Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lawn rant

Well, it is raining yet again! Fortunately I enjoy rain, it is the perfect excuse to sleep in or simply putter about the house. The yard and gardens look incredibly green while wet and I am wondering how I will ever be able to mow the backyard... So while the soup pot is bubbling, I shall vent my opinion about lawns.

I mowed the front yard last Monday during a bit of sunshine but did not mow my more private backyard. I suppose I do rebel against perfectionist lawn care of the type subscribed to by most of my traditional suburban neighbors. I refuse to mow in baseball field patterns, nor do I poison any "weeds" which tend to color my field of green. The violets and clover are welcome additions. I also really like dandelions with their beautiful sunshine yellow flowers because the early bees need their nectar. As an appeasement to my closest neighbors, I do dig out a couple bushel-fulls of the ever so obvious dandelions with a fork. Overall, keeping my yard looking somewhat cared for but maintaining my grounds as an organic worm reserve .

This perhaps gives the impression I am a bit unpopular on my street but actually I get regular compliments from walkers and residents about how pretty my yard/gardens look. I do mow the grass once a week, but I am firmly of the opinion that lawns are a major waste of time, energy and resources given their limited environmental benefits. This year I am committed to increasing the size of the gardens and slipping another raised vegetable bed into the front yard.

(Sub)Urban produce gardening is becoming a necessity give the current economic environment, much like the Victory gardens of the past. I think food farming will be an important addition to all neighborhoods. I am currently reading Will Allen's book, The Good Food Revolution, and it is a fascinating story of building an urban food base in Milwaukee, WI. Here in Missouri, the Kansas City group of urban farmers at this website,  http://theurbanfarmingguys.com/  compile a lot of information for potential urban farmers in this state. Some of this info is a bit beyond me yet (for example, tilapia farming), but I have been experimenting with raised beds, composting and rainwater conservation. So for now I'll savor my bowl of soup and gaze out the window.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

On vacation

Birthdays. I suppose this could become a philosophical moment but I have left the "age, wisdom, beauty" debate behind years ago. Since passing the half century mark, I try to utilize the advent of the B-day to do something significant with my happily ongoing life. A few of the bucket list things I have previously accomplished  are:  fly a single engine plane, get a tattoo, start a small charity, graduate from college, put in a stone patio and travel to France & Iceland. I use my random birth date as a point from which to plan out another year of growth and challenge. This year I am unfortunately stumped... I need nothing, nor can I say I have any great wants. My children have become quite creative negotiating this birthday quandary and this weekend I was treated to a delicious home barbeque, a lovely knit cowl and the bonhomie of my family.

I find it fascinating how aging refocuses interests. Certainly, as I have aged, the pull of stuff has diminished; I no longer collect anything that does not make me want to do a joyful little dance at its discovery. In fact, I have been gifting away things for years now. I tire of the thought of dragging boxes of stuff with me or burdening my children with too much at my passing. Having seen many an estate sale burgeoning with unwanted lifelong collections and witnessed heirs callously throwing away the valuables of their elders, I am alert to the insidious human habit of accumulation.

I think perhaps, I am searching for more of an intellectual challenge. I will have to ponder this more as I begin the springtime garden chores. We have had a few mild days amidst buckets of rain. Everything is quite green and the Missouri River is cresting below flood stage this week. There are definitely low lying areas where flooding is a problem and hopefully the waters will recede without incurring serious damage.

 I find whenever the river is high there are plenty of folks who enjoy just sitting and watching the current rushing by carrying the "river alligators," meaning downed trees and logs, upriver (as the Missouri flows backwards here). Today while walking the trail, in 60 degree sunshine, near a full riverbed, I am hopeful these higher water levels will reverse the residual effects of the terrible droughts from the past few years . 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Terrorism in Boston

My prayers and sympathies go out to the victims of yesterday's bombing at the Boston Marathon. I am sure the whole city of Boston is shaken from this despicable act. Hopefully, the perpetrators will be apprehended quickly. Kudos to Patton Oswalt for his brilliant observation as the rescuers ran towards the carnage,"The good outnumber you (meaning, the bombers) and we always will." Be strong Boston!

Monday, April 15, 2013

On fear

What makes us afraid? I suppose there are as many answers to this question as there are people in the world. Right now, I am not talking about spiders or test results or any of the horrific events of war; I'm working to understand the First World "elitist" fear of making the wrong life decision. Currently, this fear is endemic in the US, be it a lawmaker who cannot vote on gun control, all the way down to my children's generation, wherein they cannot decide on a college major. Since I have absolutely no frame of reference regarding a congressman or senator's career; I join in the mass bafflement as to why our professional "deciders" are unable to make any forward progress. Anyhow, I think I can take a stab at figuring out why fear often interferes with life decisions.

For one thing, I think we live in a culture with a delusion that life can be perfect or a good person/student deserves more.  The words perfect and good tug at the virtuous cliches of "do the right thing, don't let me down, we expect more from you" which simply do not help anyone find an independently walkable path. Moreover, these moral judgements are directed at everyone in our society, no matter what your age.

Fact, we all make choices, every day, all the time. Those of us who are older have decades of consequences, stupid or intelligent that worked out or didn't from our previous life experiences to draw upon. We also have the luxury to look back upon those decisions and see wisdom in both our successes and failures.

Today, students are told through their schooling the mantra, go to college, yet many have no idea what interests them or what they even want to do. Given our economic slump, since 2008, many of these same kids have seen parents lose jobs, homes, financial security and marriages. So they try to float through life, not making any bold (scary) decisions to possibly backfire, derailing any success they have already achieved or that floats nebulously out there for their futures. These kids are paralyzed in the process of decision-making because they are afraid. The  imaginary specter of a wrong decision wreaking all sorts of havoc from no job opportunity, to not earning enough to support oneself or even homelessness. Thus, many kids are going to college just to get a bankable job, be it as a business major, IT master or nurse, not because it's their passion but for the money.

The thing is, life is messy, nothing is guaranteed. Ironically, if you have a passion for something it will probably be your ticket for success ( think Bill Gates). The trick is to evaluate your options and then choose as wisely as you can. The important piece is to just decide, to take a step, any step and see where it leads, because truly almost every decision can be changed if it proves to be a dud. And no one can say they haven't had a few duds in their life, it's what makes us unique. Deciding is a skill which must be learned by trial and error.

Whenever I am agonizing with life changing decision, I visualize the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie. Remember when he is balanced at the precipice of the ravine, fearful his father is dying behind him and terrified he cannot cross the chasm before him to reach the grail cup? Finally, he takes that leap of faith and steps out into the air, not plunging to his death but onto a hidden bridge; one he could not see until  he stood upon it and scattered pebbles. That is what decisions are about. You can avoid them and stay with your life status quo and watch it die or you step into the unknown, adrenaline pumping and change your life. We cannot stay poised at the edge. We must let go the comfort of the known, for the wildness of the unknown; hidden bridges abound.

I am in the process of sharing my past life scary decisions like fables, recounting those hidden bridge moments. Hopefully, my college-age daughter will get more comfortable about big decisions from hearing my humorous, scary, but mostly successful decision opportunities past and present. We learn about life from the footsteps of others.
Emma & Wendy need only to decide on which dog bed to use.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Midwest Spring

At times this blog becomes Weather 101, I know, but life here in the Midwest seems to be ruled by the the vagaries of climate. Barely three weeks ago we had almost 10 inches of snow, then yesterday & today temps were in the 80's! Let's just say Spring has burst on the scene in the last three days. The yellow forsythia bushes are starting to bloom, which means the soil temps are above fifty-five degrees, thus warm enough for early seeding. I also plucked my first asparagus fingerling today and it was delicious. We have been fertilizing and babying this bed for three years, so now the feasting begins.

The next couple of weeks will be a frenzy of activity, putting away the remnants of winter and focusing on Spring. I have already aired the woolen blankets on the clothesline and packed them into the cedar chest. The sweaters, scarves and mittens will be a bigger chore. Ashes from the fireplace will need to be scattered around the lilac bushes. Compost has been turned and I have one pile ready for spreading. I am planning a hike across the nearby field with my trog to pick up some aged horse manure from the stables too.

The magnolias are beautiful and fragrant. Apparently, the saucer magnolia hasn't suffered any ill effects from losing two large limbs. I will need to keep an eye on the trunk wounds, but these primitive trees heal over very quickly. The blue muscari is popping around the lawn as well as the purple and white violets. It is such a pleasure to sit on the front porch in the warm sunshine and just breathe the perfumed breezes.

As a knitting update, Val and I have both turned the heels on our sock project. I still need to do the gusset but Val is sailing down the instep. I'm having trouble staying inside and focused on knitting with such good weather. Emma & Wendy have enjoyed several walks. Hopefully, next week we will be modeling our new Spring socks.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Shrinking economy

I tend to shop for groceries and household supplies once a week, ideally around payday. I attempt a strict budget but household items and food have gotten more expensive lately and there is a sneaky product shrinking trend. Take for example, the generic (Wmart brand) liquid hand soap, nothing fancy, no smell nor cute color, just the basic orange soap which I usually purchase in the huge refill size to pour into the old pump dispensers by household sinks. I don't buy it too often because it comes in a big bottle 64 oz. (1.99L) for about $3.85. Yesterday, I grabbed a bottle and when I got it home to refill the empty pump dispensers I noticed it was easier to squeeze... oh yeah, now refill-sized hand soap is in 56 oz. (1.65L) bottles at the same price! You know what, I do feel cheated, obviously there is no labeling that is going to clearly identify, "new smaller size at same old price."

I've noted this trend with ice cream, good luck finding a real half gallon of the stuff; detergent; crackers & cookies and any number of packaged foods. Industry is cutting costs by downsizing or cheapening the quality of a product. This makes me mad. It is not like I have more money to spend. Literally I am shopping, cell phone in hand, using the calculator tool to determine unit price a lot. Even pet food costs have become trickier to figure, frequently and counter-intuitively, unit prices are more favorable to the consumer by purchasing two smaller packages rather than one larger sized item. Ah, the joys of purchasing twice the disposable packaging to send to a landfill.

So, in the big scheme of life during our current depression/recession/sequester economy I think the general populace is on their own. Our government is surprised! at poor job numbers for March and stagnation in sales, but do they really care? Probably not so much, our politicians all have jobs and health insurance. They are not a bit concerned that a generic hand soap product is 8 oz. smaller and consequently more expensive. Any one who works today, boots on the ground, knows without any engineered political statistics, that in the past three years, job opportunities are not out there. Certainly no new hires have oriented at my workplace...

So what to do? I'll certainly take suggestions! I know that I make more food from scratch and I shop at thrift stores. I am always looking for bargains and negotiate costs. I pay bills timely and on occasion make weekly payments within the due date allowance. This Spring I will be attempting another season of vegetable production here in the yard. In the near future though, I seriously hope my children will be able to make a life for themselves in this economic desert. Perhaps an entrepreneurial spirit will be the necessary ingredient for success?