• Food Photography

It’s an art! Who knew? The shopping and the cooking and the eating were fun – that is one of the rules of One Local Summer - but the photographing not so.

  • Dinner 

 This was our dinner tonight, for the first edition of One Local Summer:

our dinner for One Local Summer - first edition (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

I’m a vegetarian and since I was the one cooking, it was a vegetarian meal.

We’re in Brookline, Mass, a suburb of Boston, and we have a fantastic Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. Which I duly visited to purchase tonight’s ingredients:

I usually buy from the same farm stand, a small organic farm near Northhampton, Mass, which is 101 miles away – yes: exaclty 101 miles! Less as the crow flies, but then we’re counting truck miles, not crow miles… From them I got:

  1. Swiss chard
  2. Asparagus
  3. Garlic
  4. Garlic scapes

From another stand, a Low Spray farm, the location of which I didn’t find out, but it’s within Massachusetts – let’s say, also 101 miles:

  1. Tomatoes (greenhouse)

From my potted herb garden, that is, 0 – zilch – nada miles:

  1. Herbs (sage, taragon, Italian basil, thyme, oregano)

And from the Clear Flour Bread in Allston, which is 2 miles away (I’ll call them tomorrow to ask where they get their flour from – cf. UPDATE below):

  1. A buckwheat walnut loaf

The great unknowns but almost certainly not local are:

  1. Butter: I cooked everything in butter, thinking our usual olive oil probably comes from even further away!
  2. Salt
  3. Pepper

To my horror, I found out that certain ingredients that are very common in my kitchen – potatoes, onions, and mushrooms – aren’t in season yet, or simply not available. This turned out to be a blessing, really, because the chard tasted much nicer without the onions. I am very grateful for the juicy and oh so soft new garlic, though!

  • Dessert

strawberries for dessert for One Local Summer first edition

These also came from the organic farm near Northhampton in Mass – 101 miles away. They were so deliciously sweet and juicy that I bought two pounds of them: $5 a pound because they were closing up and they were the last ones: a bit bruised, but no less tasty!

At first I was thinking of making a cake or some such with them (with King Arthur Flour) and some local eggs, and butter and sugar… sigh. I just needed to pop one into my mouth to realize they are delicious by themselves! So that’s how we had them.

  • How did I do?

So how did I do, as a “locavore” (Liz’s and Kingsolver’s word)?

Not so well, in my opinion. I still don’t know where many of my ingredients come from, and at the Market itself wasn’t assertive or present enough to ask. 

Finding out that that organic farm, that I get 90% of my groceries from at the Market, is 101 miles away was a shocker.  (Is it fair to count those 101 only once for the produce I got from there? They all came in one and the same truck….)

The point being, we have many farms much more local, many of which offer CSA’s. More importantly, Brookline itself – my own town – has a farm: Allandale Farm, which calls itself “Boston’s Last Working Farm,” whose crops are Certified Naturally Grown using organic methods. They have their own farm stand – a beautiful one, too.

For our next One Local Summer meal, I’ll go shopping there. Need to get those miles down!

  • A word of thanks 

For Matt (Fat Guy on a Little Bike) for letting us late-comers join in anyway!

  •  UPDATE

I called Clear Flour Bread the ingredients of their lovely buckwheat walnut are for the most part from the midwest. Only the organic buckwheat is somewhat local: it is milled and grown in Westport, NY (about 200 miles from here).

Photograph of small farm on river bend

  • Dreaming

We are dreaming about moving to a new place. For us that means selling this one and buying another one of approximately the same price, which means that, if we want to move, we need to move out- out of Brookline.

We’re currently in a 1050 sq.f. basement apartment in a condominium. We adore our cozy little pad, but we miss direct sunlight and a view of the sky! Bumping up against short-sighted condo-rules and residents, and the constant feeling of being walked-all-over (by our heavy-footed, insomniac upstairs neighbor) are wearing on us.

We love Brookline too, especially our “Corner”, but we can’t afford to move into a house around here, let alone one with land. Just moving up a floor will exhaust the budget. And to be honest, I get way too uspet about the incessant, false orchestra of air conditioners and leaf blowers in these crowded burbs.

If we move out far enough, we could even buy a 1500 sq.f. house on an acre of land for the price for which we could sell our little basement. That sounds like a good deal!

  • Land and house for a child

We’re looking for a sizable plot because we want to grow our own vegetables – preferably permaculture style – and keep some animals, like chickens and goats and bees. We won’t complain if the lot is partially wooded as well.

As for the house, we would like a little bit more living space – 1500 sq.f. would be perfect – because we want one another’s in-laws (isn’t that a nice way of putting it?) to come visit for longer stretches of time. After traversing a wide-open space of at least 1,000 miles, and in most cases 3,000 miles, to visit us, they get cabin-feverish in our cramped and dark quarters. And we relish the thought of having friends, any well-wishers, staying over.

As I wrote in an earlier entry, our daughter Amie plays a large role in this plan. She is forcing us to more thoughtfulness, accountability, and action. Because, one of these days, she is going to ask: Why? And: What did you do? I dread that day, and I dream of it with a passion. And I want to be ready. But most of all, I want her to be ready.

  • A natural child

I want Amie to grow up in a more natural environment, one in which she will know what a goat is, and even how to milk it. One in which we can let her run around butt-naked, if she so pleases. And lift a log and marvel at the world underneath.

If she fits into a place that wears life and death on its sleeve: the slow geography of the land, the biology of the tree, the quickness of an insect, the poetry of a field… if she can learn about these through immersion and hands-on, face-to-face encounters… will her understanding of the world and herself be richer? I think so.

If she feels at home in the natural world with its examples of wholesomeness and self-sufficiency, calm and beauty, and occasional disaster… if it makes her aware of her own freedom and responsibility as a human… will she become a kinder, more flexible, happier person? I believe so.

Who will contradict me? (Go ahead, you will only make me stronger.)

  • A child in a community

Of course, bringing our daughter into nature is a necessary (in my eyes), but not sufficient condition for a child’s happiness. Nature won’t do the parenting for us! But our case of the “nuclear family” is extreme:  Amie has never met our nearest relatives, who live 1000 miles away. We have friends who have her and our best interest at heart, but circumstances conspire against us meeting more often. I guess Amie counts her group at daycare as her “extended family”.

This is not the best that we can do. Especially because, soon, the free and frolicking life of daycare will be replaced by the formal setting of school (I am still considering home-un-schooling, at least part time). I don’t know of any kid who calls his class his “family”.

Can we be it? Two people, the same age and with (more or less) the same interests and routines? Two people who, at the end of the day, would like to rest a bit?

Amie needs more diverse company, a more miscellaneous family. Siblings would be nice (an older sibling especially), but let’s add another layer of community: family and friends who come, not to visit, but to stay and be at home with us. Another layer of wisdom: if grandparents want to put their minds out to graze (i.e., retire), they can do so in our pasture! Another layer of communication: adult conversation, discussion of complex things, mature problem solving. Another layer of character and doing things: all the many different ways in which each of us experiences joy and grief. And another layer of time: the more people in a community, the more time there is between them, for them.

Hence, the bigger house. Not too much bigger: we don’t want to avoid one another! And when there is need for space, there will be outside, in the peace and silence of a garden and a wood.

  • A happy child for a grim future

I believe that, in the future, these two aspects – nature and community – will be essential to survival. I am one of those people who have a grim view of the future, but who also believe that we each have to do our bit to make it a little less grim.

By “grim,” I should add, I don’t mean “poor” in the current sense of no oil, no “freedom” to consume cheap and unhealthy junk, no “leisure” and world-travel, and – my goodness! – the necessity of physical labor! I believe that we can turn all of these “crises” into opportunities for more wholesome lives in a better society. No, my “grim” refers to the fact that the majority of us will not see it that way, that there will be helplessness, chaos, famine and violence due to ill-preparedness and ill-will.

In such an environment, I want to inject some hope, namely my daughter. She can be a teacher of the skills needed to grow food and take care of animals and build shelters and tools, a safe-keeper of the rational will to manage natural resources responsibly, and a model of hard work with enthusiasm, purpose and fulfillment. She can show, by the example of her own life, that life in a “poorer” world can be richer.

I know! That’s a lot. And she’s not yet two. And she may not want to. But I’m going to give her the chance, and the time.

  • Priority no.1: grow food

Growing one’s own food, because due to the rise in oil prices as it gets scarcer, most food will be too expensive, and there won’t be enough local food for all – so that will go up in price too. The idea is to grow enough food for ourselves as a family, to build up to more for friends and neighbors, and to lay the foundation for the poosibility of a larger food production, in case more need it. “Enough for all” should be the goal.

  • So let’s do it already!

Sigh. 

I wrote about this in May. In fact, that old entry begins exactly like this one! What’s keeping us?

It’s not a risk – I would never call it a risk. Remaining where we are, in place as well as in life: that’s a risk, a sure one.

Sure, there will be times when I will complain about the crops failing, the water bill being higher than expected, that pesky goat… when I may wish it all to kingdom come! But at least those will be particular grievances that I can pinpoint, voice, and then set out to solve. That’s not what I can say about this dulled, vague life, in which our needs and grievances are manufactured by advertisement and “what our neighbor does”.

But I find the entrapment of our conventional lives to be tight-fitting, not easily shaken off: financial security, immigration issues, anxiety about good schooling… And then there is character: if you’re one to always over-prepare, you’re never ready, especially in a situation where you can never be prepared enough… And, oh, let’s not forget that there are two decision-makers (more, if you count the mortgage-people, and the government, etc., but mainly the two of us), and we’re not exactly on the same wavelength, cruising at the same speed…

So we’re working on it. I guess that’s what this blog is turning out to be: a record of our progress or lack thereof, and a public scrutiny to keep us honest.

photograph of Caillou crushed by pumpkin (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

(another victim of spilled food)

I’m in a quandary. Amie is 22 months old now and eats by herself, with a metal teaspoon and from a small glas bowl – we’ve done away with most of the plastics. She is pretty good at scooping up her food and getting it into her mouth. Still, often some food gets away.

Then it falls on the floor and is wasted.

We’re talking about 1/5 of the dry foods, like pasta shells and rice, and less of her cheerios with milk. She spills almost none of wet foods, like yogurt and pudding, because they stick to the spoon more.

I want to urge her to eat more carefully and spill less, but is she ready, motor-skill-wise? I don’t want to criticize her feeding skills and berate her for wasting food if she is physically not capable yet of doing a better job.

So how – and at what age – did/do you deal with this problem?

Color Photograph of Ernestine Huckleby from National Geographic (photographer?)

  • Ernestine

I will keep on revisiting Ernestine Huckleby, who in 1969 sat down with her family to a meal of home-raised pork in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The hog had been fed grains that had been treated with the pesticide Panogen, which contained methyl mercury. Two months later, three of the children fell ill. Ernestine, just 9, was by far the worst off.

As icons - warnings against the health threats of mercury and the negligence of big corporations – Ernestine and her family are still alive and well (cf. William’s comment). But Ernestine the child has been forgotten.  What happened to her? A search on the internet reveals nothing.

Today I got access to some old articles in the New York Times. I can tell you some of the rest of her story.

  • 1970: First year

The long article “Mercury in Food: a Family Tragedy, a Federal Nightmare,” written by Waldron for the NY Times on 10 August 1970,  mostly deals with the history of the poisoning and the aftermath in government institutions, companies and courts of law. But there is some information about how the children fared, and interviews with their mother and caregivers.

We learn that, soon after exhibiting the symptoms of mercury poisoning, Ernestine complained of feeling sick and pain in her back. As she was taken from doctor to doctor, she got worse quickly, going into convulsions, losing her sight, and ultimately falling into a semi-coma. Then her older siblings, Dorothy Jean and Amos, started showing the same symptoms, and also slipped into comas. They were finally diagnosed with mercury poisoning and treated.

When they ate the meal, Mrs. Huckleby was 7 months pregnant. In March, baby Michael was born. On August 10, when this article was written, the baby still seemed fine.

The article is clear about the two older siblings. Dorothy Jean, who was the least affected, was the first to show signs of improvement, regaining most of her sight and learning again how to walk and speak. Amos too awoke from his coma, and was learning to talk and walk again, but he would never see again.

After informing us that “with Amos and Ernestine, the outlook is not so good”, Ernestine is no longer mentioned.

  •  1971: Ernestine awakens from coma

The article “In 18 Months, Mercury-Poisoned Girl Is Almost Well”, written by Ralph Blumenthal for the NY Times on 6 June, 1971, reports on Dorothy Jean’s almost miraculous recovery. Amos is said still to be confined to a wheelchair and having difficulty speaking. At 14 months, baby Michael, who was thought to be normal at birth, turned out to be blind and severaly mentally retarded.

Ernestine, who was 10 at that time, remained in the hospital, having awakened from a more than year-long coma. She was still blind and unable to move except for rolling over and moving her arms a few inches. Probably it was around this time that the photo of her that heads this entry was taken.

But what was the extent of her brain damage? In other words, was she thinking and feeling? Was she conscious?  The article does not say.

  • 1974: Ernestine goes home

Another article informs us that in 1974, Dorothy Jean and Amos were doing very well. Dorothy Jean lived in her own apartment with her 6-year-old son, and had two clerical jobs. Amos lived at home and attended a high school for the blind. He could walk again, though not for long distances, and spoke with difficulty.

Ernestine, we learn, returned home to be cared for by her parents.

  • 1974-76: In court

Next there is a whole slew of articles on how the case fared in several courts.

The family lost its suit against the Federal Government, for $3.9 million, in August 1974. But they won the $3.6 million lawsuit against three companies, in that they settled out of court in February of 1976, just a few hours after the trial started. The figure of the settlement was never revealed,  except that it was “very generous”.

  • The end?

That’s it! I could find nothing more. Are you as disatisfied as I am?

I’ll keep digging. I believe she deserves our recognition as a person – I was almost going to write, “as a child”, but today she would be 47 years old, if indeed she is still alive.

suitelogo21.jpg

I published a review of A Handmade Life, by William Coperthwaite, on Suite101.com.

Bookcover of A Handmade Life by Bill Coperthwaite  

It took me a long time to write this review, simply because I wanted to do the book justice. And 700 words are not enough to do it justice.

There was, for instance, no space to treat Coperthwaite’s fascinating views on education and childrearing. I will be probably write a separate article on that (UPDATE: did so, you can read it here). Food for thought, definitely, for the home and unschoolers! I did manage to reproduce, at the end of the article, Peter Forbes’ touching photograph on p.109, of Bill carrying a very young child: there is such protection in his stance, and such an outlook for the child…

Neither could I do justice to Coperthwaite’s self-sufficient and sustainable life in nature. I’ll try to devote an article to that too, for the homesteaders!

I still hope you will go and read the review: I did get some things said! There is also some criticism. However unwavering my championship for this book, I couldn’t in all honesty withhold that one reservation…

But most importantly, I hope you will read the book. It was written by a thoughtful and kind man, about lives that are possible for all of us – lives that are for that reason “democratic” in Coperthwaite’s sense. And the photographs by Peter Forbes are simply gorgeous.

It’s time to come clean, lastly, about my “Manifest“:

What do I have to do?

Preserve, not things,

But skills to make things

And skills to make the tools to make things

And the resources to make things

And the skills to preserve these resources

Etc.

Of course Coperthwaite was the one who brought home to me: the need to preserve our skills and tools so we and our children can survive in a difficult future. I am sure I will reflect more and often about A Handmade Life.

Enjoy.

black and white photograph of baby thrown up in air (c) Katrien Vander Straeten


I added an article on Amie’s puzzle skills in the Child’s Play section.

Beside a short history of how Amie approached her jig saw and fit-in puzzles at around age 16-18 months (a history that is perhaps representative of other kids that age), there is also a funny VIDEO of her solving some jig saw puzzles at 18 months of age. Go have a look-see!

Color Photograph of Pigeon on herb (c) Katrien Vander Straeten

At first I thought it was wounded: it just sat there, next to the thyme, looking at me, letting me make a lot of movement and noise getting the stroller out of our front door, then after I spotted it, letting me run in to get the camera and take three pictures. Then it flew off, to my relief. I was in a hurry to pick up my sick daughter from daycare, and would not have known what to do with a wounded or sick bird.

O but what a beautiful bird! If anyone knows what it is, exactly, please let me know.

Amie is fighting another pneumonia, this while it’s 89 F (31 C) out! A cold immediately turns into something a lot more scary with her. This time we caught it very early, though, so we’re optimistic. Maybe our visitor is a good omen. I wish Amie had been here to see him…

Photograph of small farm on river bend

  • The world outside

Sometimes I wish I never had to leave the house – even though “the house” is a small and light-deficient, though blissfully cool, basement apartment.

“Leaving” means going out into the din of air conditioners and leaf blowers (see yesterday’s post). It means walking past shop after shops selling plastic junk, $800 strollers.

It means sitting in Peet’s Coffee shop and observing  a woman grab at least 30 paper napkins, drop 10 of them on the floor, then on her way throw the 15 napkins she didn’t use into the trash. I’ve got one sticker for you, lady!

TCFT sticker (c) Pete Kazanjy at http://thesecomefromtrees.blogspot.com/

It means seeing three homeless people walk by, their belongings in plastic bags.

It means peering at a photograph in the Boston Globe, of about ten men in snow white kurtas, their beards and hair neatly trimmed, standing around a life-size doll of Salman Rushdie, barely alight yet on the ground. It means peering at their faces and knowing something of what they feel and think and see, but seeking something else. A knowledge, an understanding, but of what? I don’t know. I can’t find it.

  • Going to pieces

“Going outside” now also means going onto the internet. It means reading this post on Casaubon’s Book and getting a lump in my throat (again). It is titled “We Simply May Not Have Time to Wait for the Technology Fairy”, and refers to this dire new report about climate change.

Sharon, who runs Casaubon’s Book, writes:

As far as I can tell, there is no better plan than this. Build soil. Plant trees. Grow food. Make Do. Do Without. Give what you can to others. Fix your mistakes. Cut your emissions to the bone, and then cut them some more. And every time it hurts (and it will sometimes), close your eyes and imagine your nieces and nephews or your children or grandchildren or your friend’s beloved children grown to womanhood and manhood in a world where there is food and peace and water. And then imagine them without. And ask yourself “What else don’t I need so I can bring about a decent future.”

That’s powerful writing. 

  • Despair – action – hope

Its first effect was that it made me berate myself. I lost track of that house with the acre of land, I stopped pursuing the volunteer position at a nearby farm, I stopped reading the books that matter, I got complacent, I was writing about leaf blowers, and concentrating too exclusively on my potboiler, which is one big piece of (fun) silliness…

It throws me into despair: is it useless, is it too late?

But then it galvanizes me. Ecological despair and hope for something better are not opposites, as long as there is action in between. Yes, there will be chaos, misery, and death. But at least there will still be something, and we can work to make that something a little less chaotic, less miserable, less deadly.

Action needs a guide and a spur, and there are many out there: personalities, exemplary lives, their books, etc. But I am a writer, so besides observing and learning from these heroes, I need to write my own manifest.

At first it will be for personal use, but once I have developed it – not in the least by living it – I want it to be a statement to friends, family and everyone else who wants and needs it. 

Here is my work in progress, just begun, never-ending:

  • Manifest

What do I have to do?

Preserve, not things,

But skills to make things

And skills to make the tools to make things

And the resources to make things

And the skills to preserve these resources

 

What do I have to build?

Soil, forests

strength, skill

community, hope

 

What do I have to learn?

Learn again what is necessary, what is not

And how to give and receive it

And how to live again with others

closely, in a natural, necessary bond

 

What should I leave behind?

What is not necessary

 

What is necessary?

Love and work, first of all

Beauty and rest, second

Community and hope, always.

Will these – just these – stand up?

They will.

Like a rock.

 

  • Something more 

It needs something more, the really tough part:

What am I doing?

1. I am educating myself

2. I am making sustainable changes to my lifestyle

3. I am building the foundation for a better future

This should be more specific, of course.

  1. Re-read and (today hopefully) review Coperthwaite’s A Handmade Life. Pursue again the volunteer position at the Farm.

  2. HERE AND NOW list.

  3. Investigate further the possibility of buying/leasing… that 1 acre.

 This Manifest will live on a page of its own.

 

  • Ah, summer, you break my heart.

After long months of snow and frost, a long stretch of grey, rainy weather, summer’s arrival is very welcome. The warmth, the sunlight on your skin, the summer hat, the smell of sunscreen… People smile, say hi, drivers find more courtesy and patience, kids come out to play.

But as soon as the first warm day breaks, the din begins.

All day airconditioners drone in windowsills of unoccupied houses. A quarter of the cars in the supermarket parking lots have engines running. Gardens are frustrated daily by mowers. And then there is the most annoying of summer pests:

  • LEAF BLOWERS

I was potting the herbs at my front door when I heard one of the condo’s cleaners approaching, leafblower at full throttle. I waved an arm around the corner to indicate I was there, in the small space at the bottom of the steps. All he did was throw the machine’s engine into a lower gear, and so he still managed to blow most of the dust he had gathered onto me.  I looked up at him, showing my surprise and disgust on my face – it was the only means of communication what with all the din. He didn’t catch on, and kept the machine going, standing there, in the cloud of dust. Only when I yelled to him to turn it off, did he do so.

He didn’t do it on purpose. He just didn’t realize what he was doing.

  • Bad bad bad!

People get so used to their machines, they quickly forget about the nuisances (cf. Facts below). They spew hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide into the air, as well as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide. They dislodge “fugitive dust”: minuscule dust particles and micro organisms that have no business being in the air, in our mouths and lungs. They wreck our hearing: operators are supposed to wear ear protections (and masks). But what about us?

Still people walk behind them, for hours, at their leisure. Like it’s a walk in the park.

I think that’s the problem: the “operator” walks behind them. This distances him from what it is  he is assaulting (the lawn, the leaves, wildlife, people), and even makes him think he is immune to the assault (most forgo ear protection or masks). He is desensitized. His senses dulled, his brain follows soon after, “zoning out” into the rhythmic drone of the machine and a body on automatic.

  • Get a broom!

Leaf blowers are misused and therefore ineffectual. They are leaf blowers: meant to move relatively heavy leaves onto a heap from where they can be collected and carted away. Most cleaners now – like our condo’s cleaners – use leaf blowers as brooms. So they become dust blowers. And do they blow!

First of all, even for what they are designed to do, they are no match to the good old rake (read this story).

But our cleaner is after the cigarette butts, the wrappers, the occasional leaf, even pennies and pebbles. So he sets his machine to the highest setting. This whips up into the air very small particles, rodent droppings, bird waste, pollens, molds, bacteria, and viruses that would normally get dislodged only by heavy winds. We’ve all seen the huge dust clouds, and we know they will settle later, after the cleaners have gone.

The largest pieces get blown into the gutter. I’ve observed this not only in our cleaning crew, but all over the place. I’ve seen a Town cleaning crew blow the leaves off the park onto a private home’s lawn, and left there – the wind soon carried all the leaves back to the park.

Probably this has to do with distaste for menial work. You give a guy a tool with an engine, and his task won’t be so menial anymore.

  • The leaf blower Zone

But the blindness to the incompetence of the leaf blowers also has to do with the Zone.

When you’re in that leaf blower zone, you are “in the moment,” and in the moment things are moving along nicely (in what direction, who cares).  You get obsessed with the one thing that just won’t budge – a piece of gum, stuck to the sidewalk, for instance – and you attack it, full force, no matter the dust and gasoline fumes and the time. But you won’t bend over and pick it up, of course, nor will you bend over and pick up the collected debris afterwards. That’s what you have the leaf blower for, right, and other people’s property!

After he turned off his infernal machine, my leaf blower guy walked over to his truck and returned with a small bucket and a couple of white paper towels. Halfheartedly, he swiped the larger dust bunnies that had settled on the pavement into the bucket. When he came up out of his bent position, he groaned, putting his hand in the small of his back.

Get a broom and get moving: it will do the job much better, faster, and it will be healthier for all involved!

  • Leaf Blower Facts

P.S. These  facts are for the most part rather old. I dug them up 5 years ago for a letter to our management company (the new cleaner company started using leaf blowers and often blew dust into our home through our open windows!). If anyone has more recent information, let me know.

  1. According tot the average 1999 homeowner type leaf blower and (1999) car data, the hydrocarbon emissions from one-half hour of leaf blower operation equal about 2,200 miles of driving, at 30 miles per hour average speed. Hydrocarbons are unburned or partially burned fuel that react in the atmosphere to form ground-level ozone. (Air Resources Board report written for the California Legislature in 2000, available through www.nonoise.org)
  2. One-half hour of a homeowner-type leaf blower useage generates as much carbon monoxide as 110 miles of automobile travel at 30 miles per hour average speed (2000 Air Resources Board report, cf. www.nonoise.org)
  3. Most two-stroke engines also generate particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide. (Arizona Sierra Club)
  4. They dislodge “fugitive dust“: minuscule dust particles and micro organisms that have no business being in the air, in our mouths and lungs. How about some rodent droppings, bird waste, pollens, molds, bacteria, and viruses for a snack? (source)
  5. They wreck our hearing. It takes sounds in excess of 85 decibels (db) to damage hearing, but noise at less than 75 db may be linked to hypertension, and that at just 65 db leads to stress, heart damage and depression. A ringing telephone can reach 80 db; a hair dryer hits 90 db; an ambulance siren can top out at an excruciating 120 db. (source)  Leaf blowers are routinely used less than 50 feet from unconsenting pedestrians and neighboring homes, and a blower measuring 70-75 dB at 50 feet can reach 90-100 dB at the operator’s ear. (source)

Photograph of potter herbs lined up (c) K. Vander Straeten

This Thursday was our first Farmer’s Market of the new season. Though the weather was grey and rather freakishly cold, it was a great pleasure to say “welcome back” to the farmers.

And what a bounty there was already! I got red chard, mustard greens, many bunches of spinach, and lots of herbs. All for less than they would have cost at Whole Foods, and fresh and local, of course.

The herbs I got were live and already well enough established to be harvested.

  1. Greek oregano
  2. English thyme
  3. Basil (5 kinds)
  4. Taragon (didn’t get that last year)
  5. Rosemary
  6. Sage

I repotted them in the scorching 2 o’clock sun on Friday, and now they’re all lined up on the wall that hugs the steps and entrance to our front door. We are blessed with our own entrance, which as of noon gets full sun in summer. 

I plan to get some more herbs – cilantro, perhaps – at next week’s Farmer’s Market, and some (wild) flowers that I will put into the soil behind the wall.

I also plan to try out the Terracycle Worm Poop fertilizer, if it looks like the herbs need it.