Category Archives: Philosophy

Birdhouse factory

I allowed myself to have a part of a day where I just did something that I just wanted to do, instead of needed to be done (like solar re-wiring, or boundary maintenance).  And it was even more glorious than imagined.  I made three flower boxes, and seven birdhouses, although I didn’t get to any decorative ones, just the robust functional ones the birds actually use.

With the participation of Apples the house chicken

They’re headed for the garden fence posts, etc.  Probably too late for this year’s nesters, but who knows. Spring birdhouse maintenance is going to become a day project.

All done

I saw a tree swallow!  The first I’ve seen here!  Exciting.  She was swooping over the hens, eating on the wing.  Spent the day.  I hope she’s nesting!  Possibly in a snag, in an old woodpecker hole maybe.  Perhaps in one of the first run of birdhouses that’s still up, all over.

I want to make another birdhouse tree like this.

Guineas passing through!

I have the tree in mind:)

I want to let my art out, and I’m looking forward to having some of the basic life support systems finished and dialed enough to do some purely decorative things.  There’s a paucity of room for artistic expression around here, when there’s an old shed to take apart, an invasive species that needs constant battling, and irrigating the greenhouse means carrying water when it rains.  Priorities, you know.  But a good day of fun stuff is surprisingly “filling”.For instance, the windows are past due for some attention (caulking, painting), while I’m accessorizing them with flower boxes.  One of these days, we’ll paint, and finish the siding.

Blissfall days

I had the best day today not building stairs.

I did all kinds of other things that needed doing, but not The Thing.  And those tend to be the best days.  A friend visit, sitting companionably with pet birds, and doing frost prep in the garden that’s going to sleep now under a thick blanket of mulch.

Two perfect fall days, crisp and bugless and sunny, and instead of the harvest pressure overwhelm, holding a sense of ease and “enough”-ness.

I may also be getting more sleep due to the shortening days – that may have something to do with the bliss.  It’s almost the “it’s either done or it’s not done, full stop” time, when you walk away regardless of “done”.

When I create any sawdust, the chickens are like “For me?! Don’t mind if I do!”

I could be all-seasoning my garden, but instead I’m putting it to bed.  Getting more out of the year will come later.  As I take in the late beans, etc, I’m thinking about all the things I’ll do different next year (More watermelons.  And orange and yellow tomatoes), the mistakes I’ll correct (plant melons later, they don’t like it cold) .  There’s always next year. It’s easy, and pleasant, to look forward to what will be bigger and better with the lately earned experience and knowledge, and it likely will.  But it’s nice to look back and recognize for a moment that it is better, now, than it was.

I’ve learned to garden some.  I grew cabbages.  I have a garden shed now.  My beds are really getting in order.  I’ve experienced the joy of sweeping a mulch blanket off a bed and finding it ready to plant.  No-till is awesome.  “No-work” is a crock of….  There’s a great deal of work, mostly upfront, and then the quality, weedless bed must be maintained – kept covered when not in use like a jar of milk, lest it grow unwanted things.

The Silkie chicks are at it too. Pepper perch!

Maybe it’s coming with age (or the decline of energy that, once boundless, must now be budgeted) .  I’m getting better at rationing my ambition.  It won’t all get done at once, or nearly as soon as I’d like to.  Given enough time, it will.  And it will be better along the way if I aim low.  Instead of how much can I fit in, I’m starting to think more like how little can I get away with planning to do?  (Oh, the tyranny of a plan!) I’d love to paint the house.  It needs it, blah blah, but hell, it can wait!  It will be great when it gets done, but not worth the weight of grimly determining to do it.  I’m not going to put that on a mental list yet, because it will be heavy there.  I’m choosing the lightness of unscheduled, and any time unscheduled is a win.  The time gets filled, with good and productive things, even things I might have planned, but it’s sweeter when it’s not on a list.  (I’ve known this forever.  It’s still elusive prey).

I’m thinking about my successes and gifts of the year, what I want to tweak: how I can spend more time with my friends?, hoping I can share out part of my greenhouse, how to ration out my time? (half a day seems to be the best maximum for focusing on any one project), will this be the year I finally get potatoes in the ground at fall?

How can I escape the September crush?  Because it’s bad.  Bad for me.  I want to never feel like that again, and it has been part of the annual routine since moving here.  And that, I think, is part of the adjustment that comes with diving into the farming life (along with, you’re going to suck at everything at first and make big mistakes).  I’ve got to find a new rhythm.  But I grew brussel sprouts, so I can learn to adjust my rhythm.  Give me time.

Habitica has changed my life.

I am pretty fascinated with productivity, data analysis, and habit building. That puts me in very good company.  In fact, I’m feeling like I should be more successful, what with all my habits.  Original post:


It makes no sense.

Habitica is a productivity website/app for organizing based on role playing game software.  Instead of a paper list of things to do which you cross off, with Habitica you create your to-do lists online, and when you click to check items off, you are rewarded with “points”.  These points build up until you achieve the next “level”.  Also, as you meet your real-life goals, you collect “money”, “pets”, and “food” to feed your pets.  Feeding the pets is not mandatory, like a Tamagotchi (thankfully).  The money buys accessories to jazz up your avatar.

My first mount, back when I was just a level 23Let me be clear – the points, levels, pets, and food are all completely virtual.  Imaginary.  Very low-fi pixellated graphics, at that.  The to-do lists you create are real – your own real life.

Totally meaningless “points” and pixellated tiny “pets”, yet somehow this is meaningful enough affirmative feedback to make a difference?  Yes. Yes it is.

It makes no sense, but it works.

I got into Habitica hesitantly; an Icelandic blogger mentioned it, and I thought “why not”.  Coincidentally, I then read the popular and amazing book by Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit.  The insights about how our brains, memory, and reward mechanisms function explain to me why Habitica works, so damn well.

The Power of Habit explains why Habitica works

There’s limited satisfaction in checking off or crossing off a to-do list item on paper.  One “should” feel satisfaction and accomplishment for having moved one step further towards the life one wants to live, right?  Our brains don’t work like that though.  The future big payoff is meaningless.  The very small incremental difference of checking off the same thing on Habitica, for an imaginary and slightly ludicrous reward? Well, that makes the brain sing.  Sometimes you’re tired, and you just can’t summon up the big picture in the context of which your tiny accomplishment today is in service of.  Click for points?  Satisfaction.  I’ll do it again tomorrow, and all the other tomorrows, until it’s a habit.  Automatic.

The key is there is a reward. Something just external enough to go beyond your own mental pat on the back, and it doesn’t matter that the “reward” is completely imaginary.

There is so much in The Powscreen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-01-04-pmer of Habit, possibly the best book I read in 2016, that if you care about self-improvement and want to become more effective, just read it.  Forming habits takes work, willpower, and requires reward.  The brain wants to form habits all the time, because once an act is habitual, it takes less mental effort.  The hard part is directing the show, to form the habits that you want to have, that will lead to a more successful, fulfilling life.  The point is to automate the actions that you wish to repeat.  Habits that you want to have won’t form without intentionality.  Enter Habitica, intentionality in three columns.

Habitica’s basic format (the Tasks page) is well-designed and adaptable.  The three columns are: Habits (that you wish to build to increase points, or bad habits that will reduce your points- who would put those?), Dailies (if you fail to complete, your “life force” suffers), and To-Dos (projects and one-offs to tick off).  You can organize your lists with tags and headers, indicate the difficulty of each item, and set schedules or deadlines.  You can break tasks down to checklists, fiddle with the font size and categories (tags). Continue reading Habitica has changed my life.

It’s almost Earth Hour!

Since we live off grid now, that wonderful novelty of a power outage is rather quotidian for us.

However, I remember well the liberating thrill of the lights and various whirring hums powering down in an unexpected power failure.  Time to read by candlelight!

Earth hour is time to do it intentionally.

My favorite earth hour was years ago in B.C.  From my home with a view of half the town and the lake, I stood outside with my neighbours in front of our darkened houses and watched the lights around us wink out steadily.

A dozen  blazing sodium-vapour lights illuminating the grocery store parking lot down the hill from us stayed on.   Bright was an understatement, in contrast to the majority of homes darkened around them.

I ran inside and phoned them.  I got a manager on the line.  Was he aware of Earth Hour?  He was.

“Oh, no. ” he said immediately.   “Are we sticking out like a sore thumb?”

“Yes.”

In three or four minutes, we watched those piercing sodium lights pop and fade out, as we cheered.  Without that central feature blazing like an arena, the town looked like it might have historically, lit by gas lights, or candles.  A few windows were lit, some houses winked out a few minutes late, but the vast majority of houses were participating – an achievement of collective action.

A beautiful treat, to see the contrast between the usual and the possible, the present normal and probable past, and notice the volume of light pollution we generate together.

Lights out is fun!  And ever so quiet.  The peace is lovely.

 

This off-grid life

Off-grid is just the way we live, so I tend not to think about it at all, let alone how it’s different.

When I am struck by how living off-grid is different, however, is when I’m at someone’s else’s house, and I turn on the tap, and hot water comes out.  That startles me.  It’s that easy to just wash a dish?!  I’ve already forgotten.

Definitely, there are many ways to live off-grid that preserve many or most conveniences.   You can still have hot running water and plugs in the walls, but it has to be accomplished differently.  That’s not our way.  We prefer it to be really hard (joking).

We are on the very primitive end of the off-grid spectrum, partly because we are just getting started out here.

It’s a work-in-progress for us, trying to find a balance between livable convenience and dependence (on fuel/complex systems).

There’s a reason why ready electricity has become so pervasive it’s practically assumed to be a human right:

Electricity is damn convenient. 

Nearly everything runs on it.  Rarely does anyone think of having a home without electricity presumed to be part of it, just there, in the walls.  You’re really in trouble if you get so hard up they turn the power off- wow.

Other life supporting systems of the house depend on it – running water, heat, sump pumps.   And almost all the lifestyle supporting systems require power – fridge, stove, lights, freezer, telephone, tv, computer, tools.  Farm and industry absolutely depends on electricity, to water and milk livestock, run machines.

I had to sit here and think about that list just now – What are all the things assumed essential in modern life? – because we live without plugs in the walls and that presumption of electricity.   I forgot “lights” at first.

That means a compromise for every single thing.  It has to be done without or had from a  different source.

Different power sources:  

Mostly, batteries – stored potential electricity – are our number one alternative source.  Lights, phones, computers, the internet, all run off batteries.  These get charged off our solar panels, or the generator, or when they are plugged in other places in the world.  Rechargeable batteries are in constant rotation (Eneloops rock).

Tools other than cordless, like a table saw, need the amperage only the generator can supply.  Turning on the generator is a minor event.  It starts with one of us announcing the forthcoming use of the generator:  “I need to vacuum/charge my computer/make some cuts”.  Then all the things, and their associated wires, must be gathered up and plugged in in the charging area, to take advantage of the time that the generator is on.  Plans are made:  “Well if you’re going to have it on anyway, then I should vacuum, and transfer some files to my (AC dependent) external hard drive. ”  It’s not a bad thing, to have to turn on the genny once in awhile.  Every few days, it runs for an hour or two, maybe less.  We can go a long time without it during periods of sun.

So far so good.  We watch movies on our rechargeable laptops, don’t stint on the internet, use only cell phones and battery lowered lights.

Water and Electricity

Everything to do with water is where we get into the afore-mentioned primitive nature of our situation.  Water is heavy.  It takes a lot of energy to move it from place to place.  Exactly how much energy is quickly forgotten when it’s being done by cheap and readily available electricity, and quickly remembered once you start moving it around by hand.

First, pump it up out of the ground, an essential job usually done by friendly neighbourhood electrons.  Because lifting water through the air with a pump is an onerous job, rainfall is very abundant here, and the well usually goes dry briefly at the end of summer, I’ve become a nut about catching rainwater.  There are more elegant ways to do it, but I’m at stage 1- buckets and barrels.   This is not a good look. Buckets everywhere.  And it’s work- cleaning the buckets so the water stays clean, storing and readying them, filtering the water.  But less work, to catch water off a steel roof than carry it across a field.  In the winter, this turns to clean snow and ice collection, and melting.

We people use a lot of water.  Drinking, preparing food, washing the things, washing ourselves.  The chickens consume a lot of water.  Pigs, even more.  Cows drink huge quantities, transforming so much of it to milk.  When you are intimately involved with all the water that you use, because you catch, hold, transport, pump, heat, or melt every drop, you use one hell of a lot less than when it just flows past you from tap to drain while your mind wanders.

The other aspect of electricity and water is the hot water heater, which is generally forgotten in the basement until the bottom rusts out and it empties on the floor and you become glad you are renting, or wish you were.  Hot water an option with a flick of the wrist.  On-demand propane is an awesome alternative to that hot water heating behemoth, and the usual choice for the off-grid life.  We have an ideal one that we use for showers, but it is not yet integrated into daily life.  By that I mean, hanging it on a tree by the well, and one person showers while the other pumps, is not “well-integrated”.

I am definitely looking forward to moving up to stage 2 or 3 vis a vis water and hot water – more sophisticated water collection and supply – gravity feed, or solar, low volt pumps, and truly on-demand hot water.  It won’t be hard to get more sophisticated than buckets, but this bit of convenience requires an investment of work we have not yet had time for.

Doing without: 

At the moment we are doing without only the fridge and freezer.  While this means we have no problems with a superfluity of old half full condiment bottles cluttering a fridge, the lack of refrigeration in the summer is sort of tedious and I am very much looking forward to a root cellar. And a neighbour has given us a nook of space in his freezer.  That’s where the pesto is.

What are the costs of living like this?

Energy is a requirement for us furless people.  We need structures, warmth, to cook our food, and we’ve decided we like to communicate.   All of which require energy these days.  Our dependency on energy is immutable, but living off-grid, the dependency is shifted some from electricity to other.  Chiefly wood.  Our heat is 100% wood.  Next, propane, to cook, and to create electricity with the generator.

Our not-the-hydro-bill costs are fuel – a small amount of gasoline for the chainsaw to cut the firewood, infrastructure costs- the genny, the panels, charge controllers, batteries in the bank (these are all made elsewhere with energy from other sources), and propane.

Our propane costs, for cooking, water heating, and powering the generator, have averaged less than $35 a month.  I think that’s ok.

If we had to, we could live without these things too- go back to the axe and Swede saw, walk to someone’s house if we want to talk to them, but that would make life very, very different.  We would really no longer be living in the world the way it is now.  It would be hard to get a job, let alone show up to it, and communication with anyone outside of a 5 mile radius would be impossible, not least because you’d be too busy at home making candles.  That’s an extremity I’m really not interested in.  For a modest price, we can still mostly participate in the wide, evolving world.  Using less energy, from different sources, we still have the opportunity to get outraged at the Oscars and watch cat videos.

It’s amazing to think that not so long ago – all of that energy, for shelter, water, food, and communication, was ALL accomplished by the metabolism of food to physical energy.  Everything was made with hands – carried and chopped and hewn and grown and harvested, and communication was face to face.  First the harnessing of steam, then electricity and fossil fuels, and everything has changed, including the world, to the degree that the planet looks different from space.

Now, we think of the cost of physical movement and work as “time”.

Time is one of the costs of our off-grid life.  To do the dishes, I have to boil water first.  Every morning, I heat up water for the hens and move wood around.  I spend time messing around with things, daily, that many people never do.   That time is freed for them.  The electricity is in the wall and water in the tap.

There’s a lot of complexity behind the scenes required to deliver water to a tap- a different application of time, in my opinion.  Time to build and maintain the delivery system throughout house, property and municipality, time to build and maintain the grid that creates and  sends the energy from dam to meter, time spent working to pay the bill for both those things…

Comparing it, would some of us be better off to just carry the water?

The advantages are short and sweet.

No power bill.

The power never goes out.

No in the wall wiring, therefore zero risk of bad wiring, old wiring, or short circuits causing fires.

Quiet.  There is no ever present electric hum of appliances.

No poles, no wires looping through the scenery.

One less drop of energy consumed from coal or hydroelectric infrastructure.

Some might say there is no electromagnetic radiation from the constant movement of electrons through wires.

No power bill.  Ever.

seasonal rhythm

A random casual conversation tripped me up the other day.  “So, what are you guys up to these days?” like it was a mystery.  Uh, working?  I think I said.  “So, where’s your husband today?”  Working!?

Working at his full time farm job, which he commutes to by bicycle, adding hours to his day, while I meet the needs of at least four species (and that’s just the ones with eyes) plus us at our home farm and work at a third farm part-time, and try to keep up with preserving the deluge of food that rolls in at this time of year, because it’s harvest time!  Because it’s the busiest freaking time of year!  What do you think I’m doing these days!?  Playing solitaire?  My brain was sort of screaming but my mouth happily short-circuited and I had to run anyways because I was between three different things I had to do very quickly.

I realized, though, that if one is trapped in a 9-5 life and not outside most of the day, viscerally connected to the seasons, the shortening days, the building urgency, then one wouldn’t be in touch with what this time of year means.

It’s beautiful to be connected to the seasons.  There’s been times I wasn’t.   I’m grateful for it now, even if I am run off my feet and harvest has just begun.

 

Bees!

My brain is full.  I spent two days at a wonderful Introduction to Beekeeping course put on by the biodynamic apiarists of Bello Uccello, outside of Digby.  I feel tired with all the information, but also grateful, because workshops are not always so intense or packed full of knowledge.

-PHILOSOPHICAL TANGENT BEGINS- My favourite thing I learned is that bees like to work my favourite way to work.  They move around the hive, and do whatever comes to hand (antenna?) within their ability at that stage of their development (as they grow bees have distinct tasks that they capable of performing at a given age).  I get that!  The days that I’m able to work like that are the best.  Do what’s right in front of you, and keep slowly moving forward and doing what’s there, and then as you’re carrying something you run into something else to pick up and end up roaming back and forth all over, and not a thing gets done that you “planned” to do, but so very many things get done that needed to be done, and the experience of doing all that work, and usually working quite hard, is quite relaxing to the mind, and blissfully satisfying.

I have a private theory that there is a great and costly expenditure of energy that happens when you direct yourself to do something that “needs” to get done, that you’ve “decided” to do – to meet a deadline, or an appointment, because it is moving against what you feel like doing.  Again and again, experience bears out that moving with the feeling-like-doing produces better results.  Like this morning, for instance.  I popped up to run the dog earlier than I’d “planned” to, because I felt like it then and had the freedom to be flexible, and the moment we got back from our run the sky opened on us.  I hadn’t known if it was expected to rain.  Alas, there are so many deadlines, and appointments, and plans, to cope with.  We keep on making them.  It is very difficult to cooperate with even one other person (partner), let alone business hours, when following the feeling-like-doing can get you into zealously emptying the back shed instead of doing firewood together, as planned, or vacuuming out the truck at midnight when you have to go to town first thing in the morning.  However, the feeling of the work, which is supposed to be the important part, is so dramatically better when you work one thing to another until it’s time to sleep, and then if you’re lucky, get up again with energy and without an alarm to do it all over again.

My theory continues, to say that if you could continue in this mode A: everything would get done, including the things you have “planned” B: everything truly not important would fall away C: the rhythm of work to be done would come to match and balance the energy you have for it D: the pattern of work would become more consistent and come into alignment with natural patterns, like daylight, and sleep, and E: eventually you would come to harmony and knowledge of much larger and more subtle rhythms, like time to plant the potatoes, and it’s going to be a long winter.  To do this, I opine, would require making no commitments, ever, to anyone, including yourself, to ever show up to anything at a given time; accepting the consequences of all that (essentially not participating in society at all); and to have an extremely patient and accepting partner.   Until then, compromise.  I will revel in the lone days I am able to work like a bee, moving from one task to the next without the tyranny of a to-do list, and maybe in valuing those times, I can create more of them. -TANGENT ENDS-BACK TO THE BEES!-

Also literally tired, because after the second day of class I drove to pick up my bees in the late evening and then drove another two hours home.  I’d requested a nucleus (mated queen, couple hundred bees, and four frames of brood and honey) from Kevin Spicer, and he’d said he’d have one packed up for me (too late in the day to put them straight into my box).  I got to his place a little early, and saw a nucleus box, obviously mine, waiting on the porch.
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During the workshop we’d spent a lot of time interacting with the bees: observing their behaviour, inspecting the hive, standing in the apiary.  Klaus was notably affectionate with his bees, as a whole and as individuals, calling them “girls”, “sweetie”, touching them gently, and obviously always concerned about them.  “See this bee?” he would point out to us instructively.  “She’s [fanning/guarding/cleaning/transferring pollen]. Isn’t she cute?”

I was usually feeling anxious around his bees, impatient to get them put back in the box, concerned for all the jostling and noise that the great lumbering group of us crowded around the hive were causing.

When I saw that box of bees on the porch, though, my bees, I felt an overwhelming rush of love that I really was not expecting.  My bees, that were going to come home and be a part of our family, and I would have to take care of as best I could.

I went to sit by the box of bees and immediately bent over it for a deep inhale, to smell them.  Instantly, the bees just on the other side of the screen from my face buzzed angrily.  Hey!  Cut it out with the wind!  At the round entrance hole, where the tap would be if this was a box of wine, not bees, the bees there were desperately trying to push themselves through the wire screen stapled over the hole.  The whole box had a sound and attitude of frustration and panic.  I sat there with it, watching them, and noticed that some bees at the screened entrance were trying to push out clumps of garbage but were frustrated by the screen.  There was a pile of small crumbs they’d already pushed out, but they had bundles of fuzz, fibres and dirt larger than them that would not pass through the mesh and were starting to clog up their hole.

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I made a tiny wire hook and slowly teased out some of the garbage through the screen, while the sanitation bees pushed from the other side, and the more I pulled out, the more they brought to the door.  They’d only been in there for a few hours, but were already “This place needs sprucing up!” like a no-nonsense pioneer wife.  The bee box calmed down a lot while I sat there, happily bonding with them and helping with garbage extrication, New Caledonia crow style.

Two bees were on the outside of the box, crawling around on the screen on top.  They obviously believed they belonged inside, and I hoped they would stick it out until getting home when they could be reunited.

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Bees!

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Kevin arrived and promptly gave me a tour of his whole bee facility, and then I departed, just before dark, with my box of bees in the back seat, but only one of the two hitchhikers remained on top.

I drove off, then remembered I had to give them water.  Drove some more, remembered the bee on the outside had no access to fuel, so stopped to feed her.  I made it home before midnight, exhausted, wearily singing Tori Amos and K.D. Lang to stay awake.  I figured at least the bees’d get used to my voice.

At home HW unloaded the truck and I slowly carried the nuc box to the house.

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Bees!

Me: There’s a bee on the outside of the box, careful don’t squish her.  HW:  There’s a loose bee?

Inside, the frames were loose and swinging, so even though I tried to carry them like a glass of water, they were getting jostled and they weren’t happy about it.  Bump, bump.  Buzz, buzz.   They stayed in the house for the night because it was kind of a cool night.

In the morning I had to go out and place them in their new location and release them.  It was a cold rainy day, so it would not be transfer day.  I set the nuc box out on a milk crate and started pulling out the staples.  One staple, and it bent the wire mesh just enough for one bee to pop through the screen.  2015-06-19 06.02.33

Poppopopopopopop, a steady stream of bees flowed straight out of that hole, head to tail, did a little crowd walk around on the face of the box, and started taking off.  2015-06-19 06.03.21

About this time I noticed the “loose bee” was missing.  I went and found her in the house, sitting on one of HW’s shoes, and took her to the door and she slipped right into the box.  She made it!

Garbage in bloom

Garbage has been coming up from the ground ever since we got here.  It just sort of appears, rising out of the dirt.  One day you suddenly see the bill of an old ball cap, or a bail of a bucket.  We find the strangest things.  So far the most useful has been an old (true rubber) rubber ball, with a root growing straight through it.  The dog loves it, root and all.

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A bicycle rim

The chickens help, scratching around like accidental archeologists.  I’m convinced though, that garbage finds its way out somehow, although by logic it should get buried in the sediment of leaf litter becoming dirt, and so on and on.  More is appearing all the time.

I feel like I’ve been cleaning up plastic and glass for a year.  Plastic and broken glass.  Plastic and broken glass.   I’ve spent hours and hours picking it out of the dirt, and I could spend days and days.  I try to just tell myself that every session of glass collection is good and useful, although no, it may never be done.  It’s all over, one of the most insidious types of garbage around.  Plastic is dead useful, I get it.  I use a lot of it.  But left alone, it crumbles to flakes and mixes itself into the soil.  The chickens will helpfully eat it (Colourful!), just like styrofoam, which swiftly finds its way to its component spheres, a real chicken favorite (crunchy! Yum).

A seedling tray
A seedling tray

Continue reading Garbage in bloom

Early observations of Nova Scotia.

Wäsche an der Wäscheleine

Everyone has gardens.

Everyone has clotheslines.

The grass is so green.  Like crazy, shockingly green.  I don’t know what they do here, but Miracle Gro dreams of making lawns that green.

We’ve been soaking up our new province as we drive around (so far our opinions of the culture are mostly based on the view from the road).  I’m in love with it.  It reminds me very much of my childhood province, Newfoundland, yet contrasts very much with majestic, dynamic British Columbia, where I lived 20+ years.  The trees here are so very small.  But there are lots and lots of them.

Everyone has a box with a hinged lid for garbage at the end of their drive.  About the size of a chest freezer.  Sometimes the box IS a chest freezer.  Some boxes are fancier than others.

Mari-time seems to move a bit slower.  That’s not like Kootenay time, which just means everyone’s invariably late for any appointment and that’s kinda ok.  Mari-time just means people act like there’s enough time.  Always enough time for chatting, and moving without rushing.  I notice that while plenty of people drive the ubiquitous Canadian 10-over, plenty of people also drive 10-under, which is much more unusual to me.  That’s me these days, 10-under, rubbernecking gardens and the farmhouse architecture.  There just seems to be enough time, and that means enough time to not drive like a maniac.

When we were here a month ago and hitchhiked to Halifax I asked our driver for his advice to new residents.  He happened to be a 15-over guy but still he said “Slow down.  This isn’t Ontario.  Relax.”

People pile up a lot of firewood.

I get a general impression of self-reliance and resourcefulness.

There seems to be a higher percentage of older people.  Or maybe they’re just visible, because they’re outside.  Gardening, and raking, and building decks, and digging, and rummaging in sheds.  Looking healthy and moving sure and steady.  It feels good to have all that knowledge around.

H.W. was wondering why everyone has clotheslines (really, everyone has a clothesline, tidily strung with clothes; the first thing our neighbour insisted on giving us was a coil of clothesline); was it the wind?  I said well maybe it’s the economy and money-consciousness.  It makes sense to put clothes out when a dryer costs money.  I mean, of course it always makes sense to use a clothesline, but where people are wealthier the convenience may win over sense?  He burst out “Yeah, people do what makes sense here.  They have clotheslines, they have gardens, and they recycle.  We’re in the land of sense.”  which about sums it up.

My friend in Utah with a masters in civil engineering told me that Nova Scotia’s (and Edmonton’s and Scandinavia’s) waste management system is the envy of the world.  I believe it.  I remember being blown away by the local transfer station in 2010, with its meticulous required sorting.  One of the first things we noticed driving into Nova Scotia was the separated waste bin at Subway – compost, recyclable, trash.  Nothing generated by a Subway meal would go in the trash.  That and the driver who needlessly stopped for us to jaywalk made H.W. say “we live where there’s nice people, who recycle!” And then at Canadian Tire, and the gas station, and every public trash can anywhere – at least three slots.  Sometimes a fourth, for paper (which otherwise goes in the compost).  I really want to know how this province arrived at such a progressive, pervasive, successful operation.  Where did the political will come from?

At any rate, I’m so grateful to be here and love everything I see.

Photo from bartergreen.org