This has been a really fucked up couple of weeks. There is the heatwave in India and Pakistan that no one in the mainstream media is talking about, and if they do, it’s mentioned like a verbal shrug, implying that it doesn’t really matter because it’s over there, and climate change is a factor but there’s nothing we can do about it so *shrug*
Then there is the historic drought in the southwestern United States, which is also getting the shrug treatment. If it gets mentioned, it’s about people in Los Angeles not being able to water their lawns. There isn’t much delving into what it might mean in a few years when there is no water for people to drink, and no water for agriculture. There is an article I read somewhere, but didn’t save the link, talking about all the shifting of water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell to try to keep the hydroelectric dam in one of them functioning and enough water in the other so recreation can continue, because, you know, it’s super important to still be able to boat and waterski in a crisis.
And then there is my own neighborhood, which has too much water. The city conducted a multi-year study of groundwater in my neighborhood because a significant number of homeowners were suddenly finding their yards flooding and water seeping into their basement. The findings report just came out and it is super interesting. I learned quite a lot about the geography of my neighborhood (glaciers!) and how it has been altered by humans—namely changing the lake shoreline and depth, draining other lakes and swamp and wetlands in order to build roads and houses on them.
I am fortunate enough to not be on landfill and to be far enough away from the lake and the areas that were filled to not have any problems. But it turns out that when all the draining and filling and dredging happened back in the 1920s and 30s, it was one of the driest decades on record so water levels were low. And guess what, it’s been one of the wettest decades on record now when folks are having water problems.
The city concluded that all of the city’s infrastructure, services, etc, have nothing to do with the water problem, and therefore, mitigation is up to each of the homeowners. Basically the city said, not our fault you bought a house built on top of a swamp; thereby taking zero responsibility for the past decision to allow the swamp to be filled and built on, and zero responsibility for any kind of lot survey information that indicates as much so potential buyers of a home can make any kind of risk calculation. While the homes affected tend to be more expensive homes closer to the lake, it still seems like the city should bear some kind of responsibility and offer, at the very least, some sort of low-cost mitigation loans and tax write-offs.
And then, of course, there is the United States Supreme Court. It is not a giant surprise that they plan on overturning Roe, but it still makes me angry. Because it really has nothing to do with unborn babies and everything to do with controlling women. And what pisses me off almost as much as Roe being overturned is the Democrat political leaders being so surprised about it. Abortion rights have been eroding for years, this is not a surprise, but oh, the hand-wringing! Why the fuck has no one done anything to keep us from getting to this point in the first place? Some of it is because of the way the US legal system works. Precedent is rarely overturned so there is a sense of security there. But the rest is because it has been a useful tool to get votes. While the Republicans use an anti-abortion platform to get votes and actually pass restrictive laws, the Democrats use a pro-choice one and promise they won’t take away rights but do nothing to strengthen them or ensure their continuance. Furious doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.
At Home and on the Yardfarm
I have to keep reminding myself that while I can’t fix everything, I am not powerless. I also have to keep my tendency to let my brain run into imagined futures and spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what might happen rather than focusing on the here and now, because what I—we—do now will affect what happens in the future.
So we took another step towards being car-free. I bought an e-cargo bike! This bike is designed to haul stuff. It’s a Tern GSD—Get Stuff Done (though I like to change “stuff” to “shit”). The bike can carry up to 440 pounds, which means I can haul a lot of shit!
I name my bikes, and this bike is named Esme, after Granny Weatherwax in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. I took the Esme out around the neighborhood the other day for some practice hauling and learn how to use the bike all the buttons and levers. Along with the panniers and front rack, we also got a cushion seat for the back for a passenger. I had no cargo to haul but for a couple of library books, so James put on his helmet and served as my cargo. We both squealed and laughed the whole time, we had so much fun. And the electric pedal assist made it feel like there was no James sitting on the back of the bike at all. It was actually less effort than me pedaling alone on my lightweight acoustic bike. Next weekend we are taking Esme for a grocery shopping excursion.
It is the season of Beltane, and James and I generally celebrate by going to the Friends School Plant Sale and having a gardening season kickoff weekend. We both took a 3-day weekend, and the weather for Friday and Saturday were perfect spring days. Today, it’s raining and we are indoors, which is why I’m even writing this blog post.
Friday morning we were up early, had ourselves some coffee and toast to tide us over until breakfast. We were in line for our entry wristbands by 6:15-ish, and no we were not at the front! We are still in COVID times, and the Friends are conscientious about staff, students, and volunteers. In order to get an entry wristband we had to provide proof of vaccination (alternatively, people could show a negative COVID test from the last 48 hours). We got our wristbands and then off to breakfast we went.
This was the first time we have eaten in a restaurant since the beginning of COVID. It felt weird and a little scary at first, but the place was not crowded and we enjoyed ourselves and our meal. Then off to wait for the sale to start. The first group was let in at 9. We were in group 3, and didn’t have to wait long. We had our list, much shorter than in years past, and it didn’t take long at all to get the plants and make our way through the checkout line, back to the car, and home.
Yes, we drove the car. This may have been the last time we go to the sale; we’ve been going for close to 20 years. Next year we will not have a car. We can take the bikes, no problem, but we are not certain if we want to. The last couple of years I have felt guilty about all the plastic plant pot waste. Except for some strawberries to start a new bed after last year’s drought decimated it, some herbs, and a ground cherry, all the plants were native prairie plants. I am lucky to be able to have Prairie Restorations, where I can get native plant seeds, as a local resource. So next year just might be lots of seed starting. That’s a long time away and I could change my mind by then!
Spring didn’t actually arrive until Thursday last week and all my prairie beds were still buried in leaves. Saturday we unburied them and planted all the new little plants. Friday, after the sale, we made pea teepeas (see what I did there?) from the thick sturdy stems of last year’s sunchokes. I’ve wished for years that I could grow bamboo as a garden source of trellising, and this year as I was cutting down last year’s sunchoke stalks I realized that some of them were really sturdy and just might work. And they did! I wanted one more teepea than we had stalks for so we turned a tomato cage upside down. I have done this before for pole beans and it works really well.
Underneath the teepeas we seeded lettuce. In a wavy line between the teepeas we seeded green wave mustard. And in the space left after that, we seeded beets. I have never had any luck with beets and would not have sown any, but I got the seed packet for free. If they don’t sprout I will use the space to grow more beans.
Then we dug trenches and planted four pounds of potatoes; two pounds each of Magic Molly (purple) and Peter Wilcox (yellow). In the past we have planted them about 2 inches deep and then mounded straw mulch over them as they grew. But I have learned that is one of the least productive ways to grow potatoes. So this year we dug trenches about 8 inches deep, then covered the potatoes with 2 inches of soil. When they get about 6 inches tall, we will fill in the trench, and then after that hill them up with compost. Hopefully this will increase the yield over our previous methods.
I bought seeds for snake beans this year (they aren’t really beans), and while it is much too early to plant them, we put the trellis up for them so we are sure to leave room for them as we plant other seeds. Like radishes, which we seeded in the same bed. The snake beans need warm nights so will be ready to plant about the time the radishes are getting ready to harvest.
In addition to all of this, we believe we have at long last managed to evict Fat Rabbit. James has been out working in the cold to put hardware cloth along our side of our neighbor’s chainlink fence, and to find the gaps in other parts of the garden. We have seen Fat Rabbit a few times on the other side of the fencing looking in and we felt so self-satisfied! But this morning, we looked out into the rainy garden to see Fat Rabbit noshing on our nettles!
James gave Fat Rabbit a chase around the garden while I stood by the deck to keep her from taking refuge beneath it. She escaped from the garden through a gap in the fence behind the compost bin. James and I sprang into action. In the drizzling rain we closed the gap. Rabbit evicted. I hope.
The chickens are, of course, also evicted from the garden for the season. While they have a small garden area of their own, they were not pleased. At first they stood at the little gate between the gardens looking sad but hopeful. Then Elinor staged a sit-in protest and plopped herself down on her side of the gate and refused to move. Sia and Lucy decided more action was needed and figured out how to get into the garden. Good thing we have no video cameras in the garden or they would have shown me and James more than once chasing chickens around in what would surely pass for some great classic comedy.
We fortified the fencing but Sia kept getting into the garden. Then I suspected she was flying over the 4-foot gate. We stuck twigs and prunings along the top of the gate to make it higher and intimidate her. It worked for about a day until she figured out they weren’t really attached and she could fly at them and knock them down. I suggested to James that maybe we should put eggs on spikes as an intimidation tactic. I must say, I do admire Sia’s persistence and determination.
We have some old plastic fencing that Fat Rabbit chewed through last year that we replaced with hardware cloth. The gate between gardens is a few feet away from the top of a couple stairs on the chicken side. This creates a kind of “hallway” or chute between gardens. So James unrolled the plastic fencing over the “hallway” in front of the chicken side of the gate. They can still come up to the gate and look into the garden, but the fencing keeps Sia from being able to fly.
This is supremely inconvenient for the humans going through the gate since, while we are short, we are taller than 4 feet. However, it is far easier than chasing Sia around the garden trying to catch her every hour, because, you see, we catch her and put her back in the chicken garden, and then she waits to make sure we have gone inside the house and flies over the gate again.
This Beltane season, we changed a maypole into a chicken who has led us in some merry dances.
- The Arbornaut by Meg Loman. A science memoir about the tree canopy, the “eighth continent.”
- Artificial Condition by Martha Wells. Book 2 in the Murderbot Diaries. Because sometimes a girl needs a good escape read that also turns out to be about figuring out who you are and friendship.
- Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin. I know nothing about Green Lantern but Jemisin is so good she manages to weave that information into the story. It also helped that James is familiar enough with Green Lantern that he could explain to me it is not just one person but a title held by many people. The art is fantastic and so far the story is too.
- Inflamed: Deep medicine and the anatomy of injustice by Rupa Marya and Raj Patel. I heard about this book on podcast some time ago and requested it from the library. I meant to put a pause on it since I have so many other books going right now, but it was too late. I read the introduction and it is going to be so very good.
- The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk. Still at it and still enjoying it. It’s not getting as much time as I’d like to give it since the number of my books in progress has really gotten out of hand.
- Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh. I want to rush through this but I am glad all the other books are making me read slowly. It gives me time to think and digest what I am reading. I am so glad I bought my own copy and don’t have to rush through to get it back to the library, and I can mark it all up. And I am marking it all up.
- Green Dreamer podcast: Johann Hari: Reclaiming our capacities for deep thinking and intimate engagement. I’ve been on the fence about reading Hari’s book, Stolen Focus, but this podcast interview with him made me go put myself in the very long library holds queue for it. One of the things that nudged me was when he said that the things that are destroying the ecosystem are also part of what is destroying our attention.
- For the Wild podcast: Dr. Bayo Akomolafe on slowing down in urgent times. I’ve heard Akomolafe on Green Dreamer and found much wisdom in what he had to say then, but listening to this podcast interview right after Hari was the best timing. Because he makes clear that slowing down doesn’t mean doing things slower, it means being present, it means paying attention, it means questioning the systems in which we are embedded, it means decolonizing our minds and bodies.
- Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (audiobook). We gave up on Termination Shock. We could not take it anymore. We are so glad to have moved on. Also, I need some Granny Weatherwax and Pratchett wisdom and laughs right now. Also, it is no coincidence that I chose to name my new bike Esme!