SO I turn 40 this year, my gray hair is taking over, the creases in my forehead have grown steadily deeper and my little girl has grown up. She turns 18 this year and graduates, and leaves home for her first foray into the great wide open. This transition though always requires photos to mark the moment in memory.
So a very talented and accommodating friend took her out to do senior pictures last week and one in particular caught my attention. I'm sure you immediately are aware of the most obvious reason, the yellow line is very telling….
The more i looked at this picture, though, the more it said to me- in the way of life lessons and being aware of the moment we are in now. So often we look for a map when we are smack dab in the road of life unaware of just how inappropriate our stopping point is. Looking at this picture it occurred to me just how dangerous it is to stop midstream to consult the map. You really do need to disengage, and pull over to the side of the road to evaluate where you are. How often do we disengage from what we're doing to just think about where we're going? I'm usually in the middle of multitasking when I'm attempting to decide the direction I'm going in life. How can we expect to make decisions whilst dodging traffic in our head?
The irony is that she is holding a map of NY state, exactly where she isn't. Our roadmaps to life are mostly made up of past experience. Those aren't always accurate maps of where we are now-but we use them anyway; for lack of a better map. When we multitask our way through life we are less capable of discerning the appropriateness of the map we currently hold. We are more likely to repeat mistakes, over and over….
Funny how a scary senior picture can illuminate our senior moments….
For me community used to mean the people in the town or county in which i live, but now the definition has changed from that of a place (noun), to include its action as a verb. I am working at community instead of occupying space in one. I am reaching out into the space that i occupy and am actively creating community. The difference has been illuminating to say the least. When i hear of someone in my community that needs help- i immediately think of ways i can help and act on those ideas. If i am the one in need i put that need out to the community. It seems simple right? It has taken me a while though to understand that true sustainability and resiliency comes from the support of those with similar goals that create a diverse guild of people. (If you aren't familiar with the permaculture use of the word guild: a group of plants, trees, insects, animals that when brought together, work as a self supporting unit. Just reword it to include a diverse group of people working together to support one another in community.)
Those of us trying to be self sufficient think that means "without anyone else's help". That, my friends, is close to impossible and takes so much work that we often end up feeling overwhelmed, tired and alone. The word permaculture has changed the way i see the world and what living in that world looks like. Its a philosophy of living that goes beyond gardening, it points to the observation of natural systems and how those systems can be mimicked to change the way we do things for the betterment of all. Nothing in nature stands alone, and if we all understand that and live it- How much better off would we all be?
The forest was filled with life, my footsteps could barely be heard beneath the cacophony of birds singing and squirrels rustling. The trees were swaying with the push of the wind upon them, sending a scattering of sunshine beneath the canopy. The scent of the musty, fungi laden, leafy woods bottom mixed with the heady aroma of locust blooms. It made me swoon with the nostalgia of a hundred similar forays into the wild. As I topped the hill and peered down into the “holler” below me I was momentarily overcome with anger, quickly followed by irritation, at the apparent destruction interrupting my wild revelry…. Eight maybe ten people folded in half, with heads hanging close to the ground, ripping and tearing at what seemed to me an innocent green blanket dotted with bright yellow flowers. As i made my way down into the cradle of trees and rock outcroppings the bent humans straightened to observe the interruption to their task at hand - eradicating the alien invading, vicious, mustard plant.
Their eyes held a look of tired frenzy, mixed with determination to rid the woods of this little fiend. Upon further inquiry I found that this place was home to an endangered plant- one that was rare for this area. The mustard was encroaching on this plants home and they were trying to save it. There was also talk of a fungus attacking trees in the area, could it also be connected to the invasion? This was war to them, they had to save this part of the forest from the wild mustard. I wanted to engage them, tell them I understood their desire to help, but sometimes certain plants happen along when the conditions are right and there is need. Something changed in these woods to allow this plant in and maybe they could investigate what that change might be. This plant could be an indicator of the presence of worse things invading, hidden from a blind eye. In the midst of a battle we sometimes get lost in the fight, our focus so narrow our fight so true- that the direction of our will is difficult to alter. It was this glazed look of determination and the deadly certain tone in the unified voice of the forest soldiers that pushed me to move on without engagement.
This fictional interlude in my mind happened as a result of a conversation based on similar real events. It made me ponder the idea of invasive plants, and how they might not be one function plants bent on ecological destruction. How common it is for us to declare war with what is different without giving a chance for the explanation of why different could be, and is valuable? In little ways don't we do this every day? Place a negative judgement on something different from our everyday, just because it is different? Lately I think the natural world has begun to speak through those of us with the patience to observe, investigate, and understand the complexity that is mother nature.
The language of this communication has come in the tireless work of people like Timothy Lee Scott. In his book Invasive Plant Medicine, he provided the validation that the mustard plant has a vital function in the ecology of forests. He points out that Indian Mustard "has been found in laboratory and field studies to have the potential to remediate heavy metals like nickel, zinc, cadmium, chromium and mercury in toxic soils." (I.P.M. pg. 312) The Garlic mustard, a dynamic accumulator, was found to leave soil "consistently and significantly higher in N, P, Ca, and Mg availability… the soil nutrients that present conditions for optimal plant growth." It was also mentioned that "garlic mustard was found not to release volatile compounds from the roots to affect other plants"( I.P.M. pg. 214) often a big argument for its large-scale removal.
Now this doesn’t even touch on the fact that mustards are edible and medicinal as well. Its a hot plant and so is good for congested type problems. It is an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-hyperglycemic, and can be used as a food preservative, the seed protecting against ecoli! The leaves and flowers can be used in salads, the seed dried and ground just like mustard you find in the store. This is just the "wild" variety, garlic mustard has even more beneficial attributes. It’s heart shaped leaves and white flowers combine benefits of garlic and mustard together.
All of this took me back to the permaculture principle that in every problem lies the solution. A principle that requires a change in perspective, a shift so slight that its nearly imperceptible, and when it happens…
The clouds part and sunbeams fall from the sky, like rain to the parched earth; and the answers? They come to you like they had always been there.
It doesn’t always happen at once, for me it has taken weeks of asking myself “Where in this problem is the solution?” before the answer came to me. Each time I did this the answer was obvious, only emotion and ego had hidden it from view. When you choose to attempt this shift you perceive this world differently. You feel differently in response to stimuli, and then respond differently. Perspective is a powerful thing and can be the difference between war and peaceful coexistence. We all need this reminder, it gives us the power to change our world- sometimes with just some silent observation.
Soap making is an ancient art perfected by the common joe in his effort to live a clean life. It involves the process of saponification, an alchemy of sorts combining water, oil and highly corrosive lye to make a thing that helps to wash the dirt away from even your most sensitive areas. OK not so scientific a definition but you get the drift. I have been making soap for several years now and have tried several different kinds of soap. Everything from all veggie soaps to lard based ones. In my effort to become sustainable though i have decided to try to make Bear soap. This hunting season has been kind and we saved the fat from the bear we harvested. I rendered the fat, or cooked it down and filtered it to make it useable for soap making. This was much easier to do than i thought and with the turkey fryer outside there was no smelly house to deal with after.
Though i buy my lye from the store, eventually i will construct a way to harvest lye from wood ash in the old way. Just don't ask me for details yet-I'm still filtering through you tube videos of people blackening their kitchens trying to do this.
My husband has been asking for an unscented soap to use during hunting season and my hope is that this will be the answer. Though i wonder if bear fat is really the best fat to use for deer hunting soap considering that bears are omnivorous...
What the hell, I'm running out of soap and i have all this fat, I'm giving it a go!
The smell was not so good, though i think it was the method i used to render the fat- the dry method. I have since then read an article on the dry and wet methods of rendering. The wet being easier on the fat- you add water and boil the fat then cool the whole thing skimming the fat off of the water.
Oh well, the soap looks great and smells ok. It should be ready in time for rifle season this year so we shall see how scentless it really turns out to be...
My first memory of shooting a gun was of my fathers Hawes 44 magnum. It was a massive handgun that weighed more than my right leg. It was stainless steel with a long barrel and a scope that seemed more appropriate for a rifle than a handgun. My father had ordered 300 grain bullets for this thing, they could purportedly take down an elephant. IT WAS AWESOME ! I always loved that gun, though it scared the living crap out of me to shoot it. My first shot was at a piece of plywood my father had drawn a silhouette of a man on in black marker. I stood a good 20 yards from the target holding this massive beauty. I took aim at the center of the targets chest both hands holding tight, legs spread just slightly. My father watching, my uncle watching, my brother watching. As i squeezed the trigger i kept thinking of the kick this thing had... Pow! My relief must have been palpable, and the exclamation of "HO-lee Shit Eva" had me looking at where i had actually hit my target. It was a perfect crotch shot. My father was proudly yucking it up about nobody messing with me as he carefully peeled the gun from my white knuckled hands. It was a good moment for me, and since then I have perfected my shot and only make crotch shoots when i mean to.
Things seem a little different now though. It's the "in" thing to hate guns, not for what they are but for what seemingly mad people use them for. You must be paranoid to own one and real paranoid to own more than one. If you happen to be a collector than forget it, you are a crazy prepper just itchin for a home invasion. I think my gun is the least dangerous thing I own. I do more damage with my tractor, and am way more dangerous with the car I drive. I think we all pose more of a threat with our vehicles than with guns. If you think of doctors with their prescription pads, the deaths from pharmaceuticals and their interactions-big pharma is like a shooting range where everyones a target. Funny how we can blame a thing just because some seemingly smart guy on T.V. said it was the problem. I wish we could get jazzed up enough to outlaw pesticide use of any kind, artificial fertilizers, and fluoride in everything. I wish the cops could spend more time apprehending criminals of a serious nature instead of arresting farmers for selling raw milk, which contrary to popular belief has killed less people than sushi.
My gun helps me to harvest sustainable meat in a humane way because I wield it with efficiency knowledge and care. The animals i harvest have a small carbon footprint because i don't need to feed them grain harvested with tractors and trucked in from afar. And for those of you who choose not to eat or use animal products for the perceived cruelty inflicted, read the secret life of plants - broccoli screams when its picked. Seriously.
Did you ever read the book the hundredth monkey? If you haven't you should. The ideas presented are important to the idea of sustainability, or at least the propagation of sustainability. It is the ahha book that reinforces the idea that you don't have to go out and drag people to your cause if thats not your thing. You just have to be the change you want to see. Yea yea I know you've heard it all before, and being a person who needs to see the proof in action or at least explained in scientific terms that make me feel sane i'll give you this quote to ponder.
"When a large number of molecules congregate in close proximity, the random motions of the billions and billions of molecules will at some point show a sudden alteration in behavior; all of them will start to spontaneously synchronize. They begin to move and vibrate together. They begin acting in concert, actively cooperating, and become tightly coupled together into one, interacting whole exhibiting a collective, macroscopically ordered state of being."
-The Secret Teachings of Plants, By Stephen Harrod Buhner.
Of course this book shouts the warning of the examination of things in pieces, remove something from the whole and you screw up the picture. Though he does say you can go through his book in any order you like, I'm sure he would agree that you should read this book in its entirety. Eventually.
So onto the point which is stop waiting for a good time to grow that first food plant, make that first loaf of bread, or ferment your first batch of yogurt. Jump in now, and possibly be the hundredth monkey (or molecule) and I think if you do you may feel the world around you moving toward a "macroscopically ordered state of being".....
Born in New Hampshire and raised in Maine, Eva's passion for living self sustainably began with Helen and Scott Nearing. Both were homesteaders who carved their lives from the land. Eva now lives in Eastern West Virginia, with her husband Dain and daughter Shayna, carving out her own life.