Tuesday, March 07, 2017

after evening chores, late winter

Sun setting red washing the mountain's usual winter shades of brown, and grey, and green so dark it seems black, with glowing red ember red glow, the ridges and hollers, the crinkles and creases, the backbones and furrows brought forth in high relief.  The whole mountain range marches away but I head to one gap and then don't go there, turning before, entering into my very own mountain.  Other people can rest their eyes on my mountain but I rest my bones here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

the three bucket campaign, writ large

I've written before about roads being alive and the efforts to maintain them and water saying hahahaha. 

Well, right now, we happen to be in a position to be able to buy a small dump truck load of rocks ("dirty rocks", these are) and have them dumped at the barn, and have the tractor at the barn give me a front end loader full at a time in my truck, which, it turns out, does not take too long to unload and is easy to do into the tracks of the road, and, well, so far it is working.  Who knows, maybe by the end of the summer our entire road will be nicely rocked.  But any rock, placed any where, helps.  And so far we've brought five scoops home and yes, you can really tell the difference.

We've still got to haul buckets of big rocks to make water humps in the road, and always dig the ditches out more.  I suppose if you had unlimited money (which isn't really unlimited, just more than we manage), you could "get 'er done".  But why?  We didn't walk much this winter.  This is good work for our bodies, and good work for us together.  But this is 20 minutes and pretty much any three of us at any time can do it.  What else are ya gonna be doing that is so all fired important?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

the family persisted

My first reaction on election night was disbelief -- I really didn't think it was possible that that many Americans were that stupid.  But I had a bad feeling when Ohio went.  I went to bed.  I woke up about 3 or 4 and checked the computer.  There it was.  And my first reaction to that was, you just elected Hitler.

I still think that; I still think every action this administration has taken has been in that direction.  I hope our institutions and resistance is strong enough to withstand.  We'll see in this crisis if those founding fathers were smart enough after all.  But like a person who believes that they themselves could never succumb to something, some action or inaction, well, that's the person who is actually most likely to step in that dog pile -- like that, Americans have thought themselves better than Nazi Germany.  I see people who I know to be nice people, good people even, who in a heartbeat will carry out the Fuhrer's orders, accompanied by buzzwords like "national security" and "borders".

The first action I took after the election, though, was to order fava bean seeds (and a few other seeds).  The last few days of November or the first few of December, a daughter and I went down and planted three seeds each of three types of fava beans, and some palm kale.

It is true that really good gardeners would have had winter greens up and riding out the winter.  It is true that any seed, even cold loving seed, planted in that cold a ground will take some time to germinate.  And it is true that we grew fava beans for several years before we actually figured out how to eat the darn things.

These are the favas the day we planted them.  It was the tail end of the drought, it still hadn't rained yet (it's plenty wet now) so watering and water retention was huge, thus the covered seeds.

And this is the palm kale.  That's the bottom of a gallon jug o' water if you can't tell, covering a small "seed bed".
And these are the two beds, littered with the very nice willow leaves.  Because yes, those are willow trees in the garden, started from poles temporarily placed that grew roots.

This winter has been fairly warm, but there have, of course, been cold spells.  After the drought was broken, at least we didn't have to worry about keeping the seeds watered (which is a really sensitive thing -- they cannot dry out or they are dead), but we did have to keep them from freezing.  Well, not so much freezing -- these are cold loving types of plants -- but when it was below 25, and certainly when it was below 20, they needed to be covered and somewhat protected.

This is the kale, under its jug, under an empty feed sack, under some dirt.

And these are the fava beans, under their rocks/boards, under feed sacks, under I don't know it looks like an old sheet.  Old sheets make good frost covers and good shade cloths too.

And so it took awhile.  In the kale, we had the cotyledon leaves and still nothing up top for the favas.  Eventually they all emerged.
The kale is there on the right with the true leaves, ready to be transplanted anytime now.  And yes, this is now, today, I made these photos.  As you can see, the husband has been very diligently starting more types of cold loving plants, and everything is going well.
And these are favas, behind the netting that is used on round bales of hay.  We've found this netting to be useful stuff in thwarting various critters.  It's free, we generally can untangle it until it gets in briars, and it is easy to throw away when it gets too many holes to be useful anymore.  There are three different kinds and thus the plants also look pretty different (size mostly).

This is what the next six rows of fava beans look like -- it's all happening under the ground still!  They will soon be up tho, and then we'll plant the next six or nine or whatever we decide at the time!
 We're excited about this bed -- daikon radishes!  Looking good!
And this cute little thing is a spinach plant.  I love spinach.

I feel like I should say a few more things about the importance of a garden, of growing some food.  Anywhere you are, no matter what.  It is independence.  It is usefulness.  It is not exploitative of anyone or the environment.  I haven't yet come up with a better example of how to live in the world.  It doesn't really matter if it is a freedom garden a la WWII, or a patio tomato and a windowsill basil.  It is always a learning process.  It is always a humbling process (something always fails).  It is a discipline.  It is a practice of living in the here and now.  This is the husband's garden and I am always part stranger in it but I love it and I could not do without it.  It intimidates me some, and always runs ahead of me, mocking that I cannot keep up.  But with Trump in power, I have thought more than once of Anne Frank and those who hid her and fed her, those who broke the law to do what was right instead of following orders, instead of staying safe.  I've long known the over-consumption of our culture 1) is wrong and 2) cannot sustain, but even more, that living smaller is a key not only to physical sustainability but to mental and spiritual peace.  Happiness if you will, if maybe not quite that.  The most important way to undermine a corrupt system is to not participate in it.  Through the years I've seen that same truth through various lenses of how to not participate.  Growing food, to eat, for yourself, is always a way.  This year it is perhaps the most meaningful political statement you can make too.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

it felt like a calling ~ not one single arrest

Not one single arrest.   MORE than 500,000 people marching FOR and not.one.single.arrest.  So really, all you have to complain about are the f-bombs.  Well, fuck you.

And fuck everyone who said "be careful".  Now is not the time to "be careful".  "Careful" makes you afraid and leads to bad decisions which can kill you.  PAY ATTENTION.  Pay attention.  And if "fuck" gets their attention, if pussy hats gets their attention, well, then pussy pussy pussy as one of the itinerate preachers at the march was saying.  "If you are not one tough pussy then you just a ho ho ho," he said.

The going, it felt like a calling, that moment when a link came across from a recently acquired friend of a friend about a bus ticket that was very affordable, and a timetable that meant only one day that I couldn't cover the barn.  Not only do I not get paid if I don't go to work, but I need to make sure *someone* is there to do the work.

It felt like a calling, like I had to do this, like "can I think of any reason at all we shouldn't be doing this?  Because otherwise I have to do it."  I booked the bus tickets, I believe, on November 27.  Pretty early on.  And yes even the threat of violence from those not supportive of human rights were not a reason to not go.  As in the civil rights marches, they were a reason TO go.  But in the face of 500,000 women (and their supporting men and children), even the ones who would like to be violent become afraid.  Wall of meat-head bikers, indeed.

I tried to think of everything.  Of course you can't, but I had stuff if anyone had a blister from walking so much, I had period pads, sunscreen, rain ponchos.  I had my mother's shoes, a good decision.  I had on exactly the right amount of clothes.  Except for snacks and water and money and maps, we didn't use or need anything we took in those clear bags.  I actually can't remember now what I forgot, except for my toothbrush.  And we forgot to take the beer on the bus so we just bought more in DC.

I thought I would take photos but there were two problems:  the new batteries were duds, and it was too cumbersome to get it out and put it back up, and I decided to just let it go.  I got a few, the girls got some good ones.  But it did mean that I didn't get what I'd hoped to of us.  Other people did but I haven't found them yet and likely never will but if you ever happen to see my signs in the photographs of the march, please let me know.

It felt momentous.  It felt like history.  It felt like I couldn't not do it.  I had to add my body to the masses that said, "No, this is not normal and this is not ok."  Because, simply, it is not.  I cannot believe people were this ignorant.  I cannot believe people were this bigotted.  I am a woman, and I have felt the weight and the walls of patriarchy many many times.  And it is time for it to stop.  Period.

And it is time for the lies, errm I mean the alternative facts, to stop.  There was no crowd at the inauguration, the 1st amendment is as important as the second, and refusing to sell one's soul to a corporation does not make one a bum.

Let's see if I can tell the story straight through.  The girls and I left leisurely.  I forgot my pad but we knew it not a mile away and came back and got it.  We drove up.  Ate something.  Checked out the bus pick up point because that exit sounded like a clusterfuck and it was and it was a good thing because I missed part of it in the dark and it was only having already done it that helped me find my way back.  We went to the motel, really really nice for a low end motel that was even at that giving us a huge break.  Allies.  We went to the grocery store.  We repacked for the bus.  Turned on some TV because we never actually see any.  Wondered if we'd sleep.  Sort of slept.  I got up at 1:30 and started coffee to brewing and took a shower.  We got dressed, poured coffee into the nice thermos I'd bought just for this and have probably needed for a long time.  I'd also bought, I admit, new underwear, a new bra, and new nice wool socks.  Pink and turquoise.  We put the "do not disturb" sign on the door and left.

Then I had the trouble getting there but then we got there and, once again, I left my pad.  At least it was in the truck.  We settled in.  It was exceedingly foggy.  Two pee stops.  I lost at earring at the first one and daughter #2 found it.  I didn't take advantage of the second one and should have.  As the sun came up, I tried to peer through the tinted windows and see something.  It was just flat.  Turns out it was just outside Mannassas.  Almost there.  We opened the coffee.  It was hot and good.  Daughter #2, of course, had made a friend on the bus.  She always does.

Everyone was up and paying attention as we drove through DC.  There were already lots of buses but not nearly as many as would be there when we got back.  When we got back a sea of buses stretched out and we thought, oh my lawd, how will everyone find their own bus?  We got out of the bus and didn't have a clue where to go.  And then people just started moving.  And then there were more and more people.  And someone directed us up if we were walking.  And then, there we were, on East Capitol, walking.  The sidewalk filled.  The bike lane filled.  Shortly it spread out a little bit, or we found a hole in which to walk and there were no more buses unloading onto the sidewalk to maneuver around.  Shortly we passed a church with a man outside telling everyone to come in if you need water or a clean bathroom or just to sit down for a minute.  He would still be there making the same offer when we came back, and it would bring all of my emotions to the surface and I would almost break down.

We walked and daughter #1 fussed because none of us knew, exactly, what we were doing, but I had a good idea and mostly it was to flow.  I don't like to get behind slow walkers.  I don't want to be rude but if you waddle, could you at least not take up the whole sidewalk.  I understand that is your pace.  That is not mine.  Especially not right now.  I need, I NEED, to get there.  I don't remember passing a whole lot more interesting on the walk in, except the really really nice city workers.  One traffic cop in particular, just sunny and smiling and directing so nicely.  One trash truck in particular, leading us in whooping, and we must have passed him (or him us) three or four different times on the walk in.  All the MLK quotes in the yards.  Lots of signs in windows showing support.  And people.  We thought then, it was a lot of people.  We didn't know anything yet.

So when you get in close the houses give way to BIG government buildings.  And then there's the Capitol.  "It's a lot bigger than it looks in photos," the girls said, and we weren't even very close yet.  "It is where both houses of Congress meet," I said.  I know they know this but to really grasp it is another thing.  We go around by way of Independence.  I think about getting off of Independence but don't.  I don't know quite where we are when we basically get stopped.  There is a big building, and a woman dressed as Justice who is beautiful, just absolutely beautiful.  It is all Art.

Big A Art.  I'm not a big Big A Art person.  I think a lot of people think they are engaged in Big A Art when they are just, well, not.  Art with a Big A has something to Say.  She had something to say.  Big A Art touches something, resonates somewhere, and like beer or wine, people have different tastes, are touched and moved and angered by different things.

The signs were Big A Art, taken as a whole.  So many signs.  Saying so many things.  Passionate, disturbing, hilarious, creative, clever, and unfailingly gramatical.  A word about "vulgar".  It is ART.  Art has something to say, and its purpose is not to make you comfortable.  Learning does not happen in one's comfort zone.  Women walked around dressed as vulvae because women do not yet have autonomy over our bodies -- the ability to say no (or yes) to sex, the ability to decide to have or not to have an abortion without some nosy busybody trying to stick their nose into it.  Vulvae parade around
BECAUSE of this.  Because you have no right to have any say over my vulva.  And until you shut up about my vulva, I guess it will parade around, making you uncomfortable.  Well, maybe not me, but I loved the vulvae.

We got to whatever is before 3rd and it was pretty much a standstill.  We went around the other side of the Museum of the American Indian I think it is, the first one there, all round and interesting.  Although "went around" is misleading.  We were generally standing so close together that I thought, if something goes wrong and there is a stampede, we are dead.  I thought it enough that I told the girls, "If there's a problem, don't worry at that point about staying together, worry about standing up.  Just stand up.  Because if you fall down you are dead."  Yeah, catastrophizer me strikes again.  But I
believe in having plans.  Because sometimes the bottom falls out.  Moving felt like molecules of water rubbing against one another.  Set an intention to try to go in some general direction and flow that way.  Eventually we got around to the other side of it and it was no better.  There was a fence around the Mall, and Don's Johns in there, and maybe a foot per person, maybe a little more some places.  Let's go there.  Eventually we made that.  And we just stood awhile relieved to not be crushed but still a bit claustrophobic.  We thought to move up the mall to see if we could get over to Independence and perhaps see the stage but it kept getting more crowded and we'd been in that crush once and no.  We moved to the johns on the other side of the Mall, got in line and used them (such a nice system that), found a gate out of the Mall.

We joined throngs moving toward Constitution.  We were still, or back, on 3rd at this point.  Past the corner we see a hot dog street vendor.  Let's get in line.  We discover it is only 11:30.  We wait a long time.  We help the line move so that it goes along the sidewalk instead of across the sidewalk and into the street.  We get three hot dogs from two black men with accents I can't quite identify.  They are out of chili but have kraut, caramelized onions, and relish, plus mustard and cheese on the side.  I take the onions and the cheese.  It is the best hot dog EVER.  Spicy hot.  Paying for them, the guy says, "You guys are great!  We didn't sell half this many yesterday and we were here all day!"  Their tip jar was also filling up rapidly.

We walked up Constitution.  We passed the "wall of meat-heads" Bikers for Trump -- six whole guys sitting demurely by more Don's Johns under a sign.  We took a photo, laughed at their absurdity, and went on.

I think we went to the bleachers and sat then for a time.  We could see the Newseum and were in front of Natural History I think.  We sat there with our signs displayed in front of us and enjoyed the signs that walked by us.  Every so often, all day long, a high and loud "wooooooooo" would start somewhere, often the stage I think, and it would run through the whole crowd, through the whole city, like a wave except auditory.  It was thrilling.  Daughter #1 had to remind me to wait until the wave reached us as I was always wanting to just go ahead in my excitement and wooooo away!  We sat there a good while.  Someone needed directions and I got out my maps.

At a bit before one we thought we'd make our way up to try for the March.  7th was packed.  I think the spontaneous drum circle was at 9th.  There were a couple of fire and brimstone preachers who, when they'd start their spiel would get drowned out by the chant, "Love not hate!"  At one of them, my daughters sang, "If you're happy and you know it, it's a sin." I think at 12th we walked over to Madison, and at that corner was the most colorful preacher:  He was just a guy standing there with two megaphones and mostly what he said was, "Pussy pussy pussy," over and over again.  At one point he said, "Pussy pussy pussy.  If you aren't one tough pussy you just a 'ho'.  Ho ho ho."  He was pretty entertaining but I can't figure out quite how he worked God and Jesus into his spiel.  We also got a "Jews for Jesus" card about here. 

At 14th Street we sit on the curb to wait for the parade.  There had been no "day of" updates, never a place we could see or hear the stage, no official word about anything going on.  Daughters had asked how many people I thought there were and I said, a lot more than they expected because this isn't handled well.  It was fine, because the energy was fine, because we as women are determined to have our rights and the rights of all humanity peacefully if at all possible.  And because this was us, taking care of each other.  The energy was incredible.  The care was incredible.  But the organization for the other 300K was not there.  So we organized ourselves.  Before long and at about March "time" (scheduled time), people started going down 14th as if it were the March.  We had no idea if it was or wasn't.  We watched and enjoyed for awhile and then joined in, marching and chanting.  And that was really incredible.  There were still people on the sides, people recording, everyone cheering, everyone happy.

But when we got to the Ellipse there was only a seemingly very nervous Guardsman waving people past the entrance.  There was a food truck right behind him and that really made him nervous, people going there.  Beside of him was a woman yelling that the organizers had confirmed that we were more than 500,000 strong, that there would be no ending ceremony, and to please march on down (somewhere) then disburse on the sidewalks.  Emphasis, on the sidewalks.   The chants changed to primarily to, "Whose House?  OUR House!"

We walked to the next cross, which is 17th.  Some marchers continued forward.  We turned right.  I thought, hey, at least the girls can walk past the White House and see it.  I know it is closed to traffic now but I didn't figure it was closed to foot traffic.  Before we got there, however, a Secret Service cop was parked in the road and rather unamusedly telling people to get on the sidewalk and out of the road.  People complied.  Then forward progress stopped and no one back there knew why.  It was because this cop had stopped them.  Nope, you can't cross the street.  Everyone is looking around, people are continuing to walk forward past those of us who had stopped with polite body space.  And then a motorcade drives by.  Oh, the high pitched woooooo, the jeers, LOUD.  Secret Service cops looking just a tad concerned.  People did step off the sidewalk, just to be seen.  I'm sure the cheeto was leaving with his cheering section to go to the CIA for his self-aggrandizing talk there.

Then we get up to Pennsylvania and we can't walk down even.  Basically with that closed, you can't even see the White House.  "Whose House?  OUR House!"  So we walked on up, to H and across.  You might glimpse a bit of the WH from across Lafayette Square, but it is pretty far away.  It was really the only anger I felt all day, to be denied OUR House, to even walk by it.  It was all fenced off, all of Lafayette Square.  One guy was inside the fence, going for the fence, with a Secret Service guy close on his heels.  We walked on instead of watching what happened (probably nothing) but I don't know how he was getting out because I didn't see any opening in the fence.

And that was pretty much it for us.  We walked on down H Street toward JFK where the buses were.  Somewhere around NY Ave we ducked into a McD's for a rest and a milk shake.  When we came out, part of "the march" was continuing right down the middle of H Street!  Going with traffic so only disrupting behind them, LOUD so probably pretty big.  Daughter #1 wanted to join in but I said, "I *really* don't want to get arrested in DC."  And so we didn't.  But this group or others we saw and/or heard several more times on our walk through the city.  "Whose streets?  OUR streets!"

We must have gone down 7th because we passed the Verizon Center, a street musician who got our $, and found Capital Spirits or some such and bought some beer for the bus trip back (since we'd
forgotten what we'd brought to the hotel room at 2 in the morning).  It was a long way to lug it back, but we saw plenty of other people doing the same thing.  We must have then gone up E since we passed a metro, and then we passed Union Station where I think we sat on a bench for awhile.  Daughter #1 was whining in the funniest manner, "Carrrrryyyyy meeee.  I want the strollerrrrrr."  We all laughed.  We didn't go far then, to Stanton Park for another rest.  We had LOTS of time and knew it.  And we were really tired. 

Ingram Memorial Congregational Church came to our rescue next: "Come in!  Do you need water, a CLEAN bathroom, just to sit down awhile?  You are WELCOME here."  They either were having or had had a birthday party in the basement.  It is amazing I can find little to no information online about this church.  But it was an amazing place and people.  And that was when I had my emotional breakdown.  The girls, you see, went in first and I waited on the steps.   And these people were all just so welcoming to us.  We who have too often been, not enemies but skeptical of each other, wary.  Will we old white women really be there for Black Lives Matter?  We must be.  We must all be allies.  There are hard questions to answer, like will we stand silent when we see racism around us, coming out of people we love, will we risk that?  We must.  And I wanted to hug him, but I was crying and trying not to and I knew I'd ugly sob if I did it so I sat there, wiping my eyes.  And then I went into the bathroom and stood in line and tried to act like I was normal just dabbing my eyes and people would talk to me, church members and people in line, and I would talk back and my eyes were just shining and it was all ok with everybody.

After the church, there was another street musician.  We stopped to pull $ out and he started singing and I started crying there too.

And then we were back to JFK and finding our buses.  We were early.  The bus driver was late.  We sat on the somewhat damp asphalt, waiting.

 Back on the bus, everyone was excited, talking, for about an hour.  Yes, I think our society is one of the worst patriarchies ever (isn't it amazing that the election of a black man brought the bigotry hiding in every heart to the fore, and the election of a bigot has brought misogyny to the fore?).  Yes, I think the 1st amendment is in GRAVE danger.  Not two hours out we stopped at a rest area, surprised to do so so soon.  After that, pretty much everybody was asleep for the ride.  I woke only as the bus changed gears getting close to our drop off, maybe 5 minutes before.

I feel like I cannot shut up.  I feel like I must do SOMETHING political every.day.  And that doesn't mean post on facebook or sign a petition either.  I must call, I must write, I must visit, I must plan and support, and yes, I must march.

And I must wear my pussy hat everyday.  I will make more versions, some for summer.

"Tell me what democracy looks like.  THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!"  Yes, we are a democratic republic.  No I do not want mob rule.  I want rule of LAW, no respecter of persons.  The whole and entire Constitution, 1st Amendment, 2nd Amendment, 4th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 15th, 19th, 24th, ALL of them.  And yes, tangerine jesus is my president, meaning he works for me, not me for him.  He best watch his step.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

in my mother's shoes

I never would have thought I could go.  I might not have thought I would have ever wanted to go.

But I did.  The horror of Trump and the opportunity of a bus ticket.

And I'm a catastrophizer you know.  So I plan.  I make lists.  I gather together.  I get back up ready.

There are more important things than signs, but I knew fairly early on what my signs would be.

Hopefully there will be a good one of me and that beet and I'll print it and send it to Tom Robbins!

Shoes (like food) are far more important than signs.  But I didn't have any obvious shoe choices.  I walk a lot, I'm on my feet a lot, but I have muck boots and riding boots and town boots and shoes I wear in the house, and I have alternatives to all of those, and probably not a day goes by that I don't change shoes two or three times.  I've got no boots suitable for walking and standing for hours that don't have holes.  What shoes would I wear?

I have an old pair of running shoes husband bought me shortly after we were married (25 years ago) that are still good.  I thought about those.  But I decided to look in one of the "shoe boxes".  Because when you are poor, when you buy shoes primarily at Salvation Army, you tend to hoard anything that might prove to be useful even if you don't need them right now.  And in that box full of shoes was a pair that had been my mother's.  Rockports.  With her name printed on them so they were almost assuredly her very last shoes.  She likely never actually walked in them.  I'd kept them because they were good shoes and they fit, but I'd never worn them.

So I wore them one whole and entire day to make sure, and yes, they were good.  My WMW shoes.

And it is so . . . comforting . . . so radical . . . so entirely and totally and awesomely appropriate that I walk in the Women's March on Washington, with my daughters, in my mother's shoes.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Why do without what everyone else has?

And so we come up against a bitter cold weekend.  Maybe the lowest of the lows will abate somewhat but we're looking at single digits, and highs in the 20s.

And when it is this cold, the house is somewhat cold, period.  But for us it isn't that our heat pump is out there running non-stop and can't keep up, it is that the bedroom stays below 60, often nearing 50, and in the mornings often below and sometimes well below.  It is 55 right now in the bedroom.  It hasn't been above 27 outside all day, but at least it is still. 

And I was thinking about why we don't have central heat.  One reason is that it is too easy to use, nearly impossible to resist.  Just a flick of that thermostat and, ease, even if you don't know where the money is going to come from to pay for it.  Worry about that when the bill comes; it'll be warmer then.  That sort of ease gets one out of touch with what it means to be warm.  Just like buying meat at the grocery store gets one out of touch with what it means to eat meat.  Just like buying veggies at the grocery store gets one out of touch with what it means to eat veggies.

Another is money, just the fact of needing less of it, and of the outgo coming before the consumption instead of after (one of the cruel tricks of credit).  Which then flows right directly into having a reduced impact on the earth.  There is essentially zero carbon footprint from us staying warm since there is no difference in the carbon emissions of our wood burned or left to rot on the forest floor.  The insouciance, the disdain, the downright disregard of fellow humans and the earth in staying warm and traveling all over creation continue to shock me.

Another is health although that can teeter, if you make a mistake.  Husband laid a tree down this afternoon, a standing dead oak.  Nothing to it.  Except it hung, just barely, there free of the stump, leaning, two scraggly limbs in the tops of two scraggly trees.  But as husband was looking for an oak 2-by to get the log off the stump (and hoping the shock and vibration from that would free the fall), when boom, it fell on its own.  We didn't make a mistake.  We all know what it is to cut a tree, we all know the power of a tree falling, we don't do enough of it that we tend to get complacent either.  So when we are cutting a tree, no one goes near it until we know it is down.  But it is health for the good too -- good hard work for the muscles and bones and mind, bucked, carried to the chopping block, split, carried in.

In the end, it is warm.  Our biggest advantage is being able to get near the stoves and get really, truly warm.  Anytime we want to.  Unless we forget to feed the stoves.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

water conservation fin

Perhaps the funniest thing about water conservation is that when the water comes back, it takes forever to get used to it.  To flush for goodness sakes.  I was talking to a man older than I am who said he grew up with a good well, but not the strongest well, and his dad was a worry wart anyway and so always worried about the water, and he grew up not flushing every time.  And still doesn't.

So yes, we can flush, and we can wash dishes, and we can use water out of the faucets.

Monday, December 12, 2016

not having, having

I've had my Muck boots (brand) nearly two years.  I've worn them, I swear, every.single.day.  I'm obviously harder on the right leg than the left leg as that boot is separating, the sole from the upper.  It is still amazingly watertight but if that kept up, it was going to come completely apart.

I meant to clean them out my last series of days off but somehow didn't.  For unknown reasons, I came home yesterday for the afternoon and started doing it.  An AMAZING amount of stuff came out of that little crack between the pieces.  I wore other boots yesterday for evening chores (and for rolling hay to our herd).  And last night they got glued back together.  We're trying E6000 instead of Shoe Goo.  We'll see.  They are tied with baling twine and clamped with bar clamps.

And it is raining.

Guess who is going to have wet feet today?

Isn't that just funny?

There is nothing like wet feet to make you appreciate your Muck boots.  And nothing like not having enough water to make you appreciate having water (rain).  And nothing like not having much hot water to make you appreciate having plenty of hot water.  There is nothing like not having to make you appreciate having.

Now, if you are keeping score, I had a pair of "northern" (or something) lace up insulated rubber boots that we got at the second hand store that were THE BEST and I wore them milking for years.  Then I had wet feet for awhile as I felt I couldn't afford new rubber boots and evidently no one with good ones died and donated them to the Haven.  Finally I got a pair of whatever brand my local feed store carried, knock offs of Mucks.  They were great, lasted good about a year and limped through another year I think.  Then the husband got me this pair of Mucks two Christmases ago.  LOVE.  So I have to say, I think the Mucks are worth it, particularly the heavy duty Mucks.  And dry feet are worth it too.  Hopefully we can limp these along until we get enough money because for right now wet feet come second to hay and tires for the truck.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

how to think

It is a long, complicated thought and I'm not sure I've got all of it but here goes.  It started with overhearing the sentence:  "That's the way to take care of his education."  And I wondered what they thought of as his "education".  Most likely, a couple years of college.  Do you know what you learn in the first two years of college?  Well, it can be a great deal, or it can be nothing at all, and the grades could still be the same.  It's English and hopefully Literature and Math and hopefully Biology and hopefully some Art History and maybe some History where you actually consider multiple perspectives but more likely than any of those "hopefullies" it is just high school with no curfew.  Do kids still have curfews? I don't actually know.

I remember talks when I was a kid about what a real Liberal Arts Education was all about, and why it was so valuable, even tho they weren't suggesting anyone actually go get one, not without planning on law school afterward anyway. Because jobs had become the real Messiah, to the real God named Money.  Not knowledge, not skills, not usefulness, not even wealth if measured by anything other than money.  And if you were gonna be a lawyer anyway, you were gonna turn out to be a miserable bastard and so even then a Liberal Arts education wouldn't really serve you.

People may lament "the kids these days" but I don't find a lot of people older or younger actually much able to think.  They are bright enough but there is no reality in which they live.  Fake news?  Real news?  How do you tell the difference?  Dang people, Jade Helm didn't SMELL to you?  You really bought that Obama was going to declare martial law and cancel the election?  You think you can put up a roof but don't know what a purlin is, or how to think about weight load?  You believe raw chocolate is a thing?

I have a college education and I got it when I wasn't 18 and so in a lot of ways I think I paid more attention to it.  I loved comp and lit.  I took way upper level electives, like Old Testament Criticism, because I was interested in it.  Just stuff.  After college, after job and marriage, husband and I decided to build our own house, and figuring that out (sometimes through years of delays because, well, because we hadn't figured it out yet) led us to thinking on an entirely different level.  Things within that too, like plumbing.  Plumbing is not difficult, and unlike electricity, it ain't gonna kill you.  We'd planned the house so all the water ran on the berm side of the basement, but actually putting it up, staring at it, thinking it through, was a whole different ballgame.  We actually put it all up once, and doing that allowed us to re-visualize it and come up with a much more simple plan so we took it down and did it again.

That's critical thinking and flexible thinking.  And those are skills.  And nothing taught in schools can actually teach skills.

But growing potatoes can.  Cooking (actual real cooking, not opening and reheating, and not delivered with instructions but what is in the house and what can I make from it cooking) can.

You put corn seed in the ground and when it sprouts, the crows come and eat it all.  The turkeys scratch it up.  The deer come and graze.  The wind comes and blows it down.  The crows come again for milk stage corn.  And the raccoons show up the day it is ripe.  That is, if the bears didn't come the night before.  And here is the kicker, if you don't solve every one of these problems in one way or another (like figuring an alternative food source), you are hungry.  Nobody is hungry anymore.  I mean, not really.  Thankfully.  But figuring all those puzzles and problems out, and anticipating what else and preventing, that's critical and flexible thinking.

What happens these days, without threat of real hunger, is anxiety.  It is like, when there is nothing real to be afraid of, you are afraid of everything in the nothingness.

So I was thinking of education, and how Voltaire really is important, how I love Shakespeare plays, how I love that my kids have studied languages.  But I was also thinking about how, without knowing how to grow potatoes or fix the brakes on the car, people don't actually know how to think.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

water conservation in stages

I suppose many might think of water conservation as saving the mussels.  That is important.  I'm onto people all the time about the importance of riparian borders.  But for us it just means using less water.

We lived through the drought, I forget now which years that was but it was bad with that second year just nobody having any hay and our spring completely stopped running at all by the end.  This one started during the normal dry time of September/October.  Boy the leaves really hung on this year, never bright but beautifully muted and still falling in todays rather harsh wind. I don't ever remember having this sort of wild fires before though, like California except not so many houses threatened, and smoke in the air to where you can't even see the mountains.  But so far the springs have not stopped running, just slowed down.

For a good while we were on what I'll call level one water conservation:  when it's yellow, let it mellow.  And when we can, bathe in the creek (and until it was cold, most of the time we "can").  But eventually with no rain two things happened:  it got too cold to bathe in the creek and the water level went down in the cistern.  Not that we were bathing, but we were still flushing when it was brown, and using it for animal water.  And washing clothes only after checking that the cistern was full. 

So at that point we started hauling water up from the creek.  The front creek.  The one that runs by people, and some questionable environmental hazards associated with those people, before it gets here.  So we didn't want to put it in the cistern and use it from there.  We'd done that in the last drought, but from a different creek that doesn't run by people.  But we don't have that pumped fixed up just now.  We could get it fixed up, but it isn't just now.  And the back creek is clean but no good way to get it up here.  The front creek, we can park the truck on the bridge and fill barrels in short order.  So there are four small barrels of water about half full on our porch.  That's maybe 70 gallons of water total out there, but we actually haul maybe about 50 about once a week.

That water is used to water rabbits and chickens and cats and dogs, and to wash dishes.  And dish rinse water (mostly) is caught in a pot to use for flush water, and also hand washing water is caught and saved for that.  It is still flushed on the basis of, when it's yellow, let it mellow.  I've been taking bulk clothes in about once a week and washing in town, bringing home to hang to dry.  One washer full (albeit one of the bigger ones).  We could use the creek water to wash clothes but seeing as how it would take me a couple hours to help with that here, or a half hour in town, and I'm using that time to ride horses, I'm good with that.  With just that much more conservation, the cistern has filled back up, and sometimes we can catch a quick shower, quickly wash the hair.  It is amazing how clean you can stay with spit baths except for hair.

Modern people bathe way too much, and we already didn't bathe that much.  I remember one time being on some crunchy woman's blog (wonder if she's still blogging?  Most homesteading books are about people who fail doing it, and most people who pretend to be concerned about the environment find that when they are inconvenienced, they aren't actually that concerned) and her doing a survey about how many times people showered -- a DAY.  How many times A DAY.  And she was all about recycle this and that, buy this green thing or that green thing.  My sensibilities were quite frankly shocked that people showered every single day even, much less multiple times per day.  When we have plenty of water, unless something stark happens to us, I'm sure we only bathe twice a week each.  So once a week doesn't seem like a big deal to us.  We just try to spread it out, and we check the cistern first, and we catch the water and use it to flush.

At the same time, I've laughed at the move to water saving toilets.  Using less water day to day when not in a drought means nothing here.  If we have plenty of water, we have plenty of water.  Our use of it simply slows its journey to the sea.  It isn't used up.  We aren't using an aquifer down.  It isn't being processed and purified and poisoned and pumped.  Not here.

The drought could certainly still get worse.  I sorely hope that it doesn't.  But you know in changing conditions, you change your behavior.  You deal.

It is supposed to rain a little tiny bit this morning, Thanksgiving.  I hope it is enough to put the fires out.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

literal bucket list

There are things that everyone should do in their lives.

Clean their own toilets is one.

Some would say travel, and that is not a bad idea IF, on the occasions you travel, you get outside of your own little bubble and actually experience the place.  Go to the post office, for instance.  Eat, alone, at a local dive without speaking the language.  Tourist traps and guided tours do not count as traveling.  Gawking at a convenience store taking photos of the locals to make fun of them doesn't either (that sort of behavior means all your "traveling" hasn't done a damn thing for ya).  Me wandering around downtown Manhattan at 16 probably does.  Try ordering a damn ham sandwich at some Jewish deli with a hillbilly accent.  I think I did get the orange juice.  Yankees don't know what "light bread" is.  They are, however, willing to introduce the underaged to Lambrusco at Mama Leone's.  Well, they were before they closed down.  In Mexico City, you eat where you order whatever it is you order because at least you recognize the word, "pollo", and you watch the locals stand around the tables of condiments and join in except avoid the hot sauce.  In Hawaii, you are the only girl who joins the group renting mopeds with which to "go" where ever the road leads.  But none of that will ever trump knowing how to be home.

I always say, grow food.  There is a lot more to it, but deep down I suppose I really think that if you grow a tomato this year, next year you will add basil and before you know it you've got potatoes and cabbage and a fruit tree.  But it is far more than that.  If you are old and infirm, a tomato might be enough.  But if you give a shit about the earth or your health, you have to grow food.  And you have to cook that food and eat that food and pass those skills on.

One of the things that, perhaps a body doesn't have to do but it is really a good, joyful, grounding, celebratory, mindful experience is a yearly creek bath.  We probably took a few when we first bought this place (nearing 30 years ago now) because we didn't have a water system yet.  We had the most of them during the years of drought (2004-2008) we had when we were on severe water restrictions and even hauled water routinely to our cistern just to keep the dishes washed.  But, oh, doing it . . . !   A once a year reminder of running water, of heated water, is a good reminder.

And doing it this late in the fall!  I do remember that the very last time we hauled water to the cistern was in December, but we were likely hauling enough by that time that we weren't much engaged in creek baths, just spit baths and shared baths and short baths.  But it is SO beautiful.  Creek is full of leaves.  Only in a few places were there small clear patches.  I decided to try the closest one instead of the bigger one or the deeper one.  Sun, golden leaves, warm.  I stepped over a log, placed my towel on it, took off my housecoat, stepped out of my shoes and onto the rocks.  They wobbled beneath my  weight, threatening my ankles.  The water was sharply cold.  Deep breath.  Walk on and decide where to stand.  Take the baby shampoo out of the empty ice cream bucket and fill the bucket with water.  I tilt my head way back and pour.  Just touching my hair and scalp, and feet, it isn't too bad.  Until I quit leaning back and the water from my head and hair touches my back.   Woohoo.  Alrighty.  Let's add some baby shampoo and do it again.  Woohoooer.  And again and again.  Eventually declaring my hair to be clean and doing a once over of my body and then laughing like a maniac looking around at the sun shining into the understory of the woods and carefully stepping on rocks back up to the log and the towel and the terry housecoat.

I brought socks, actually, in the pocket of that housecoat, and dried my feet and put them on then into my shoes.  I check on the horse's water barrel and the mushrooms (all amanitas I do believe) and make my way back up, past the bull making funny breathing noises, past the bones of horses past, past the chicken coop with a view, to our little mushroom rising up out of the forest house, today still filled with Halloween candy.

Now it is time for sleep.  I should comb my hair out and braid it so it tangles less.  Yet I like this wild, free, still slightly cool feeling down my back, I look forward to the splay of hair across the pillows, to it getting caught under the husband's arm and pulling in our sleep.  I will deal with the tangles tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2016

the HONEY chronicles

 full super

 first frame

 cutting the caps
 caps from 20 frames

 draining the honey from the caps

 filling the jars
nearly five gallons
it was a good year
we bought that extractor before we had kids
and it all makes me smile
good corn
good potatoes
good honey
a good productive fun fulfilling day