Friday, February 25, 2011

Goodbye Earl J.Waggedorn

There was a television show in the late sixties called Julia about a single Mom and her adorable son Corey. Corey's best friend was a little red-haired boy named Earl J.Waggedorn who had a habit of using his entire name every time he was introduced. I loved that show and I loved the name. When we got ourselves a male red kitten some 13 years ago….there was no doubt what we would be calling him.

Earl J. grew up to be a big, beautiful, and fairly atypical male cat. He was not at all a wanderer and tho occasionally would get into a tussle with a neighbor cat, fighting was always in defence of his turf. He was naturally good-natured and quite charming but often overlooked in our ever-expanding feline zoo (which is why I had trouble finding a decent photo of him).

Sometime after Brad’s accident at 13, Earl J. attached himself to our oldest son. Never figured out if it was instinctive protection of Brad in his disabled state or just the fact that Brad had his own room away from easy access to other animals. Young Earl, tho tolerant, was not especially enamoured of sharing his digs.

All thru high school and college Brad doted on that cat. Every night before turning in, he would go to the front door and call out his name and Earl J. never failed to respond. Once in the house he would follow Brad to his room, hop into bed, and settle in for the night. If Brad was going to be late, had a game, or spent the night with a friend, he would always call to make sure that Earl J. was taken care of.

When Brad moved to Fresno to attend FSU he smuggled Earl into his no pets apartment and the cat kept him company his first year away from home. When he switched houses the following year, Earl came back to stay with us because of roommate issues .....and he was not happy about it. The sight of that lonely cat sitting at Brad's door (now a newly repainted girls room) quietly crying for him to come home, was slightly pathetic. We were all relieved when Brad decided to commute the second semester of that year, tho not just because of a dejected cat.

About a month ago Earl J. started losing weight. He seemed fine in every other way but was getting skinnier every day. By the time we took him to the vet, he had lost a good deal of muscle tone and his bones were starting to protrude. Told that there was a laundry list of possible culprits, many of which were untreatable, the doctor gave him a shot for pain (which he didn’t seem to be in) and prescribed vitamins, wet food, and ear mite medication. The vet told us that there were a lot of tests he could run or we could take him home and let nature take its course. As much as we loved him, with no guarantee that spending a small fortune would be advantageous in the long run, the decision was made to bring Earl home.

In a week he went from looking sickly to looking like a starving kitten. He lost half his size and could barely move. The night he refused water we knew it wouldn’t be long. Trying to make him as comfortable as possible I set up a blanket on our bed and tho I hardly slept, fretting over whether he would make it through the night, I was glad we had him near us. Through the following morning, and fully realizing that I was a far cry from his beloved Brad (who just last week moved into a drafty cabin up in the mountains…hardly a comfortable place for a sick cat) I tried to offer solace. Though I was never quite sure if I was comforting him or annoying him, I did my best. Each time I walked into our room as I went about my chores, I would pet him, talk to him, and gingerly check to make sure he was still alive. His breathing grew softer and less consistent with each visit. Finally, around noon, he stopped breathing altogether. It seemed a peaceful and painless death and though I will miss him, I’m glad he didn't linger any longer than he did.

So, one week to the day after our visit to the vet, we buried our big red cat in the garden under the dining room window. When my husband asked why that particular spot rather than out in the back, I said I wanted to look out the window and see the stepping stone over his grave and remember him…just a little bit…every day.

I’ve always thought that crying over a cat is something other people do…but I guess today I’m other people.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What do I know of Holy?

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven but I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small, I never feared You at all, no
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes, could I behold You?

What do I know of You who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood but the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury? Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were might to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

What do I know of You who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood but the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury? Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life it's name?
What do I know of holy of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name on earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

What do I know of You who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood but the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury? Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

~Addison Road

Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading ala Us

I may be taking just a wee bit too much pleasure in this whole Dervaes trademark fiasco. But then for us the shine wore off their halos some time ago and frankly, a healthy dose of reality might be just what they needed. Never pays to believe your own press, especially when a lot of it is self-generated.

The short story is that the Dervaes of Pasedena have trademarked several phrases including the widely used term Urban Homestead. While people are willing to concede that things like Path to Freedom and Little Homestead in the City are unique to the Dervaes, they most certainly are not willing to give up a phrase that captures the spirit of an entire movement and has been around for decades before the Dervaes started including it in their press releases.

When the family sent out 16 what they insist are not cease and desist letters (that sounded an awful lot like cease and desist letters) the perverbial crap hit the Facebook fan. Their hubris in insisting that they had used the phrase in a 'new and unique way' and therefore were entitled to protect their intellectual property was followed by a hailstorm of criticism and an entire Facebook page dedicated to Taking Back Urban Homesteading.

And here is where I find myself slightly tickled by their plight. There are those of us who for years have been wary of the Dervaes constant self-promotion and marketing but were hesitant to criticize one of the most recognizable faces of the sustainability movement. Now that the floodgates have opened we find ourselves in very good company and able to finally express our misgivings. It seems obvious to us all that the emperor has no clothes….and never did.

Though their website shares their adventures in growing most of their own food, running a household with minimal energy, making biodiesel from used cooking oil, and keeping chickens and goats, it is not the first to do so and it is hardly unique. The main difference as far as I can tell between their website and others is the appalling lack of helpful instruction. They have become so enamored of their image that touting how amazing they are has taken precedence over sharing any kind of meaningful information.

But even I am surprised by how poorly they have handled the fall-out from their initial misstep. Playing the victim, shutting down their Facebook pages and closing comments on their website has only served to make them look surly and childish. They’ve gone so far as to accuse their detractors of harassing and threatening them (without proof). To paint everyone who had a complaint with the same broad stroke is unconscionable. Many who felt they deserved an explanation for their actions were huge supporters of the family and it’s endeavours. Was it fair to lump them all into a mob of unruly, ignorant, thugs? Me thinks thou does protest too much.

If you are truly being abused (seriously?) how about using comment moderation to weed out the nutcases and allow for a civil discussion with your readership. Slamming the door in our faces doesn’t exactly help your cause…and it’s not a good business move. All those nice folks who buy your seeds and donate to your website will likely take their money elsewhere now that they’ve seen how poorly you play with others.

The Urban Homestead community is a big one, and as it turns out an articulate and intelligent one at that. This diverse group of individuals has become a force to be reckoned with because of the Dervaes blunder. What could have divided a community has actually helped to bind it more solidly. The Facebook page Take back Urban Homesteading is close to 4000 likes as I write this. Not since Monsanto did....anything.... has a community rallied behind a cause with such fervor. I think I love these people.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What is Work?

Note to a friend~

When you tell me that I “need to get a job” you are saying that what I do has no value. That if I’m not bringing home a paycheck, I have no value. The implication is that I have 8 extra hours a day in which to do something productive. That the hours I spend gardening and canning and cooking and baking bread are obviously wasted ....frivolous. And dear friend, it hurts that you think so little of what I’ve chosen to spend my life doing.

24 years ago, the decision was made for me to stay home and raise our children. We were fortunate that Steve’s job as a teacher paid well enough for us to have that option. Though we lived without some of the luxuries that others take for granted we have never regretted that choice. As the kids have grown up and I’m needed less for child care we’ve made the decision to live a more self-sustainable lifestyle and my time is now spent pursuing that goal…and so far, no regrets there either.

I'm not sure why you think it's acceptable to judge my lifestyle choices since they don't involve dealing drugs or prostitution (and now that I mention it....those are jobs). I would never presume to tell you that you need to quit your job and stay home to take care of your family; I would appreciate the same consideration from you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Good Stuff with Lemons

Since I still had Meyer lemons left from our haul (and since I can't ship them to mamaraby in exchange for snow;) I decided to try a few recipes from a blog post I found recently.

Zest in Vodka will become Limoncello....eventually. Ours is currently in a dark place awaiting the addition of simple syrup...see you in 2 weeks.

After juicing the zested lemons (and freezing the juice in ice cube trays for later use) I chopped the remaining pith, put it in a large pot and covered it with 10 cups of water.

Cooked for about 2 hours....covered.

Strain out cooked pith (supposed to use cheesecloth, but I...ahem...didn't quite read the directions thoroughly) and you have homemade pectin!

Then you can do this nifty test to see if the pectin is viable...pour a bit of rubbing alcohol into a glass or bowl and drop a spoonful of the pectin into it. After a few seconds , it should jell into a mass solid and cohesive enough to pick up with the tines of a fork. If the pectin droops off the tines (which I think mine is doing) the jam will jell loosely (so add a bit more?).

I think straining it thru the cheesecloth would have captured a bit more of the sediment that has settled in the bottom of the jars...but my jams are not clear anyway and I never make jelly.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Just a few pics....

... of the zoo.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Because I don't want to post it Twice....

...if you are interested in our seed-starting setup check out this post on our other blog.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bread Making...

....and the quest for the perfect 'crumb'. I've been baking almost all of our bread for the past several years and though my sandwich-type loaf is fine, I'm still not completely satisfied with the artisan country bread that we enjoy so much. I want to bake the kind of bread that is the perfect compliment to a steaming bowl of homemade soup or a big plate of spaghetti....crusty and chewy and tasty. The kind of bread that I...ahem...used to buy from Panera.

The bread should have bigger holes and a chewier texture....something that can handle a big slather of butter. I've tried the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day techniques but didn't really like the results or the fact that it takes up alot of space in the fridge.

I did find a recipe in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book that looks promising ...takes 2 days to prepare but I'm willing to give it a shot. And I also broke down and ordered a sourdough starter (mine always ended up tasting sour in a bad mouth-puckering way) so maybe that will be a key to the mystical ever-elusive perfect loaf.
One can only hope. be continued.