Fido and Fluffy and the Meat Conundrum

Sharon November 4th, 2009

Two interesting reports came out this week, both controversial, but both, I think, usefully pushing us to think hard about aspects of our lives that many of us take as a given.

The first was a World Bank Report that claimed that meat was responsible for 50% of all world emissions.  This is probably overstated, and the solutions (more industrial farming and vat-raised meat…yum!) problematic.  But it usefully points out that meat has a staggeringly high impact on the climate and our situation, and that we cannot go on eating meat the way we do.

The second was an article in New Scientist that argues that the environmental impact of Pets is vastly higher than most people credit, in large part because the animals eat so much meat.  It take 1 1/2 New Zealands, in terms of land use, to produce the meat eaten by only the cats in the US. 

The latter study does not take the former into consideration, so it is probable that the impact of our pets’ meat eating habits is even greater than the article suggests.  Which means we need to put the question of what our animals eat on the table - and fast.  This is a tough subject - we’re deeply attached to our animals. 

Now IMHO, there are compelling reasons to have domestic animals as pets.  First of all, there’s a reason cats and dogs hang out with us - they have uses for human beings.  Many of us will have rodent problems over the years - and these are somewhat increased by the addition of food storage or or a barn full of garden produce.  Cats and small dogs, bred to kill rodents have an important role in many households - they are not a luxury item.  Dogs provide a measure of safety - they alert to noises, and do work as guardians, shepherds, guide and assistive animals, etc…Moreover, for many people, animals provide unconditional love and physical contact - in a world where many  industrial people simply don’t get those things, pets are enormously valuable. 

And yet, in a world that will struggle to feed the human population, where 1 billion people are hungry and that hunger is tied to rising prices for grain, it is tough to make a case sometimes for feeding animals better food than billions of people get.  So what to do?

I am particularly happy to see this discussion beginning to open up because in my research, I’ve come to believe that in many ways, the Pet Food industry is *the* deciding factor for what makes industrial meat production profitable.  In the US, slaughterhouses reject 1 out of every 7 cows in CAFO feedlots.  These are animals that do not meet the US’s rather minimal standards for slaughter, that are sufficiently diseased that the feedlot (which in many cases caused the cow’s sickness) could not sell them - except that there’s a pet market. 

Fully 1/7 of all cows are used to provide the protein in animal feeds, largely for cats and dogs.  In addition, cull chickens (ie, ones that died horribly in confinement, often from disease) and pigs are used in the same way.  Were it not possible for confinement operations to get some of their money back from this extremely high percentage of lost animals, there are real questions about whether they would be profitable.  Addressing the pet food question does more than simply reduce industrial meat production directly - it potentially calls the whole feedlot system into question.

Moreover, one of the feed ingredients in many industrially produced pet foods is euthanized cats and dogs.  That is, there’s considerable evidence that pet food manufacturers are willing to put just about anything into the animal food stream, including the corpses of our excess kittens and puppies.  My concern about this (besides the fact that it isn’t very aesthetically pleasing), is that we live in extremely close quarters with our cats and dogs, and every biologist I’ve ever mentioned this to observed that these are precisely the right conditions for inventing new and horrible diseases.

Now it would seem that choosing organic, grassfed and free range products for feeding your animals was the best of all possible options.  And this does somewhat reduce the impact of one’s animals - most importantly, it reduces the pressure on the world’s poor if you are feeding your animals on entirely grass-fed meats.  Whenever possible, it is absolutely necessary that we not eat meat produced with grains - because otherwise, it places the rich (and their pets) in competition with the world’s poor for food - and the rich and their pets always win. 

That would mean buying beef, lamb or other ruminant based-food products whenever possible, ensuring that they are wholly grass-fed.  This is not easy - finding all grassfed commercial pet food is difficult, and will be cost prohibitive for many people.  Organic itself is better than nothing - it reduces the emissions on the land in general by a small amount - but doesn’t make a substantial reduction.  Free range chickens are still fed an enormous amount of grain, for their body weight, so don’t help nearly as much as you’d think.

So what is the answer?  Well, first of all, pets are a serious business.  They should not be gotten trivially, should not be encouraged to reproduce (unless you are breeding working animals of some sort) by most people, and for those who are just sort of accustomed to having a cat or a dog, it might be worth asking - do you really want and need one. 

If you do want and need a pet, IMHO, you have a moral responsibility to reduce the impact of its food.  And that means finding the most ethical and appropriate (to the animal and to your place) way possible of feeding your animal. 

I’m keeping the focus on food here, but it goes without saying that you should also not spend a lot of money buying your cat or dog new toys (used are available), you should spay or neuter them, that you should euthanize them at the end of their lives, rather than giving Fluffy a 20,000 dollar liver transplant, that you should choose pets that can adapt to your climate rather than needing high energy resources to keep them comfortable - ie, no Newfies in Florida and no hairless cats in Vermont.  Also, it would be a lot better for the remaining wildlife on the planet if you didn’t let  your dogs run deer or your cats devour songbirds - responsible pet ownership means responsible.

For the very poorest, the elderly and disabled, the only choice may be the purchase of low cost industrial pet foods - disabled elderly people, living in apartments alone derive more benefit from their animals than they do harm, and they get a pass.  For the rest of us, just as we should do whatever it takes to avoid purchasing industrially produced meat, eggs and dairy, we should absolutely not buy those things for our pets.

Note that in the above, I said “purchase” and “buy” rather than “eat” or “feed.”  Because one option for feeding pets is to feed them at least in part on waste foods, particularly if you live in a densely populated area, where large quantities of animal-suited scraps are available.

Here we get into the difference between dogs and cats.  Cats are obligate carnivores - they have to eat meat.  Dogs are not - they do need some animal foods, but they don’t have to eat meat.  Dogs are fairly omnivorous, and at least part of their diet can be made up of *healthy* food scraps from human beings.  That means that if you have a bit of leftover stir-fry and brown rice, you can feed it to the dog and reduce their purchased food accordingly. 

Restaurant scraps carefully culled can be to supplement your dog’s diet too - think lean meats, green vegetables, small amounts of rice.  You may be able to feed your animal high quality produced pet foods by dumpster diving - split bags or damaged packing bags are generally thrown out.  Obviously, you should do some research into diets and food safety for your animals - but the reality is that all of us are facing a change in standard of care and it is only fair that our animals absorb some of that, rather than the poorest human beings. 

In some cases, it may be possible to get free offal - parts of animals that human beings do not consume, that are ordinarily discarded.  Ideally, this will come from sustainably raised animals - and your local farmer probably does have enough chicken feet (don’t feed them directly, make broth out of them)  and lamb livers that she would sell at low cost to keep your dog and cat fed.  Or you may be able to get some of this for free at your supermarket - but don’t pay for it if you have any other choice. 

In the case of cats, you probably should not try and replace 100% of their diet with homemade, unless you are willing to do considerable research and purchase supplements.  But dropping their dry or wet food consumption by half to 2/3 should be possible.  In the case of dogs, it should be possible to make their whole diets.

Or you could raise animals on scraps or wastes or grass to feed your pets.  A large portion of the impact of our animals comes from methane - methane from ruminant livestock, methane from badly handled manures, methane from organic materials in landfills (all that kitty litter in plastic bags is a nightmare).  You can reduce emissions at several levels if you small livestock for yourself and your animals on land that can’t support vegetables, or by using waste land or scrap foods.  Rabbits can be raised largely on grain scraps, grass and weeds, for example, and while rabbits do not have enough fat to support animals in the absence of any other fats, they can operate as the main meat source for both dogs and cats, with smaller amounts of supplements.

Raising rabbits, or pigeons, guinea pigs or other small livestock (or raising larger animals for human use sustainably and feeding pets the offal and scraps) can reduce the impact of a pet’s diet in a whole host of ways - for example, by spreading out livestock production across many people, rather than concentrating it, manures create a net benefit over time by enabling soils to hold carbon.  Raising animals on scraps and marginal weeds means reducing the industrial agricultural land needed.  And raising the animals that will feed your pets at home means that there are no transport emissions. 

What, you don’t want to raise butcher animals in order to feed Fluffy and Fido?  Well, I think that’s a useful measure of how much we do care about our pets - that is, if we love them only enough to open bags of convenience food for them, but not enough to work at feeding them, well that tells us something important right there.  The truth is that keeping those you love fed isn’t easy - whether animal or human - and it shouldn’t be.  We shouldn’t be able to eat thoughtlessly, nor should we be able to feed creatures thoughtlessly.  Whether you butcher your own or seek out better food, all of us need to be as involved with our pets’ diets as we are with our own.

The truth is that our coming ecological crisis is not going to be good for the pets we say we love.  There will be more diseases as the world gets warmer, and lower quality of life for them, and more abandoned pets as we get poorer.  There will be more pets being chopped up to feed the fortunate pets of rich people.  There will be plenty of animal suffering in the storms and droughts, heat waves and floods to go with the human suffering.  It is in everyone’s interest, including our pets, to find ways of feeding and caring for them which dramatically minimize their impact. 


Lessons from the Edge

Sharon November 3rd, 2009

One of the best things about being invited to present at conferences and events is that I get to meet the other speakers, and usually talk with them in at least a semi-relaxed setting.  Generally speaking, at a good conference I can count on meeting at least a few people who I’ve never heard of, but should have, at least one person who I regard with a measure of awe (sometimes even more), and a whole lot of just plain interesting people doing important work.    I usually come away with at least one new friend (and this should not be regarded as trivial - friends are worth a lot) and often with new contacts for ideas I can pass along, and new perspectives on the movement as a whole.

Thus over the years I’ve gotten to hang out and drink a beer or eat dinner with a whole lot of amazing people - from the founder of freecycle to nobel peace prize nominees, from radical activists to conservative ministers (and at least one who was both), from IPCC scientists and petroleum geologists with maps of Saudi Arabia in their head to poet and novelists trying to make some sense of the stories we’re telling.  I’ve met people who have chained themselves to trees and people who do their activism with a pen or in a classroom or on the streets.  I have come to believe that Paul Hawkens is right when he writes in _Blessed Unrest_ that the world preserving movement is the biggest single movement in the world - and every time I meet another branch of it, my view of it gets enlarged - and my sense of the heroism involved in telling out story is increased.

I’ve noticed though, that there’s a pattern to these gatherings.  In most cases, they are designed to move people, to get people to change, to bring out their votes,  their activist energies, the donations, the commitment.  The talks always end with what is needed from the audience, with the dance of hope and fear, with how tell enough of the truth and also move people.

And then, often, the speakers retreat with their beer or to their dinner, and something else happens.  We start talking about our sense that we have to do this work - and our increasing sense that we are failing, that we cannot possibly succeed - whatever our definitions of success.  It is almost invariable - the conversation begins with black humor and jokes about possible solutions and their likelihood of failure, and often rapidly moves towards, well, despair, and how hard it is to convey a way forward that doesn’t sound like a lie. 

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but telling the truth as you know it, speaking to an audience and conveying your own passion and sense of our situation, while also making sure that you balance their panic, make everyone laugh just enough and give them a sense that they can still act is an awful lot of work.  It isn’t just for the sake of the environment that I don’t do it every week.  For me, as I step onto the stage, there’s a rush of energy, and I’m in the performance, the dance, modulating my voice here, and raising it here, trying to move people here to laughter and here to sympathy.  In a purely physical sense it involves nothing more than standing on a stage or at a podium for an hour or so.  In both a physical and psychic sense it is more exhausting than loading hay all day in July, or than chopping wood.  When the adrenaline pulls back and the crash comes, the only thing I can ever remember being so completely enervating is childbirth.  I enjoy doing it - when it is going well, and my audience is responding, grasping it, going with me, it is stimulating, energizing.  But when it stops, so do I.

Many of the people I meet do this dance 50 or 100 or 150 times a year - they are constantly on trains, planes and automobiles, enduring the exhaustion of travel, the rush of doing something important presumably compensating for the physical price.  I admire what they do, even though I can’t emulate it.  Most of them are driven by the fact that their work matters - and it does. But they also know that most people will say “great talk, really interesting” and go home and live their lives much as they did before.  And they will get on a plane and play Cassandra again tomorrow in a different city, or at home in another article, or another paper - and most people won’t listen.

So after the conference, we talk about what it is like - what it is like to imagine things most people don’t want to imagine, or look at numbers that no one else wants to hear.  What it is like to try and get funding for research that shows this, or to make governments pay attention.  What it is like to be dismissed or reviled.  What it is like to do all you can bear, and know that it almost certainly isn’t enough to preserve what you want most to preserve. 

But what I never hear - and I think I would - is that it isn’t worth doing the work - spreading the word, working for change, trying to make things better.  You’d think that you would hear that - that people who express profound doubt in the efficacy of their measures - or at least whether they will be enough - would consider stopping.  But they never do.

We don’t usually see each other long enough to get really intimate - the personal bits and fears you get peripherally.  You notice the questions people don’t answer, the hesitations when the talk about their beloved grandchildren and their future, or their kids, the way we all compartmentalize what we’re willing to think about, the way the black humor gets blacker as the night goes on. 

Not every event is like this - some are lighter at heart, some never do give you a chance to sit around together, sometimes you come in and leave and barely connect.   But often enough you sit around and come down to the brass tacks questions - what do you think will happen?  And generally speaking, what comes out is harder than what came out in the presentations and in public.  There are arguments and jokes, but when it comes down to it, at the end, I find a remarkable unity of opinion from radical activists and crunchy cons, from Jews, Moslems, Christians, Buddhists and Athiests, from Brits and Aussies and Indians and Russian, from left and right, from men and women - we are headed into dark and unknown territory.  And our job is to say so - but gently, and more softly than we will to each other.  And even the athiests, asked what they feel we can do, sometimes refer, jokingly, of course, to prayer.

It would be easy to say that it is important to be wholly honest - but I don’t think that what’s needed is a greater degree of bleakness in our talks - the truth is that breaking news to people who may be first encountering it is different than the kind of conversations people who live in the dark have with each other. 

But I think it is an important thing to know also how close to the edge we are in the estimation of the people who know the truth best - other writers have pointed out that scientific reticence has not always served us well in the climate change discussion, since many people take the modulated language of science to mean that the issue simply isn’t that serious.  So too, I think the language of professional optimism (and by professional optimism I do not mean the mindless selling of optimism documented in Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book _Bright Sided_ but the carefully modulated articulation of things that are frightening to people with a clear set of guidelines for action) sometimes serves us ill, leaving people believing there are lower stakes and more time, that this is just another talk.

Even if I could remember it all, I would not repeat on this blog the personal discussions had between friendly colleagues at these talks - that would be unjust in the extreme and a radical invasion of privacy.

 But sometimes when I deal with people who don’t think climate change is real, or that serious, or who don’t think that peak oil will be a big deal, I forget that I have something they don’t have - dozens of backroom conversations with people who care desperately about the mending of the world, who care so much that they are willing to put their family lives, their time and energy and even physical wellbeing on the line to spread the word - even though they know they are likely to fail to protect what they care most about.    Not “we’re doomed” but “we’re on a precipice, and we’re not sure which way we’re going to begin to slide.”

And what also strikes me is this - the sheer courage it takes to do this.  As I say, I’m a piker - I go home to my kids and my goats and breath deep and do laundry and keep my computer between me and other people.  It would be easy to take from their sense of loss the idea that we should stop trying, that it is all hopeless.  But that’s not what one gets - at the end of the night the sense is this - that though the odds are increasingly small and the abyss below us increasingly vast, what matters most is that we live our lives as though we can succeed, because every bit of harm we prevent and every blow softened matters, and in the end, how you lived matters as much as the winning.  Most of what we do may not work, in the sense of preserving it all, but ought to preserve some -and some is a great deal when measured in human lives and happiness. 

I can’t name all the people I’ve spoken with on these panels - or the not famous ones like them I meet who work just as hard and as bravely in their communities -  but from them I have learned a great deal about courage and strength, and how to live in difficult times, about the value of work and life well lived, about managing fear and about what to hope for.   What I hope for most is this - a planet full of people angry and frightened, telling dark jokes and laughing at them, worried and hopeful all together - people who get up every morning and do their share of this work, even if it seems it might not be enough, even if it hurts, even if they are tempted to let go and give in to despair, even if it means walking on the edge of dark places and along the abyss.  I hope for people who do what is right, no matter what the outcome.  And I feel I can hope for this among millions and billions, because I have seen such men and women, and I know that they are ordinary and they are real, and if they can do what they do, so can I.  And so can you.


Why Not Change?

Sharon November 2nd, 2009

Interesting paper from the World Bank about why people aren’t making more life changes in relationship to climate change.

The author writes:

Myriad private acts of consumption are at the root of the climate change challenge.  As consumers, individuals hold a reservoir of mitigation capacity.  Roughly 40% of OECD emissions result from decisions by individuals - travel, heating and food purchases.”

That 40% number is actually low - it assumes that we wish to continue on more or less as we have been.  Consumer spending drives 70% of the economy and accounts, depending on how you calculate the number, for considerably over half of all emissions, if you draw the circle properly - radically reducing consumption would have ripple effects - businesses would close, for example, and thus not run their computers and lights all night long. 

The paper goes on to analyze the reasons that people don’t make changes in economics-psychology language, but offers some interesting observations, including a sense of the deep scientific illiteracy that we face.  One in four Americans, for example, can’t identify a single fossil fuel.

This is, of course, pitiable and pathetic, but I don’t think it is the deepest reason, nor do I think that the World Bank gets it quite right.  My own suspicion is that the problem is not that ordinary people are too dumb , but too smart. 

The two “sides” of the climate change story both tell essentially the same narrative.  On one side there is something bad, that will change your world forever, take away your security and do you great harm. On the other, there is the world as we know it, with only a little variation.  Unsurprisingly, most people prefer the more familiar choice.

If you believe the climate skeptics, behind door number 1 is the world as we know it, maybe a little bit warmer and dryer, but whatever, and behind door number 2 a nightmare of rising costs and poverty, one world government and all sorts of other baddies.  If you believe the climate activists, behind door number 1 is the world as we know it, only with renewable energies and maybe a tiny bit higher taxes.  Behind door number 2 is ecological disaster - rising seas, hunger, disease, etc…

Who wouldn’t prefer to offer people a familiar choice - that’s a no-brainer.  The problem is that the conflict between the two stories being told makes people uneasy - most of them instinctively grasp that it will be hard to fix the economy and get us all buying again and also cut our energy by those big numbers people ask about.  Where will the money come from?  And they also instinctively recognize that the climate is changing around them - that you can see and feel it, and that we all know that the climate has changed before.  Being told that this is no big deal doesn’t quite work - even for people who aren’t sure they believe global warming is anthropogenic. 

That is, most people instinctively distrust those who tell us that things will be easy and quick and painless, at the same time that we desperately want to grasp onto an easy and quick and painless solution.  And both sides of the discussion have largely failed to tell the truth - that the only choices out there for us are not “easy and familiar vs. terrible and unfamiliar” but two versions of unfamiliar - one in which we change ourselves in response to a changing world, simultaneously softening the degree of physical change and expanding the degree of personal change, and the other in which we cling desperately to the shattered remains of the familiar in a world that is utterly transformed around us.

If we ever want people to fully grasp the connection between their way of life and the future, we have to tell the truth about it. It won’t be easy or pleasant, but it is only then that we can begin to change.


Becoming a Do-Nothing: The Lazy Woman's Path to Sustainability

Sharon November 2nd, 2009

One thing I often mention in my talks that usually gets a laugh is that it is hard to find visual illustrations of the most central points of my way of life, because most of the ways I save energy involve not doing things, which doesn’t make for much in the way of pictures.

I’m quite serious about this - the most important (and least photogenic) thing that we do to fulfill our goal of using vastly less energy than most Americans is to choose not to do things that most people do.  It isn’t sexy.  It doesn’t look good in pictures.  But it is a tool available to all of us, and it is often overlooked in our race for substitutions and replacements.  In fact, I think a lot of us, caught up in a culture where everyone spends their time racing around doing things. are suspicious of things we don’t do. 

And yet, that’s where the real returns are - not in finding a better way to do things as we have been, but in doing them less, or not at all.  In many cases, it is extremely unlikely that most of us are going to be able to replicate our present way of doing things with a renewable or low-energy substitute.  So it makes sense to get into practice now at not doing things.

If you could take pictures of my do-nothingness for powerpoint, here’s what it would look like:

  Here is a picture of our family not going anywhere - we try to make sure we have two days a week minimum in which we don’t drive at all (more in the summer and during other periods), as well as minimizing other trips.  Here’s me on the phone telling someone that no, I can’t stop by until I happen to be in that general direction next week.  Here’s Eric carefully planning what we need to pick up at the farmer’s market and the library, because if he forgets something, we won’t be going back to pick it up - we’ll work around it.  Here are the kids climbing trees in the yard, rather than going to the playground. 

Here’s me passing my permanently disconnected dryer (which I haven’t yet moved) and not putting laundry in it.  Here’s me not turning on the light if I don’t absolutely need it.  Here’s me telling the kids they can’t watch a DVD because we have found a used replacement for our broken one yet.    Here’s me deciding that my hair can go another day without a shampoo.  Here’s me deciding that the kids’ shirts can go another day without washing. 

Here’s Eric not vacuuming, but running the carpet sweeper (or just as likely, not doing either and letting the crud accumulate).  Here’s me eating leftovers for lunch, rather than making something new, since otherwise, they’ll spoil.  Here’s me not mowing the grass and hoping the goats will eat it down.  Here’s me not buying materials for a new project, but trying to scavenge them instead.  Here’s me not wasting things, so that I have enough without buying more. 

Here’s me not buying the boys stuff out of the toy catalog.  Here’s Eric not buying me anything for Chanukah (ok, he’s not good at presents anyway ;-)).  Here’s me deciding that my ratty old jeans can too be patched one more time.  Here’s us not having whiter whites, the newest gadgets or a nice car.  Here’s us not caring.  Here’s us picking family time over more activities for the kids that involve driving somewhere.

Here’s me saying no to the talk in Australia (damn - it sucks sometimes to live up to your principles) because there are Aussies who can do what I do.  Here’s me turning off the computer instead of posting one more blog post.  Here’s me living so far from a Krispy Kreme, a Mall or a movie theater that I’m not even tempted to join mainstream culture.

Here’s me not getting an electronic reader of any kind.  Here’s me not having a cell phone or a digital camera or a pickup truck, and having to borrow them if we really, really need one.  Here’s me not turning up the heat.  Here’s me not eating CAFO meat, even if it sounds tasty.  Here’s me  not taking the job that comes with a lot more money - and travel time and fancier clothes and airplanes.   Here’s us mostly not worrying about what other people think.

That’s what it looks like, folks - not doing stuff.  Now I fear that often, not doing things is also accompanied by a whole host of things *to* do - if you were worried that my ecological consciousness has sent me into a spiral of endless sloth, rest assured that I do occasionally get up off my behind, and I fear that you will have to as well, if you follow my example.  But if you want to know the secret weapon in the world of low-energy use it is simple: Just don’t do it.


Independence Days Update: Why Cats Purr

Sharon November 2nd, 2009

I once read an article that concluded that cats purr because they are happy, of course, but they also derive comfort from purring - that purring is a kind of benign self-stimulus that says “all right with the world - and if not, it should be.”  This would explain why often cats purr even in stressful or even painful situations.  The article proposed that purring may have enhanced the survival of cats in some odd circumstances. 

I was thinking of this early this morning, when I suddenly noticed that Rubeus, the extremely friendly but rather dim little kitten we got when we lost Zucchini,  ordinarily “cat o’ velcro,” had not appeared to settle on my lap or check out what I was eating.  And I heard a very faint mewing. 

It took me a long, long time to find the source of said mewing.  He wasn’t in the attic, or the basement, and I’d seen him last night when I finally arrived home from my trip.  He hadn’t climbed up into the chimney or up the woodstove chimneys.  He wasn’t trapped in a cupboard of a closet.  I could only hear the mewing occasionally, and I was starting to worry, less I never find him. 

I went out to milk the goats, and on my way back in, I finally heard it.  It was coming from the wall of the garage.  Not the inside wall, the outside wall.  At first I thought he had slipped out last night and fallen in one of the gutters, but opening the gutters got only a shower of icy water and dead leaves on my head and a loud scream from me (I knew this would happen, since the only way for me to reach and open this part of the gutter was for me to stand directly under it, but let’s just say it was worse than I’d expected) at the shock of cold.  So I figured he had to have somehow gotten *inside* the roof flashing,.  In fact, I could here him scrabbling around in there.  So I got out the ladder, pried the flashing off with a screwdriver in a way that I hope doesn’t prevent it from going back on, was grateful for the hard frosts, since there were about 100 wasps nests in there, and removed one loudly purring, filthy black and white kitten.

I’m not sure if he was just purring because he was happy to see me, or if he was purring to comfort himself, but being the empty-headed creature that he is, his reaction was not “omigosh, I could have died in there and you’d never have found me” but “what took you so long…is there any food…yes, I know you long to pet me, and what are a few layers of filth between friends…oh, and why on earth are you so wet…that wasn’t very helpful of you.”  It is, in fact, hard (although clearly not impossible) to to be annoyed at an animal that has nestled into your neck  and is vibrating loudly with contentment, even when you are freezing, soaking, filthy and have spent two hours looking for a cat.  Clearly, purring is a survival mechanism.

It has been a week of travel, rather than homesteading, so there’s not much to report here, beyond Rubeus’s touching reunion with his food bowl.  Other than milk and eggs, nothing was harvested, other than an absurdist amount of candy when the kids were trick or treating at my MIL’s.  Eric was abandoned to maintain, and neither of us really do anything much to get ahead when the other is absent. 

The kids dressed as Harry Potter (Asher, who looks disturbingly like a miniature Harry in his glasses and robe), Fred and George Weasley (Simon and Isaiah, who look nothing alike, but who are so much a pair that this seems appropriate) and Ron Weasley (Eli).  Simon’s close friend Kayla was Hermione Granger. 

I had a good trip, and will write more about that very soon.  I am tired and sleep deprived, but the work was the good and the people both fascinating and wonderful.  I read a lot of books on the train, listened to a lot of music (thank you all for the suggestions!), have a lot of new thoughts and learned a lot.

Now I’m back and a host of piled up other projects await me.  Time for the barn cleanout, the root cellar organization, etc…  But first, my weak little report:

Plant something: No

Harvest something: Some greens

Preserve something: No

Waste Not: Actually, we wasted extra - I ate off paper goods when necessary, a bunch of our milk spoiled while we were gone, etc..  Sigh.

Want Not: Eric did have a chance to pick up two bushels of winesap apples.

Eat the Food: I took some good apples and cheese with me on the trip to reduce my exposure to Amtrak’s cuisine, so I guess that counts.

Build community food systems - I’m hoping maybe my trip helped a little bit there.  I think I got at least one person to consider food gardening!

Ok, y’all have to be way ahead of me this week!


« Newer Entries - Older Entries »