Monday, July 28, 2014

I took the kids out last night to a local bar to hear other kid's rock bands perform on stage. I told H and R that it was exactly like hanging out in a bar listening to local bands perform---if your mother wasn't there and the girl with butterfly wings dancing in front of the stage was about 20 years older. We were in a bar where I used to hang out when I was 22, exactly below the blues club where I used to tend bar. I was kind of shocked by how much the whole event of hanging out with children in a bar was exactly like hanging out in any bar in my 20s. Hum, on second thought, maybe that's not such a surprise?

The point is, I was present for my kid's first bar stamps. The bouncer stamped me, then my kids, each of us marked very clearly according to our age. I should have grabbed a picture for the blog. And just like way back in the olden days when I used to spend a lot of time in bars, this morning I have a faded stamp on the back of my hand. Even though I washed my hands when I got home last night.

R and I have spent a fair amount of time in the last 2 years evaluating the products we put on our skin. We use the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to learn about the products we use. Skin Deep scientists rank products according to the toxicity of each of their ingredients and then assign a total score with a number 0 through 10. 0 is non toxic, 10 is most toxic. If I had to guess, based on all we've learned in the last 2 years, I would say most health and beauty products in all stores (including my beloved health food stores) score between 6 and 8. R and I decided we would aim for products with a score of 3 or less.

We don't want to be absurd or over zealous. We understand our eye makeup for New Year's Eve isn't really going to make a huge difference in our health or the health of the planet. But the layers of goo we slather over ourselves everyday probably does matter. Think about all the layers of fragrance, lotion, paste, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, powders, make up, cream, sunscreen, and so on. None of the ingredients of these potions have been cross tested for reactions with each other, nor for long term nor mixed use. No one knows if these chemicals are truly safe, some 80 THOUSAND of them, commonly used daily in our society. In truth, most are known endocrine disruptors or carcinogens. Its a big issue. But, like I said, we strive for a sane balanced reasonable response. We only want to be safe, not ridiculous or obsessive.

Though, given the scope of the problem of chemical exposure, sane balanced reasonable response does require some focused thought and determination. Its difficult to find products rated 3 or less. (How sad is that?) We've been very surprised by the frightening scores of some of my previously most trusted and favorite products. R and I both have very dry skin. So we take moisturizing seriously. We are talking about needs over wants for our daily products. And I think it must be especially tough to deflect the relentless product advertizing aimed at my daughter, some 80 thousand chemicals deep, telling her she needs this stuff to be considered as a desirable mate. Also, makeup is fun. Its a little sad, how that's been ruined by corporate greed. And ironic, as the health and safety of the womb was sold out to profit. Hey girls, we don't care if your actual wombs are swimming in toxicity, we just want you to buy our products! Guarding against the relentlessness of an evil tide necessarily becomes a bit of a habit.

Which is why R and I shared a good laugh about our hand stamps on the way home, last night. She said that when the bouncer grabbed her hand and used a huge fat Sharpie to make a very big black X on her skin, she recoiled inwardly. She wanted to shout, "Hey, that marker is not rated for use on skin!" She could have asked, "Is that BAQ?!" (Body Art Quality, an important distinction for henna artists.) Or, "Is that marker rated 3 or less by the Environmental Working Group?!" Yeah, we laughed. But looking at the ink that's been soaked into my skin all night part of me does have to wonder exactly how funny it is.

                                                                                                      image credit stolen randomly from the internet--sorry dude, who ever you are, nice pic, though.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Several years ago H and I found a bobcat den, a hole in the ground covered loosely by leaves. Sitting in front of this front door was an upturned leaf carefully filled with urine. If this sounds as fantastical as it looked, I promise y'all the smell was unmistakably real, a smell no one could ever forget.

This morning Daisy came in from her customary dawn outing with a mouthful of the urine of a wild animal---but I don't think its bobcat. This, she dribbled on the arm of the chair where I am sitting. Which, I think, was done on purpose. She's never done such a thing before. I think she intends a very clear message and possibly a directive: "This animal is here. No use barking about it. But you better do something." What I'm going to do is get up and wash my hands, my arm, and this chair. And spend the rest of the day wondering what kind of animal? Coyote is likely, or fox. Bear? There was certainly a strong enough tang of ass in the mix. But it seems to me bears have a sickly sweetness in their smell? Oh, the things humans no longer know. We've grown so small its sad, in ways.

I have a friend down the road who learned about a kind of net used a long time go to help support the vulvas of livestock prone to vaginal prolapse in late pregnancy. The net is woven in such a way as to support what needs supporting, without falling apart, and yet allow the baby to be born right through the middle. Unfortunately, no one remembers exactly how they were made. Imagine what kinds of information humans have lost along the way. We don't even remember things we invented a couple hundred years ago.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unschooling considerations: Video gaming, Minecraft

And neuroscience: Crosswords Don't Make you Smarter
In which the author, N. Spitzer, does this amazing thing. He gives an actual curriculum for growing smarter. Remember my curriculum? I said love, diet, and age appropriate access to the world. Mr. Spitzer says, "diet, exercise, and social interaction." There ya go, out of the mouth of a neuro-scientist. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

 The one and only buck on this farm,
 a very sweet little fellow.
Newly arrived this week from a farm just down the road. He is a Lamancha/Nigerian cross and an F2 mini. My does are also F2 minis so they should make beautiful small sized dairy goats for next year.

All he needs now is a name. ???

The longer I parent the less distinction I feel between my kids and all kids. Its not that I feel all kids need me, specifically. I guess its just a One Love kind of thing.

Anyhow, I lifted these selfies from my daughter's blog. 

Love you girls! <3

Thursday, July 17, 2014

There are about 20 houses in my neighborhood. We have the smallest property at just under one acre. The whole neighborhood probably has about 60 acres. Almost none of this land is in use for anything other than holding houses, driveways, and cars.

I work really hard on my job at the dairy farm. Its an industrial farm and the work is industrial scale and very serious. Yesterday was especially challenging for no reason other than luck. I was kicked in the face (but not hurt) by a cow. I was shocked twice by a broken handle. I had to wrestle a pig and clean up lots of maggots. And I got covered to sopping in whey. All of that is in addition to the actual job, to give you some idea of the time and trouble that goes on over there. And my shift is only 5 hours. I guess they pull in, on average, about 200 gallons of milk a day while also producing a lot of pork and maybe a half dozen eggs. No one over there is interested in chickens.

I don't work hard on the farm at my house. My farm is very tiny and I set it up so that I don't have to work at it very hard. On average, when things are well managed, I can pull nearly a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs off this land every day---easily. Plus figs, flowers, herbs, and any random vegetables I am willing to tend. Of these, due to the lay of our land, the vegetables are least productive. But remember, I'm not willing to try very hard, either. I could double the milk and eggs plus add meat birds without blinking. They can double production without blinking.

It occurred to me this morning that our little neighborhood could become almost entirely self sufficient in terms of food without all that much effort. Each household would have to spend, likely, a similar amount of time, energy, and money for set up as has my family. (Remembering that I'm not even trying very hard and most other families would be smarter about the whole thing.) It would not take all that much time, trouble, or money to create a self sufficient food economy with a very large diversity, given the amount of land we're talking about.

I just can't understand why more folks don't want to produce their own food. The animals do all the work! They do it happily, they improve the land as they do it, and the food is far FAR superior to what's available in the store. All that, plus you get to have baby animals and the luscious sensuality of good life happening around you, as opposed to what's available in terms of sensuality and goodness at, say, Food Lion or Harris Teeter.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 5
A False Spring

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiter of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

In the spring mornings I would work early while my wife still slept. The windows were open wide and the cobbles of the street were drying after the rain. The sun was drying the wet faces of the houses that faced the window. The shops were still shuttered. The goatherd came up the street blowing his pipes and a woman who lived on the floor above us came out onto the sidewalk with a big pot. The goatherd chose one of the heavy-bagged, black milk-goats and milked her into the pot while his dog pushed the others onto the sidewalk. The goats looked around, turning their necks like sight-seers. The goatherd took the money from the woman and thanked her and went on up the street piping and the dog herded the goats on ahead, their horns bobbing. I went back to writing and the woman came up the stairs with the goat milk. She wore her felt-soled cleaning shoes and I only heard her breathing as she stopped on the stairs outside our door and then the shutting of her door. She was the only customer for goat milk in our building.
Strolling around Asheville was a drum beat feast of music, crowded characters, and art.

So long for now, dear old hotel with windows that open, old fixtures, squeaky wood floors, and wide front porches. See you sometime later! Glad to know your new owners didn't ruin you at all.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This morning we hiked The River Trail along the Swannanoa by Warren Wilson College. It was a perfect little hike, sentimental and soothing, an easy morning stroll. We paused in the middle of the trail on the way back, noticing an animal highway crosswise over the human trail leading from up the mountain, down through laurel, to the water below. It was a narrow and slick little path, not especially remarkable. Until we looked closer.
 We saw lots of tracks on the main trail. Human and dog are obvious and familiar:

 We saw something unfamiliar and unexpected on the cross trail. I'm not really sure why we looked harder than a passing glance. But we did. What do you make of these? This was the lead paw at the top of the trail:
 Slightly smaller than my husband's large hand. A paw wider than my hand, for sure:
 And behind were three more tracks, all looking like this:
The average size of an adult female black bear is 167 pounds. That should give her a footprint slightly larger than mine. Shaped like this:
I took a closer picture on the mud trail where we could clearly see all four paws traveling up the embankment, the top foot print with three following claw prints grabbing into the soft ground.  Sadly, the camera didn't capture the detail so I can't show you. But it was pretty clearly a bear and a recent bear, at that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I mean, look how happy she is.
The kids were out last night and we were home alone at the beginning of our vacation, both of us off work for a few days. My husband was sitting on the couch with his guitar quietly singing George Jones. I was schlumped in a chair with tears in my eyes and one phrase running through my mind: "I wish I was more fun for you, right now." Which I finally spoke out loud, tears spilling over my cheeks. He laughed and said, "I'm having a great time right now." This is a good marriage.

We shouldn't arrive at vacation time so wasted and burned and stressed. But that's how it goes. And its in moments like this, when you look over at your partner and they don't need anything from you but proximity to your existence, that you can see the depth of what is between you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

She comes in to show me her newest creation and I cry out, "Oh, Ugh, Awful!" 
Delighted, she skips away unblemished underneath the makeup and so pleased with her new skills.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

R eats a candy bar and taunts me: "Ummmm, tastes like a hydrogenated dream."

I've dithered around with water filters a long time. For years we bought water by the 5 gallon drum from a reverse osmosis store---they have those in Texas. I could never see my way to a Brita because, eww, so much plastic. Lately our (totally plastic) under-sink filter has gotten too expensive, both financially and environmentally, to replace. So I researched relentlessly until I found a stainless steel and charcoal setup known as the Big Berkey and known in our home as Black Berkey even though its silver. It took me a while to actually buy the Berkey. I didn't want to shell out the cash, have such a big thing on my counter, or look at its bigness everyday. I'm so sorry I waited. We love it. It works great, has almost no plastic, and it matches my milking bucket and dairy stand. Hey, style matters too, right?
Suddenly, Berkey awareness is all around me. I see them on other mother's blogs. I found out my best friend's partner invented charcoal filtration in the early 1960s---and was compelled to sign over rights for the patent by her professor because "it wasn't appropriate for a woman to hold." And just today we met our brand new neighbors. (Who are AWESOME, thank you, God.) The dad is a geologist who is worried about arsenic in the water around here. I told him we use a Berkey and he just nodded before I could even explain what that is. Apparently Berkeys are The field filtration system used by earth scientists all over the world. I love knowing the thing will work during power outages and can be used on river or rain water. You can pour tea in the top and drain clear water out the bottom. To test the system you put a few drops of food coloring in the top and make sure the bottom runs clear.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

 We don't never not school. We always school. Summer, dusk, anytime is good for getting smarter.