Friday, May 28, 2010

Green Dreams

Green Dream # 6 Front yard veggie patch.

Green Dream # 7 Re-purpose household items (ie. found this old curtain from our last house, hiding in the bottom of the linen closet, and it fits our front door; better yet, it replaces the lace curtain that has been there since we moved in SEVEN YEARS ago, which never ever felt like ours.)

Green Dream # 8 Wash, dry and re-use plastic bags. We haven't bought new for years. When these run out, I am considering making/buying cloth bags instead. One question: for freezing food, especially liquid food, what would replace the plastic bag?

Green Dream # 9 Reusable mugs and water bottles. Milk in glass containers.

Green Dream # 10 Cloth wipes. We haven't gone the no-toilet-paper route, however (as per No Impact Man). The used cloths are stored in a diaper stuff sack, (a welcome re-purposing that marks the end of our cloth diapering days). I launder them every other day.

Green Dream # 11 I just wanna ride my bicycle.
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This morning the house is Friday Quiet. Ah. I actually sighed while typing that last sentence--a good sigh, a cleansing sigh, as one might put it in yoga practice. I am drinking my ginger-garlic cold fighting brew, because apparently spring ain't sprung without a touch of the ague. CJ caught it first, and I coughed all night long. Would I choose to set my internal alarm clock for 5:40am, or would I skip early morning yoga? My alarm went off (it's inside my head; I set it when I'm falling off to sleep by picturing the numbers on the clock--the time at which I'd like to wake; and it almost never fails me). Turns out, I wanted that time for myself; how could I sleep through it? I couldn't. I leapt out of bed.
Guess what? I've been biking to morning yoga. It takes less time than travelling by car, at least on the way there, because it's downhill and there's little traffic. Coming home takes more effort and attention (focus, blissed-out yoga brain, focus!), but I don't lose more than a few minutes in the commute. I am riding Kevin's old mountain bike, and the front-riding baby seat is perfect for stowing my bag; but I'm coveting a more upright ride that would fit my body better. Add it to the (short) list of Things I Covet.
(Also add: fire pit for the backyard).
:::
As I tinker with a slight re-design for this blog, I've changed "Eco-Attempts" to the friendlier and more optimistic "Green Dreams." Riding bike is going on the list. I fully intend for that to be our family's main summer transportation. My only concern is that the roads are not terribly safe for cyclists. Apparently a bike trailer was recently struck in the north part of the city, resulting in a broken arm for a small child; and the driver fled the scene.
Our cities are designed around cars. As Michael Enright put it, in a recent editorial on The Sunday Edition (a three-hour radio show that airs on CBC Radio One): There is no war on cars; the war was won ages ago, and we already know the victor: the car. The Walrus recently ran a fascinating article on green cities in Europe (Chris Turner's "The New Grand Tour"), and the author's description of cycling around Copenhagen on rented bicycles, one of which included a double seat on the front into which two children could be strapped ... well, count this reader as pretty darn envious. He and his family cycled the city on lanes exclusively designated for bike traffic; they never felt safer.
In our city, we have a few paths on which only cyclists and pedestrians can travel, but the paths are broken by busy streets, across which one must dash without any marked crossing or traffic signals. I frequently let the kids bike on the sidewalk, and wrestle with biking on the sidewalk myself, considering that I'm pulling two vulnerable children behind me in a carrier.
I spend a lot of time coaching my children on how to be smart and safe pedestrians: no, it's not fair, but even if a car is doing the wrong thing (ie. running a stop sign, or not giving the right-of-way to the pedestrian at a crossing, or swooping around a right-hand turn without checking for pedestrian traffic), the walker has to let the car do what it's doing. Because in human versus car, car wins, human loses.
I wonder whether that's an apt description of the peculiar lives we've built on the altar of car. Car wins, humans lose. Think of everything we sacrifice in order to propel ourselves inside our own individual motorized compartments. Think of the oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico, right now. Consider the air we breathe. Remember what it feels like to walk and talk, to exercise, and meet our neighbours, and take time. Cars give us convenience, without question. There are jobs that could not be done without cars (ie. midwife). But a lot of us don't really need to use cars, not as often as we do, or think we do.
In thinking about my Green Dreams, I recognize that many of these choices and changes demand time. Hanging laundry to dry every day does take more time than throwing it into the drier--not a great deal more, but a bit. So does washing the dishes by hand. Baking my own bread. I'm still trying to figure out how to make snacks more convenient without falling prey to the ease of the prepackaged treat, grabbed as I dash a pack of hungry grumpy children to piano lessons. All of this extra labour would cut into my productivity, if I were employed at a regular job. But part of where I'm headed, I think, is viewing this home-based production as valuable on a number of levels. It doesn't fit into the stock market. It doesn't work comfortably with capitalism, but I've got a few problems with capitalism anyway; nothing in nature grows indefinitely, and it seems like madness to base a businesses' success on eternal growth: it's a recipe for corruption.
This work is valuable because it keeps me humble. It's valuable because it's my offering to the earth. It's a small and humble offering, but so be it. I would like to offer my time--because I have it, and I'm grateful for that gift--to living creatively. Anyone who's ever made anything knows that there is a great deal of invisible work behind what's created. There is the original vision, changed and altered and made deeper by reflection and time, there is work, there is error and recognition of error, and incorporation of error, too, and there is luck, happenstance, improvisation. There are bursts of production and activity, and lulls of wondering, daydreaming, even doubt. There is sacrifice. You have to figure out if it's worth it to you--figure out what you're sacrificing, and why you want to.
Mostly, though, you just do it: you do the work you've chosen to do.

15 comments:

  1. Couple of thoughts. I like Green Dreams. A lot.

    I freeze liquidy things in yogurt tubs.

    I bike on sidewalks when I don't feel safe on the road. There seems to be a growing antagonism toward bikes these days. I too applaud the European cities that embrace cyclists. When I was in Italy last year, I loved that it was older people of all ages, shapes and sizes who got around that way.

    Happy quiet!

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  2. Hooray for biking! Yesterday, J and I biked to City Cafe for lunch and I saw a glimpse of a future with an entirely mobile family - we can go pretty much anywhere now!

    If I am alone, I never bike on the sidewalk. When I'm with the kids, I do not hesitate to use the sidewalks at all - they are still too little and react far too slowly for them to be safe on the street. Sue's right, though. There is no respect for cyclists out there. Mind you, I have seen some extremely irresponsible cyclists, too. We all have to treat each other with respect on the road. Which I have to keep reminding myself when I'm yelling at a driver who burns a stop sign because there were no cars coming but who completely failed to notice the pedestrians at the corner...

    I use plastic containers to freeze liquid things (stock, mostly). Yeah, they're still plastic, but they last a long time, provided you don't drop them when they're frozen (ask me how I know).

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  3. I'm not bothered by plastic--by storing foods in plastic containers, though who knows, maybe I should be.

    Does J bike on his own without training wheels?? Fooey's freedom on two wheels is still a summer away, I think. I look forward to that freedom. And to some fun bike trips, too.

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  4. i love GREEN DREAMS...what a hopeful sentiment.

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  5. He does! He just started in April. It's wonderful!

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  6. I freeze liquid in either old yogurt containers (though those are rarer in our house because we started making it almost a year ago) or in mason jars. Works quite well.

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  7. Right! Mason jars! I do use those to freeze maple syrup. They work really well. I'd bet they'd be good for stock too.

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  8. I am imagining glass breaking ... have never tried it. Though years ago I did store a bottle of vodka in the freezer ... :)
    Thanks for the tips.
    Now, anyone have more ideas for easy homemade snacks?

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  9. The glass shouldn't break unless you drop it. Which, if you're clumsy like me is a definite possibility.

    As for snacks, whatever I have already baked works well. Apples (whole). Bananas. Pretzels (put in a plastic container from the bigger bag - though I guess that's what you're trying to avoid, right?) Clementines work well (as long as you're not averse to bringing home the peels). Raisins (and/or other dried fruit) and nuts mixed together (again, in a small plastic container - you could pre-mix in a larger container and just throw some in a littler container on your way out the door. If you're feeling generous, you can throw some chocolate chips in too, though they tend to get picked out first...)

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  10. Do you worry about taking nuts out to public places? Maybe I'm over-cautious about that. Because nuts and dried fruit would be an awesome take-along snack. (esp with a few choc chips mixed in!)

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  11. Not unless it's explicitely posted that I shouldn't. I know plenty of people with life-threatening allergies to other things too. Though I am careful that the nuts don't get spread around and that hands are washed after.

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  12. I have had a few jars break, but that's only because I've filled them too much. Leave enough room for expansion and you should be fine.

    As for snacks, I'm not so good with the homemade stuff--either it's crackers (store-bought, although I've seen some recipes for home made) with some sort of dried fruit (usually cranberries), fresh fruit, or home made cookies. Our life isn't as busy as yours yet, so we haven't had to face this much!

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  13. I'm late at getting back to this. I do try not to bring nuts to public places, but you could add sunflower seeds and have the same effect. For my kids, it's all about variety. I make muffins and cookies constantly - and they are usually both healthful and, as my kids would say, "treaty", meaning they have chocolate chips or dried cherries added. Today I made banana cake with burned butter icing and they will take that in their lunches. Periodically I do buy fruit to go, or similar kinds of snacks, but not often. I will only buy pudding if the price is a complete steal. Sometimes I make pudding and the kids take it in reusable cups. They like taking pickles to school, and sometimes cheese and crackers. I have made crackers and like them, but I also buy saltines.

    We make our own yoghurt but we use storebought yoghurt as a starter so we still accumulate tubs. And I reuse them a couple of times in the freezer. They probably can off-gas, but I think the bigger danger is if you heat them, which I don't. I find a yoghurt tub is a perfect amount of tomato sauce. I took a canning course last year and the woman leading it had a great suggestion - don't add onions, because you can add those later as you brown meat or even just on their own. Onions store in the winter, so why use precious space in a jar for onions. I thought that was smart.

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  14. I am so impressed with your wipes system, and with your plastic bag record. That's serious commitment. Yes you need a bike of your own. I used to ride a secondhand bike much too big for me, I called it Moose; there were accidents. Have you ever checked out my dad's bike blog, Take the Lane?

    Apple and cheese is my own favourite snack! So easy, so many variations. Empire and old Cheddar is our standard.

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  15. I love your dreams!

    a word about my experience with freezing: I freeze in glass all the time, even glass that's not tempered. Just give it enough headspace to expand. Wide mouth pints are my favorite because they stack so well. Also, I freeze my flours in their paper bags and they do great (I used to think they would lose moisture or something, that I somehow needed plastic coating).

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