Saturday, May 31, 2008

Quit It Today

It took all morning, but finally I chose to join ChileChews challenge to quit an addiction for a month. Although we've begun to change some of our home environment, it's time to change some of our personal chemistry. Everyday no more eating after 7:30pm until breakfast the next morning. Developing an appetite for healthier, simplier food requires cutting out the old habits. Here we go.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why now, why then...

Changing a life with purpose requires understanding why. What difference can I make? What are the guidelines?

For me the post on Sharon Astyk's website describes this reason why better than I can myself. She refers to Pat Meadow's Theory of Anyway.

Please follow the link. It is worth your time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

7, 6...I planted a peach tree

The "butter jar" belongs to David and the compost container belongs to me. Not sure how that happened but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. (Some blessings wear alot of heavy makeup.) In the pile of decomposing leaves and food waste a peach pit opened and the seed inside sprouted. Three inches tall with baby leaves beginning to open, it now lives in my yard. My first Independence Days Update will begin with - I planted a peach tree.

Let's take stock of where I am.

1. Plant something: Up until this year I have grown only cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and a few beets that I harvested as greens. This year we have planted potatoes, onion sets, beets, Brussels sprouts, rhubarb, asparagus, sunflowers and chives in the front yard. Six varieties of tomatoes, garlic, onions, sweet peas, leaf lettuce, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet peppers in the side yard. Black currants and red raspberries are out back. Parsley, basil (purple and Italian), cilantro, mint, chives and dill are inside growing hydroponically. Alfalfa and radish seeds are sprouting in jars for eating fresh. Next weekend we are starting a garden at my daughter's place in New Hampshire with sweet corn, winter squash, green beans, tomatoes, and flowers. Still to plant at home is bee balm. Hopefully it will attract pollinating insects - bees. I've seen a couple honey bee visitors but our resident bumble bee regularly cruises the property.

2. Harvest something: Only the herbs are ready to be harvested. I'm experimenting with drying them and just eating them fresh. A sandwich with basil instead of lettuce is quite tasty!

3. Preserve something: I found online information on the principles behind drying food and how to build a system that works called, A Review of Solar Food Drying. Back when I was taking a black and white photography class where we developed our own film, David took an unused dresser, removed the drawers, and built screen frames to slide in where the drawers used to go. We hope to adapt that set up for drying foods. I have about fifteen dozen quart-sized canning jars and the equipment for hot water bath canning. Other equipment includes a saucer for making apple sauce and an apple corer/peeler.

4. Prep Something: We have VERY much to do in this area. We have started purchasing some food to store - peanut butter, baking soda, powdered milk, white vinegar, sugar, wheat berries, unbleached flour, white rice, brown rice, and a variety of legumes. We have also purchased our first rain collection barrel and a small Berkey water filtration system. Our well water is very hard. The filtered rain water is wonderful for drinking. We are collecting an assortment of water storage containers and planning the expansion of our system.

5. Cook something: Years ago we purchased a Vita-mix system including the dry container for grinding grains. We have been baking our own whole wheat bread. There are small red beans soaking tonight.

6. Manage your reserves: So far everything is new. However, my freezer is full of wild blueberries which need to be canned and either stored or sold...speaking of blueberry muffins...ah, breakfast, my favorite...

7. Work on Local Food Systems: We are still investigating what is available locally. I began my tomato plant give away. So far eight plants have new homes. Plus this blog is new. Hopefully our experience will encourage someone else to begin a change where they are.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ah, breakfast, my favorite

The shuffled footsteps down the hall, the glimpse of an old man in his shorts, then the sound of the refrigerator door opening, "Heh, heh. It worked! Look!" David found a quart jar and lid last night (I didn't even think he knew where to look) and poured the pint of heavy cream that he had purchased at the grocery store earlier that day into the jar. He gently shook the jar until butter separated from the whey. Our first homemade butter!* So this morning we spread the butter on homemade whole wheat toast made from flour we had ground from wheat berries the night before. We sliced fresh strawberries and laid them over the butter and garnished with a few alfalfa sprouts (that we sprouted ourselves in another quart jar with a nylon hose lid). Seated in the back yard on a couple of old folding chairs with the songs of several birds, we ate our meal. At this moment life couldn't be better. Ah, breakfast, my favorite. Yum.

Besides the quality of ingredients and the incredible taste, producing your own food gives you such a satisfaction - a wide smile for a job well done. Why did we give this up for a faster more stressful life style? Why did we ever think that industrialization was better than independence? Bigger, better, more money, more power. Ah, power, POWER. That's a hard one to resist. Whatever the reason was, it's time to turn around, about face. Younger people stand at the point of choosing their life path. For those of us over 59, we've been on our life path for many years. Turning around can be fatal if we turn too fast.

For the past couple weeks, maybe a month already, I've been contemplating change. It is like contemplating going on a diet. Both are good ideas and both require sucking it up, saying "no" to a familiar habit, and lots of work. So after all my sulking and whining, the scruffy old man in the plaid shorts with the homemade breakfast won. Today we are joining the Independence Days challenge that Sharon Astyk posted on her website. More later...

*instructions for butter making at CrunchyChickenCooks , Feb.2, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008


Advantages to believing in an Omnipotent, Omniscent, Omnipresent Creator God:

He always knows what's happening.
He always knows what to say.
He always knows what to do.
He can always fix it.
He can always make it better and intends to do so.
He will always respect free choice.

For example: He might ask you to sprout alfalfa for luncheon sandwiches. Then He might ask you to say "alfalfa" at an unlikely moment and watch lives change. (You really had to be there.)

LESSON: Prayer opens the door to problem solving.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Where do you turn?

Where do you turn when you don't have the answer? When you don't know what to do? When you don't know where to go? When you don't know what to say? When you don't know how to fix it?

The phone rang at 11:30pm. The dreaded police call.
"There's been a accident." Breathing stops.
"But your daughter is OK. She is at the University Hospital trauma center."
"Thank you. I'll be there in twenty minutes."
"No. Please wait by your phone. A doctor needs to speak with you."
Then a doctor calls back, "Your daughter has suffered head trauma and needs emergency brain surgery. Do we have your permission to operate?"
How can she be OK and need brain surgery?
How can I not give my permission?
Will she survive the surgery?

My mother arrived for a visit immediately after I gave birth to my first child. Mom never did get comfortable in our rented trailer in the Tennessee woods. She loved the baby but couldn't stay more than a couple days. As soon as her plane flew out of the airport, we packed everything we owned and headed for a job in Georgia but ended up in Missouri. The baby spend the whole third week of her life in a gold '57 Chevy. Where do we go now? What about the baby?

A co-worker invited me to join her in a beginning weaving class meeting in a nearby town one night a week. Interesting. Yes, I'd go. After a sampler where we learned technique and pattern variations, each student set up their own project. I designed a plaid scarf. As one color waded out, the next waded in. Much like the problems of life.

Each unanswered question brings the problem more clearly into view. As the problem looms larger and larger we must not forget the next step, the step out of the problem, is present.

Yesterday David and I attended our eldest granddaughter's graduate commencement. In her welcoming address the college president referred to a Japanese story about a large forest fire. The fire grew so intense that all the wildlife fled from the flaming forest. All except a single hummingbird. The tiny bird flew away from the forest to a small pond, filled his beak with water then flew back to the flames and dropped the water. He continued trip after trip carrying water to his burning home. When the other creatures asked why he continued his hard work, he answered, "I do what I can."

LESSON: Today in the face of the world problem looming larger and larger, watch for the thread of the next step.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Spring jump ahead

Today is truly a perfect spring morning. Yesterday some tomato seedlings were transplanted out into the raised bed and along the house. Just checked on them. After a light rain and a night of forty degree temps they looked happy with their new homes.

Here's my planting update. Tomato plants, sweet peppers, Brussels sprouts moved outside into gardens. Newly planted rhubarb and asparagus showing signs of life. Garlic and onion sets stretching their leaves. All the potatoes are up and growing fast. Other sprouts of various types are breaking through. (Noticed a collapsed tunnel through the asparagus bed - moles I suspect - but the soil was too soft. Thank you compost.)

Making a life style change means starting the new while only modifying the old until a successful switch can be made. Yikes! Balancing acts at my age are getting more and more iffy. While we're making an effort to cooperate with the Earth, other factors are at work to destroy it. "The number of birds, marine and freshwater creatures in the world has dropped by almost one third according to WWF conservation organisation. It found that between 1970 and 2005 land-based species fell by 25 per cent, marine species by 28 per cent and freshwater species by 29 per cent."

Thankfully our Creator is still in charge and will intervene.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Inspiration in Beauty

My work hours this past week fatigued me. A co-worker who works the evening shift took vacation and I filled in part of her time. Different sleep hours interrupted my spring gardening momentum but it did not render me totally unobservant.

This particular day I got off work as usual...about spring time that is almost sundown. I collapsed into my car and just sat making an effort to shake off the stress of the day before going home. The hospital is on a small hill with enough open space for a life-flight helicopter to land. Directly in front of my car stood an incredible flowering tree framed with dusty cumulus clouds. With the lowering sun behind me, the mauve flower petals almost sparkled with the light. One of those moments that a photographer watches for...the reason she carries her camera with her always. (Not today of course) As I sat trying to soak in all the beauty, I had what I call a revelation.

All my life, even as a child, I believed in God. I have never not believed. As I've grown so has the size of God. From that first visit to the confessional with my cheat sheet so I wouldn't forget a single sin; to high school discussions with a Jewish girl friend about death, life review, heaven, hell, a state of being; to college where I left the church of my childhood but discovered the miracle of conception and development in Embryology class. Through all this my understanding of heaven developed from harps and clouds to something like cruising the universe learning everything there is to know and more...until I saw that tree.

At that moment all the beauty I had appreciated in my life time came together. The moment of revelation when Creator, creature, and the perfection of habitat became a single thought. The Creator who will stop the destruction of His planet. The Creator who offers new live to those who will choose to accept it. The Creator who will restore His dying planet into its original state - a perfect match for His newly revived creatures. Suddenly I knew I could be totally satisfied living in a world created for me and I for it.

LESSON: See the beauty that lives around you and know it exists for you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What if...

Today as we backed away from the trees to look at the forest, a side track presented itself. Of course a side track always comes from nowhere but it steals your attention away from all the other thoughts on your mind. David and I have been married for almost twenty years. In the last couple years we have often read aloud together. Today he read Sharon Astyk's May 12, 2008 post. She describes aspects of the rapid change taking place in the Earth not as single elements of carbon emissions or methane bubbles or ice melts, but as a accumulative snowball effect of all the factors. She emphasizes the need for marked life style change in order to ease the serious "fall from the tree" and thus preventing the fatal "fall".
This is where my side track jumped in.

What if everyone in the U.S. was asked to stop using all energy for 24 hours? That's no gasoline, no oil, no propane, no natural gas, no coal, no corn, no electricity. Everyone means all households, public transportation - air, sea, ground - industry, business, education, municipal, government, even medical. All stop.

What if everyone in the U.S. was asked to stop using all energy for one day a week every week?

What if other countries adopted the same policy?

What if the whole world quit energy use for one day a week, every week?

What if scientific data showed that when all, I mean every individual, complied, we could save the planet and a modified version of our life style?

What if some dissented and refused to comply?

What if sanctions were imposed to force the dissenters to comply in order to save the planet?

What if they continued to refuse? What then?

What if the real questions are who are we, where did we come from, and why are we here?

7 1/2...

Whoa, were we busy on Mother's Day!

First our devotionals - a time when we worship together and are reminded of who we are in relationship to our Creator - joint caretakers of His Earth and family to our neighbors. This gives us a bond in purpose, peace, and childlike wonder. Our decision to worship our Creator together has brought understanding between us that talking didn't do.

Then jump into the day with the laundry...and a great day it was for line drying. Breakfast, catch up on dishes, replace the board steps on the back porch (the old ones were a bit wobbly), bring out the trays of seedlings for a day of real sunshine, plant more onions - this time along the foundation of the house where the chipmunks have a highway. What does it mean when your "soil" beads up the water rather than drinking it in? And is cat manure useful as fertilizer?

But hey, the rhubarb, potatoes, garlic, radishes, peas, and onion sets that we planted within the last few weeks are showing their little leaves. Radish sprouts are fun to eat when thinning them out. Oh, and I bought some marigolds to plant around the garden.

While I had my hands in the dirt, David was splitting wood. About one third acre of our property is our "wood lot". It is across the driveway and down the hill from the house. Many of the trees are mature. In the past couple years three large trees have fallen over in different storms. They were not dead but top heavy. We see our tree harvesting as our Creator's care for us. The trees landed totally on our property - not out in the road or on power lines, good the fuel, and conveniently located. One of the trees was a large birch and the other was a two-trunked green ash. Today David was splitting the ash until the axe maul steel head split. He's still my superman. He just tires more quickly now.

There are pictures of the climax of the day. They'll be posted as soon as I figure out how to do that. David's youngest son, his monkey-boy, climbed the hickory on the south side of the house to trim off a large limb that hung over the roof. No one was hurt, including the roof and window, but the ladder is now slightly bent.

LESSON: Worshipping the Creator together with your partner brings purpose and direction in living harmoniously with each other, the Earth, and your neighbors.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Here we go...What do I have in my hand?

OK, how about my yard:

one acre with road on three sides
house is uphill from all three roads
mostly covered with trees, shady

poor soil, rocky, sandy, lifeless around the house
beyond the immediate yard many years of leaves have been composting on the ground

types of trees include:
oak - Chestnut, Northern Red, Pin
maple - Red, Sugar, 1 Crimson (Norway) Maple
birch - Gray, 1 Paper (a baby transplanted from Minnesota in 2007)
hickory - Shagbark, Mockernut (white)
pine - Eastern White, Eastern Hemlock, 2 Balsam,
spruce - Norway, Red, 1 Blue
chestnut - American (unfortunately they die when they reach about 10 feet)
cherry - Common Chokecherry
ash - 1 White, Green
Shining Sumac
Big Tooth Aspen
American Hornbeam
American Elm - gone now

miscellaneous shrubs including:
1 Mountain Laurel
1 Oriental Arborvitae
couple other flowering shrubs

fruit producing bushes:
wild blueberry , black currant, red raspberry, wild black raspberry, gooseberry

day lilies, comfrey, hosta, lily of the valley, miscellaneous flowers

edible perennial or wild plants:
dandelion greens, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus

garden vegetables:
potatoes, onions, radishes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, sweet peppers, garlic, sweet corn (in my daughter's garden), marigolds

Most of these are already growing, some are to be planted in a couple weeks, and some are newly planted. The wild fruits and nuts are eaten up by the resident rodents. Squirrels are voracious eaters. Chipmunks, too, are constantly eating. About three years ago I bought a have-a-heart trap just the right size for chipmunks. Whenever I looked into the yard it seemed to be moving. Definitely time to relocate some of the residents. I placed the trap just outside my basement door on a cement block wall (their favorite "king-of-the-mountain" site). Bait was not required. They just walked into the trap. One day there were two chipmunks chasing each other so closely that both got caught when the doors slammed shut!! In one year I relocated sixty (that's 5 dozen) chipmunks and one opossum.

While out in the yard listing items, I found a spot we had overlooked that is suitable for another raised bed. Tomorrow, Mother's Day, we're going to trim tree branches (this makes mother happy) in order to eliminate some of the shade over the potatoes; and, remove a hickory limb that hangs over the house. It is quite messy and we want to collect the rain water runoff from the roof. Oh, speaking of rain water, our Berkey water purifier arrived yesterday! Looking forward to regularly drinking the rain water since our well water is so hard. I've already used rain water to make coffee. Wow, what a difference! (My days of coffee drinking will soon be over, but while I still have some coffee...mmm)

Next - How 'bout the house? What kind of stuff will I find there?

Friday, May 9, 2008

9 1/2...

David just read the previous post and couldn't get past "Today I quit my job." The blood drained from his face. He just stared at the computer screen. Even after I explained that I DID NOT quit my job today. I only used it as an example...that it's childish to think a person can dictate to herself how to learn something she knows nothing about.

The opposite is true. Childlikeness is a quality of openminded trust and wonder that examines the smallest detail and the simpliest relationship. I live on the Earth. There is something to learn right where I am. I'll watch, listen, smell, touch, taste... I'll pray, study, work, share, learn, change.

Tomorrow begins with an accounting of what is in my hand.

LESSON: Warn dear ones ahead of time before using examples that may shock them. Its only nice.



Today I quit my job. Three or four weeks notice ought to be generous. The house is going on the market tomorrow. We're moving to the country. This living on the highway is the wrong atmosphere for living in harmony with the Earth. Better yet I locate Greenpa and offer to buy a corner of his woods. Then we'll be in the right place...

...but we won't know anything...

Living in harmony with the Earth and its Creator is a matter of mind, body, and soul. It takes thinking, doing, and changing.

LESSON: The place of thinking, doing, and changing is found in childlikeness not childishness.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Launching Points

Three years ago my oldest daughter, Jennifer, moved into a small house in DownEast Maine. The former resident, an elderly man and friend to Jennifer, moved to an assisted living situation a few miles away. Single all his life, his only close "family" were cats - all four dozen of them. Months before the move Jennifer captured, transported, and helped pay for all their neutering and kitty health checkups. She proved herself to be trustworthy so he asked her to care for his "family" while he was away.

Usually I visit Jennifer during wild blueberry season in August but that year I drove up in June. She needed help cleaning up the house and no one does it better than MOM. All the cleaning solutions and equipment were lined up on the porch. One step into the front room and I froze...the trash, the dirt, the kitty litter, the smell, the trash, the dirt,... Just then a local priest pulled in with a borrowed pickup truck to haul the couch to the dump. The empty couch space became our launching point. We scrubbed the floor three separate times in order to remove the litter dust and dirt. As we cleaned the first space, we filled it with washed, non-trash items. The day to clean the house turned into the day to clean the front room. Since that beginning, Jennifer completed the whole house. With paint inside and out, a few canvases hung on the walls, she is settled in. And all the kitties call her "Auntie Jennifer".

A short while ago I decided that changes needed to be made in my life. This blog is a record of some of my thinking about change. Today I'm overwhelmed and standing just inside the door of the "front room" looking for a clue to the launching point.

LESSON: The launching point isn't as important as the launch.

PS. Jennifer only has one dozen cats now (briefly including Ralph, a young bobcat who spent a couple months last winter under her shed). You guessed it. She already had a cat named Bob. Anyone need a cat?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cycle Back to the Beginning

My back porch faces east and the sunrise. The six by eight open space with a roof is my "just sittin' and..." space. Just sittin' and reading, just sittin' and watching, just sittin' and listening, mostly just sittin' and thinkin' space. This morning it was my just sittin' and reading, then thinkin', then listening space. Spring songs birds can be obnoxiously loud depending on what you're doing when they break into song. Robins, for instance, are much like roosters. In suburbia it is their job to call forth the sun generally from a low perch next to an open bedroom window. This morning however I heard a new song. Thankfully it was very loud or the sound of traffic zooming by delivering the community to work would have masked the song. Venturing out into the yard in robe and rollers, I finally caught a glimpse of a Baltimore Oriole fly between oak trees overhead. So Spring is really here!

The yearly cycle of life has come around again. Time for repairing the broken, renewing old friendships, growing in knowledge, repenting and changing. For me, as a creationist, I see God as providing the Earth with all that we needed as long as we chose to live in harmony with it and Him. Mankind gave up that idea long ago and we've collectively managed to destroy Earth's balance. Making an effort to find that harmony again shows my respect for Earth's Creator and His created.

LESSON: Always give a moment of concentrated listen to the song birds who call us to remember where we've come from.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Life Giving - Warmth from the Sun

Days' events are fitting together. Trash pickin' along our perimeter produced a large piece of plastic. Perhaps it was wrapped around some building material. The recent rain watered the newly sown seeds. And today we're cutting that plastic to cover the seeded soil to help retain some of the sun's warmth and the rain's moisture so necessary for seeds to sprout. Massachusetts is working on trying to set a new low temperature for May. By my thermomoter it dropped to 31'F Wednesday night. The all time low on record is 28'F. How does global warming produce lower temperatures?

We have a window airconditioner which is usually sufficient to cool the whole house in summer as long as we circulate the cooled air with fans. If we shut off the fans, we have one really cold room with the rest of the house uncomfortably warm. The world has a temperature circulation system also except that it is not so much air flow as water flow ...The Great Conveyor of the oceans... which circulates the sun warmed water from the Pacific around to the North Atlantic and then the cooled water back again to be rewarmed. Wondering how climate change and the ocean conveyor were related, I found this 2004 explanation from Nasa

"By disturbing a massive ocean current, melting Arctic Sea Ice might trigger colder weather in Europe and North America."

"If the Great Conveyor Belt suddenly stops, the cause might not matter. Europeans will have other things on their minds --like how to grow crops in snow. Now is the time to find out, while it's merely a chilling possibility."

As our world continues to fall out of balance and we in New England end up with colder, snowier winters, and a shortened growing season, alternative systems will be necessary for growing our food. Green house, hydroponics, an earth box, etc.