Tour de Coop

This weekend the Boy and I headed out by bike to participate in the Tour de Coop, a tour of local backyard chickens and the people who keep them. I was surprised to discover that there are other folks in my neighborhood who keep chickens! Based on the reaction of my immediate neighbors, you would think I was the only person on the planet keeping poultry in my back yard.

I went, partly, in search of ideas for improvements to my hen house. Although I am very proud of the open and spacious chicken yard I created for the girls, I have been feeling like a more secure and insulated hen house would help the chickens feel safe when the neighborhood gets rowdy (like 4th of July) as well as keeping them more protected from the elements (so that the egg laying might be more reliable). The tour included everything from very basic coops, to straw bale hen houses. The coop in the photo is not mine, but I sure like it. I got a lot of great ideas for improvements, and also got the advice, from several of the folks, that Ester wont be happy on her own. Chickens are very social and intelligent critters, and the consensus on the tour was that we should get her a new friend, now that Ruby is gone.

The Boy and I are also trying to hatch duck eggs in an incubator. We choose duck eggs for a number of reasons, roosters are not allowed in the city, so we had no access to local fertile chicken eggs, and I have had ducks in the past and really enjoyed them. I am not convinced that ducks will take the place of a fellow chicken for Ester, but I do know that they are amazing at eradicating slugs, produce great organic fertilizer, and wonderful eggs. This is our second attempt this summer to hatch eggs, the first batch got over heated during the heat wave, now that things have cooled off a bit we are hoping for better results.


Making Art, Friends, and Ends-Meet

When I am not saving the world, attending classes, nurturing the garden or raising the most amazing boy in the world, I create art. This week I spent Tuesday and Wednesday exhibiting and selling my work at a prominent annual art show. It was amazingly wonderful event.

Cracked Pots, the group who put on the show, is a group of local artists (including myself) who work with recycled and reclaimed materials to create garden art. Everything at the show contained at least 90% recycled or reclaimed material, in some cases the recycled content is pieced together to create mosaics or bird houses, in other cases reclaimed glass or metal is melted down to create something new. For this years event I created hummingbird feeders from antique bottles and wire reclaimed from old power cords. It is so inspiring. In addition to being very inspiering, it was an all to rare opportunity for me to socialize with grown up kindred spirits.

I had hoped to sell enough to buy the Bike Blender outfit, a feat that would have required a small miracle. I didnt make that much, but still did far better than I had expected too (hope and expectation: not the same thing), enough to cover the cost of being there, buy groceries,and even pay some bills. Not as exciting as buying a bike blender, and yet there is something uniquely satisfying about paying bills with money earned from art. It sure beats starving, no honor in starving, and we were about out of everything, including cash, before I went to the show.

I also had one of the most satifying barter experiences I think I have ever had. Another artist and I had been admiering eachothers work, we had this whole mutual admeration society thing going, so at the end of the show, I sidled over and asked if there might be the possibility of a trade: she was so delightfully excited, it was just wonderful. For me, there is no higher complement than having another artist want to give me their art in exchange for mine. It just doesnt get any better than that for me. And it was so clear that both she and I were going to cherish and prize eachothers work. That is how I got my new garden trug, fashoned from reclaimed wood, beautifully crafted by the hands of an artist. I have been wanting something proper with which to gather my gardens bounty, and now I have it


Havin a Heat Wave, a Topical Heat Wave . . .

It has been freakishly hot here the past week or so, seems like every day we break another heat record: yesterday we not only broke the record for high day time temperature, but had the all time highest low temperature, for over night. It has never cooled off less over night, than it has lately. I am melting. People in the Cascadia bioregion are not adapted to extreme heat (which, for us, is anything over about 75 Fahrenheit degrees). Rain and sleet and dark of night, we can handle. Cold gray winters without end, we have an abundance of experience with. Just this past winter, an Oregon family survived about a week trapped in a snow storm, I think it was last winter that a kid got lost in the woods during a day hike, was out over night when the temperatures dipped below zero, without any food or bedding, and just hiked out on his own the next day. He was fine. Cold we can take, but we just loose it in the heat, especially when it doesn't cool off at night

One good thing about the heat: my Heirloom tomatoes have started coming in! It has been a challenging year for gardening in the Pacific Northwest, we had a couple of freak, late season frosts --well after the last frost date-- that took out a lot of the Romas, and then the monsoons came, followed by this heat wave. But the heirlooms have been living up to their reputation for hardiness and longevity. The tomatoes and peppers are ripening up, the potatoes are ripe, and the parsnips are close behind, the chickens got the first crop of beets, but the next crop is coming in well, and the corn plants are maturing beautifully!

The Boy and I are planning to use the tomatoes and peppers to make pasta sauce, anyone have any favorite spegettie sauce recipies??

Meanwhile, I have invented a wonderful recipe of my own, in honor of the heat: Coffee Floats! I have been brewing the coffee early, before the house heats up, pouring it into a mason jar and adding the appropriate amount of sugar, then cooling it in the fridge. I pour this over ice and add a large dollop of ice cream and it makes me feel much better about the heat. While I am melting.


In The Absence of The Boy

Years ago, I had a friend who was a single mom, and her duaghter spent a fair amount of time at the dad's house. Although I was sure that there were downsides to time-sharing one's kid, there was this small part of me that was just a litlle jelouse. Jelouse of the breaks, the "time-off" from all that mom's do. My son was a challenging baby, for a number of reasons, not the least of which being his health issues, and I never got a break. I was a full time, full-on mom from day one. I felt like it was all on me, long befor the Boy's father walked out on us. So, there was this part of me that imagined that one small upside of divorce would be shared custody: regularly scheduled child-free time. 2 years on, I am still not used to The Boy spending weekends away. I dont believe I will ever be used to it. My heart breaks every time. Every. Single. Time. Theres nothing to be done about it, no way around it, but there it is.

Jane Goodall & The Mavrick Aunt

It is a strange and delicate thing, being both someone's child and someone's parent. There are things I understand only because of these duel roles, like the fact that no matter how old I get I will always be my mothers “baby”. But knowing this does not always do as much good as I would like.

There are people who can move between these two roles with grace and dignity, I am not one one them. My relationship with my parents in rocky and fraught with complications, including the fact that they own the house I am living in. It is a long, strange story how this all came about; suffice it to say, if had it been a straight-up proposition to be a tenant in a house owned by my parents, I would have turned it down in a heartbeat. But life is rarely so simple as that.

It may be true that I will always be their baby, I am not the heir they had in mind: The tone my parents use in talking about “cob building” is equivalent to the one I use when discussing “toxic waste” or the "Third Riche"; they look at Nature Scaping as an excuse to neglect ones duty to the community ( a perfectly manicured lawn, saturated in chemicals and pollutants, is part of one's duties: otherwise known as “keeping up with the Jone's”). We just have very divergent perspectives.

My mother imagines, inexplicably, the I would be happier living in a condo. Cant you all just see me in a condo? Ester, I suppose, would live on the balcony? But of course, in this fantasy my mother has of who I am, there is no Ester, just as there is no garden. In this fantasy I have a corner office, and a seemingly endless collection of suits and “leisure ware” that mask any indication of individuality or creativity I might ever have had. And if, parish the thought, I were to insist on this ridiculous notion of being an Art Therapist (never an artist mind you) then I would be one of those therapists who charges $400 per season, so that I can afford that condo, and the corner office, and the seemingly endless collection of imported suits and “leisure were” that mask any indication of individuality or creativity I might ever have had. The Boy would attend some over-priced private school, and my bike would live in the dark resese of a closet, and rarely if ever be ridden, because in my fast pasted, chaotic life I would never find the time (think Mellissa Etheridge's “American Girl”) I am not that girl.

So, my parents have been here most of the past week to “help” with the yard. They seem to believe that I need a great deal of help in a great many areas of my life. yeah. In addition to my failures in landscaping and lifestyle, my parenting skills are apparently also lacking.
The Boy is an amazing kid, and I am not the only one who thinks so. Bachelor curmudgeons known for their intolerance for children have stopped me to tell me how remarkable he is. Brilliant moms who I hold in high regard have asked my advice on parenting, and even hired me to care for their kids. People tell me I am a good mom. The Boy tells me I am a good mom. Sometimes I even believe them.

But all these voices combined do not hold the weight of my parent's thinly veiled disapproval. My parents self described parenting style was “Benevolent Dictatorship”. I never wanted to be a dictator, benevolent or otherwise. My psychology studies and participation in Compassionate Communication workshops have combined and percolated into a parenting style that more closely resembles a worker-collective than a dictatorship; or perhaps it resembles lenient, liberal, indulgent, minimally sufficient parenting deeply lacking in structure, discipline and limit setting, depending on one's perspective.

Jane Goodall has myriad stories of her lenient, liberal, indulgent mother who nurtured and encouraged her. I think I could do worse than having the next Jane Goodall as my offspring. For that matter, I have one aunt (who married into the family) who was just enough of a maverick to insist on raising her with an egalitarian, attachment parent approach. At family gatherings, when The Others would descend on her with 'helpful observations' about how she should lay down the law with her kids a bit more, not let them try to negotiate with her about The Rules. She would calmly defend her approach, explaining --in part--that she believed that encouraging her kids to participate in decision making not only improved the odds of them adhering to the family rules, but also gave them life skills. Negotiating is a life skill, as is working with others and problem-solving together. Her kids grew up to be amazing. Really amazing. The other kids in the family, raised in their respective dictatorships, grew up and rebelled. They became drop outs, teen parents, and arrant thieves. So there you go.

It doesn't help that I am feeling very judged and under siege, from all sides, at the moment. In an effort to make co-parenting go more smoothly, I am in mediation with the Boy's father. There I get to hear how I “failed” to sufficiently prostrate myself to his friends and family, that I was hostile, unyielding, on the offensive, and (wait for it) that I am responsible for his less than fully satisfying relationship with his grown son & step-daughter from his previous marriage. He had 18 years, before I showed up, to get those relationships right, and 2 years since he left the Boy and I, to smooth any ruffled feathers. The fact that I know, intellectually, that his relationship with his grown kids is between he and they, does not make the aligation any less painful. I can not imagine a worse thing to be accused of than alianation of affection between parent and child. No matter how wrong-headed or obtuse the charge may be, I feel like it is the most hurtful thing The Boy's father could ever have said to me. ever –I who value family above all else.

I wonder who he will blame for the rifts in his relationship with The Boy?

Anyway, it feels like it's just me (and perhaps the Maverick Aunt) against the world. Come to think of it, I like our odds.


Ride of the Bike Smoothie

Got a chance to try out being a Pedal Powered Smoothie Peddaler, as part of a fundraiser for a Free Geek. It was a borrowed bike blendar, not the set up I would have, given my drothers, but that said, I learned a lot, had a lot of fun and helped raise money for a very good cause. Most folks peddaled their own smoothies, and had a hoot doing it. The geeks hooked up a meter that allowed folks to see how much power they were generating as they pedaled --there was a bit of friendly competition between several guys: top number 303 watts --go Martin!!
(thats not me in the photo, just so ya know)


five things

I have been cought in the "5 Things" ring, here goes

5 Things…..
In my fridge:
Several variations on the theme of pasta left overs (The Boy's one and only food group)
Rice milk
an absence of eggs, Ester is still in mourning
greens from the garden
a growing collections of sauces, dressings and other "topping" (a dozen or so, so far) perchased in the hope that they would make greens from the garden palatable for an 11 year old Boy

In my Backpack:
Package of stinging nettle seeds
a copy of 'How Would A PAtriot Act?' by Glenn Greenwald
Burts Bees lipsticks in Fig and Latte
My new favorite travel mug (from by Marshal Coffee Peoples) for java on the go without the packaging
Herbal preperation for the "twing" in my leg I got in Yoga class
DVDs that I forgot to return to Movie Maddness (again oy vey) [titles "Yes Men" and "Do I love You?"

In my Armoir:
Big red umbrella The Boy and I bought when we first went car-free and found ourselves cought in a monsoon
Organizational devices, still in their original packaging, waiting for me to have the time and energy to set them up and get organized.
Box of stuff that has been waiting to go to Good WIll for a couple months now
A flannel shirt, not my own, that I can not bare to ware or give away (reminds me of that play "The Wool Gathers")

In my car?! yeah right In My Bike Buckets
Bike tools
Maps (several times I have had the delight of meeting tourests who were looking for one location or the other, who I was able to help because of these maps. What a treat, that never happens when you are driving!)
Books from the library, ready to be returned (on time no less!)
Bungie cords, for strapping stuff onto the wrack or on top of the bike buckets
Duck tape (dont leave home without it)


Mama on the Market

One might have thought that it would have occurred to me sooner, I mean, the Boy and I have been on our own for over 2 years now; but it has only just recently dawned on me that I am single, and perhaps ought to get out there and mingle –- I'm tellin you right now people, it's hasn't been pretty.

Prior to this fledgling single status, I had been “off the market” for almost 2 decades, and so have been away from the whole courtship dance, dating ritual stuff for nearly 20 years, and am woefully out of practice (Frankly, even way back when, I wasn't very good at it) So now, all these years later, rusty and road weary, I have been trying to read the signals and do the dance, and,due to my romantic illiteracy, I feel like I have been making a royal mess of things.

Several times now I thought there might be something brewing in the romance department, each time it has ended somewhere on the continuum between failure and disaster: here are but a few of the less embarrassing examples:

Shortly after the separation, in an effort to fill the weekends that The Boy was away, I began frequenting a local coffee shop. There was this one Batista who worked there on Sundays, when the place was nearly dead, who would come out and sit in the overstuffed chair next to the sofa I was camping on, and read the Sunday paper. There was nothing overtly sexual, but plentyl of under current. The Batista would share funny comic strips or interesting news items from the paper, and always seemed very interested in anything going on in my life. The atmosphere between us was charged, and yet at the same time it was very sweet and comfortable.
Then one day I said the wrong thing at the wrong moment, the whole atmosphere thing shifted, and the Batista suddenly had work to attend to. After that the Batista remained polite and professional, but our days of sharing lazy Sunday afternoons together are behind us.

Then there was the long time friend, who I had had a crush on while I wasn't available, who was suddenly more on-hand and solicitous once I was single. In retrospect, I feel like I can pinpoint the moment when it was on the precipous of becoming a romance, when we could have made that turn in the road. But I didn't see it at the time, or didn't realize that it would be my one shot. In any event, our wires got crossed, and so we remain buddies. Thoroughly, disappointingly, platonic buddies.

And then, more recently, there was the dear friend who I was dead sure was flirting with me: the friend whom I was nearly certain was waging a campaign for a shared future together --half the time. I don't know if I was reading the signals wrong or what, but half the time it seemed that I was being courted, that this vulnerable and tender soul was reaching out to me, and half the time it seemed like our friendship was simply blossoming in a friendly way. For a number of reasons (good reasons, damn it) I was reluctant to take the plunge and say somethin like “you and me, babe, how about it?”. Then, in a moment of temporary insanity, I kinda did --in a thoroughly embarrassing, awkward and ill advised way. I think I came on too strong, and now it is utterly and completely and in every way OVER.

It was at about that time that The Gardener started dating the teenage Intern, and, it should come as no surprise to anyone (though, apparently, it was a shocking revelation for the Gardener), that it rocked the Boy to his core. The Boy had been completely unaware of the near misses in my sudo-love life, and like any kid, he had been holding onto the dream that his parents would eventually get back together. I don't think the Intern is in it for the long haul, but there is something about this tryst that has put the the Boy and I on notice that the landscape of our lives has been significantly and irreversibly changed.

The emotional fall out for my son of one his parents dating had me convinced that the best course of action would be for me to live a monastic life, at least until the Boy moved out and had a life of his own . . . at which point I would be pushing 50. It seemed like a really good plan at the time, and maybe it is. But it is also a bit impractical

The whole monastic thing was lookin pretty good: uncomplicated, straight forward, conducive to completing my degree and maintaining my calm. A perfectly plausable path. Leave it to a chocolatier to break through my defenses and get me thinking amorous thoughts again. I ask you, who could resist a purveyor of hand-dipped vegan truffles?! And on top of it all, we have in common that we are both recovering from the demise of longterm relationships! The problem is, I am still a rank armature at this whole courtship thing. I think I have been flirting with the chocolatier, but who knows? Maybe I am just making polite conversation, maybe the chocolatier has been dropping hints and sending signals that I, in my infanent daftness, have simply missed. All I know for sure is that I have spent an inordinate amount of time and money loitering there, and don't feel like I have gotten a meaningful response, either way. I worry about being perceived either as a stalker or a glutton. sigh.

Perhaps I should draw on my activist back ground and try a banner drop to express my amore, or I could chain myself to the chocolatier's booth at the Farmers Market . . . then again, maybe not.

So I just don't know, the trail of failure and spectacular disasters left in my wake suggests to me that I am just no good at this romance stuff; Neither The Boy nor I needs more heart ache, and yet . . . I mean, theres chocolate involved: thats one hell of a powerful incentive --and not the only incentive, or even the most compelling one.
I wonder if theres some kind of “Flirting for Dummies” or 12 Step Program for the Dating Challenged that I could join?


A Bevey of Blogs

I have been coming across cool new blogs faster than I can link to them! I am also swamped here at the moment with too many commitments (I am sooooo talented when it comes to over-commiting!) SO heres some good reading while I'm away.

although not really about sustainability or cycling, An Accident of Hope is a delicious, honest, and wonderful chronicle that illustrates just how universal love, parenting and relationship issues are, regardless of the context. You dont have to be a mama or part of a 'non-traditional family' to appreicate her insights --if you are anything like me you may find youself cringing at how close to home some of her epiphanies hit!
Perhaps because parenting is feeling like a real challenge right now, I was delighted to discover The Crazy Hip Mamas Web Ring, great stuff!

Oil Is For Sissies is brillient and insightful --and also includes plenty of other cycling and peak oil links

see ya all when (if) I dig myself out from under all this


Cycles of Life, Growth and Death in the Garden

At long last things are begining to ripen in the garden, although much of it in miniature! I dont know if is the chaotic, often freakishly hot weather we have been having, or something to do with the soil, or what, but I have the cutest little sweet peppers you ever did see. Nearly ripe and only slightly larger than golf balls! The first of the tomatoes (I have about a dozen different varieties, that mature at different rates) are coming in, only slightly larger than the peppers, and then there are the adorable and diminutive carrots and parsnips. I think I will make myself a cute little salad this weekend to celebrate!

We lost Ruby over the Fourth of July holiday, chickens just arnt built for that kind of excitment. Now Easter is wandering the chicken yard looking lost and sad. I had a professor once who was convinced that animals felt no "real" pain, physical or emotional, and that it was wrong to "anthropomorphize" them. He was a sad little man. Anyone who has shared any meaningful relationship with animals will recognize that they experience both physical and emotional distress, in much the same way, for the same reasons, and quite possibly to an even greater depth than we do: I dont imagine that animals make value judgments about how they "should" feel, or what is "appropriate" to feel, as we humans do. They just feel it. Ester misses Ruby terribly, as do I.

In part because because we are now down to one chicken, and in part becuase we are in a bit of a homeschooling rut, we picked up an egg incubator yesturday, into which we plan to put some furtile duck eggs next week! (we have to get the gizmo all set up and calibrated before eggs can go in) I think it will be a cool summer science project, and hopfully it will help pull of us out of the rut we have both been in.

At first, I was seeing it as an educational rut, and a reflection of a "bad attitude" on The Boy's part. All of which may be true. But as I was discribing the issues to a friend, I realized that the behaviors I was discribing sounded a lot like depession. My son and I both got counseling after his father left, and I guess I had been thinking "well, thats behind us now, time to move on!" This is where animals have the advantage, they dont think about wether it is time to "get over it". I think maybe that the Boy and I may still mourning our losses, and struggling with the transitions. So, perhaps a little change in the routine will help breath new life into our new life --and who can be sad with baby ducklings around! (yeah, I know, doubtless more work than that to be done). We will keep you posted, photos to follow.

Thanks to zilla for the amzingly cool phases of the moon display in my side bar! I will be putting notes below it on what to plant and harvest in accordence with the current moon phase, if you are playing along at home. I would love to hear from folks if they notice any diffences when they plant according to the lunar rhythems.


Tech Support, Please!

So, much as I love this free blog-osphere resource, I find their customer service somewhat lacking, so I turn to you, the wonderful bloging communiuty. Heres what I need

For all the time I have had this blog, my list of favorite books on my profile has not appeare online. It comes up when I go to edit my profile, I filled in my lengthy list of books I love, but it doesnt show up when one views my profile. Any thoughts?

I have been having a problem adding links on the sidebar, they keep appearing with bullets, which I wish they would not, and the deviders between catagories have a tendency to disappear. What do I do?

I would love any input you all might have


Score One For Mom!

Part of the adventure of parenting is that, just about the time you are convinced that you are the worst parent in the world and that you have done every possible thing wrong and ruined them for life, they do something to show you that you haven't done half bad.

Due to a series of glitches (3 flat rear tires in rapid succession, etc.) we have been busing more than biking the past few weeks; we finally got the bike up and running again and discovered that I have gone soft in the mean time. I was sure the hills were going to kill me (literally). But there in the stoker seat was my boy, peddling like hell and cheering me on all at once. I would have pulled over and walked for at least half of those hills, but for that angel on the rear seat, screaming "come one missy, cars are for wimps!" "how we gonna bike to Mount Hood for that camping trip if you give up now? We gotta get some legs on you, woman!!" (I had not realized that we were planning to bike there, I thought we taking a Flex Car, but . . . ok). We made it over every hill and dale, and had some great laughs doing it.

Of course, this isn't out of character for him, he is a GREAT kid, and I would have been pleased and proud under any circumstances --who wouldn't want their own cheering section on steep hills. But heres the thing, I am embarrassed to admit that I had,up until this weekend, fallen into the trap of competing with that @#%*& Intern.

Epiphany Number One: I am not a sweet, perky drop-dead gorgeous, painfully skinny teenager, I do not have my finger on the pulse of the latest trendy trends or nifty games, and I am not on top of the latest in youth culture. Try as I might, I can not compete on those terms. And because she is perky and fun and does have her finger on the pulse of all that is hip and cool in youth culture, dates his father, and gives him expensive consumer products that I would never get him in a million years, he worships her. He wants to spend all his time hanging with her and his dad, during this all too brief summer vacation when I don't have classes and want to be doing fun things with my son before he is all grown up and dating teenage girls himself. Even when he is here in the house, he is not really here, he is lost in that damn game that damn wench gave him. grrr.

So, because I am human, and because I want to have a close, wonderful relationship with my kid while he is still a kid, (and despite the fact that I am a Child & Family Studies Major and know better) I had been trying to compete. Bad plan, utterly doomed to failure. It all ended in an ugly meltdown last night. yeah. This is why mommies should be mommies, why people should be their authentic, phenomenal selves and not try to be teenie-boppers. That is Epiphany Number 2. He and I had the best day today, we have a lot of great times together, being exactly who we are.

Epiphany Number 3 is that these wonderful children with whom we share our lives, will have relationships with other people. Their own relationships on their own terms. They do not do this to hurt us, or because we have ghastly, unforgivable failings. Their friends will have charms of their own, just as we do, and so long as these friends are not Charles Manson or Jeffery Dommer or Catherine Tramell, it might be best to let them, or at least not try to fill their all too fashionable shoes. We are who we are meant to be,the only question is “what are you going to do with your one wild life” you irreplaceable you?

As I write this, The Boy comes over throws his arms wide and says, in one of his wonderful, comic voices, "hug me!!" Ballancing my lap top on my lap, I open one arm, to which he scowls "Move the computer, I want to REALLY hug you!" As he nestles into my arms he coos "I love you sooo much" There are times when I think that everything I know about love I learned from my son.

Now, I am going to return to our evening of wrestling, whiptopping covered confections, and watching anime. Cuz, in addition to my many other charms, I actually am a pretty hip mama --and I know how to have fun that teeny-boppers cant even imagine.