Friday, January 28, 2022

It should do for now

 Beloved and I have a brief Friends Meeting every morning -- about 6:30 A.M., because we are old and tend to wake up early. It last fifteen to twenty minutes, which is to say, it's a silent meditation that runs out when the coffee in our mugs does.

In the middle of our "sit," as I call it (she doesn't), there was a thump. Some time later, Beloved looked out the kitchen window and said, "There's a van sitting in the garden."

As I was dressing to go have a look, there came a knock at the door, and a mom, with a sheepish looking teenage son in tow, offered Beloved an apology and a piece of paper with contact information and a promise to replace the fence.

In town things are often done differently than that, I know, but one wants to be well regarded by the neighborhood in a place like this, so we offered them the run of the place for fence building and went about our own business, which was that our almost-son-in-law was bringing over our daughter's ashes for a little sad ceremony.

Later, after the totaled van was towed away, I went to have a look at the scene.

How was the boy not injured? This was considerable force.

The fence was gone. The van had apparently run over and uprooted one of the Jeffery pines that I'd planted twenty-eight years ago as a barrier, smashed the other pine into the telephone pole, bounced off the Cortland apple, and plowed through the newly planted sunchokes, ending up halfway to the center-pivot irrigation pole.

Within a day the lad's dad pulled up with a pickup truck full of supplies, and supervised the construction of the new fence by the quite skilled and robust teenager. It went well.

This is a great improvement over what we had before; if anything it is a bit of overkill, as we don't have large stock animals. My fence was ugly as heck but duck proof at the bottom (this one will need something extra at the bottom). Also it was somewhat deer proof at the top (it will need something there as well). Not one to complain in such a case, I praised them for their efforts, and they went away, taking the brush, old fencing and uprooted pine with them.

Also missing (because undoubtedly destroyed) was the board I had painted in white and red diagonal stripes, to let folks know that this is the end of the street and that they might hurt themselves if they proceed farther in this direction.

Rummaging around for something to meet the occasion, I chose to go with painted DVDs suspended from intersections of wire. It should do for now.

Though the river's current never fails, the water passing, moment by moment, is never the same. Where the current pools, bubbles form on the surface, bursting and disappearing as others rise to replace them, none lasting long. In this world, people and their dwelling places are like that, always changing. --Chomei, Hojoki.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

When weeping abates


When you have just lost the key person in your tribe, at first you sit around for weeks alternately weeping and staring into space, then you (while also weeping and staring into space) take stock of the situation and see what can be salvaged. We face at least six months of uncertainty concerning our financial and housing options. Stony Run Farm will probably be sold and, if the gods favor those of us that have survived, the much smaller and urban La Finca will be the new tribal base. The project of this blog, which is to report on doings at Stony Run Farm, where we have homesteaded for 28 years, will likely come to an end, perhaps in 2022, perhaps in 2023. 

This is a pretty good time of year for calling around to insurance offices, mortgage holders and the like, as the weather has encouraged us to stay mostly indoors.

Friends have been very kind, and I can report the tradition of bringing tons of hot meals has not abated.

In the forest of the cranes, the moon has crashed. 
How can there be dawn? 
Flowers vanish, spring does not come.
So much love, yet empty hands.
When weeping abates, I will rise and plant something. 

(adapted from Dogen)

Friday, December 17, 2021

In memoriam Emily Buff Bear, MPH, child of light and joy, 1986-2021.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

On making do

For those who prefer Twitter, here's a thread of more than 300 tweets on making do, each with a lovely photo from the last decade or so: 


Survive part 2

 I have been cleaning up the garden and setting it up for next year with shade cloths in mind. So changing from short east-west beds back to long north south ones, a smaller garden in the same footprint with generous path widths, grow a little less food but hopefully we'll be able to water it better.

 Now back to our thought experiment. You're still very poor, getting by on rice and greens, with some fruit and maybe mushrooms, but winter has come and you're becoming interested in varying your diet a bit.

It's time to crawl the Web and the thrifts and see about finding a hand cranked grinder. Something like an old Universal might do, but I'd hold out for the Corona (sorry about that name!) grain mill.

These things usually come with a large hopper but you don't really need that. Affix it to a good working surface (screws will help), put a lid on it to keep dust out when it's not in use, and find a large dish to catch your makings.

We're not out to make fine flour here, though you can if you grind twice and then sift. We're making cracked grains to speed cooking and save on fuel, be it electricity, gas, or wood.

I use this to grind wheat, spelt, rye, barley, millet, quinoa, amaranth, oats, corn, buckwheat, sorghum, teff, wild rice, and brown or white rice as they come to hand. I may add dried vegetable powder flakes, sunflower or sesame seeds, brewer's yeast or the like, and perhaps some lentils. The idea is that if a) the ingredient will go through the grinder well enough and b) is sufficiently appetizing (never the first consideration where survival is concerned), mix as you go --pour a little of this in, and then a little of that. 

If you fill the machine's chamber to the rim, you will find it supplies you, in about thirty turns of the crank, with a single serving of fairly quick-cooking porridge. Pour from the receptacle dish to your pot, bowl or cooker bowl, add powdered milk or salt or fresh or dried fruit or whatever as desired, add water, and either let soak for awhile or take it straight to the heat. I find that three minutes in a microwave does it for me, or five minutes on "steam" in the rice cooker, or just a short while in the Dutch oven on top of the wood heat stove.

If the granularity is fine enough, and it helps to have eggs and baking powder or yeast and sugar (or honey) for this, you can make pan bread or pancakes with this. I usually just have it with a spoon. I'm well enough off nowadays that I can add butter, but, seriously -- as most of these ingredients store well without refrigeration, you could keep a grinder and some loaded one gallon food buckets in a rudimentary shelter and get by.

For best results in such a case, find a steel bucket or large can and make a simple rocket stove (we have done this, but currently have a manufactured one we bought for under $50), or build a fire ring, set up a tripod, and hang a pot from a chain over the flames. 

You can cook whole grains over an open fire, but you may find you are spending more time gathering wood than you were prepared for; so this is a way to save your energy. You may want to economize as well if you are using camp stoves that run on fuels such as propane.

In cold weather when a fire is desirable, don't fret if there's no coffee or tea; you can make a greens tea as I have mentioned before or just drink hot water. As a bonus, ground grains will cook up even faster if you use some of your boiling water to start the cooking; or you can even just add boiling water to your other ingredients in a pot or bowl, cover it with some insulating material such as coats and towels (or make a hay cooker), set it aside for a bit, and it will cook up nicely unattended.

We used to "go camping;" a fine way to cosplay being homeless (been there too); we have always prepared our barley/oats/millet/dried apples porridge in advance and stored it in the vehicle or tent in a tight container and it makes for us a hot meal that seems to have more staying power than just oats alone, or any processed breakfast cereal or even granola. It's good to have such a thing to fall back on if one's circumstances suddenly dictate making do instead of checking out the restaurants and quick-stop markets.




"[Grains] have sustained human life since the Old Stone Age became the New Stone Age. They are the foundation of your diet, the staff of your life, the contents of your food storage system that guards you from disaster." -- Carla Emery

Saturday, November 06, 2021


 So, this is not one of my photos; I grabbed it off a bulletin board where the rice cooker shown, an oldie, is being offered for $15. You may also find these at thrifts, along with other necessaries.

Let's do a thought experiment.

You've gone through some things. Now you occupy a small room, and you've run out of unemployment. You're getting by, throwing bundles of advertiser papers out of the back of a van in the wee hours (I've done that), or doing setup for conventions (that too). It's enough for rent but not groceries and certainly not enough for the neighborhood restaurant. You're shy about panhandling.

But you saw this coming. So you bought a used rice cooker with steam basket, a couple of small bowls and a steak knife and spoon (consider chopsticks), and a fifty pound bag of rice and some salt while you could. 

Maybe oatmeal, potatoes, beans (or lentils!). Now, that's foresight. But this will be about the rice.

Since you don't really have access to the kitchen, you scrounge some two-liter bottles, fill them with water at the bathroom sink, and make rice. To save on trying to scrub rice glue off your cooker liner (which often has a nasty teflon coating, easily introduced into the food) put water into the liner, water and rice in your bowl, and just lift the bowl out after cooking. I use a pair of pliers to grab a hot bowl in such a tight place. 

Maybe there are more than one of you, in which case, scale up.

Okay, that bowl of rice by itself, with maybe a Mason jar of tap water for beverage, is a little stark, I agree. You maybe can't go forever on that.

What now?

You head for the yard, an alley, a park, a vacant lot, maybe the weed pile at the local organic community gardens (see if you can volunteer there; that would help a lot). Much of what is tossed by such gardens can be utilized, such as the big side leaves of cabbage or kale, squash leaves, and bean and pea foliage.

Look for (in season -- and seasons can be longer than you think):


Cat's ears (false dandelion)



Sheep sorrel


Curly dock

Wild garlic (we call this "wild chives," which it's not, but looks like it).

Wood sorrel

Wild lettuce


Money plant

Lamb's quarters (most nutritious)


Mulberry leaves

Garlic mustard

Wild geraniums


Red clover

Maple flowers (Bigleaf maple -- that has a narrow window of opportunity here)

Fuchsia blossoms

Linden leaves


You may find blackberries, and one or more abandoned plum, pear, apple, Asian pear, fig, or other trees. 

 Also keep an eye out for things like sage, rosemary, thyme, wild fennel.

This list is for what you might find around my nearby urban area (I am rural for reasons). Adjust for your location.

Learn from someone experienced or study some of the better websites -- there are many.

We won't talk about mushrooms here, due to the risks of misidentification, but you may eventually branch out into things like meadow mushrooms or puffballs, which are relatively easy to find, identify, cut up, dry and store.

If you are able to score real vegs from your community garden volunteer work, you're sitting pretty. But the edible weeds and surplus fruits can take you a long way.

Now: put a couple of cups of water in your cooker liner, cut up some greens (and maybe fruit if any), put them in your steam basket, hit the "steam" button on your old cooker, wait awhile (you need not wait till the red light says it's done), open the cooker, add your cooked greens to the rice, and season to taste as able. Pour the excess water from the cooker liner into your other bowl, or cup, glass, tumbler, small Mason jar, whatever you have scrounged). 

You could do this simultaneously with the rice making, but I'm agin' it. The greens will overcook, and you will want your "used" steam water.

The rice bowl has your dinner waiting for you. The hot greenish veggie water in the other bowl is your tea.

If you want to get fancy and have the means, procure a small coffee maker. Do the greens in the coffee filter basket (no need for filters) at the same time as you make the rice. Move the cooked greens from the filter basket to the rice, then pour your "tea" (It's a tisane) from the carafe. Or make a tisane from the herbs you gathered and dried.

This routine will prevent some aspects of starvation and malnutrition for months, if necessary, while you are looking for a new source or sources for stable and sufficient income.

I know it worked for me. Good luck.



I'm nothing but patched rags -- I get it.
Food is so hard to come by in these times,
And weeds have hidden my house.
So? I watch the cold moon
And speak poems into the night.
-- Ryokan


Thursday, November 04, 2021

Some days

I mentioned there are quinces this year. 

We have five young trees, interspersed among the apple, cherry, fig, peach, pear, mulberry and plum trees. Like the peaches, they're vulnerable to a serious freeze. Decades ago there were a number of quince orchards in our area, and a freeze came along and shut them down. 

Taken in a heavy downpour
 Many trees currently producing, such as ours, were cut from rooted suckers around the stumps of dead orchard trees and passed from hand to hand till they found a home. Ours are third generation, a gift from a friend.

Picked a little too green but they did okay
So, we've had maybe our second good crop, four flats full. I have off and on looked at the recipes for the use of these rather imposing, hard, fuzzy yet intriguingly pineapple-y fruits, and there seems to be a consensus that they are worth making a jam of, called membrillo, but that peeling them is a bit dangerous. Too slick. Knives skip all over. Some have had luck baking them for 20 minutes and then peeling them. I tried that and was not all that pleased with it.

Happily, I've discovered the apple peeler/corer/slicer will handle them -- best after they do indeed turn yellow. You'll need the patience to wait for the ripening turn, and the attentiveness to get to them then in the narrow window before rot starts. Also, the current manufacturers of peeler/corer/slicers seem to insist on offering mainly the suction-cup variety. I'd hold out for one with a clamp base, especially if you're going to try quince on it.

 This is an older photo, and shows an apple being peeled, sliced and cored. Nowadays the little machine lives in the potting shed and is not only clamped in place but screws help it to stay put.

If your quince is too green you will feel a graininess as you turn the handle. The yellow ones will give you less resistance, though they are more work than apples. Also, seeds radiate farther from the center of the core than with apples and escapees should be found and picked out.

I quarter the spirals on the chopping block and load them into the slow cooker, perhaps with some apples if there are not enough quince ripe at the time. Depending on your preferences and health concerns, you may add a little salt, say a quarter cup of sugar, some ginger, and a capful or more of lime or lemon juice.

 Cook on high until the result pleases you. My cooker makes a chunky quince butter in about three hours, which is what I want, so I've never made it all the way to a membrillo. Load into jars and water bath can.

I love this stuff -- not everyone will. Try it with yogurt, or oatmeal, on pancakes, as an alternative pb&j, or as a substitute for apple in apple cake recipes.

My discovery that my slicer can handle quinces certainly made my day. About as much as one can hope for, some days.


Should I try to grow all the food my family and I require? If I tried to do so, I probably could do little else. And what about all the other things we need? Should I try to become a Jack of all trades? At most of these trades I would be pretty incompetent and horribly inefficient. But to grow or make some things by myself, for myself: what fun, what exhilaration, what liberation from any feelings of utter dependence on organizations! What is perhaps even more: what an education of the real person! To be in touch with actual processes of creation.-- E.F. Schumacher


Monday, November 01, 2021

Eyes on the tomatoes

In November I, like a true enough Bear, retire to my lounge chair and sleep, a bit fitfully, until March. I suspect the politicians know this, and steal past me as I drowse, on the first Tuesday of the harvest home, to wreak their horrors. 

The kale and chard have settled in to await their first real frost and regain a measure of edibility. They're all right as they are, though.

There are yet more than a thousand apples still in the trees. They're no longer prime, except for the Granny Smiths, but I've done all I can for them. I mostly halve the drops for the hens, and can expect to do this right into the holidays.

 I plan to make a tomato sandwich with the last fresh tomatoes. The Rutgers have gone the way of all flesh, but the Romas often survive quite a long while, even lying on the ground, so I have picked up some of the relicts and am en route to the kitchen. 

The little basket on the chain above the stove is drying mushrooms. It's not nearly as close to the chimney as it may appear. Eyes on the tomatoes, 'kay?


Even when you are making a broth of coarse greens, do not arouse an attitude of distaste or dismissal. Even when you are making a high-quality cream soup, do not arouse an attitude of rapture or dancing for joy. If you already have no attachments, how could you have any disgust? Therefore, although you may encounter inferior ingredients, do not be at all negligent; although you may come across delicacies, be all the more diligent. Never alter your state of mind based on materials. People who change their mind according to ingredients, or adjust their speech to the status of whomever they are talking to, are not people of the Way. -- Dogen
Politicians take note.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Virtual Oktoberfest

We've often gathered a few acorns to plant and of these, some have been peeled and thrown into the grinder once or twice each year -- we can't seem to be bothered with getting the tannin out, so a token quantity of them disappear into the barley meal for October porridge -- but this year, as I was sitting with Daughter in the secret garden, we noticed about fifty jays flying back and forth, back and forth, from the oak tree across the street, with something white-ish in their mouths when outbound. I'd love to show them to you but my camera is rudimentary.

This was new to us, so we looked it up, and it turns out oak groves are planted by jays, who cache even more obsessively than squirrels when the fit hits them. On a site back East, more than 30,000 acorns were distributed from one small stand of oaks in a matter of days. 

Our jays are the western Scrub Jay and one has been observed planting 5,000 acorns in a season. Makes me feel I can retire from this activity, as I'm surrounded by real pros.

I have been having some of the last bowls of zuke-with-whatever and sometimes, as fresh tomatoes have been plentiful and won't be, I take the steamed vegs as shown here and blend them with about an equal quantity of tomatoes, and that's my tomato soup recipe.

Meadow mushrooms have come up, and so today's menu is mushroom tomato soup.

We have let the ducks into the garden and they are cleaning up choice weeds and bugs. Much of this activity involves shoveling mud with their beaks, so we must remember to keep buckets of water there for them, so they can clear their air passages from time to time. 

They're also eating quite a lot of my chard greens, but the stripped leaf midribs are still useful and we have enough of the greens to share. 

We had trouble getting water to the roots of the vegetables this year, as the drought turned the soil into iron even underneath the deep mulch. So after a few inches of rain (yes, real rain!!!) I've begun breaking things up a bit beneath the mulch with a spading fork. I do have a broadfork, but I think I'm getting too old for it. The idea is to lift everything about two inches, rather than turn it over, as in spading, tilling, or plowing. This should aerate the heavy clay and make for a bit more of a water reservoir.

With the arrival of the rains, we have spruced up the dining room a bit, as it is the winter's living room. I've swept around the wood stove, filled the wood basket with kindling, set a bench from the outside round table by my chair as my tea and mending table, and put up a little display on the dining room table. 

Neither of us empty nesters eats at the table. Beloved uses it as her desk; my desk is the one inset into a cubby by the wall across from the stove.

She sometimes takes it over to do story time for the clan.

With the garden display behind her, Story Time becomes a virtual Oktoberfest.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Polishing that begging bowl

After the storm, things dried up pretty quickly. I walk around the premises and take note of what's still available.

The hens are getting tired of the dropped apples I've been bringing them, so I'll back off, but they still want grapes, of which I continue to find clusters missed by industrious towhees. I've also begun cooking spaghetti squash for them, which takes eleven minutes in the rice cooker. Most years I've left that job to the stock pot on the wood stove, but it is not yet wood stove season and there are a lot of these squashes.

I see, from a couple of dropped pears, that Bosc and Anjou season is upon us. So I grab a couple of flats and gather them in.

 This means it's time to have a look at the quince as well. I pick a batch, perhaps a third of what's available.
There's only moderate interest in baked fruit in the family, at best, and I'm out of canning jars. Much of all this is likely to go to the hens as well, along with the remaining tomatoes. Last year I began canning tomato sauce about this time; this year I'm all done.

In spring there is the Hungry Time, when there is relatively little to eat. In fall there can be another kind of Hungry Time, when the heart of the gardener and food preserver is hungry to provide, but the family and friends are like "enough, already!" 

There are gleaners about, and I may overcome my partially pandemic-induced shyness to have them in. 

I'm so fond of my solitude that it's hard to say, yet, how this is likely to turn out.


The heat and smoke have finally let up enough to allow me to spend unstressed time in the hut.

There is a poem, written by Shih-Tou in the 700s, quite famous, called the Song of the Grass-Roofed Hermitage.

Here's my version of it, updated to my own part time hut-life. Understand that while there may be some biographical truth in it it's mostly just aspirational. Alas, huh?

I've built a fiberglass-roofed hut
where there's nothing to take away.

After eating,
I conk out.

When the hut was completed,
it was a children's playhouse.

It had long been abandoned —
covered by blackberries.

Sometimes I live at the hut,
trying out Nagarjuna.

No need to go shopping.
No movies, no popcorn.

Though the hut is nine feet square,
Nowhere is there a place not here.

Within, an old nun
gawks out the window.

With her "instinctive knowing what to do"
she trusts being/time.

The neighbors can't help wondering —
what's going on in there?

For now, the old crone is present,
losing track of Meaning.

Knowing she does not know up or down,
she looks straight ahead.

A wide window below green cottonwoods--
five star hotels can't compare with it.

Just nestling in her zero-g chair
all things are settled.

Thus, this mountain nun
doesn't squint at circumstances.

Living here she no longer
hankers for escape.

Who would proudly arrange place settings,
trying to lure guests?

Doing as a Buddha does
cannot not be what a Buddha is.

Thusness can't be
looked toward or away from.

Meet the lineages and spiritual friends,
absorb their guidance.

Salvage fence boards to build a hut
and don't give up.

When your begging bowl breaks,
which it will, relax into your day.

Open your face
and walk, de-stressed.

Thousands of teachers
babble, but the message isn't garbled.

If you want to benefit
from dwelling in your hut,

Don't expect to be polishing that begging bowl


Sunday, September 19, 2021

That which refrains from selfishness

Smoke continued to ooze down the canyons into our area, following the river, off and on throughout the first half of September. I photographed the sun, and sent the image to a friend, who complimented me on my photo of the moon. By unintentional omission, I had misinformed him.

When the Air Quality Index reaches 200, Jasper Mountain fades from view, like a ghost retreating into the shrubbery. I, too, fade from view, putting up curtains in the doorways round the living room and sitting close by the HEPA filter. A couple of times in recent years, the AQI went over 400, and many have experienced that this year, but for us the prevailing winds have kept away the worst of it.

After almost one hundred days, some rain came. Not as much as in Eugene nearby, and nowhere near as much as in Salem (as usual), but something. The air has cleared for now, and the surviving plants have perked up a little.

We generally put in a patch of zinnias for their cheery proletarian vigor. They encourage us to keep our chins up in these times.

With so much of the world now under the sway of propaganda, I have thought a lot about representation. Conclusions I have tentatively reached are maybe no more coherent, objectively, than anyone else's, but if you are interested in the mutterings of this old nun, read on.

In Baldessar Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, there is a discussion of meaning, in which one disputant imputes it to words, and the other questions him in the Socratic manner:

I would know then, quoth the Count, whether this stile and measure which you speake of, arise of the sentences or of the wordes?

Of the wordes, answered Sir Frederick.

Do you not think then, quoth the Count, that the wordes of Silius and Cornelius Tacitus are the very same that Virgil and Cicero use? and taken in the same signification?

Sir Fridericke aunswered: They are the very same in dede, but some yl applyed and dyverslye taken.

The Count aunswered: In case a manne should pyke out of a booke of Cornelius and of Silius, al the woordes placed in other signification then is in Virgil and Cicero, (whiche should bee verye fewe) woulde you not then saye that Cornelius in the tounge were equall with Cicero, and Silius with Virgil?

Then the L. Emilia: Me thinke (quoth shee) thys youre dysputation hathe lasted to longe, and hathe been verye tedyouse, therefore it shall bee best to deferre it untill an other tyme.

Dang, Emilia. Just when we were about to get somewhere. 

All communication is by way of "signification," from the shortest grunt or raising of an eyebrow, to Shakespeare read or enacted. Whether implied or explicit, the form is algebraic, in order to assert --

A=B, B=C, ∴ A=C

or refute.

A=B, B≠C, ∴ A≠C

A one-word reply to a query is an implied sentence, whether it is itself a subject or its modifier (A), a verb (operator), or object/object's modifier (B). 

We say, as a cautionary aphorism concerning the pitfalls of communication, that "the map is not the territory," which is certainly true, but civilization is made up of these maps, and we rely on them in the sense that a map giving you directions to a dock on a given lake should, when followed, lead you to within a stone's throw of said dock.

A bad map (misinformation) may be a mistake, which happens a lot, or one created for ulterior purposes -- disinformation.

Disinformation is when some one gives you a map with purported directions to the dock, knowing that if you follow it you will instead drive off a cliff. This is uncivilized behavior. It makes use of the rather widely, if vaguely apprehended imprecision of communication -- words and other signage -- to undermine trust or to relocate trust to those who would deceive. If everything is at least a little untrue, then surely you can ignore the little inconsistencies in our snake oil, yes?

Examples abound. Advertising as an industry, which drives much of commerce under competitive marketing, deliberately disinforms with skillful use of fallacies.

"Guys: the red car in this commercial is fast. Fast cars bring fast females. Buy this red, fast car and you will find fast females."

Examples of attempts to repair such damage also abound.

 "Dudes, this may be a red car but where are the stats that show it is fast, and can the source be trusted? In any case, not all women can be persuaded that your owning a red car or a fast car or a red fast car is a sign that you are potentially a satisfactory mate. Maybe try being genuinely kind and attentive instead."

And so on. War theorists tell us that one who defends loses, so civility has been losing for some time now. Hence the enormous profitability of the ad industry.

Communication, being algebra, is necessarily metaphorical; that is, subjects and objects are representative rather than the things themselves, and there's a certain interchangeability, as when the Pythagoras theorem is applicable to many different rooflines. 

The assertions and refutations run on the use of equivalencies between symbols and things and also between things and other similar or dissimilar things, with some examined and unexamined premises, and maybe some intent to inform or deceive.

I think that, largely, informing is a peaceable or cooperative venture, misinforming is ignorance at work (I do this a lot), and disinforming is a form of warfare. Disinforming fills up the lines of communication with noise until the modems, so to speak, grind to a halt. How is this different from bombing bridges and railroads?

Many seemingly innocuous behaviors, especially some forms of academic or political or social gatekeeping, are made up of words that have in them no especially loaded intent strung together in sentences that have very loaded intent indeed, spoken or written to specific targeted audiences in order to create advantage to some over the interests of others -- and the end result can be that a little bit more weight is added to a given population's burden of survival -- as a long, slow process of genocide. 

The basis of much, if not all, of this campaign of disinformation is Social Darwinism. It's the view that the competition half of Darwin's discussion of competition and cooperation as the drivers of evolution is the only driver of evolution -- that "competition is the good." It's a deliberate misreading of Darwin, in order to provide a rationalization for violent authoritarianism.


Whew. Would ya like some tea? 

There are a variety of map systems that are functional, or at least internally consistent, without the intent to deceive. To give but one example, we have Buddhism (you knew I was going there, right?).

Buddha's insight, which is that an individual person is to some extent illusory, individuality being a temporary conjunction or nexus of contextual entities which are themselves temporary conjunctions or nexuses of contextual entities, leads to something like an opposite view to that of Social Darwinists. 

As the "meaning of life," in Buddha's view, lies in one's context and not in one's essentialist sense of a competitive destiny, to participate creatively rather than destructively in one's context may be regarded as the good, one evidence of which is that one may find increased well-being and contentment in so doing.

In the sermon at Benares, he posited four truths which I'd like to very loosely paraphrase thus: life is messed up (dukkha); it is messed up because we are competitive (greedy, attached); the way to stop being messed up is cooperation; here's how we cooperate (his eightfold path): right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi or concentration. 

Or as I might put it, 1) see that cooperation is better for us than competition, 2) resolve to cooperate, 3) choose information over disinformation, 4) choose cooperative behavior, 5) engage in teamwork for cooperative ends, 6) resolve to see all this through, 7) be aware of the impacts of our behaviors, and 8) get some practice in the most basic of all non-competitive activity, which is centering down.

It's often said that "enlightenment is practice and practice is enlightenment." The behavioral practices that "right conduct" is said to break down into are, usually, do not lie, do not steal, do not kill, do not abuse sexuality, do not abuse substances. In other words, enlightened behavior is that which refrains from selfishness, that is, refrains from "social Darwinism."

To see how these principles would play out in society, I can think of no better introduction than E.F. Schumacher's essay on "Buddhist Economics." 

Written by a devout Catholic, by the way.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

I didn't grow the shredded cheddar

The smoke plume has been rolling in and out daily, but today it's hanging on grimly, mostly at about 3000 feet, for which I suppose we should be grateful, because it's not exactly nice down here where we are. AQI was 215 earlier at our location and it looks like it's around 176 now. Small favors. 

This smoke is coming mostly, I think, from the Gales Fire and the Chaos Fire. The Chaos Fire has reached the famous Bohemia Mountain and Fairview Peak to our southeast. I hear the Oregon National Guard has been wrapping the historic buildings there with foil and such for structure protection. These fires are over a month old and every day they find new fuels to expand into. It's a little unnerving as they are only a little over twenty miles away from me, as the crow flies.

From CalTopo

From PurpleAir

Here's the sun from when the AQI was 215.

 Sometimes Jasper Mountain is visible across the river and sometimes it is not.

The garden is very, very dry, no matter how much of our tiny well I throw at it. It's also full of flea beetles. They show up in late August after the aphids slow down and are here right on schedule. Beloved pulls up any kale that has about succumbed to the bugs and tosses it into the poultry yards, where it is greeted with joy. Dust flies as the birds tuck in to the greens with the extra protein. They have eaten all their grass once again this year.

We're still getting lots of summer crops, even so.

There are plenty of cucumbers and onions. I've cured and brought in all the spaghetti squash, and have continued to make apple butter and tomato sauce.

I wear an N95 mask and try not to stay out too long. 

This year, as has never happened before, I've run out of canning jars before cidering season, but there are plenty of unopened jars from last year, so it's no biggie. I've considered letting folks from around here pick the rest of the apples, but with Delta at its peak, I'd just as well stay isolated. Our hospitals have been run ragged.

Not that dropped apples go to waste; they help feed the soil organisms and mycorrhizae underneath the trees, and the mycorrhizae help feed and water the trees. But I'll take many for the chickens. 

We're about ready to shrink and eventually give up the flocks, but not today.

I'm not up for stoop labor this year, but I use a sharp little sickle blade on a long handle to pick up downed apples and pears. Stab, rap against basket to let the apple fall in, repeat. It's a soothing rhythm.

The hens do not favor anything with the skin whole, so I cut up the fruit before presentation. Excess tomatoes, cukes and zucchinis get the same treatment. They will eat it all, but they want to start with open fruit.

We cup up winter squash for them during the fall, winter, and early spring, but those we soften by boiling a bit in a stock pot on the wood stove. So it's a wood stove thing, which we can't start doing yet as fire season is on for the foreseeable future. In fact, it's supposed to get to 91F today, but that won't happen with this thick layer of smoke.

As I am mostly confined to indoor activity at the moment, my thoughts easily turn to the kitchen.

It's a time of year when I can indeed do fall things but get to continue with summer things. I'm still bringing in a gleaned baby zucchini, a missed potato, a stalk of Fordhook giant chard, a ripe Rugers tomato, and making a fantastic all-homegrown lunch. Well, almost. I didn't grow the shredded cheddar.

Slice the potato, chard stem, and zuke thinly and steam for five minutes in the rice cooker, with a clove of garlic in the steam water. Dice up the chard greens and a tomato and have them ready when you remove the steamer basket from the rice cooker. Season all to taste and combine in a bowl. Add shredded cheddar and cover bowl with a lid for three to five minutes. The greens will wilt to a dark green and the cheese will melt. Serve. Eat while watching, through the window, the wildfire smoke slowly dissipate.

In adversity, there is always found something that gladdens the mind; in prosperity, one is liable to meet with disappointments. -- Hung Ying-Ming, Discourses With Vegetable Roots. Tr. Yaichiro Isobe

Friday, August 27, 2021

One can always hope

In recent years, our summers have fallen into a pattern. Although summer here has always been a dry season, with often no rain between about July 5 and September 5, that season has expanded until it seems to run from about March to November. One consequence of this expansion has been that, at some point, we expect to see a cloud suddenly appear over the vicinity of Fall Creek, about twenty-five miles away. 

This is not a water vapor cloud.

 As the cloud approaches, we button up the house and turn on the HEPA filter. 

This year's fire has not garnered much press, and most people don't even seem to know its name. It's the Gales Fire, some 16,000 acres so far. It has killed a firefighter and burnt up several miles of the upper Fall Creek valley. Media, when mentioning it, refer to it by its management name, Middle Fork Complex, and say it is near Oakridge, but that's because the MFC icon on maps splits the difference between the locations of twelve or so lightning fires that began on the Middle Fork Ranger District on July 29th. With so much going on, especially south of us--

[NOAA-HRRR smoke map]
 --our neck of the woods has become distinctly non-newsworthy. Nevertheless, we keep a wary eye on what's happening east of us, and also periodically remind one another that conditions for new fire starts are far from over.

Meanwhile, the garden has, with some losses, survived the heat waves. There's still lots of kale, chard, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and some zucchini. The potatoes, less than last year's crop but substantial, are out of the ground and in storage. The winter squash, including all the seedlings grown from "Sweet Meat" labeled seeds, proved to be (alas) nearly all spaghetti squash, and the yellow blimps are hardening off to be gathered next week. I grew out a packet of corn, but that's for seed; I'll pull up the plants and hang them on the maple tree until the sweet kernels turn to "flint."

There are here three kinds of pears, and they bore well; the first to come in are the Bartletts. They seem to be turning a mushy brown within hours of ripening, so I have gathered them all green and keep an eye on them. When there are enough of them close enough to ripe to process, I turn them on the apple peeler-slicer-corer and load up the largest crock pot. If it's not a full pot I add enough apples -- Egremont Russet and Cortland at present -- to make a batch of chunky pear sauce and water-bath can them in pint jars.

It has not been a stellar berry year for us but I should not complain as I have managed to pick all the blackberries there is room for in the freezer.

Tomatoes have come in, never a great lot of them at a time, but enough, and I have been putting up spaghetti sauce, with an emphasis on canning in eight ounce jars, as none of us eats with anyone else these days.

I'm about out of jars, just as the tomato pace is beginning to pick up, and will be inviting friends to "glean" -- in this case, harvest many large baskets full of -- tomatoes, pears, and apples.

Maybe they'll take some spaghetti squash?

One can always hope.

Most of a lifetime has swiftly gone.
On the spiritual foundation not a single speck has been polished.
While indulging, life randomly passes day after day.
If you are called but do not turn around, what can be done?

-- Xuefeng, quoted by Dogen in Instructions to the Cook, tr. Leighton and Okumura