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This afternoon, taking advantage of the warmer weather and the abeyance of snow/rain, I spent a good three hours splitting, moving and stacking close to 1/4 cord of firewood. While I was at it I conversed with the chickens, whose coop is next to the woodpile and the chopping block (eek).

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Two friends happened by to admire my ax form and give me gifts! A. gave me a huge bag of carrots she and her family pulled at our CSA Farm’s carrot pull last weekend, and R. brought me a pumpkin she grew in her garden. I moved all the split wood to the porch and then the sun set.

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I came in and started a fire in the stove, which sealed the deal: a hot shower was in order to wash away the sweat, dust, wood splinters, soot and muscle stiffening. I give thanks for hard work, the reward of warmth, and friendship.

 

 

We bottled the wine (which was pressed, see here, and racked, see here earlier). We ended up with 29 bottles,  8 of Cabernet Franc, 10 of Merlot and 11 of a 70-30 mix. My MIL, FIL and SIL were here, as well as our three NYC friends, and we put everyone to work.

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Drawing the labels: each label is unique.

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Using the thief to taste and create the right mixture.

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The wine tasting is an event worthy of paparazzi.

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 The wine is siphoned into the bottles.

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Corking.

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Corking.

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The first bottle to be given away.

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I’ll publish the labels tomorrow. Some of them are hilarious!

It’s not fair that we have only one mind, only one pair of eyes, and only so many hours in the day. I wish I had more of all of those so I could read all the books on my desk, cracked open, belly-up, belly-down, bookmarked with old envelopes and pencils and whatnot – to read them all at the same time.

I’m in the excruciatingly beautiful last pages of Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams and right after I have I read that last word I will simply have to start all over again. From inter-library loan, yesterday, I got four books  - why do I do that to myself?  Here is Jacques Monod’s Chance and Necessity, an early philosophical essay (1970) on genetics and evolution, with that chapter called “The Kingdom and the Darkness,” which of course has to be the last chapter. Nick Lane’s Life Ascending and Oxygen, about the evolution of life, I’ve managed not to open yet. Not so Barbara Novak’s Nature and Culture and American Painting of the Nineteenth Century (I was referred to these by Lopez). I’ve skipped through the plates, the gorgeous icebergs and the Luminist skies and have had to close them.

I realized, once I had them all gathered on my desk, that all these are about man’s place in the world, and loneliness. There is a great lesson there, to be reaped as winter closes in. Is that why I am in such a rush? Because they’re from the library (and all but Lane’s books are  too expensive to buy)? Because winter will soon be over? Or is it because there is something so important to be learned and I fear it will escape me? Because my search might turn out to be per freta hactenus negata, which Lopez translates as “to have negotiated a trait the very existence of which has been denied”? (Arctic Dreams, p.406)

I remember as a child I never had this problem. Amie too reads six or seven books at a time, skips from one to the other, and is never worried about running out of time, losing the memory of the story, or not getting it.  She reads, not expecting anything from herself but everything from the story and she always gets what is enough. She is never lonely when she reads.

(I realize I am soon becoming the Queen of Grief, but you can always read the “Molting Chicken” entry after this one and restore some balance.)

Last Sunday Amie played in her Orchestra concert. This concert featured four Rivers Youth Orchestras, from Preparatory (that Amie is in) to Symphony. It’s absolutely riveting to follow the progress from beginners to as-good-as professional orchestra. The Symphony played Elgar’s Nimrod (Enigma Variation IX). This piece always brings tears to my eyes and they played it superbly, with great restraint and sensitivity.  It’s for the same reason that I prefer this version to, say, Solti conducting.

Nimrod is a tragic landscape: a gentle rise, dramatic summit, then the plunge off the map. As a story, it is sweetness, triumph and then, as for all music, all stories: silence, oblivion. All in under four minutes. It’s like the whole life of a person I would love to meet, beginning to end. You think, when it ends so quickly: wait… what?! It’s unfinished, unfinished. And it’s a species on a planet, taking billions of years to grow into its own, exploding in a matter of a century, then slipping away, quite suddenly, like a question. What happened? Where did they go? Those questions cannot be answered, but one thing is for sure: they will not be back. That’s what this piece is to me: a great goodbye.

Finally I can  hit the “molting chicken” meme! Skipperdee started molting very fast and suddenly and is now a ghost of her former self. Picking her up is the weirdest sensation: ribby and bony and very light. And she doesn’t like it.

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Amie calls her “Turkey Chicken”

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She has no tail feather left. But the new feathers are coming in fast.

Last week I ran over to our local High School where they planted lots of rose rugosa. The hips were perfect after a few frosts.

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I came home with about three pints, then did some research. Turns out that:

  1. Rosehips are packed with vitamin C, calcium and vitamin E (especially the seeds).
  2. The hairs that surround the seeds are the trouble. I can attest to the fact that  the hairs are itchy to the skin.  They are actually made into itching powder. I can only imagine how they would irritate your throat and insides if ingested. That said, some people don’t bother removing them.

First I cut the hips in two, which was pleasantly time consuming and possibly not necessary, but I thought it would speed up drying and make the seeds and hairs more exposed for extraction later on.  I spread them out on two racks to dry near the wood stove.

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After a few days they weren’t fully dry yet. I tried removing the seeds by hand, but who has time for that! Also, in this state, it’s tough to appreciate how many hairs there are, and by hand you wouldn’t get them all out.

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Into the blender they went! I blended on low, not wanting to pulverize the flesh to the same size as the hairs, because then I wouldn’t be able to strain them.

As you can see in the video, there are more hairs than you think!

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I sieved this mess, keeping the seeds, which are packed with vitamin E. I don’t know what to do with them yet. The hairs truly stick to everything. Wipe the counter tops!

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The blending and sieving removed most of the seeds, but much of the hairs still remain, stuck to the flesh in tufts.  They’re easier to pick out, but I’m going to let them dry a little more, then repeat the process, with more pulsing.

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I’ve not decided yet whether to make rose hip jelly, or powder for tea.

Our group has been discussing the starting up of a co-op for local food, goods and services. One of the major bones of contention in our conversations is the problem that the food, etc. at small co-ops and local stores are usually more expensive.

But why is the price at the co-op higher? And (just as revealing), why is the price at the supermarket lower? Everyone knows the answers by now. The real question is: why, even among a group of committed local activists, doesn’t that knowledge translate into action? The action being to put one’s money where one’s mouth is by paying the extra cost of doing ethical business?

Personally, I have no problem with paying the extra cost of food that is grown by local business that treat their employees, the community and the earth well.

At Whole Foods, the only non-local place where I shop, mostly for milk (most of my food is from a CSA box, my garden and coop, and foraging), a store manager once asked me why I was buying the Organic Valley instead of the organic Whole Foods milk. He said, it’s the same milk and you save $1.50. I told him that that may well be, but they’re not the same business: Organic Valley is a farmers co-op. WF by far is not (he should know). I’ll gladly pay extra for that.

You might say: well, you can afford it! Why yes, I can… but is that a reason why I shouldn’t? You might say: well others can’t afford that. To which I say exactly the same: is that a reason why I shouldn’t?

(These reactions always surprise me but I see where they’re coming from, same as the accusation “but you’re nevertheless shopping at Whole Foods, and you drove your car there, and, o my, are you also buying a bag of cookies??” They are the reactions of people driven into false corners of the culture’s devising, where they are told their last resort is to lash out with guilt and judgment in the form of the poison of purity… But, back to the issue at hand.)

We have to accept that, as Rafter writes in a recent blog post on Liberation Ecology, we are…

faced with the formidable task of regenerating ecosystems and communities, while surviving in a system that rewards the destruction of the same systems. Permaculture projects have to compete with degenerative enterprises and institutions that are happy to take the efficiency ‘bonus’ from unsustainable and exploitative practices.

Our local regenerative efforts are set in a widespread and deep-rooted, global degenerative context. That’s why local is more expensive than global and that’s why most of us can’t afford it. But let’s be clear that the first doesn’t mean that paying a little extra isn’t worth it (or actually the true cost of living), and the second doesn’t mean that those who can afford it, shouldn’t. In fact, it makes perfect economic sense: by paying that little extra, I make the co-op milk cheaper, so more people can start affording it.

And that’s how we get the ball rolling, not just economically, but ethically as well. As Rafter points out:

worker cooperatives in production, community development financial institutions in finance, and community land trusts in consumption/ownership [...] All of these models can mesh in straightforward ways with the existing economic system, while at the same time undermining it. Substituting collective ownership for private ownership has a cascade of effects that make it possible for enterprises to optimize for multiple functions – including ecological and social health – instead of simply maximizing profit.

When I think about starting a co-op, I’m aiming for that cascade. I’m not thinking to save some money. I’m hoping to save (a tiny bit) of the world, but changing it from the inside out.