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Showing posts from June, 2010

Wild Raspberries

The backs of my hands and the insides of my arms up way past the elbow are currently rough to the touch.  Look closely, and you can see the faint red cross-hatching left from my forays into a patch of black raspberries behind our new-to-us house.

I keep finding myself running my hands lightly over my raspberry scars.  It may sound odd, but they're a source of no small satisfaction to me.  They don't hurt much, and they remind me of something that is becoming precious to me: a connection not just with the land our house sits on, but with being alive and in my body in a way that last year, living downtown in a small city, I was not.

The house, the land, the land-love, and the plastic fast... and now this, my raspberry scars, are all connected.  Let me tell you how.

Last year, we bought this house, a hundred and fifty (or so--the records are lost) former farmhouse on a little less than an acre of land.  The house is long on "character"--floors that slope gently or not-so…

Leadings and Stops--and Intuition

Part 1 of 3. 
(Part 2 is here.) 

Every now and then, I try talking about my peace testimony to others who do not share my sense of how our political values are rooted in our spiritual lives.  Some have visions of God or gods who are far away and unconcerned with human life; others do not believe that the world of religion is relevant to ordinary life; many do not believe in any sort of God or Spirit or spiritual underpinnings of life in the first place.

Some of my best friends are atheists.  They are remarkably tolerant people.  I suppose my going on and on about God and Spirit and religion sounds a lot to their ears the way listening to friends who are obsessed with stamp-collecting or quantum physics or the latest high tech gadgets sound to mine.  I mean, I'm happy that they're happy, glad they are interested and have no doubt that it's all very meaningful... to them.  But I'm not about to join them at the philatelist's convention, and past a certain point, I hav…

Catsup, Ketchup, Cat's Sup.

OK, more like Peter's actually.

Peter is the real catsup fan in the house.  I like it on the really skinny, bad-for-you kind of french fries that I shouldn't be eating anyway, but Peter likes it on lots of things.

And we ran out of our last pre-plastic fast bottle a week before last--just at the start of cookout season.  What fun is a portobello burger with no catsup?  Alas, I am no longer able to find it locally in a glass container.

Happily, there are lots of recipes online.  Here's the one I used... though I chose it mostly from convenience, because it used (or I felt comfortable substituting) ingredients I already had on hand.  It was very easy to make, and I understand that some cooks, who really like to save money, make an even simpler version than this, with nothing but tomato, water, vinegar, salt and sugar.

Cat's Catsup

1 can of tomato paste (I chose organic)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 T. molasses
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. good quality curry powder
1/4 ts…

Week Three Plastic Tally and the Problem of Stealth Plastic

Did you miss us?  My last day of school was yesterday; Peter's was two days before that.  Every year, it's the same thing: achingly hard work to begin and end the school year, and achingly hard work to end it.  And every year, I forget just how hard it's going to be.

Maybe that's for the best.  I don't know.

In any case, tired or not, we did our weekly weigh-in and photograph on Sunday, as usual.  This week was a bit discouraging: 14 oz.  That's because we did a bit more unpacking--we moved last summer, but (did I mention the part where teaching school is a lot of work?) we're still emptying out and breaking down boxes, especially of the last minute stuff.

One box of last minute stuff contained a very old pair of my flip-flops.  Needless to say, I am not in the market to buy more of them, so I was very happy to find these... until I tried to put them on.  The plastic, brittle with age, simply snapped, and 8 oz. of non-recyclable plastic joined the pile for thi…

Fireflies

Officially, summer begins on the summer solstice, June 21.

In actuality, as any school-child or teacher can tell you, summer begins on the day that his or her own school lets out for summer vacation.  This year, summer begins on June 23, at least for me.  However, it's doing a very nice warm-up act already.

Last night, I was dumbfounded by the fireflies in my yard.

I grew up with fireflies--and crickets, and song-birds, and trees.  I remember that when I was perhaps eleven years old, I read a Ripley's Believe it or Not anecdote about a doctor who was able to perform a surgery, once, by the light of a jar of fireflies.  As a kid, that seemed utterly plausible to me.  I remember that many, many nights in my childhood, my brother and I would roam the yard, with jars in hand, catching fireflies.  We caught a lot--though never enough to light a surgery, I must admit.

But even in the years I lived in Vermont, as an adult, the fireflies seemed to have faded away.  There never seemed …

Week 2 Plastic Tally: 6 oz, Divide by Two

So I was expecting a horrible result for the plastic weigh-in this week, partly because my husband Peter has joined me in the no-plastics challenge, and he bought bookshelves this week... that had been padded, in their boxes, with styrofoam.

It is amazing how much volume plastic has for its mass, though.  Our combined total for the week was still 6 oz.

And, to make the definitions clearer:
Last week, I was not counting Peter as a full partner in this challenge--though he has modified his habits some, too.  Last week, I did count whatever plastic packaging I used and discarded cooking for both of us, but I did not have Peter save anything he created on his own.

We are now defining our plastic waste as our household waste, generated by the two of us--the ugly pile you see in the photograph is at least the product of two American consumers rather than one.

We are neither of us, however, trying to count indirect plastic.  For instance, when the local deli cut me off a half pound of cheddar che…

Pagan Values: Community.

It's one of my favorite memories.

On the last day of the small Pagan gathering, perhaps a dozen of us had hiked down the hill, piled into our cars, and made our way to the neighborhood pancake house.  Sweaty and grimy, smelling of woodsmoke and insect repellent, clad in hiking boots and sneakers, shorts and blue jeans, we had taken one long table in the middle of the restaurant.

The restaurant itself is a celebration of all things down-to-earth and Vermont.  I've seen farmers enjoying a plate of eggs still wearing their barn boots--and been grateful to the ones considerate enough to hose them off first--as well as hunters stoking up either before or after a morning of deer hunting, families with babies in high chairs, and, of course, in leaf season, the occasional tourist.

There's nothing occult or New Age about the Sugar House.  It's just there, as it has  been for decades, with it's fluorescent lights, tiled floor, and picnic style benches and tables: a local fix…

Local Food and Mysteries Solved

This week, I thinned out the volunteer saplings that had sprouted up amid the groundcover around the stump of an old white pine. We would never have taken down that pine tree ourselves, but by the time we bought the house, the damage had been done.

The downside to that has been a loss of a wonderful visual screen between the lawn and our busy street.

The upside is planting a mini-orchard of semi-dwarf apples along the front of the property, to eventually serve the same role... and maybe provide us with some truly local produce. (Zero food-miles is a pretty environmentally nice number.)

But what to do with the island of groundcover in the middle of it all has been something of a question. I don't much feel like trying to eliminate the old tree roots--that was an enormous tree. I've thought about planting some rosa rugosa to grow over the old stump, and eventually fill up the island. But in the meantime, the volunteer saplings kept growing: a clump of swamp maples, and somethi…

Week 1 Plastic Tally

OK, so it is actually a little less than a full week; I began collecting my plastic on June 1st. However, I want to have a regular weigh-in day, and Sunday will probably work out best, so here we are.

The grand total for Week 1: 6 oz. of plastic.

I was really quite discouraged at the amount of plastic I'd accumulated in the (plastic! But not new plastic) bin for this week, until I weighed it out. Actually, I still feel apologetic, and feel the need to point out that a lot of the items in this week's collection, things like the yogurt container and hand sanitizer bottle, are from purchases from weeks or even months back. Hand sanitizer, like liquid soap generally, is something I'll be avoiding in future: I've swapped over exclusively to bar soap and powdered, which comes in cardboard (though with a little plastic measuring cup, unfortunately), with the possible exception of dishwashing detergent. Though my friend Hystery tells me borax works for washing dishes, so …

Environmental Mindfulness

Day Two of the No Plastics Project, and so far I'm noticing how much I have not been noticing.
First of all, to be clear, I am not, unlike Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish, even trying to get rid of the plastic that I have in my house, serving in long-term jobs. Though I suspect that plastic does pose health threats to humans, I'm almost fifty years old. I've been surrounded by the stuff most of my life, my reproduction is done, and my concern is focused on the harm done by the production of new plastic, and the disposal of old stuff. I'm fine with using the plastic I already have--in fact, it seems to me that the most ethical thing I can do with existing plastic is hang onto it, take care of it, and keep it in use as long as I can. That goes for the stuff that has contact with food, like Teflon on my pans and plastic food containers, as much as it does for the vinyl siding (I know, I know--I didn't put it on there!) on my house.
My main focus is simple--or at …