Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Day In Birds

…and bugs and cats and chickens. On good days, I'm able to have the wherewithal to scribble a few lines on a journal entry each night before I pass out for six hours. Right, now I' going trough a phase where I don't even remember my dreams, I just remember that they were vivid and intense. Anyways, most of these journal entries, have less to do with my emotional state, or intellectual thought (that's a joke, right?), than the bare bones of my life, what we did, who was there, and often, in place of those emotions and ideas; and a list of animals, birds and their behavior.


Here are our notes for Monday (obviously, all names and places have been redacted-haha.):

The birds are so loud at five thirty that it's impossible to keep sleeping. Our rooster is learning to crow. When the big rooster next door calls out, he makes this sound like a rusty air horn. A raven, maybe the same one that attacked our chickens last week, flew over the yard carrying a stick for it's nest. He must be nesting somewhere between us and the neighbors.

A hummingbird came to buzz the floral flags by our door. At work, I looked up from the balcony of the house and saw a huge bald eagle swoop over the water. Something silvery disappeared into the depths, but maybe it was just the reflection of the sun.    A group of swifts appears each morning by our windows. I don't know if they live here, but around sunrise they come swoop by.

An eagle, probably nesting got one of our hens and an another one got away, save for its tail feathers. The next day, it caught a hen from the neighbors too, the same day, their dog died, drowned into the pond (She was really, really quite ancient.)  and twenty piglets were born. I milked their goats and fed the pig.


A colony of ants has migrated from the bathroom, where they kept falling into the sink into the kitchen, where they keep falling into the sink.

I'm re-reading Derrick Jensen A Language Older Than Words and have taken to talking to every being as though they understood me literally. I tell the ants that they're allowed to eat from the outside of the jar of honey and the crumbs off the counter, if they promise to leave everything else alone, or else…

I'm hoping that they won't know that I'm bluffing, that I have no means to ensure these terms are met. I tell the chickens to watch out for the raven and the eagle and I tell the raven and the eagle to leave the chickens alone. I tell the cats that they have to be quiet at night. I tell my husband that it's all okay because that chapter in the book is titled something like "Maybe I'm Crazy."

I left my "pet" slug some of the egg that spilled on the stove and it ate it all mouth wrapped around it like a giant suction cup. It's own body weight in fried egg...

There are so many bumble bees about right now, defying gravity and appearing quite drunk, with their erratic flight patterns. I'm a little terrified of having one fly at me while I bike, they're husky little creatures, enough to throw you off balance.

The Nootka Roses are blooming early. I'm trying to find a journal from last year to confirm this, but so far, no luck. Usually they seem to be a little closer to Solstice time. I feel hyper-sensitive to changes in patterns, news coming in about odd seasons. They're forecasting snow, after a hot spell in Finland for the weekend...

I made fir tip syrup and rosebud-necklaces the same day, one necklace for the dog's burial.

The days are so long now (though still pitifully short by our Northern standards) and there always seems to be more work to do. Our garden is going crazy, we're harvesting lettuce and kale, barely weeks after transplanting, the potatoes overdue for their second hilling.

This time of year, I regularly find myself overwhelmed with all of life, this year more than ever, with the demands of a new business (if you helped fund us your rewards will be on their way shortly) and new ventures for myself too. It's felt very tempting to bag blogging for a spell since my little brake, but whenever I sneak back and read my favorite blogs, I'm reminded of how worthwhile this hobby is, flocking together with birds of a feather. Thank you for making it so.

How's your summer going?


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We're all here 'cos we're not all there



I didn't just disappear into instagram-land if that's what you though, but I did disappear to the "real" world for a spell. Undid my Facebook, didn't list stuff on etsy and barely glanced at the internet at all. It is more than likely that this will continue for a while longer. I'm trading bloggin and social medias for sick cats, six-day workweeks, gardens, kayaking and big jumps.

Having said that, pretty much every time I announce I'm not going to blog a lot, I end up blogging a lot and whenever I promise to blog something it likely has to wait, or never quite materializes. Such is the nature of the beast, I guess.

Thank you for your excellent thoughts on micro-bloggery and everything else. I hope to see them again soon and maybe even share some of my own. If they should occur.

Yours in thoughtlessness,
M

ps. so close  to writing 'six cats'. Wishful. Thinking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#emptyyourselfandlettheuniversefillyou


That I was an early adapter to blogging, is a complete co-incidence, a stroke of luck, or something like it. I'm not technologically savvy. Perched awkwardly on the very ledge between Gen X and the millenials, sometimes also referred to as "the iPod Generation", meaning anyone born after the year 1980, I've only ever managed to be on the cutting edge of technology once; sometime around 2006 when I was the first of my friends to buy both an iPod and a MacBook. Which was only because I'd never owned a computer before and was going to school for screenwriting. Oh, and because my Walkman from 1997 finally crapped out.

Fast forward two years and blogging was still somewhere between a hip fringe phenomenon and an incomprehensibly nerdy pursuit. Starting this log was possibly the last time ever that I'll get onboard a techno-social phenomenon on the ground floor. However even as blogs evolved over the next five years, changing appearances and styles, becoming more polished and professional, with bloggers investing in DSLRs and photoshop and professional web design, branding and narrowing and honing their content, I kept posting on my decidedly old-fashioned platform, writing about this, that and the other and taking pictures with my ancient point-and-shoot.

Part of it was that I figured early on that the increasingly sleek, commercial blogging was not improving  that which I loved about the media, but another part was also my utter stubbornness when it comes to new technology. The idea that I would buy something as expensive as a digital SLR, for my hobby, or something as destructive as a new computer just because the old one crapped out, that we somehow need this technology to function in our daily environments, made me all kinds of rage-y and confused. I know, I know. Writing a blogpost about the evils of technology is incredibly redundant, but that really was my thought-process. There was no way in hell or hades that I was able to convince myself that these devices were anything more than pure frivolity.

I made do for ten months without my own computer, using public terminals and borrowing screen-time from friends, until I finally gave into my "need" for writing, work, blogging and Skype-ing my mom. In the intervening years since then, I've become a lot more dependent on this machine when I was on my old one. For one thing, I've somehow kept generating work for myself which required a personal computer. Let's not kid ourselves: were this thing to face its inevitable planned obsolescence today, I'd probably be using some other device to shop for a new one tonight.

Last summer I also realized that I had, quite unwittingly, gotten to a point where I "needed" a better camera to continue improving my photography, a hobby that blogging had nurtured into something I now enjoy immensely. Not only that but I felt like I really needed a better camera for my etsy photos and some other assorted projects. Mind you, I think my ancient point-and-shoot did me well in that I had to develop a visual sensibility and skill, in spite its limitations. Had I started out with a DSLR I think I wouldn't have learned as much, or be as good at it.

One of the fringe benefits of those ten months without my own computer was a quick and almost complete disengagement with Facebook. Without its presence on my laptop, I found myself less than curious about the babble of my newsfeed and more excited about connecting with people through email and blogs during my limited computer time.

However, upon returning to facecrack, I discovered, much to my puzzlement that everyone I knew seemed to suddenly be spending a lot more time on it, based on the amount of stuff popping up on my newsfeed. Honestly, I was a bit alarmed, picturing my nearest and dearest glued to their computer screens at all hours of the day. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was happening: smartphones. They were posting those articles and images and updates from grocery lines, the playground, the coffee shop. And lot of articles, images and updates, at that. It was hard for me to keep up and I mostly hugged the shores of blogland, a place where most people still had to post less than once a day. Over the course of the next year, a lot of my favorite bloggers stopped blogging as much, because they were becoming more engaged in other social networking and micro-blogging platforms, particularly instagram.

Now, I had known an early adapter and looked at their and other people's feeds some, but I just didn't see the appeal. For one thing, all those filters, pretty as they were, made everyone's photos look more or less the same. For another, as much as I like a pretty picture, I much prefer it accompanied with actual words. Maybe that's just me, but all the tricked out emoticons and hashtags in the world can't make up for the intimacy of your words. Also, even its most ardent lovers in my circle were giving instagram mixed reviews, saying that its literally picture-perfect stream of images could easily create feelings of inferiority and envy. And anyway, whether or not I was interested in instagram, made little difference: I did not a device to use it with, nor the bandwidth. That is, until now.


The "need" that drove me to getting a macbook, a DSLR, the one that's forcing my husband into buying a laptop that's not seven-years-old, a printer, a smaller digital camera, we need a device with square capacity for our respective business ventures. We decided on an iPod, which seemed like the device we'd get the most other use out of as well. And it just so happens that it has the power to use instagram. Huzzah! Right? As ambivalent as I have been about the whole phenomenon, I also have to admit I've been following the streams of a few friends and bloggers I like online on my laptop and that it looks like they're having fun the way a lot more people used to on their blogs. I've also often wished I could comment and participate.

Even as I'm getting on yet another technology bandwagon, don't let me forget for a moment that there is nothing inherently good about embracing this iUniverse. That's not to say that there's anything inherently bad about it either, just that new doesn't equal better. Or maybe that's just my technophobia talking. Many people like to argue that technology is what you use it for, myself sometimes included, yet I can't shake the eerie feeling I sometimes get when I think of all the ways it has altered our lives in ten or so scant years. Living somewhere where most people don't have cellphones, let alone smart phones, and the ones who do use them sparingly, part by necessity and part by design, the idea of being connected to the world all the time terrifies me. It might be a backward, annoying, judgmental view, but seeing people in, or from the "regular" world thumbing their devices with glazed eyes, makes me roll my own eyes hard.

As my husband said looking at me struggling with the tiny screen of the iPod shaking his head: "It's all just cheap Chinese labor , toxic rare-earth materials and enormous profits." He may be overlooking the slick, easy-to-use interface, the convenience of a record collection, or the Library of Congress in your pocket, the connections forged online through these devices, but the bottom line is, we remain a little ambivalent about the possibilities of new technology. Now, some of you have already shared some of your feelings about instagram with me, but I'd love to hear more thoughts on microblogging: the ays, the nays, #whatareyouonabouts.


If you're in the ay-camp you can follow me on instagram, provided that you can find me. I also make no promises on content…

Also, Luddites were actually not as technology-averse as colloquialisms would have us believe.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Woods Work, Homestead Work


In the strictest sense of the word, we're not really "homesteading", because homesteading implies ownership of a small plot of land and we don't own any. Still, I think the word is apt. I first started using it when we got our chickens and made our small garden at our old house five years ago. At the time everyone was a-twitter about "farming", but I never really felt like I was going to be farming, let alone be a "farmer". What I wanted was a kitchen garden, backyard chickens, much like the "urban homesteaders" of that burgeoning movement.

I want to contribute to the food our family eats and be more self-sufficient. I want to eat well and maybe even save money. To have my own herbs and greens and root crops. To have some year-around food. If I'm lucky, I'd like to grow enough to preserve and have crops that keep overwinter in the pantry. I'm not ambitious, or asking much.

The hard thing, of not having your own land to homestead is that you put work, money and other resources into something you ultimately always have to leave. That can be very daunting. You never feel like you can plant the things you want, the fruit trees and berry bushes, because you could be gone in a year or two. Eventually you know you'll have to start from scratch again. You don't make the effort to have the best of materials, or create the prettiest scenes, because eventually someone else might come along and want something different.

That said, it's also surprisingly cheap and easy to make the most of what you have for the moment. Our garden went from this to what you see below, in a few brief weeks, and so far it hasn't cost us but about  fifty bucks, because of the generosity of friends and our own resourcefulness.

Our 2014 garden was:
-tilled by someone kind and generous
-fertilized with $50 worth of manure
-fenced with free posts and free netting (Charlie made a point of hanging out at the yard where the fishermen work on their boats early enough in the morning one day)
-strung with some line from a former fisherman pal
-planted with gifted starts and currant and rhubarb
-weeded by sister-in-law slave-labor

Our fence posts came from the woods around the house, some fallen some felled sometime last year. Sawed and carried and peeled and stuck in the ground by our own sweaty labor, with the old-fashioned forestry tools that finally came in handy. It took about five hours in a single day to get them up.

I have a secret and special love of hand sawing things, anything really, when given the chance. It's actually one of my favorite things to do, but sadly I almost never have the opportunity. There's something very satisfying about separating a trunk or a branch of a tree from itself, that I can't quite put into words. Maybe it's our Forest Finn nature, but working in the woods is fun. Metsätyöt, as we call it, meaning "woods work".


Same, it turns out, goes for peeling logs. A lengthy, but very satisfying process.


In the end, it's almost always worth doing. After all, no matter your situation, nothing's really permanent, things are constantly in flux even when you think they're not.


Growing food, even small amounts of it, is always trial and tribulation and learning from your mistakes, but like peeling logs there's a strange satisfaction to it, knowing that you've contributed a little, to your own food economy. It's such a basic human thing to do.

Right now, our homestead consists of that garden, twelve hens and a rooster who was just practicing his first crows, a single hive of bees in need of attention and many patches of woods to wildcraft in, a little luck and a lot of hard work.

Happy Mother's Day to those of you who have grown little fruits!

Also, there's a little interview with me at Liesl's blog, a sweet place with lots of cool tutorials and good recipes. I have such respect for anyone who posts those things, because they take time and care. So if you're feeling homestead-y or maker-y this morning, it's not too late to package something for mom in a sweet 'lil pouch.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Last Night I Dreamt...

…that somebody loved me. Namely this dress. Everyone I know that wears frocks, has a dream one in the back of their mind. You keep your eye out for it. The Dress. The one dress to rule them all. You know, that sort of a thing.  Mine has, for a long time been a red Gunnex Sax with velvet, or corduroy and preferably a sundress.

After many hits and misses I think I've finally found and spent a full quarter of my clothing allowance on it.  With pockets and lace and a near-maxi length. As far as I'm concerned, summer's here. Come hell, or more likely in these parts, high water.

Are you harboring a dream dress of your own? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Traditions


We have a pile of VHS-tapes from Charlie and his sister's childhood. Mostly they are good fodder for laughs and shock and awe (bad 80s hairdos, smoking inside, the weird cinematography, the entire show with Shamu at Seaworld that's like a Greek tragedy with synthpop), but they also reveal something interesting about the middle class American family in the mid-80s. They are set to a specific rhythm: Christmas, Charlie's birthday, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, J's birthday, Christmas, Charlie's birthday and so on…punctuated only by a trip to the beach, to Alaska, Hawaii, or…Seaworld.

Each Christmas little J and Charlie run into the living room, followed by their mother who is clearly still sleepy, and tear into a huge pile of presents. At easter, they wander in to find Easter baskets filled to the brim with chocolate eggs and bunnies.

This year, the after Easter, a woman about my age came to my work and while she was ordering, tossed out a rhetorical question wondering why there were bunnies and eggs associated with Easter? No, really. Further more, she was puzzled and delighted to find out that there was in fact an older tradition than the current Christian one associated with the season. "Now I feel like I can celebrate it!" I nodded and smiled and thought to myself how sad it was that this person needed some sort of permission to celebrate the changing of the seasons, the rebirth of this hemisphere.

The holidays, whatever they maybe, give the year it's shape, but it's the traditions that give them a meaning. To me it was never just the chocolate eggs, it was  the witching that made Easter special, just like setting up my make-shift manger and taking candles to the cemetery was just as much a part of Christmas as the presents. Don't get me wrong, I loved the presents, but they were not the whole tradition.

Often, we have lost the original meaning the holiday had for our people and are following just the empty shells of a tradition, like actors in a particularly worn-out play. That's why Christmas is stressful, because we can't get the costumes quite right, find the props, or usher all of the players onto the stage at the same time.

It is up to us to rediscover and reinvent the holidays and their meanings for ourselves and our kids.

May Day is one of the ones that I'm never able to overlook. Each year I tell myself not to worry
about it, because mostly, no one else in this country does, and then at the last minute I'm calling friends and organizing potlucks and bonfires.  I feel an inborn need to celebrate it. We're still forming our tradition, year to year, but it is important to me to mark the day. April is over, summer is almost here.


I made Finnish May Day mead, decorated the garden, we danced around a makeshift Maypole from our neighbors to the beat of a horn, an accordion and a box drum. Last year, we had a picnic on the beach, yet neither of these things seems out of order for the same celebration. Perhaps that is the tradition; to celebrate, to acknowledge.

And then, of course, there are the traditions of the natural world. Last week marked the beginning of the dragonfly season for us, the first day when the tree peonies and Charlie's ancient Lewissiana bloomed.

Rufous and Anna's hummingbirds are getting more and more room in my journal each week, as are newts, shepherd's purse and fiddleheads.

Kate recently mentioned in a post an article by Derrick Jensen on Orion that had caught my eye as well. In it Jensen discusses how our indifference to harbingers of the cycle of the year makes us blind to the obvious changes that are occurring as the climate shifts and changes.

These too are the traditions that we are loosing; when the first butterflies, or tree frogs appear, when the deer calve, when migrating birds come, or edible plants push through the ground into our consciousness.

In times like these, we have to hold fast to that which is our tradition, we have to remember and share and teach them.

And most importantly, we have to celebrate them.

What holidays do you like to observe? What are your traditions? 

Friday, May 2, 2014

A night on the beach


One evening last week, we packed up our plates, forks, cups and our dinner and headed to a "secret" little beach down the road to celebrate the success of our crowdfunding with our partners in crime business and take a moment to just be outside.

It was a chilly evening, but they often are in the PNW, so we wore our sweaters and down coats and wrapped ourselves in blankets.  As the dusk fell we drank dandelion wine, picturing the "sunshine in a bottle" the label promised, ate fresh garden treats and Island meats and talked about native forests, old myths and new ideas.

We felt spring keenly though even through the cold; the little creek running by our side, the spiky taste of new chives and rucola.





A friend came in from the water, slinking around like they do, staring at our feast, but opting for their customary dinner of urchins and clams and little crabs instead.

The first picnic on the beach of the season, a full week before May Day, puffy coats sweaters and all...