Monday, August 29, 2005


OK, here's the update on celebrity sightings in my neighborhood--natural celebrities, that is.
#1: a fritillary butterfly, maybe an Aphrodite or a Great Spangled; flew away too fast to get a good look
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from the Gallery, Myth in Classical Art
Compare this to an image of the butterfly here, or here.

#2: a stick bug; attached to my driver's side window of the car about two weeks ago. Unbelievably attached with suction-cup like feet it did not let go at over 80k/hr. It looked like it had a wind-induced face lift (if its' face had had skin vs an exo-skeleton, or whatever stick insects have). I did feel sorry for it and stopped to scoop it off the window and set it in the grass by the side of the road. (E.T., phone home)
See Ken Watson's nearly identical experience here.

judge not

How easily we separate ourselves from other sufferers in this world by feeling better/worse, when we are only "more or less".

I was reminded of many acquaintances who look down on the "drug seeker" in the ER, or the alcoholic, or the heroin addict, all the while, being seriously addicted (physiologically and psychologically) to a whole pharmacy in their own house: synthetically derived scents and active ingredients (most often petrochemicals) in any and all their cleaning products, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, pain killers, antihistamines, antibiotics, antiseptics, lotions and potions and cosmetics, vitamins, herbal formulas...

The unconscious, marching unknowingly into the dangerous unknown that we have, as a technologically advanced society been able to create, but not control...


I had a laugh today thanks to a friend who hoped that if he is ever in the hospital, he will be able to legally ask for frequent doses of (and lots of) otherwise controlled drugs!

I'm as different as can be from your typical fan of pharmaceuticals. I kinda think, as I have described here before, that an isolated chemical or compound of active ingredients, removed from let's say the whole plant source, has lost many of the beneficial potentiating/buffering ingredients of that plant.

I also think that way too many people involved in health care, (which should actually be called ill-care), are more interested in protecting and enlarging their professional powers, and try to denigrate or even make illegal other areas of expertise or knowledge; or try to bully people, through techno-babble and jargon, to believe that self-help and simple old-fashioned remedies are at best stupid and at worst dangerous!

I encountered just such attitudes today in doing research for my upcoming soap-making classes. I really feel I do have to comment on the contrast between the generosity and respect of handmade soapmakers and the snobby warnings of the soap/detergent manufacturing & marketing industry. Where the down-to-earth handmade soap community seems to respect the intelligence and care of anybody looking for information, safe handling practices, sources and recipes, the industry seems to assume you are 'just a kid' doing a homework assignment or a 'lowly' housewife/hobbiest looking for a way to make "pin money" and gives condescending warnings about bad recipes and dangerous soapmaking processes and disastrous results.

That attitude seems to appear mysteriously in way too many people who ascend to/climb to/win/are born to/are appointed to/are self-appointed to any status or position of power. I believe that understanding and wisdom are not the narrow domain of professionals or administrators or any other varietal of "elite" you prefer. This world is in serious trouble because too many people have swallowed that line. (eg #1 the industrial age, in its death throes, is destroying us, causing most of the diseases it claims to be able to cure; eg#2 George W. Bush dropping bombs on innocents in the name of democracy? going after terrorists?)

I'll refer again to Michael Moore, who in the introduction to one of his Clinical Herb Manuals, says:
I have developed the libertarian attitude that permeated 19th and early 20th
century pharmacy: "Let them take what they want's a Free Country.
If they don't know any better, let's thin the herd!". We, however, have a
generation or two of people that EXPECT a warning label on everything, and that
have come to doubt common sense.

Also read the great article "THIS IS ANARCHO-HERBALISM, Thoughts On Health and Healing For the Revolution", by Laurel Luddite, found from the same site above.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

slow learner?

And, oh yes, the continuing saga of the porcupines and Molly.

Chapter 6:

last week, was it Wednesday or Thursday?
I don't remember anymore.
Molly. Into the Porcupine again.
Out in the cornfield at about 9 o'clock in the evening.
A face full of quills.

I tried to explain to her that, sure I was planning to make jewelry with my growing collection of quills, but I don't need her help. One-stop-shopping at a road-kill site would be a heck lot easier...

Molly was too busy panting, drooling and trying to get the quills out of her mouth and face. She wasn't paying attention, I could just tell.

a little girl, butterflies & meadows

Granddaughter came for a short visit on Sunday. After swinging in the "Big Swing " (as opposed to the "Tire Swing"), for a while, we went for a walk across my beloved meadows.

The alfalfa was so tall, Granddaughter nearly disappeared. She ran along the tracks left by the farmer's machinery, skipping and shouting into the wind.

"I love this field, Grandma!
Look at me!
Grandma, look at the bumblebee.
Grandma! I see a butterfly! Look at all the butterflies!
Ooh, something is on my arm! A bumblebee! He must like me, he didn't even bite me!
Why is Molly eating the flowers?
I want to pick some flowers!"

Then followed the typical beheading of flowers, where the resulting bouquet is a bedraggled collection of flowers with stems so short, it would be a miracle if they reach any water in the vase. However, they were promptly put in water when we got home and survived the night, to Granddaughter's delight.

"Grandma, the flowers didn't even die, did they? They liked the water we gave them, didn't they?"

Actually, they survive still, a very artfullly casual arrangement in a glass candle/votive holder on the kitchen table. Seeing them--some sneeze wort, a buttercup and a red clover-- reminds me of Granddaughter running across my purple flowery meadows, and makes me smile.

When we were just about to enter our own yard again, after our walk in the meadows, Granddaughter getting tired and wanting to go home, she was surprised that we had come around in a circle. The trees along the meadow borders had hidden the house from her view.

But first, we passed the old abandoned house across the drive from my house. I could tell that it made her a little uneasy. I explained that nobody had lived in that house for a long time, that nobody had cared for it or fixed it up for a long time, so it's pretty much a wreck.

Granddaughter said:
"Poor old house. Nobody looks after it, right Grandma? It's all lonely and broken, the doors are broken, the windows are broken, and even the floor is broken, right Grandma?"

Somehow, after that, by anthropomorphizing the house, Granddaughter was no longer afraid of it, rather, she felt sad. To my melancholy Finnish sensibilities, that makes perfect sense. It is easy for me to visualize that a house, enchanted with its community of imps and elves, can feel lonely and abandoned when nobody lives there anymore. After all, isn't it the house elf that knocks brooms over to let the hostess know company is coming? And how often does the hearth imperceptibly shift, just a little, when the embers have nearly died down, suddenly and mysteriously knocking a glowing coal out of the fire, sending it clinking out onto the floor to companionably nudge us awake?


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

being a woman is not for the squeamish!

Just a warning for the squeamish here. Do not read this post.

I was thinking today, amidst the bewildering, irregular and unpredictable discombobulation of menopause, that it takes guts and courage to be a woman, particularly in our ultra-medicated culture where even this normal life passage is now an "illness", a "hormonal imbalance", that must be medicated, thereby creating a whole mass market for the big pharmaceuticals.

I understand and support my peers who have opted for "hormone replacement therapy", but I do think Suzanne Sommers is nuts! Why would she want to continue the cycles of menses into her 90's anyway? I'm not in the mood to have any more babies, either!

As for her 'Seven Dwarfs of Menopause'-- itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful, and all-dried-up--I believe you attract what you expect and focus on. I expected, after seeing my own mother go through it, that menopause would be no more and probably less disturbing than the changes from childhood to puberty to fertile womanhood.

*Itchy, no. Not unless the mosquitoes were real bad.
*Bitchy? I've earned the right to be called bitchy. I have put up with so much garbage in this world, by the time I get to be this age, I refuse to be nice and meek and mild anymore! Yeah, I'm bitchy. Funny how an assertive woman is called bitchy. I said assertive, not rude or aggressive!
*Sweaty, no. Yes, sweat like a bitch during those dog days of summer in the garden! But I built a rock wall, didn't I!
*Sleepy? So? I loved my Mom, many years ago, when she told me she believed women work so hard trying to be everything, do everything and have everything for so long, it's no wonder they are exhausted when they get to the peri-menopausal years!
*Bloated, only if I have to hold my farts in for too long!
*Forgetful? What? I remember the important stuff...the rest, who cares? I finally decided if it's been ok for men to rely on their secretaries to remember birthdays and anniversaries, it's ok for me to say "Who the f-- cares, anyway?" I do remember to phone my kids and hug them and bug them, quite often, in fact.
*All dried up? Hardly! I'm juicier, racier, hornier and happier now than I've ever been in my life! I finally got rid of some of the old religious crap that had me all knotted up about myself. No more!

But, sure. It is a time of change. Weird how female life changes are secret, hushed, dirty, in this culture. I wonder if in the ancient matrifocal pagan fertility religions, this was perhaps something to be celebrated and honoured? I'm looking forward to the changes myself. I think I should have a party!

Maybe the Red Hat gals have got it at least partly right. Methinks the whole thing could be done up bigger and better, with all the brash, colourful, in-your-face, outrageous glory of red and purple, big hair and wild hats, sure! But also with ceremony, ritual, symbolism and myths, to go with the weird and wonderful life-changing process that menopause is.

Image hosted by
Cabbage white butterfly, Artogeia rapae

image found at Backyard Birding - Our Feathered Friends

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Monarch feeding on milkweed, Asclepias sp.

Image hosted by

Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus

images found at Laspilitas

dancing in the purple meadows

I went for a long walk before supper, to clear my head. It didn't work very well. Shall I tell you why?

Remember the meadows full of clover? I found out that it's actually alfalfa and....Well, the perfume was as intoxicating as ever. And not only that! I walked around the perimeter of two of them thar meadows this afternoon, laughing to see the dogs nearly disappear into the purple-flowered alfalfa, it's so tall. And hovering over the fields of purple were butterflies. Lots and lots of butterflies. Monarch butterflies and cabbage butterflies. It has been quite a while since I have seen quite so many Monarchs! The way the dogs were behaving, I think they enjoyed it too.

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American Painted Lady

image found at Laspilitas


This is not supposed to happen. When I wake up later than usual, I'm not surprised to have a headache, but coffee is usually an immediate cure. I know, I know. Someone like me who is nearly perfect, should not have such a hideous addiction as an addiction to caffeine! But anyway...had my coffee, still have my headache. Oh, well, it's not bad enough to keep me from working today.

Sitting on the back steps enjoying my aforementioned coffee, I noticed a American Painted Lady butterfly, stretching it's wings in the sun. Doesn't that sound like such a hugely decadent name for such a wee little thing?

Monday, August 15, 2005

waxing moon

The moon is sailing up across the sky, a waxing moon.

It has been a lovely, warm day. A little work in the garden, cleaning out and refilling the hummingbird feeders, a snooze, some reading of very interesting bloggers, some work on preparations for soapmaking classes I hope to offer this fall...

Tomatoes are ripening in the garden, as well as summer squash, beans galore, and onions...

Supper tonight was a layered salad, a modified version of taco salad: taco chips, a little left-over multi-bean salad, grated cheddar cheese, fresh greens from the garden (mizuna mustard, and baby cos or romaine lettuce), chopped fresh cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes. Not much else needed.

It cooled off dramatically once the sun went down. The sunset didn't quite compare to the sunset of last night. Last night's afterglow lasted forever!

Our porcupine saga continues. This morning's walk to the mail met a porcupine in the middle of the drive on the return from the mailbox! Tasha made a wide detour, not even trying a little sniff! Molly, left behind tied to an apple tree to keep her from chasing cars, didn't get a chance to meet this porker. Misty, no doubt, was already aware of it, but following her nose, dashing about in her mystical circular explorations of more interesting and less dangerous life in the fields on either side of the drive.

There was a clump of blackish, greyish fur? hair? in one of the fields by the drive this morning. I was curious. What creature lost it and how?

Walking past a field of clover, the air was so heavy with the perfume it made me deliriously happy, drunk with perfume! It reminds me, I should gather some red clover to dry for tea soon!

I came across another Ontario blogger . His lovely descriptions of his father's ability to read nature as he walks through the woods had me marvelling at a language and ability that I fear will soon disappear.

Yarn Harlot's escapades on her book-tour have had me in stitches! I didn't realize I was going to make a pun, honestly!

Keri Smith , commented in "whirling dervish", about her tendency to avoid unpleasant and fearful things. This really struck a chord with me as well. I have recently been struggling not to avoid things anymore, particularly the things that frighten me. I have been discovering, as T. Harv Ecker says, most of the things I believe are frightening, most of the things I believe are unpleasant...are NOT! I made it all up. Most things are essentially neutral and only have meaning (frightening, unpleasant, dangerous, difficult) because I have given them that meaning!

Books I will soon have to return to the library: The Salad Lover's Garden, by Sam Bittman, The Natural Habitat Garden, by Ken Druse, and The Natural Shade Garden, also by Ken Druse. Really enjoying these. Also enjoying the August issue of Taunton's Fine Gardening magazine. In it an article, among other interesting bits, by Sharon Lovejoy, on simple pest and disease remedies from your pantry and medicine cabinet. And an interesting book I picked up at a drug store!:
100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for Canadian Gardens, updated, by Lorraine Johnson. Hard to choose between that and her other books, The New Ontario Naturalized Garden, and Grow Wild! Ah, life is hard!

All the fallen apples have me wondering if we will see bears. Ann did see a bear last summer in the raspberry patch. The raspberries are long gone. The heavy, sweet-sour smell of apples rotting under the trees are certainly a lure for wasps. Some of the apples have been chewed (?by raccoons in the night? by deer?). We eat some. The soft yellow apples from the tree closest to the back patio are not bad! We rake up a wheelbarrow-full every couple of days and take it to the compost pile. We couldn't possible use all the apple sauce or cider that would be possible from all these apples. I just marvel at no bear sightings!

A couple of nights ago, the raccoons decided to have a real hillbilly of a family feud. About 3 o'clock in the morning the ruccus started, chittering, bickering.... The noise woke our dogs, who started barking. I went downstairs to see if I could see anything (too dark). The neighborhood dogs joined in with the barking. Then, it was a serial signal-barking-thing, across the fields, from the other side of the woods, even from somewhere in "millionaire row" by the lake, back and forth for a while...Bark, bark, bark....bark, bark, bark...woof, woof...bark, bark, bark (you get the idea!)

As we ate our supper, Ann and I wondered if omnivorous Molly has taken to eating corn on the cob, or if the husks strewn about the yard were left by litterbug raccoons raiding the neighboring cornfields?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

this old house and violence

I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry! Yes, I have been absent for quite a while.

Let's see. What have I been doing?

Working, writing, gardening...

We are having electrical problems. We have no power in my bathroom, part of Ann's bedroom and part of my workroom-- the part that I originally had my computer plugged into. Since other outlets in the room are functioning, I have slightly re-configured the room. Our landlords' did have the electrician in. He worked for about 3 hours, but was unable to tell exactly where the problem is. The best estimation he could make was that it is in the wall somewhere leading up from the small office downstairs. Doesn't sound good.

He straightened out the fuses a bit re the greenhouse, and the ventilating motor is working again--all the time--it never shuts off. So, we left the vents open and shut the motor off. Seems to me, the timer/temperature sensor should trigger the motor on and off, that the motor should not be running and humming constantly, should it? Anyhow, I did get a referral to a local company that deals with these things. So. Now to find out how much those guys charge!

It has been very, very hot and very, very dry. Those peas I planted so late did produce a few pods of delicious peas, a couple of meals. But that may be all. We have had several lovely meals from the cucumber, the beans, the lettuces, the broccoli.

The tomatoes are ripening and a huge tomato hornworm was wreaking havoc on the beefsteak tomato plant today. I swear, the droppings were the size of quinea pig turds! Isn't that gross??

Violence occurred today in the garden. The tomato hornworm met it's end with the help of a rock. The worms are too ghastly to pick up, actually. I hate the way they fight and squirt stuff at you. So, I broke off the branch it was sitting on...

Violence occurred again on the farm on Monday. Molly got into the porcupine again on Sunday, for the fifth time. This time it was quite bad, many, many quills extremely close to her left eye. Tasha also got a few in her nose and even Misty had one in her leg. The porcupine could not have had very many quills left! I had seen the porker a couple of nights before and had thoughtfully made a wide detour around it. When threatened, it immediately turned its back to the oncoming car and the quills puffed out in a halo of torment for the unwary. An interesting phenomenon.

However, when Molly got so badly hit again with the porker's quills, even my patience and fascination were wearing thin. Ann found the porker again down in the woods at the end of our lane on her morning walk with the dogs on Monday. She phoned the doc and he came up and shot it, but not before Tasha got a couple more quills into her nose--small ones, mind you, because, as I said, there were very few quills left.

The porker had also caused havoc with the cows. A calf got very badly hit earlier this summer. I guess, while grazing, the cows come upon the porker without knowing it's there, so they can get quite badly hit as well.

Anyhow, with Ann's help in holding Molly down, I was able to use pliers to pull out the quills quite quickly. The time I was alone and tried this, it took me over 2 hours. Molly was incontinent (she settled down after she realized that we were going to help her get rid of those quills) and she bled quite a bit -- I guess dogs' faces bleed copiously, just as humans' do. What a weird odour to the blood! I know human blood has its own peculiar odour, but I found the odour of Molly's blood quite strong.

Anyhow, Ann bagged the porcupine carcass and it went in the trash --we feared burying it would #1 be difficult in the baked, dry earth #2 be a temptation for the dogs to dig it up and eat it. Ann reported that the porker did indeed have very few quills left, only a few tiny, fine "new" ones. I wonder how long it takes for a porcupine to grow back the monster quills this one had?

I saved Molly's quills, blood-stained and all. I put them into a small jar and took them to show to some of the people at my paying job in the city on Sunday evening. The quills are now making the rounds, I guess, being examined by some of the kids of people I work with...I hope to get them back and maybe make something out of them, jewelry? a bookmark?

So, what kind of environmentalist am I? I have been pondering that quite a lot over the last few days. The discussion on CBC Radio's Ideas tonight was so interesting: the role of values, beliefs, myths, multiple economic and cultural factors, practice and habits in relationship to the impending/actual environmental crisis we are facing.

Reminds me of something that I heard on Sunday. One of the people I work with is a self-confessed neat freak and told me she threw out her son's bug collection. I was horrified! It reminded me of how I felt when my mother threw out my stamp-collection, many years ago. However, it seems he is getting his own back, in a way. She said they had guests who were amazed by the cicada song. Her son offered to show them what a cicada looks like, and said:
"But I can't...because Mom threw my bug collection out!"