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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

another head aches, another heart breaks

I have two pictures of birds in my bathroom, which makes little sense. I don't really like birds that much. I like seeing them outside, and I appreciate their contribution to the food web, but they're pretty boring. I would never choose one as a pet.

Here are the dogs I saw yesterday at Petsmart: black Lab; black and tan/retriever mix (guessing); Boston terrier; spaniel/pointer mix (guessing); Bouvier de Flandres; Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu was the ugliest, the Bouvier was the coolest. The Lab was hyper, which surprises none of us. But he was very cute and did "behaviors" (not tricks--has Sea World taught you nothing?) for his owners to earn a tennis ball.

I dressed up this morning to meet with a loan officer. I wanted to make sure she knew I am Serious, and one can't convey seriousness in cutoffs and a ratty t-shirt.

Yesterday John and I observed Memorial Day by remembering Socrates. The way in which we remembered him consisted of us pulling hemlock out of our ditchbanks. Hemlock is a horrid weed and difficult to extract even in wet conditions. I wish it ill. Plus it is super tricky and looks like carrots. We also pulled out all the dyer's woad. If I were a better person I would use it to dye fleece that I had sheared and spun myself into yarn which I would use to knit precious little jumpers, but . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I think the best plan is just to not give the pig a pancake in the first place

I just ran into the coffee table leg and kicked off my toenail. I'm waiting for news from my brother-in-law/podiatrist to see if I get disability leave from work.

I had a dream last night that John and I were still in the college choir where we met, and the choir was going to go on tour to Europe, and John was not paying very much attention to me. When I asked him if I could sit by him on the plane he was kind of dodgy about it and kept flirting with other girls. It was annoying to me. It was annoying that I was being so forward and clingy, and annoying that he was shutting me down. I think the dream was a parable describing our life mess right now, with me wanting to move to the apple orchard down the street, and him thinking that we should just stay here.

I don't know what to do about Groceries and Rex. They are the stinkiest cats I have ever known--I blame the cat milk replacer formula. I think they didn't get their intestinal flora built up like they would have from their mother's milk. So if you're considering adopting an orphaned feral cat, think of me. Think of my cats who fill entire rooms with their miasmic fart clouds.

It irritates me when people don't spay and neuter their animals.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

come with me if you just need a little bit more time to repent

Happy Judgment Day, everyone!

I'm not sure if I hope it's the Bible one or the killer robots one. Either way it's not looking good for me. I think I'm a pretty good person, but not good enough to be raptured. Just last week I called somebody in our ward a butthole. Not to his face, obviously. And if it's killer robots, then we're all doomed, whether we call people buttholes or not. That's the thing about robots. They are so rigid.

Well, I guess we'll see how this pans out. Right now I'm going to the farmers' market. I hope that'll count for something.

Friday, May 20, 2011

getting to know soup, getting to know all about soup

Here's a soup I just made. It's the sort of thing I think people would call "Thai Chicken Soup," because it has coconut milk and lime juice and cilantro and red pepper flakes in it. I can't speak to the authenticity of its flavor profile, because: am not Southeast Asian. And I don't think there's a whole lot of originality going on here. But it tastes good, and it beats the heck out of Hot Pockets.

Siamese Chicken Soup with Rice
serves 4
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced fresh ginger
6 C chicken broth or stock--chicken liquid, let's call it
2 C cooked chicken
1 can coconut milk
1 C rice
juice from 1 lime
1 t red pepper flakes
3 T minced cilantro, or to taste
diced tomatoes

Saute the onion in some oil until caramelized. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until it smells flavorful--do not burn. Add the stock, chicken, coconut milk, rice, lime juice and pepper flakes. Cook until the rice is done. Stir in the cilantro, garnish with tomatoes and serve. This is a very thick soup, more like a stew. If you want it more brothy and less filling I would recommend either cutting down on the solids or adding more liquids. Science!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

so crazy right now

I just finished watching "The Future of Food" (free on Netflix, watch it), so of course I'm all on the warpath again.

Just when I start feeling good about myself (I make my own bread! I buy non-feedlot beef from my neighbor! I buy local pork from my butcher! I buy my summer produce almost exclusively from the person who grew it!) I get a reminder that I'm still contributing to our collective doom. Because where is my wheat coming from, anyway? Idaho and Canada, yes, and sure, I buy it from Honeyville Grain and Big J and Kitchen Kneads, but is it GE wheat? Sure my beef is pastured, but what about the silage? Is it from GE corn? What about the pork? What is the farmer feeding those pigs? Is it GE corn? I am surrounded by fields of GE corn, so what else could it be? What kind of fertilizer does Mas Sumida use?

The amount of research required in something as simple as eating a BLT is exhausting.

I try to have a sense of humor about all of it, because nobody likes an eco-terrorist, am I right? I don't want to go to jail for bombing a biotech company. The bombing part sounds okay, but not the jail part.

Yesterday I was having a discussion with some other nutty moms, and one of them was wondering how a person could work for a company like Monsanto and live with themselves. How do they go home at night to their families and not feel crippling guilt? My opinion is that the rank and file employees of any of these bloated, corrupt, octopoid corporations either don't know any better, or they feel like they have no choice. But once you get into any kind of management, I don't know how they couldn't know how incredibly destructive they are. I don't know how they could disconnect their actions from the consequences. So I guess the corporate officers of Monsanto (and similar) probably ought to be convicted of crimes against humanity. For starters, anyway. I mean, I don't see any other solution.

Gosh, and we wonder why everybody has cancer and autism rates are skyrocketing. Can we even find real food anymore?

Of course we can, but it's hard. And it's not going to look like the food landscape we're used to. More varieties of each species, but less variety year-round, even if you've thought ahead and canned or frozen it. As always, Barbara Kingsolver was right. The time to think about pesto is not February, but August, when the basil is growing.

I wish it were easy. I wish we could just buy food, you know? Calling the suppliers is always a distasteful experience, because no matter how self-deprecating and good-humored I am about the exchange, they always put on their kook-handling gloves and it makes me feel really awkward. But good news! As of now, Honeyville Grain's wheat suppliers are not growing any GMO wheat. That is not the case with some of their corn and soy products, so watch for that.

This has been your morning lecture re: the food crisis.

Monday, May 16, 2011

nopes, Rex, you can't sit on the furniture

Well, now that I've had a few days to cry my angry, bitter tears and think about this rationally, I guess I understand why people want to ruin my life. I guess twelve jobs in a community as desperate as ours has been described to me to be are worth making our city center an embarrassing eyesore, especially since the center of our town is already an eyesore, if not a health hazard.

Whatevs. Like I said, I can't communicate with people I don't respect.

Moving on. I'm looking at property elsewhere in the town, in a place that I think is fairly protected from the possibility of encroachment by industry. Because I actually really like living here, even though they have just stabbed me in the back. John's commute is bearable, we can have animals, we can grow a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, and we're close to our families. It would make me sick to my stomach to leave; not only because of the benefits I mentioned and the fact that I have a room full of very heavy food storage (ugh, all those buckets of wheat!), but because I love this house. I love the layout, I love the huge windows, I love that it smells like an old house, sort of earthy and cool, I love the moss on the brickwork. I've often said that if I could just have my house on a usable basement and further away from the road I'd never move. Unless they put a factory by my house, of course. So we're looking at a few options, like moving our house onto a different piece of land; selling our house, buying some land, and building a new one that looks exactly like this one; or moving somewhere else entirely. My least desired option is staying here, next to the industrial park. But we'll see what the future holds. So exciting, trying to escape poor city planning!

The thing I need to know is if the gnats come as far north as the piece of land I'm looking at.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

quid sum miser tunc dicturus

I'm starting to come down off my rage high now and am about to dissolve into tears of frustration and disappointment. Read about it here.

dies irae, dies illa

Well, I'm off to crack some heads. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

fire which never dies burning me forever

Per my duties as Commune Historian I am chronicling that it has been a bad few days in Bee. It's been turrible rainy and cold, and the magic neighbors fear that they have lost their entire clutch? swarm? colony? of bees. They say there is an inch-deep layer of dead bees on the floor of their hive. Bleh. So they came over tonight to check mine, and they yet live. There are still a good couple handfuls of bees clustered around the queen, and they were sort of rumbling and buzzing quietly to themselves, grousing about the weather, most likely. Boy, I hear you, buddies.

The hypothesis can be advanced that my hive location on the south side of the garage, with the sun reflecting on it all day, is a good one for these sketchy first weeks when the bees are getting established. Cold is death to bees, because if the temperature gets too low they are too cold to move and physically cannot get to their honey stores (or sugar water, in our case as new apiarists). But if the hive gets nice and warm during the day it will take longer to cool down at night. Plus we have thousands and thousands of dandelions in our grass and in the hayfield, so they get plenty to eat. We're just bee lovers over here.

Hey, we're learning. 'Tis an expensive lesson, to be sure. Hopefully Sanga Haiza's neighbor who has a Winnie-the-Pooh-style bee tree can help us out.

Tomorrow is the meeting where our town sells its soul. Or something. Just reminding you. Hey--keep your eyes peeled for an old Craftsman house on three-plus acres for me, would you? Outbuildings optional, but they'd be a big plus.

Monday, May 9, 2011

this iron man would be easier to kill than the real iron man

We spent about two hours on Saturday plastering our ward and some of second ward with anti-biodiesel flyers, and today we'll do the rest of second ward, and maybe up into first ward if we have time before Wednesday. Well, I guess the flyers aren't really anti-biodiesel, more like anti-idiotic rezoning. So angry, you guys. Who, who in the world wants to be greeted by a factory when they get home from work? Who wants to welcome residents, visitors, and potential residents with the stink of stale fries if we're lucky? Who wants to come home from the park covered in a fine sheen of used oil? Because if this really is about money, which unbelievably seems to be the case (given how extremely piddly is the sum we're talking about), then people need to understand that in the long run, the biodiesel plant will hurt, not help us. We'll get far more money from houses than a factory, and nobody wants to live in a stinkhole! Of course I don't like the sound of houses, either, but given a choice between the two, I'll take houses on five-acre lots, or even one-acre lots. Good night, what a mess.

Whatevs. I just can't talk about it calmly. John is going to write a script for me to read at the meeting on Wednesday night, because I can't communicate with people I don't respect, and I start saying horrible, mean, untakebackable things.

Yesterday for Mother's Day our present was a candy bar and some lotion, which is a vast improvement over past years. The dads always get candy bars and pop, but they give the moms some lame thing like a little booklet on motherhood, which I throw straight into the trash. What the crap? Give me a plant, give me lotion or candy or a handkerchief or nothing at all, but don't give me a reminder of all the ways in which I'm blowing it.

My parents came over on Friday night and tilled our garden and fixed our lawnmower, because they are that sort of bear. I'm sure they go home from encounters like that thinking, "How do they feed themselves?" But we are thankful for their awesomeness and now our lawn is mowed and I can plant my tomatoes, if it ever stops freezing. I decided not to do any brassicas after all, because the row cover is wicked costly. I'll see how it goes this year, and if I do a good job we'll get some row covers. Maybe the world will have gone kerplooey by then and I won't need to worry about it, because the cabbage moth larvae will be good extra protein in our new, currency-less society of disconnected, wandering tribes, each with its own unique dialect composed mainly of words that mean "hungry" and "cold."

Friday, May 6, 2011

with wings as eagles

Well, I looked out of my kitchen window last night and saw two ratty-looking dogs--toy group--trying to tear apart one of my chickens. I shouted in anger and grabbed the first tool that came to mind, which was a wooden spoon. I chased them into the street, hoping they would be killed by a car. They stopped for a minute and I almost caught up to them, but of course their flight instinct kicked in when they saw the look in my eyes and the way I was brandishing my spoon. I sincerely believe I would have killed them if I'd caught them, or at least given them the beating of their lives. I am not a good person, I realize. But I do think that an animal that attacks and kills without compunction when that's not part of its duties is an animal that's tired of living.
Well, Byron, surprisingly, the chicken was not killed, just bloodied. She is a little shaken up, but lived through the night. The dogs are impounded for ten days at the owners' expense, and if she dies they will be put down. I value apex predators in our food web, but a domesticated dog is not an apex predator. A dingy, poorly-socialized terrier mix is not an apex predator.
She's jumpy and a little bruised, but I think she'll make it.

We're getting a lot of milk these days, if anybody wanted to know. I have a gallon and a half, plus almost a gallon of whey. Thankfully our little cousin Isaac is going to take some of it off our hands. He loves the goat milk because it's good for his body.
I am so pleased with Hazel. I never thought I'd like a goat as much as Finola, but Hazel may be the one.

On Wednesday afternoon I went with my sister Justine and her husband Cannon (don't steal their identities) and his farm class on a tour of First Frost Farm in Nibley. It was fantastic and rejuvenating and my passion for gardening has been reawakened. They are very crafty (meaning clever, not mod-podgey) and resourceful, and they use row covers to keep the bugs off their brassicas, which I am going to copy. Stupid cabbage moths. It was so encouraging to see that their lawn hadn't been mowed and their house was an older Craftsman like mine, and it wasn't all sterile and perfect. It looked like what it was, a working farm, and that seems to be one of the things that disappears with large-scale agriculture. The big farms look more like factories than places that grow food.

Anyway, we were asking questions, and of course I was coming off like a know-it-all wet blanket ("Do you sometimes feel like the farm is running you and not the other way around and sometimes you'd just like to go to Italy for two weeks?"), and this pale, chubby kid with Buddy Holly glasses and a crunchy fauxhawk asked, "When you tell people you're certified organic do you find that they make a value judgment?" And the way he said it rankled a little, because the tone was just so pious, like he already knew the answer, and it was, in his mind, "Boy, do they ever. We've got these idiot rednecks buzzing their crops all the time, and they just don't get it." But the farmer, Bill something, sort of shrugged it off, and said "It's interesting. People are different, but it's not that bad." This, to me, is a vivid example of a problem with the organic food movement. Twenty, or even ten years ago, yes, they were iconoclasts and rebels, and there was a lot of pushback from the mainstream food buyer. But I don't think that's the case anymore, and this combative, self-righteous attitude is just off-putting. Trust me, I am fluent in sanctimony. Earth nerds can't be going around acting like we're better than everyone. We are, in some ways, but that behavior doesn't win converts to your cause. We have to be welcoming and inviting. So I appreciate farmer Bill for downplaying the conflict, because I don't think the conflict is as heated as people think it is--not at the local level, anyway. Higher up the chain is a different story, but most people around here look for produce at the farmers' market, and in many cases, their first concern is that it's local, and then they ask organic or conventional. And that, to me, is how you get agriculture back, how you wrest it out of the bony, necrotic talons of Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland and Tyson. You talk to the farmer, you ask him questions and tell him your concerns, and he'll grow the way his customers want him to. But you've got to talk to the farmer yourself, and you've got to stop acting like you're a hero for buying organic. Again: you are, kind of. But shut up about it already. The militance is unbecoming.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I must ruminate for now

On deck for tomorrow:

1. my very inspiring trip to First Frost Farm (which is a hard name to say)
2. how organic people need to lose the sanctimony
3. the dogs that attacked my chicken and which I almost killed with a wooden spoon and would have if I hadn't had to stop chasing them to let a car go past

Sleep tight, possums! I will see you tomorrow after I get the milking done with my precious, precious Hazel. She is a gem.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

he gets himself up on the one elbow, and he turns to his mates who are all gathered around

I don't want to speak ill of a stranger (a lie; I actually love it), but I put a hold on Bossypants at the library over two weeks ago, and it still hasn't been returned. I know it's a great book, which is why I want to read it, but I don't think it's probably heavy reading or anything. Meow! Meanwhile, I've got to finish The Emperor of All Maladies before the 9th, because someone has a hold on it. I'll be honest, it doesn't look likely. It's really long, and I'm only halfway through.

One reason I'm looking forward to the last installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise is because Emma Watson is finally a halfway decent actress. She is so excruciating to watch in the earlier movies. I can't remember when she got better--was it in five or six, or not until seven?

We were driving to Salt Lake the other day and saw a weird billboard that said Judgment Day is May 21st--the bible guarantees it. I don't believe that, of course. I have a reliable source who I'm pretty sure would give me a heads-up if that were the case. But still--what if it is? I am going to need some more diced tomatoes. We are running very low, because I keep making that tomato soup from Cook's Country. And I don't have enough garlic for the vampires--do you think garlic works on Krippen Virus? Because I would really like it to.

I think Hazel has effectively weaned her babies. She keeps kicking them off when they try to nurse, and I am forced to conclude that she likes me better because I sing to her and give her raisins, instead of pounding my head into her udder to get her milk to let down like some I could mention. More flies with honey, my friends.

Monday, May 2, 2011

the sunday bee feeding

As I said, you have to give the bees some supplemental food until they can get nectar. But luckily we have a ton of dandelions, so they'll be ready in no time. Brian brought the syrup--it's 1:1 sugar and water.
Turn it upside down in the feeder.
There are little holes in the lid where the bees can get to the syrup.
Then slide it into the hive.
I was a little freaked out about taking this picture, but it was early enough that the bees weren't awake yet, and they did not swarm and kill me.

And now I need to buy some beekeeping attire, because we had to borrow it on Saturday, and I don't like the idea of extreme pain and ripping the guts out of all the little bees who sting me. This is why bees are rad, because if they sting you, you know they're fully committed.

the saturday bee install

I will happily say that it's nice to have one less monster on the earth.

Now. On to bee business. Bees are cool, but a little scary. There are a lot of pictures in this post, many of them showing John and me standing around looking like idiots. Lo siento.
Willa greeted our bee friends, Shawn, Brian, and Gordon.
Here is Shawn making space for the bees.
The metal circle is the top of a can that has syrup in it to keep the bees alive until they're placed.
Shawn is giving the thumbs up, which I think is a good sign.
My children were unafraid of the bees.
We sprayed the bees with a thin sugar syrup, because then they start cleaning each other off and it calms them down. Calm bees are good.
Calm, submissive energy is what we want.
Shawn loosened the metal can and we upended the box.
I took out the can, and a whole big clump of bees came out with it. I told myself before we started that I was going to get stung, and I just needed to be okay with it.
The can was really hard to get out, and I was worried about smashing the bees that were hanging on it.
Once the can is out you shake the box like crazy and get all the bees down into the hive.
You have to really get after it, because they like the box.
More shaking.
But finally most of them are out, and you can set the box down on top of the hive and let the rest of them figure out that the neighborhood has gone south.
Then you can reach in and get the queen.
See how much they love and respect her? It's like there are pheromones at work.
You brush the stragglers off the queen, which takes some doing, because they are very serious about their job.
There she is. I hope she likes having babies.
You pull out the cork they send with her.
And stick a marshmallow in its place that the bees can eat away and let her out. You don't want her to get out right away, or they will kill her because of Stranger Danger.
Hang her little box between two of the bars.
Lock the bars into place.
And slide it all together, with the divider on the end. We're closing off half of the hive and concentrating them on one end for now. That way they'll focus on building comb on one end instead of spreading it all over the place.
These are the lazy/confused ones that we had to spray a few more times with the syrup so they could be shaken out. We finally got them all out.
This is the feeder we have to stick some sugar syrup into to tide the bees over until the flowers start blooming.
And here is our bee house complete and full of its new family.
John has a bee on his hat. He looks like a grizzled old farmer, doesn't he? I think it's the Ebenezer Scrooge sideburns.

And nobody got stung! Not even my kids, who were asking for it.