Amie and I finally cleaned the seedling containers, then fired up the heat mat and the lamps in the basement and sowed seeds. We’re a little late. Last year I put in the first seeds on Feb 24. We sowed:

  • lettuce
  • mache
  • chard
  • kale
  • spinach
  • onions
  • leeks

I need to order some seeds: celery, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards.  For starters.

DSCF4258

This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

dustbowl

My house is on fire. It took me a while to realize it and I’m still not doing much about it, but there are good reasons for that.

  1. For one, my house is really too big for me. All the water pipes, the heating systems, the gas and electricity lines… they’re all over the place, pretty extensive, and their sources are far away. My walk-in fridge, for instance, is supplied by a massive network of trucks and middlemen over two-thousand miles in diameter. Also, when I built my house, during the fat and innocent years, I didn’t think them through, so they’re cheap, wasteful, vulnerable. One center or line goes down and I get burned. All that is true but that’s how it is.
  2. And, though I feel the consequence, the cause – the fire – is too far away, out of my reach. I can’t do much about it. Others are working on it. My getting all worked up over it doesn’t help.
  3. But I do act! See, this fire burns in little pockets everywhere. I spend some of my time and energy putting out some of these little fires – the ones that touch me the most. Where I can’t reach I pay money to help someone else do it. Whenever I put out a little fire, I rejoice, because in my little-fire-perspective I am absolutely victorious. Yes, my joy is momentary, because three fires sprang up while I was tending to one. But then I get to work on another one.
  4. The fire, as a whole, burns quite slowly. Thank goodness this allows me to relax a little. It’s not that urgent, we have time to fix this.
  5. About those occasional sudden flare-ups due to high winds. They’re scary, especially when those closer to me are affected. I recognize myself in them, only it was them who got burned, not me, so that’s where the comparison ends. When I do get affected, I help, of course, and am greatly relieved when it’s put out, which it usually is. I am really too exhausted after that to accept that I didn’t put out the general fire, that I can’t put down the wind. Why rain on the parade?
  6. You know, you can’t expect me to worry about this all the time. There are so many people in the house and they too are working on putting out the fires. Maybe they don’t know about the general situation yet, but soon they will get the big picture, and then they’ll really get to work. Then we’ll beat it! I’ll have to wait for them.
  7. It’s true that there are too many people living in my house. I don’t know how that happened, or how it came to be that decision-making goes to the one who bought the loudest, most expensive mic and I realize that that’s the one who has the most to gain by doing nothing. I can’t shout louder than them. As for everyone else, they’re all over the place with their priorities and strategies. Whom to follow?
  8. Let’s face it, the situation is awfully complex, as complex as the weather! You can’t with 99% certainty predict the weather. Or 90%. Not even 70%. Or even 65%, which is only 5% less than the impossible 70%, and in the context of this massively complex system, 5% is nothing. But then you can’t even have 60%, or 55% certainty.  Science just isn’t there yet. We need to wait till Science can give us models that give us at least 40% certainty. 50%, at least. Better make it 60%, because so much seems to be riding on it.
  9. But so science is now pretty certain (not absolutely certain) that I am the cause of the fire. My “lifestyle” is what feeds it. Believe me, it’s an unintentional consequence. It’s not my intention to set my house on fire. So I’m not really responsible for that consequence.
  10. Also, my lifestyle is embedded in my culture, and it’s not called “the dominant culture” for no reason. If I don’t live this lifestyle my friends and neighbors will reject me. As an outcast, I’ll be entirely powerless. Why give away what little influence I have?
  11. As I said, I am only one of all the people living in the house. If I stop, the others won’t. It won’t make a difference. So why should I stop? Why should I sacrifice while everyone else keeps on partying?
  12. Enough about me; back to my house. If you’re suggesting that I could at least rebuild it and make it more resilient, then I hate to say it but it’s too late, I’ve no more money, it’s all sunk into the old infrastructure and I’m ruining myself as it is, trying to shore that up.
  13. But alright, let’s say that I am the master of the house, and I say, rebuild, sacrifice, save the house! It wouldn’t be democratic. To compromise on our democracy is worse than letting the house burn. And if we go back to the Dark Ages, what would there be left to live for?
  14. Look here, what I really hope for? Technology will save us! If we can use our technology to set fire to our mighty house, then we can use it to save us. It doesn’t exist yet? True, but look at all of us, good-willed, clever, well-informed, civic-minded people. We’re a global community, a tribe, if you will, spread far and wide but real tight and caring. And we’re putting our heads together, sharing our collective genius to save this thing. Together we’ll find a way. Maybe it won’t be me, but some genius among us. It’s only a matter of time.

Though recovering from a cold (my first time ill in over a year: a sure sign that I’ve been overdoing it a little this month), the sun and comfortable temperatures (around freezing) lured me out. I’d been looking at that dead hive (Hive 4) and it nagged at me. So I took the sled out there, dismantled it (two deeps, one super) and sledded it to the house. There I went through frame by frame, shaking out as many dead bees as possible. This hive died of starvation, though there was evidence of some hive beetle pressure as well. Nothing is as disheartening to a beekeeper as seeing this:

DSCF4217

A carpet of thousands of starved, cold-killed bees on the bottom board. And this:

DSCF4219

That’s half a frame of capped honey right there. The small dark cluster of dead bees, burrowed deeply down in their cells,   is where they hung on till the cluster was too small to stay warm and survive. The honey was right next door! This super was half full of honey still, but the bees didn’t have a break in the cold to move over to get to it. But fortunately there was no sign of disease or fungus: all the frames were clear and clean.

There was a lot of capped and uncapped honey in there – the mix makes it tricky to extract. The uncapped honey at least has started to crystallize:

DSCF4230

DSCF4230cutout

As this can’t be extracted, I’ll feed it to the surviving hives. I stashed all these boxes and frames on the porch, making sure to put a tight lid on them so no mice can get in. I had a devil of a time cleaning up the mess. They ruined quite a bit of wax but the worst was the droppings all over the place!

DSCF4209sm

Amie and I are enjoying reading and telling creation stories. We weave in evolution, the Flood, how Coyote created land, fossils, Darwin and Lopez, and how the first people came out of a bird’s egg.

“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” — Barry Lopez

And how the trees grow straight up out of the snow.

My friend and fellow-blogger Kath came to the rescue yesterday while I was running around getting the last details of an event that evening sorted out and having my over-heating car fixed. She and her daughters gave Amie  a wonderful playdate and then she even fed her and DH dinner!

The playdate included playing in the snow, digging out the chickens, playing music together (there was piano, two cellos, and  a violin). But the highlight of the day was no doubt the goats! Kath is taking of two one-year-old Nigerian Dwarfs for another friend. She sent me this picture from her phone. The subject line was:

You’re in trouble

amieandgoats

 

I figure I am!

robin

The Robin pair has arrived. They are slow and ponderous and conspicuous in all this white.  The Carolina Wren is a much smaller, darting blur of motion between bush and planter.

The snow is coming down again. There are only  two layers to the sky: closest, most turbulent, where you can distinguish the snowflakes; behind that  it, the trees dissecting the static grey zone. That’s where it ends, like we’re in a grey-walled, grey-ceilinged room.

There are more than two layers bearing down on the porch. Snowfall after snowfall, compressed and wind-sculpted, plus the icy melt from the roof above it, absorbed into it as by a sponge. The new snowfall is adding to this. We’re not sure if the roof can handle the extra weight.

Two feet now and counting. The messy tracks we made in the snow yesterday – snowball fight, writing with icicles, then some ice sculpting  with hammers and chisels – are but vague reminiscences. Down, down comes the sky and I am loving it.

DSCF4168

DSCF4166

I remember singing along with Band Aid, “Do they know its Christmas time .” I must have sung this line, but I can’t remember realizing what it says, or anyone making a comment on it, either fellow-singers or popular media – being only thirteen in in 1984, I wasn’t clued into any other culture. The line:

 Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you

***

A friend sent me a link to the live webcam of the eagles of Berry College. Thrilled, I watched them on and off for a day, had them on my screen while I read or wrote (longhand). Saw the exchange between mates, the two fragile eggs, the snow come down, the wind ruffle their feathers, the night fall around the sphere of light cast on them by a spotlight. It was that that made me suddenly uncomfortable. It is infrared light, which eagles (birds and most mammals*) can’t see, so it shouldn’t bother them. If we were walking around the Berry College campus, also we can’t see that pool of light (we see it as light on the screen because the camera can see it and has transformed it). So, they can’t, we can’t, we’re good? But even so, doesn’t it affect other animals (nocturnal animals, mostly), plants and minerals, bacteria and fungi and the atmosphere around the eagles? It would seem so. We can’t just carve a piece out of nature like that, thinking it does no harm. They should turn off the light!

It was but a second to the next realization: I should stop watching them. It is wrong for me to use these creatures for my entertainment. Shame flooded me, I think I even blushed. I closed the screen.

***

From my window I could see, a couple of days ago before more fell, that the snow had melted away from the front of one of my hives, but that  the other one was still fully encased. One breathing, one dead. That’s 50.000 pairs of eyes gone from the world. 50.000 compound insect eyes, which are land and sky-eyes so unlike the vertebrate’s single-chambered eyes that developed in the ocean, fish-eyes. Each with  150 flickering ommatidia (and did you know that bee-eyes are hairy too?). 50.000 times 2 times 150. That’s  fifteen million reflections of the world.

BeeEye_888xm(800)

It’s Winter on the homestead and aside from plodding through two feet of snow to feed the chickens there’s not much to do on that level. There are many other levels to work on, however. I’ve written about  some personal inner work in the previous blog posts. Our tribe of friends meets often for cooking and eating together, and walking. Transition Wayland has started up an Inner Work group – after our first meeting we agreed: “What took us so long!”  But most of my efforts have gone wider. Last year I helped 350MA start up a Metrowest regional node, and I’ve become very involved in the work, mostly on statewide divestment and the Governor’s climate legacy. I do a lot of outreach and media work for them and am finding my stride. We also pitched in on the national fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline with a local vigil.  Then a friend also put me on to organizing a local action in the Friends of the Earth campaign to ask Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling neonicotinoids and neonicotinoid-laced plants, which are killing the bees.

A lot of this work goes on indoors, but I wanted to show you some images of the outdoor events: there is lots of snow in all of them! Like good New Englanders, we don’t let that deter us.

Showing Bees Some Love with Friends of the Earth on February 15:

DSCF4093_lowes_500

DSCF4081_HD_500

20140215 131504 bee demo with transition wayland at home depot in waltham 8623 NEF r1_500

Protesting the Salem Gas Plant on February 8:

DSCF3939_500

Almost 400 came to this rally:

1622144_1464335170447774_2034670377_n

1653404_1464335183781106_379319682_n

Vigil against the Keystone Pipeline on February 4:

NoKXL Vigil Group Photo_500

Climate Change Act Now (s)

That vigil elicited two letters to the editor in our local newspaper. In the print edition the first one, a pro-letter by my friend on the left  in the picture, was immediately followed by the counter-letter. The contrast between the two can’t be starker! I will add links here as the paper releases them online. They’re definitely worth your reading.

Coming round full circle, in all of this I do not forget:

Our planet is not fragile at its own time scale, and we,

pitiful latecomers in the last microsecond of our planetary year,

are stewards of nothing in the long run.
— Stephen Jay Gould

Last night, February 14, was a Full Moon (the Snow Moon) and the light was bright and magical on the snow. I always try to take pictures but my camera (or the camera woman) isn’t really up for it. Still, here are the best ones. There was no “lightening” done on these images. This is the kind of light you can read by. It casts sharp shadows, like here in my study:

DSCF4065

The path down the driveway. The snow is now almost two feet high:

DSCF4039

The neighbor’s house across is all lit up:

DSCF4033

We had a rough evening when, two weeks after our chicken Nocty died, one of Amie’s two parakeets also died – also unexplained. This one was harder for her to bear, because she feels responsible for the birds, who live in her room.

DSCF4031

This bird was rather  wild and would never let anyone hold her.

DSCF4028