Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Tree Ogham

As I briefly noted in my last post, I have started a project of creating Ogham Tree cards for KIA to use as a visualisation development tool. The Ogham (the "g" is silent) was an early alphabet used by the druids. Each of the symbols, or fedha, represents one of the sacred trees or shrubs recognised by the druids. There are 20 in all. A chart of the fedha and corresponding trees can be found here. The druids believed that each of the trees contained special healing properties and individual wisdom. The spirit of a given tree was called upon for a variety reasons, everything from fertility to inspiration to clarity.

I have decided to respect this ancient wisdom and pass it along to KIA. Our goal is to introduce KIA to a very earth-centered style of learning. In addition to the silhouette Ogham cards, I also plan to carve the symbols into the corresponding wood for each of the trees (although not all of the trees grow around here so I'm still trying to figure out all of the details). This will be useful to KIA for touch and becoming familiar with each of the trees.

Some may ask why I feel the need to dwell in such ancient "mythology" or teach impractical skills. However, I believe that creating a closer bond with the Earth is exactly what many children lack these days. With the explosion of video game, music devices, cable/satellite TV, and the constant barrage of extracurricular sports and activities, children are drifting away from the magic of our natural world. As a parent, I feel it is my responsibility to teach environmental ethics, species identification, conservation, and an all around love and appreciation for nature. It's definitely a journey that I am willing to take.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

A Day in the Life of Burdock

A few days ago while viewing Stephanie's blog Adventure in the 100 Acre Wood, I noticed an interesting blogging challenge started at Owlhaven. The concept is pretty basic, just share some photos from a typical day you have. Well, me being the challenger that I am, I decided to play along. The day I chose was Sunday, Feb 25th. Below are some of the highlights, if one can call them that. Afterall, my life isn't that exciting, but it's good enough for me.

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A typical Sunday, hardly. I woke up at 4:00 am to do my Sunday rural paper delivery (this job sucks, but it pays a little and I can still collect unemployment until I find something better) and discovered that a snowstorm was in the process. I managed to make it into town, no thanks to the zero visibility on a stretch of HWY 2 by Lake Superior-which they closed soon after. Then I dropped off some movies we rented, and picked up my papers. Then the fun began. The next four hours consisted of cruising the backroads of Northern Wisco on unplowed roads. Luckily the snow was pretty fluffy so driving through it was possible. I can't imagine trying to drive through 8 inches of wet soggy snow. Still, delivery took me about an hour longer than usual. For a reward of a job well done I treated myself at the Black Cat Coffee house for an americano and cinnamon roll.

When I got home I relaxed for a bit, helped out with KIA and took a cat nap around 11:00-1:00. When I awoke I had some cereal for lunch and took the dogs out for a walk around the property. It was lovely out. The snow was still falling, but not at the rate it was earlier. Back at home, the rest of the day consisted of helping out with KIA, birdwatching ( a new bird showed up that I am not quite sure of), keeping the fire stoked, working on my tree vision cards for KIA (more on these in another post), getting dinner ready, and couple minutes of reading.

After a dinner of tuna casserole blueberry muffins, and squash, Moh and I played a game of Carcassonne-my favourite board game, and fed the dogs. Then I spent some time on the computer while KIA was in the swing. After awhile I took KIA in the bedroom for a feeding and fell asleep. What a day.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Warning, Personal Post of Despair

It's been one of those days. No, maybe one of those weeks.

The kind of day where I can't decide whether lounging on the couch reading and daydreaming takes too little or too much effort.

The kind of day where thoughts of motivation from the morning shots of espresso are easily burned-away by visions of discouragement.

The kind of day absent of Grateful Dead, but filled with Leonard Cohen.

Yes, it's late February and everything is desolate. Maybe I can blame my mood on the weather. Or the light. Or the lack of sleep. Or the job market. Or the endless war. But I can't and I won't.

I'm ready to move.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Place To Dwell

Last year I took a Deep Ecology course through the Northwest Earth Institute. At the beginning of the first class the mediator had us describe a place that our spirit would haunt or dwell when we die. It was a great way to introduce ourselves and bring nature into the conversation.

At the time, living in Oregon through the rainy winter, I really missed the snow, ice, and cold of Lake Superior. I decided to select a little-known sandy beach amongst the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. However, reflecting on the question now, I would pick a new location.

Oswald West State Park on the Oregon coast is where I would like my spirit to roam. Why? A few reasons;

*The scenery is breathtaking. Old growth, lovely ocean cove, waterfall, an impressive cape, wooden hiking bridges, tidepools, a small coastal mountain, rocky cliffs...I could go on.

Sorry these pics aren't mine, I found them online. I couldn't dig up any that I took of Oswald West.

*The location has special meaning for Moh and I.

*It's a protected park. No fear of a Condo being placed on my turf.

*There are places to seek solitude, but also places to observe families, surfers, and people enjoying nature (In case I got a bit lonely). I could also use my haunting powers to those inclined to litter or vandalise. Put a little fear of God into 'em.

*Awesome sunsets.

*The rain wouldn't bother me as a spirit.

*I'm sure the other spirits that chose this location would have similar values-kindred spirits.

*Dogs are allowed (not like National Parks).

*Beach fires. What's more comforting than a driftwood fire on the ocean?

*I'm sure there are more reasons, but these are convincing enough.

So, just out of curiosity, if you were posed with the question of Where would our spirit dwell after your death, where would you choose?

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Horror Movie Night

Since the "Nasty Cold" has still been lingering, I have taken up watching movies the past couple of days. One I rented last night was the horror film, no wait, documentary film Jesus Camp.

I saw the trailer online a couple months ago, but the film never made it to our pathetic excuse for a theatre. I was excited to see it already out on DVD. I won't give a movie review or plot summary, just a few of my observations.

First off, holy Crap. I knew there were sects of Evangelism that were very politically active and extremely right-wing, but I had no idea of how their children also played a role in their agenda. There was a scene where they had a pro-life speaker talking to children (as young as six) about abortion. By the end of his visit, he had them praying for GW Bush to appoint righteous judges. They were even chanting "Righteous Judges, Righteous Judges" over and over.

In another scene, on topic with my last post, the leader of the camp, Becky Fischer, mentioned Harry Potter. She went on to say, or shout rather, that "Warlocks are the enemy of God." All of the kids looked pretty freaked out. Of course none of the kids were allowed to read or watch Harry Potter, although one boy happily admitted to watching the movies at his Dad's. It's a good thing Becky didn't hear him. She would have thrown holy water on him or made him repent or something. I guess these are the types of parents we can thank for all of the book banning going on.

There were two ironic things I noticed in the movie. Most obvious was Ted Haggard's appearance in it. He briefly mentioned something against gays. I was also looking for a sort of meth gleam in his eye, but I'm not really trained in that. Of course, shortly after this movie came out, we all know of his fate.

The other irony was less clear. It involved global warming. In the film, there was a scene where a mother was homeschooling her child on creation as fact and evolution as "stupid". She also was saying that global warming is a political issue, similar to evolution I guess. However, not long after filming the movie, many evangelicals came out demanding more be done to fight global warming. I guess the scientists are okay to listen to sometimes.

So, if the Grudge 2 isn't scary enough, check out Jesus Camp. It's good to know there are such level-headed people out there teaching their kids The Truth.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scrotum.......That is All

It's funny how such a funny sounding word can reassure my distrust of both public schools and uptight conservatives. But once again, the book burners are out in force to eliminate the newest Newberry Award Winning book by Susan Patron called The Higher Power of Lucky. All because of the word "scrotum."

Apparently, I haven't read the book yet, the main character Lucky, overheard another character talking about his dog being bitten on the scrotum by a rattlesnake. Then, rather humorously, the author adds “Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much." It kind of does. I have a lot of scrotum right now with this awful cold.

I don't know about you, but referring to a dog's body part using correct anatomical language seems fine to me (she could have used more vulgar slang terms). I mean, I feel so sad when I hear a nine year old refer to her vagina as a pee pee. I also thought it was very fitting for the child character to here such a foreign word and go on to speculate it's meaning. I remember hearing some sexual related words by older kids in school and trying to decipher their meanings in my mind.

I guess these banned books debates are somewhat close to my heart because I've worked at a couple of libraries. The last library I worked at in Oregon  was such an important place for children to gather. They felt comfort and a sense of excitement (especially since the town consisted of little else but a Dairy Mart.) Many kids started out with graphic novels and dvd's, but eventually would pick out books, especially if they had a paper due or if a book got a lot of hype from peers or the media. I believe children should be able to make their own decisions on what they read, but the parents should be mindful. It's not a Librarian's place, or especially another child's parent's place, to insist on what my child is able to pick out at the library.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. I'll be sure to check out copy from my local library. I guess Banned Book Week will also have a new title to add to it's already impressive list.

This topic really bugged me today. Fighting off a cold and going through caffeine withdrawal does not suit me.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bad Cold + No Ski = (Chili)

Well I came down with a nasty chest cold and low grade fever just in time to not be able to ski Book Across the Bay. I've been looking forward to skiing it ever since I realised I was moving back to Northern Wisconsin. It's such a unique skiing event. But venturing out in single digit temperatures to ski 10K across a frozen bay at night probably wouldn't help my cold much.

They used to always serve chili after the race, free for anyone that skied it. To keep with that tradition I made a big batch of my homemade chili accompanied by corn scones. I've been fooling with the recipe for some time, but lately I have been happy with the results. I love the sweetness and bite the beer adds. It's much more satisfying than water or broth.


1/2 lb ground meat (I usually use buffalo, venison, or elk)
12oz Beer (I prefer a dark ale)
24oz chunky tomato sauce
2 green, red, or yellow peppers (diced)
1 small chili pepper (finely chopped)
1 Large carrot (diced)
1 onion (diced)
2-3 stalks of celery (diced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 C beans cooked or canned
1T ground cumin
1t chili powder or even cayenne powder
salt to taste
water or broth to use if a thinner consistency is desired

*Brown the meat in a large pan. For a little extra flavour sprinkle some cumin, salt, and even garlic powder in the meat while cooking it. If using a very low-fat meat a little olive oil helps it to cook nicely. Remove the meat and set aside (refrigerator)

*Add all the vegetables and spices (not the beans) to the pot. Add the beer. Simmer until the vegetables begin to soften, 30 minutes or so. Then add the tomato sauce and simmer awhile longer. If needed add some water or broth.
Adding the beer to the veggies

*When the flavour and texture are near the desired result add the beans and meat. Perfect hearty chili for cold winter nights.

Corn Scones (This recipe is from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home cookbook)

1/2 C butter or margarine
1/2 C milk
2 T brown sugar (I have used maple syrup-just add 2 T less milk)
1/2 C cornmeal
1 1/2 C flour (I mix it up, I found ww pastry with a bit of oat works well)
1/4 t salt
1 t baking powder (heaping seems to work best)
1/4 C currants (I sometimes omit these)

*Preheat oven to 375 F

*Melt butter and add to the milk and brown sugar.

*Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry mixture and stir just until combined.

*On a floured board or countertop, press the dough into an 8" circle about 1/2" thick. Slice the circle into eighths. Separate the wedges and place on an oiled baking sheet or heated baking stone. Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden

Served with a green vegetable, a favourite beverage, corn scones and chili will help me get over my cold in no time. I just wish I could reverse the time so I could make the ski race. Oh well.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Not Much To Say

Today was the member appreciation day at our local food co-op. To celebrate, members get 10% off all purchases. However, because we volunteer 8 hours a month, we received 25% off, instead of our usual 20% discount. We still managed to spend $124 after the discount. Yikes! There are a couple things I shouldn't have bought.

Can you spot the culprits to driving up the bill? Which item cost $30, $20, $10, and $7.

Give up?

The coffee on the far right cost $30. I usually buy the sale coffee, but I sprung for the local expensive roast and bought 3 pounds. Whoops.

The maple syrup on the far left cost $20. I bought it in bulk and it still cost a fortune. It was cheaper in Oregon. This spring I'm making my own so I will no longer be a slave to the maple syrup price fluctuations.

The raw organic almonds in the center cost $10. Next time I'll buy the non-organic. They are a third the cost right now for some reason. In fact, the sliced ones pictured to the right of the whole almonds in the glass jar with the red lid, only cost $5.

The Cedar Grove organic mozzerella cost $7. This one I don't regret. It's the best moz I've ever had-and from Wisco.

So my lesson learned? I really have to set up a grocery budget and keep track of our monthly grocery spending. But I won't give up coffee.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Early Thoughts on the Gospel of Food

I picked up a copy of Barry Glassner's new book The Gospel of Food the other day. With the recent trend of books on food, nutrition, and cooking getting so much attention I was excited that Glassner was tackling the subject. However, being about halfway through the book I am not that impressed. I guess after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, any book written on the subject of food would seem inferior.

But my problem with The Gospel of Food isn't just in the writing style, it's in many of Glassner's implications and conclusions. He also seems to frequently contradict himself.

Glassner starts the book off by accusing Americans, especially scientists, like the American Heart Association, and nutritionists, of succumbing to the "Gospel of Naught-the view that the worth of a meal lies principally in what it lacks." This, he argues, is why we have so many foods that are low in fat, sugar, cholesterol, carbs, additives, etc. I can accept that people often go overboard in declaring things unhealthy because they have too much fat or sugar. Too often foods are deemed unhealthy, like eggs, only to be discovered later that the dangers were over-hyped. I also agree with him that eating a variety of foods is fine. The joy we receive from eating certain foods can be a form of healing. Still, the key is moderation.

But Glassner goes too far when he sticks up for pre-packaged food, Big Food companies, irradiation, and McDonalds while he attacks the "false profits of nutrition". Glassner implies that Big Food is able to serve the public best because it gives the consumers what they want. He fails to mention the social, ethical, and environmental harms the corporations create. He does not research or question the different agricultural processes are more sustainable. He even declares the local/organic movement of not being realistic.

I also got rather bored in his section about restaurants. He writes a lot about the inside job of restaurant critics. He explains how wonderful eating meals prepared by world renown chefs can be, but admits that only the rich and powerful are able to do so. Still he goes on to describe about meals he ate and the chefs that prepared them. You know, I really don't care. I 'll never be rich or powerful and even if I were I probably wouldn't blow the years salary of waitress on such a meal.

So while there are some good things to be said in the Gospel of Food, I must also admit disappointment. My recommendation, for what it's worth, is to pick it up at the library and thumb through it. Or skip it all together and read The Omnivore's Dilemma first.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Colic is Not Cool

Wednesday marks KIA's 6 week mark. So far we have been doing much reflecting on how wonderful the birth experience was. We feel KIA was lucky to be born in such a calm environment free of bright lights, frantic unfamiliar doctors, unnecessary medicines and monitors, and plastic/paper disposable sheets (we filled a bout 1/2 of a small garbage bag of garbage for the whole birth). With such a calm entry into the world, one would think KIA's temperament to also be calm. Well, I guess it doesn't work that way.

The last couple of weeks we have been dealing with some pretty intense periods of colic. She is a very healthy baby. Breastfeeding is going well. We've been avoiding the foods that sometimes make breast milk undesirable. But usually around evening, anywhere from 6pm-2am, KIA becomes a bright-eyed, stiff-limbed, arm flailing, and all around not happy baby. We can usually get her to stop screaming by swaddling her, rocking her, pacing with her, and playing some music, but sleep is not on her agenda. Even if she does doze off, it's usually only for a couple minutes. Then she wakes up with a jerk sending her arms in the air. It's weird.

Yesterday we even surrendered and bought one of those electric swings because constantly rocking her in the rocking chair was becoming too tiring. I never thought that I would buy one of those. I also thought they used to have swings that one cranked to create the power, but the only types we saw were electric or battery operated. The one we purchased even has a moving mobile of little stuffed jungle animals while it plays jungle versions of Lullaby and Goodnight, Greensleeves, and a something that reminds me of a Velvet Underground tune, all played on xylophones and rainsticks. I know it's a bit much, but when one hasn't had a decent nights sleep for weeks, a sense of desperation kicks in. This is her first evening in the swing, and while she seems fairly calm in it, she keeps waking up and crying for a little while. (This post is taking forever to write because I keep trying to comfort her when she wakes).

The other thing that seems to soothe her are car rides. I really don't want to go for a late night cruise, wasting gas and venturing out on desserted highways with below zero temps, but if it saves me my sanity, who knows.

I find it odd that no one really knows what causes colic. I mean, KIA does not seem like she's in pain at all. It almost seems like she's pissed that she's in an infants body. She moves her arms around like she's expecting to have total control of them or something. I also wonder if she's caring some heavy baggage from her past life. Maybe this crazy world just takes some getting used to. Whatever the case, colic is not cool.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Another Roadside Attraction....Minus the Side

Am I demented if I admit to loving the cold? If it were not for the extended winter darkness, I would even consider moving up to Alaska.

Well, with temps reaching below zero (F) for several days now, in fact not going above zero, I guess I feel at ease. The truth is, with such a warm winter thus far, I just wanted to feel as though we were going to have a halfway "normal" season. That and I love driving on the ice.

The Lake Superior bays of Wisconsin are fairly shallow allowing for thick ice accumulation. In fact there is even an ice road, technically a state highway, that connects the small town of Bayfield to the community of La Pointe on Madeline Island. It's maintained with plows and marked by old christmas trees for those windy white-out days. When the water is open, a small ferry runs between the two communities. When the ice begins to thicken so that the ferry can't operate, but not thick enough for the ice road, a windsled carries passengers back and forth. I was just in Bayfield yesterday, and unfortunately the ice road was not open yet. However, with the temps forcasted to remain low, it should be open soon.

The Ice Road Not Yet Open As of 2/08

But the ice road isn't the only place for ice driving. In Ashland I was able to find a path made by ice fisherman venturing out on the lake. The road was made over the public beach I visited earlier this year. It was a great way to get a closer look at the lighthouse on the breakwater I always see from a distance.

I Pulled Over for A Looksee

I Let This Ice Fisherman Go Around Me. Maybe He Knew Where he Was Going.

I drove around for awhile until I came to a large group of ice huts, where the tracks became less apparent. And when I say huts, I mean small heated cabins. Some of these places would be big enough for me to live in. They even have antennaes for their TV's. Quite the fishing experience-dropping your line through the hole in your floor all while sucking down a brewskie and not missing a minute of the game.

So until the ice road opens, my next ice experience will be skiing on it at Book Across the Bay. Happy Winter!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Midwest Roadside Attractions

Who says we don't have culture here in the Midwest? Below is the Leaning Silo of Coleta, built by Illinoians instead of Italians.

Wisconsin gives us an intersection composed by someone from WDOT with a sense of humor.

And finally, a rastafarian's delight- The Bong Museum up here in the Northwoods.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's In The Refrigerator?

Well the thought of taking a photo of my refrigerator seemed innocent at the time I mentioned it on Cheryl's blog Free Range Living. But then she actually followed through with the idea, so here I am showing my unorganised refrigerator (I didn't cheat and try to straighten up or remove items). Oh, and all of those yougurt and cottage cheese containers have leftovers in them-We're not surviving on a dairy diet. I use them in place of tupperware. I also use old bread bags for cheese and vegetables that have been partially used (notice them in the drawer).

I have decided to only choose 2 victims. They are GTR of Raising Frolic and El of Fast Grow The Weeds.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

How Do You Live Without Television?

With the Internet being readily available in so many homes these days, I thought the whole shock of no television in my home would be a thing of the past. Although I seem to meet many people that do not have a television in their home, I still get the "how do you live without television?" question. My come back is simple; "how do you live with it?"

I don't mean to be snobbish or to say that television is evil-well maybe a bit. I admit that there are programs I don't mind watching occasionally and I often stream news clips or comedy clips over the Internet. When I ask "how do you live with it?" I am referring to the hours of time television consumes. Time that is full of advertising and void of interaction. I recently came across some frightening statistics.

*The amount of television that the average American watches per day: 4
*Average time per week that the American child ages 2-17 spends watching television: 19hrs 40 minutes
*Time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5
*Percentage of 4-6 year olds who, when asked would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers: 54

I'm not even going to go into the advertising and over consumption statistics relating to television. That's a whole different topic to explore.

So with so much time being spent watching television, I am puzzled at how people find time to cook, do chores, exercise, work, sleep, go to school or work, shower, read, or even surf the net and blog (my screen media pitfall). People must do some serious multi-tasking.