yellow and gold maple trees against a blue sky
You can see the pipe on the sidewalk along with the pretty leaves before the wind and rain

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

A bundle of cut nettles laying on a wooden deck
fresh-cut nettles

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:
The text of the previous paragraph about the Language of Trees written in the tree font
  • 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
a bowl of Jerusalem artichokes

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.

Related Posts

19 thoughts on “Infuriatingly Wasteful

  1. The Parry book sounds like fun, and the Holten Tree book sounds great. Love that tree font.

    The water pipe project. What can you say, except, yes, it’s infuriating.

    Longtermism. Love it. I had heard the term but not read much about it. I was interested to hear that it includes “Effective Altruism” because for a few years now we include a group called Effective Altruism Australia in our giving strategy. (Peter Singer is or was behind it.) I love that they do the work of researching where one’s money is most effective. It was mostly humanitarian because that’s been Singer’s strong bent. In fact, I remember a few years ago (maybe it was more than a few!) he grudgingly accepted contributing to climate change/environmental causes as valid altruism, but it seems he has changed his mind – as he should. You can’t really help people if they/we are not here. (Here is their new program: Just FYI.)

    1. The tree font makes the book Whispering Gums.

      I do believe your effective altruism group is very different from the the other kind of effective altruism. Your group sounds like it it trying to make sure the organizations you donate to are doing the work they promise. But the problematic sort is, “a philosophical and social movement that advocates “using evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible, and taking action on that basis.” It sounds innocent enough, but when it is wrapped up with longtermism, it’s about helping people who don’t even exist yet at the expense of people who currently do.

  2. I’m so glad you liked Ready or Not! Did you laugh at any part? The druggie sister cracks me up, as well as her husband, who is always basically petting her to calm her down. I’m of the opinion that Samara Weaving, the lead, should be in every horror movie. She had the BEST scream, and even though she’s gorgeous, she’s oddly relatable. If you liked Ready or Not, check out Weaving in The Babysitter. Also funny/gory.

    1. I laughed it many parts of Ready or Not Melanie! The druggie sister was a hoot and that she kept accidentally killing the hired help. And then the end with the family getting their punishment! Weaving was really good. I very much enjoyed her performance. I watched the trailer for The Babysitter and it looks pretty funny. I added it to my watch list. Thanks!

  3. I’m left speechless by the mishandling of the water pipe project. I bet the blithering idiot James talked to sees no problem with AI using scare water resources either. You must have tempted to use the freshly-cut nettles on him. (The idiot, not James.) Great to hear that you were able to see the whole of ‘The Nettle Dress’ after all, and letting nature do the retting for you seems like an excellent plan. I recently added the Parry book to my TBR so am very pleased to get your thumbs up on it!

    1. Not surprisingly, there’s quite a few folks who see no problem with AI using scarce water resources. I imagine it’s not even something they think about.

      I hope you like the Parry book! Let me know what you think when you get to it. I know this might be a long time from now, but still! 🙂

    1. Thanks Laila! Oh yes, try some sunchokes for yourself! Just know that if they are happy, they spread like nobody’s business. But then you don’t feel bad about digging them up and eating them 🙂

  4. Oh that kind of situation is very aggravating indeed on so many levels. Did you share your post on social media and tag the relevant individuals in government or departments at least?

    The Nettle Dress sounds amazing. It’s been awhile since I watched something like that. Earlier this year I finally got around to watching Chernobyl which was amazing; I think back to it so often that it surprises me every time it comes back into my mind, the way the characters have come to roost in my mind, representing the experiences of thousands of people whose stories remain largely untold.

    1. I didn’t;t share my post Marcie, but we have expressed our displeasure about the situation and government being government, doesn’t really care. Sigh.

      The Nettle Dress is an amazing film and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to see it. I have not seen Chernobyl. I will add that to my watch list.

  5. The artichokes look a bit like seashells!
    That is infuriating about the water. I just plugged in the heater for my hermit crab aquarium this evening. All of us tropical creatures are unhappy about the turn the weather is taking.

    1. Oh Jeanne, now that you mention it they do look a bit like seashells! I love that you have a hermit crab! I’m afraid it’s about time for all the tropical folk to hunker down and endure as best they can.

  6. Public Works always is baffling. Never had pipes laid out on the sidewalk, but there is a stretch of road, connecting Barre & Montpelier, that has been torn up three times since the flood. It’s like they can’t decide if they like the way it looks… “Maybe it really wants to manifest a turn lane here. Whadd’ya think?”…

    I’ve been meaning to find Parry’s Shadow Histories books for the last many months. Got a near command to read them from Son#2 and never made the time. So, now I have those two and the Uriah Heep book on order from Thriftbooks. After a truly miserable weekend, I count that as $20 well spent. Psychological intervention, maybe. Not quite Harry Potter in the blanket cave but pretty close.

    1. It’s good to know public works operated pretty much the same wherever you are!

      Have fun binging on Parry’s books. Be sure to let me know what you think of Shadow Histories as I’m curious 🙂

  7. I’m so sorry, about the water waste. Can I wish you a Happy Artichoke Harvest to counter?

    PoW! loved the “P” letter. On POINT. Working on my reply this week.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: