Thursday, August 21, 2014

1st Day of Kindergarten - Rowen

He's going to do great.  He walked in to his classroom with his usual big smile. He gave the teacher a big hug, then hung up his backpack and found his seat.  I'm sure he's making lots of friends, because really, he's never met a person he didn't like.

There's always that worry, did we do enough? Will he thrive?
Here's hoping he does. 
Send him good vibes today and tomorrow. He's out in the big world.  Expanding his horizons.
Go baby go!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fall crops are up!

When I pulled the garlic from my kitchen garden, at the end of July, I immediately started prepping that space for fall crops. Garlic harvests best when the soil is dry, so that soil was very dry. I added a couple of buckets of compost, and roughly hoed that in a little. Then a bunch of water, (the kids wanted to play in a sprinkler, it was a win-win operation.)  Then I  seeded Swiss Chard, Red Russian Kale, the last of the onion sets that were still in a plantable state, some green beans, white turnips and Cylindra beets. It might sound like a lot, but there's only 2-3 feet of each one.

Thanks to a week of rain and a waxing super moon, I had GREAT germination on all of them, and with any luck, it will be a welcome wave of fresh veggies at the end of the season.  I'll be curious to see if the beans will have enough time to produce, they are bush beans, so I only need them to put on that first big flush.

Worst case, they'll shade out some weeds and be interesting from a research/trial-and-error stance.  But I'm betting at least half will give me food. That Swiss Chard and Kale will probably give me food well into winter, they are both super hardy.

Some notes for future reference. No onion sets for sale this late in the season. Keep more onion sets in a dry dark location after spring plantings. That means I have to buy enough in the spring so I'll have leftovers that I can plant in fall. And actually get them into a safe place. I had probably 3 little bags of sets this year leftover, but one got wet during a watering "incident" that soaked my whole gardening basket, so it rotted. One was left in a sunny place and sprouted, then rotted.  Only one was in a dry dark place, and of course, that was totally by accident.

Other food related things going on, include a bunch of canning. Dave has really stepped into the lead on preservation work, but we still work together on most batches.  We've done a couple rounds of zucchini relish. Bread and Butter pickles are still to do this week.  Some sweet corn next week. We've dried a lot of herbs. Tons of oregano, some mint and parsley.

I don't know if we'll get a tomato glut this year, it's been so mild, there are barely enough heat units to ripen anything. I'll just have to wait and see how the rest of August plays out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beautiful Bits

I know, I'm a worrier.  I'm a downer. I see the world through my doomer glasses, most all of the time.  That doesn't mean I don't have beauty in my life. It doesn't stop me from enjoying that beauty. And today, it won't stop me from sharing some with y'all.  Enjoy. (I'm sure the next post will be back to doom and gloom and atheism.)

Here are a few of my creations this spring/summer. The bits of beauty I try to fit into a hectic life.

I'm working on some sandwich board signs for my market stall. Here's the first one done. This is two quarter sheets of outdoor grade plywood. Sanded, primed, painted with 4 layers of chalkboard paint, and some exterior "patio paint."  I have screwed in hinges at the top, and a chain to keep it from sliding all the way open.  The chalkboard was a pain to paint, it was never going to get as smooth as I wanted it. But even so I think it turned out ok. Very pretty, and functional.

Here are some pretty garden shots. This is the view from my newest garden.  Peaceful, in an Iowa monocrop sort of way. :-)
 And the kitchen garden has a pretty new addition, thanks Mom!
Some of the garlic, looking fresh. This garlic has now been harvested, and is on my front porch curing.

Here are some cute kids, I helped make them, so it counts.

Of course I let him chalk on the new sign board. :-) He helped paint a couple parts.

Some of my recent Mixed Media work.  This one is an oil painting with fabric decoupage so far. May do a bit more painting on it. Some falling Matrix like symbols in gold? Some mehndi style swirls? Still trying to make up my mind.

 This medium sized square one is meant to pair with the larger one above. It too is an oil painting with fabric, but yo-yos this time. Still a WIP, but you can maybe see where I'm going with it.
The itty bitty one is going to pair with a painting I won in a silent auction this spring.  All four together should give us enough to shake up the art work in a couple of rooms.

I'll have to find a new place to get my art supplies, before I embark on the next round.  All of my canvases came from the local Hobby Lobby store a year or so ago. You can guess how often I'll be returning there.  Anybody got any good internet craft suppliers? 

How are you incorporating beauty into your life? Share in the comments if you like.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Collecting Children

I've had the urge to adopt for awhile now. I know I love children, I know I'd love to raise a little girl and I know I don't have the time to play roulette with another pregnancy, hoping it's a girl. Thus the urge to adopt. So I follow a few adoption oriented blogs. One of which recently posted with some thoughts about the Marion IA gal with 15 kids, 8 of whom were adopted from Africa, who just died in a car accident. It shouldn't surprise me, the adoption community, especially the uber-Christian one, is kind of a small world.  

After reading the post, about the shock the adoption community felt to have lost a mother, I wondered, are there any among the adoption community that sees this as the terrible situation it really is? That husband now has 15 children, a couple of which are special needs, and no one to stay home with them and raise them, as he has to work.  Is there any talk in the adoption community about the morality of continually adopting, past the point of a dozen children? It's only possible from 3rd world nations where they don't care about things. And only possible with the encouragement and financial assistance of Christian organizations. No adoption agency in America would let another child go to a home that already had 14 youngsters. For just this reason, among others. 

Sure she left a legacy of love, the service was standing room only.  But that won't get that family very far, the husband literally can't even transport all the kids by himself, much less raise them on his own. They've all been homeschooled, so none of them have experience with even the simple routines of leaving the house for school, even if the dad could physically get them there. Every one of those children is now stuck in a terrible situation. The eldest are likely going to have to raise the younger kids themselves, probably foregoing the last of their homeschool education to do it, no matter what their transcripts say. What a great thing to do innocent children. Oh...wait.. not really.

The adoption community, and the Christian groups that funnel money into it, really need to see this tragedy as what it is. Christians playing the savior, and collecting children like they get more grace points for it, nevermind the consequences for the children in question when things like death or illness come along.

I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but the enablers of her children collecting are not dead, so I'm directing this at them.  Did they think that with enough children and enough prayer, the family would be spared the normal realities of life, like sickness and death, that make 15 children problematic? Probably, it would match the other crazy things Christians like to believe.  Is the community going to step in to raise those 15 children? Probably not.   I'm sure they'll pray for them though.


Speaking of kids in a bad place, I'm going to boost the signal on this group, a little bit.
1000 kids.  A foundation seeking to open Iowa homes and hearts to 1000 of the unaccompanied minors at the border. If every state would take in 1000, the humanitarian crisis would be well under control.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Is The End Still Nigh?

Jennie, you haven't mentioned the end of the world lately, are we still on for that?

Yes. Yes we are.

Here are some points to consider.
The US is a net importer of natural gas and will remain in that status for the foreseeable future. There will be no exporting of gas to Europe. We are not the next OPEC.  All those oil and gas fracking sites, the science says they'll experience sharp dropoffs in production after their first flush. The Frackers say, "Oh, we'll get more efficient and just keep drilling." Meaning every last unspoiled piece of land in this country will be spoiled in our efforts to feed our addiction.  Those lofty reserve estimates for what's in the ground? Total bunk.  If we want oil independence, we NEED TO GET OFF OF OIL. Period.

Speaking of the stuff in the ground. It really needs to stay there if my grandchildren are going to have enough liveable areas to survive in. Yes, survive.  A 4 degree Celsius warmup would make large
swathes of our planet too warm for humans. Too warm for our crops to grow, too warm during the heat of the day for a human to literally survive in.
In 2012, the writer and activist Bill McKibben published a heart-stopping essay in Rolling Stone titled “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” I’ve read hundreds of thousands of words about climate change over the last decade, but that essay haunts me the most.
The piece walks through a fairly straightforward bit of arithmetic that goes as follows. The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Given that we’ve already warmed the earth about 0.8 degrees Celsius, that means we have 1.2 degrees left—and some of that warming is already in motion. Given the relationship between carbon emissions and global average temperatures, that means we can release about 565 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere by mid-century. Total. That’s all we get to emit if we hope to keep inhabiting the planet in a manner that resembles current conditions.
Now here’s the terrifying part. The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a consortium of financial analysts and environmentalists, set out to tally the amount of carbon contained in the proven fossil fuel reserves of the world’s energy companies and major fossil fuel–producing countries. That is, the total amount of carbon we know is in the ground that we can, with present technology, extract, burn and put into the atmosphere. The number that the Carbon Tracker Initiative came up with is… 2,795 gigatons. Which means the total amount of known, proven extractable fossil fuel in the ground at this very moment is almost five times the amount we can safely burn.
Proceeding from this fact, McKibben leads us inexorably to the staggering conclusion that the work of the climate movement is to find a way to force the powers that be, from the government of Saudi Arabia to the board and shareholders of ExxonMobil, to leave 80 percent of the carbon they have claims on in the ground. That stuff you own, that property you’re counting on and pricing into your stocks? You can’t have it. -source

Here's some of the salient parts from that Bill McKibben piece linked above.
In fact, study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we'll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today's preschoolers will be graduating from high school. "The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close," said Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist. In fact, he continued, "When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees." That's almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.
If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren't exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won't necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can't have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That's how the story ends.

The numbers are simply staggering – this industry, and this industry alone, holds the power to change the physics and chemistry of our planet, and they're planning to use it. They're clearly cognizant of global warming – they employ some of the world's best scientists, after all, and they're bidding on all those oil leases made possible by the staggering melt of Arctic ice. And yet they relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons – in early March, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson told Wall Street analysts that the company plans to spend $37 billion a year through 2016 (about $100 million a day) searching for yet more oil and gas.
There's not a more reckless man on the planet than Tillerson. Late last month, on the same day the Colorado fires reached their height, he told a New York audience that global warming is real, but dismissed it as an "engineering problem" that has "engineering solutions." Such as? "Changes to weather patterns that move crop-production areas around – we'll adapt to that." This in a week when Kentucky farmers were reporting that corn kernels were "aborting" in record heat, threatening a spike in global food prices. "The fear factor that people want to throw out there to say, 'We just have to stop this,' I do not accept," Tillerson said. Of course not – if he did accept it, he'd have to keep his reserves in the ground. Which would cost him money. It's not an engineering problem, in other words – it's a greed problem.

There's disagreement as to whether 2 degrees actually is a safe level of warming. "Two degrees is actually too much for ecosystems," wrote George Mason University's Thomas Lovejoy in the New York Times. "A 2-degree world will be one without coral reefs (on which millions of human beings depend for their well-being)." Certain island nations will disappear at 2 degrees by the rising oceans.
Either way, we've waited so long to begin cutting emissions that two degrees looks flatly impossible. We're on track for 4°C of warming — which is nearly the temperature difference between the world now and the Ice Age. That's a nightmare for the planet. The World Bank tried to model it and realized that they had no idea what would happen — or whether humans could manage. There's "no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible," they concluded.

Our crops, like ourselves, are adapted to the climate we have now. Temperatures too hot will keep corn from pollinating. Weather patterns that change too much, too quickly will most certainly cause crop failures.  Oh, and our global stockpile of emergency grain? Already at the lowest levels possible. Our domesticated animals won't get off free either, rising temperatures will most certainly mean increasing frequencies of disease and parasites. Water supplies are already feeling the crunch in Western and SW states, another 4-11 °F of warming will only take that crisis to higher levels.  There's no way we can "engineer" our way out of all these problems simultaneously. We'll be too busy putting out the fires (literally) and trying to keep our basic (and aging) infrastructure from melting in the heat and washing away in the floods.

The problem goes so much deeper than oil, we can have a discussion about oil, and most people will agree that we need to get off of it. Every president in the past 50 years has remarked on how critical it is that we get off of oil. But nothing happens, because no one wants to talk about what that would actually mean. No one wants to talk about how stupid our fantasies of infinite growth are on a finite world.
The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st Century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it. -George Monbiot

Your friendly neighborhood doomer, signing off.
Oh, somebody buy me some of these Calamitywares.
- Jennie

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Could Get Me Back in a Church?

Not all of my readers will be interested, but I think some of my readers might be curious.
What follows is based on a response I made to a post on the Patheos blog network, in regards to a book that tries to list the top 7 things that will get young people back into the churches they are leaving in droves. 

I've not read the book. :-D Check out the link above if you want to see a summary of what the 7 things they listed were.

I am a Millennial, and I left the church when I left my parents' house, and I haven't been back since.  If I was to make a list of the 7 things that would get me back into a church, it would look like this:

1) Quit preaching hate. I got so tired of hearing about all the sins and sinners I was supposed to not associate with or participate in. Half of them seemed arbitrary, none of them seemed logical or helpful to living in a pluralistic society.
2) Respect women. Some faiths are better than others with this one. But pretty much any religion that wants me to take back seat, second seat, or any seat other than an equal one, is never going to get a second of my time or a cent of my money. I'm also not interested in hearing how some random part of my body is sinful and should be covered up. Neck, shoulders, ankles, knees, face, elbows, breasts... bah. They are no more sinful than my ears or my knuckles or my forearms.
3) Can you revise the bible? I know, it's supposed to be the "word of god." But, let's be honest, it's not. It was written by men, translated by men, revised by men. Update it for the new millennium already! Drop the bronze age anachronisms, nobody cares about tattoos, seafood or mixed fiber clothing anymore. It would be nice if there were more women's voices in it, telling their stories, perhaps even stories where the women are something other than a whore or a virgin or the "wife of man #3." Some nice warrior women, leader types would more closely match what I strive for in my life.
4) Be more open to those of us who question. I don't believe in deities anymore. But, that in and of itself, is not a part of why I don't go to church. I would still go if it were a welcoming community that accepted me AND my disbelief. I like helping my neighbors, I like living a life of service and kindness and sharing.  I like singing songs with my neighbors and celebrating life's milestones together. Can you divorce all of that from the Thou Must Believe bit? I certainly don't want to go to a church for the community aspects and lie about it, I'm not a liar.
5) Yes to the local point. I'm not going to drive a long distance to get to a church I like. There is a Unitarian church I feel like I might be happy at, but it's an hour drive away, so it's a no go. Every church within walking distance is .... well.. not meeting my criteria.
6) Work to build up the wall of separation between church and state. I'm not interested in living in a theocracy. Not of any stripe. Churches don't pay taxes to the state, so they should have no say in the governing of the state. Period. "Leave unto Caesar" and all that. Quit sending money to PACs that work to implement Sharia law, whoops I mean Christian values into law. Quit preaching from the pulpit on political candidates and their level of acceptableness to the particular brand of faith you practice. Continue that practice and you'll never see me step foot in your building.
7) This is an addendum to the "be local" point. Support locally. Keep service projects local. Mission trips to 3rd world countries look great in the church bulletins, but they aren't really great at helping people. Time and time again, the missionaries leave and the super great technology that they installed works for a while, then breaks and with no who knows how to service or fix it, the people of that village go back to whatever unsanitary, dangerous or inefficient thing they were doing before. There are plenty of people who need help in every community. Young families who could use help with child care, elders in need of food, vets in need of someone to talk to, new comers in need of a friend or a meal, kids in need of a big brother/sister or adopted grandparent. It's not as flashy and exciting, but it would be of more actual help if the church focused locally first.

Non-belief is growing rapidly in my generation. If the only young people you're interested in adding to your church are the ones that already agree 100% with your faith and your rules, you may find those numbers dwindling, no matter how many big fancy worship concerts you plan.  You should maybe look at the actual beliefs of those who are leaving, and ask how you can better align your church with what they actually need and actually believe in.
Or not.
Just don't kid yourselves when the numbers of "Nones" keeps growing and the average age of your congregants continues to rise, while their numbers fall. The Nones are not confused, misguided or "lost souls." We're sick and tired and fed up with the churches.

If you want to find me on Sunday morning, I'll be in my vegetable garden, happy and content, free of divisiveness, free of arbitrary rules, wearing what I like, and making my own decisions, although maybe a little lonely.  All you have to do is match that experience, minus the lonely and you could get me back into a church. Will you?

My bet is no.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spring Doings and Plannings

Some of y'all might be wondering what I'm up to. 
Some of y'all know what my plans are in general, and some are still in the dark because plans are still close to the vest.

So here are some general things that are going on. Some of you will know how these fit into my larger plan, and some of you will just have to be patient until I can reveal all.

I've got my spring garlic count! 90 made it through our harsh winter.  I lost some, in places where I didn't get enough mulch on top of them.  But 90 is still respectable. If I get 3 big cloves from all 90, planted this fall, that will be around 270 garlic plants up in 2015.  My crazy old lady co-gardener was surprised to see garlic in the plot this year. Most people around here are when I tell them what the plants are.  :-) It just means I'll have a monopoly on the market when the scapes are ready in June.  The scapes may be about all we eat or sell of this crop. Well, those and the smaller cloves I don't want to plant. This crop is meant to be the seed garlic for a larger cash crop next year.
My daddy asked me if there is a large market for Iowa garlic. I believe there is. My farmer friends at Coyote Run Farm, south of Des Moines plant something like a half acre of hardneck garlic every year. They have a picture of baby Rowen and I out for one of their garlic planting parties in 2009, so I know how much they plant. I know I will not be anywhere near that level. I also know they sell out every year.   The trick is nice big bulbs, and tasty varieties. Those two things are impossible to find in grocery store garlic. Get people hooked on the deliciousness that is locally grown hardneck garlic, and they'll never go back to the sad little grocery store garlic.

My cold frame performed well again this year, in all of its DIY glory.  The last frost date is this week, (and true to form for this spring, we have a frost chance for Friday) and my spinach has been producing like crazy since the beginning of May. Another week and we'll be buried in lettuce, some of which was also in the cold frame and is beginning to crowd out the last of the spinach.

My farmers market in town continues it's downward spiral.  This year the Chamber of "Commerce" has decided that it won't start until JULY 2nd!!  For fucks sake!  The other local markets are already starting, we went down to the opening weekend for Sioux City's market this past Saturday. And sure, it's no July market, but people were THERE! Vendors had greens, onions, eggs, meat, transplants and crafted goods. Customers were THERE! Why our Chamber thinks May and June don't deserve market times in our town, I don't know.  I strongly suspect it's because they are fucking morons.

Moving on. I've decided I will still register as a vendor and go in July-Oct.  I've also decided I'll start when I have the produce to start, and damn their official start date.  I'm making my own sandwich boards to offset the lack of city support for earlier selling dates. (Their limited support of the market includes signage along the main highway through town pointing motorists one block North to the market location.)  A big shout out to my dad, who brainstormed a bit with me on the sandwich boards. I got a start on them this past weekend, and my rusty woodworking skills came back to me. I even remembered to buy sandpaper and sand the boards before applying the primer. *high five* I'm making them really solid so they should last quite awhile. I'll be adding other things to my market stall this year. A scale is top of the list. I scored a big food-grade tray last year in a trade with a fellow market vendor, so that will find uses this summer. If I have enough of the chalkboard paint left when I'm done with my sandwich boards, I might make up some small boards for labeling prices/varieties of veggies.

In the fun news category, I'm signed up to run in another 5k this summer. The Color Run in Omaha in mid July.  I've been out jogging a few times this spring, in between the rains and storms. So far I'm running better than I did at the beginning of last year, much better. So, I didn't lose it all over the winter. Looks like this week might actually let me start the 3 times a week training that I did last year. If things go to plan I'll get to run with my younger brother, the ex-Marine. It sure would be nice to have a good time with him, it's been too long. And knowing that I'll be running with him will certainly keep the pressure on during my training.  Us two, competitive? ....yea.   :-D

So there's what's going on right now. We're keeping busy and holding on. How are things with all y'all?