I TRIED to get this post out yesterday, on May 1st, but things just didn’t work out, so here it is, a day later. The date has changed, but the topic is timely…
“May Day” is an internationally recognized distress signal. I believe our living system called Earth is in great distress and using the term in regards to its’ condition is no longer considered crying ‘wolf’. I also see our response to the May Day call as being in a state of extreme transition, and this blog digs in to that process, albeit in a gentle way. By that I mean that I save my personal feelings and observations about the future of life on this planet for my own middle of the night terror and instead use gentle rhetoric to persuade and motivate my readers to consider ways we might not only save the earth but do so in a spirit of cooperation rather than one of deprivation. I’ve been writing about transitioning for 10 years now, without seeing much change in the way things are. Lately however I’ve been reading and witnessing a greater shift toward restoration, regeneration and evolution.
There’s a phenomenon called ‘the tipping point’ which is described as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. It is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. All that said, I believe we’ve reached a tipping point concerning understanding and acceptance of “climate crisis” (which more properly describes the original benign term of “climate change”).
OK, so we’ve reached a tipping point. Now what? I mean hell, we’ve already replaced our light bulbs and insulated our homes. Jeez, we’ve even bought our Priuses and are carrying our own water bottles and shopping bags. I can hear you bitching, “what more do you want us to do lady?”
The president of the United Nations puts it this way: “The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centered economy but rather a people-centered economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. These should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.” Pope Francis considers it an all embracing moral imperative to protect the earth, which ”could unite the whole human family”.
We need to create controversy and kick up some dust. We need to create a common vision and then we need to actively focus our efforts on changing the powers that be. Write letters folks. Rally and march to make your voices heard. Call your elected officials, even if you know they’re ideas differ from yours. VOTE in the upcoming elections. Set examples and try to inspire others by ‘being the change we wish to see’. We know what we have to do. Now we just have to do it.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Back to Basics, Community Building, Creating Community, Eliminating Waste, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: Consumerism, food, frugal, growing food, homemade vegetable broth, Longkeeper Tomatoes, Radon, vegetarian
These mid-winter days offer me time to ponder the meaning of life, gaze lovingly at my navel, and cross long-carried-over-to-do-items off of my to-do-list. I’ve even cleared out my sewing basket which I think has been on the list for a year now!
January was National Radon Awareness Month and since I have lung cancer I’ve been thinking a great deal about the dangers of RADON-a leading cause of lung cancer. So, I orRdered a free home test kit here: https://tdec.tn.gov/Radon_Online/frmRADON_Online.aspx and I hung it for 6 days for testing, mailing it back to the state yesterday.
It’s precise but simple, and did I mention it’s free? It also comes with a prepaid mailer to return it in! Now be aware…if you find your home has radon, you’ll need to be prepared to remediate the problem if you plan to ever sell your home, or you’ll have to at least disclose it should you sell. But I would hope you wouldn’t wait to sell to alleviate the problem should you show a high reading. I understand the average remedy costs about $1,000-$1,500 if someone else does the venting work necessary to move the radon out of your living area. It could probably done much cheaper if you do it yourself. How hard can that be? haha don’t answer that, please. I’ll let you know when I get my test results back..we’re hoping of course we don’t have any problems.
I’ve also been making lots of soups and canning soup stock, using frozen bags of onion and carrot tops, mushroom stems, celery tops and other trimmings that I save for just such purpose. Last week I made 10 qts of organic broth, and at today’s prices, that equates to at least $20. My time is certainly worth that, and on cold days it helps to warm the house and add humidity by simmering that stock for hours. The resulting golden goodness is good for making soups obviously, but also for cooking rice, pasta, potatoes or beans in too.
Speaking of good food and cooking from scratch… I’ve had so many readers ask me for vegan/vegetarian meal ideas that I’ve been writing down what we eat for supper each night, always making sure there’s enough left for lunches the following day. It’s an easy process once you get used to it. I’m sharing this oh-so-exciting information with you, my readers, because maybe you’re one of the ones that have asked for ideas. (If this bores you, just go to the next section.) So, for the first week of February, here was the Jones’ menu:
Week of February 1st,2016
Monday: Good Shepard’s Pie-potato topping made with soymilk and Smart Balance vegan spread-filling contained beans, broccoli, corn, kale, green peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, bay leaf, dried basil, and srirachi sauce. (This is called GOOD Shepard’s Pie because a GOOD shepard doesn’t eat his sheep.)
Tuesday: Fried Rice w/peas and carrots in peanut sauce, roasted brussels sprouts
Wednesday: Aloo Gobi over Jasmine Rice with Fusion Slaw and Rolls
Thursday: Bean and Potatoes Burritos w/Guacamole, leftover Asian Slaw
Friday: Kale, Mushrooms and Potato Bake w/Salads and Whole Grain Rolls, fresh pineapple chunks
Saturday: Grill Cheese Sandwiches w/canned soup, with pickles and fresh fruit (bananas, pineapple and red grapes)
Sunday: Pad Thai w/Naan and Salad
Looking at the lengthening days and the calendar I’m beginning to think about spring planting of course. We ate our last Longkeeper tomato last week…
...so the goal is to grow more of them and get them in earlier than we did in 2015 so that hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough this year to last the whole winter next year! When planning your own garden, perhaps you can find space to plant a “ROW” for the “Rest of the World.” Because I live in the city, all I have to do to share that extra produce is to set it out on my front steps.
If you aren’t in a high walkability area you may need to load it up and take it to your nearest food pantry or church. Please consider this one little addition to your garden this year…it can make a big difference and won’t cost you much of anything to provide good food for someone who doesn’t have it.
I’ve long advocated that we use our homes as a place of productivity, not simply a center of consumption. There’s a LOT of trouble in this big world and so I feel compelled to do what I can personally to feed and clothe and keep my family as safe and healthy as I possibly can. I share this blog with you in the hopes that it may inspire you to become more self sufficient in any way you can too. It’s my unpaid job but more satisfying than any other position I’ve ever held. It helps me to feel as secure as I possibly can given the state of things. The stock market has crashed again (no surprise there) but since I’ve not been in good health we aren’t driving much (except to doctors’ appointments!) so we’re hardly spending anything on gasoline these days. I love that we can walk to almost every place we need to, giving me an extra layer of assurance that ‘all will be well’. I need that assurance in order to BE well.
In order to create resilient and prosperous households and neighborhoods, it starts at home with me, with you, and you.
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Back to Basics, Household Economics, Simplicity, Transitioning, Voluntary Simplicity | Tags: backyard hens, clotheslines, compost bins, frugal, growing food, productive, rabbits, reusing, simplicity, the good life
Back in about 1967, (you know, when dinosaurs walked the Earth) all 7th grade school girls were required to take “Home Economics”, while boys had to take “Wood Shop”. I still have the sturdy footstool by brother made for our mother but I happily no longer have the ugly red dress I had to make-with darts and a zipper! At the time I resisted the sewing and cooking skills taught to us by Mrs. Fuller, but the concepts stuck with me, and for most of my adult life I’ve been able to sew a complete wardrobe- from a Barbie dress to a wedding dress- or cook a 10-course meal from appetizers to dessert. Too bad most folks don’t still consider those valuable skills, but with yard goods now costing more than many fully-made, store bought garments, and convenience foods costing less than many food basics, I can understand the reasoning-if pure frugality is the only criteria. Having raised four daughters, sewing and cooking skills were invaluable to our family.
Now that I am beginning to see the light at the end of my chemo tunnel, I am reminded anew that those skills and more are part of me now and frugality is not the only criteria. I just don’t know how to live my life any other way. Michael and I deliberately chose to live a life of voluntary simplicity when we took early retirement in 2002-I at 49 and he at 55, a decision we’ve never once regretted. Sure, we’ve had to make choices, but those choices were often very agreeable ones: did we want 150 channels of Cable TV or could we be satisfied with a roof top antennae and a converter box? The extra time not spent watching so much television opened the door to many other pleasant activities, like playing music and volunteering, gardening, writing this blog, joining a church and other organizations that hold similar values to ours. Over the years we also discovered that using our house as a center of production vs using it as a center of consumption fit right in with a simpler lifestyle, all while enabling us to live lives that feel very rich indeed! We’ve had to make some concessions recently due to lingering health problems and increased medical expenses, but growing and preserving food, reusing and repurposing, all while making the house as energy efficient as possible still allows us to live comfortably in spite of the increased expenses. My grandmother used to call it “Pulling in your horns”. I prefer ‘radical home economics’ because the former makes it sound like a temporary situation, but radical homemaking is truly a way of life.
I recently read a blog post about how some middle class folks just like us are buying older, smaller homes in well-established neighborhoods and using every inch of available space in the home and yard to increase the home’s productivity: some are renting an extra room out, others are converting former garages into home office space or workshops. Others are tending small flocks of hens and beehives; but what about rabbits? When my daughters were young and involved with 4-H projects we started with a buck and two does and within 6 months had 32 rabbits! A quiet, high protein source of meat that could easily be grown, harvested and prepared for the freezer was the idea-far easier than chickens, pigs or cows, for example.
Radical? not really. But I digress…
Many are converting front-yards to raised beds for growing fresh food and back-yards to clothes lines, compost bins and rainwater storage barrels.
These conventional, affordable homes are being converted to radical home economies and are substituting beautifully for the large homesteads that were so eagerly sought after in the ’70s and ’80s. AND these homes can often be paid for with the proceeds made from selling their former McMansion or McSpread. It’s heartwarming to me, especially during this cold spell we’re experiencing here in NE TN, to know we are not alone.
What are you doing to make your home productive vs consumptive? This first month of this new year is a good time to think about ways you might do that in 2016, then share them with the rest of the readers in the comments section.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Wellness | Tags: cabbage, cancer, health, Hoppin' John, New Year, wellness
I last posted on this blog September 26th. I tripped on some brick steps in the middle of a workday on October 14th and while the resulting wrist break was ’cause for pause’ the additional discovery of Stage 4 lung cancer changed my life forever. With my arm in a cast and unable to type, I simply gave up on the blog until I could type again. The cast finally came off last week and it turns out that typing seems to be good physical therapy for the newly-healed bone. Then mid-day on this New Year’s Eve, it occurred to me that THIS was probably a good day to return to something I enjoy doing, with the hopes that you’ll enjoy reading.
I’ll start by showing off the four big cabbages I harvested today from my plot in the community garden-perfect for tomorrow’s traditional New Year’s day, good-luck meal of Hoppin’ John and fried cabbage. If you’re not familiar with Hoppin’ John, it’s a rather spicy, Creole-tasting sacrament made with the perfect trifecta of onions, celery and peppers along with black-eyed peas, sausage, tomatoes, rice and greens, with a coin hidden in the pot to symbolize wealth in the coming year. Many people make this southern dish with greens (mostly collards) but I like to fry cabbage to go with my Hoppin’ John and nature provided her very best for this special occasion. Surely I will have a healthy and wealthy 2016!
All of this is simply to say that, just as nature transformed my seeds into cabbage heads, and transformed my broken bone into a well-mended wrist once again, I have confidence that my cancer can and will be ‘cured’ and I’ll be able to make the transition from cancer patient to survivor.
Even though this blog will remain focused on ways that we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today, I can’t simply ignore the transition that my body is currently going through. To that end, I plan to focus more on healthy ways that we can create that way of living. Without good health, we have nothing. I can honestly say that the fall, with broken wrist, was MY LUCKY BREAK. I was feeling very well prior to its’ discovery and without the trip to the ER the cancer may not have been diagnosed until months down the road. Months that I didn’t have to spare.
I am also editing this blog’s ‘About Page’ to include the words ‘and personal’. Now is the time to take stock and to re-create our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community and personal well-being.
I wish you the best for the coming year and always. Eating some greens and Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day practically ensures that you will get your own ‘lucky break’ in 2016. Happy New Year everyone!
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change | Tags: Christmas parade, community building, community gardens, Farmer's Market, Neighborhood Associations, Neighborhood Watch, pollinator garden, pollinators, pumpkins, renewable energy, solar panels, vegan diet
October is definitely a transition month. As we move from one season to another, the changes are obvious. The temperatures, the leaves, the clothes we wear and the foods we eat are all in transition. This first fall-like day here in NE TN saw me wearing tights instead of shorts, seeing nuts and pumpkins and apples for sale at the Farmer’s Market, and making a pot of soup for supper (to help use up the last of the summer squash, tomatoes and peppers).
As a species, we often resist changes, particularly those that we perceive to be difficult or perhaps even unwanted. But the transitions that I write about can lead to a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. And I believe those transitions have begun: just like the changing leaves, I can actually see them, and their coming into focus gives me hope for our collective futures like nothing else! Re-creating that future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being will ensure that, regardless of what goes on in the world, we’ll all eat, and we’ll all have shelter from the storms of life. This transition idea isn’t some utopian idealism in my mind, but is actually becoming the new reality of this century. It seems that almost every day I read, see, or hear about yet another group of neighbors, friends or citizens that are coming together to grow food, share tools, downsize and otherwise help one another not only survive, but thrive. Isn’t that what we all want?
My own long-defunct neighborhood association has recently reconvened and taken positive first steps to cut crime, make our streets safer with better lighting, and start a neighborhood watch program, all while involving kids and teens in the process. We are formulating working plans for action teams to tackle illegal July 4th fireworks that go on way beyond the holiday each year, as well as a ‘Pumpkins in the Park’ kids’ event, and a float in the upcoming Christmas parade. I’m also excited that we’re going to have a ‘Community Day’, which should be a great way to further our connections with one another!
These neighborhood transitions are taking place at the same time that transitions are slowly taking place in nearby downtown. On our walk this evening we noticed yet another old building having the cheap 60’s era facade torn off to re-expose the beautiful brickwork and arched windows of an earlier era. Our new $1.5 million Farmer’s Market is nearing completion, and a new community garden is being installed in a low income housing community. If THAT’S not tangible proof of changing attitudes about the value of local food systems, I don’t know what is! Conserving natural resources is another area going through transitions. Some of our downtown businesses have recently added solar panels and hydroponic gardens to their buildings, while others are using the latest conservation methods they can. Alternative energy systems are no longer considered futuristic idealism, but will become the norm for most of us during our lifetimes. Our municipal landfill has been developed into a gas energy project that turned it into a community asset, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and creates renewable energy by turning its’ waste into wealth, and now provides our VA Campus and part of the local college with landfill gas. And our public library is replacing the old front lawn with a pollinator-attracting ‘meadow’ made up of native plants that will be watered by rainwater collected from a roof- top collection system that will lead to an underground filtration system that will keep the new landscaping watered without using any extra water. The sustainability factor of this new landscaping will likely serve as a model for future pollinator projects: talk about transitioning!
And finally, on a very personal level, Michael has discovered, through much trial and error, that a completely plant-based diet has restored him to good health again. We love bacon as much as anyone, but if you remember, I discontinued my high cholesterol statin a few months ago and he really struggled with mysterious autoimmune type symptoms since he finished his chemotherapy last summer so we were desperate to find solutions to both health issues. We are now transitioning to a vegan diet that seems to have resolved both problems.Transitioning can take many forms, and this is just one more. We’re calling this a lifestyle change, rather than a diet, because ‘diet’ makes it sound temporary but this transition is for life! The good news is that we’re hoping this change keeps us healthy and that we’ll be able to provide for most of our dietary needs through gardening and by making regular visits to that new Farmer’s Market!
Buckminster Fuller once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” I always did like Bucky…
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Back to Basics, Resilience | Tags: backyard hens, community building, frugality, Great Depression, Little Free Libraries, muncipal composting, prosperity, stock market crash, sustainability, USDA, walkability
This blog is mostly about ways to create resilient and prosperous households, neighborhoods and communities, or, as implied in the picture above, ways to “do stuff”. I wrote a post earlier this year on ‘redefining prosperity’ and I’ve been reminded of it several times this week while listening to lunch break talk. As you probably know, stock markets around the world have taken a beating since last Friday, and folks, from economists to retirees to my workmates are worried. Call me crazy, but I’m not worried, even though we lost a lot ON PAPER due to the plunge. I try to measure my personal prosperity based on how wealthy I am in non-tangible ways rather than on what the monthly statements tell me. Of course I hate to lose money, even if it is ON PAPER, as much as anyone. But I don’t feel any real sense of loss. I’m not going to sell out now, I’m going to stay the course and let the blue chips fall where they may. In the meantime I intend to continue doing whatever I can to make my home and family and community more resilient, so that when the economic crashes and recessions occur-and they will!- we’ll still be standing.
On a personal level, that means staying out of debt and paying cash or doing without. It means using what I have on hand, before buying something, whether it’s a jar of our home-grown tomatoes or a bottle of shampoo. It means continuing to grow as much food as I can, saving my own seeds and making small mountains of compost so that I can return what I’ve taken from the soil, and then doing it all over again next year. It means keeping my body as strong and as healthy as I can through healthy eating, regular exercise and sleeping 7 or 8 hours each night. It means repairing rather than replacing, putting food up for the winter, hanging the sheets on the line to dry, using the fan rather than the AC and driving the car less. I have the tools I need…
Resiliency and prosperity is different for each of us though. Perhaps for you it’s working through debt, learning a special skill that might be useful in bad times, or starting your own small business. For ALL of us, it really does mean having a local supply chain, just like our grandparents did during the Great Depression. When China’s economy collapses (and according to recent NPR reports that’s not as far fetched as you may think) that familiar ‘made in China’ supply chain will break and we’ll be dependent on what we can produce right here at home. And if that chain doesn’t break, doesn’t it just make SENSE to supply ourselves with our own stuff, right here at home? We need the jobs here-badly. And by the way, I’d advise China to do the same. Did you know that last month the USDA gave the OK to ship our LIVE chickens that were raised here to China for processing, then ship the meat BACK to the US for our consumption? What would our grandparents have thought of that hare-brained scheme? Would they have raised their own backyard chickens and sent them away to butcher? In direct contrast, check out the message on this poster that the USDA produced during the Great Depression:
Our recently re-activated neighborhood association met with the chief of police and the sergeant assigned to our district Monday night to discuss ways we can keep our neighborhood safer and free from July 4th fireworks that go on throughout the month. Working side by side with neighbors on issues that affect all of us is a sure way to get to know one another and be part of a more livable community. There were 33 people at the meeting, with plans to have block captains, neighborhood watches and to be represented in this year’s Christmas parade! That’s the start of better resilience for sure. I’m hoping at some point we’ll begin to talk about public gardens,orchards and vineyards, bike lanes, Little Free Libraries and “Safe Houses”, health clinics and more. We have the tools we need…
And finally, on a larger community level, resiliency and prosperity might mean outlining a detailed plan for community food security or supporting a community-owned energy system, municipal composting facility or ride sharing plan. It may mean a leaner and slower way of life for some, but also a healthier, happier and more peaceful world for us and future generations to enjoy. We have the tools we need… What we do with them is up to us.
Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: peace building, Storytelling, travel
Wendell Berry, probably my favorite author, writes: “To make a living is not to make a killing, it’s to have enough“.
I am so thankful that I have ‘enough’. At least enough of what makes life good: love, friends, good food, a house I love, and money. Does one ever have enough money? Some do, most of us don’t. I have no debt and my needs are few, so I can honestly say I do. But-here’s where it gets sticky-I’m not willing to upset my ‘enough’ cart down at the bank to take out large sums for travel. I need ‘enough’ to see me through until I’ve gone on to another life, and I’m hoping that will be another 30 or 40 years! Still, there are places I want to see and experience in this world. To that end, I’ve taken a temporary job, so that I can earn ‘enough’ to travel without upsetting that cart. I’ll start working tomorrow, on mine and Michael’s 13th wedding anniversary, and 2 days before my 62nd birthday at the International Storytelling Center in nearby Jonesborough, TN. I’ll be working August-October and my job will be to help them prepare each year for the annual Storytelling Festival which brings upwards of 10,000 people, from all over the world, to the ‘oldest town in Tennessee’. The festival is always on the first full weekend of October and since Michael and I volunteered many years running in order to earn tickets to attend, I already know that the work I’ll do for this organization will be fulfilling and a fantastic opportunity for me to continue to promote my love for this region and a way to facilitate the sense of brotherhood and peace that the storytellers manage to weave into the stories that they share. I plan to save all my earnings this year for a big trip, but that’s another story for another day.
Why am I telling you this? Because I consider my faithful readers friends, even if we’ve never met in person. I don’t know about you, but I like to share big news with all my friends, so you’re included! I’ll be working full time Monday-Friday so during this next 3 months, I suspect my blog posts will be few and far between, but I will try to find the time occasionally to at least say hi. And because the Storytelling Center is open to the public, you are welcome to stop by any time and at least say hi to me too!
After being ‘retired’ since 2002, no doubt some of our tomatoes won’t get canned, or I’ll have to miss a meeting or two, as well as a gig here and there. Just as I encourage you to transition to the changes we’re facing in this world, now we’ll have transitions of a different kind as well; with me being gone all day, Michael will be doing most of the meal prep and house cleaning and gardening but we agree it’s a great way for us to experience some things we might not otherwise. Just like the storytellers that perform at the festival, bringing tales of their lands, customs and cultures, I suspect that visiting some of those far away places can and will broaden my own horizons and perspectives on this whole climate- changing, energy-using, food-producing world.
So, I won’t be making a ‘killing’ as Wendell refers to it, but I will make enough to travel to a few of the exotic spots I’ve only seen on my big map. Now I’m likely not your favorite author, but many of you may know MY favorite words: “Just sayin’ “. Stay tuned!