the road from me, and I know exactly which house in the subdivision it goes behind; there's a pond just through the woods in the other direction; the river is a couple of miles from here; and then, there's the saltmarsh and the ocean, and in a real pinch, I could set up a desalination/distillation process and use the ocean water.

The thing is that none of those sources of water is potable without some purification, some action I have to take before we can safely drink it, which is where the stored water comes in handy.

But I don't need to store eighty gallons of potable water. What I do need to do is to realize that this is the emergency and to start, immediately, with collecting water from one or more of my sources and start making it ready for us to use.

If I lived in a water scarce area, I would probably have more stored water than I do, and I would, definitely, be looking into a larger water catchment system - preferrably something with an underground storage tank - but if I lived in one of those areas, I'd also be doing some very heavy research with regard to how indigenous people managed to survive, nay thrive, before the Hoover Dam was built bringing water through pipes to my town.

It's wise to have the basic necessities always available in some quantity ... but it's better to know where to get it, when what's stored runs out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Add the following information to the good to know category ...

PURSLANE: This edible weed makes good ground cover in the corn patch. Use the stems, leaves and seeds in stir-frys. Pickle the green seed pod for caper substitutes. If purslane is growing in your garden it means you have healthy, fertile soil!

... because ...

I never planted it.

I love volunteers. It reminds me that Mother Nature usually knows what to do much better than I do, and if we pay attention to her lessons, we will always learn something very valuable.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In the News

Last Tuesday (one of the HOTTEST days so far this summer!) a reporter from the local newspaper joined us in the woods for part of our outdoor skills class. She said it was nice to get out of the office for once ... even if it was hot ... and she had to tromp through the woods with a bunch of sweaty homeschoolers ;).

Seriously, though, she did a wonderful job of talking about the kinds of things we do in our class and about our teachers.

It was a great day out in the woods, and in case you missed the last time I linked to his blog (and are interested), Deus Ex Machina does a good job of describing the day, and he has a great picture of the baskets we made that day, too ;).

Entre Dans Ma Jardin

When we exit the house, we turn right and step off the front porch. Right again, leads up this path and into my garden.

When I first designed the garden, I wanted to put a little cafe table with a couple of chairs here, because I thought it would be a nice place to sit in the early morning, and read a book or have a cup of tea. There's an electrical outlet right there, too, which means that it would be a nice place for me to work outside on my laptop, enjoying the warm sunshine and cooling breezes.

The very tall plant next to the house is Jerusalem Artichokes, which have a very interesting history.

I first heard about Jerusalem Artichokes when I was exploring the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet. The premise of the diet is that the food we should eat is determined by our blood type. Specifically, the diet explains that some foods are food, which means they provide nutrition, some foods are medicine, which means they provide healing benefits, and some foods are poison, which means they should be avoided - at all costs! So, for instance, someone (like Deus Ex Machina) who has Type O blood would need an animal-based diet - lots of beef and large game animals. Someone (like me) who is Type A would need a diet that is higher in plant materials - not vegetarian, per se, but mostly.

It made a lot of sense, and explained why some diets work for some people, but the same diet will not only not work, but will cause other problems for different people. Like the low-carb diets are perfect for Type Os, but not necessarily so beneficial for Type As.

But not all meat is good for Type O's and not all plants are good for Type A's, and the standard white potato, which is a staple in our diet, is not good for either of us, but Jerusalem artichokes are. And wheat flour was poison to Deus Ex Machina, but Jerusalem artichoke flour - two thumbs up!

The problem was that I had no idea what a Jerusalem artichoke even was, and so I did some research, and I learned it is a tuber, like a potato, that has a tall stalk and is a member of the sunflower family. For a long time, I thought it was a plant that was indigenous to Europe and, like escargot, was one of those things that was gourmet, which is why I'd never heard of it. My (mostly poor Irish indentured servants) ancestors wouldn't have known anything about gourmet food. In fact, garlic was gourmet to me, until recently. Of course, as is often the case, I learned the opposite to be true. It was not gourmet at all, but rather it was considered "peasant food", especially during times of famine. As such, peasant immigrants, wishing to escape the oppression and toil of serfdom in Europe would never carry with them a plant that was associated with starvation, which is the reason attributed to its having fallen out of favor.

Ironically ...

Recently, I learned that Jerusalem artichoke was actually introduced to Europe ... around the 1600s, when Champlain was exploring along the area that is now the Canadian/US border. It was given to him by the Natives, and it is indigenous to North America ... to my part of North America.

Which would explain why it so very much loves growing here. It's almost as tall as my house!

We have lost the knowledge of more plants than we know. While we believe our American diet is varied, it's actually pretty narrow, consisting mostly of processed foods that are wheat-based, corn-based, soy-based and sugar.

But there's so much more out there - a lot that can be cultivated to thrive even in small spaces, but even more plants that will, if just given a chance, spread their little plant arms (or roots or seeds ... or ... you get the point) and multiply providing more food than we could ever use. The key is to open up our minds and allow ourselves to consider what Pocahontas sings in the Disney film, that the plants want to give us their gifts, we just have to learn to speak their language.

I had a dream the other day. Things had gotten truly bad, and a group of hungry, angry men stopped at my house demanding the food I had just harvested. I looked down at my meager harvest - barely enough for a few meals for my family of five, and just a taste for this horde -, and then, in my mind's eye, I traveled back into the woods and then out over the saltmarsh, and I saw all of the bounty and variety of wonderful things nature provides. I shrugged and gave the men the food. We didn't need it. It was just something easy and quick, because it was right there. When they left, my family and I took our book, The Forager's Harvest went into the woods and harvested supper, and it was delicious and more than enough.

For thousands of years humans have lived and thrived where I live right now, and their populations (while considerably smaller than we now have) were much larger than we would believe is possible for a society of, largely, hunter/gatherers.

The Earth has so much to offer. While we're all getting ready for whatever is coming - this apocalypse, this TEOTWAWKI - what we can't forget is that we are all connected, and we are all connected to the Earth. It's not a dead thing we can possess, but it is a living entity that will support us and nurture us, if we let it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Deus Ex Machina brought home these two tree branches. He thinned them from a stand of larger, healthier trees that were shading them, as they would not have grown anyway. They're poplar, he tells me, and we thought they were dead. I mean, isn't that logical? When one cuts down a tree or coppices a limp, that part that was severed from the tree is no longer alive.

This weekend, we discovered that the one on the right has quite a zest for life, and has, apparently, decided to regrow itself. We're debating whether we should plant the stick.

There's so much about this world, about nature, about the propagation of life that we simply do not know, but we'll definitely need to relearn those lessons.

We have so much to learn.

Sorry for the Inconvenience

I have a comment spammer. At first it was just every so often, but now it's with nearly every post. As such, I will be moderating comments for a while. Hopefully it will stop.

I hate spammers.

They're such a drag.

Monday, July 12, 2010


We all know I'm all about being prepared, but the term that Kate coined many months ago, thrivalist, more aptly describes my philosophy. I'm about being prepared, more in the way I learned as a Girl Scout, and that's with an accumulation of knowledge and experience rather than an accumulation of stuff.

Make no mistake, however, we have stuff ... and a lot of it, but most of our stuff is books. When it comes to books, we're kind of like the goat in the movie Hoodwinked: we have books to teach us canning, and books that show us weeds, we have books for when we raise our flock will show us what they need ..... Anyway, you get the point. We have books.

Years ago, when I first started contemplating the state of the world and grew concerned about what I saw ... when I swallowed the proverbial red pill ... I understood on a very fundamental level that hoarding *stuff* might not be the best option. It seemed very intuitive to me that I would never, ever be able to stock up ALL of EVERYTHING that I will need for the rest of my life. First of all, I don't have the space, because my house isn't so very large, and second, some things get old and then can't be used.

But also, even if I could stock up on ALL of EVERYTHING *I* would need, I couldn't possibly stock up enough for all of my children ... and their children ... and their children, and if we're preparing for a future when those things we deem necessary are no longer available, then we'll want to have them, right?

So, the question, for me, became, what do I REALLY need? Followed up by, of those things that I really need, how many of them can I produce myself or replace with something that's renewable?

First we looked at our diet, but I've covered that ad nauseum in the past. The highlights include: we don't stock-up on commercially canned food, most of our diet consists of foods that are locally grown, we buy in bulk in season or raise our own and then, preserve as much as we are able for use during the winter - oh, and we're learning to identify local, wild edibles and are incorporating those foods into our diet.

Next, I started looking at things like hygiene. I realized that I don't have the money or the space to store up another ten years' worth of disposable napkins and/or tampons, but more, I have three young daughters, none of whom are that age, yet, and I definitely can't store feminine hygiene products for the next FORTY years for three girls (and that's if I don't get any for my adult daughter or her two daughters (one who is still being "cooked" - as it were ;).

So, I looked for options, and I bought a Diva cup for myself and made cloth napkins. I will teach my still-yet-to-hit-puberty daughters to use these reusable options.

But it goes further. What about deodorant, soap and shampoo? What about toilet paper and laundry soap and other cleaning products?

I can't store all of the [insert name of commercially produced laundry detergent] I will need forever, but I can store many years' worth of ingredients to make my own. Homemade laundry soap uses Borax, Washing Powder and regular bar soap. But it is possible to make an all purpose soap from lye (which is water that has been filtered through hard wood ash) and animal fat (like lard) - neither of which I would have to store, but which I can procure on an as-needed basis, for the most part.

I also don't store gallons and gallons of potable water, but we do have rainbarrels. Instead, I know to boil 'wild' water, and instead of trying to store gallons of water (which can get stale), I would have a water filter. Between boiling and filtering, even river water would be safe to drink.

In the movie, The Matrix , Morpheus tells Neo, take the red pill, you'll stay in Wonderland, and I'll show you how deep this rabbit hole goes. I've been "prepping" with a thrivalist mindset for years, and I am pretty sure that I haven't reached the bottom of the rabbit hole, yet. I'm sure there are things I haven't considered I might want or need in the future, and I haven't learned nearly enough ... although I can make a birch bark basket, and like the Native Americans in my region, I'm learning to make Jerusalem Artichoke a staple in our diet.

Prepping with a thrivalist mindset - that is one that focuses on self-sufficiency and independence, rather than on preparedness with a focus on "stuff" - has actually calmed most of my fears of the future. If the absolute worst happens, even if we had to abruptly abandon our home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on our backs and a knife, we'd know what to do to survive, and no amount of thievery or destruction of our property can take away what's already in our heads. In a world gone mad, even if we lose our precious stores of food, water, clothing, and other goods, we could still thrive.

If you're reading this, you already know how bitter that red pill is, but it's actually like those Atomic fire ball candies - once you get past the bitter outside, it's actually kind of sweet ;), and, seriously, knowing how to do for yourself is incredibly empowering.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Headline Is ...

Companies Brace for the End of Cheap Made-In-China Era.

And all I can say about that is ... not surprised.

Buy it now, and learn to maintain it, because it won't be long before a lot of those trinkets we so dearly love to clutter up our living space will be unavailable or unaffordable ... or both.

And buy a sewing machine and learn to use it. Remodeling old clothes into new ones might very well become how we dress ourselves when cheap clothes from China aren't so readily available.

Friday, July 9, 2010

{this momemt}

A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember.

For more on today's moment, check out Deus Ex Machina's latest post.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Enough Is Better

This just in ...

Apparently, the major news networks have picked up on the fact that we are, in fact, in a Depression. It must be so, if they say it is so.

Personally, I wouldn't know what the national networks say. I don't watch television, and my news exposure is pretty limited to reading headlines from the various newspapers who have a feed through Yahoo, and any national stories distributed to the Portland Press Herald through the Associated Press and published online. I used to be quite the news junky, but over the past few years, with the knowledge that most of what *we* read (or watch, if we have television) is filtered, I don't bother. None of the news is good, but none of it is the whole story, either.

In fact, I get most of my news from other blogs, and if I really want to know what's going on, I read Kunstler, or Greer, or (especially) The Automatic Earth. What's great about getting my news from these places is that they draw their information from a lot of different sources so that it's not (entirely) biased, but also that (I assume) they are not being backed by some corporate sponsor (like our own government) to say what *they* think we should hear.

So, "they" say we're in a Depression *now*, and I say the catalysts that have resulted in what we're facing today were put into place more than a decade before we started feeling the pinch.

People are so short-sighted.

If we follow history, at all, even a little, we would be noticing. The 1970s were bad, but we learned nothing. We started to learn, and then, the 80s happened , and a whole new set of people were in charge of what we were being told, and the story was different, even if life wasn't so very different for most people. The similarities between what is happening now, and the events that resulted in the 1930's Depression are striking.

The 1990s were the *Gay '20's" revisited with easy credit and a spending spree. From the Dick Tracy Soundtrack, I'm Breathless Madonna had a great song that pretty much exemplifies the attitudes of Americans during the 1990s.

The song, itself, is just a lot of fun, because it's a bouncy little ditty, but the message is pretty sobering. Nothing's better than more, it says, and goes on to tell us that:

Each possession you possess
Helps your spirits to soar.
That's what's soothing about excess
Never settle for something less.
Something's better than nothing, yes!
But nothing's better than more, more more

... Except once you have it all
You may find all else above
That though things are bliss,
There's one thing you miss, and that's
More! More!

In short, it's never enough, because nothing's better than more ... except ... MORE!

And it's true. With my children, we fell into the trap of buying them little trinkets, like Polly Pockets and Build-A-Bear animals and Webkinz animals, to the point that Precious had "too many" Webkinz on her online account to even properly care for them. She wanted to abandon her account, get a new animal, and start a new account with just the one animal, because she was spending so much time just feeding the ones she had that she didn't have time to play the games. She got in over her head, and we allowed it ... nay, encouraged it!

What's better than more? Enough, and enough is far less than most of us have.

The hard part, for my family, especially for my children, and for most of us, in general, is to find that balance between satisfying our needs and falling into excess, to answer the question how many (silly bands, Polly Pockets, Webkinz, pieces of jewelry, articles of clothing, pairs of shoes, cars, houses) is enough?

In the 1920s, people began migrating west with the promise of a new life with an abundance of land for everyone. They migrated, they found a piece of land, they settled, and they started farming. They made money, and they started buying things, and then, they started buying things on the promise that next years' crop would be better than last years ...

... but it wasn't.

The reason many of the "dust bowl" farmers lost everything was because, initially, their farms were so profitable that they felt comfortable going into debt to pay for the stuff they wanted (and sometimes needed) like tractors, or wood for a better house with real windows with pretty cloth curtains and doors with latches, or pianos and other household goods, but then, there was an economic downturn, and while people were starving all along the East Coast, grain was rotting in silos because there were no buyers, and livestock was (quite literally) being shot and left to rot. In fact, the government *PAID* farmers for shooting their cows.

Timothy Egan's book The Worst Hard Time was a really good look at what life was like in the dust bowl during the 1930s.

For a couple of years, I've been reading stories about the struggling dairy farmers selling off their herds, or worse, pouring out their milk, because the cost for them to get the milk to market was higher than the cost of dumping the product. That is, it would cost them MORE to sell me a gallon than it would for them to pour that gallon down the drain.

But that wasn't the only one. Earlier this year, in Florida, strawberry farmers were doing the same thing. The price for strawberries on the market was rock-bottom, and some producers couldn't afford to hire the help they needed to get the crop to market and still make enough of a profit to make it worthwhile, and so they were just going to let the strawberries rot in the fields. For liability reasons, they couldn't open their fields to the general public and offer a PYO option, but under pressure, several of them, eventually, allowed food pantries to pick.

It's very sad to see food wasted.

It's worse to know that all we need is provided for us, if we're willing to accept *enough*, instead of more, and that as long as we insist on *more*, we will never have enough - even when this too much is killing us.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Balancing on a Few Square Feet

Deus Ex Machina published a really interesting post recently. His focus was on respecting and appreciating the gifts we are given - often without any spent energy on our parts. I referenced those gifts in my recent commentary on stuffed grape leaves. Granted, we planted the grape vine, and without it, there would be no leaves, but after we planted it, we have done very little else with it. The base of the plant is as thick as my calf (shut-up ... I don't have fat ankles!). The two discussions had me thinking about our nanofarm.

With so little space to plant, nothing in my yard grows in a monoculture. Cabbage and onions share space.

Peas push up through the pak choi, which shares ground with a tomato seedling.

Big Little Sister's Warrior Cat garden is a study in cooperative growing.

Even the animals have to share space. The chickens, ducks and rabbits all share the 512 sq foot yard we built for them (to keep them out of the gardens).

When one lives on a small space and subsistence is the goal, the need for cooperation, sharing the hardships and the joys, is necessary, and everyone has a job, and everyone must do his job. The beans fix the nitrogen in the soil so that the borage can provide pollen for the bees so that the bees will give us honey.

I watched a white butterfly flit into the animal yard today. I love watching the butterflies and other flying insects and birds enjoying my herb garden. The butterflies particularly love the milkweed (a volunteer), and hummingbirds are attracted to the bee balm. So, I took an interest in the little guy as he floated through the fence at, roughly, eye level of the ducks. I had a moment of panic, though, when I noted that Padoda was interested for a completed different reason, and I sent a mental warning to "fly away! fly away!" The butterfly made it out, unscathed, but not before the rest of the flock noticed and started snapping, too.

As much as I would have been sad to see the butterfly become duck or chicken food, I was reminded, in that moment, that the ducks and chickens were simply doing their job, too. They were eating bugs, which they need to make the eggs, which we use to sustain ourselves.

It's a balance, isn't it? Precarious and precious.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Playing With My Food

I'm not a professional chef. In fact, I've never even taken a cooking class - not even Home Ec in school (my Home Ec class was sewing, and we've seen how painfully little I learned from that class ;).

But what I've been blessed with is a husband who likes to eat (which is a common assertion as he twirls his fork and then stabs with a flourish whatever happens to be sitting on his plate - it's very cute ;), an incredible sense of curiosity, and an undying willingness to learn new things.

... not to mention a healthy and growing quarter acre of land on which is growing lots and lots of things that we can eat ... if we just learn how.

My latest project is stuffed grape leaves, and for those of Meditteranean descent, for whom, stuffed grape leaves are a staple, I salute you, but my kin folk hail from the back hollows of southeastern Kentucky coal mining country and the mid-West (Ohio farmland) where seasonings are salt and pepper ... in that order.

Potatoes, yes. Grape leaves ... uh, aren't those what hide all the purty grapes?

When we first bought our property, Deus Ex Machina and I had only a vague idea of what we wanted to do, and often our plant purchases were impulse, which meant that we had to come home and find a place to put them, which meant that some things probably aren't in the best place. The grape vine is definitely one of those, as evidenced by the out of control vine (growing up in the trees, even) and the marked lack of grapes. We know it's the location and not the vine, though, because we moved a piece of it to a very sunny location, and it's, not only thriving, but it's also set grapes. The one in the back, not so much for grapes.

So, it doesn't get enough sun to give us grapes, but we are always gifted with an abundance of beautiful leaves.

I'm of the mind that nature provides ... in abundance ..., and it's up to us to figure out how to best use her gifts. Some gifts are like that. Like the housedress my neighbor gifted us. I don't, personally, have much use for a housedress, but I found a way that made it very useful to me (and I'm thinking that I may start wearing the pants, just because I can).

Recently, I visited Garden Girl's online home, and I found a video in which she made stuffed grape leaves.

What made it even better for me was that I have all of the ingredients - either as "bulk" purchases (rice), as a local purchase (ground beef), or something we grow right here at home (grape leaves, mint, and onion).

I modified it a bit. I have lemon juice in a bottle, not fresh lemons, and I didn't have any onions, because mine are still growing, but I pulled a couple of green ones and used those instead.

Little Fire Faery turned her nose up to the stuffed grape leaves, but she really liked the stuffing. Precious was very excited and insists that stuffed grape leaves are those things they eat in Mexico (um, yeah ... thanks Sesame Street!). I guess we'll be making tamales when the corn in the three sister's bucket garden matures.

Friday, July 2, 2010

{this moment}

A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savor and remember.

Moose's Visit to the Big City

Sounds like the title of a Children's book, and thankfully, it had a happy ending.

The moose that visited Portland yesterday made it safely back into the woods, but it sounds like it was quite a harrowing experience.

Having driven in Portland, I know how he feels ;).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Holy Smokes! A Moose ... On the Loose!

This story in today's paper has, so far, just been quite interesting (I'm hoping the moose can be relocated and not destroyed, as is too often the case when animals and people collide).

As I was looking at the satellite photos of where he was, though, I couldn't help, but wonder, how in the hell did he get there? There's an awful lot of "city" to traverse ... unless he wandered into the bay during low tide, and then jumped up onto dry land as the tide came in - which is the most likely scenario, now that I think about it, because Back Cove isn't too far from Deering Oaks pond, which is where he was caught on film, taking a dip in the cool water ;).


Good luck, Bullwinkle! I hope you find your way out of the chaos that is a human habitat and back safe into your own.