We are in the midst of a thaw, and over the weekend I spent a day and half sniffling and sneezing and feeling blah, wondering whether I had COVID/a sinus infection/a cold before I realized it was allergies. Generally it takes a near complete snow melt before the allergies start up, but I guess any bare ground is now the new allergy normal. I took my allergy medication and felt much better a little while later. Allergy meds will be my daily from now until the ground is covered in snow again. Yay spring!
I spent my weekend trying not to doom scroll the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nonetheless, James and I, both of us born during the Cold War, found ourselves talking about nuclear war. James even looked up likely first strike targets and discovered that, while neighboring South Dakota was high on the list, Minneapolis was not. I suggested it wouldn’t matter since we are downwind and would get the fallout. Thus ensued a discussion of wind direction and the Jetstream.
When James was in elementary school in Los Angeles in the 1970s, they had nuclear bomb drills, and he remembers having to crawl under his desk, as though a flimsy desk would keep anyone safe in such a situation. He is four years older than I am, and by the time I got to elementary school in San Diego, we just had to crawl under our desks for earthquake drills. But well into high school I played out different scenarios in my head, trying to figure out if I could get home from school before being directly killed, or succumbing to radiation so I could at least spend my last minutes with my family and pets.
Our Cold War fears so easily and suddenly rematerializing, are nothing compared to what the people in Ukraine are going through. I want to know what is going on, but I also do not want to cross the line into war-as-entertainment and get hits of adrenaline off other people’s tragedy. Therefore I am being extra cautious in my media consumption.
Yesterday I added the IPCC’s sixth assessment working group report to the list of doom scrolling topics to avoid. National Public Radio has a summary, or you can read the report yourself. I have not read the report in full; the various summaries the IPCC provides were enough of a very gloomy picture. What struck me most is this:
Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). A high proportion of species is vulnerable to climate change (high confidence). Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent (high confidence). Current unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards (high confidence).
Given the world population is estimated at 7.9 billion, those numbers mean that nearly half the world’s population is currently highly vulnerable, not to mention all the non-human populations.
Governments weren’t doing much about global warming before, and with the war in Ukraine, I think it has pretty much been forgotten about as everyone panics over gas prices and energy supplies. Which leads me to feel like we are well and truly fucked. I’ve understood for years that system collapse was likely, but knowing it would probably happen is completely different than actually being in the reality of it. Like other people who have already experienced collapse in one way or another, we change our expectations, make adjustments, keep going as best we can through whatever might happen, working and helping others wherever and however we can. I’m working hard on being okay with uncertainty.
The weekend’s glorious thaw made it easier to keep away from the computer. My deck rail turned into a squirrel spa. We had a masseuse squirrel giving another squirrel a good grooming and massage, first the face and shoulders and then turned around for the back. But masseuse squirrel got tired and had to stop for a nap, using the other squirrel as a comfortable pillow. The session eventually ended, but they were both back later for some sunbathing. Ahhhhh.
Meanwhile the chickens were out splashing around in the puddles. Ethel has feathers on her feet, and by Sunday afternoon they were a right muddy mess. Sia’s white bouffant has not faired well through the winter. Because she sleeps in the chicken pile instead of roosting like Ethel does, it has become a grimy mess. Now I have to figure out how one goes about shampooing a chicken.
While the Dashwoods and the squirrels spent as much time in the sun as they could, the Nuggets for some reason gathered around the watercooler for a nap in the shade. Actually, it’s just a tofu container with water in it. There is a large waterer in the run, but we put a dish of water on the deck for the chickens when they are out in the garden. The squirrels appreciate the water too. Maybe the Nuggets decided there was too much squirrel spa activity and were guarding the water dish. Or perhaps, they were hoping for massages too?
In addition to enjoying the sunny thaw, I am working on learning skills. Two years ago I harvested nettles from the garden, dew retted them, dried them over the winter and last spring-summer began the tedious task of separating the fibers from the stems. I have not made it through the whole batch, but I have enough fiber to begin experimenting with the next step of getting it ready to spin. There are still woody plant bits attached, and, to avoid investing in equipment I might decide I don’t want to use after all, I am combing the fibers with cat and dog brushes. There is a nettle fiber group on Facebook and this is suggested to beginners.
I had a fine bristle cat brush that we used on Waldo and Dickens when they were still with us. And it worked ok but the brush is small and breaks the fibers. So I got a bigger dog brush. The dog brush removes the plant bits better than the cat brush does but it breaks the fibers even more, though it does make them really soft. Spinning such short fibers is going to be challenging because I have only ever spun longer fibers, and I am still a beginner. I am conflicted over whether to use the cat or the dog brush. Having never carded anything before, let alone nettle fiber, I have no idea what I’m doing.
It’s messy fun though. I didn’t realize how messy it would be. Lots of dust and little plant bits flying everywhere. Which leads me to believe that fiber extraction is an outdoor spring activity. Spinning is a summer activity because plant fibers need humidity. And weaving is a fall and winter activity. Maybe. Still learning!
Somehow I found a book on making looms from cardboard. Making a loom from cardboard is great for beginners like me because I don’t have to invest in any expensive equipment. Plus it is really interesting learning how to make different kinds of looms (table loom, flat/frame loom, box loom) because you make different things on them, so knowledge!
My first loom is a box loom, which is actually a box that required no making. I dug out old, cheap yarn from the yarn stash with the idea of making a drawstring bag for my spinning tools. I warped the loom and got to work weaving.
My shed stick is a knitting needle. The loom is too small for a shuttle so I am using a crochet hook to help me pull the yarn through. And a plastic fork is my weft tool for squishing down the weft. The technical terms for all this, I do not yet know. Once I got started and worked out all the logistics, it was fun and relaxing.
Things I have learned so far: tension is important. I pulled the weft yarn too tight when I started so now the piece is not going to be as wide as I thought it would be and the edges will be uneven. The box I chose is also too fat and not tall enough to make a bag for my spinning tools. It might end up not being a bag, but a shallow basket for—well I’ll wait and see what it looks like when I finish.
One more weaving thing. The author photo on the back of the cardboard loom book is a bit disturbing. What is she doing with her hand? Is this a secret weaving sign? Maybe she is a heavy metal fan? Or warding off the evil eye?
Sadly the mittens I set out to knit at the beginning of winter are going nowhere. The yarn I have for them is a beautiful undyed fingering weight cormo/angora rabbit/bamboo blend from a local regenerative sheep farmer. It is soft and silky and feels amazing. But I spent so much time futzing around with the gauge swatch that when I finally I cast on the cuff of mitten number one, my motivation to knit was low. I have gotten about 12 rows in and am just not interested in knitting right now, especially with all of the learning new skills fun happening. With winter making a slow exit though, there is no urgency any longer. I will eventually get back to the mittens, for now new skills are the thing!
- From Slate: Killer Truck, Dude. The article is about how dangerous to pedestrians enormous trucks and SUVs are. Driver’s can’t see what’s in front of them, which makes running over people, especially children, more likely. I’m hoping with gas prices going up, people might choose smaller cars. Or, better yet, start biking!
- From the New Yorker: Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age. A very enjoyable read.
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff. It’s a thick book and I haven’t gotten far because it is my lunch reading book. Nonetheless, I am already horrified and not a little freaked out. I might need to have another book on hand to switch between.
- The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula Le Guin. Loving this so much! The edition I am reading is a reprint of the original edition and Le Guin introduces each story. I read a story that was a germ for Left Hand of Darkness and Le Guin, in order to redress using “he” as a non-gendered pronoun in the original story and novel, slightly revised the story and used “she” as the pronoun but kept the male titles like “king.” It made for some delicious cognitive dissonance.
- Between the Covers podcast: Crafting with Ursula: Molly Gloss on Writing the Clear, Clean Line. Gloss was friends with Le Guin. She took a writing class from her and they were in the same poetry writing group for years. So Gloss has some wonderful stories, and she even reads a poem Le Guin never published.
- Crazy Town podcast: Climate Sabbotage with Tim DeChristopher. DeChristopher spent time in prison for sabotaging an oil and gas auction, which makes this an extra interesting discussion about sabotage of property and infrastructure fueling the climate crisis.
- Audiobook: Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. Finally got to the bad sex scene! And now there is a deadly foaming ocean emergency in the Netherlands. Does the Queen of the Netherlands, or any other queen for that matter, really have someone following her around fixing her makeup all the time?
- The Beatles: Get Back. Really good! It was so fascinating watching their creative process as they, mostly Paul and John, wrote songs.