Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life Giving - Water

It rained yesterday. Hard. Our new white plastic rain barrel is brimming with fresh, cool water today. It sits proudly on our front step directly under a roof run off spot. All my blue buckets are full even after filling seven one-gallon plastic milk containers and watering all my seedlings. I must admit it was a bit strange using the microwave to warm the water for the seedlings. The temperature outside has been between 35-45' F and the seedlings are inside at around 60'F.

This is only the third rain of April...the 2nd, the 12th, and the 28th. We're going to have to catch a lot more rain water each rainy day to last two weeks at a time! We seeded lettuce, radishes, beets, onions, and peas in the garden before the rain began. The soil temp is just barely warm enough. But it is the rain that opens the promise of life to the dormant seeds and smiles to our faces. It is the rain that keeps the cycle of life moving. It is the delicate balance of water from sky/earth/under the earth and back again that keeps the cycle of man moving. There is no substitute.

Just now a long time friend of mine waits by a hospital bed while her mother is dying. I thought of her today when I was part of the team who saved a life. Life, the life of another, is truly an individual miracle of Creation. Just the right balance of water, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and mineral. There is no substitute.

LESSON: In my use of water remember that all life, every individual life, is dependent on the same water cycle. There is no substitute.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Responsible Trash Pickin'

In the first six and a half years Al and I and the girls lived in Massachusetts we moved six times. From a dorm room, a campus apartment, a travel trailer in a campground, we bought a house and lost it, then rented a house, rented a basement apartment, and finally we bought the house I live in today. It is situated on an acre of gravel pit turned forest. Surrounding the property on three of the four sides is pavement, highway on one, access road on one, and residential street on the other. When spring comes, I take my annual trip around the perimeter with heavy shoes, leather gloves, and a large garbage bag to collect trash. I filled the bag before making the whole trip. This year fast food waste took a back seat to alcoholic beverage containers...about equal glass and cans. David came out to join me just in time to haul the trash back up the hill to the house. As I lifted the lid of our garbage can, David asked, "What are you doing? It needs to be sorted into the recycle containers." When I finished glaring at him, I had to agree that that was the right thing to do.

Making a life change later in life is much like moving across country. When you are young, you just pack up your clothes and a couple toys for the kids and a water bowl for the dog and take off. You just adjust as you go while you look for your path. But when you are OLDer, moving across country requires hiring a large crane to lift your belongings and jam them into the trailer which can only be pulled by a semi at 5 miles per hour and there's no adjusting, you want MapQuest to have all the directions listed for you including every rest area. Young people are forming their lives as they go. OLDer people already have formed a life and established habits of behavior - lots and lots of baggage. But I believe it can be done. There is one thing that OLDer people have that the young don't - memories.

Tonight I arrived home from work about seven o'clock. The house was rather dark (our normal since we are only turning on lights as needed). David had cooked dinner, lit a fire in the fire place (more for heat then for mood since we turned our furnace off), lit our newly acquired antique oil lamp, and listened to Yo-Yo Ma in the background. While we were eating, I leaned into the lamp light so I could see to read. He said, "Now that's what I remember as a kid!" Looking at him I asked, "You mean I remind you of your grandmother?!" Both of us have memories of a life lived in better harmony with the Earth and our neighbors. We have a mental picture of where we're headed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What is in your hand?

In 1975 my first husband Al and I moved from Wisconsin to Massachusetts with a lay over in NYC. Our tiny yellow Toyota pulled all we owned in a two-wheeled trailer. Jennifer and Janis were just three and one. The local grocery store where we settled handed out Green Stamps with each purchase and I filled books and books of them. Finally I saved enough to redeem them for two sets of blue and white Pfaltzgraff dishes which I still use daily today.

Next week at work we will be celebrating the birthday of a co-worker and friend. My assignment is paper products. Lately even the amount of paper and plastic used-then-trashed at the hospital cafeteria has me distracted. What shall I do?
Bite the bullet and buy what's expected? No, can't.
Find biodegradable plates and napkins? Possibly.
Drive to WalMart and pick up a cheapy set of regular plates and some metal forks and donate them for use in staff functions. Better, but...

The light dawned while washing breakfast dishes...donate plates I already have. Through the years my set of Pfaltzgraff has grown. I could easily donate a dozen saucers for use as cake plates. Best.

In our age bracket, the over 59, we have passed the acquiring years. We have stuff. Some of us have lots of stuff. Stuff that shouldn't sit idle. Stuff that could benefit someone else. Look around your place. Put it to use yourself or find someone who can.

LESSON: What is in your hand? Use it, make due with it, transform it into something useful, or find someone else who can benefit from it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Delight in Discovery

My youngest daughter's girls are four and two years old, Grace and Violet. Watching them make discoveries is life affirming for Nana. Their little minds are like vacuum cleaners just sucking in all the information they can get ahold of and packing it away in some mysterious order.

Arriving home from work today, I made a Nana discovery. A mysterious box addressed to me was sitting "This Side Up" on my dining room table. The return address was seedsavers.org. What part of my order is this? Inside were twelve sectioned off chambers each one containing a plant - three sweet peppers and nine tomatoes of various names. I didn't order these. Although somewhere in my mind was a thought of peppers, didn't I get any peppers? The packing slip showed it was paid for by me! What on earth am I going to do with more tomatoes? Right now, I just counted them, I have 45 tomato plants in my living room hovering around a grow light in front of the picture window. Now I really have to implement the neighborhood distribution plan...giving each family a tomato plant (or two) to encourage them to grow some of their own food. So I unpacked the box, made a little room for each on the table, and vacuumed up the mess.

LESSON: After 59 our minds are not like vacuum cleaners any more. Write it down. Write it down. Write it down. Keep track of what you order, from where, when, how much, and instructions on what to do with it when you get it. Write down your garden plan - what goes where, when, and why. Plan ahead for harvest, storage, and seed saving before the time comes. Making a life change is not easy when your mind has settled into habitual ruts. Stretch those muscles, move those joints and get out the garden gloves.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Medicine of Laughter

In 1970 I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology. Sounds serious.
Today a couple techs and I spent the thirty minutes at change of shift just laughing. Laughing at how I asserted myself with the lab manager today over a pushy patient trying to bully her way around the Healthcare system...and me. The thought of me being assertive no matter what the subject strikes people who know me as a laugh. Laughing at a childhood story of a little girl, whose mother dashed outside to bring in the laundry before the coming storm only to find out her six year old had locked the door. The mother could not get into the house until a neighbor came over and broke a window. Let's see, six...old enough to unlock doors also wouldn't you think. How bad is that? Laughing at a woman who decided to clean up her back yard and rip out all those vines...and now itching from poison ivy all over her body...again this year! She's good looking but not too bright.

Laughter brought a brief relief from the serious nature of all the current subjects in the news. Fuel, food, water, disease, climate change, unemployment. "We can't make the curse go away, we can just soften it a little." http://www.sharonastyk.com/ post for April 24, 2008.

LESSON: In planning for the future include provision for my family, provision to share with others, and laughter to soften the stress.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day, is it GREEN for you?

Why do we do the things we do? Or more specifically why should we be interested in changing our life style in order to live sustainably? Why not just live conservatively, modestly, comfortably, and quietly? Why should we change at this point in our lives? Why have I decided to change?

When David wanted to replace all our light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, I thought sure, why not, and we replaced all the bulbs in the house. When a friend at work bought all her coworkers a cloth shopping bag, I thought sure, why not, and bought a couple more. When our local recycle center offered compost containers for twenty dollars, I thought sure, why not, and now have a small x-doggie treat container by the kitchen sink to hold food scraps and coffee grounds before they get emptied into the larger backyard compost container. When our town offered roadside recycling pickup, I thought sure, why not, and started cleaning and dividing the paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard into separate bins. When David said, "Let's carpool on the day's our work schedules match", I thought, why not, I don't need a car while I'm at work. None of these changes impacted my life significantly.

Somewhere in my reading about world events, or climate change, or peak oil, or air pollution. Maybe the data gathered during the "no fly time" after 911 about air pollution from commercial aircraft. I don't know. But included somewhere was the realization that the air pollution from the industrialization of the U.S., over time, effected the rain patterns in Africa causing drought and famine, starvation and death. That single idea brought me a sense of responsibility and remorse that I had not known previously.
My heart changed. When the heart changes, the actions do too.


Recommended website: http://www.sharonastyk.com/
Also check out Sharon's list of favorite blogs. They range from the very intellectual to the very practical.

Monday, April 21, 2008


"I married a slug." David prides himself in thinking before he acts. Why spend time, energy, and sweat unless you are sure it will work or can't get out of it? Consequently he reads alot. For me, reading isn't active enough. I have a craft room full of partially completed projects, project ideas, materials that might become project ideas. Then there is the equipment - easel, floor loom, spinning wheel, sewing machine and table, shelves and baskets for storage of things like scissors, glue, ribbon, thread, yarn, fabric, oil paints, acrylic paints, objects that I've gathered in case I might use them, etc. You get the picture.

My gathering is now spreading throughout the whole house. As long as David can find a path to his computer, his recliner by the reading lamp, and the dining room table, he's just fine. So while I've been gathering, he has been reading. Lucky we're focusing on the same subject. Then it happened!! David purchased Russet seed potatoes and sweet onion sets and I started reading articles in CountrySide magazine. Yesterday WE planted potatoes in the new front yard garden. From the five pounds of seed potatoes we may harvest 50-75 pounds of useable potatoes this fall. Once the man makes up his mind to move, I have to run to keep up.

LESSON: Gardening for the over 59 set requires careful movements. Always lift with the legs, have a small stool nearby (squatting isn't as easy as it used to be), take frequent water breaks, work slow and steady, stretch those muscles out often, and don't try to do it all in one day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The learning curve

Having decades of experience behind you, even in unrelated fields, can be very helpful when launching into something new. The standard questions of feasibility do apply but only to the known outline of what you are undertaking - the Roman numerals. What about the variables? A, B, C, ...like dirt, sunshine, nutrients, water, temperature, bugs, disease, human fatigue and body pain? Most of the magazine articles on gardening are stories, "I tried this and it didn't work" or "This worked after three years of adjustment". I plan to keep a running list of lessons learned.

LESSON: when planting seeds, don't plant all the seeds of a particular species in case the conditions aren't right and nothing sprouts. You'll then have seeds to start over.

I just received a copy of The New Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel (six weeks after attempting to start my first seeds). She begins with this quote from Charles Dudley Warner, "To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds and watch the renewal of life -- this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do." My husband, David, just left for Lowe's to pick up a hoe!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Is it too late to make a life change?

Spring has popped in New England. Seventy plus degrees today and I'm out digging up flowers rather than planting them. Nearly thirty years of day lilies, irises, peonies, and lily of the valley are giving room to heirloom vegetables - Cherokee Purple Tomato, Japanese Trifele Black Tomato, Australian Brown Onion, and Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts - all started from seed and purchased from http://www.seedsavers.org/ . There is a bureau in my living room in front of the picture window with an old lamp, a couple house plants and a basket - the usual stuff, stuff I can't even find now since trays of little pots with little green leaves have taken over. In fact my home has been taken over with piles of seed packets, growing guides, how-to books, and five gallon buckets.

This blog is intended to track and share my life change progress. Can someone over 59 succeed in changing their life? My feet are in the water. Will the sea part?