Everything about everything

I’m a religious person, a Christian to be specific. I’m not a Bible-thumping Baptist or a sacrament seeking Catholic, but I believe in the Bible as a holy text and Jesus Christ as my God.

I don’t pray as much as I’d like to, and think I need to read the book that I try to live by more often. I believe that everything that is good in my life is a gift from God, and even some of the trials and tribulations come from him.

All that to try and explain my commitment to sustainable agriculture, and more broadly, an attraction to conservationism. The Earth isn’t ours. It’s a gift that was entrusted to us, and we have done an absolutely horrendous job caring for it. We destroy the landscape with little regard for the impact it will have, we mutate the animals so they are no longer animals, but biological machines.

I try to do my part to avoid participating in this culture of abuse. I drive as little as possible, I try to buy responsibly, and I attempt to be informed. It doesn’t always work, but I feel better knowing that at least I’m making an attempt.

That is why I’m going to be renting a small slice of land (30 ft square) to do some gardening this summer. I know, this doesn’t tie into the broader view of treating the land as an organism, but at least I’ll know what went into my vegetables and the ground in which they were raised. I’m excited and a little intimidated by this project. I’ve always helped my dad and mom with their garden, but this will be my first. I plan some simple crops: tomatoes, potatoes, snap beans, lima beans, beets, greens, sweet corn and herbs. I figure some of that will have to translate into edible food. I’ll keep you updated on how this goes, pictures and all.

I have to add that this isn’t my idea. I was inspired by Patrick Yeagle. Hopefully he’ll start blogging about his garden and we can compare note, or maybe he could be a guest blogger here, we’ll see. If anyone else is doing something similar, let me know in the comments section.

ALSO: Check this out, a cool concept for bringing the community together.

So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations. A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to be able to do everything. I don’t know if that is a case of attention deficit. It might be. If there is a deficit in my attention, can I correct it by raising taxes on other brain functions?

But I want to be able to grow my own food, I want to be able to knit myself a sweater, I want to be able to distill my own whiskey and I want to be able to build my own house.

This desire to be self-reliant comes for several sources. The first is family. My father and his father are/were both very do-it-yourselfers. My grandfather more so, but still, I’d see something get broken in the house and my dad would fix it. The majority of his Saturdays are spent on projects around the house: turning a small room into a walk-in closet, painting the entire upstairs, hanging dry wall are just some of his recent projects.

Then there’s my mom. She uses her share of canned veggies and other processed food, but she also makes granola and cinnamon rolls. She makes great rolls from scratch, and her homemade apple pie is my favorite desert, bar none.

So I’ve been steeped in a sense of self-reliance for a while.

And being able to do more things myself just seems like a good idea. I like people, but if I can change my oil, then why pay someone to do it? They might not always be there, I will. I wish more people would follow suit. I’m not saying everyone should start homesteads. But what’s wrong with more people growing their own food, or mending their own jeans? When we are responsible for things like that, we realize how much work goes into modern life. Hopeful, we also realize that the prices at Wal-Mart and other box stores are artificially depressed, only to be passed on to others further down the food chain.

I don’t like mascots. There is something inherently disturbing about them. Ultimately, I think it is the lack of eye contact. To me, mascots are just like that weird uncle everyone has. When you’re young, they are cool, suave and funny. They are people that make you laugh and you are always happy to see them. They gave you their attention while the rest of the family denied your existence. But there is a line in the sand that everyone eventually crosses. Once you step over it, your vision of your uncle changes. You realize that his actions aren’t funny, or fun, they are just creepy. The reason he was always interested in you … and I just realized my fly is down. Is there any way to correct this situation without drawing attention to my crotch? I don’t really thing so. oh well … was because they were a bit perverted. Luckily, you noticed it, especially in the eyes, and could adjust accordingly.

You can’t do that with mascots. Who knows where they are looking. Plus they are always invading your personal space, hugging you. And it’s like, do I know you? Did I say you could hug me? No. Back up before I knock that phony head off of you. I’ll punch a mascot and feel good about it.

…and her name is New Orleans.

I’ve never been abused by authority, but I’ve seen authority abused. That was going to be the theme for this post, but I couldn’t get much beyond that.

So I will take this opportunity to tell you why I like the banjo, fiddle, spirituals and field hollers. It’s because the songs produced by those instrument and in that genre are raw. They are one of the purest forms of human expression. I associate them with people who are surviving, and not much else. It’s hard not to have some empathy for the performers, even though that seems to be the last thing they want.

I connect with these melancholic tunes more than anything else. Listening to recordings from John and Ruby Lomax’s 1939 recordings from the south, I can see the dirt under the peoples fingernails, which are at the end of callused hands that only know hard labor. The voices are soaked with pain and suffering, but also of a hope for the future. A hope that the next life will be better, or that the next generation might find a way out. It’s this depressed optimism that I find so attractive.

It’s hard to put up a front when you don’t have much beyond the a low-paying job and a few family members. It’s nice to not have to decide if what I’m listening to is true or not, especially after days and weeks and months of doing that for a living.

This is the kind of hyperbole that I love and hate. “Is soda the new tobacco?” It’s an article in what I consider the pinnacle of daily newspapers, the NY Times. It also seems like a headline fit for Fox News, the nadir of journalism.

Oh well, it’s written by a columnist, and there are disclaimers saying that no, soda is not as addictive as nicotine. And it won’t give you lung cancer (but maybe some other cancers, especially if you drink the stuff with substitute sweeteners.) But it will make you fat, which is just as dangerous to your health.*

*This claim has no scientific backing and is not endorsed by the Federal Drug Administration.

I think the majority of people know that, just like they know smoking is bad for you. But like smoking, our ape brains can’t say no to those boosts in feel good chemicals. Nothing new here. What leaped off the page at me, and what scares me more than anything is this sentence:

The problem is that at roughly 50 gallons per person per year, our consumption of soda, not to mention other sugar-sweetened beverages, is far from moderate, and appears to be an important factor in the rise in childhood obesity.

Fifty Gallons!? Fifty Gallons?! Okay, that’s only 1.5 cans of soda a day, per person. The problem, however, is there are plenty of people, myself and the majority of my friends included, don’t drink any soda. So whoever is drinking the stuff is consuming way more than 1.5 cans.*

*This is all anecdotal, but probably true.**

** There’s no way to know if that is true.***

***Okay, there is, but I don’t have the time or money to do it, so, whatever.

Part of me thinks the idea of a another tax on something like this is unconstitutional, or at least not in the spirit of America. Then again, it seems people are too stupid to do what is good for them, and a nation is only healthy when its populous is healthy.

Just as  disturbing as the previous quote.

sugared beverages are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet, representing 7 percent of the average person’s caloric intake, according to government surveys, and up to 10 percent for children and teenagers

I could go off on a localism rant here, if you have to produce soda, or rely on your neighbor, you are going to be drinking a lot less than 1.5 cans a day, but I won’t because I’ve got a lunch date.

No one likes the preacher except for the congregation. Even some of them aren’t thrilled by his message. They’re the ones in the back who fall asleep once the sermon begins. I hope my observations and critiques haven’t become sanctimonious or banal for the congregation. If anyone likes to doze off during the sermon, waking only to the sound of other members of the flock laughing, well, we have no need for your counterfeit faith. Only the true believers need to read on. By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Me too.

At its root, the sermon I’m talking about is the call to localism, sustainable agriculture, a total revamp of this consumer culture that corrupts so many. But I’d rather not put a label on it. Once you give something a name it is subject to abuse and misrepresentation.

The idea though, speaking in broad terms, is a return to a community we have traded for convenience of freeways, email and cheap food. Not that any of these are inherently bad, but they’ve been taken to an extreme that shows a complete lack of respect for nature, of which humans are a part. I guess it’s easy to separate ourselves from nature. We don’t see where our food is raised. Barely any of us get our milk from a cow we own or eggs from the hen house out back. Those things are just products for our consumption. We don’t see the piles of melting electronics children dig through for precious metals, the whole time inhaling toxic chemicals.

All of this comes from a disconnect. Who cares if we blow the tops off mountains to get to a thin seam of coal to fire power plants to enrich uranium to make bombs intended to whip unGodly numbers of people from the earth with the push of a button. Not my problem. It produces jobs. Hooray! Twenty more jobs for one generation, nuclear winter for six generations! Genius! Plus, you know, a war helps the economy, so really, we should be thankful we can screw mountains with the dick of capitalism before its impotent.

It doesn’t matter that “[a]dult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension are elevated as a function of county-level coal production, as are rates of mortality; lung cancer; and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease. Health problems are for women and men, so effects are not simply a result of direct occupational exposure of predominantly male coal miners.” (1)

Lung cancer, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease. Everyone wins! Health insurance companies can charge more for their policies, doctors will certainly be kept in business prescribing medicines from big pharmaceutical. Coal miners and their families die quickly, and so there are more jobs for everyone, from the high school graduate to the college educated! That’s not mentioning that mountain raping destroys watersheds nature has carved over millions of years. So hydrological engineers will certainly have job security trying to rebuild those masterpieces.

“Stream creation typically involves building channels with morphologies similar to unaffected streams; however, because they are on or near valley fills [the place where the mining companies dump the decapitated heads of the mountains], the surrounding topography, vegetation, soils, hydrology, and water chemistry are fundamentally altered from the premining state. U.S. rules have considered stream creation a valid form of mitigation while acknowledging the lack of science documenting its efficacy.”(1)

At the risk of sounding banal, it’s all very Faustian. No one loves consumerism more than Lucifer. There’s a rumor that he’s about to dump America, for a hotter, younger China. I’m not sure about that though, you can never really believe what you read on a geocities Web site.

And where does this stem from, a lack of connection to nature, a lack of  community with the Earth. I don’t even know if I should a lack of connection to nature, because people automatically, and incorrectly assume a dichotomy between nature and humanity. News flash, humans are part of nature, subject to its laws.

How would community correct this error? If I depend on my farmer neighbor for food, and she on me for repair of his machines, I would be a lot less likely to dump toxic metals in the stream she uses to water her oxen.

Fortunately I am not the only one with this attitude, and it seems these sentiment is growing. There is a growing contingency, especially in my generation, that isn’t satisfied with eating factor farmed chickens or buying products whose production is harmful to nature. I mentioned Maverick Farms yesterday. Today’s group of choice is “The Greenhorns.” It is a non-profit who is working on promoting farming to the younger generations. Something desperately needed when only about .001 percent of the US population are farmers under 35. I’m not saying being a farmer automatically makes you a promoter of community or the idea of localism, but it is a step in the right direction after a long sprint the other way.

I doubt if there exist today a more complete regimentation of the human mind than that accomplished by our … dream of sudden economic affluence. The saving grace of democracy is that we fastened this yoke upon our own necks, and we can cast it off when we want to, without severing the neck – Aldo Leopold

(1) Palmer, et al, Mountaintop Mining Consequences.

As of late, my post here have been fairly negative. I’m sure that speaks volumes about me. But I’m just a reaction to the culture that surrounds me. As constant commenter Patrick said over brunch recently, you can blame everything on society.

I’m not trying to blame anyone (looking at you society) for the anger, some might call it indignation, of the past post. I think it’s justified. Now for some levity.

The biggest challenge for me in the morning, remembering to grab a towel from the closet. It happened to me today. After a great, hot shower, I slid open the door to the tub and I’m faced with a cold, naked shuffle down the hall to get a towel. I’m sure it is a sight to see, and subsequently laugh at.

Also on a positive note, my injuries are slowly but surely healing! Hoorah! Now I just have to control my compulsion to dive full speed back into my exercise routine.

Word of the day silviculture. An imaginary prize will be given to the first person to post the correct definition in the comments section. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in my imagination later today.