From My Perspective

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Okay, there are some things I need to say.

Everyone needs to calm down.

I have a confession and possibly some internal insight to share.  The first election I voted in was in 1976 – Carter/Ford.  I voted Republican and we all know how that turned out.  I voted Republican in every election until Barack Obama ran.  He ran on hope and change.  I thought we needed change in a pretty big way, besides John McCain had pretty much lost his mind and Sarah Palin was his running mate.  Yeah.   I didn’t vote for either candidate this past Tuesday.  I was informed when I went to the polls, I voted for every other representative and the state referendums but I broke into a sweat, felt a little dizzy and stayed in that booth for way longer than I should have. (I was the only one there and all of the poll takers know me, they must have wondered).  I looked at the candidates (all of them) and thought I simply can’t do it.  Do I regret it?  No.

The other confession is I once believed social media to be a good thing.  On the night of 9/11 the internet was really in its infancy.  We had dial-up and chat rooms.  Somehow I ended up in a chat room for the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald and there was a man pleading to hear from anyone he knew and worked with there.  There was silence.  It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced – it made it real for me in a way that nothing else did.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and I can tell you that my circle of friends on social media has gotten much smaller.  One of the reasons is politics, yes but the other is the things that are patently untrue that continue to circulate as truth.  I confess that I can be a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to this sort of thing calling stuff out and spending time on Snopes but is this really how I want to spend my time?  I’ve also realized in the past few days that all it is doing is inciting anxiety and fear in everyone who faithfully (or obsessively) checks their status hour by hour.  Yes, guilty as charged.

The day after the election was awful, two days after still bad.  Today the armchair quarterbacking continues as we all try to come to grips with the election results and what it means.

Here’s the thing, we need to stop looking at the election of Donald Trump as the end, it’s not.  We need to take a rest from this frenzy of posting at all (or reading). The friends and family that I have on social media are still people I care about but I need to  be part of their lives in a different way.  We need to gather our friends and neighbors together and build a community of help and service.  Break bread together, have a game night, stop living in your home in isolation.  Volunteer for anything that will help you to know someone new a little better.  Person to person contact, have a real conversation.  Yes, it may be about politics but it takes on new meaning when you talk to someone face to face.  How many times have you sent an email or comment that someone took in a way that was not intended?  You need to see a person’s body language or hear the inflection in their voice.  Better yet look into their eyes.

Today I’ll work a little in my garden, weave a little and then prep to visit my grandson to help celebrate his first birthday.  So many children have come into my life in the past couple of years.  I think we owe it to them to help build a community that will support them without all of the anger.  We are all better than this.

This Ain’t Right

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My dogs are spoiled rotten.  They are total indoor slugs that I indulge.  Here’s the thing, they were bred to be that way.  My dogs are house pets, not working animals.  There’s a huge difference.

A particularly alarming event has been unfolding in New York state over the past couple of weeks and I think everyone needs to know about it whether you have animals of any kind or not.  Something is happening all over this country that threatens everything I think is right about small scale farming and I am at a loss.

Jon Katz just posted Gofundme – Save West Wind Acres from an Orwellian Nightmare.  They are going through something I can’t even imagine, yet in following this I realize that it can happen to every single one of us that has animals of any kind.

This winter has been brutal – snow, wind, bitter cold.  My dogs spent most of it by a fire in the wood stove.  I can’t say the same for my chickens and a good deal of worry went into how they were fairing in that coop in the cold.  Their water was heated.  The coop was situated in a place to catch what little winter sun we had and it was up against the east side of our house to cut down on the wind that would hit their building.  Their bedding was deep.  I was fortunate and the only casualties were a number of eggs frozen solid that weren’t collected in a timely manner.  If I’m honest there might have been a couple of combs that had a little frostbite.

I grew up with a menagerie of farm animals – horses, cows, goats, a couple of sheep, chickens.  We took good care of our animals.  They had shelter available to them at all times.  They had good pasture, they had fresh water but they had a choice of where they stayed no matter what the weather was.  I remember seeing the horses standing just on the other side of the fence (quite a ways from their shelter) on a cold, cold day with freezing rain.  There backs were covered with sleet and there were icicles hanging from their chins.  Did they know they could go inside out of the weather?  Of course they did.  Would they?  Not on your life.  I think they were afraid they would miss something if they weren’t overlooking the backyard.

We seem to be experiencing a loss of freedom at a rate I can’t begin to understand.  Someone can file a complaint about their perception of something happening in my backyard and I can be arrested, brought to court or fined.  What ever happened to trust in personal responsibility?  I live with small farmers all around me.  I would be the last person to file a complaint based on something I see as I’m driving or walking by a place.  I never before thought about what it meant to live in a world where a person’s ignorance regarding nature, farming, food production, gardening was so extreme that they presume they know better and need to call the “authorities” to rescue whatever I’m raising.

We are being regulated to death.  I’d like to be able to take responsibility for my own well being.  If I go to a workshop at someone’s house I’ll risk illness by drinking their well water.  I’d like to take the risk in eating that whoopie pie baked in someones home kitchen and brought to the school bake sale.  While I’m at it I will be also eating those dill pickles that aunt Bertha made with very little processing.  I’ll eat that tomato or potato or cucumber right from the garden, just wiping the dirt off on my jeans.  I want my cheese made with raw milk, thank you.  If I get sick the only one I have to blame is myself.  I’ll take my own risks as mundane as they seem.  I really take offense at someone telling me what I can and can’t do.  Wow, aren’t there a lot of you out there that are with me on this?  Do you feel like things have been taken too far?  Are people soooooo stupid that they have to be forced into eating and doing only the things that someone tells them are safe?

Read Jon’s article and if so moved send a few dollars to the West Wind Acres funding request.  Honestly, if I could have been at the courthouse today I would have.  Thousands of others should have been too.  There are things that should just be left alone – good people doing good things is one of them.

 

 

Memory and Reality

Epi's NovaThere are often times when I have to drive our customer’s cars to and from other shops – body shop, carburetor shop, detailer, etc.  Most of the cars that are coming or going to these places are old.  I just returned from picking up a customers 1973 Nova.  The drive was short and with each and every mile my life flashed before my eyes as well as what I was going to tell her when I crashed into someone pulling out in front of me.  This car has 4 wheel drum brakes with no power assist.

It’s cold and raining out this morning and who knows when the car was last started.  I put in the key and turned it over.  It didn’t stay running and I realized that I had to use a manual choke.  In doing so it started immediately.

The first thing I noticed was the narrow, large steering wheel, the second was the seat belt.  I didn’t notice the seat belt so much as couldn’t find it and had to drive the entire way with the buzzer and light flashing  on the dash. When you step on the gas this car wants to go (it has a 5.7L V8) but this is not a fine handling car and, once again, the brakes were a little scary.

In 1973 I knew a few people who had these cars.  They were considered a pretty good, economical car at the time.   I get into these cars of the past now and I wonder how any of us survived.  The thought of thousands of cars on the road with a lot of power and bad brakes gives me pause.  Bill often talks about his childhood trips to the Cape where parents and seven children piled into a nine passenger wagon with drum brakes and bias ply tires and drove at 70 mph down the new highway towing a boat.  Wow.  That’s all that we knew.  Makes me wonder what kind of engineers they had in the 70’s though.

I think we all look at many things of our childhoods with nostalgia – with the idea that the older things were better.  I have a waffle iron from the 40’s that is without a doubt the best waffle iron I have ever used but I’m not really risking my life when I use it (well, maybe I’m risking some sort of electrical injury or burning down my house).  Cars are different.  We take them out on the road and trust that everyone is driving the best they can, undistracted, courteous.

I know when I got into that car all I could think was that its owner should not be driving it and wondered how she has survived driving it this long (she bought it new). You see, she is in her mid to late 80’s.  She owns 3 cars, this one and two 1967 Volvo 122s.  She can barely see over the steering wheel in any of them. The Volvos are standard shift cars.  Whenever I have to drive one of them I feel like one of the Weasleys taking a joy ride in a Ford Anglia in “The Chamber of Secrets”.  I feel that way every. single. time. I drive those cars – magical and scary, out of control.

Our Volvo/Nova owner has never driven a car newer than one built in 1973.  She doesn’t know there are cars that are easier to drive.  If I pick her up in my car in the heat of summer I can only put down the window because she can’t abide  a/c.  I have to put them down for her because there isn’t a crank on the door.

For her there is nothing nostalgic about the cars that she drives, they are what they are.  When I get into them it gives me a reality check on how far the technology has come and the comforts we enjoy in the cars that have been built in the past 20 years.  There’s a world of difference.  It also helps me to place what I come from and how far I’ve travelled.  It is truly amazing.

 

Living in Two Places

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I’ve lived in a few places. Work, family, friends, lovers have all taken me all over but I always have come back to Rowe.  A person I grew up with told me that this town was part of his soul, he hasn’t lived here since 1975.  I know that feeling, where you drive into a place over a familiar road not seen in a while and something happens, you feel it in your gut, that little flutter.  You know you are home.

I live in two worlds, fortunately they are close enough in distance so I can escape one for the other. Rowe

Just for my own comparison I snipped out the vital info about Rowe and Enfield.  Rowe with its 24 square miles and 393 people compared to Enfield with its 34 square miles and 44,654 people at last count. That means there is .49 acres per person in Enfield and 39.09 per person in Rowe.  No wonder I feel like I’m suffocating while I’m in CT.  That’s probably not a fair assessment but it does speak to the rural vs. urban/suburban situation I find myself in.

Enfield, CT

You will also notice the difference in temperature and dew point.  In the summer it’s a difference you notice, in the winter it’s night and day.  The growing season is at least 2 weeks ahead in Enfield.  The last frost is something we see at the end of April.  In Rowe there is nothing that goes into my garden earlier than Memorial Day – ever.

The one difference I truly notice is the quiet (and solitude).  In Enfield there is air traffic over our house close to 24 hours a day – we are on the landing path to Bradley in CT.  I think at night I can see the people sitting in their seats as they fly in for a landing.  The street we live on is very busy and we are within hearing distance of the railroad tracks where Amtrak runs during the day.  Yes, planes, trains and automobiles – the noise never ends.  Everyone is always in a hurry to get nowhere as well.  You have to be a fairly aggressive driver in this harried place.  In our spare time in Enfield we can work on the house (with our neighbors chatting us up over the fence), shop or eat at a chain restaurant.  I used to have very large perennial gardens around the house but it’s not the quiet, meditative project that it is in Rowe.  Now I look at what I can dig up and move, turning the yard back into something that can just be mowed.

When I get home to Rowe everything slows down.  The driving, the breathing, the thinking – once I arrive there is nowhere I need to be but there.  There is enough to keep me occupied for days on end without ever leaving the property.  I breathe the clean air, listen to the birds, contemplate life.  My bedroom window is open at least three seasons so I can hear the owls at night and the birds wake me up in the morning.  I can drink my cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the back forty and the mist dissipate in its heat.

I think everyone needs to find a place of peace if they are not living in it.  I think that’s why people appear to be so crazy right now or they have such health problems.  They are so far removed from the natural world that they are never grounded – at all.  The sad thing is so many never know what it’s like to be grounded in nature, they don’t understand how healing it can be.  I know people I see often that I just want to shake and say “Take an afternoon and go to a state forest and walk, breathe, listen!  Hug a tree, absorb the energy around you.”  And they would look at me with those eyes that say “You are nuts.”

Garden Economics

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This is my garlic harvest for this year.  A year ago about this time I was thinking I really needed to grow some of my own but when I went onto the High Mowing Seed website with the intention of ordering some and they were sold out.  Bummer I thought – then figured I’d order it for this year. Garlic is planted in the fall, like tulips and daffodils, it needs that fall and winter time to set out its roots.  It then blossoms in June or so and is ready to harvest in July (at least here it is).  The seed companies send out their garlic for planting the first week in October.

I moved on completely forgetting about the garlic. A couple of weeks later I received a package in the mail – a pound of garlic for planting from High Mowing.  I had forgotten that I had ordered it with my spring seeds back in February.  It felt like pennies from heaven because I’d paid for it back in February as well.

The garlic I had ordered is called Music.  It’s a hardneck variety which I know seems to do pretty well around here. I dug a nice bed for them in a sunny, well-drained sight and placed each clove about 3 to 4 inches deep, covered it and walked away.  When spring arrived it was the first plant out of the ground.  In June the blossoms, called scapes, emerge.  I pick all of them off – doing this puts the plants energy in forming bulbs.  The scapes are delicious – I chop them and cook them in eggs for breakfast but they are great in all kinds of things.  Two harvests from one plant.

Towards the middle of July the stalks of the garlic begin to turn brown from the ground up.  I’ve heard that timing is everything with garlic.  You don’t want to dig it up too soon- you want those bulbs as big as you can get them.  If you wait too long the bulb will no longer be tight, the cloves will have splayed out – ready to continue growing for another year.  I had to guess.  I waited until the plants were brown half of the way up the stalk and then I dug one out to see.  It was a thing of beauty.  I dug the rest.

Curing the garlic takes another 3 to 4 weeks. The skins dry to that thin paper we are all familiar with.  I just laid the whole plant on paper in the house and waited (of course a couple of bulbs were sampled along the way).  This weekend I cleaned and trimmed the crop. What you see in the photo is what I grew.  This was a pound of garlic cloves.  The cloves are very large on this garlic so it doesn’t take many to get to a pound.  For every clove you plant you get a bulb.

This garlic is so good I vowed to plant 3 times as much next year – the problem?  It would probably cost over $60 for the seed.

Bill and I gazed at these beautiful bulbs and decided that I would use most of what I grew this year as seed for next year.  It made me a little sad to think about not eating most of what was in the basket but I could quadruple the number of bulbs next year just by planting what was in front of me.  It was sort of a no brainer, but all I want to do right now is eat garlic mashed potatoes from the garden.

An Opinion on Mental Health

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I’m feeling more than a little guilty about not posting as consistently as usual and I’m afraid this will not be the kind of uplifting post that I normally try to achieve.  We all have struggles in life and for that past 10 to 12 years we have struggled with my youngest daughter’s mental illness.  At this point I can only refer to it as a mental illness because I’m not sure what exactly it is.  She was diagnosed with Bipolar II a number of years ago and has been medicated ever since.  Unfortunately, as I’ve seen with other people with mental illness, medication is fine for a while but brain chemistry changes and the drugs they are taking are no longer effective.  For Cait, instead of really trying to figure out what the underlying problems were more drugs were added year after year to counter new symptoms.  Then drugs were added to counteract the side effects of the drugs she’d been prescribed.  A few weeks ago Cait hit a depression the depth of which I hadn’t seen before.  A week ago she stopped taking her meds because she just didn’t see the point in any of it any more.  On some level I can understand that.  She’s tired, so tired of all of it and the thought that this is a lifetime disability just made her stop functioning.  Her mental health team was horrified that she stopped taking her meds.  Friday she went to the hospital, asked for a psych evaluation and she was put into full hospitalization. (This was after she spent 34 hours in the ER in a solitary room with a guard and a recliner).  I’ve quoted what she said on FB before they took all electronics away from her.

You need to know that my Caitlyn is a brilliant woman with her masters in clinical mental health counseling.  This is a two-edged sword in a lot of ways.  She continually self diagnoses and now she’s in a situation where she’s observing and documenting everything that every mental health worker is saying and doing.  I think her hope is that she will either get a different diagnosis or a new medication regimen that will help her cope with what’s happening in her brain.  Cait is also a very strong, willful person and will make sure she understands what is happening while hospitalized and will not settle for some off the cuff diagnosis or medication changes.  She is already questioning the drugs they are giving her.  God help the people taking care of her, she will make each and every one of them question their diagnosis and probably their career choice as well.

When I read the quote below I understood exactly what she was saying and was seeing the mental health system for what it is first hand.  When the tragedy at Sandy Hook took place the first thing I said was the perpetrator and his mother had been seriously let down by the mental health system in the US.  There is not enough funding, and it continues to be cut daily.  Once an unstable individual reaches 18 a parents’ hands are tied.  We are no longer privy to any information of any kind and cannot make life or death decisions that ultimately affect our children.  They have to be coerced.  Cait committed herself “voluntarily” only after realizing that she really had no choice and I was the one who had to drive her there and make her do it.  Harsh.  This is one of those moments when I truly wish things in my life were different.

“And now I know why we have people who end up being on the assailant end of mass shootings and bombings (not that I didn’t already know this and I am absolutely NOT excusing any of that behavior but…) …ya know, we wonder why all this stuff has continued to happen and has probably gotten much worse lately…honestly, take a look at the state of the worlds friggin mental health system!! ESPECIALLY the United States!! I mean, seriously?? Are you really stupid enough to believe that those things would have still happened if we actually VALUED and PAID ATTENTION to those that are in or need to be in the mental health system in this country?? Wake the fuck up! Stop CUTTING the mental health budget and dont bother putting all this time and effort into friggin gun control laws because honestly it’s almost to the point of no return on that front…why don’t we put our time and energy into fixing the true ROOT of the problem instead of just glossing over it and making he issue about weapons…if people want weapons, they will find them…or make them. It doesn’t matter whether there are laws about their possession and such! That’s not going to stop someone. Why don’t the people of this country open their friggin eyes and look at the REAL problem here?! Our mental health system SERIOUSLY blows!! But then again, I already know, people are stupid. Guess I forgot. Lol (rant over. Sorry everyone! Just seriously annoyed, as a mental health professional and someone that knows the value of mental health services…if you disagree, I’m not trying to start an argument so don’t try to start one with me. Thank you.)” Caitlyn Semanie

For the time being Cait has her journal and a pen that gets assigned to her with each shift.  She is surrounded by insanity the likes of which she has never seen.  When I visited her yesterday she said, “I think there will be a book coming out of this and I may have to become an activist for mental health care.”  Watch out, when Cait says something like this she means it.  And I can’t wait to read that book.