Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gardening ... in Maine

Since I moved to Maine, I have always been cautioned to wait to plant my garden until Memorial Day weekend. With some things I wholeheartedly agree. Tender plants, like tomatoes and peppers, might not do as well if the weather takes a turn, but some things do just fine in our cooler temps. Peas, for instance - which, incidentally, were direct sowed in my garden beds weeks ago.

It is Memorial Day weekend, and it kind of snuck up on me when I wasn't paying attention. We have so many things happening in the next couple of weeks - things that are requiring a great deal of my time, thought, and energy (good things!), and so I haven't really been thinking as much as I should about the garden. The corn needed to be planted (per the Native wisdom that says corn should be planted when the oak leaves get to be the size of a squirrels hind foot) two weeks ago. The potatoes were ready to go in the ground last week.

I decided to do it today. I needed to do it today.

So, the garden is in.

And once it starts to grow, it won't look this neat and tidy until next Memorial Day :).

Happy Memorial Day! Do something that means something.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

He's a Mighty Man

When I crawled into bed last night and curled my body around the heater ... I mean, my warm, snuggly husband ... I whispered, "Happy anniversary." He's not (usually) the demonstrative type. Every day is special, as far as he's concerned, and so there are no special days. That's not to say that he doesn't enjoy celebrating, but the idea that one day holds more value, to him, is like saying that the chickens are more valuable than the bees or the trees are more valuable than the flowers. They are all equally wonderful and necessary, and we don't have to sing an ode to the trees to make them more so.

I whispered my bon mot believing that he would be getting up in a few hours and heading to work. It would be our anniversary, but the only difference between this day and every other day would be what was said ... those two words ... and a cake, if I baked it.

So, when he returned the well-wish and asked me if I wanted to go to breakfast in the morning, I was confused. He explained that he had taken the day off ;). He never takes days off, unless it's something really important - like the Mother Earth News Fair. As far as I remember, he's never taken off for our anniversary ... or his birthday.

I teared up a little and kissed his back and thanked him for that gift. He was going to be with me, and even if it was just a simple breakfast at the diner where we ate our first meal as husband and wife eighteen years ago, it was more than I could have expected.

In addition to planning breakfast, while I slept-in, he gave me an amazing gift in this blog post.

I love the analogy he makes about how our culture views everything from paper towels to our individual relationships with one another. It's true. We live in a disposable society, and there are people out there who care more about a pair of shoes than they do a partner. It's just too easy to replace the old and rundown with the shiny and new, and it seems that everything in our society encourages it.

Over the years, Deus Ex Machina and I have learned the value of valuing what we have, which has made us stronger as a partnership, and I am so fortunate that he has been willing to put up with me all of these years. It's been amazing, and as he said, I, too, am looking forward to the next eighteen - come what may. If the last eighteen are any indication of what's to come, it will be filled with a lot more good than not.

Happy anniversary, Deus Ex Machina! I love you.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blowing My Own Horn?

The ukulele wasn't my first instrument. Back when I was in junior high, I joined the band. My older sister was also a member of the band, and she played clarinet. I wanted to play the flute, but at my school, we all had to purchase our own instruments - except for those students who chose really big instruments, like the kettle drum. Unfortunately, my parents couldn't afford to purchase a flute for me, and because my older sister had two instruments, I opted to also play the clarinet, and she gave me one of hers.

I kept my clarinet with me through all of the years and all of my moves. Unfortunately, it wasn't always stored very well, and while I've taken it in one other time to have some pads and corks replaced, I hadn't done much in the way of taking care of it. Over the years, it deteriorated to the point that it was no longer playable.

We decided to have my clarinet repaired, and there's just nothing quite like the muscle memory returning as I play the chromatic scale.

Like riding a bicycle ....

And we bought a new case, too, as the old one was mildewed.

I'm very excited and looking forward to some band time with my family.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Some Things I Believe; Some Things I Just Know

I know better than to respond to some people, because willful ignorance is just such a tedious thing, but sometimes, I just can't help myself. I can't. I don't know why I care to bother, but I do, and I can't just not say something, and so I do, and I always always end up beating my head against the close-mindedness.

How does one argue with a person who says, and I kid you not "God put that oil there for us to use and He wants us to take it all." I mean, wow! I cannot imagine having such a strong sense of entitlement. It must be nice there in oblivious land.

Please note that I am not making fun of anyone's religion here. I am not making fun. In fact, I don't think it's funny, but incredibly sad, and frightening, actually, to note that there are people in this world who believe that God has chosen this time and this place to give people all of His best treasures, and that the whole of mankind before and after this very brief century or so is not worthy of His gifts. Seriously? What in the hell did we, 20th and 21st Centurions, do, exactly, to deserve this honor?

Worse, though, is that it's not just those of us living in this previous and current centuries, but only in certain parts of the world. Why should Americans and Europeans be singled out and privileged? There are plenty of "Christian" nations out there that don't have nearly the affluent lives most Americans and Europeans enjoy. Heck, Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia are 90% to 100% Christian compared to the US, which is less than 80% Christian. In Angola, 40% of the population lives below the poverty level, only 50% of the population has access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and the life expectancy is 51 years. Compare that to the US where less than 1% of our population falls below the poverty level, nearly 100% of us have access to (presumed) clean drinking water and sanitary waste disposal, and the life expectancy is 77. As such, I will assert that in that very Christian nation it seems that God has chosen not to reward them with earthly wealth in the same way that He has bestowed His abundant blessings on the US.

Seems kind of ... unfair ... actually, but that's not the point, because I won't pretend to know the rationale behind the actions of the Supreme Being, but I will say that in my observations, God (as evidenced by His "creation", i.e. nature) is not always kind, but He is always fair, and giving one group of people an abundance, but on the other side of the world, impoverishing people is not the hand of God, but something else altogether.

Given those kinds of facts - i.e. the way the rest of the world lives compared to the way the US lives, I have a really hard time with people who just refuse to believe anything other than what allows them to keep their simple, little closed minds free of guilt and the baggage that comes from owning the fact that we are all only a part (and not the most important part, either) of a greater whole. In short, there's a whole big world out there, and we're part of it, but it doesn't revolve around us ... not any of us ... not even the President of the United States. He's one person, and not nearly as important or powerful as we (the citizens of his country) like to think.

I usually avoid people like that, and I usually just shake my head and move along - nothing to see here. This time, I should have known better, but I didn't, and I responded to a rant that was another attempt by this person I know to debunk the whole Global Warming theory. This person refuses to believe in global warming (and bandies about comments like, "Blizzard this week. Where's that global warming again?") and continually asserts that it is merely a liberal conspiracy designed to force us all to accept government-enforced austerity measures. The commentaries usually run along the lines of the liberal government (currently headed by Obama, who is evil incarnate, right?) is feeding us this line so that they can take away our cars and force us to stop using electricity, thereby thrusting us back into the Dark Ages where we'll be forced to live in caves, eat dirt, and use the nearest leaf while toileting.

The problem is that global warming isn't a religion. One doesn't believe in or not believe in global warming. It's fact.

One only has to look at the data. Over the last hundred years, there has been an increase in average annual temperatures, and between the years of 2000 and 2009, the US logged the hottest decade on record. Yes, there were some cooler years, but overall the trend has been warming.

Add to that the USDA's update of their hardiness zone map. As a gardener, the difference is stark, and I've been noticing. My seasons start earlier (tapping maple trees in January? Really?) and seem to be going longer (harvesting tomatoes from my garden in October? What?). And peaches grow in Maine, now. In 2006, I had a peach tree in my yard that I was going to cut down, because it wasn't terribly productive, and I was assured that if I were getting any peaches - at all - that was a productive tree, because peaches don't grow in Maine. Fact is, they do. There's a peach orchard not far from where I live, and I've enjoyed home-canned-from-local-peaches for the past three years. But the general consensus is still that peaches don't grow in Maine, because it is too cold, and in some parts of Maine, it's true. Peaches won't grow, because the winter will kill the tree, but that's becoming less true in the southern and coastal parts of the state.

So, to say that one doesn't believe in global warming is to remain willfully ignorant of what is happening outside, in the REAL world, the world that is comprised of budding plants and squirrel babies and butterfly larvae. Trees are budding earlier, the dandelions are already forming seed heads, the Japanese knotweed is already past harvest time, the garlic is six inches tall already, and I've started planting my garden - outside in the ground. These things were unheard of when I moved to Maine - only sixteen years ago, and I was advised by natives to wait until Memorial Day to plant - advice, which five years ago, meant I didn't harvest any peas, because I waited too long, and it got too hot for the cold-loving legumes.

People are growing peaches in Maine, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe, in a few more years, we'll be growing peanuts, which are a warm-climate plant. It will be a wonderful thing for us, Maine, gardeners, but if we're growing less cold hardy plants in Maine, because it's getting warmer here, it will also be getting warmer where those plants are currently growing, and might it get too warm for them? Might it get too warm to grow much of anything, including people?

The problem with the global warming argument is that people tend to get bogged down playing the blame game, and it's that mindset that keeps people from taking that next step. These people don't want to give up their fossil fuels (most often blamed for the increase in greenhouse gases, which is what is believed to be causing the warming trend), because cars and Sunday night football are essential to good living. The people who deny global warming are the people who can't imagine how they would survive if they didn't have unlimited, cheap energy.

And I say, I don't care who or what they believe caused the warming trend, the data shows that it has been and is happening. The earth is getting warmer.

For me the biggest problem is not "Whodunit?" We already know it's happening, and it's too late to start trying to stop it. At this point, much research suggests that we've passed the point-of-no-return, and we're hurtling head-long into TEOTWAWKI. No, the world isn't going to end (probably), but we do need to start figuring out how we're going to survive in a world in which peanuts and peaches grow in Maine, and the average daily temperature in Georgia during the summer is too hot for people to live there.


The story starts last week.

I had spent the morning running errands. In the afternoon, I had one more errand that I needed to run, and when I got into the car to go, the car wouldn't. It just wouldn't even start. So, we had it towed to a fix-it place, and they kept it there for a couple of days, figuring out what was wrong. At the time, my comment was that if I had to be stranded somewhere with a car that wouldn't start, I felt fortunate that it was at home.

When the repairs were completed (many hundreds of dollars later), we picked up the car and drove home, but about a mile from our front door, I noticed steam rising from the hood. Deus Ex Machina diagnosed a radiator problem. We called the repair shop and arranged to have them look at this new development. A few more hundred dollars later, we had a car, old, but operational ... or so we thought.

Fast-forward a week, and Deus Ex Machina is out of town, and I'm transporting our daughters to their dance classes. We stop at a coffee shop that's between our house and the dance school, but when we get back into the car to drive the rest of the way to the dance school, the car won't start. I turn the key, all of the lights on the dashboard light up, I hear a click, but nothing else happens.

The people in the coffee shop are very kind and allow us to use their phone. A friend from the dance school comes to get us. Once at the dance school, I arrange for a ride home, and at home, I contact my insurance company (we have road-side service) to arrange for a tow. BUT, I have to be with the car when the tow-truck driver arrives.

And so, I get a ride back out to the coffee shop, where my car has been sitting all morning. When we arrive, I try to start the car, and it does.

It could have been an incredibly stressful situation, but it wasn't, and I learned a wonderful thing today. I discovered what an amazing network of friends and family I have - people who are willing to simply drop whatever they're doing and help me.

It has been a very humbling realization, and it was a wonderful gift from the Universe.

I am blessed ... so very blessed.

And my daughters are making lemonade with their friend as I type ;).