Ramble ramble

I know I was supposed to do a post about food, but it’ll have to wait. I’m bound to talk about food in this post, so that should count, right? Right. I think part of my reluctance is because I’ve been thinking a little TOO much lately, about everything it seems like, and I’m just trying to cut myself a break. This is my thing, though. I’m hopelessly introspective. This is usually okay with me. However, it starts to drive me crazy when I can’t figure stuff out and my head just goes in circles. Ever since Jeff and I have been talking about how civilization is not and will never be sustainable, we’ve been talking about BIG things. Like, how to we live moral lives in the context of our civilization? How do I make a difference? What should I teach my kids? How do I get back in touch with my landbase? How do I get back in touch with my own humanity? What should I do in terms of activism? Should Jeff and I go start an eco-village sooner rather than later? Should we focus more on urban farming and community gardening? Where do we find other people like us who we can learn from and support in lifestyle, values, parenting, etc.? What the heck should I DO? Yeah. It’s like that. Swirling around in my noggin. 

I’m fascinated by native American history lately. I basically want to apprentice with them 400 years ago, in this very spot, and learn all about how to live on the land and reconnect with that form of spirituality. I want to learn how they made everything and where their sacred spots were. I want to see the wild animals, and watch them interact with them. I want to see how they dealt with their children- everything from potty training, first foods, teaching them not to eat poisonous things, all of it. I want to know how they cut their toenails and how they took care of their hair. Fascinating, I tell you.

I hate that we’ve turned this place into a wasteland. That’s the other thing, I’m kind of ruined for just mindlessly enjoying things lately. Like, there’s this new parking lot in downtown Ann Arbor that I saw with my friend. I forget exactly what it’s made of- something recycled- but it’s porous and allows rainwater to go through to the ground, reducing runoff. This is a good thing, right? There’s a big sign all about this new "sustainable development", and all I can think to say is "Oh, so it’s just less destructive, and that’s what we call sustainable now…" Bah. and Humbug. Jeff was talking last night about compact fluorescent bulbs, and how they are marketed like "Uses 80% less energy" convincing you that you are somehow saving the planet by buying these things. All the while, they take loads of energy to produce and are totally toxic and hard to dispose of. It’s just not the whole picture. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we use them all through our house and I haven’t had to change a light bulb in four years… so that’s cool. I see that. But ultimately maybe we should be lighting candles at night. I mean, I’m starting to look at things in a more honest light. I’m not trying to be a cynic, but no matter how many recycled parking lots and compact fluorescents we have, it’s still not even slowing down the exponential destruction and toxification of the planet. This has been a tough lesson for me to learn, especially considering how much I bought into the whole personal responsibility thing. I really thought that if we all just change our lives and live consciously then we’d make a big enough difference. Now, while I do believe in the great importance of changing my own life, I think the real problem has to do with the corporations that are truly poisoning and wrecking the earth. And they’ve convinced us that it’s good for us. And that we can help. That it’s up to us! That we can buy "green" and make a difference. One person at a time, they say. No, one CONSUMER at a time! Yet THEY are the biggest problem of all. My light bulbs and water usage are not making a dent. They are toxifying our water, and making us pay for it. It’s insane. You know that helpful stuff, fluoride? Well, they’ve got us thinking that it’s good for our teeth. I’ve heard that if you go into your grandparents basement and find an old box of rat poison, guess what the main ingredient is? I wish I was making this up. The fact is that flouride is an industrial waste product that they couldn’t find a good way to dispose of. Like I said, I wish I was making this up. How can we stand for this? That’s been the real issue that’s been weighing on my mind. This needs to stop. How do we stop it?

The other thing that I believe has done damage to this movement is the idea that by stopping these corporations and evil-doers of the world, we’ll be somehow limiting personal freedom. What if people want their SUVs and their Walmarts and their lightbulbs and whatever? YOU can’t tell them what to do. Something that Derrick Jensen said really hit home for me on this subject. He said that it’s about taking away rights that were never theirs to begin with. It’s like someone has come into your home and decided to put tiny amounts of poison in your food, and the food of your family. Not just that, but you’re going to pay this person for this disservice. And you’re going to be convinced that this is what you want. That’s absurd, right? We’d kick that person out on their ass and tell them to never come back again. That’s what these "rights" and "choices" are doing. Fact is, no one has the right to poison someone else’s water or air or land. I can’t think of anyone who would disagree with that, and yet we are all letting it happen in an enormous way. Perhaps it’s too scary for people to be honest about.

Anyway, it’s nice to be able to finally write about this a little. Now pictures. 🙂

The past week has been filled with friends and nice weather. Jeff started prepping the garden for spring, which we probably should have done last month or something, but that’s how we do it around here. Just under the wire. We moved our whole house around, also. I have a before and after series coming that I’m excited about. So much change! We’re having fun and this place feels really homey to me.

Halloween! Vera was a little brown cat. I could’ve eaten her up. It was fun to walk up and down the street with her, she was so wide-eyed and interested. I’m not sure that we’re going to be conventional Halloweeners though. I never celebrated it as a kid, so it’s just kind of unfamiliar, and Jeff and I have thoughts on it that I think will lead us to a fun new tradition. Sort of combining the ideas of harvest and play and dress up, community and creativity, good food, and a sort of Day of the Dead-esque look at death and our ancestry. The one thing I’m not a big fan of on this holiday is all the gore and fear surrounding death. I see that as being somewhat damaging, despite everyone’s good intentions. I want to talk honestly about death and the people who have died, and try to normalize it rather than focus on how scary it is.

The other day at my parents. Tuula and Vera played in the leaves, and I decided to play too. My dad threw Vera in the leaves and she completely disappeared for a moment. I love kids and leaves.

Sweet Tuula.

My favorite. I love Tuula’s struggling-to-get-up face and Vera’s peacefulness.

I recently heard that about 30% of food is wasted by spoiling in the fridge. I am determined to not experience that waste this year. I’ve been finding creative ways to save just about everything- be it in the form of a scrumptious new dinner or just into the compost, I plan to be really conscious of using it all in some way. I’ve started to menu plan, which is actually turning out to be really fun. It’s helping me think about what we have in storage and ration a bit better, and I’m able to see what needs preparation and plan for that so I’m never stuck making mac and cheese or something because I don’t have time. So, this past week we had roast chicken with vegetables (which was so good and Vera ate a TON), chicken salad wraps with the leftovers, sprouted black bean chili (I was able to start sprouting the beans a few days before, also made with homemade chicken stock that I simmered overnight), and last night we had crock pot asian-style ribs on rice noodles with an apple carrot slaw. Oh, and leftover lasagna rolls, pictured below. I cleared out my leftovers (sweet potatoes, squash, misc. veggies) seasoned them well and rolled them up in lasagna noodles. Then I made a simple cheese sauce and added a little ground sausage and garlic to it. I baked it all up and they were a really delicious way to use all the "scraps". Menu planning is kind of awesome, and it’s cool because I thought it was going to be a chore. If I have a spare moment or a meal idea, I just put it on my calendar and then think about the prep that it needs and write that stuff down in the respective slots (soaking oats, beans, etc. or just defrosting meat or something the day before). Tonight I’m making "oat cakes" which remind me of tuna cakes kind of. I mean, without the tuna. It’s a good way for me to use up some of my leftover soaked oats in the fridge. I usually make an aioli for the sauce.They are good. Probably with some oven roasted potato wedges (super easy) and the rest of that slaw. So fun!

I’m still really enjoying the sun.

…and so is Maya. Check out the paw action! I love her, that snuggle pup.

Quote of the day:
"I’ve grown certain that the root of all fear is that we’ve been forced to deny who we are." (Frances Moore Lappe)


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Comments (18)

  1. custardfairy

    Fabulous pictures. 🙂 I too wish I could apprentice about 400 years ago. So many things to learn…

    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Thanks! I know, wouldn’t it be amazing? So many people focus on what we’ve “gained” in terms of information and technology, but I’m starting to think that we’ve lost a lot.


  2. purerandomness

    Oh, what a sweet little cat!! She’s so cute it hurts. 🙂

    Menu planning is awesome for us: I can look at my shelves and know what I need to get for the week and we end up buying a lot less and also don’t have cans of tomato ‘something’ sitting on our shelves for months at a time.
    Compost, though, is something I should really get going. It’s so easy and I’ve got a garden we can put it in… what’s the holdup? We would have so much less trash if we composted our eggshells and coffee grounds.

    Also- 400 years ago, how DID they clip baby toenails? Did they chew them off? Or just let them grow until they broke?

    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Yay! A fellow menu planner! I’ll always be interested if you post about food… 😉

      Also, yes, you should definitely start a compost! So easy! Even if you don’t have a container, just make a pile under a tree or something to start. You can always build up around it with some palates or order one of those plastic composters.

      Yeah, baby toenails would be the least of my worries. I’d bite them off. But how the heck would I cut my own?

      1. purerandomness

        Eww… would you have to bite off your own toenails? That could be really gross.

  3. prophetsong

    My head is so full right now of wanting to live more simply, more ethically, more sustainably. Wanting to guide Zakary to get in touch with all the right values and not get drawn into our cutlures demand that we consume, consume, consume. And i just have zero idea of how to put it into practise. I fantasize about raising him somewhere where there is a community that shares my values and where we can live in this way but it just feels so impossible and then the task feels so big and hopeless. I’ve been reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and it’s inadvertently left me thinking a lot about our tiny place in the cycle of life and the whole history of *everything* and it’s so depressing that we are doing so much damage and missing all the good stuff.

    Sorry that turned into a rant. What I was trying to say was great post and I really empathise!!

    I got my sprouting starter kit today. I can’t wait to get started!! 🙂

    1. Gracie (Post author)

      This comment just made me smile. Sometimes it’s nice just to hear that these things are swimming around in other people’s heads. You are lovely, and you’re welcome to rant any time you like around here! I’ll check out that book, too.

      Yay sprouts! Let me know how it goes! I LOVE my kit, and have been throwing sprouts in almost everything.

  4. ladyfaith3

    I haven’t gotten through your whole post yet I will come back to it when the kids go to bed. I really enjoy your posts and your thoguhts.

    I wanted to share my friend’s blog with you.


    on her blog is a link to “The deliberate agrarian” you can also google that and find his blogs there is A LOT on self sustaining.

    I am not anywhere close to any of it yet but we’re looking at small homes with land and space to use toward that direction. I think it’s a beautifully simple way to live.

    If you are brave you can visit Michael Bunker’s blog “A Process Driven life” but he’s a little…harshly religious.


    1. ladyfaith3

      also here is a lovely family I really enjoy visiting in cyber space


      hope you find some of this useful. Most all of them are christian but they offer great life experience and help in simple/clean/green/self sustaining living…

    2. ladyfaith3

      sorry for so many comments I am dingy…it’s


    3. Gracie (Post author)

      Thanks for these links! Very interesting people out there…

  5. cknk

    I read your post in amongst doing laundry, which I often consider to be one of these annoying wastes of energy. One of my first thoughts was, I bet the natives were dirty. I don’t mean that as a bad thing only the idea that they had drastically different standards. We cannot hope to live as peacefully with the earth as they did, and yet still expect to maintain our current standards. A lot of green propaganda makes it sound like we can just by the environmentally friendly versions of all our favorite things and life can continue as it is.

    I’ve wondered about candles. Ecologically, how are they really? I think one of the big things is that they used to take a lot of effort and expense to make so people limited their use. Probably going to bed as it gets dark would be as useful. If people just went out and bought cheap chandles… we’d probably be worse of than with the lightbulbs. I don’t know there.

    I agree that change cannot be one consumer at a time. How do we convince our governments to take real action? How do we convince others?

    🙂 you’ve given me lots to think about in your post.

    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I’ve thought about the hygiene of native peoples, and I think it was probably a combination of different standards and a healthier lifestyle. With their healthier diets and the lack of toxins in the environment, I bet they smelled a lot better than a bunch of unshowered modern folks. Just an idea!

      I can’t imagine that candles would be worse than lightbulbs, but at this point I’m not surprised by much. I would think that simple, beeswax candles would be far better for the environment- you could produce them almost anywhere.

      I’m not holding out for the government, they are mostly bought and sold, if not some of the main orchestrators. This has to be a revolution of the people. Read Endgame by Derrick Jensen if you get a chance and let me know what you think. I’m interested in other people’s thoughts on it.

      1. cknk

        I’ll request the book through interlibrary loan. If I can get it, I’ll read it.

        I agree the government is mostly bought and sold, yet I can’t see how anything can improve until the government is reclaimed. Corporations are legally required to put the bottom line first, regardless of other concerns and they need the government to pull them back under control. I know some people think that we can “vote with our money” by supporting environmentally friendly corporations, but I don’t see how that will happen. We need legal action.

        Beeswax candles are probably fine but is it imaginable that we could have a large enough supply? Historically people burnt tallow, whale oil and other oils. Were there societies that relied on beeswax? Was it ever produced in large enough quanitites? How much energy has to go into the harvesting of the wax, the heating and shapping? Is it feasable? Then too candles provide very little light each, so we would either have to grow accusom again to dimmer lit rooms or have lots and lots of candles. I think the advantage of candles would be that if people had to keep and use a supply of candles they’d probably ration them but on the whole I can’t see them helping more than a handful of homesteader-types.

        I think there’s other options besides candles. I remember a long time ago listening to a presentation where a woman was talking about her work in a third world village, and how the organization she was with was helping to bring lights. They were using solar panels and light emitting diodes. She talked about how they needed to be inexpensive enough for her organization to buy, but long-lasting enough not to need to be replaced. I think (but am not sure) that she talked about lights that lasted twenty years before being replaced.

        I remember also, a long, long time ago, going on a tour of the Alberta Legislative Building, and the tourguide pointing out the lights in one of the very high-roofed rooms. The lights were old lightbulbs. They lasted 90+ years and were just starting to die out, and the problem was going to be that the maintenence crew had not yet had to worry about how to replace them but now if they replaced them with normal lightbulbs they would be facing having to get up to the really high roofs quite often. Normal lightbulbs die quickly because manufacturers build them to die quickly. How can one make money selling light bulbs that last 90+ years?

        My point, I guess, is just that I still think there could be technological solutions that could help. I think that the public has made a mistake in proclaiming compact flourescent lightbulbs as “the environmental option” and we should be demanding of our scientists and our manufacturers that they make us better options.

        Anyway, I hadn’t through about the idea that body odor would have been different at different times. I’ve tended just to think it is some odd quirk of modern society that it has stopped liking the smell of members of its own species. But you bring up an interesting point.

        1. Gracie (Post author)

          I agree with pretty much everything you say here. As for the candle thing, I don’t really know if it’s feasible, but I guess I’m just arguing that we work within our actual means, and be honest about it.

          As for your thoughts about taking legal action, I believed that too. However, I’ve been thinking that maybe that’s not good enough. I’m up for a good old overhaul. I’ll give you an example. My dad, when he was in middle school, decided to vote the student council out of existence. He was a feisty little bugger, and he just did things like that. I believe he organized everyone, they conducted a vote, and presented the results to the school. However, the school decided that it was silly and opted not to let them vote it out. This just proved my dad’s original point, that the student council didn’t have any power to begin with. That’s kind of where I think we are… we’re all convinced that we can stick a piece of paper in a ballot, and to some degree it makes a difference, but only the kind of difference that the government is comfortable with us making. So I guess I agree with you, but I’m not sure that we’re going to get there legally.

          I also have faith in technological solutions, but only if they are truly sustainable. So, if light bulbs last for 90 years, but are still reliant on fossil fuels to produce them and transport them, and the materials they are made from are still finite, then what do we have? How are the light bulbs powered? How is the electrical infrastructure designed and maintained? I mean, these are relevant questions. We’re just biding our time. Perhaps then we’ll have some candles, and we’ll also sit in the dark. I don’t know. I think humans are incredible and will come up with really amazing solutions to make life easier and more convenient, but as long as we’re crossing our fingers hoping that solar panels and the like will solve all our energy issues, I think we may be doing more harm than good.

          1. cknk

            I think I understand your point about the how most lights – even the best ones we have so far – are not fully sufficient.

            I wonder what would happen if a government had the courage to apply taxes to all products and services suffient to cover the environmental costs of the products and services. In some ways that sounds so far fetched as to seem impossible, but then, perhaps they could be extensions of taxes already in place. Increasing gas taxes. Applying taxes to fast food. Increasing the costs for businesses to dispose of waste. But when I wonder about that I think… how do we balance those changes with people’s fears that then things would cost too much and “be unfair to the poor.” I don’t know what would be necessary to help people adjust somehow… to help us all change our expectations and learn to enjoy and love a life with less.

            I agree that voting doesn’t do much. The changes need to be in the very nature of government. Right now the political systems in both Canada and the United States make it very hard to have real change. So those need to be changed. I guess I am steeped too much in political philosophy to think of government just as voting. Government is… people coming together to make the collective decisions. The school government example is a bit of a straw man becuase a school council isn’t really supposed to have power. If our real government doesn’t have power, then we need to find a way to really get the power back.

            You have got me very curious about that book.

            Have you read anything written by Wendell Barry? He is a farmer and political philosopher who argues that eventually agriculture will go back to horse drawn equipment by necessity, because we’ll run out of the fossil fuel.

  6. 93_millionmiles

    Do you have any free mornings next week? If you bring a container for it, I’ll make you some more fluoride-free toothpaste. 🙂

    Have you joined the forum on Derrick Jensen’s website? There are 1164 people who introduced themselves on there so far. Maybe some of them want the same things out of life as well.

    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I’m sure I can work something out! I have your bowl from dinner the other night, too. I know you only have a couple, so I’d love to get it back to you! Let me know which days are best.

      I haven’t! Good idea. I’m going to do that now. 🙂


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