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helwen: (water drops)
Posting this here because I can't get it to post in response on someone else's blog. Some kind of software issue to resolve... Anyway, the post had to do with trying to see positive amidst all the negatives happening these days.

Damage for us personally wasn't too bad, although we did have to deal with some minor flooding and water damage, including the effect of that on one of our neighbors -- his bridge got washed through our fencing and down around the corner of the pasture. We figure it's only fair, since we've had a bridge or two end up on his land!

We also lost half our buckwheat because we didn't have time to harvest beforehand, and likely will lose a bit more because it's lodged, which makes it a pain to deal with. Ah well. What we don't harvest will re-seed and be cover crop.

One of the reasons we ran out of time was that friends of ours in a neighboring town put out a call to help harvest their pear tree, which was very heavily laden; they were worried the branches would break in the high winds. It was a little early to harvest, but many people benefited, as well as the tree -- mine are wrapped in paper to ripen safely, and I should be making pear sauce this weekend. So one positive out of the storm. Buckwheat grows quickly, pear trees don't, so it was a good trade, in my book.

It's true there's been quite a bit of loss -- homes, businesses, covered bridges and roads, farm crops, whole towns isolated. One town has to have supplies flown in because all roads are gone and they couldn't get the emergency equipment out because of damage to the building and it's surrounding area. Repairs and restoration, will take months, and in some cases may not happen at all. Fortunately state, Fed, and local are working well together so far. A lot of folks were impressed by how much storm prep was done by the power company, state, and town (dam control, shelter setup, calls with info) -- it could've been much, much worse.

We lucked out that Irene sucked in some dry air just before making landfall, transforming her from hurricane into tropical storm. Something we could all hope for, but best to plan for the worst while hoping for the best.

On a more personal level, lots of neighbors helping neighbors, because that's what neighbors do. That's another positive. One of the best resources a person can have (and be!)

I was happy to see that so many of my friends were making preparations to one degree or another. So there's a third.

After the storm blew out and as the hay field drained, the local wildlife had a field day getting their own harvest from the field. So it seems that while the storm was probably hard on some lifeforms, it was beneficial to others.

And for some reason, even though we don't have milkweed near the house, I was treated to a beautiful dance by monarch butterflies while going about setting some things to rights.

Life is pretty crazy these days, and there's a lot of hard work ahead, and likely some dark times too. But there is also beauty, and light, and friends.
helwen: (Default)
Going to bed at a decent hour doesn't mean one will get enough rest, if the body decides to ignore all teas and meds and cough for a few hours :P When I finally could lie down without coughing, I slept through the morning to 11:30! *sigh*

Didn't get to the garden at all yesterday, but did plant some onion seeds in seed starting thingies.

Went to the talk on soil and different types of garden beds, which was interesting and useful. Nice to see some folks we hadn't seen before -- gardening is becoming more popular.

Share the Warmth meeting seemed to go well too.


Apr. 10th, 2011 10:20 am
helwen: (MacGyver)
Well! Still recovering and actually overslept today.... Still haven't started any seeds, but will do so today. Also, we'll be starting to lay out the lasagna bedding in the garden.

Sugaring is slowing down, but still happening as of today. Expect this to be the final week though. I expect at lower elevations or points further south of us, it's already done.

The crocus are blooming now too, so I expect that soon more people will be talking about how "spring" is finally here... I find it a little amusing that the point at which many people declare a season to have arrived is usually around the beginning-to-middle of that season's peak.

Since we're still not up to major doings, no choir practice tonight. But there's a Share the Warmth meeting today, so we'll go to that. First part is at one person's farm, where he has a relatively new community garden plot area laid out, that we'll look at. Then over to Elmer's for the talking part.

Not sure how gardening and the new workshop series became part of a group on keeping people warm, but there you go. The workshops over the next several months will be on gardening and/or food preservation.

Farmers Market meeting was Friday night and we made it to that too - laid back group of folks, farmers.... good discussion, research being done by some folks on stuff to help the market will be happening, etc.

New Future meeting earlier last week, where folks met in person. Don't know when the next meeting is, but interestingly a few folks I've spoken to don't know about haybox cookers. So I guess I need to try out a few things myself now.... there's info out there of course, but a little hands-on at our local altitude would be a good thing.

There's a post on it over at The Archdruid Report, with some excellent info in the comments as well. You might have to do a search for it, as it was a few months back.
helwen: (Default)
Our first time at the farmers market this season went pretty well, all things considered. We remembered almost everything and we got set up on time.

Then L had to go back home to continue work on the weekend migration, which had started to get interesting on Friday and continues to be so today. We stayed home from kungfu on Friday because of it in fact, although we did go to class today as the timing was all right for it today.

Traffic at the market was medium to lowish, but nice folks and some good chats. The guest crafters next to me (we mostly do food but have a guest non-food vendor at each of the weekends) make pants and skirts for babies to kids age 5, from "a combination of vintage, donated, re-purposed & new fabric" -- all sorts of funky fabric combos. I'm going to go through my fabric stash and see about liberating some stuff for them. I still have a lot of cotton, which they seem to use a lot of, and they can use anything from a yard or so down to small scraps (accent pockets, etc.)

I chatted for a while with a nice young lady who's interested in learning to spin -- I had some spinning with me of course -- I joked that I'd hypnotized her with the spinning and that's why she stayed as long as she did to talk ;) She's a student at Double Edge Theatre; I have piddling theatre background but we talked about all sorts of things, including baronial courts (sort of semi-structured improv). So I'll be bringing some extra spinning stuff for the next few weeks, for whenever she can make it to the market again, and we'll have a go at spinning.

Got in some gardening Saturday and Sunday. More strawberries, and the second sowing of oats is up. Strawberry smoothies last night, of our strawberries and the local farm's yogurt :)

Couldn't make it to the stencilling workshop or the Pennsic prep meeting Sunday :( Too much work.

Kungfu class tonight was good. We did some work on tantiao, finishing the move with jumps and kicks -- my kicks are um... well, something to work on. We finished learning Yiluchuan. Now more practice! We'd gone outside for that part of class, and it started sprinkling part way through -- youngest fellow in our section commented on it, but the rest of us were fine with it and he dealt with it. Besides, I don't know about him but I was already soaked from sweat, so the rain was rather pleasant and refreshing!
helwen: (Default)
And on the lighter side, here's a page on a comic called Secret Asian Man.

Secret Asian Man

I set it up with several days on one page. Start at the bottom and go up.


[EDIT: Link should be fixed now]
helwen: (MacGyver)
An interesting thought came up in the comments to my previous post; it made more sense for L and I to be prepared for emergencies because we live in a isolated area. Now while it's true that we don't have a supermarket, movie theatre, or hospital, I don't really think of us as being isolated, at least not in terms of power outages or fire. And having had the ambulance here a couple of times last year, that service also seems to work well.

Our community came together and provided things like old phones that would work with the power they could get from the phone lines. Our house had heat and water. And although we enjoyed our shower at our friends' place in Sunderland and their company as well, we could have done what my FIL did and heat up water on one of the stoves and filled up the tub that way.

As soon as the business district had power (sometime Saturday), people were congregating at Country Pie Pizza, the hardware store, and probably over at Elmer's as well. They weren't there just for food or supplies but also to check on how other parts of town were doing, how folks were doing, even getting news on neighboring towns. Some of the cheeriest conversations I'd seen all year happened during the power outage.

For those who couldn't manage on their own the Sanderson Academy was set up as a shelter. Some folks went there to stay, others to pick up some basic supplies, others to help, and still others just to share meals and company with those who were staying there. All of the emergency services were available and busily at work. So, all the services one might expect in a bigger town or in a city.

If this had happened last year in Holyoke, L and I probably could have closed up most of the house and stayed in the living/dining room for a few days. We would have had to drain the radiator pipes (which would have given us plenty of flushing water at least). If it had gone on for longer than that we would have had to find somewhere else for us and our cats to stay.

If it had happened this year, we might have had a wood stove by then, as we'd been talking about getting one and installing it in the living/dining room. But as it stood when we left, our house wasn't ready for a prolonged winter power outage. It didn't even have a fireplace, inefficient as those are.

Every year people freeze to death in winter or die during heat waves in the summer. They do it in the countryside and in the city. And of course unemployment doesn't care where people live either (another reason for having some extra food on the shelves).

So, we do what we can in the places we live.

That might be seeing to our own personal preparedness so we don't have to tax the local emergency shelter's limits.

Or we might be able to put someone else up for a night or two because we have some extra blankets and enough food and water for them as well as ourselves.

Or if we are the ones who need help, we know ahead of time where those places are that we can get help.

What comes around goes around. Being prepared isn't just serving ourselves, but serving our community.
helwen: (jug)
Folks who've been reading my LJ for a while know this, but for the newer ones, well, I'm a fan of Gene Logsdon. I like the way he writes, thoughtful but with humor, and very informative in a non-laborious way. He has a way with words.

The Barn Raising is an article he originally wrote back in 1983, but seeing as it's about the Amish, it's as timely as ever ;)

In short, it's about how a tornado knocked down 15 acres of wooded land and destroyed 4 Amish barns, and how the Amish community built new barns in just three weeks' time.

But it's also about community, interesting interactions between the Amish and the "English", and how progress as most folks commonly reckon it may not be as advantageous as they might think.
helwen: (Tower)
One of the messages going around this year...

“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living? What are you doing?
What are your relationships? Are you in right relation?
Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a
halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

–The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

In the I Ching, there is the phrase "Step into the Great River". When this comes up as part of a reading, it means that now is the time to take action. There are times in life for everything - resting, learning, sharing, keeping one's counsel, turning away from a path, leading, following, working together.

When it is time to step into the great river, do not hesitate. Do not let doubt control your actions. Some people may think that it is still better to stay at the river's edge, but then their hopes and dreams may be lost as the riverbank is worn away.

Interesting that in this Hopi prophecy and in the I Ching, change is not necessarily something to be feared. Many people fear the unknown in the modern world, but who profits most from things remaining stagnant? Something worth thinking about.
helwen: (MacGyver)
From the London Times

National Grid Overhaul and Upgrade

Possible Increase in Energy Costs

The National Grid is working on upgrading the grid -- needs an overhaul and room for future growth. Good that they're working on it, but it's going to cost. And it won't all be happening at once of course, as it takes time to overhaul something this large and complex.

National Grid reports that they have enough power for the winter, as long as nothing unforeseen happens (unusual cold snap, etc.) -- but their margin for November is less than 1/10th what it normally is. Let's hope that the weather is mild next month!

Meanwhile, the cost of power is already high enough that some British factories are in trouble and may have to close down next month. There is one bit of good news for residential consumers, and that's that the National Grid has frozen prices until January.

Of course my focus on the UK is because of the Daily Mail article that popped up on Energy Bulletin, but they aren't the only folks with stressed utility networks or high energy prices. ISO New England and the various power utilities here are having to work on improving the grid here as well, because demand has grown to the point where it's been taxing the system for several years. One of the reasons our electric bills have gone up (not the only one, but an important one).

No, I haven't found any articles on possible power outages in New England -- haven't looked quite frankly. At the moment I'm concerned with the more immediate problem a lot of folks are going to have this year, of being able to afford to heat their homes. Ashfield's having a meeting about that tonight in fact.
helwen: (Tower)
Essay by Sharon Astyk, Is This Hoarding? The Ethics of Storage

Not bad, and I liked Squrrl's comments - she just saved a lot of money on clothing for her kids, and considering how much new clothing can cost, not a bad deal -- especially if you aren't sure if you or your partner will be employed a year or so down the line (assuming one has a partner -- even harder on single parents).

Me, I have to space to save some things against the future, but not everyone does. Fortunately we don't have to worry about growing kids. And foodwise, I'm glad I can get food from local farmers, not only because I have no interest in raising/milking cows for instance, but because when one of our crops doesn't work out it's good to have back-up. Although the peas are going gangbusters so I've been enjoying eating those, and the lettuces are doing well too... but one patch of my cucumbers is pretty much failing from being attacked by insects, and the tomatoes are only just getting going with flowering because of all the rain. One type of summer squash is just now ready for picking. For sure, if we had to depend on just ourselves to put food on the table, life would be a bit on the grim side right now -- most of the garden won't be ready for harvesting for a few more weeks! So far this month we've had peas, raspberries, and a few blueberries -- although I guess if we were really hungry I could pull up the onions early :P Mighty, self-sustainable farmers we're not :D

It's been interesting reading in the news and essays like the above one, about people's thoughts on what is hoarding. Even though the just-in-time delivery system has been around for a little while, I grew up with storing foods in the cupboard, and except for one summer when things were pretty grim financially, I've always had around a month's worth of food stored. For many people today that seems to be a foreign idea -- mostly the younger folks I expect, but I don't know....

My mom was the major influence of course, as my dad's job during shopping was to drive us there and back, and hang out in the magazine/book aisle in-between. My mom grew up during the Great Depression and WWII. We mostly bought foods in quantity when they were on sale, aside from some staples. Then if we wanted to have X-dish we usually could do it, even if X-ingredient for that dish wasn't on sale that week.

I think our family probably had a few months' worth of food in the house at any given time, maybe more. My mom still does this now, of course. Having plenty of food in the house also means not having to go shopping every week (time and fuel savings), and her case also a definite plus for her health. Aside from picking up some fresh in-season foods or having one of her friends do that while they're out shopping, she's been able to stay in during the 100+F weather California's been having off and on this summer.

It was interesting that one of Sharon Astyk's sample questions on hoarding was

Question 4: If Gloria knows she is likely to lose her job soon, and takes her kids to the doctor, gets their teeth checked, and gets a 3 months supply of her allergy medication while insurance will still pay for it, is she hoarding medical care?

It was interesting to me that some people would think that was hoarding, but I suppose the pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies would prefer folks didn't do this. We've done it ourselves though, some years ago when L was a contractor and I was an office temp. Our health insurance was through my job and how much coverage we had in the current month depended on how many hours I'd worked the month previous.

Nowadays we have pretty good health coverage, except no dental. And I'm happy I can afford to buy fresh produce and other locally-made goods, but I don't take it for granted. I'm all too aware through reading the news and seeing how various folks I know have been doing in the past and now, that things can always change, and not always for the better. So, we have a bit of food on the shelves, brush our teeth like good doobies, and exercise. And hope that between us, our community, and our gov't, we can keep things manageable. (Oo, btw, my State Representative responded to my email about 4-day work week and said he thought it was a great idea and wrote the governor about it!).
helwen: (Tower)
Sharon Astyk's post today is on the increasing issues with hunger within the U.S. Has some interesting info on problems from the Great Depression, like farmers not being able to afford to ship their crops or sheep to the city, because the shipping cost more than they would get paid. And for those wondering why the sheep farmer killed his sheep rather than keeping them until the prices were better -- he couldn't afford to feed them. Pretty grim times.

Today, the food pantries are having the same sorts of problems, with donations down, more people needing their services, and the increase in gas prices making it more difficult to get the food from the food banks out to the pantries.

Think there isn't hunger in your backyard? Do a search for "food bank" or "food pantry" and the name of your state.

In Massachusetts, the Project Bread 2007 report notes that hunger and food insecurity are up 22% over the last reporting period.

As we head into summer and the end of school, kids who were getting free or subsidized meals at school won't be getting much of anything, because few places have adequate summer programs. As Sharon noted in her article, kids were discovered at a school in LA to be hording their lunches so they'd have something to eat around dinner time when they got home.

There's plenty of food in this country, but not everyone can afford to buy it.

Ashfield does a food pantry thing every other week. They used to ask for 80 dozen eggs (we sell the eggs to them, but at a lower price than market) -- now they are asking for 90 dozen, as of a couple of weeks ago.

Where does re-localization come in? If more food could be provided closer to where it's needed, it will cost the food pantries less. I'm hoping my crops do well this summer... and thinking about writing in to our local paper, to propose to home gardeners that if they have a decent year, they should give a bag or more of food to the food pantry folks -- between all of us, it should add up to enough to give some to each person in need. But first, need to find out who's in charge of the local pantry, to make sure they could handle something like this happening...
helwen: (Default)
Yesterday I wrote as part of my weekend post: At one point Marian and Brianna picked some dandelions and wove them, eventually creating a crown for Brianna

Just a short sentence because so much happened this weekend, but really it deserves a bit more. Grandmother and granddaughter, picking dandelions in the hay field on a beautiful sunny day. Then retiring to the shade of the chair swing, where Marian taught Brianna how to weave them together. I loved glancing over from time to time and seeing them sitting together, chatting companionably about this and that, with a new generation learning a fun and also useful skill. Learning to use what is available, and that not all treasures are bought in a store.

Other treasures of the weekend:

- working together to refurbish the picnic table with family.

- chatting and laughing with friends.

- a good choir practice, both nourishing the spirit and accomplishing much with a new piece of music.

- seeing a community come together to observe and pay respect to those who serve or served our country, the interest in being more involved not just for one day but perhaps for other times as well.

- seeing how the children were included (both in the parade and also they got to take little bouquets of lilacs to the each of the soldiers' graves in the cemetery).

- as always, spending time with my sweetie

Managed to plant sunflower seeds, yesterday I think. Put some mulch down. Also did some watering in case it didn't rain much at night (which it didn't). Practiced on the flute a bit, stopped when my wrist got too tired.

More mulching today, and removing some of the clods of grass around the edge of the garden (L kindly took the cart of clods over to the compost pile for me, and got one of my loads of mulch too).

Got in a nap today.

More mulching, stopped when I figured I wouldn't be able to bring the cart back to the barn again (have to go uphill to get there). Yesterday I didn't do that, and had to leave the cart near the bottom of the wharfen for L to put away for me.

There's still plenty more to do, but I don't have as much energy as I'd like still. And there are other things that need doing this week, before I leave for CA, which means some garden stuff won't happen until I get back. In case anyone reading this thinks I get a lot done even when I'm under the weather, there's a price to pay for doing the work... yesterday I was like a zombie half the day, and many times in the past week or so I've not done a bunch of other things that need doing, I had to take naps, etc. I say this not because I'm looking for pity or whatever, but so that folks who don't have experience with gardening but are thinking about doing it (or doing more of it) realize that I'm no superhero, just another human doing the best she can. (And thank goodness I get help!)

Sometimes the amount of work to be done can seem overwhelming, and sometimes plans have to be changed to adapt to what is actually possible. Although I worry about getting some particular things done in a timely fashion, as long as one is prepared to possibly give up doing some things, a lot can still be accomplished. The tiring part is when, on occasion, a bunch of necessary things really do have to be done all at the same time :D
helwen: (water drops)
A number of folks I know had veggie/fruit gardens this year, some for the first time. Some had more success than others, some had mixed successes, and some ended up having some problems, either because of lighting or air quality or something.

I think [livejournal.com profile] gwynt_y_storm had the best overall success. I didn't put my peas in quite the right place, but have enough for seeds for next year. The chamomile suffered from my lack of attention I suspect... too busy with fixing up the house. I plan on potting the few survivors to see if I can coax them to get some height. Might be a little too shady where they are... but overall I don't have complaints about how the garden did. The Liberty apple tree is doing amazingly well this year, and I'm giving away tomatoes and kale because of not having time to do all the canning I wanted to do.

It's good to have the extra to give though, since some folks' gardens didn't do as well this year. I'd have enough to give, even if I did have lots of time for canning. And of course [livejournal.com profile] gwynt_y_storm and her family have plenty and have been doing their usual thing of passing on the extra to others -- the management office at the apartment complex is a good one, and arranges for food to go to those who need it.

I was thinking on how this year was working out as far as food for now and for the winter, (I will be able to put some of the tomatoes up, and dry some of the kale for soup stock after all), and was feeling grateful to belong to a community that is trying to be more self-supporting.

Many house viewers commented on how well the tomatoes are doing, and a few asked if I was raising them to sell. I hadn't thought of selling any, but it did make me think on how in our modern monoculture set-up, we are dependent on so much not going wrong with our food supply. For instance, if Florida or California have problems with their crops (hurricanes or frost), citrus prices go up. Anyone remember learning about the great potato famine in Ireland?

On a much smaller scale, some of us here did well and others not so well. We didn't charge our friends extra (or anything, to be honest) for food we had -- we just want everyone to have access to good healthy food. I suppose we could always sell at the market, or do some barter, in the future. All these things have their place in the scheme of things. And heaven knows that some of the folks I've given food to, have been a great help to me this summer/fall -- a few veggies are hardly fair compensation -- but we're friends, and know that these deeds and favors will be returned over the years.

I was just thinking it was nice to not have to worry about getting some healthy food to eat, without having to worry about cost or long distances.

And as time goes one, at least some of us will worry less about some of the harder to get foods too -- I know I'm not the only one thinking about building a greenhouse for growing some of the more tropical foods - lemons, oranges, cinnamon, chile peppers, etc. I was reading last week about how the price of food is expected to go up a lot over the next few years, so the greenhouse plan is looking better and better all the time. There are some reasonable ones on the market -- although we'll be making ours, of course!


helwen: (Default)

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