Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Localism...An Old Idea Making a Come Back

Everywhere I turn recently, whether in the "real world" or cyberspace, the importance of re-discovering the value of strong communities and a locally based economy seems to be emerging. A couple of weeks ago, Robb and I went to Little River State Park in Waterbury, Vermont on a history hike. The hike goes through a community of hill farms in central Vermont that no longer exists, due largely to a huge flood in 1927 and the building of a dam in the 1930's. If you went to this site 200 years ago, however, you would have found 40 or 50 homesteads within a 5-10 mile radius, whose members relied almost exclusivley on their own farming and some help from their neighbors to sustain themselves. The picture to the left is my reflection on this landscape. The sap bucket was in a cellar hole abandoned over 100 years ago. Wow, they made things to last.

About a week after this hike at Little River, I had the chance to hear Bill McKibben speak about his new book, Deep Economy. Bill Mckibben is a long-time environmental activist who is perhaps best know for his book The End of Nature. Long before Hollywood decided to give Al Gore an opportunity to place global warming in the front row seat of America's popular culture through the film An Inconvenient Truth, McKibben was trying to convey the harsh realities of climate change through his writing and activism. When I heard him speak at Bear Pond Books to a packed house, he focused not on the complex scientific equations necessary to address the current environmental crises, but rather the vital role of strong community relationships in caring for our overburdened planet. We need to actually talk to our neighbors to solve global problems? We need to look at the weeds in our own backyard before we try to go around weeding the yards of every other nation.
The problem is we don't see the weeds in our own backyards becasue they are smothered with pesticides. This brings me to the book that I am currently reading, which is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . I have enjoyed Kingsolver's fiction so when I heard that she wrote this book about a year of her family eating locally, I thought it would be a great combination of beautiful writing coupled with an issue that I am very interested in...local agriculture. I have not been disappointed. Here is a little sample from the beginning of the book. She does not mince words.

When we walked away from the land, our knowledge of food producton fell away from us like dirt in a laundry-soap commercial...When we give it a thought, we mostly consider the food industry to be a thing rather than a person. We obligingly give 85 cents of every food dollar to that thing, too-the processors, marketers, and transporters. And we complain about the high price of organic meats and vegetables that might send more than three nickels per buck to the farmers: those actual humans putting seeds in the ground , harvesting, attending livestock births, standing in the fields at dawn casting shadows upon our sustenance... In
the the grocery store checkout coral, we're more likely to learn which TV stars are secretly fornicating than to inquire as to the whereabouts of the people who grew the cucumbers and melons in our carts.

Well said, Barbara. Especially, that cucumber and melon part.

So, this said, I am still learning how to eat more locally. I am lucky to live in a place where there are plenty of farmer's markets where I can purchase fresh produce during part of the spring, summer, and fall. I also grow a small amount of food on my own. Pictured is my small plot of land with herbs and flowers, as well as potted tomatos and more herbs. Still, I have yet to spend an August canning vegetables for weeks on end to ensure that I do not have to depend on our oil sucking food industry to keep me from starving in January. I'm working on it, though. This summer I am going to make my first attempt to can. It may not get me through the entire Vermont winter, but it's a start.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Springtime in Vermont: Flowers, Fiber, and Frolicing

The green mountain state is actually living up to its name this week. Spring does not emerge slowly in these parts, but rather explodes like an energetic toddler waking up from a long nap. One day, the world is a frozen tundra and you feel like there is no way that any of the plants that are drooping with the heavy wet spring now could possibly offer a feast of chlorphyll filled colors. Then, seemingly overnight, you wake to find yourself diving head first into purple lilacs in the hope that you might be able to take that smell home with you. Then, there are the bleeding hearts. Every spring I look at these amazing plant and can't believe that nature could create something that looks exactly like a heart. Perhaps, the symbol of love was inspired by these plants instead of vice versa.
In addition to staring at all the new flowers, I have been enjoying some other spring adventures. I got a chance to visit Jessie, creator of beautiful yarns that you can find at A Piece of Vermont and peacock owner. I picked up some beutiful hand-dyed bamboo/merino/nylon and an additional skein of Weybridge (all vermont fiber yarn), which I am planning on dying myself. It was one of those perfect Vermont days when hanging out on the porch of an old farmhouse chatting is really the only reasonable thing to do.
In other knitting news, I am working on a scarf with a lacy eyelet trim. Look what happens if you follow directions. All YO, PSSO, stuff isn't as scary as I thought. I used the stitch pattern from June 14th of the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year: Perpetual Calendar. This yarn is also from Piece of Vermont (50/50 merino tencel). Not bad for a first try at lace. There's lots more in non-fiber fiber/flower news, but I'll that for another post.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Staying in My Habitat

Here is a hilarious article from the Onion that I think many of you will appreciate, entitled,

Swelling Hippie Herds Pose Threat to Delicate Freakosystem

Here's the first paragraph to give you a taste,

WASHINGTON, DC–The indigenous North American hippie population has expanded to the point that its teeming herds are endangering the planet's fragile freakosystem, warned a Department of the Interior report released Monday.
Earth In Crisis: An Onion Special Report

According to the report, over the past 20 years, the wide-ranging, largely migratory hippies have more than tripled in population, insidiously infiltrating nearly every other U.S. subculture while venturing far beyond their natural Vermont and Colorado habitats.

As cited in the first paragraph, the hippie species is apparently native to Vermont and Colorado, which means I am not endangering any fragile eco-systems since I live in Vermont. This is a great relief because I would hate to be responsbile for destroying a perfectly respectable suburban neighborhood with my free-spirit.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Shear Fun!

That's me dipping my hand into some prize-winning blue-face leicester fleece at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool festival. Pippi and I ventured out of the green mountain state Saturday in search of shear fun! (get it? shear-as in shearing a sheep. Clever puns abound after a long work day). The perfect spring weather made the fiber fest fabulous!
Pippi found a fleecy friend that she had to leave behind, but not before some serious bonding. I think she may have been giving the wool directions to her house. There were so much beutiful fiber and yarn that I didn't know where to begin. You see, here's a little secret, this was my first sheep and wool festival ever. I was a fiber festival virgen! It's all downhill from here (or uphill?) I did not leave empty-handed. I purchased this skein of handspun wool-tencel. I also purchased 4 skeins of yarn from Buckwheat Bridge Angora-3 beautiful deep purple and another gorgeous handpainted with that deep purple in it. The fiber content is 20% mohair kid, 60 % Cormo wool, and 20% llama. As if the beautiful yarn wasn't enough to make me giddy, I looked on the label and it said, "produced entirely with solar power". It turns out that they have a small solar-powered mill. Sold to the tree-hugging pinko commie hippie in the blue pants. I am planning on making a purple vest with a multi-colored trim. Well, that's the fiber report for now. You can view more photos of adventures from the NH sheep and wool festival on my newly created flickr account.I have been busy enjoying the spring weather and digging in the dirt so you can expect a garden report shortly.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Color Me Happy!

Spring is finally really here in Vermont. In fact, today it felt more like summer. The temperature climbed into the 80's today. My surge of energy led me out of the office and straight to the nearest greenhouse/plant nursery to feast my eyes on the colors that mother earth has to offer this season. So, I came home and got to work or play, depending how you look at it. So, I keep reading about project spectrums. As I was walking through the greenhouse and looking at all the different colors, I thought about how similar the process of picking out and planting flowers is to choosing yarn and knitting it up. I had the same focused, but spaced out filling choosing and planting my flowers as I have when I choose yarn and knit a project. No wonder so many knitting enthusiasts are passionate gardeners and vice versa.

Speaking of color enthusiasm and knitting, I had my first yarn dying experience last Sunday. I took a class with my Vermont comrade Pippi, knitting Mentor Bridgette of the Knitting Studio, and two other women. As a young child, I always loved looking at color in art. I loved using color in art. Perhaps because I lack traditional drawing or painting skills, I have not picked up a paintbrush or stood in front of a canvas for some time. It was so exciting to have yarn as a canvas and not have to stay in the lines! My accomplished are pictured here.
I loved playing with the different color ways and I'm pretty sure I have developed a new addiction. Pippi wrote me about the class in a recent blog entry. There's also a rather scandalous picture of me.