Showing posts with label food storage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food storage. Show all posts

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Spinning Life

This is my spinning wheel. Er, well, actually, it's a friend of mine's spinning wheel, but I'm thinking I need to make some kind of offer to her to change this fact.

Truth is, yesterday was the first time that my wheel had seen any use in well over 6 months, possibly a full year. It might seem that spinning yarn would be a calming, meditative exercise, perfect for those stressful days of unemployment. Yeah, funny how things like that never work out. You see, first, spinning is only calming and meditative if you're any good at it. Since I have only barely crossed that magical line between a non-spinner and "hey look, I think this is actually yarn!" I don't think anyone could fairly call me good at it. As such, spinning can be an exercise in frustration rather than zen if things don't go well.

However, that's not the main reason, or the one most relevant for my purposes, as to why my spinning wheel has been resting alone in a corner for so long. The real reason is that spinning your own yarn is an incredibly useless thing to do. Of course, that's wrong--it's a very valuable thing, a great skill, an enjoyable pasttime, a craft, and more. But not when you're unemployed. When you're unemployed, it's pretty hard to justify sitting around pushing on a peddle for hours to make something that you could've bought for $6 (or in the case of my yarn, could have gotten for free due to quality issues). Shouldn't I be out looking for a job? That's not guilt from others, that's guilt from right inside my little ole head. So it could be frustrating, and I felt guilty doing it.

And unlike other useless things that I persisted in doing to get me through the stress of unemployment, it just doesn't offer the same diversions. You can watch TV and just ignore everything else--there's a lot to recommend this. When I knit, I can either do something else at the same time (e.g., read, watch TV, etc.) or if the pattern is complex enough, I would be focusing on that instead. Great diversion! But spinning? There's not much else you can do and spin at the same time. It takes both hands and a foot, so reading is straight out unless you've got some kind of truly wacky setup. You can't really watch TV since you need to watch the fiber you're drafting out. But it's not a very intellectually engaging activity; it doesn't "keep your mind off of things". Nope, spinning consumes both all of your attention and none of your attention at the same time. Once you get the hang of it (i.e., you get past that whole "frustration" point), it really is quite meditative. It focuses your attention brilliantly inside your own head, where you can think. A lot. About stuff you don't want to think about. Like unemployment. Yay.

But you no doubt notice, dear reader, that the wheel is back! What does this signify? It's a sign that my mind is returning to being a safe place to be left alone in. I spun yarn last night for a few hours, perfectly happy. My thoughts were calm, not stressful. I reveled in the incongruity of listening to an iTunes Genius mix of the Urge, Dada, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, and the Catherine Wheel, while spinning yarn (and if you know who any of those bands are, then you were just as much of a geek as I was in high school!). I thought about my job, my family life, my house, my town, and all without hyperventilating. My life finally seems to be settling itself down.

So I'm going to enjoy this all while it lasts. Does this mean that I'm no longer preparing for the zombies? Au contraire! I feel like that's a project I can finally look in the face again, since it no longer feels like the zombies are already at my door. Also, while I am confident that my current job isn't going to disappear tomorrow, I don't really know what the long-term prospects are for a well-paying administration job in the field of eco-justice. I don't hold out much hope for the lasting viability of our current economy; the growth capitalism model of doing things just isn't sustainable. Will the economic crash (which I believe is still to come) spell doom for my job? Honestly, it seems likely. On the other hand, working in an eco-justice center is a pretty good job for doing preparation, learning and teaching everything I can now, to help everyone through it. So there's always that. But will these days of bliss last forever? Nope. Buddhism got that one right.

So I will embrace impermanence and enjoy this while I can. I will use the calm to reapply myself to things I was just too depressed to work on before. My garden is getting a MAJOR upgrade this year. When I'm done with the construction, I'll post pics (my regular State of the Garden reports). Seedlings are growing in my dining room and on my sun porch (which, despite the name, has almost no access to said celestial being). I'll finally build the vent box for our root cellar to help regulate the temps down there. Maybe I'll even finally build or buy a sun oven! Crazier things have happened. Depending on where we are in a few months, or by next year, maybe we'll finally invest in a wood-burning cookstove. Many possibilities are open.

But what this all really means? It means I need to overhaul the "To Do" list on here. But not right now, I've got yarn to spin! =)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our edible landscape

Well, now that the whole "teaching thing" is done and over, I can get back to my life as a blogger--er, I mean, gardener and urban adaptionist (I just coined that term--it works, doesn't it?). I've noticed of late that my outdoor life is sliding steadily toward the "edible landscape" end of the spectrum. My basic criteria for planting something has always been that it must either (1) be edible; (2) be advantageous to those things which are edible; or (3) be in a place essentially impossible to plant anything edible in (e.g., the 3" deep built-in flower boxes on the north side of our house). But now this has taken something of a turn; I've begun to actively remove things that are already in place which do not meet these requirements, replacing them with things that do.

For example, let's look at the new blueberry bushes I just got (along with some landscape fabric, custom organic fertilizer and detailed planting instructions, all for $10 each bush--did I mention that I was completely taken for a ride on my first $30 blueberry bush purchase?!). These will be replacing the five boxwood shrubs currently sitting happily in front of our house. The boxwoods look nice, they are nearly no maintenance, and they fill the space and block the view of our concrete foundation. And I'm replacing them with a plant that is about as finicky as they come, with stringent pH requirements and watering & drainage needs, pruning requirements, and which will probably never block the view of the foundation. And I'm paying for it. And yet, this all seems perfectly logical, because at the end of the day, I will have blueberries. Well, at least, I will probably have blueberries, if I can keep up with the pH, water, drainage, and pruning requirements. Hmmm.

Blueberry bushes are nice looking, don't get me wrong. Or at least, they probably will be in a couple of years. Probably. The only reason I'm reasonably sure my neighbors won't hate me for destroying their property values are (1) at least half of them are currently racing me for getting chickens first; and (2) forces other than me have already done far more damage to property values than my wee little bushes could ever dream of doing.

I've also now planted three grape vines, and am struggling to learn The Art of the Grape Pruning. Why does every plant on the planet that needs to be pruned need to be pruned in an entirely different manner, with different tools, aiming at different goals? Is this some kind of subtle perverse joke on the part of the divine that we just haven't seen yet? Cut back only new growth; cut back only old growth; only allow two canes at a time; never cut back to fewer than five canes; cut mid-branch for shape; cut at the node for healing; prune in fall before dormancy; prune in spring before leafing out; prune in spring but not before leafing out. WTF, people? And don't even get me started on the apricot tree on our property. Whoever owned the house before us had the poor thing topped. It's now a hopeless mass of scraggly branches that cannot possibly support the amount of fruit it sets. Pruning of the most aggressive order might be able to bring it back into useful production, but I'm still over here struggling with my one-year-old grapes & blueberries, okay?

We are also approaching the Season of the Assessments. (And, judging by this post, we've also entered the Season of the Over-Used Capitalized Made-Up Proper Names.) Pretty soon things like berries and early greens will become available in mass quantities, which means canning, freezing and dehydrating, oh my! And that means figuring out how much to can, freeze and/or dehydrate. And that means figuring out how much I canned or froze last year (I hardly dehydrated anything), and if it was enough, not enough, or too much. Why buy a bushel of peaches when I still have half a bushel of peaches from last year's bushel purchase in the freezer? That's a clue that a bushel is too much, ya know.

I will also take this opportunity to look at our eating habits, and how they can be adjusted to eat more completely out of our stores, rather than out of the store. I might have some fairly impressive food storage going on here, but I still go to the store weekly. Why is that? What can I adjust to pare that down? So in my food storage assessment will be thinking about why I didn't use a full bushel of peaches. Could I have? Should I have? Did I make various desserts or jams out of things I bought from the store, when there were perfectly usable peaches right downstairs?

And, of course, I will be assessing the quality of my food storage. For example, the potatoes went beautifully. They're only now starting to give up the ghost. The apples, OTOH, were an unmitigated disaster. What happened? I need to figure that out. And where were my other root crops? Or winter squash? Gotta look into these things. Where were my gaps? What could I have done better? What methods of storage worked particularly well--or particularly poorly--with which veg or fruit? Yes, all this in more will be in store in upcoming posts.

I am becoming increasingly paranoid about the state of our economy. The behavior of the stock market seems to have taken leave of any reference to on-the-street economic conditions, or indeed with reality itself. As discussed in The Automatic Earth, there was an interview with a major stock analyst who said that he sees a recovery for our economy in late 2009-early 2010. Then, in the same paragraph, he said that he didn't have any particular ideas for what the engine of recovery would be. So what, exactly, is this belief in recovery based on? Pure faith? Tarot cards? What? I love me some tarot cards, but I try not to gauge the movement of world economies with them, ya know. And the useful economic data (i.e., not the stock market) is bleaker than hell. We're now well embedded in the deflationary cycle, which is the sort of thing that wakes up most economists in the middle of the night in cold sweats. So while I would love to have more time to prepare my family and my methods, I'm genuinely concerned that we're about out, and this is our last go. So let's hop to it, shall we?