Wednesday, December 28, 2005


We're back from the jaunt to see relatives, and enjoyed plenty of sleep and safe driving (not at the same time). It was good to see family. The roads were fine but the sun was absent. The morning of the 25th was warm and sunny, perfect for cleaning off our icy paths, etc (it's all about utility around here) but we dashed into the car and drove up under the clouds. As the radio announcer said this afternoon, it's not likely we'll see sun for the rest of the YEAR.

Ug, not so good for our crazy energy needs. Why, just today I took a shower AND had some lights on, and then vaccuumed. Whew! That little extravaganza was made possible by the generator, whirrring away outside. We do have hot water again, so luxury has returned. It's just a "regular" tank storage unit, but should be more efficient than our last one. Decided that the tankless was just a bit too spendy, especially since we might do a solar water system someday soon. Also, hard water apparently is hard (ha) on the tankless systems, and we are definitely live in a "mineral water" pocket here. Now to decide what sort of floor we should put in upstairs... Marmoleum or Bamboo. Hmm... the big decisions of homeownership. I DO know that oriented strand board is not my top choice of floor coverings, complete with stamped warnings about formeldehyde (see below for sample of OSB).

Not feeling terribly entertaining this evening, so I'll end with some gratuitous cat photos, showing Bill enjoying his new gift and Schroeder looking a bit jealous. She's very sweet, though, and poor old Bill might just get to enjoy this cat bed for a while (Lutsen has taken over all other beds in the house so far...)

But Miss Lutsen is interested in fairness and accuracy in reporting, so one of these days she might just start her OWN blog to tell her story....

Friday, December 23, 2005


And the “Greatest Skill at Controlling a Skid” and “Most Calm after Near-Serious-Accident” Award goes to… ME! (If I may be so presumptuous…. I was alone in the car and have no witnesses, other than the TRUCK DRIVER that made such an award possible). I was very efficient in my near-death experience this morning, took hardly any time at all out of the busy day, horrray!

The morning was wet and foggy, with a glaze of ice. I was headed down a soupy hill without much view of the bottom. By the time I got about half way down the hill, I could see a large SEMI-TRUCK carrying big metal fittings turning left off a side street to go uphill, directly into my path. Applied brakes, began skidding on the ice. Went sideways one way, (wheee!), turned wheel, went sideways the other way (wheee!). It really felt like skiing in my car… a little Toyota slalom! Time slowed down enough for these thoughts to enter my mind:

“Uh, oh,,. this is bad. So this is what it’s like to be headed uncontrollably towards an oncoming Semi. Shit. Correct skid, turn wheel. Ok, he sees me, isn’t going that fast. Might not be too bad. Hmmm, telephone pole over there. Not so great to hit, either, but better than semi. Turn wheel, skid other way. Good, the snow’s slowing me down. Turn wheel, try to get straightened out....Go slightly into ditch…whoomp! OK!”

Aha. I managed to make enough skid corrections to end up only part-way in the ditch. The car was pointed in pretty much the right direction and I didn’t even hit anything!!
(Anti-lock brakes? Haha. So THIS century- my car even pre-dates CUPHOLDERS. I wouldn’t know what to do with those fancy smchancy features on new cars. My car is 4WD, gets around just fine, and I’m proud of my skid-control skills.).

But even my little super-toyota couldn’t drive itself out the snowy ditch. I very calmly looked around, waved at the trucker, got out my phone and realized I didn’t have service out there. Hmmm. I vaguely knew who lived in the house nearby, thought about going there… but Mr. Semi-Driver was maneuvering the big trailer-truck around, coming to a stop on the left side of the road next to me.

He said, “Turn your lights on next time!” and I realized to my horror that I HADN’T had my full lights on, just the running lights. I ALWAYS drive with my lights on, and have to harass W to turn them on most mornings he’s driving (he has some slightly twisted conservation ethic that crosses over from house lights to car lights… can’t waste energy, you know). Don’t know what happened… it was definitely a day to be using one’s lights in a white, fog-colored car.

So I was slightly chagrined and couldn’t really blame the driver, who turned out to be very calm and quite nice. He jumped out of the cab, said Hi, and pulled out a big chain. He thought he could just, ah, pull the car out. He told me to wave when he had pulled his rig in line with the bumper. I supervised the placing of the chains on the car’s back tow loops, and soon found myself in the car, moving backwards (with a few ominous popping noises) and was soon yanked out onto the road by the immense, metal-thingee carrying tractor-trailor. Nothing to it!

Everything looked OK, no car damage. I remember my dad yanking my friends’ cars out of the ditch with a Pickup years ago, so wasn’t too worried about the process. Within 10 minutes I was back on my way to work, no problem at all. I was only a few minutes late to work after that little adventure!

Thank Heavens for calm drivers, of both Toyotas and giant Semi-Trucks. And yes, I will graciously accept those awards on behalf of my morning self. I send a thanks to the driver, whoever he was (we didn’t exchange names). And please, drive with your LIGHTS ON!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I am quite new to this whole meme thing, but was recently honored to be tagged for the first time... a small "in" to the blogging "community", heh.

Liz has been a faithful reader of this site, probably the only one outside of people I know in the "terresterial" community. Her challenge:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

Not sure I will tag anyone in particular, but go for it in the comments if anyone is so inclined, those of you who read without your own blogs to connect.

My list will seem somewhat obscure to most people, but it is rooted in a certain place. My music listening is fairly well limited to the radio these days, which most people might find shockingly old fashioned or even excruciating, depending on the radio market where you live. I am very lucky to living within range of a few good public and community supported stations. W and I actually look forward to and adjust our schedules for certain shows like some people might do for TV shows (pre Tivo, of course). When you have no TV, VCR or DVD player, radio plays a big part in your solar-powered life. Thank the Universe for public radio!!

The list (for when I DO get around to powering up the CD player):

1. The Three Altos, Camaradas
2. Father Henepin, Feng Shui Calendar
3. Sara Thomsen, Is it for Freedom?
4. Michelle Shocked, If Love Was a Train
5. Cheryl Wheeler, Ghandi/Buddha
6. Nancy Griffith, Time of Inconvenience
7. Cry, Cry, Cry, Cold Missouri Waters

Maybe someday I'll come back and hotlink these to explain their obscurity. CD Baby might answer some questions, too...

I have the afternoon off to enjoy today... Happy Solstice!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

'S no(w) Beauty!

Ok, after all that serious posting below, I'll post some more fun pictures of our gift of SNOW this week!

I'll admit there was some "regular life" grumbling related to this, too (all this beauty became a getting-to-work hinderance) but today we can get out and enjoy. Not that the chickens are necessarily enjoying! They are more...tolerating. The brave explorations shown here didn't last long. They opted for sunbathing in their passive solar coop instead!

The amount was truly impressive for December. It just kept falling...

Living Without

Oh, woe is me! No hot water! A serious issue! Or wait, IS it?

We've had a change in our "standard of living" here at home lately... The water heater broke about 2 weeks ago. We smelled smoke during one of my admittedly lengthy hair-washing sessions (I try to keep that event to a healthy minimum) and that was it. We do still have running water, fresh and cold (!) from the well.

So is that a problem or not? In the throes of "regular" life like getting ready for work, dressing up for meetings, etc on a short time schedule, it sure sometimes feels like it. No quick warm showers! The horror! Ha. I can elicit sympathy from my boss and friends quickly if I want, "borrowing" showers in town.

W and I have been going back and forth about the best way to replace it, what system would be most efficient and cost-effective (but of course taking into account the idea that ANY amount of propane might be very expensive in the future). Tankless or not? Solar hot water is a dream for later... but don't want to rule it out. We will replace the system somehow, and likely soon. But we're reminded that this is no crisis, just a matter of expectations.

Humans definitely don't need anything close to our current western world expectations to survive. I don't REALLY need all that stuff, myself. I've lived without running water, lived without automatic heat. In those days, a hot shower somewhere was a luxury to be savored, not something to expect every morning. But when you are used to a certain level and are in the "world" that expects you to look "professional" every day, anything less seems like a problem.

We'll continue to straddle the two worlds for a while... trying to be more self-sufficient while living in this "regular" house and working. I vow to be better, and not grumble to W too much when the house is 59 degrees because the silly vaulted ceilings hog all the heat from our conservative propane use, or when we have to run the generator to have lights because the house has sucked all the solar power just running the well pump, etc. Someday, maybe we'll have always-available hot water (and heat!) from our winter woodstove, not a complex propane water heater and boiler that we don't know how to fix. We'll adjust our expectations, and we'll ironically be able to better take care of ourselves the more "difficult" (simple) we make our lives.

Ah, the complexity of half-way simplicity!

Here's some truer simplicity, ca. 1937. I image THEY would have appreciated some hot water, though!

From this Library of Congress exhibit. Fascinating...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Local Economy

Surplus eggs = great barter material! In the past few days, they've been traded directly for maple syrup, and "zooked" for other tasty things. We had our early winter Zook barter event last night, and eggs were a hot commodity. Our zook balance (each is worth about $1) has stayed steady, but there was some good activity! All products are made by Zookers, usually with a good list of local or personally grown ingredients. If people don't grow everything themselves, they can usually say who did.

One person sent blueberry-apple conserves, but her family already has eggs of their own. So, a fellow "zooker" gave me 2 zooks for a dozen eggs, which then I gave to the blueberry apple conserve family to buy a jar. A very satisfying system! In the past, I've zooked my knitted washcloths, cookies, nut-n-honey chews and W's brought onions and garlic. I wish I had more preserved things to share, but am usually able to come up with something to earn zooks to spend. And the hens are a great help to that equation. It's a local barter/trade society in a very small format, and we only meet every few months. But maybe someday it can grow...there's lots of talk of focussing on local economies in the days of post Peak Oil, of course.

And how else could I say that my idle knitting habit of making too many dishcloths has earned me great things to eat? See the link bar... I've been spending some of my day off figuring out to edit a tiny snippet of html. Fancy!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Keeping Busy

I often use that term in emails to my parents... or some variation. We're staying busy, chickens, house, etc. etc. Not sure how we will ever feel "caught up", but we're trying to find some balance.

So many "important" things to do, how does one choose? AND keep the house in some sort of sanitary condition? Was just reading about Breed 'em and Weep's struggle against microscopic dog poop. I hesitate to admit it in this public way, but I suspect we have at least 2 species of microscopic... oh, never mind. I think the house is almost as sanitary as most.

Here's what been keeping us busy:
Peak Oil Central: W did a very impressive job of organizing a full-day event to discuss and contemplate this cheery subject. Some good people came to talk, and it was quite engaging. What's next? A huge topic, but one that is important and definitely colors our every day lives.

I managed to get away and contribute to this event again. Missed it last year, so it's been at least 2 years since I touched clay. Walking into the studio alone felt like entering an alien world for a moment (bats? Pug Mill? Slop bucket?) but I managed to find tools and get started, and within minutes had my first fully-functional and quite nice bowl. I wanted to show it off, but of course most people there were fully able to throw functional (and nicely thin and even) bowls, and didn't know they were supposed to be impressed that my muscle memory came through for me. It definitely made me smile, and smile again when leaving the bowls to be trimmed and glazed by someone else, a true artistic collaborative effort that I got the chance to participate in very briefly. Next spring, walking around the sea of bowls, I'll get to wonder where my 5 bowls are and what they look like with someone else's glazing.

Skills for the end of the world, right? W has been quite impressed with my skill in roasting yams in the woodstove, lately. The world might crash, but darnit, we'll have soft warm yams and hand-thrown pottery (provided someone gives us yams and fires the pots!).

First fire, 2005. Look at those bricks!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hard Water

Around here, we can walk on water! Amazing ice over Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, we were all caught without our skates, so had to devise other ways to enjoy the solid lake. An old kneeboard was great fun, for literally the "whole family"! I made myself dizzier that I've been in years by getting that thing spinning. Nearly zero friction-whoohooo!

Of course, the totally smooth ice made pulling a bit hard. My trusty Sorels were not up to the task, but I think they do set off the color of the leaves quite nicely here, no?

It was a nice weekend. Too much food consumed, of course. I did impress myself yesterday by keeping up with the wednesday morning running group for the entire way... Just recently realized that's 6 miles, an incredible distance that my brain should not really know about while trying to keep up the pace at 6:30 am.

Hard to believe it's December already, and the holiday events are coming up. Likely not much decorating at our house. But if I ask nicely, Bill the Cat may agree to help me with the wrapping again this year. It can be just so... exhausting! (especially if you don't have opposable thumbs).

Happy December!