Showing posts with label Failures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Failures. Show all posts

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

When Cheese Goes Wrong!

by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

I could wax lyrical about all the cheese that I have made that went according to plan, but I don't think I have ever mentioned one that has gone terribly wrong!  This is one of those times.

It started out looking kind of nice and something like this.  There was enough curds for two small and one rather large cheeses.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I totally neglected these cheeses.  They required turning every 4 days and humid conditions.  At the 30 day mark I was to scrape off the mould and it would have looked nice.

Anyway, because of the neglect, this is what they looked like on Monday night!

The large one had mostly had a melt down, but was salvageable of sorts, but the two small ones had totally lost their form and were runny inside.  A bit like blue cheese Camembert I suppose.  As for the taste, well they were fantastic.  A great creamy blue cheese flavour.

This is what I managed to do with them.

I scraped all of the mould off of the large cheese, then wrapped it in cheese wrap and put it into the normal refrigerator to see what happens.  I could use it now, but it would be just good for spreading on crackers like a blue cream cheese.

As for the two small ones, we stored them for a day in the fridge and turned them into a wonderful blue cheese sauce.  Kim cooked up some Penne pasta and lots of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and corn, mixed it all together with the some rue which she added the cheese to make a blue cheese sauce and baked it in the oven.  The flavour was amazing and the meal was delicious.  Our son Ben went back for seconds as did I!

If this is what is known as a disaster in the cheese world, then I am happy with it!  I love it when we learn from mistakes that can be turned around to something edible and yummy.  It just goes to show that cheese making is not all about recipes and following rules, it can be about serendipitous mistakes as well!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Beauty in the Every Day

by Danelle Stamps at The Stamps Family Farm

There are some days when farming and simple living are anything but simple. There are some days where living this life, caring for animals and land and people is just so breathtakingly hard that doing chores in -40 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures with 60 miles per hour winds is preferable to facing the daily realities of farming. 

Animals die. Crops get flooded out. Children get sick. And the sun still rises in the East every morning.

This last year has had some hard lessons. We lost 15 pigs total to disease and heat. Preventable disease, but we didn't know enough to have vaccinated them and they died. We lost two llamas to a parasite because we didn't know enough about regular worming. We are armatures let loose to learn hard lessons at the expense of our livestock and no amount of book learning or Internet websites can take the place of these hard realities. 

But we are still here. Still farming. And these experiences made us better stewards of our flock. We know more about disease management and animal care and nutrition. 

You just have to know, if you are going into farming with no experience or mentors or help, it isn't easy.

That said, I started to sit down and write this week's post about finding beauty in the harshness of winter or farm life or daily grind. 

 Instead, I'd like to pose a question: What lessons have you had to learn the hard way? What losses built your skills? What things should new farmers know before going into it feet first?

My top four: 

Get to know your local vet, explain what you want to do and ask for advice, supply lists, and a lesson in how to administer shots. Ask how or where it is proper to dispose of animal carcass, especially if there is a burn ban.

Practice or list out what to do in an emergency. Who to call. Where supplies are. What and where to go.

How will you handle failure? Really. What things will you have in place to mourn your losses, to do things better, to not beat yourself up when you need to be working on making things better. 

Winter food supply for livestock. Last year, mid winter we had to frantically make calls to get more hay delivered. This year, all was purchased in October and stored well. The only mishap we have had is a dropped round bale on our truck (damaged the truck bed door). 

As with anything, make time for yourself. Each moment get ready for the next one and live it with grace. That is beauty. That is life.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Thoughts on learning to cook

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

I honestly believe that our food cultures offer us the biggest opportunity to improve our health and to reduce our impact on the planet. Food also makes up a large part of the monthly expenditure of many households. Knowing your way around a kitchen, a spice drawer and a produce aisle or box are therefore essential if you are going to cook frugally and sustainably. The aim is to not be a slave to ingredients lists and recipes, but to be able to make the most of what is available to you. Kitchen skills are hugely important and I know that many of you will have the basics and beyond. But equally, I know that many of you won't, or at least won't have confidence in  the kitchen. So how do you learn?

Necessity is the mother of all invention. At the age of 15 I began my five year vegetarian experiment - and was swiftly told by my mother that I would be cooking and buying my own food if I was going to be 'awkward'. I lived in a fairly rural part of Britain and new fangled frozen bean burgers and Quorn hadn't made it to the shelves of our local supermarket. I had to learn to cook. We don't have home economics lessons in schools here - rather, we have 'Food Technology' - which basically teaches you to design a ready meal to be sold to supermarkets - wholesome, I know. Armed with a cheap illustrated vegetarian recipe book, I made a start that very night trying to recreate the dishes as pictured. The first thing I cooked was a bolognese with TVP in place of the expensive (and as yet unheard of in my part of the world) exotic mushrooms the book called for. It was...revolting. The onions were diced too coarse, in spite of the 5 minutes I took to chop them carefully with a blunt knife, the carrots were still hard, the pasta mushy. 

Now, my mother did actually start to accommodate me again a few weeks later and cooked us both vegetarian food. But for a month I had to persevere and I made a lot of mistakes. I ate them all and many still linger in my memory. But I ate them with a critical palate - what had gone wrong? (everything). What could I add? (exotic mushrooms, probably). What could I take away? (TVP, for sure). Making mistakes is the best way to learn just about anything. Fear of failure will hold you back in the kitchen - and you will make plenty of them. Oven temperatures vary, ingredients vary, pots and pans vary, your attention span varies. It is a long road to confidently balance all these variables, recognize your own limitations and find solutions for them.

There are a few solid skills worth learning, either from a real life cook or from a google video search. Knife skills are perhaps the most important - from sharpening (a sharp knife is safer and faster than a blunt one) to chopping onions in seconds rather than minutes, to jointing a chicken, to slicing vegetables and filleting fish. All of these basic skills remove your dependence on a food supply chain that charges a premium for doing this simple (when you know how) work for you. Once you have these under your belt, the rest of the techniques - grilling, frying, baking and roasting can be built with each and every dish you make.

Technical skills are only one aspect of cooking, the easier part to acquire. A greater part of it is intuition - what flavours go together? What texture am I aiming for? How best to cut the carrots for the stir fry? These are things again learnt over time, with every dish you make and once again fear will hold you back. Be bold with sniffing and sampling the spices and condiments and add them liberally. Pay attention when things go wrong and write and make a note of what worked and what didn't. If you can cook together with others occasionally, you will expand your horizons. As a student I cooked with and for others a lot - and discovered in the process quite a few foods, spices and new techniques that improved my confidence.

Cookbooks can be useful inspiration - they can teach you basic flavour combinations from various culinary traditions, but again they are just a starting point. I always tended to veer away from the glossy tomes of celebrity chefs - if you are just starting out, the expensive, complicated showpieces they proffer are probably best avoided. Cooking shows (thanks to the internet,you can find shows from any tradition and dietary preference from anywhere in the world) can be helpful if you lack inspiration to get up and cook.

The most important thing is to really appreciate what food is, how it got to you and how it can enrich your life. If you have ever grown even a pot of herbs, you will appreciate the effort and resources that go into producing our food. Don't live to eat, but eat to live fully - take a little time to savour the flavours and the aromas and the textures and appreciate the chain of events that brought your food to you. Find a diet that you are passionate about, too, that fits with your ideals - you may want to cook as frugally as you possibly can, you may source pasture raised meat, you may be vegetarian or vegan, you may have special dietary requirements. When you are comfortable with your food choices, the rest will follow.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Spending to make up for parenting

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

I'm posting this a little late. I've had such a busy week with my kids. It was the last week of school holidays in my little part of Oz. I had managed to take a week off work to be with my kids. Its been a wonderful week. We have spent much of the time swimming, going to taekwondo, and being with friends.

Anyway, today, I thought I'd share an older post of mine from my personal blog which was the very antithesis of what I have been doing this week. Its certainly made me smile and I know many out there can relate....
Spending to make up for parenting - 15 May 2009
Now that I'm on leave from work (2nd full day at home!), I've looked around my home and noticed... that my kids have gotten a hell of a lot of toys from me the last few weeks.

Its amazing how when I'm under pressure, I revert back to my old consumerist ways and use spending as a way to make up for what I see as shortfalls in my parenting. See, I know that all my kids want really want is my time and attention.. and when I fail to give it to them, then I feel that the only way I can make up for it is by spending on them.

...and the thing is I didn't even know I was doing it!! Times like these when I realise how far I have to go in this journey to be an empowered and rational consumer - one who joyfully consumes rather than one who consumes to assuage feelings of guilt and anxiety.

The thing is... I don't even know why I should feel so guilty! I know that I can't do it all (unlike Rosie the Riveter below) and that I am doing my best. But that's the rational side of me talking and as I said, my recent spending spree was not rational.
(image from

Funny enough, when I look back I can also see that I was also doing some positive things during those hectic times. I juggled my workload so I can be home to put the children to bed, I made sure we still had breakfast together and for the 2 nights when I ended up working all night, the children went to their grandparents and got plenty of attention there. And despite that I disregarded the value of the positive things and still fell back on using money as my way of showing my children I love them.

So this weekend, I'll be spending some time on myself and letting go of my feelings of guilt... to accept that hectic times will occur and that I do not need to spend in order to make up for my lessened time with the children.
(Image from Tsheko's photostream - displayed here under a General Attribution Licence)

So here's to a quiet and reflective weekend. I wish you the same. :)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Realistic Budgets

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Every now and then I think I can trim more off my budget and I try to convince myself that I don't really need to have as many items budgeted for in my monthly plan. Little conversations will run through my head, the more determined side convincing myself I don't really need to keep adding to my health fund because I so rarely get sick. That same voice would seem so sensible when it suggests I don't need a clothing jar because I don't need new clothes. And yet again the voice rears it's ugly head when it tells me mad money is just a frivolous spend. Only what the weaker voice didn't state loudly enough is that mad money is great fall back money, new clothes may be needed if your winter boots break in half and medication may need to be bought if you suffer from eczema.

Living the frugal life can be a worthy pursuit, but if you aren't careful it can make life more complicated instead of helping you simplify. Sometimes in my effort to have as simple a budget as possible I have actually made my life more difficult. Overspending because you haven't spent enough, pulling money from the wrong place, dipping into other funds and feeling overwhelmed are in direct contrast to the simplicity the frugal life can bring. And when you aren't realistic about your needs & aren't actively and practically planning for the worst - you can be in a situation which is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I use a jar system to allocate my money and the truth is, whether I like it or not, whether I add in $1 or $50 a week I need to budget each week & month for all of my costs. Even if I wish I could eliminate more in every season of my life I need money jars which represent the truth. And right now my *truth* is I need jars for:

Grocery Shopping
Pet Costs

And while health and clothing usually don't entail monthly spends, knowing there's some money rattling around in a jar to help deal with inconveniences like itchy skin & boots which split in half {and are much needed items since we have yet another 2 months of snow storms ahead of us} helps me live a simple, green & frugal life!

How do you keep your budget organized and on track? How do you make cut backs that are realistic? What are your budget necessities?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

When you wander off the simple, green, frugal path...

by Eilleen, Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone,

Readers of my personal blog would know that I have been having a hard time lately. I am now at the tail end of wrapping up my divorce and things have finally sunk in that I really am now a single parent. While the simple and frugal path has helped me at the beginning of this big life change - (indeed, I was astounded at how easily I was able to adjust to an income a third of what I was used to) now that the big upheavals are behind me and the dust is settling, I found myself craving "easy" and "normality".

And so over the last few months, I found myself opting for more and more takeaway and convenience meals. Buying things that "everyone else" has....I even bought a TV, even though I didn't really watch it! Buying presents (just like everyone else does) and buying DVDs so that my kids can watch something (on the brand new TV) while I sit and absorb the enormity of the changes in my life.

Unfortunately...and like my life previously.... I found that "buying normality" doesn't work. And there is nothing "easy" about over-consuming. In fact, the further I wandered off my values the more unsettled I became.

The problem with an over-consumerist lifestyle - once you have embarked on it - is that its pretty hard to stop. So many concepts are heavily marketed and attached to a consumerist lifestyle. Concepts like "normality" and "easy" - in short "the life you want to have". And even though I know that these are all illusions, they are very very tempting illusions anyway.

So where am I going with this?

This blog was created to inspire and help people live a simpler, greener and more frugal life. So many people have told me in my personal blog that sometimes reading blogs like these can be intimidating because people seem to do it so easily (oh there's that word again).

But as you can see, my own journey to a simpler life has not been easy. I was able to achieve it for a few years and for a long time, I experienced the quiet joy of finally living within my own values. Then slowly, slowly, I just....stopped.

I do have a more selfish motive for writing about my journey. I have found that blogging helps me take those little steps back towards a simpler path....and it helps me remain accountable. :)

So what little steps am I taking? Well, I have started with a budget challenge (that also involved a bit of decluttering) and I have also started sewing again. I am really grateful for Frugal Trench's post below this one because its reminding me of even more little steps to take.

For now I am here very very far from a simple, green or frugal life. Just like that time years and years ago, when I stopped buying brand new for the first time, I have a long way to trek to get back onto the simple path. But I know that with my little steps, I will get there.

"Looking for Reality" by Alice / Cornelia Kopp

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Pumpkin Patch Success

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

A couple of weeks ago our pumpkin season finished here in South Eastern Australia.  The three wheelbarrow loads of vines are now composting away nicely, and the garden looks much tidier.

Did I have much success I hear you ask?  I am proud to announce that this has been my best pumpkin growing year ever!  I have been trying to grow this vegetable for at least three seasons now, with very limited success.  Here is a bit of history.

Year one, I planted butternuts (squash) in a large pot and a fair bit of vine and lots of flowers, but it kept on drying out, so therefore no pumpkins.

Year two, butternuts again, and in a small garden bed.  For my hard work I received two smallish butternuts that were very tasty, but there were just not enough of them.

Year three. Success!

And this harvest was just the begining!  In the photo are Australian Butter, Golden Nugget and Queensland Blue pumpkins.

These two butternuts decided to grow from the compost that I spread in the spring.  Who am I to turn down a gift from nature?

Also, just before I pulled all of the vines, I found these four pumpkins lurking in the patch.  All up I harvested 13 pumpkins for winter.

I believe my success was due to a few factors.  I selected an area where the plants could stretch their legs, and prepared the bed with lots of organic manure and compost.  I also ensured that each plant had more than enough water and that the bed was well drained.  I set up drip irrigation to water them twice a week as allowed by water restrictions, and I ran a hose from our washing machine and watered with grey water from just about every wash (I use low sodium and low phosphate laundry powder).  When each plant got about 5 metres long, I pinched off the growing tips so that side shoots would develop female flowers.  I then let the bees do their thing, and when I notice that they were not around, I tried my hand at pollination with some success.

With good soil preparation and lots of water, they grew like crazy.  Here is a photo of the vines when they were about 2 metres long.  Note the hose from the washing machine.

Then again at 4 metres.  It was starting to take over the entire garden, which was okay because there was plenty of room for it to grow.

So what will I do with all these pumpkins?  So far we have roasted two of them for Sunday dinners, and also roasted the seeds as snacks.

We have also made pumpkin soup.  Here is my favourite recipe that I use all the time.  It requires no cream, however the onions give it a creamy consistency.

Golden Butternut Pumpkin Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small stalk celery, chopped
750g Butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
half teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh
2 bay leaves
quarter teaspoon black pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the oil so the butter does not burn over a moderate heat. Add the onion, garlic and celery; cook, uncovered, until the onion browns a little and is soft - about 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stock, oregano, bay leaves and pepper, stir and gently bring to the boil. Adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Check to see if the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork. Remove and discard the bay leaves and let the soup cool for 5 minutes.
Blend the soup with a hand-blender in the pot, or transfer to a blender in a few batches. Careful as it is still very hot. When smooth, return to the pot and reheat gently for about 5 minutes. Do not boil and it will burn on the bottom of the pan. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. Yum.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Embrace Your Failures

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

I think a lot of us who are part of the new simplicity movement are hard on ourselves sometimes.  We have high standards, we want to do it all, and we want it done yesterday, looking perfect.  I don't know anyone who's actually managed that though.  Certainly not me.  But I know that sometimes even the blogging I do contributes to other people feeling like they have to do it all, and do it perfectly.  It happens to me too when I read other bloggers.  I think it's because we're generally an upbeat crowd, and we focus on the positive, so that's what we end up blogging about.  It's not that we want to boast or pretend that failures don't happen.  There's just a tendency to want to share what we've managed to do well.

So today I want to talk about failures, imperfections, mistakes, bad decisions, falling short of goals and generally sucking at some things.

The few times I've attempted it, my jellies and jams have failed to gel properly.  My garden, while productive, has always looked like hell by June.  I chose bad garden lay-outs not one or two years in a row, but three years in a row.  I still buy toxic deodorant that will probably give me cancer, packaged up in plastic.  I never complete the list of goals I set for myself each year.  We indulge in take-out pizza, disappointing as it invariably is, once in a while.  I'm neither methodical nor patient enough to ever be any good at sewing.  My cleanliness standards for most rooms of the house are lower than you would imagine.  I've pushed myself and my husband too hard at times to make changes faster than I should have.  I order vegetable seeds each winter and when they fail to germinate, or when I fail to even try to get them started, I go to a nursery and buy seedlings.  I procrastinate and avoid a lot.  I'm a bad correspondent.  I hate doing dishes and rely on the dishwasher far too much.  I start knitting projects and rarely finish them.  I'm not very good at conserving water, and I rationalize this with the fact that I live in an area with plentiful rainfall.  I don't really want my cats catching birds, but I don't put bells on them because I do want them to catch mice and voles. Most of the time, I want to quit when I'm three-quarters of the way through any given project.

There!  That was liberating.  More than that, it feels important to acknowledge my own shortcomings.  In doing so, I'm not beating on myself or setting myself up for even higher expectations going forward.  It just feels right to admit that as much as I want to do things well, and succeed, and live my life according to my own highest standards, life isn't perfect.  My list of failures is almost certainly very average.  It reminds me that just as I would try to encourage someone else who struggled and but fell short, I should also be tolerant of my own failures.  I think we're often harder on ourselves than we would ever dream of being on another person.  I know my intentions are good.  I know that I'm genuinely trying to make a positive change in the world.  If I knew someone else were doing the same, I'd certainly sympathize and encourage when they bemoaned their own imperfections.  Recognizing that makes it easier to extend the same compassion to myself.

So please, share your failures.  And recognize your generosity, your compassion, your charity with others around you who share theirs.  Then give yourself a little dose of that understanding too.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A Sense of Urgency?


This post is a revamp of an opinion peice that I wrote about a year ago, but it makes even more sense to me today in light of recent world events. 

Since Copenhagen was deemed to have a shallow and listless outcome, I still notice when I talk to people about the seriousness of climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, people still tend to not take me too seriously, for two main reasons:
  1. "If what you say is true, why isn't the government doing a lot more?", and,

  2. "If what you say is true, why aren't there people protesting in the streets? Why isn't there a really big, loud protest movement?"

Both seam like reasonable assumption, but only if they were true.  Even as recently as yesterday, I was talking to a friend who just could not connect the dots about climate change and deforestation in our state and why weather pattens were changing!

So, I believe that one reason for taking drastic public measures in the form of activism, street marches, protests, walk against warming etc. in addition to just making your life simpler, as best you can, is quite simply to create a sense of urgency in the general population. Because right now, that sense of urgency is not there at all, certainly not in the minds of some world leaders.  Mind you, that may change pretty soon if water gets scarce and food supplies dwindle as they are in some parts of the world.

For instance all the factual articles and warnings about prolonged droughts, record heat-waves, bush-fires, melting ice shelves and ice caps that are documented in national newspapers, in posts on environmental blogs similar to mine, and speeches by our political leaders are all thwarted by the mechanism that counteracts the creation of a sense of urgency by the usual means.  Below is a classic example of how this counter-intuitive mechanism works.

A while ago, I was working at in an office tower,  when there was an loud alarm. It sounded like it might be something serious, but I didn't know for sure. So I looked around to see how other people reacted. Since nobody seemed overly worried, I concluded that it was probably not a signal to leave the building, and so I continued working instead of running down the fire stairs Sure enough, it turned out to have been some technical glitch with the alarm system in the entire building. 

The same phenomenon occurs in the larger context. When ordinary people read about truly alarming stuff in the newspaper, hear it on the radio, or see it on TV, they will check around them to see how everybody else is reacting. If other people don't seem to be overly worried, they'll shrug, decide that the alarming report was probably exaggerated, and continue about their daily business. 

Only in the case of climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, we know it's not a technical glitch, and it's not an exaggeration, either. They really should be worried. By not being worried, right now, could turn out to be fatal for the entire human race.  And all this talk about saving the planet is rubbish.  What we really need is to save ourselves from ourselves.  The planet will get along just fine with out us, albeit in a slightly altered state, but with a lot less species inhabiting it.

It is this reason, in my humble opinion, is why we need to start behaving like people who really do believe they are living in the time of the greatest emergency mankind has ever faced. We need visible and drastic action because only visible and drastic action communicates to people that there is an emergency going on.

My reaction of late has been a strong one.  Not only am I trying to live a sustainable life, I am now acting as if there is a real emergency (there really is, you know), living a local diet, starting a sustainable living community group, reducing consumption further, and blatantly advertising my actions to my work colleagues, and jumping at the chance to get politically vocal any way I can.  If more people also begin to notice the emergency, then my work is done, and people will begin to act in a better way to help avert the climate crisis and other issues by voluntarily lowering their carbon footprints and consumption, or alternatively, the governments of our time acting on policy and legislating large cuts in emissions and change the way we use fossil fuels and rapidly depleting resources.  

Crisis over, the emergency really goes away and we can look future generations proudly in the eye without shame of inaction. I believe that in this point in time, this will be the only way we will be able to save ourselves, unless of course a global leader takes the reigns and leads us down the right path to avert the emergency.  But leadership is a rare commodity indeed in our current democracies.  It will be up to people like you and I to step up to the crease or plate and bat to a record score!  As individuals we can only do so much, but as a collective group of concerned global citizens we can achieve amazing things.

In fact, leadership is the only real renewable resource we have in our democracies!  Food for thought indeed.

What do you think?  Have I got it completely wrong, or am I on the right tack?  I would love to read your opinions about these issues.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Some Re- Words for the Season

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Even in the earliest days of civilization, people realized that something happened this time of year. There was a change, a literal hesitation and then a swinging back in the natural world. As religions developed, each put their own stamp on this time, their own observation and celebration of the solstice - perhaps with a different name and focus, but recognition nonetheless. With the adoption of our modern calendar, the somewhat arbitrary beginning of the year was added. This hesitation time, between solstice and the start of a new year, is a natural time for what I'm calling some re- words.

Some memories are as fleeting as the time it takes to address and sign a holiday card. Others are more long-lasting. Traditions from childhood, even if no longer observed, are still there somewhere inside. This time of year is naturally full of memories of family, friends, and seasons past. It's an emotional time, and some of the memories brought back can be very powerful - some even painful. In a season everyone around you is calling joyful and wondrous, it can hurt to admit, even to yourself, that you might be feeling a bit down instead.

For some, the absence or loss of loved ones can be especially pronounced. I lost a parent not too long ago, and sadly, am old enough that I'm now starting to lose friends and peers. It's a consequence of growing older that you will outlive others - some now gone due to age, but others under more tragic circumstances. Especially poignant to me are those lost by their own hand. It's so hard to understand the depths of despair that can lead someone to undertake such a permanent solution to what might have been a temporary problem.

There are progressive stages one goes through in processing loss, whether bereavement or other significant life events, such as divorce, drug addiction, infertility, or unemployment - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. But the process is not of smooth transitions, nor accomplished in an orderly succession. The memories and emotions brought up during this time of year especially can bounce one back to an earlier stage, and this is completely normal. Humans developed as social animals, and there's nothing noble about suffering in silence. Please, find someone to talk to - a trusted friend, maybe someone qualified to give counsel, your pet, or even your version of a higher power - if the memories brought up by this time of year become painful.

As the year comes to a close, it's a natural time to look back. Years like this one, ending in 9, can also call up recollections of the past decade. A lot has happened in the world, and in your own lives in this time, so it's a good time to think about how you and your life have changed. Maybe it's time to reassess your goals, and certainly a time to celebrate your successes.

But there are bound to be some failures too, and possibly even regret. Figure out what went wrong, and maybe even come up with ideas to fix it. Feelings of regret mean there's a lesson there to be learned. Think about why you're feeling regret, and figure out what that lesson is. If it's something that you can remedy, take action now - apologize, make amends, change your actions - and then move on. Regretting something done in the past is wasted time and emotion; continuing to do something you regret is just plain stupid. Learn the lesson, and strive for a life without regrets.

'Tis the season. This year, I'm gonna get every bit of clutter out of my house, lose 50 pounds, grow all our own food, cook every meal from scratch, make all our clothing, run a marathon, never eat fast food again, go to the gym every day, never yell at the kids, save the redwoods, save the polar bears, save the planet . . . this year, I resolve to be PERFECT!!

Ok, whoa! Anything sound familiar? To save yourself lots of frustration and disappointment come the end of January, go ahead and write out your entire list. Then, pick just one, maybe two at the very most, items that are the most important to you right now. That is your ultimate goal(s), and it might take all year, maybe even more. Now, stash that list away for now (at least until the equinox - you can reassess your progress then, and maybe decide on something new to address). For now, figure out just one little tiny baby-step action to take. Bad habits are hard to change - the best way is to consistently substitute some other action every time. Commit, really commit, to just that one little thing for at least three weeks. Maybe then, but maybe longer, you can figure out the next tiny little baby-step to take.

Take a really deep breath - really, right now, do it. Hold it a sec. Now, slowly, gently, breathe out. It's an emotional time of year - looking back, planning for the future. Every once in a while, take a minute to just savor what's happening right now. Indulge all your senses, devoting complete attention to each one in turn - stop and notice what's happening in your world, right now, and just breathe. It's nature's little hesitation time - that perfect equilibrium before the earth starts tilting back, swinging back around the sun. It's the perfect time to find your own equilibrium too.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Surviving Everyday Mishaps

by Lynn of Viggies Veggies

The road to self-sufficiency is littered with failures. I know that not because I'm looking back from the vantage point of my vast experience. But because I'm at the beginning of the road where everything is new and easy to get wrong.

Like this morning when the sun came out and I went to clear the thick layer of snow and rain (now ice) that had accumulated on the cold frames. I know they say they don't make things like the used to, but I can tell you for certain that doesn't apply to glass! Luckily in this case the plants had frozen in our extreme cold that came with our first snow anyway (-20F with windchill!) so I'm not losing a crop...and I have a spare window so can fix this when it warms up a bit.

Coldframe mishaps

This is the point in your life where you really develop your sense of humor. Because you are going to fail. Spectacularly. And often. That's part of the process of learning so many new skills, experimenting with new ideas, and pushing limits as you go. Like during my attempt at cloning tomato plants. The one in which I didn't thoroughly clean the tomato cuttings taken from my garden and ended up re-homing a thriving colony of aphids into my living room, who proceeded to quickly kill the plant.


Or during my indoor growing experiment when I learned that my kitten LOVES greens. Going so far as to eat my bush beans WHOLE!!!! That's certainly not something you expect to happen. I thought it'd be easier growing indoors in a controlled environment without all the pests. In reality I introduced my poor innocent plants to two giant cat pests who love to nibble and dig.


And those are just the recent ones I have photographic evidence for!

What have I learned from these types of disasters? To enjoy the process. To love learning. Even the part that involves learning from your mistakes. Not to stumble over the unexpected. And that even if your failures aren't very funny at the time, it will be hilarious when you tell everyone about it later. And hopefully while they are laughing, your audience will learn a little something from your mistakes as well.