Sep 27, 2009

Day of Rest in the Country

Sunday is God's day off, but evidently not for those of us tending God's pastures. OK, the boys and I didn't finish breakfast until 9:30 (fresh juice from our apples&pears&chard, fresh eggs from our chickens), and there was a delicious 2-hour nap in the afternoon, and a more delicious orzo dinner with tomato, spinach, beets, onions and garlic from our garden. But in between, Joe and I:
  • finished building a covered front porch for the garage suite
  • clipped the wing feathers of the 17 frisky young chickens who keep flying over the fence
  • moved the electric cow fence - those growing steaks had eaten the grass in the first field right down, and every time they saw me were mooing plaintively (is there any other way to moo?)
  • chainsawed, moved and stacked 2 tractor-trailer loads of firewood - winter is coming
Writing this to give another picture of life here, but mostly just to brag.

Sep 25, 2009

Love, Grandma Style

I think you must put your juvenile games away; get ready to face a boss. You can't compete with that hair of the 70's. If only to please grandma, have hair styled. Life is real. Your suit-yourself days are over.
Love Grandma xxoo
She truly does love me; or at least the part of me that is her grandson. But what an odd love. A love that focuses on what's gone wrong in her perspective. A love that has her literally rip me out of family photos - still proudly hanging in frames, with tattered ripped edges where the long-hair grandson should have been. A love that still wishes I'd become a rich businessman or pianist or something braggable at the seniors center. A love that seems to miss the point completely of who I am and want to be, of what I believe and care about and live for.

I've posted before about our profound difference in social conformity vs expression. What saddens (and amuses) me into writing today is how her rigid view of propriety blocks her view of Me. And in blocking that view, blocks the potential for a much more Real, deep and flowing love between two people who respect each other through - and even for - their differences.

I have always known and trusted her love for her grandchild - a blood love that is real and strong and important to me. I just feel sad for her that she can't let go enough to accept and love people as they are, and to trust in different paths. Sad that she can't look at this photo of me and see the sparkle in my eyes, the Joy i felt in that moment having just moved 48 wedding chairs in the pouring rain. Instead, she'll see a boy who refuses to grow up and look the part (like that well-dressed girl behind me).

So Grandma-Love it is, expressed in letters and cheques and advice. As she wrote in a similar (and similarly fruitless) plea to cut my hair and come home from Africa in 1995, "Only grandma loves you enough to tell you the truth."

Sep 22, 2009

the space within us filled with love

God is that which is good within us all God is not some grey-haired old man up in the sky watching over us. God is the spirit that prompts right decision, the space within us filled with love for all the things around us.
- Nori Sinclair, young Friend in Calgary

Sep 18, 2009

Stripped and Seduced

Day one of a week in the inlaws' burbs, so what do we do? Go shopping at the strip malls, of course. I'm not as strong as I used to be.

Upon entering the first mega-discount shoe mart, Sarah took my limp hand and gently guided me to the men's section, where I slowly regained consciousness and started to find an amazing number of fun, funky shoes. All on sale! 30%, 50%, 70% off. Even those not on sale urged me to notice that the $69.98 price tag isn't so bad if I "COMPARE WITH $110.99." It's all cheap, really!

The first hint of irrational behavior I noticed was that I looked at the price tag and savings first, then the shoe. Wow, this one is only $29, regular $89, what a great deal! My assessment of the shoe itself was already wildly biased by the time I noticed it's puke-green toe or 1985-ish leather fringe.

Next I moved into brand-name land. I could buy Merrill, or Timberland, or even Clark's. Surely those are the best, will last the longest, make me happiest. When I got down to the two top contenders, I ended up choosing Keen because Sarah had just told me that they're the new Chaco's (which used to be the new Teva's). I don't even own a TV or read enough magazines to know the jingles, but somehow the branding is still in my brain.

Then I forgot all about what I already owned or truly needed. These shoes would look great, though I couldn't think of what occasion I'd actually wear them on. In reality, they'd look great collecting dust on the shelf right beside the fun funky pair I bought at this same store 2 years ago and have worn about 3 times.

Finally, I succumbed to the most dangerous temptation of all - the Browse. In addition to the one pair of Crocs-replacements I came for, I bought new jeans and underwear, and seriously fondled dress shoes, a pair of amazing pink-purple-powder blue runners, purple slim-fit Deisl jeans, fancy kitchen gadgets, a bright yellow suitcase, and a purple hat with white polka-dots. All, of course, by great companies at incredible discounts.

Overwhelmed, I flopped on a chair in the sunny entrance-way - no doubt provided for overwhelmed husbands - but closing my eyes was no escape. The rhythmic, seductive muzak kept a subtle but persistent buzz going, calling me to buy more, drums rising up occasionally to excite me to sit up, sometimes a dim chanting to remind me that the rest of humanity was in on this hunt, counting on me to do my part. I have no doubt that the muzak has been designed and tested by psychologists like me to optimize consumer buying. I could feel it, feel pulled by it.

So my simplicity and low consumption isn't about my strong will and superior moral temperament after all - it's just lack of exposure. I could feel today how easy it is to be convinced that buying things will bring happiness, and that sale prices make it all OK.

So I'll get back to Vancouver Island thankful for the our life choices that remove us from this daily assault of advertising and temptation. I suppose with more personal work I could get to the point of not even being tempted by fancy shoes and shiny gadgets - in a normal grocery store I quite easily walk down most isles without the slightest temptation to grab anything (except the stale icing donuts, which I know I'll regret even before I pick them up) - but for now I'll cut my losses and stick with abstinence.

Sep 14, 2009

No more logs in our toilet

We've given up toilet paper. Keep that in mind as you request a third helping of beans at our potluck parties...

All the extreme efforts we go to trying to reduce our impact on nature, yet we still flush down needless amounts of tree product that had been clear-cut, transported, processed in a smog factory, packaged in plastic, and transported again. I've used water, leaves, paper, even (gasp!) bible pages in various countries and stages of my past, so why has this paper carnage been necessary?

We started out first class, with soft cushy organic cotton washable wipes from LunaPads (also makers of the eco-obvious Diva Cup for you ladies). Next came an old purple flannel blanket cut into little squares. They all end up in the same place - a little wooden bucket with 3 squirts of vinegar for odour control, then a short-cycle hot water wash, 2-hour drying time on the deer fence, and ready for action again.

We re-wash our babies' diapers, our snot-ridden hankies and the occasional underwear mishap, so why not our toilet wipes? I'm sure the nice marketing folk at Charmin and even Seventh Generation will say that it's not eco-friendly to use so much hot water and detergent to wash them, but it pales in comparison to the processing, packaging and multiple-transport emissions of toilet paper (even recycled).

So come on over to our house and, uh, take a wipe on the wild side.The emergency stash (purchased in the spring) for grandmas and visitors
quite ready even to hug trees let alone go to third base,
and for
those particularly messy times...

Sep 12, 2009

we be jammin, we be jammin

Bachelor night last night (sarah at hollyhock), celebrated by making 4 double-batches (21 jars) of jelly: plumple (plum-apple), cherry, and apple. Then stayed up till past midnight watching the first half of Porky's while eating fresh warm zuchini-carob chip-peanut butter-apple pulp cookies

'Twas the first day in over 2 weeks that i didn't have a nap, and first night i was able to stay up past 10pm. This not having energy thing is so foreign - when thinking about a task, i actually do a quick inventory to see if i'll have enough energy to finish the job. In normal life energy just isn't a factor, it's just a matter of having enough time, and where the task falls on the priorities list. Is this getting tired and not having eternal stores of energy phenomenon what many people consider to be normal?

The energy i do have is going into winter preparation. I feel my body and soul naturally turning to stocking up for the cold season. Chopped wood today, preserved more fruit tonight, will build a front-porch rain shelter for the garage suite tomorrow. Just naturally feels like time to hunker down, do what's needed to keep my family warm and fed in the deep snows. Can't remember feeling this calling in the city; can't remember being so aware of the seasons in a survival way - it was more about what clothes we'd need and what tires on the car. Now I think about light (have lost a lot of morning and evening work hours), moisture (gotta get those fallen trees cut up and dried before they soak over the fall-winter), mud (time to re-seed the grass soon), animals (cows gonna need warmer shelter), garden (time to plant winter food crops and over-winter cover crops to regenerate the soil) and of course food (freezing, canning, pickling, dehydrating everything in sight).

This time last year i was blogging under the stars on chilly fall nights before returning to our tent at the ecovillage. The season meant cold, keeping our kids dry and warm in the tent, borrowing friends' freezer space to have something through the winter. This time around, the season is teaching us lessons about living on our own land through a full year's cycle. I just hope i can get back the energy i need to power through this important and immensely rewarding fall harvest and winter preparation time.

Sep 8, 2009

More about less wireless

A month back I wrote about our decision to stop using cordless phones. It was mostly what deep down makes sense to me about how to create a safe environment for our children and family to grow up in. Now I've found a great online resource to share with you with more scientific backing and links -

It confirms (with plenty of links to the scientific data) my fears that the constant presence of radiation from our cordless phone, wireless router, and other wireless devices in our supposedly simple house are ubiquitously and constantly attacking us, with our children being more vulnerable:
Research shows that radiation penetrates more deeply into a child's head and also that children’s thinner skulls absorb much more radiation than an adult’s.

Another study found that children who had used a mobile phone before they were 20 had five times more chance of getting a brain tumour later in life. That five times greater risk might be the tip of the iceberg because there is every chance the risks increase the longer the phone is used. The increase in risk could turn out to be much greater when the full long-term effects have been studied in the future.

Additionally we do not yet know how significant the impact of exposure to other new radiation sources, like cordless phones, wi-fi, Bluetooth, baby listening monitors and games consoles, will be or how the different sources interact in their effect on children's bodies. These now ubiquitous products add to the radiation “load” experienced by children growing up today but the effects of long-term exposure to them are untested Many scientists fear for the impact this will have when today’s children grow up.
Most studies to date have been about mobile phones, but cordless phones operate on much the same technology:
Modern cordless (DECT) phones work much like mobile phones. When in use, their power level, and microwave radiation emissions, are within the range at which mobile phones commonly operate, although they don't power up to the maximum level of a mobile phone. Cordless phones tend to be used for much longer calls than those on mobiles because they are often the main phone on a household's land-line. This means that the health effects might be even more significant than from mobile phones. A recent study found a link between malignant brain tumours and using cordless phones.

There is an additional exposure from a cordless phone system because it includes a base station which emits radiation as it "communicates" with the phone and this works rather like a mobile phone mast. There is now substantial evidence of health effects associated with exposures from mobile phone masts.

The phone and base unit emit radiation continuously, so there is an extra exposure "whammy" of radiation 24/7 even when the phone is not in use. The radiation emitted from the base unit and phone on standby are much lower than from the phone on a call but some scientists think this chronic (long-term) exposure may be even more damaging than short bursts of higher level radiation, like that from mobile and cordless phones in use on a call
Telus and Rogers both come next week to put in new phone and internet jacks in 3 different rooms in our house so that we can completely do away with the cordless phone and wifi. The cost - about $150; the inconvenience - minimal; long-term benefits - priceless.

Sep 4, 2009

Too hot for an orgy

Summer was supposed to be a Bacchian parade of play dates with all those school friends who had been, like us, too busy during the year. Trips to the beach, hikes, canoe paddles galore. Instead, here we are in September and I'm just remembering that community that was so central the last day of school.

Turns out we didn't need an orgy. Didn't feel called to a serial-monogamous set of sweaty rolls in the sand. Turns out we just needed some time with us.

School friendships don't have to be worked over the summer. Quite the opposite, in fact. They'd been cooking all year, and by June they'd been hard-boiling for a while, rattling the pot lids and bubbling over into the first splashes of bullying, break-ups and friend-fatigue. Kids and parents just needed a break from it all. Galen especially needed a break from the social pressures he was increasingly facing, a break from having to defend himself or question himself or wonder on the morning bike ride to school where his standing would be this day.

We watched him slowly unwind, rediscover himself, regain confidence and Joy in his beautiful core person. He still has a few worries about person X or situation Y walking into school next week, but mostly he's bringing a strong self and sense of discovery that resurfaced over a summer of farming, camping, playing in the woods, long long creative hours with his brother, long long together hours with his parents. Time to just be a 7-year-old, playing and dreaming and drifting.

For me too, it's been a frustrating and freeing visitor-full playtime of a summer that's been glorious, and has me ready for fall. Ready for regular "good-morning's" with other parents, a 9-11:45 childless routine, lists and rhythms and shorter days and slow movement. Time to look at that list of what i'm here to do and figure out which parts of that vision it's time to focus in on.

Father and sons feeling rejuvenated, re-centred and ready to re-engage with the world from a renewed place of strength. What more could we ask of a summer?

Sep 1, 2009

Thumbs up to the Canadian Medical System

I don't care what any self-serving Big Pharma lobbies have to say about us, we have an amazing medical system here. I can prove it as fast as a Canadian appendectomy.

When the pains started on Tuesday night, I could have gone for a check-up as soon as I felt like it. The fact that I waited until Friday is a testimony to my testosterone, not due to any financial fears. In Texas I might have waited another few days until it actually ruptured, resulting in a life-threatening and much more costly operation and recovery.

When they diagnosed a need for an immediate removal of my appendix, there wasn't any thought to how I'd have to mortgage my house or call on the relatives, if I were to even have those resources. No delays while they ran a credit check. The first form I signed that night was authorizing BC Medical Plan to pay for everything. My only job was to get better.

The level of care, attentiveness and professionalism was top-notch for 4 straight days - you just can't argue that a private medical team would have cared more or done better. On Sunday afternoon the doctor told me I could go home if I really really needed to, but his advice was one more night of IV antibiotics and rest to give better odds of no infection. He wasn't trying to squeeze another night's payment out of me, and I was able to make the choice best for my body. In Texas I would have been checked-out and limping home before he finished his sentence.

What more can you want out of a medical system than patients and medical teams working unhindered in the best interest of health? My appendix didn't know if I'm rich or poor, black or white, Tier One or Tier Two, it just needed to come out. Canada's all-(sick)-people-are-created-equal system made that happen.

Still there, Obama?