Saturday, January 31, 2009

Waiting for spring

I just finished reading a novel by LaVyrle Spencer that was set in pioneer Minnesota. I’ve read it before, so it was a bit like visiting with old friends. I feel particularly drawn to this time period. I’m quite sure my mother and grandmother’s could have outworked me in their younger days, but I’ve done enough working on the land to understand, I think, what families in the 1800’s and early 1900’s had to do to survive. I hear the siren’s song of the land, calling to me, urging me to plant, and till and harvest – to put food on your table that you have known intimately from seed to plate.

As the days are getting longer, I feel compelled to dig out the seed catalogs and stored seeds (those purchased and those saved from our own garden), check the spreadsheet to compare the orders of previous years (mom and the grandma’s never had that option ;-) and make sure I have enough seeds for this year’s garden. I visit the root cellar and the cool storage, looking for any signs of spoilage, removing sprouts, and taking care to eat up anything that looks like it won’t keep much longer. The carrots, potatoes, beets and onions are keeping better this year. Since the winter has been so cold, the root cellar has stayed colder, too. The pumpkins and squash may need to be cooked down soon and frozen, a few have developed soft spots. The celery plants that were dug up last fall are still growing in a basement window. The parsley and one celery plant left in the greenhouse have long since frozen. The herbs growing the kitchen window (parsley, oregano and chives) provide plenty for our winter needs. The stock in the freezer is dwindling, the shell peas are almost gone, but there is still plenty of corn, snap peas, soybeans, applesauce, cherries and a few other odds and ends. We are making inroads on the canned goods - jams and jellies, maple syrup, pickles, kraut, green beans and various tomato products (sauce, juice, stewed tomatoes, ketchup, salsa, V-8). The pantry holds dried shell beans for soup and baking. Out in the garden, parsnips and sunchokes wait to be dug up come spring thaw. It sure will be hard to leave all this if we have to move. I feel like I’m just finally getting reasonably adept at providing a significant portion of our food. Some if it may look a little odd, like the many-fingered carrots, but it all tastes pretty darn good.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why is is that we remember what we remember?

5 ½ years of college, and the one thing that I remember most distinctly being said by one of the teachers is as follows: “Suddenly, you realize that all that you have learned for all these years is nothing but bullshit.” The teacher in question was Dominda Wyjesecara (whose name I have spelled very poorly), and he was speaking in his Discrete Mathematics class. Unfortunately, that is about the only thing I remember from said class, other than the fact he chewed on his chalk quite a bit as he was thinking. Still, it has been a very useful statement throughout my life.

So often we take for granted what we have been told, what we are “supposed” to do, what the “experts” say, that we forget to question whether or not what we have been told is right for us or even right at all. I watched this excellent video today from ( This young woman, Eva Vertes, was giving a presentation on her hypotheses for cancer treatment options based on redirecting the body’s own response. Honest to goodness, it was an absolute pleasure to listen to this young woman as she described her thought process that led her to where she is today. In her naiveté, she asked questions that hadn’t been asked and made connections that hadn’t been made. We need more people like that.

Expert power becomes a problem when it is used to suppress inquisitiveness and innovation. We are being barraged with messages, from Washington DC and elsewhere, telling us that we can’t solve our own problems- only government and other “experts” can do it. And just how well has that been working so far? And here we get back to the bullshit factor. When I was young, I was told that good ole FDR was one of the greatest presidents EVER. Now, what do you know, a UCLA study has come out that shows that his rampant government spending actually made things worse (FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate - Apparently the Obama Whitehouse didn’t get this memo. I have a message for the folks in DC – QUIT SPENDING MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE! While you’re at it, quit telling me how to live my life. You don't have all the answers, and a lot of the time you're not even asking the right questions.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How did we end up with a cat?

We really weren't planning on a pet, not when there's a chance that we may have to move, but sometimes things come into your life whether you plan for them or not. That's how we ended up with Don Gato. Last summer, he started hanging around in the garden when we were working outside, and was always a little more friendly than the other neighboring barn cats who were making the rounds. The boys started giving him a little food, and pretty soon he was always under foot looking for attention. In the fall he stayed on the porch in a covered box, but when it got really cold in the winter he moved back into the barn. Mid-December, my eldest decided he couldn't wait for springtime to have his kitty back. With below zero wind chills, he hikes over to the neighbors to retrieve the cat. A month later, we still have an extremely playful seemingly permanent addition to the family.
I have to admit, he's pretty entertaining...

Common Sense Home - the blog

I'm finally taking the plunge into blogdom. Wish me luck and inspiration.