Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two steps forward...

Most of next year's seeds are on their way! I dithered over whether to buy seeds early, because it seemed sort of...alarmist, but then I realized that there was no reason on earth not to, and it made a lot of sense. First off, it's the same dang seed whether I order it now or in the spring; it's not like I'll get fresher seed in the spring. And second, well, next year's garden seeds are a critical part of my food storage plan, so why on earth would I leave them to chance? As an added bonus, I'll know exactly what I have to work with all winter, which, one would like to think, should assist in the planning process. One would think. Besides, it's absolutely true that a lot of seed companies saw hugely increased demand last year, and I'd expect this year to see even more, so even if things proceed more or less as normal, it's entirely feasible that the slowpokes won't get everything they want next spring.

On a similar note, my delightfully cracked neighbor went on an heirloom bean kick and just bought multiple packs of maybe 20 varieties of heirloom beans. She wants to grow them to use in dry soup mixes to sell at the farmer's market, which is a fine idea, but she bought enough seed to go into business as an heirloom bean farmer, and we're reasonably sure that she has basically no idea what she's getting into. Where we're going to plant them all is a great mystery, but once those beans mature, boy, we'll be safe from starvation, anyhow. I love love love beans, and really can't justify the expense of heirloom beans at anything more than the rare treat level, so I'm as happy as a clam...which is good, because I'll have to be pretty involved to make sure this whole process actually happens in an effective manner. The world is full of wonderfully unique and special people, my neighbor not least among them.

I can hear Jacob out back shredding our brush pile and the (other) neighbors', which we'll use as mulch. I feel rather badly about destroying these brush-pile habitats right at the beginning of cold weather, but our yards just aren't so big that we can afford to leave parts of them wild. Meanwhile, we can certainly use the mulch. When Evelyn's done napping, I'll go out to join him, and we'll work on planting garlic and finishing the kill-mulching of the garden expansion. Jacob could, of course, be working on those things now, but through a logic all his own, he is usually able to look at my to-do list, agree that it's an excellent list, and then spend the entire weekend working on other things. Worthy things, no doubt, but I guess we're prioritizing somewhat differently. It's like my mother-in-law, who once complained that if she asked my father-in-law to help clean the house in preparation for company, he was liable to decide that the most important thing he could do would be to clean the light switches. But if I go out, then we (or at least whichever one of us isn't chasing the baby) will reliably work on the garlic and garden beds...which, apparently, are "my" projects now or something. Which is unkind and discouraging, because we both know perfectly well that "my" projects never get done, if they even get started, largely due to things like naptime and teething.

We're also in discussions over whether to get a solar oven, or, really, which one to get. Of course, November is kinda a stupid time to be buying a solar oven, since in order to cook dinner in one, I'd have to start at noon and eat before Jacob got home for the night (well after dark). On the other hand, of course, a solar oven is a nigh-miraculous device which might be a great boon in the future, and the fear, as always, is that come spring we won't be able to buy one. Besides, one could always pre-cook and bake bread. You know, if one did bake bread, theoretically. The two major choices seem to be the Tulsi sun oven (advantages--power backup and a broad enough chamber to make pizza) and the Global sun oven (advantages--seems to be the better actual solar oven, easier to get hot, slightly deeper chamber for pots).

Progress is being made, however, on the health front. Because, having grown up below the poverty line, let me tell you: Being poor and healthy really isn't that bad. Being poor and unhealthy is misery. With that in mind, I've prioritized getting our health needs taken care of. Jacob and I have both had dentist's appointments, and he has another to get some work done (I, in defiance of all standards of dental hygiene, needed no work, just to stop clenching my jaw all the time). I have an optometrist's appointment later this month to get new glasses for the first time since middle school. And, most excitingly, next Tuesday I have an appointment with the naturopath who has worked such wonders on my mother. Damn, I want the vitality she has these days. I would like to be actually healthy for the first time in my life. I'm hoping that next Tuesday will be the beginning of my journey to health, and I am REALLLLLY excited. I consider taking care of all outstanding health problems to be a really critical part of disaster/poverty preparedness. Being unhealthy in any way reduces your ability to cope with circumstances and poisons everything you have to do.

I just hope that we can get Mamma's cancer cleared completely before TSHTF, if it does. She continues to progress incredibly, and my happiness over that is rendered very bittersweet by thinking of all the suffering of people who could have benefitted from these same therapies if only our medical system weren't so fucking in love with itself. She's got a rare form of cancer, considered highly intractable and untreatable via chemotherapy--surgery and radiation were the only route offered by the conventional doctors. And here it's in full retreat, shrunk to less than a third of its initial size, using only lifestyle changes, homeopathics, herbs, and a couple high-quality supplements. And not only is the cancer going away, but Mamma is radiantly healthy, more so than I ever remember her. How many cancer patients can say that? If she'd listened to the allopathic doctors, she'd be very ill now, permanently so, and her chances of beating the cancer would still be very slim statistically. If she hadn't been willing to try an alternative, I might be losing my mother right now. Please, if anyone you know has cancer, encourage them to look up a naturopathic oncologist. I'm not saying they're all as amazing as the one we got, but it could only be to the good., yeah. The pantry made progress today, and I should actually be able to put things away in my new cabinets now, which is SUPER exciting. We ordered a LOT of buckets and gamma seals for food storage purposes, and I mean a lot--24 buckets and 32 seals (we ordered bulk for the best prices). We'll keep about a dozen for ourselves and sell the rest at cost to whoever wants them. I have a lead on getting bulk wheat, finally. The kill-mulching of the garden expansion is maybe half done all told, but about 1/2 of what's left can be done over time. Progress.

On the other hand, I stuck my neck out and tried to tell my mother-in-law about Peak Oil to get her to prepare a little, and she smiled amusedly the whole time and told me that I didn't need to worry, she didn't think Mad Max or Waterworld or whatever was going to happen too soon. Gag, gag, gag... Oh well. I expressed myself cogently and calmly. I don't feel that I failed in my duty in any way. I sent her a link to Chris Martenson's Crash Course, and hopefully she'll watch it, if just to be polite. And if she chooses to ignore my warning, then hopefully we'll be able to help them later on. I am running out of patience with people who can actually hear a warning and ignore it at this point, though, since we're no longer warning about future events so much as trying to point out just how bad current events could get. Its happening NOW, people, and the evidence is thick on the ground.

Okay, enough babble for now. I have work to do.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you're not outraged...'re not paying attention. This classic bumper-sticker nugget has long been a bone of contention between my mother and me...I think it's quite accurate, and she--well, I suppose she thinks it's accurate too, at base, since her argument is essentially that, since she can't function in a constant state of outrage, she's rather just not pay attention.

I can see her point. Right now I'm definitely pushing my threshold when it comes to's gone well past outrage into sickened horror, really. Probably, since I already don't eat fast food or industrial meat, I could safely have forgone the additional emotional burden of reading Fast Food Nation right now. Too bad Jacob gleaned it out of a box at the Thursday night auction and now I'm stuck reading it, sucked in and tangled up as it unveils new highs of awful.

Of course, I would have had plenty on my mind without worrying about schoolchildren eating the shit of diseased cattle processed by exploited illiterate illegal aliens and whatnot. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and a certain amount of (hopefully benign) parental neglect, I am finally beginning to feel like I actually understand the basics of the US economy and the banking system. Unfortunately, it's even more criminal, short-sighted, moronic, and, well, fucked than I suspected it was, only now I have the joy of understanding the mechanisms by which I and my loved ones in perpetuity have been fucked up the ass. My understanding has not yet, however, reached a level where I actually feel like I know what, if anything, I can do to protect myself and said loved ones from the clusterfuck, and so I feel obligated to persevere.

Because, you know, it wasn't enough that my mom has cancer, I haven't slept for more than four hours in a row (and usually much less) in well over a year, half my house is completely disarranged due to remodeling, I haven't been able to breathe through my nose at night in over a week, there's nearly a bushel worth of apples rapidly decomposing on the kitchen counter, and the check engine light just came on in the Subaru AGAIN (we just spent over a grand getting the other car back up to snuff, mind).

The hilarious part of all this is that I'm so used to being, as I put it to Mamma, "Six feet under and sinking" that at the moment my mood is predominantly hopeful--the remodeling didn't make enough progress for things to get cleaner, but it did make progress, the cancer is retreating rapidly without any of the standard, harmful allopathic "therapies", Evelyn's sleep habits are once again shifting from ludicrously awful to merely bad, and, most importantly for a dork like me, I'M LEARNING. Oh boy, upgrade me to "six feet under and rising"!

I really like learning, and I particularly like learning that promises to actually improve my life. I get really, really pissy when my access to said learning is blocked, which has been one of my biggest problems as a parent--reduced time means a reduction in time I can spend reading and dicking around on the internet learning new things. Last night was a really pissy time. Then Evelyn went to sleep and miraculously let me get up, and I proceeded to spend the next two hours watching this video series, which I highly recommend you also watch. I'm still working through it, mostly because of my utterly assy cable internet.

So, to sum up, watch the videos, including the video I linked to a few posts back, and read the news with a critical eye, and if you start to get completely dysfunctional thinking about a world full of malnourished children, old people freezing to death in their own homes because they couldn't afford to heat, families rendered homeless by foreclosure, etc., etc., then do what I do: remind yourself that, failing all else, it sure isn't boring.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yay fall

God, I love fall weather. And fall food. And that giddy pre-holiday, busting out the cool-weather wardrobe, starting to think about cocoa feeling.

Yesterday we started a 3-cabbage batch of plain red cabbage sauerkraut. We still have more cabbage though (by the time we're done, god only knows how much sauerkraut we'll have made, but we love it, and other people turn out to love it too when it's real and crisp and not canned or chemicalized), and I want to try some of the stuff from my deeelightful new book Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz. So the next batch will have dill weed and celery seed. Not caraway, though. After 25 years of disliking rye bread, last year I finally figured out that I like rye just fine, thanks, but I really don't like caraway. Which makes it one of the very, very few flavors I don't like...usually I dislike a food based on texture, and very little even at that.

So anyway, yay sauerkraut. And also I wanna make kimchee, so on Thursday at the swap I'll try and get a couple heads of bok choy off of a friend who's an organic farmer. Need ginger, though. I want to try freezing ginger...I hear it works well, and I love ginger, but generally don't use it often enough to keep fresh on hand, which has been very frustrating. And also also I wanna make some other fermented veggie, though I vascillate between a turnip and carrot mix vs. a beet and carrot mix. The beets sound lovely, but--and I know this is a bit silly--they'd dye the carrots red too and then the mix wouldn't be as pretty. Also, the author said that a batch of fermented turnips he made was one of his more popular experiments.

Obviously, this book has me...haha...all in a ferment. It's a really wonderful book...exciting, practical, readable, personable, and with a huge heart. What other book would start a section on winemaking with a recipe for "hooch", guest-written by a guy who spent 18 years in prison making booze on the sly? (Hint: it involves fruit cocktail and trash bags). Sandor wanted to make it clear that you don't need fancy equipment.

Also fall-ey is the fact that we've got fun stuff to go to every weekend of October...harvest fests big and small, mostly. I've actually lost track. Dang, do we ever need a calendar. I really, really meant us to have one this year, but we never actually bought one, so my list never got transfered and never made it past June...though I tell ya what, even what I did was enormously helpful and got referred to often. I just can't find a calendar that's everything I want. Which, considering the huge number of calendars out there, is pretty deeply lame.

Jacob magically made a drawer in the kitchen out of what used to be a fake drawer and some hardware he collected off the side of the road. Genius! So now we have a drawer for our maglite, LED headlamp, and batteries (and matches and candles once I get them in there). Happiness. Also, now that they're put together enough, I have confirmed that all of our gallon and half-gallon jars fit upright in the bottom drawers of the new cabinets. That revelation got an enthusiastic round of the Halleluia Chorus from me, much to Evelyn's amusement.

Eeee, I feel positively chirpy today. I swear I get Seasonal Affective Disorder in summer. I love fall so much. On the downside, chirpy doesn't make for coherent reading. So I'm'a gonna stop now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Putting food by--how much?

Several days ago I had a useful thought about food storage and preservation, and I'm finally getting around to putting it down here. I'm sure it's not revolutionary or anything, but I hadn't heard it expressly articulated anywhere else, and it's really helping me think about things, so here it is.

Fruits and vegetables constitute the bulk of what we must put away in summer for winter, at least in most households. Most of us tend just to buy our dry goods, and dairy and eggs are more of a year-round proposition, at least with modern, relatively affluent farming practices that allow for, say, winter grain feeding and lighted chicken coops. So this thought is mostly about fruits and veggies, though the same thinking could of course be applied to other stuff if it were relevant to you. (If, for example, you were dependent on your own dairy or eggs--you lucky dog you--then of course there are ways of preserving milk and eggs).

The USDA (leaving aside any doubts we might have about the general validity of their dietary guidelines, let's assume this one's reasonable enough) recommends 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I think it's reasonable to say that a seasonal diet would look more like five (or more) servings of fruits and vegetables during the growing season, and three servings the rest of the time. Simply put, then, for every day of summer, you need to average roughly 3 servings of fruits or vegetables per person in the household going into winter storage.

Another useful way of thinking about it would be to multiply 3 by the number of household members by seven to get your weekly average. Or whatever seems appropriate. For example, our household: if I calculate Evelyn in for one adult serving per day for now, and three each for Jacob and me, then in a given summer week we need to put up 49 servings of fruits and/or vegetables.

At first, that struck me as pretty intimidating, but later, as I sliced dozens and dozens of tomatoes for drying, it didn't seem so bad. After all, a lot of preserving projects work best on the large scale anyway, and a serving is not as big as we tend to imagine it. That round of tomatoes probably accounted for nearly our week's total. A quart of apple sauce is, say, five or six servings, and last year we put up twelve quarts: 72 servings. Sauerkraut is another project where you end up with a lot pretty quickly, and for relatively little effort, and of course this sort of thing is where root cellaring really shines--think of the food value:time ratio of properly storing a pumpkin or a few pounds of carrots.

Obviously there's a lot to be said for estimating on the high side--there are going to be losses both small and large (a few nutrients destroyed by heat or time here, a squash rotted before you caught it there), and you never know when you're going to end up feeding more than the usual number of people. One of the joys of a well-stocked pantry has always been being able to feed guests without worrying. And you could just as well estimate for 4 servings per day or whatever, depending on how you prefer to eat. It's just a simple, obvious way of thinking about the question of how much is enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The good news and the weird news

Well, I had my first dentist's appointment in six years or so this morning. I've been experiencing some pretty serious, quality-of-life-reducing jaw pain for quite a while now, and since at first some of it seemed to originate in a spot where I was once told I had a "soft spot" developing, I had assumed that I was looking at some pretty advanced tooth decay.

So the good news is no tooth decay. The weird news is that instead I have a disorder. Namely, bruxism, more commonly known as tooth grinding.

The first two people who heard the news said, "Well, that's good right? No root canals!" Fortunately for me, Jacob and I share a brain (I have been known to refer to "our head"), so he understands. Sure, it's nice to be able to say that I still haven't got a single cavity in my head despite, by conventional standards, abominable dental hygiene. But, well, when we thought it was cavities, I could just be knocked out for a while and someone would FIX IT. Now, though, the problem is just as serious as ever, but, not to be punny or anything, it's in my head. And it's going to be a journey to fix it, and not just a doctor's appointment.

The diagnosis completely blindsided me--I would not have suspected it at all. Now that I've read and thought a little more, I do have a few thoughts, though. First off, I'm pretty sure that I don't actually grind my teeth at all, not even in sleep...I'm pretty sure I'm clenching them, as I've caught myself doing it several times since the appointment and it felt pretty--well, normal. Which leads to my second observation, which is that I'm not at all convinced that the problem is entirely or even primarily nocturnal--in which case the dentist's recommended treatment (the standard treatment) of a night-guard won't really solve it. I also feel like I need to know more, to see to what extent the temporal-mandibular joint might be involved/affected, since I have had ear problems wrapped up with this too.

So far, what this really makes me want to do is hurry up and get an appointment with my mom's naturopath, which I wanted to anyway. I really trust her, and I feel like she could give me a better picture of the full range of options and treatments, plus helping me with other problems that I would really like to resolve.

Basically, I've been trying to clear up my health and get things straight because, well, for one there are obvious quality of life issues. Also, though, my next pregnancy can't afford to be like my first one, not with a toddler running around. There were entire months of my first pregnancy when I found sitting up exhausting and barely had the energy to read--and mind you, I had no actual medical problems. And last, but not least, there is nothing more worth investing in than one's health when it comes to preparing for an uncertain future. I cannot afford to be less than my best if things come to a crisis, and currently I'm a whole lot short of "my best", whatever that may be--I'm confident that I've never approached it even in childhood, actually, since I've always had pretty poor health.

Well, now is the time to end that. Evelyn needs a capable, awake mother and Jacob needs a functional mate. I need to be able to do things without the additional burdens of pain and malaise.

It's just frustrating, because I don't know how much I can realistically do to reduce stress...our life is about as simple as it could reasonably be, we don't take on a lot of commitments, and there's just not really ANYTHING that I feel could beneficially be cut from our schedule. The very few things we do go to outside the home are really important for our mental/emotional wellbeing, just by virtue of their being so rare. Evelyn is what she is and I can't change that any faster than it's changing, and that's the primary source of stress in my life now. And, well, the world is a scary place right now and I really don't think that not thinking about that is a safe or productive answer.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Criticism of Montessori

My stomach hurts and I can't sleep, so I might as well sit here and work out my Montessori gripes. Sitting in the dark in the middle of the night seems, somehow, like an appropriate time and place to do this, since as far as I can tell, critiquing Montessori is somehow taboo--internet searches on the subject yield pretty much two things--complaints about specific schools and articles about this one professor in the early days of Montessori who for some reason took major exception to the philosophy. Which is funny, because I feel like there's a lot more to say than that.

First of all, I want to make it clear that overall, I like Montessori. In my experience and judgment, there is no better system generally available to the American public for the intellectual development of children. It certainly beats the ever-livin' pants off public school, and public schools would be/have been improved in direct proportion to the number of Montessori concepts they employ. I went to part-day Montessori preschool for one session (my mother worked there as a janitor in order to afford it), and didn't learn anything new 'til second grade. One of my dear friends is a Montessori teacher.

All that said, I do have some significant complaints.

First of all, all I've read about Montessori attitudes and expectations in infancy is seriously flawed. Some examples:

  • Infants sleep best on their own, and are capable from birth of regulating themselves through the stages of sleep. No and no. This does not reflect either the most current research (infants need practice regulating their physical state during sleep transitions and can benefit significantly, even life-savingly from the presence of an attuned adult) or my personal experience ("Are you serious? AHAHAHAHAHAHA!")
  • Babies should be weaned from the breast at around one year of age, or they'll get an oral fixation. Uhmmm, NO. The scientific research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial for as long as it continues, and the anthropological research suggests that natural weaning age for humans is somewhere between three and five years old. As for whatever Freudian bullshit an oral fixation is supposed to be, it can't be too crippling, seeing as how the vast majority of humans ever have apparently had one. Personally, I can say that Evelyn now nurses at least as much as she ever did, it's a lifesaver when she's sick or teething, and it really takes a load off my mind to know that whatever solid food she eats, she's still getting good nutrition so long as I'm eating decently.
  • You should put a young baby on a rug or fleece on the floor so that s/he can watch what the rest of the family is doing and be interested. Yeah, this isn't going to happen with a lot of babies. Certainly not mine. She would not be put down, not even when asleep. My clear understanding is that this is quite common. I suppose this idea is intended as an alternative to sequestering the baby in a crib, though, in which case it's certainly an improvement. What would be far better, even for the easy-going baby who would lie calmly on the floor, would be to wear the baby so that s/he could actually be at the level of the action and in physical contact with a caregiver. The many benefits of babywearing are demonstrable both anthropologically and scientifically (as well as, believe me, experientially), but Montessori philosophy also disapproves of "too much" babywearing on the grounds that it limits physical exploration and hinders gross motor skills. The evidence suggests that this is totally unfounded, and that, indeed, babies who are worn extensively actually gain gross motor skills more easily and sometimes earlier than babies who are not.
  • Children are naturally ready for and interested in potty training between a year and 15 months or so. This one's funny, because it's one of the more frequently complained about tenets of Montessori, and usually people are complaining that it's just unrealistically early. I'm going to complain that it's just like the conventional opinion, only earlier. The Montessori attitude is that neurological and physical development doesn't allow for the voluntary control of the sphincters and other muscles involved until a year, whereas standard doctrine puts it at around 18 months. I have firsthand experience that this is utter bullshit, since my daughter has been voluntarily peeing and pooping at appropriate times and in set situations since she was, oh, two or three months old? She now often goes to the potty completely of her own volition if we leave her diaper off, and this morning she yelled at the bathroom door to be let into the potty when she had to pee. To any mama practicing Elimination Communication (by whatever name) this attitude is just as wrongheaded as the conventional take...maybe even a little more, since it is generally agreed in the ECing community that after your child becomes mobile it is more difficult to get him/her to sit on the potty.
There are other things. For example, while there are very valid reasons for avoiding plastic toys, the reasons generally given by proponents of Montessori generally sound disingenuous and more like a reflection of their own distaste for the material. It's "cold"--yes, well, so is metal, and my daughter loves to play with metal things and has from the start. "Natural materials are interestingly varied whereas plastic always feels the same"--well, no, actually. Plastic is a highly versatile material, and can be hard or soft, shiny, satiny, or bumpy, etc., and is usually brightly colored, which children love. "Children prefer natural materials"--well, I sincerely wish this were true, but my experience has not borne this out. I have quite a collection of lovely, carefully selected wooden toys, most of which have been played with very little, and a few plastic toys from yardsales, which see at least as much play, though frankly Evelyn can smell a phony from a mile away and largely ignores "toys" altogether. If you're going to choose not to buy your child plastic, do it because it leaches toxic chemicals and will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years before finally breaking down into millions of bits of persistent toxic pollution. That seems like a sufficient reason to me.

The next complaint I see as unfortunate, because I really think that modern Montessori is a privilege of the affluent, and after all it started out with inner city kids. Hand-crafted hardwood shelving units made in the US are wonderful, no doubt, but even we cannot afford to spend $300 on a single set of shelves, much less most of the world. Entire play areas, even rooms, set aside specifically for the child I disagree with in principle as well, because I feel like they create segregation, but they are also an impossibility for many apartment dwellers or people in small (read, reasonable-sized) houses. The focus on beautiful, carefully made toys and materials is laudable in some ways, but even for those of us who can afford an $80 shape sorter, we have to ask if this is actually a wise allocation of money in a world where millions of people don't even have safe drinking water. So no, I don't think that Montessori principles are accesible only to the affluent, but I do think that in practice, the world of Montessori has become populated almost entirely by people with significant disposable income. Certainly the tuition for Montessori schools, however much they might be a reasonable reflection of the schools' costs, is far beyond the reach of many if not most.

And lastly, damn, is it just me or is Montessori anal!? We must be calm, neat, tidy, organized, polite! Teach your child not to splash! Don't let the toys get spread all over the floor! Children love order! Well, yes, some children do have a fierce need for ritual and predictability...and some don't...but I think we should own our own needs and realize that, very often, kids don't give a damn if the house is a mess, and it's really our problem. Anyway, yeah, wow is Montessori ever anal. Like a lot.

Okay, it's no longer the middle of the night and I probably have better things to do than bitch. I would love to hear other people's thoughts, though, if anyone reading has experience with Montessori.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

One cubicle wall from disaster

That's about how I'm feeling right now. Right now, Jacob's company is still booming, and so long as he has his job, we have quite a comfortable cash-flow. We even have savings, which, as noted, is part of the problem, since our bank is among those on shaky footing. I actually have no idea (how sad is that?) what would happen to our money if Wachovia went under in any of the various possible (likely?) ways. But just as there are any number of possible events that could push the US/the world from "badly infected cut" to "systemic illness" status, there just isn't that much between us and a very scary situation.

Say Obama wins the election--an event we would welcome--and starts pulling back troops and decreasing defense spending. Or just say that the economy keeps worsening, which I think we can take for granted. Jacob is a versatile guy, but largely unappreciated, and far from the most senior engineer at work. We calculate that we need over $30K a year just to pay the bills in this, our very modest old house in farm country, with no cable, no cell phones, and old cars. Where is Jacob going to pick up another job with money like that? How far would he have to drive? We live fifteen minutes from the nearest grocery store and 25 from his job as it is. How on earth would I contribute? I might be able to leave the wee one with the neighbor--though it'd kill me to have to--but all I have on offer is an incomplete Associate's degree and a resumé of food and customer service jobs I despised. Not promising.

And yet we keep living like we always have, which is to say frugally but more or less normally (although plenty of people consider it pretty stinkin' abnormal for us to not have cellphones, I guess). Heck, we just spent all that on a kitchen remodel. And I don't regret it, but I do feel tense.

Jacob...I don't quite know how to explain Jacob, or to get through to him. I grew up very poor, so I started from the viewpoint that hard work and perseverance sometimes just get you walked all over (certainly the case for my mother), but Jacob grew up very middle class and I think part of him still believes that poor people are poor through lack of effort, etc., and that basically things will be as they always have been for him. Intellectually, he agrees that the system is fucked, but I don't think that he accepts that it's really, really FUCKED, and that he could be too. He agrees, at least superficially, with the things I read to him from various peak oil blogs and articles, and has started paying attention to the news more closely and so on, and he's a complete partner when it comes to homesteading, etc., but still there's a strong tendency to make a joke of everything and to resist any action that really commits us to the future I forsee as opposed to "normalcy".

For example, he was quite in agreement with me when we reduced his 401K contributions to a very low level, because we had more critical use for the money and considered it an extremely dubious investment anyway. But when I now say that I think it incredibly unlikely that any of that money would be there for us to retire on anyway, or that "retirement" will even have the same meaning by the time we're sixty, and that we might consider just taking the penalties and yanking our money while it's still there, he dismisses the idea. He's there with me most of the way, but he still holds back from full belief.

It's hard to complain...I know a lot of people have much larger disconnects with their spouses than this when it comes to their take on the future. But still...I'm feeling so tense and really wanting to commit to action, and he's hanging back and joking. Maybe I'm just being a whiny punk because wahhh wahhh he's minimizing my worries...but dammit, he IS.

Of course, part of the problem is that I can hardly believe in it at all, and it takes active effort to "live the reality" of what's happening to our world. Mostly I fail. Witness the kitchen: $2K to make the kitchen work better? Sure, totally worthwhile. A few hundred to make sure we have access to the well in case of a power outage? I dunnoh....

Well, anyway, small crabby infant calls.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Money makes me feel stupid

I have been striving off and on to reach a better understanding of how money works. And it's amazing how hard this is given that I'm a fairly highly intelligent person. I'm not bothered by my initial state of ignorance, or rather, not on a personal level, because we're basically all profoundly ignorant on the subject, and there really are vested interests that wish to keep us that way. THAT is, needless to say, extremely bothersome, but at least it's not because I'm a dumbass or because I snoozed through civics (I did). It does make me feel stupid, though, when I'm actively seeking to understand things--like, say, my mortgage--and am completely boondoggled.

Actually, I think this is because basically I can't bring myself to believe the bullshit that makes the system run. I come from a few thousand years worth of farmers, same as pretty much anyone else, and have the basic agrarian distrust for merchants and money. In feudal Japan merchants were considered the lowest class of people--parasites who created nothing useful. Other cultures, certainly my own, have held similar attitudes. Now, mind, I'm not saying that these attitudes are appropriate--actually, I think they're about as ignorant and counterproductive as the current habit of believing that the people handling our money are basically trustworthy and benevolent and we don't need to worry so long as we play by the rules. What I'm saying is that probably my problem is that I keep expecting this stuff to make sense, and by my sights, it just doesn't. That is, it really is smoke and mirrors without substance.

I keep persevering, though, and I'm making some progress. I feel like I need to, because we still need to make the money system as it exists work for us so long as it does exist. Very little of what we're trying to do around here will matter at all if we can't keep our home, and that, for the forseeable future, means paying our mortgage, which means money and banks.

Right now, I'm finding this video to be enormously helpful. Watch it.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Pretty low on posts here, coming into the toddler years I'm spending more time standing behind my daughter as she goes up and down (and up and down and upanddownupdownup) the stairs than I am read and writing (and thinking). I just really needed to purge a little angst though, because DEAR GOD things are getting scary. Climate is turning nasty in a big way and financial markets are--well, teetering would be a nice way to put it, no?--and I begin to feel like Jacob and I are in a three-legged race against professional sprinters who aren't actually tied. We move at a snail's pace (upanddownandupanddown the stairs), and feel good if we manage to do one preserving project a week and zero other preparedness, and the world we still depend pretty heavily on to function is racing manically towards some invisible but certain tiger pit. Where? When? How long do we have?

We're still critically dependent on electricity for the basic functions of our house--heating, water, food storage, light. We're still fonged without Jacob's high-tech defense industry job. We're still shitty gardeners, as the garden attests too depressingly. Still no rainwater collection. Still no chicken coop. No sun oven, no rocket stove, shit, we haven't even got a solar wax melter slapped together, which is probably the easiest solar project short of a soda bottle on the dash board, and we have dozens of frames of used wax literally molding in the basement. Well, actually, a LOT of things are molding in the basement, including any vegetables we try to store there.

We did make progress this weekend, and good progress too, though as preparedness goes, it's sort of a move sideways, and a gamble on a few more years of relative normalcy and affluence. We bought (most) of the materials for a partial kitchen remodel, so that a) more stuff can be put away, out of the way of good cooking, inquisitive fingers, and weekday evening preserving, b) I can spend the time I would normally have to spend doing the dishes by hand instead making bread or hanging laundry (or standing on the stairs, but ya know). So we're ripping out some really space-wasting installments and an old leaky washing machine we couldn't use and replacing them with better-designed cabinets and a new washer. When we're done, the kitchen will still pretty much look like 1984, but it will be more organized and less cluttered (and, okay, I'm very happy about the oak coutertops), which will be a Good Thing.

For a long time I resisted getting a new dishwasher, because it seemed like a step in the wrong direction to buy a new electric appliance. I was finally persuaded (Jacob thought it was a good idea all along, and only hesitated on the point of repair or replacement) for a variety of reasons. First of all, we have no time and our lives feel out of control and something's got to give, and nothing gets done in the kitchen when first you have to clear every flat surface of dirty dishes. Second, I have a major mental block about washing dishes in still water--I grew up with washing dishes that way, but as soon as it was up to me I switched to running water and I can't seem to make myself do it any other way. I have to steel myself just to reach in and pull the plug on used water after someone else washes dishes...yuckyuckyuck! So anyway, that's the long way of saying that a dishwasher would almost certainly use less water than me. And last but not least, it's not as if turning the dishes over to a machine for now has any long-term repercussions...I'm not gonna forget how to do dishes. It presumably will use a bit more power than the current method, but we've only considered energy star washers, and, well, basically, the cost-benefit analysis came out in favor of the washer. The new washer instead of the repair is because, well, even if we could get it repaired reasonably, the one we have would still be builder-grade crap from 1984. It's been trash for years, and that isn't our just hasn't been thrown away. that enough justifications and rationalizations for not getting our butts in gear? Truly, we're trying, but sometimes the news makes me feel panicky that we're not trying hard enough or moving fast enough. And always it makes me hurt hurt hurt for all the people who no longer have our options and opportunities (or never did).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yard Sale Bonanza

Boy, we didn't really set out to, but we did a helluva lot of yardsaling this weekend. It was a Friday off day, and I was feeling half-crazed by recent events, the state of the house, etc., so I basically demanded that we drive up to Gettysburg to do some outlet shopping--summer clearance for the baby, some shirts without stains all over them, that sort of thing. Well, we never got as far as the outlets, because Littlestown, which we have to drive through to get there, was revving up for a giant yard sale weekend. We shopped 'til we were exhausted and the baby was howling, and spent over $70--at yard sales, for pete's sake--and filled the car pretty solid. At the very first yard sale, we spent $35, and not a single item more than $1. I loaded up on new-condition textbooks for Evelyn--4 sequential math texts for grades 3-6, sequential readers for grades 1-5 and several other readers, a sixth grade science text, and a children's text-book style book about Europe and Russia, as well as some cookbooks and a volume about Echinacea. Also, a good-condition game of Memory and assorted playdough toys, and some rusty metal bits for Jacob. Over the course of the day we picked up assorted baby clothing, 7 all-wool sweaters, over 100 books, mostly but not entirely children's books, and various other things.

Then Saturday morning we headed out for the farmer's market, and ended up stopping at half a dozen yard sales on the way there, too. Didn't pick up too much, but we did get some more baby clothing, most notably a super soft and super sweet fuzzy brown jacket with, as we term them, "Ewok ears" on the hood. Also a book with attached color-coded laces to help Wyatt learn to tie his shoes, an AC/DC shirt for me so that I can wear it when Evelyn wears her AB/CD shirt, and a couple of Schleich knights and horses (which we are jokingly referring to as Evelyn's My Little Ponies). Also a complete-in-box beginner's wine brewing kit, much like the beer brewing kit we already had, and valued by us as much for the big food-safe bucket as anything else. Also, already operating out in the shop, a dehumidifier. And last, but not least, a blue plastic rocking boat for Evelyn--you know, the Step 2 molded plastic yard toy stuff.

Anyway, that got my shopping yen out safely, and we had loads of fun, and even got more than a few things that we would have bought sooner or later anyway. At this point, Evelyn is set for winter clothes and not too bad for summer clothes for years to come, mostly from yard sales. It's the way to go!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The latest outgrowth of the excellent local natural/AP parenting group I'm part of is a semi-separate group created for the express purpose of getting together and trading around goods and services; mostly, at this point, produce. In other words, for getting rid of zucchini. ;-) We've met twice so far, and I've nigh-miraculously made both meets (the first time, my mother was in the hospital--up here--and the second time I had to beg a ride AND was getting a cold, so really shouldn't have gone). The first time, I swapped/sold honey, dried peaches, and cucumbers to the tune of about $40 in goods and cash, and today I made something over twenty (again, goods and cash combined) on dried peaches and cucumbers again, a strawberry jam, fresh ground wholemeal flour, and some dried cayenne. I took home tomatoes, fig-raspberry preserves, an orange playsilk for Evelyn, peaches, and some beets. In fact, that's two weeks or so now that I've kept us supplied with tomatoes without actually purchasing any, and our tomatoes aren't in yet. Not half bad!

Next week the swap meet is here, actually, so that's rather exciting and excellent incentive to clean up the yard a bit, at least to cut down on the rusty nail and poison ivy factors (we've been doing this outside, and of course there are small children present). I hope to have more flour, maybe some pickles...ooh, I should do some fruit leather!... a bit more honey, and we'll see what else I come up with. Also, I've invited Nicole to haul some of her stuff over, and she's agreed, so hopefully I can pull her into the fun, too.

I'm very excited about the whole thing, because it represents 1. a way to make money offa surplus stuff, obviously, 2. an excellent development and practice in the informal economy for everyone involved, which I think will be invaluable in the depression to come, and 3. a return to productivity for yards and people largely excluded from the formal economy (at the moment, most of us are stay at home moms). Personally, my garden isn't actually producing much surplus at the moment...the cucumbers are about it and quite possibly will continue that I see my "product line" as being mostly value-added goods like dried fruit, pickles, etc. So far, I've also thought of possibly making some fresh pasta, knitting dish towels and matching cloths around the holidays, making felt balls for the kids, and naturally, loads and loads of sauerkraut. Well, I assume that the audience for sauerkraut will be a little limited, but we'd make tons anyway after last year's excellent experience. Also possibly bean spreads, hummus, cheese spreads, and other prepared dishes. And I hope to create a bit of a regular audience for fresh-milled flour and dried goods. I figure that's a great way to make back some of the money spent on those toys.

So that's my big enthusiasm right now, aside from Evelyn, who is awesome at the moment. I guess about three weeks ago now she took her first independent steps, and by now she's all but dumped crawling and is getting faster and more confident all the time. She's babbling more and showing more receptive language skills, too, which is very nice because I was beginning to think that she was falling rather behind the curve in that department and, of all the places to be a little slow, language is not the one I would have picked. It's been a crazy three weeks with Mamma sick and here nearly three times as long as she meant to be and yadda yadda I won't get into it except to say that it's created a pretty intensive environment for Evelyn, with many more loving adults than usual talking to her and playing with her. Usually, I mostly leave her alone when she's happy, which I feel has value too, but I should probably set aside time on a more regular basis to work/play with her. She likes her new shape sorter and investigates it most satisfyingly. I think she spent a good 15 minutes straight yesterday doing exactly what she was supposed to do, trying pieces in various holes, etc. My acquisitive nature is very eager to see what people will get her for her birthday. We got her a cute wooden tongue drum, which I think she'll like, but whether she does or not, I guarantee the neighbor boys will. Technically the sorter was for her birthday too, but I sorta just opened it when it came and gave it to her...oops. It's not like it makes any difference to her, but I did think that I'd save some things for an actual celebration so that people would know that, in fact, we got her more than one fairly cheap thing. Whatever.

I've also been doing quite well at yard sales the last few weeks. I've picked up more clothing for Evelyn, piles more books for her (I've been reading the "young adult" selections for myself, and so far they're excellent), a manual breast pump to play with, some cute puddle-jumper boots for when she's older and some warm and comfy Robeez boots for this winter (pink, but for 1/7th the original cost I think I can stomach it), and other miscellany. A particularly excellent find is a child's lap harp complete with a stack of tune-sheets that slip under the strings and graph for you what notes to play for only $1.75, presumably because it was out of tune and they lost the tuning key (a wrench worked dandy, but I have hopes of finding a tuning key someday, too). We turned this over to Wyatt on Tuesday, and with a little help he was able to play through about half the songs and put on a concert for Nicole when she came back. He loved it. As far as I know, that was his first experience with making music, so I feel really good about that.

Well, anyway, it's actually the middle of the night. I just woke up to get a snack and pee, and I felt better than I did all day, so stayed up far longer than I should have. I should get my sick butt back in bed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cucumbers! And other things

Last year, our most depressing crop failure (there were several, but such is the price of learning) in the garden was cucumbers. They were insufficiently thinned and parched, despite a fair bit of watering, by the drought. The plants yielded a few bitter, pithy efforts and then died. About the only good thing about that is that they were done early enough that we could pull them out and replace them with a fair crop of turnips.

This year, we were careful to thin rigorously, give the cukes more space, and water obsessively (unfortunately, still from the well, as the rain barrels are still sitting in the driveway mocking us). The other day, we spotted the first fruits of our efforts hiding plumply under the leaves, and picked them and brought them in, with greatest trepidation. Later in the day, my neighbor sent me home from a chat with a cupful of dip made from a spice-mix she was trying out, and my reticence was broken. I cut a good portion of the end off in case on the ends were bitter. I cut off a slice. I admired the fine texture...promising...and finally, I put it in my mouth.

Squeeeeeeeeee! Bestest cucumber EVAR!! No, seriously. It was sweet and flavorful and crisp and cool and delicious, and I do not remember ever in my life eating one that compared, including the one last week from my neighbor's garden. We have had several since, and they've all been up to the mark the first one set. And mind, this is supposed to be a pickling variety! The "eating" variety is less vigorous and hasn't got anything up to size yet.

Currently holding the record for this year's most dismal crop failure are the beets...which is depressing, because the greens looked absolutely lovely, I was very good about thinning them, and it was all very exciting until they completely failed to ever plump out and were thoroughly woody. We have no idea why, which is the main reason it's upsetting. The obvious answer is that we need to get a proper soil test one of these days, instead of just arbitrarily throwing amendments in.

The garden, after several weeks of lull in harvest (and, shamefully, consequent neglect), is recapturing my attention. The tomatoes needed to have been staked a couple of weeks ago at least, and now several are already all gnarly and laid over. The weeds were rank, but I am beating them back most satisfyingly with my newest garden toy--a stirrup hoe. I've wanted one for a while, so we got a cheap-o one to try while we were out on Saturday, and I am delighted. It feels like "scrubbing" the garden like a kitchen floor (not that that's an experience I have nearly as often as I should). You scuffle the hoe (with great effort, if your garden, like ours, is rapidly becoming a meadow) back and forth, then sort of sweep the weeds towards you for collection, and, ta da!, a clean spot! It's terribly satisfying, and much more efficient than any other means we would previously have used. I've gotten about half the garden cleared again, but I badly want to finish clearing the tomatoes before we leave town Thursday night.

Other recent harvests have included some of the onions and all of the garlic. The garlic is lovely, with good-sized heads and all of the spicy, aromatic delight of its farmer's market progenitor. We planted onions in two as seedlings grown by an organic farmer friend of ours, and the other bought as sets from a big box store by Jacob's sister (the onion seeds we actually bought ourselves never got big enough to bother with). The sets are drooping right and left, and don't seem to be getting very big, but they're crisp and mild, and it's still pretty cool. The seedlings are a bit behind, of course (not least because they were, naturally, planted late), so we haven't pulled any of them. We shall see.

Anyway, yay, the garden proceeds apace. The latest is that I've got the tomatoes half weeded, stakes driven though not yet tied up, and the ground cherries are weeded. Looks like I'll have a good fistful of cukes to take down to my mom's this evening!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

a couple addenda

My clever husband made a couple of good points re: the list which I thought I should mention.

First, as regards canisters of propane fuel: he pointed out that with an adapter and a bit of hose, anything that runs off little Coleman canisters can be run off the big boys, which are 1. cheaper, 2. more convenient because you don't have to switch them out midway through dinner, and 3. exchangeable and therefore more environmentally friendly. Suiting actions to words, we bought said adapter, which should be easy to find, since ours came from Walmart on the Coleman shelves.

Second, he added WD-40 to the handy-man section of the list. That's a pretty solid addition.

I'm feeling pretty good, because after a little shopping yesterday we now have a good stock in hand of most of the list. Since the vast majority of that is stuff we use anyway, the main effect is that we've saved money by buying the value-sized packaging and saved hassle by not having to go to the store for any of this stuff any time soon. If that's all this round of "stocking up" ever comes to, then I am well satisfied.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stocking Up

So I've renewed my interest in setting things by thanks to Sharon's post here, and I've been trying to come up with a list of things. We already do grab up whatever we see that's good of most of the things Sharon mentioned, though I haven't yet gotten into the habit of buying up future sizes of shoes (partly because I'm so fussy about the quality/utility of shoes and partly just because Evelyn doesn't even actually wear shoes yet, so I'm not in the habit.) There's a fair bit she hasn't gone into detail on yet, though I hope she will. In trying to come up with my own very specific "shopping list", I also referred to the list mentioned in the comments, which I had seen before.

As before, mostly what strikes me about this second list is how much of it I don't really give a damn about, or don't consider an issue. Shaving supplies? No one really shaves around here anyway, but even if we did, I don't know that we'd consider it critical in an emergency situation. I mean, I'm not faulting the list per the end it talks about retaining your humanity, and probably for some people that includes shaving. But for us? Not so much, unless you consider that we're already pretty much barbarians anyway. A generator is not on our list either, for all of the reasons mentioned. They're noisy, smelly, and nasty, they don't do jack if you don't have fuel anyway, and as some Katrina survivors can attest, they unwelcome element.

Baby supplies are another interesting area. Well, yes, I suppose I have stocked up on baby supplies, in that with any luck I already possess every diaper any child of mine will ever need up to about a year old or more. Which would take a lot of space if they weren't cloth. And the only external thing I need to keep us in salve is olive oil. Basically, I already buy absolutely nothing from the baby aisle, so stocking up on stuff I don't use would be a bit odd, unless I meant it for barter. On the other hand, it has seriously occurred to me to deliberately lactate for as long as I can keep it up, just in case. Feminine hygiene products are the long as I have a good stash of both cloth pads and cloth wound dressings, I don't need to stock up on the disposables.

Again, I'm not bashing the list (at least, for anything but being thoroughly disorganized). On the contrary, I'm finding it useful. It's just that, ultimately, everyone has to make their own list. Which is annoying, I know. I do like to see what other people have thought of, though, so I thought I might put down what I've come up with so far.

It's a big subject, and now that I'm thinking about it, there are a lot of lists to be made. That's okay...I'm a list person. I like lists. This first list is probably best termed "household expendables". It's not emergency-oriented, and it doesn't include tools and other large, one-time purchases. It also doesn't include food--that's a whole 'nother topic.

Speaking of which, one last thing before the list. Some people always have various objections to stocking up, or hoarding, as it may be.

The first is that "hoarding" deprives other people of needed resources. Which it does, in times of scarcity. Which, happily, we haven't hit yet. Right now it's still a "just in time" economy, and demand mostly dictates supply. If I buy something now and then save it, the result is rather that someone else might have it that would otherwise not, if I choose to share. Also, most of the things on Sharon's list, for example, and my analogous list that hasn't yet been made, are things that people are already getting rid of. A good deal of what Jacob and I have set by for hard times is stuff that people were actually throwing away. With that stuff, we save everything that opportunity affords, and we most certainly will share it if people need it.

Another argument is that if society really collapses, then we're going to have to find alternatives anyway, so why not begin that way? That's a dumb enough argument that I think it's probably just a cover for avoidance, but consider: do you want to learn how to grow your own food and make your own shoes and brush your teeth with twigs and wipe your butt with leaves and cook over wood and make twine from weeds all at once, or would you like to be able to delay some of those projects a while? Besides, for all we know, there'll only be a temporary disruption in supply. Or none. Maybe we'll just be too broke to buy this shit. I tell you what: if nothing happens worse than Jacob losing his job, I'll still be mighty fucking glad I stocked up.

And for those of you with a minimalist aesthetic, well, all I can say is 1. Suck it up. Minimalism is pretty clearly a reaction to an affluent society, and while it's a reasonable one, it probably has no place in a poor society. 2. Get yourself some nice built-in storage so you can have it all organized and out of sight. Also, remember...the point is that this IS the minimum you need--just a lot of it at once. I am still a firm believer in “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Last but not least, there's the "how will you protect your stash" argument. Well, hell, how do you protect anything? First choice would be to not give away that you have anything to steal. Are people going to know that I have a couple gallons of vodka in my upstairs bathroom cabinet? Only if I put out a sign. Meanwhile, I don't have much patience with the idea of just not getting anything because someone might try to take it away. Just, uhh, try not to look too prosperous or something. Shouldn't be too hard for us...we look like hobos most of the time.

Okay, anyway, now I'm just procrastinating having to organize the list. Again, this list doesn't include any of the "big stuff", tools, etc. This list consists entirely of what, in shop talk, are known as "expendables"--i.e., you use them up. Well, or in some cases substitutes for expendables, as in cloth diapers. Also, this is MY list. You, obviously, may not need diapers or contact solution. Anyway, enough quibbling, here we go:

Personal hygiene:
  • Toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • soap
  • witch hazel (for blending w/ var. herbs)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • soap
  • extra contacts
  • extra glasses
  • contact solution
  • toilet paper
  • hand sanitizer
  • baby wipes (not for baby...I use cloth for that. In case of water scarcity.)
  • Menstrual supplies (cloth for preference, since we have every reasonable expectation of a steady water supply)
  • Diapers (see above)
  • mineral salt deodorant
Handyman stuff:
  • duct tape
  • zip ties
  • Misc. hardware: screws, nails, bolts, etc. (whatever you find free or cheap. Jacob almost never has to purpose-buy hardware because he scrounges it whenever he finds it.)
  • tarps
  • twine
  • rope
  • Sharpies
  • sand paper
Kitchen (not food):
  • Canning jars and extra lids
  • cleaning rags
  • propane canisters (assuming you have a camp stove that uses them)
  • cheese cloth
  • dish soap
  • scrubbies
  • baking soda
  • washing soda
  • borax (I make our laundry soap w/ washing soda, borax, and bar soap)
  • white vinegar
  • lye (for soapmaking, assuming you have any interest in that)
  • any cleaning products you don't really want to be parted with (in my case, Dirtex for the hardcore dirt and Goo Gone for the sticky messes).
  • Rags
  • Paper towels (for some things they really are easier than cloth)
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • extra work clothes (Jacob destroys jeans and t-shirts like you wouldn't believe)
  • work gloves
  • extra pair sturdy work boots (again, you wouldn't think these were expendables if you didn't know a man like Jacob)
(I started to list a lot more stuff and then remembered that this is supposed to be just remember, there's a lot more here).

  • small bandages
  • sterile cloth or gauze bandages
  • Ibuprophen
  • vodka (for making tinctures)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • antiseptic (we make our own--Kloss' Herbal Liniment)
  • general-purpose salve (again, homemade in our case)
  • echinacea
  • herbal expectorant syrup (we should make our own...get back to me on that)
  • vitamin C
  • arnica gel (for bruises and strains)
  • throat lozenges
  • Benadryl
  • sunblock
  • aloe (a good healthy plant by preference)
  • surgical tape
  • q-tips
  • other stuff I'm not thinking of now cuz this should probably be its own list dear god.
General household:
  • sewing needles
  • thread
  • buttons
  • trash bags
  • safety pins
  • candle wicking (we have shitloads of scrap candles for wax, bought dirt cheap)
  • flashlight batteries
  • aluminum foil
  • ziploc bags
  • paper
  • pens
  • pencils
Okay, that's it for now, I've had enough punishment. Now the figuring out a reasonable schedule for getting what we don't have. Jacob'll have a twitch.

Oh, right...whoops. Wooden matches and condoms.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A thought

I just realized that when I describe Evelyn as "willful" (which, being extremely willful myself, I for one don't mean as a negative) I am referring to exactly the same traits that I refer to when I call her "independent". And, of course, people want their children to be independent and castigate them for being willful.

It's nothing new...I recognized long ago that I love Jacob for his intense practicality and thrift, and have to accept his matching complete lack of romance and tendency to stinginess. I just grok the concept that little bit better now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Little Trekker

Evelyn and I are on better terms after naps all 'round. We're upstairs again by her choice....I was cleaning up the living room in preparation for tomorrow's weekly assault by the neighbor boys, and went to see what Evelyn was shredding in the library only to find that she wasn't in the library at all, but 1/3 of the way up the stairs! (Bad Mama, bad Mama.) So I cheered her on, and she trucked right up the whole way smooth as you please.

It's funny...I'm starting to think of her as a toddler, even though she's neither one nor walking. She's just changed so much and become so capable in the last couple of weeks...I can't quite explain it. We can play games with her, like rolling/tossing a ball back and forth. She can climb all over the couch. She can get into the kitchen cabinets. She can walk with her walker wagon and cruise along furniture without even seeming like she's trying. She just hasn't worked up the interest to try walking on her own!

Of course, this means that her preference is to be busybusybusy, and already we have struggles over her wanting to do things herself and explore everything and that just not being possible all the time. Today we had multiple meltdowns over her wanting my lunch, which she couldn't have chewed. She loves yogurt, also, but wants to feed it to herself and can't, wants more yogurt but won't give the spoon back, etc. I need some better baby dishes. I'd really like something like the Baby Björn dish and spoon set, but 1. I can't quite wrap my head around paying $20 for a plastic dish, and 2. I'd have to pay shipping on top of that, since I don't think anyone local carries them. But I do need to get the small one some more spoons. Her pretty silver ones from her aunt are AWOL and have been for weeks.

Basically, I need to work some more on her being able to do for herself, because she is an independent little soul. The misconception that attachment and dependence are the same thing is stubborn--I assure you, such is NOT the case. When she wants to do a thing, she will brook no matter how far beyond her her selected task may be. And, to be fair, once she decides she wants to do a thing, it's only a matter of time, even if it seems developmentally wildly beyond her. When she started trying to take the tiny (yes, like choking hazard tiny...mama gives her the best things) press-fit lid off the baby oil bottle and put it back on, I figured it was an exercise in frustration...a few days later, she could do it almost without trying. So the lesson is that if she wants the damn spoon, I need to give her the yogurt and a spoon she can handle and stand back (way back).

And she smiles and laughs more these days. Can't complain. ;-)


My birthday present from Jacob is a Country Living grain mill!!

It should be here Wednesday, so yesterday we went to the co-op and got hard wheat and soft wheat and buckwheat (the only thing I've ever made with it is pancakes, but Jacob has an interest in it because he wants to grow it as a cover crop and for the bees) and oat groats. I am terribly, terribly excited. The Country Living is supposed to be pretty much the best hand mill out there. Clever Jacob even called the company (he made a phone call....that's how you can tell he cares. We HATE calling people.) to see if they had any seconds, and they had one with a powder coating flaw, which, you know, who really cares?, and so he got it for $50 off plus a free "Power bar" extension handle that makes turning easier! So that's an $80 savings because I probably would have wanted the handle. Eventually we'll get it set up in the basement with the exercise bike to power it (see, we knew that stupid thing would be useful someday), but at first I expect I'll want to admire it in the kitchen a bit.

My plan for the first batch of wheat is chocolate chip cookies. That's rather more likely of success first off. I'll also have to make a re-run of the blueberry muffins I made yesterday, for a direct comparison to storebought flour. Then I can work on learning to make bread....though, considering I never find time to even do something as simple as making yogurt, which takes a tiny fraction of the time of bread, I have some....uhh...time-management groundwork to do.

On a very similar note, last week I grew some balls and finally went and got a pressure cooker...I spent the money to get a decent one, so it's stainless with a laminate bottom and handles on both sides, etc. I've used it twice so far and I'm in love. I made swiss steak and chicken broth. The chicken broth I did in 35 minutes and the meat fell off the bone like I'd cooked it for hours and hours. What a fabulous way to save time, heat, and energy! And nutrition, too, since it's cooked for shorter times and much less escapes as steam. Next dish should be beans of some sort. I still have to remember to soak them, but I could put them to soak in the morning and then after only a little cooking have them for dinner. Should be GREAT! The swiss steak was good, though since I'm still getting the hang of the pressure cooker thing I just used the recipe straight, whereas normally I would have modified some seasonings and such. For me, the main thing I learned from that was that cooking the meat and veggies together worked better than I feared. The veggies were as cooked as I could be happy with, and the meat could have been more cooked and it would have been okay, but overall it worked fine. Next time I'll be experimenting with depressuring and adding stuff partway.

Alright, I'm'a gonna go now, because Evelyn and I are just NOT on the same page today.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Food Daze

Making major dietary changes is such a huge challenge. Jacob and I have, historically, preferred to make such changes slowly, and so far we've had a fair bit of luck with that. I no longer object to whole wheat sandwich bread, for example, and we now drink copious amounts of water. We go through eggs a lot faster than we used to, but still not as fast as we'd like to given their sheer excellence as a food and our plans to have chickens. I now make and use bone broth at least occasionally, and it's starting to seem pretty easy and straightforward. And eating a lot of local and seasonal food--though we are certainly not as rigorous about this as we would ultimately like to be--is becoming more and more automatic for us.

So much for credit where credit is due. Sometimes, though, a body gets to feeling guilty for taking the slow and lazy way, or starts to wonder how much better it'd feel with a truly good diet (as opposed to a better-than-average diet, which, given the benchmark, might still be quite bad). Or, of course, there's always good old-fashioned mother guilt OhgodwhatifI'mstuntingmybabyforlife. Goldfish, while convenient, probably do not qualify as the height of infant nutrition.

The guilt, for me, mostly originates with the fact that I am more or less completely in control of what we eat in this family. Jacob is quite happy to just be fed, with fairly minimal input in exactly what he's eating, and he would have no problem eating any of the things I would consider trying to feed us. Evelyn, so far, is similarly obliging, and generally gums down whatever she's given, the only significant exception so far being potatoes. And for me, the limiting factors are, quite simply, time and ingenuity. Mostly time, although even for me ingenuity is not at its high point at 9 pm, which is often when we get around to dinner these days.

Well, and even that's not honest...I stay at home. I have all the time in the world. It's the freedom to do something constructive with said time that I lack. In one word, Evelyn. Things are getting better, though. She's more prone to getting busy playing with things for long stretches now. It's still risky, because you never know when she's going to be done playing and want Mama NOW, but it's an improvement.

But I've spent the bulk of the last two days brushing up on my nutrition, and I've got a couple of books I want to order, and I want to dig in. What's called for more than anything else is time management and good planning. For example, that broth has to be started hours or even days in advance, and the same goes for beans. Vegetables must be harvested/bought and then used in a timely fashion. You need to keep track of what you have and what you need, and make the best use of it you can, while keeping things tasty and varied. It'd be unfair to beat myself up about this too's difficult stuff when it's still all new to you. And inserting something into your schedule where it didn't used to be (like the few minutes to make yogurt, and then the few to maintain it) is tricky, especially when, well, you haven't GOT a schedule.

Okay, this is not a useful post. It's only a disorganized purging of my many feelings about improving our household diet, which I'm excited about. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008



I HATE being so isolated. I hate my mother being all alone five hours away and crying because she can only see her granddaughter every month and a half-two months. I hate being alone with Evelyn all day. I hate Evelyn being bored because she's alone with ME all day. I hate never getting anything done all day because I can't seem to balance working and coping with her needs. I hate Jacob coming home at 8-9 at night every day. I hate hardly ever seeing my friends, and feeling guilty when I DO see them because of the gas consumed. This is STUPID, and I don't see a way around it.

When there are multiple people around for her to watch, Evelyn is so much happier. When there are multiple people around to watch HER, I'm so much happier, and so much more gets done. I would honestly be perfectly glad to share living space with multiple other adults, but the world just doesn't work that way any more!

Living in ones and twos is inefficient, emotionally unstable, socially detrimental, wasteful, and supremely inconvenient. It's STUPID. How did we get so trapped? I've felt like this for years and never seen a way clear to do anything about it.

Thank goodness we at least have one set of neighbors we're very close to...without that, I'm not sure the situation would even be bearable.

Jacob, of course, doesn't see things quite the same way, since he's around lots of people most days, and almost never home alone, and even if he were, he's a true hermit...he sincerely wouldn't mind. And, of course, he's never stuck alone with the baby for more than an hour or so.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fuck moneygrubbing doctors

There, is that a clear enough start to my post?

The issue, laid out pretty clearly here (and elsewhere, I'm sure, but I'm lazy) is that the American Medical Association has joined forces with ACOG to oppose homebirth, and, get this, is saying they're going to try and obtain legislation making homebirth illegal. This is totally a reactionary move, and one that I'm pretty confident is sure to fail, since the whole reason for the white-coats (sheesh, I need to improve my command of offensive slang for doctors) getting up in arms is that, well, homebirth is gaining ground pretty rapidly. Which is fair, because it totally kicks the ass of hospital birth, statistically and anecdotally and any way you wanna look at it.

You can see the doctors' point...after all, it's their jobs at stake. And fundamentally, ACOG and the AMA are unions. Unions which apparently are okay with jeopardizing the lives and health of mothers and babies and criminalizing new mothers in order to protect their livelihoods.

I have no inclination to try and treat this subject in a "balanced" way, and honestly I can't think of what I might say in support of the doctors anyway. Scientifically, they haven't got a leg to stand on when they say that all babies should be born in hospital, and socially, I think the boat's already left the harbor and they are, for once, overestimating their political clout. But just in case they try to sneak something in there, I thought I'd relay this. One more time, in case I haven't been clear: Fucking moneygrubbing doctors can fucking bite my ass, and even if they somehow make homebirth illegal I'm having my babies at home.

The End.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Money is time

Well, we're trying to do so damn much these days that we've officially hit the point where we probably ought to just buy something rather than find the time to make it.

I'm not even sure how this happens. We don't engage in any weekly activities, we go out--generally to buy groceries--about once a week, we aren't part of too many clubs or anything. There's really nothing to 'simplify'. What we're doing is very simple...trying to keep up with the house and the yard. And I know that Evelyn is a big part of this, but I swear to you, we just can't do it.

At least, that's what it feels like to me, and perhaps to a lesser extent, to Jacob. Earlier this evening, I was trying to decide whether to do dishes or continue scrubbing rust off of a hand-me-down toy for Evelyn, and Jacob commented that the only sure thing was that whichever one I picked, the other one would just keep getting worse. Or, as I replied, if you're weeding, then the planting's falling behind, and if you're planting, the weeds are growing. My mother used to sing a traditional song that went, "Today is Monday, tomorrow's Tuesday, Wednesday will soon be comin' on...better get up and get moving; the week's half over and the washing ain't done."

There would be enough time, however, if I could, you know, actually get stuff done during the weekdays. But I can't, because I'm either trying to keep Evelyn happy or watching her. If we had a better prepared environment for her, chances are good that she would be happier AND I wouldn't have to watch her so closely. So what I need is a better prepared environment. But that takes large quantities of this mutable time/money stuff, in some combination. It moves from the basic, like installing cabinet locks in the kitchen and baby gates at strategic points (which is not simple either, because at least one of those spots really calls for a custom gate and we'd like to make one but there goes more time...) to the more cerebral, like Waldorf- and Montessori-inspired play areas equipped with high-quality toys ($$$). And then there's the simple and perpetual fact that a cleaner environment is a safer one, but you can't clean effectively while you're watching the kid in your not-all-that-safe house. And she doesn't like to be worn unless she's outside, of course, and then god forbid you do anything but walk around.

There's a long list of things I'd really like to have which Jacob could certainly make (rocket stove, solar ovens, collinear hoe, solar wax melter, solar dehydrator, etc., etc.) but Jacob has more than enough on his plate without any of those, never mind all of them. So at what point do we just say, ahh hell, we DO have money, let's just buy something for once? I'm there, but I think Jacob will never get there. Also, whenever I mention buying something for Evelyn, the fact is that he's not the one spending his day trying to keep her away from the bookshelves or the computer power source or the pantry or or or or and he's not the one that's desperate for a little peace and sanity, even the CHANCE of a little peace and sanity, even if it costs $150. I feel like I have to show him a powerpoint with incontrovertible proof that such-and-such item will repay its full value within the first child's worth of usage or something.

I am a firm believer in making things for oneself and making do and we DO..but dammit, I'm dancing as fast as I can.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Goddamn dirty hippies

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time, but besides obviously never having any time, I keep turning back from the brink before completely alienating myself from polite society. Well, today it's friggin' 5 in the morning and my baby won't sleep or let me sleep so I'm just dumb enough right now to jump off the cliff.

Every time someone mentions conserving water by showering less often or cutting back on laundry or washing hair less and invites comments on what other people do, I always read a long string of, "Oh, I'm cutting back, I shower every other day, but I only wash my hair when it NEEDS it, like, 2 or three times a week..." sort of responses. I'm specifically thinking of this post at Crunchy Chicken's blog, but there have been others. She just straight up asked what people's habits were, and I'll give you the first response, because it is overwhelmingly representative:

"1. Shower every other day
2. Wash hair every other day
3. Brush teeth twice a day
4. Floss once a day
5. Haircut twice a year
6. Soap and toothfloss is natural, shampoo and toothpaste is conventional
7. I'm showering less"

Now, these are generally environmentally conscious people. These are the readers of a woman who uses and heavily promotes reuseable menstrual products, gardens seriously, and has buy-nothing and use-no-plastics type challenges. It's not a mainstream group. I'm kind of forced to assume that even among the water-saving set, this is the standard. It probably sounds quite reasonable to you, the theoretical reader.

Well, I've never responded before (in that case, not least because there were fricking dozens of responses before I even read the post) because clearly I am so beyond the pale that I wasn't sure what purpose responding would serve. But...

Dear fricking GOD people, why do you all spend so much time compulsively cleaning yourselves? I know it doesn't seem that way to you, but it sure as hell does to me.

Okay, okay, let's start this way. I'll just respond to the questions Crunchy asked.

1. How often do you shower/bathe?
In cool weather, maybe as little as every couple weeks. In hot weather, if I'm outside working, maybe every day. It depends on, you know, whether I got dirty, or if I smell bad, crazy stuff like that.

2. How often do you wash your hair?
Every few weeks. Seriously. At first it's really gross, but after a couple months...well, for the first week and a half or so I'm pretty sure if you handled it you'd assume I'd washed it the day keeps the just-washed frizzies that long. After that it tapers off until by the end, yeah, it's pretty greasy, mostly because it is impossible to wash over three feet of hair while holding an infant, so I don't get to do it as often as I'd like, which would probably be more like every two weeks. When it's dirty, I cover it. Simple enough. My hair is much healthier and more manageable for it. My mother follows a similar regime, and she swears she gets far more compliments on her hair than she did before.

3. How often do you brush your teeth?
Depends on if I'm on a kick. I really do think that I should brush them every day--currently I do--but plenty of times I don't. 'Course, I also eat very few sweets, so presumably that makes a difference.

4. How often do you floss?
Uhhhh...wildly irregularly? When I have stuff caught in my teeth, which is to say all the time? Or next to never, if you only count a full-mouth flossing.

5. How often do you get your hair cut?
Every year and a half or so I get around to having my mom trim the dead ends.

6. Do you use "natural" products or more conventional ones?
I use that crystal deodorant stuff (in the summer, none in the winter), Tom's toothpaste (when I use any), baking soda and vinegar on my hair, handmade soaps or Dr. Bronner's pretty much exclusively, oat flour and dilute vinegar on my face.

7. Have any of these habits changed as you've tried to live a greener lifestyle? If so, which ones and how?
I started using more natural products, but it's been quite a while now. Years, in all cases.

This is me, Jacob's actually a lot grubbier than me. He gets dirty more and washes less. I wish he washed his hair more, but he can't be bothered. I like that he smells like a human being. The time I ran out of detergent hand ended up using a scented detergent, the first time I hugged him and he smelled like Whisk I flipped out. (We never used the rest of the Whisk). When I can smell him without hugging him, I tell him so and he usually washes in short order. We also re-wear clothing fairly extensively compared to most.

So here's the thing: Obviously our habits are way, waaay beyond the pale for your average North American, though not by any means for everywhere. But we get sick at roughly the usual rate. We have as many friends as we want and more than we can keep track of, and neither of us has any trouble making friends. None of our (much more conventional) friends has ever taken either of us aside to quietly comment that we might consider a moment with the deodorant, and we don't get suddenly offered mint gum. Jacob has a good, white-collar job and routinely gets an above-average merit raise. Our teeth are in average/better than average condition. Our skin is average/better than average. Am I missing any of the dire tv-ad threats?

So what benefit, exactly, is everyone else getting from the hundreds more dollars, thousands more gallons of water, and god knows how many more minutes per day they're spending on personal hygiene? I don't think they're healthier, and I sure don't think they're happier. They might be closer to godliness. Who knows.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

slogging along

Sometimes I feel like getting stuff done around here is like trying to push through an invisible wall of glue. This weekend (a four day weekend for our family) my mother came up, and we had a great honking huge list of things to do. Out of roughly, say, 25 list items, we accomplished around 7. Of course, as per usual, I was the only one paying much attention to the list, so several things got done that were not on the list, most of which were worthy. For example, we picked pounds and pounds of strawberries and processed quite a few of them, cut and hung to dry rather a lot of raspberry leaves, and bought and planted some very unexpected elderberry bushes. On the other hand, Mamma decided that it would be a good use of time to weed-whack, scrape, and sweep the front sidewalk, which would have gone undone indefinitely had it been left to us. All in all, though I complain, I really feel a hundred percent better than I did last week, because what we DID get done was the most important stuff...the house is once again clean enough to be functional, and all the plants that were dying in containers by the parking lot are now planted. The yard still looks a fright, the garden is still well behind and getting weedy again, and my personal project list (sewing, cooking, crafty type stuff) is, as always, utterly untouched, but things could be (have been) much worse.

Of course, the aforementioned dying plants may yet die, but at least now we've done what we can for them. We planted several golden raspberry canes, a sassafras sapling, an elder bush, and a mulberry seedling, all dug from the yard of a coworker of Jacob's. If they fail, well, at least we didn't pay for them. The raspberries should be fine, at the least. We also divided a couple of clumps of echinacea and planted a couple more seedlings, so as to fill out the sweep of echinacea that backs my front flower bed. The marigolds and calendula finally got planted in front of the vegetable garden. When we finally get around to tackling the compost heap (I'm confident that somewhere down inside there's some actual compost, despite us) I'll top dress the new trees to apologize to them for their cavalier handling and planting. It takes Jacob so long to gouge planting holes out of our rock-and-clay yard that none of the trees got more than a sprinkling of fertilizer-heavy potting soil before he had to come inside for the night.

We decided not to go to the big local Memorial Day auction, so as to have more working time, and were amply rewarded for our forbearance. Jacob's family spent the weekend sorting and distributing his grandmother's possessions (she died a year ago), and on Monday afternoon they stopped by with a load of things for us. Jacob got great piles of tools in various condition, further cluttering his uphill battle of a shop. For the house we got, among other cool things, three wool blankets and a bunch of other linens. Now, I personally think a body can never have too many blankets, because you never know, and fabric is one of the fundamental useful things, so I'm pleased as punch. Along with buckets, jars, bottles, wood, metal stock, hardware, and tools, we "hoard" whatever blankets we come across, and these are definitely nice additions. (For obvious reasons, I'm glad that this house came with ample storage space!)

Well, that's the weekend...things move slowly, but we just gotta keep slogging along.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Motherhood is...

Trying to check your email and eat breakfast with a baby chewing on your knee and a cat standing in your lap. Damn cat never sits. Loves laps, doesn't get the sitting thing. And I have no idea why my knees are so tasty. Well, as a general thing, that is. Right now they're tasty due to the pizza crust residue she saved there last night.

In the interest of gender equity, I should point out that, at the moment, fatherhood is the fine art of standing outside the bathroom holding the howling baby who only wants all mama, all the time and acts as if papa has nettles for fingers.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

I may be crazy

I think I want to start carrying a couple of heavy-duty trash bags around in the back of the car in case of compostables. For example, today we went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and the field they had people parking in had been mowed, but the hay wasn't gathered, and it was pretty thick on the ground. I'm kinda nuts for compost, and it hurt my teeth to see all that good organic material going to waste. Or another example--I was just looking through old pictures on the computer, and came across our shots of the tractor-powered sawmill, giant pile of sawdust in the background. At the time, I wished after that sawdust pile, and seeing it again, I still do. I like finely textured mulch to go around my garden plants, and I'd be quite happy to experiment with sawdust. My understanding is that, so long as you put down a little nitrogenous material underneath it, sawdust is fine stuff.

Anyway, I think I will. Most people think that compostables are trash, so they're free for the taking most anywhere you go. Might as well be prepared.

Friday, May 2, 2008

La Vida Crunchy

Jacob is out mowing the yard with our reel mower while wearing Evelyn in the Ergo. I'm in making cherry pie with the cherries we picked and froze last summer and drinking cold herb tea. Yeah, so the pie crust is bought...Rome wasn't built in a day.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Must write post quickly!

Well, so far this writing thing isn't actually going so well, huh? Evelyn just this week has discovered that crawling is not only a means to get to that cool toy if what's around her isn't interesting enough, but also fun in and of itself. Also, usually where she wants to be is under the office chair clinging to my leg and fussing for attention. Also also, I dunno, maybe she's teething, cuz she's been a major crankypants and I swear I'm gonna get bedsores if we spend any more time dozing and nursing in bed. So this week so far has mostly been a struggle just to keep up with her--so far she's unplugged the computer and done something unfortunate with slobber to the camera's USB cable.

She is absolutely insistent on flipping over mid diaper-change, such that when Jacob is home we actually double-team her, with one of us holding her shoulders down and the other diapering. Doing it alone is exhausting, and I am HUGELY grateful that we do infant potty learning, because it means that I can just leave her diaper-free between naps now and not fight it. I am, however, going to contact my new seamstress friend (who is about to have a baby and is interested in infant pottying too) about little training pants like these. That and cloth pads, for when that becomes relevant again (may it be a distant day!).

All of this disorganized babbling does put me in mind of a greater truth, though--changing your lifestyle and being sustainable is an everyday, intimate, sometimes even boring thing. Here we have fine examples of both reduce (infant pottying reduces diaper use and thus water consumption) and reuse (cloth diapers, trainers, and pads). We also have a fine opportunity to support the local economy (going to a local seamstress rather than buying online). Not only is this true for our household, though, but it continues the process of inspiring other local mamas to do the same.

We just keep plugging away and doing little things, and they add up. After several days of work, Jacob has dug up the sod on a berry bed nearly as large as our current vegetable garden, and transfered gravel from the ugly tatty driveway area we don't want to the berry-patch path we do want. His bulk coal bin made entirely from scrap materials and oops paint is almost done, and will be an extraordinarily fine coal bin. My neighbor recycles now because we do. My mother-in-law got a table cloth at the thrift store and cut it up for cloth napkins at least in part because she saw us always using cloth napkins. I've started hanging out laundry again with the nice weather. When Jacob gets a moment, he'll figure out how to turn down the hot water heater, which we should have done long ago (it's very large and running very hot).

And, rather excitingly from my point of view, we just ordered a new Ergo baby carrier. The hope and expectation is that with this carrier, I will be able to wear Evelyn easily on my back and get more done. I can wear her on my back in the Mei Tai that Mamma made me, but it's a real trick getting her there on my own and she scrunches and sags and pulls on my shoulders rather badly. I am hoping (though not expecting) that the package will come by the time we leave for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on Saturday. If it doesn't, obviously I can use the Mei Tai, but it'd be pretty cool if it did.

Last but not least, I've just had an epiphany regarding my extremely low energy and physical weakness lately. One of those painful, stupid, but nonetheless extremely useful epiphanies. If I had to guess, I'd guess that I am currently extremely anemic. Duh. At least that's fixable, eh? Wish I could figure an easy solution like that to this cranky, cranky baby.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The elephant in the corner

It's always been a bit weird preparing for a crisis that most people either have never even considered or think is hogwash (got into a conversation at the seed-n-feed yesterday with the clerk, who thought climate change was a joke), but over the last few months, as the news gets more and more uniformly awful, it's gotten much weirder. Almost every conversation I have with anyone but my husband or mother starts to feel like having a conversation about the weather while someone is unexpectedly bulldozing the neighbor's house. If I feel comfortable enough with a person, I might refer obliquely to the fact that things aren't, you know, going so well, are they?, but what I really want to do is run door to door through my neighborhood yelling "Hello! What is wrong with you people?! Wake UP while you still have a chance to do something to help yourselves!" And I don't see that being well-received.

What's really becoming uncomfortable to me is that I'm part of two local groups, one a sustainability discussion group looking to become something more, and the other an AP-natural parenting group, that both probably contain a high ration of people who would be receptive to some information...even painful information. And yet so far I've said nothing. I mean, generally these are people who know that things as they are are not things as they should be, and more to the point, are not sustainable. But I haven't piped up yet to say that not only are they not sustainable, they're going to stop "sustaining", so to speak, pretty much any minute now.

Part of it is misplaced mercy, certainly. I hesitate on the verge of posting a revealing blog link or comment to the listserv, thinking about the numbing fear I first felt when I was introduced to the ideas of peak oil, imminent climate change, and the myriad other "smaller" problems lurking just under the smooth surface of the world. Part of it, certainly, is just simply not knowing what to say. "The world is totally fucked up and we're all screwed!" is a pretty good summary, but not very useful or likely to be received well. But neither of those is a remotely good enough reason to deprive these people of a potential chance to try and shield themselves and their loved ones from the worst of what is to come, so in the end I guess it's cowardice as much as anything.

Same as everyone else, I still want to act like everything's normal. I still want to be known as friendly and easygoing, likeable, nice kitchen, makes good lentil soup. I don't want to be a Cassandra, or a leader. I like to provoke discussion without people realizing I started it. But I do think that, things being as they are, that M.O. is looking more and more like cowardice.

I think it's time to speak up...if only I could figure out how.