In typical Minnesota fashion we went from 60F/15.5C on Thursday, to plummeting temperatures Friday and a chance of snow overnight. It did not snow. But we did finally have not just a frost, but a hard frost. We won’t make it out of the 30s for a high temperature until maybe Wednesday. So of course, the yahoos that run water projects for the city have hooked us up to an above ground water access pipe for the foreseeable future. Let me explain.
At the beginning of summer 2022, the city began a project in my neighborhood in which they were lining all the water pipes in order to prevent mineralization and pipeline issues in the future, or something like that. Fine. They ran a PVC pipe along the sidewalk, and then a big hose from the pipe to the external water supply for each house. They turned off water metering and billed us for what our water usage was the previous year. Fine. They closed off my street at the end of the block and dug a big hole. Then at the end of September they filled in the hole, patched the street, took away the hose and all the piping along the sidewalks. Work done.
Except, apparently it wasn’t. About a month ago all the equipment began appearing again. And then the pipe along the sidewalk. And the a hose across my front yard left in pile at the gate into my backyard. We had no notification. Nothing.
James called to ask what the heck? He actually got to talk to the guy in charge of the whole project. The guy told him that they never actually did the work last summer. He didn’t say why, just that it never got done. In spite of the pipes and equipment, the project was on hold again but we will be notified.
Two days later I came home from work to find a flyer stuck to my door asking us to call ASAP regarding the water. James called. They needed to hook up the hose and turn off our water meter. The project was moving ahead. And within ten minutes there were a couple men at our door to hook up the hose and turn off the water meter.
And then we were told, when the temperature is at or below freezing, we need to turn on a tap in the house and keep the water running until the outside temperature warms up, otherwise the pipe and hose will freeze. I was appalled. The guy said, well you aren’t being charged for it. As though that matters. The colossal waste of running a tap all night and well into the next day, potable water that took energy and resources going down the drain.
And not just the waste of the water. What a waste of time and resources to have torn up the street last year and done nothing. And now to wait until it’s freezing outside to decide it is a good time to do the work they didn’t do last year. And there is not a damn thing I can do about it. It’s infuriating
The frost was ushered in by wind and rain. The leaves are finally falling off the trees. So today I raked some up off the sidewalk in front of the house and poured them on top of the garlic bed and the herb spiral.
I also cut nettles and piled them on the deck. I need to strip off the leaves and side twigs and then they will go on top of the leaves piled on top of the garlic bed. The winter snow and damp will ret them for making fiber. I have tried several different methods of retting nettles over the past three years and cutting them and retting them in the snow over winter seems to work best.
Ret, in case you don’t know, is a Middle English word that means “rot.” Basically, it’s a method of using moisture to soften and separate bast fibers. A bast fiber is a plant fiber, like nettle, flax, or hemp. There are many methods for retting. Some of them are hands off like my method, and dew retting, which involves leaving the plant stalks laying on the dewy grass for a couple of weeks. There is also retting in a stream or in a tub. The tub method involves lots of water changes and the water itself gets rather caustic. I prefer non-caustic and as little work as possible.
Cold weather means sunchoke/Jerusalem artichoke season. The plants have stored all their energy in the bulby root and the frost makes them sweeter. James dug up a small bowl to pan fry as part of our dinner this evening. The chickens helped. Well Elinor did. And she was rewarded with s few small sunchokes of her own. The chickens love the little roots and will dig them up on their own if they can. They don’t know where they are, so digging them up is always an accidental discovery. But once someone finds some, they will scratch around for more. Interestingly, because James dug up the roots, they don’t make the connection, and don’t keep digging for more.
We’ve got the water heater plugged in for the chickens now. Next weekend we will encase their run in plastic sheeting to keep winter wind and snow out. Then we’ll lay down a layer of some of that straw I hauled home on the e-cargo bike last weekend. If the long-term forecast is correct, next weekend will be dry and a “warm” 50F/10C. Perfect weather for the work we need to do.
Until then I will be spending the week trying to remember how to layer for below freezing morning bike commutes and above freezing rides back home.
- Book: The Language of Trees by Katie Holten. This is a wonderful anthology of pieces from various folks about trees, nature, the environment, and climate change. All the pieces are pretty short; some only a page, others not longer than three or four pages. The real attraction is the tree alphabet that Holten created, a tree of each letter. On the page before each essay is the essay written in “tree.” It is only ever a single page with multi-page essays squished down to fit. It makes for a gorgeous forest and an interesting way of seeing words on page, pages made from trees, in a different way. The tree font is available as a free download too, so you can write in trees yourself. Here is what I wrote above in tree:
- Book: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry. This was recommended to me by my friend Daphne who expected I would love it, and she was right! Charley is a well known Dickens scholar at a university in Wellington, New Zealand. His older brother, Rob, is a lawyer, and has spent his life constantly getting Charley out of trouble. Because Charley is a genius and went to Oxford to study when he was only fourteen, he got bullied a lot as he passed quickly through grade school. He also has a talent that allows him to “summon” fictional characters from books into real life existence. It turns out Charley is not the only summoner in town. But the other summoner is using Charley’s book on Dickens’s criminal London to summon the entirety of that London into existence on top of Wellington, essentially erasing the actual city for the fictional one. Can Rob rescue Charley? Can Charley rescue Wellington? Lots of literary references, lots of Dickens, lots of fun.
- Podcast: Movement Memos: Bizarre and Dangerous Utopian Ideology Has Quietly Taken Hold of Tech World. Longtermism is not a new concept to me, I’ve seen it pop up in many articles about the tech industry. In short (ha!) it emerged from effective altruism and the goal is to influence the happiness and productivity of the greatest number of people possible, which is to say, not the here and now, but the potentially trillions and trillions of people who might exist in the future in space colonies and digital worlds. TESCREAL is an acronym for a bundle of ideologies that feed into longtermism. Coined by Émile P. Torres, philosopher and the person interviewed in this podcast, it stands for Transhumanism, Extropianism, Singluaritarianism, Cosmism, Rationalism, Effective Altruism, and Longtermism.
- Movie: Ready of Not (2019). Melanie assured me it wasn’t really horror, just gory. And she was right! On the night of her wedding to Alex, Grace is made to play a game in order to become part of the family that made their wealth on games. She must simply draw a card from “the box.” Instead of getting a card that said checkers or old maid, she gets hide and seek. This means that if the family finds her before dawn, she is killed as a ritual sacrifice in order to keep the family alive and successful. If she makes it until dawn, she lives, but everyone in the family dies. I knew it was going to be a different sort of movie when one of the first things Grace does is take off her high heeled shoes and rip the long skirt off the bottom of her wedding dress. It was perfect for spooky season and for feeling poorly after getting my COVID vaccination earlier in the day.
- Documentary: The Nettle Dress. I finally got to see this beautiful film. It was streaming online for a short time. The film documents Allan Brown’s seven-year process of harvesting, spinning by hand, weaving, designing, and then sewing by hand a nettle dress. I cried a few times. If you get the chance to see the film, I highly recommend it.
Maybe it’s time to start treating the environmental crisis holistically, as a consequence of the delusion of human supremacy, instead of thinking we can just change individual elements such as the fuel sources we use to power a destructive system which itself is the problem.“What’s Happening?” by Extinction Rebellion in The Language of Trees by Katie Holten
James’s Kitchen Wizardry
Not much wizardry needed for Jerusalem artichokes. Just slice them up, put them in a skillet with a little olive oil, and lightly fry them until soft. Season with salt and pepper.