Month: May 2015

A Message of Activism

“If we don’t change our direction, we’re going to wind up where we’re headed”

-Native American Saying

I had the extreme pleasure of attending a lecture given by Starhawk last week.  I decided that her message was too important to keep to myself, so here are the salient points that I came away with…

The decisions we make in the next ten years will determine the future of the human species and the earth.  Culture forgets that our resources are sacred.  We need to start caring about Earth’s resources more than our own comfort.  We need to care enough to refuse watching it be defiled.  We need to care enough that we will make sacrifices in order to maintain clean water.

It is a problem when power is in the hands of few people.  Centralized power likes centralized power.  Why does centralized power require enforcement?  Because in its very nature, it’s calling for rebellion.  We can’t ‘solve’ climate change because of the vested interest in oil.  The Tar Sands raise a deep moral question.  How do we take care of the earth?  A million Litres of water a polluted EVERY DAY in the extraction of oil from Tar Sands, 95% of which cannot be treated.  The first are showing signs of tumors and cancer.  What we need is a shift in consciousness, spirit and values in order to make change.  We need interdependence and cooperation.

“What would it be like if we replaced scarcity thinking with the goal of creating as much real abundance as possible?”

-Courney White, Grass, Soil, Hope

Abundance means sharing and everyone having enough.  Abundance is found through generosity.  We need to create safe, renewable power within ourselves to regenerate the land.  We need to rehydrate the earth – water brings life.  Slow it, spread it, sink it.  Drought represents many levels of difficult relationships.  Put humus (carbon) back in the soil to regain humility.  Heal the soil by using compost, compost tea, sheet mulching, worms, bio-char, fungi/mycellium, growing intentionally selected plants and working for survival.  Look to holistic management practices for grazing animals according to patterns of wild herds to regenerate soil quickly by restoring carbon.

We don’t need outer solutions, what we need to do is work in harmony.  Here she cited the example of a company looking to invent a device to take carbon dioxide out of the air, balking at this unnecessary business venture, since nature and plants have the best possible systems to serve this need, ones we couldn’t dream of replicating, let alone improve on.  What we need to do is stop taking resources out of our planet in order to preserve the pristine while doing all we can to put carbon back into the soil.  We are responsible for giving back, not just taking.

We need to be considering the destruction of our environment as a moral issue.  Then value moral issues above economic issues.  We need to take care of each other.  Our money should be going to support the elderly, educating the young and taking care of the sick.  Wealth distribution is not stable or sustainable.  Localize and regenerate the cities by growing food near them.  How many times the dollar changes hands before it leaves the community is the determining factor for how much buying local is actually supporting the local economy.  Shopping at your local chain store serves no inherit benefit.  We need to shift our view away from large systems.  The message isn’t less, it’s conservation. Save energy.

Let’s look at how to improve the quality of our lives so we require less quantity.  Transition towns.  Community gardens.  Community on every level is the antidote to climate change.  We need to organize in order to create change.  Lobby.  Campaign.  Use media.  Build coalitions.  Resist and protest.  Say no to policy, not to the people behind it.  It is for a noble cause that we separate the people from the choices they make.  Build leverage, but out of love rather than hatred.  Build our future for the land, nature, and our children.  We need to do all of this yesterday – but since we can’t, we need to do it today!

Stages of an activist campaign: research, educate (children and officials), negotiate (policies and legislation), mobilize, direct action, and transformation!  She left us to ponder the question,”What are you producing that feeds the land?”

Children’s Crafts as Natural Building

I confess to shopping at the dollar store on occasion, usually to purchase craft supplies for my children.  But recently while sitting at my computer scrolling my way through Facebook’s skewed representation of the lives of other people, I  came across an article about crafts you can make from items purchased at the dollar store.  I recently read an article which aptly reflected my feeling about doing prescribed crafting with my children.  I had already been thinking about the exorbitant number of craft supplies I have on hand for my children to use, but the dollar store craft list exacerbated the impact of this fact for me.  Why am I using dollar store products at all?  The chemicals found in these products are toxic.  They cost way more than a dollar.

Buying from the dollar store generates more stuff.  Crafting is busy work, a distraction from ‘boredom.’   But boredom is a choice.  Quelling that choice with consumerist, capitalist and unethical  craft is only teaching children that shiny new throw away items are the key to happiness.  Not only that but that in order to achieve success, certain things must be purchased and assembled ‘just so’ in order to produce the perfect mechanized product.  Consumerism is at the root of our definitions of beauty being bound to mechanized perfection rather than natural grace.

I have told myself the story that ‘I’m just paying less for the same thing I’d buy elsewhere when I shop at the dollar store.’  Which unfortunately is true in many cases.  But I need to stop shopping there.  And by this I am not suggesting that I shift to buying it elsewhere.  What I mean is that I need to start considering the items purchased, and examine my actual needs.

A closer look at the crafting ideas offered in the article offered insight into how we are lured into a consumerist though pattern when the joy is still there without it.  When I simplify what is available to my children, they come up with their own creative Ideas.  By shifting my perspective only slightly, the list of items constructed out of cheap substandard materials becomes an interesting challenge.  An example from the article was to create a hula-hoop tent to hang from a tree.  Why is the hula hoop necessary?  Why do I need the internet to suggest this activity when my children often make tents out of sheets and don’t need special equipment to make that happen?  Why not use sticks?  Why not just enjoy the shade of the tree?  Another suggestion was to use cut pool noodles and dowels to construct a croquet game.  This one was too much!  Cutting up giant pieces of foam that no one will want to use in the pool afterward in order to stick them in the ground to kick a ball through just seems ridiculous!  How did we get so far removed from Earth’s resources?  Yes, the game sounds fun, but could chair legs work?  Or sticks poked into the ground?  If I got really involved I could paint the sticks too!  Wouldn’t it be so much better to use craft materials found in nature?  Or at the very least my closets, barn, and second hand shops?  Wouldn’t I be encouraging the budding natural builders in my children by only providing natural building materials?  To draw a parallel to our diet, I don’t offer processed food or sugary items, so why would I offer pom poms and stickers to make art?  I have learned through my own artistic journey that re-framing items made in China as art does not leave me feeling satisfied as an artist.  Keeping the materials simple allows for more open ended creativity.

Recently, I attended another trading post.  This time I wanted the children to have something to trade.  We made a fishing game after searching Pinterest for a good idea.  Talk about a consumerist glut!  After selecting something I thought the children could be involved in, I had them choose the papers from my stash of stuff hoarded away from my scrap-booking days, trace the fish and help to put paperclips on the fish, I realized something terrible.  We were making dollar store crafts!  The fishing stick – dollar store dowel.  The string – dollar store.  The magnet – you guessed it!  Could I have used old fridge magnets found at the thrift store?  Sticks from our felled tree?  Twine from used bales of straw?  Would it not have been just as much fun, and perhaps more beautiful?

The spiral of learning can be frustrating, as I watch myself participate in something I don’t want to be doing as I edge in small slow solutions toward more natural building.

Offensively Defensive

I started using the phrase ‘offensively defensive’  to describe some of my interactions with other people.  I’m describing the times where I feel like I may be under scrutiny for not living up to societal expectations.  I have fallen into the trap of trying to be defensive of my choices and the state of my life by ‘heading comments off at the pass’ if you will, so that I can make an excuse for something before someone has a chance to pass judgement.  Playing offense with defensive tactics.  In reality I’m being offensive to myself because of my defensiveness.  All this strategy does is opens a conversation that never needed to happen in the first place.  It is so rare for people to actually be disturbed enough by something I’m doing to make a comment.  Being unnecessarily explanatory for inadequacies also makes me appear insecure about what it is that I’m defending.  Looking in on myself, I see a disconnect in how I’m presenting myself to the world.  I carefully wind my way through life, checking my integrity at every pass.  So why am I coming to my own defense before it is called for?  If I were as confident as I think I am in my choices, then there should be no need to defend them.

I have so many examples of times where I use this strategy.  The easiest to spot are when people come over.  I feel the need to excuse the state of my house.  Rather than just letting it be what it is (cluttered because I spend time with my children and writing and reading instead of tidying).  I make excuses for the dishes near the sink or the mountain of clean but yet to be folded laundry.  Rather than allowing the energy to remain clear, it draws attention and my own negative energies to these misgivings, and measures them up as such by my own admission. Other examples include our food choices.  Rather than just stating facts (I don’t eat…) I feel the need to justify everything.  Unless a reason is asked for, people don’t really care.  And it’s not like I explain myself well in these situations, I usually give a partial answer, the one I think people want to hear.  Rather than clarifying things, it’s more like voluntarily putting myself into a fight or flight situation, one which only makes the issue more convoluted!

So…why do I do this to myself?

Because I feel there is some sort of standard that I should be living up to – but there is none, because we are not machines, we are not all alike, and we all have our own priorities.  Because I feel that I am being judged unfairly – but I cannot know that since I am only anticipating and projecting judgments, ones conjured in my own mind and thus a reflection of myself.  Because I feel like I should be better at something than I am – which I don’t need to be, I am what I am, I am enough.

So then, what instead?  I’d like to stop offending myself now.  Could I accept that people may judge my home, me, my children?  Could I accept that their judgement is not mine?  Could I exercise some self-compassion?  Could I choose to be happy?  Grateful for how I do spend my time?  Lose the fear?  Love?  Love it all?  I choose that.  And if I can’t be that yet, I’ll fake it until I can.

The Forest Garden Convergence is SOON!

I am really starting to get excited for this year’s Forest Garden Convergence!  The planning phase is over, now we’re putting things together for what promises to be an amazing and inspirational day.  I’m looking forward to learning from others and having the opportunity to meet some like-minded people.

A few highlights for the day include:

  • Expert panels, discussions and networking
  • All ages activities for the whole family – what a great way to introduce children to food forests and permaculture!
  • Catering by The Root Cellar Organic Cafe (don’t forget to place your order on our website at least a week before the convergence to avoid disappointment).
  • A Drum Circle in the evening, facilitated by Sheila Horrel. Bring your own drum, or borrow one!

If you haven’t registered yet, or would like more information, head over to the forest garden guild website by clicking here!

Hosta and Asparagus Tofu

Spring is here!  Which also means that foraging dinner from our yard has begun.  Our asparagus is up and delicious when it makes it inside the house. It is often consumed as a fresh snack, so it never sees the kitchen!  Our hostas have also started poking their spears up through the ground.  When tightly coiled, they can be cooked and eaten.  Once they leaf out, they get rather tough and chewy.  My cooking at this time of year is inspired by what I find just outside the door.  For this stir fry I used some butter to fry the tofu, added in the asparagus once it started to brown.  Just before serving I added the hosta spears until the leaves wilted.  I served it over some quinoa with a splash of Braggs.  Verdict: delicious!

Should Children Do Chores?

I was having a conversation with a friend last weekend about how to get our children to help us with chores.  We were questioning how to balance the workload of mothering with giving the children all they need besides a tidy home.  I wish I could accomplish everything myself with ease, then this would not even need to be a problem!  It would be nice for the laundry to be folded and put away, the dishes to be done, the floor swept after each meal, the counters cleared and wiped, the clutter filed, the toys picked up and sorted..oh…should I stop the wishlist?  I fully recognize that there are many more important things than a clean house, which is why I usually have dishes scattered about the kitchen and unfolded laundry piled in the corner.

What I have noticed though is that when I let my chores slide a little too far, when the laundry piles creep out into our living space, or the kitchen is so bad that I have no work spaces left to prepare food, then the rest of the household starts to unravel as well.  This goes for both its general state of cleanliness and the attitudes of the people living here.  As I discussed in a previous post about the broken window theory, there is a certain amount of maintenance that is our baseline.  Without that, things seem to spiral out of alignment quickly.  I function best when things are reasonably tidy.  I’m not sure this is as important to the children, but regardless, when my bristles get up about the disarray of our living space, I inadvertently pass on my frustration to the children – no matter how much I think I’m being calm and in control of myself about it!

So how can I maintain the level of cleanliness that I need to function properly without forcing my ideals onto my children?  Trying to ‘make them’ clean up is an ineffective strategy anyway – it inevitably becomes a power struggle and justly so.  Whenever I feel I should do something, it usually creates resistance or at best an anxious feeling of malcontent.  Insisting children should keep the house in a certain way is sourced from my own set of values I’m imposing on my children.  While I understand that my role as a mother is ultimately to instill values in my children, I also have to take pause to question just how much more of me they really need!

On the other hand,  I do need their cooperation since I can’t do everything for everyone.  This is not in anyone’s best interest.  I need to feel supported and not taken advantage of.  I need to feel that we are functioning as a community.  I need to protect my own sanity.  So I must set limits for myself.  Clear, healthy limits of what I can accept and not accept.  But setting limits for myself does not mean that I should to impose them onto someone else.

Then there is also my desire for them to learn how to do chores.  I want their autonomy to include the ability to do whatever task they need to with confidence because they have been shown how.  Ultimately I wish for them to find joy in the work.  The idea is to plant the seeds of how a tidy house feels and tend them, in hopes that they will grow a family who also is compelled to join in the work too. I will often ask questions before and after cleaning to raise awareness in my children about the look and feel of the space.  They are often surprised by how their mood is lifted when we tidy up.  Like my recent post called Perceptions of Work, it is when I am able to approach the work with a joyously open heart that it becomes a desirable activity for all of us.

So what exactly does a balance look like?  I see it as the coming together of when I am able to get the help I need (however limited) to feel supported and get the work done and the children are not begrudgingly carrying out tasks I demand them to complete.  Perhaps a first step to achieve balance is to look at my own expectations…what is it that I really need to get done?  What things do I think I need to get done because of feeling judged or scrutinized for it.  My house will not be perfect because I have three little souls growing inside these walls.  Gardening humans is messy business.  I often use the strategy of saying something like, ‘I cannot do this until that is done.’  They will sometimes pitch in to help me, because they want to get to the next thing.  But sometimes not.  In my reading about attachment parenting and RIE, I often come across the reassuring statements that children want to do what we’re doing.  As humans we want to fit into our society.  So as soon as conflict and the energy bound up in a power struggle are gone, suddenly the possibility to work together arises.  When the children have enough autonomy to feel they are choosing to participate, things work much better.  This is what cooperation is.  When I can stop clinging to old ideals and control, new potentials open up.  I question what possibilities for enjoyment of chores and work am I cutting off because of the language I’m using – both for myself and my children.  What difficulties am I creating in my relationship with my children because I am expecting them to perform a certain way?  How do I balance the needs of myself, the household and my children?

So what am I left with in my toolbox then if I don’t enforce their participation?  I want to integrate, not segregate.  I know that establishing rhythm and leading by example works.  So how do I weave these pieces together to find something that works?

Out of necessity due to a small entryway, we have a rhythm to entering our house.  I installed hooks at the children’s height and gave each child a cubbyhole for their shoes/boots and another for accessories (hats, mitts, splash pants, etc.)  They are expected to put away their things before entering the home.  They do.  I do.  It’s just what we do.  So how do I transfer this to the whole house?  I find this question to overwhelm me quickly.  I have observed that if I let up on my rhythms for a day or two, suddenly everything seems to erupt.  I think that having a house wide tidy up, A quick five minute overhaul of the floors and surfaces to clear the debris, just before mealtimes could work nicely.  I’ve tried this before, but haven’t been regular with it.  The key for the children is predictability.  The key for me is to not expect or enforce participation.  If I take the attitude that tidying is what is being done at that time and that dinner will be served when the work is done, I don’t think it will take too long to become ‘normal.’  Building this into our regular routine would help it to just be part of what we do.

Growing

How the plants make it look so effortless.  They push with ease thought thick soil and rocks, heavy and compacted from winter’s weighty presence.  Foliage pronounces itself just by being.  There are no grand ceremonies for their change.  They come and fill their full potential just by awakening to the world above the earth.  Not only do they willingly embrace their life’s purpose, but they do so with unabashed determination.  Growing through and around obstacles, they stretch toward the sun.

Trees are not slowed by man made blockades but grow to embrace them instead.  They get to see all four seasons above ground awaken and grow year after year.  They don’t stop to question the process or resist for reasoms of personal overwhelm.  Somehow they call upon their invisible stores of energy to change again, grow again, blossom again, and leaf out again.  How I wish change of self could come so freely.  So naturally.