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Archive for the ‘The Leftovers’ Category

My ole’ pal Rachel “interviewed” me, for her blog Mogantosh. If you want some Calamity wordspew, head on over!

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Dja Miss Me?

Friends, I am actually in the middle of a real post! An interesting, contemplative, reliving the good ole’ Calamity days post. Though it could take me another month or two to finish.

But in the meantime, two things.

1. Check me out, I made another website. Don’t worry, not a real blog, if I ever come back, it will be here to you. This one is just a virtual ego stroke in which I name my whole homesteading-project-extravaganza and thereby give it identity and recognition. I am now master of Feral Edge Rainfarm. Ha! Take that!

2. We are planning a short vacation to central California– from San Francisco to Carmel (family reunion)– and I have a nagging feeling that one or another of you live in that neck of the woods. Is it true? And if so, can we crash at yer place for a night or two? Extra credit if you live on a farm, or downtown SF.

Email me! I’m scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com

Also just email me if you missed me and you want to tell me all about everything, and how you can’t live without my posts every week.

PS. I missed you.

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It’s been awhile.

I am well and happy, my family is all good, we are settled firmly back home in Cordova and beginning spring work on our tiny yard-sized homestead. I have lots and lots of things I could write about, many cool projects underway and, as always, deep thoughts aplenty.

But the truth is, I waited and waited for it and the urge to blog just never really came back to me. Since I left you all waiting as well, I thought I’d better at least come back and say it– farewell for now, it’s been a good run.

I do feel the need to explain a bit. Because it’s not completely without reason that I have abandoned writing here. I wish I could say it’s because I’m not using the computer much, but that’s not the case– I have been researching permaculture all winter, and now I’m on to botanical medicine, both involving lots of computer time.

Honestly, it’s more about the particular perspective blogging gives you on your world. Have you ever been into photography? Carry your camera around long enough and you get ‘photo-eye,’ everything is seen through it’s possible worth as an aesthetic composition. You don’t see life as it is so much as you see potential photographs.

Blogging is like that. When I’m deep in it, I see life through the post I will write about it.

Interestingly, this downside is all wrapped around the upside, the thing I loved best about blogging– the way it gave me an outlet to process my thoughts, a way to make sense of the world and my life. Blogging was immensely useful and enjoyable for me, during a very hard time.

But the long enforced break of our move home shook off the ‘blogger-eye.’ Eventually I remembered what it was like to just be me, living my life with my family, instead of Calamity Jane: Punk Housewife Extraordinaire. And, I liked it. I like being plain old me.

I do miss the glamour, the acclaim and the page hits. I miss the way I felt important, big.

Some would say I need to find ‘big-ness’ in myself, not in others’ perception of me. I don’t know. It’s complicated. I think we as humans want to feel useful to the world at large. We crave purpose beyond self. Doing anything very useful in the world is all tangled up with the self-satisfaction of having done it. What are we to do?

So many of what I consider my important writings on this blog were about learning to find value in the eminently humble work of motherhood and housewifery. Don’t you think it’s ironic that in writing about it, I created for myself a more auspicious and vainglorious work? I made myself a “writer,” with loyal readers around the world. Although I tried so hard not to, I inevitably framed my homemaking as punkier than it really was. There is really no way to convey truth in this media. Without intention I painted a very cool picture of myself. Hardly a way to actually submit to the humility of motherhood.

I don’t mean to devalue my writings in any way, or their worth to you or myself. They were genuine expressions of my humanity. They were good and true and useful to so many of you, and I feel blessed to have been able to give in that way. I loved being Calamity Jane, and I reserve my right to reclaim her at any time.

But for now, I’m enjoying being just plain old me. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for existing as a community, however virtual. That’s the part I miss most. I don’t forget friends, even ones I’ve never met.

Here’s to life, in real life.

-Calamity

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Continuing Education

That DIY permaculture “class” I posted about a few weeks back took off over at Homegrown. There are about 12 participants reading The Manual, as well as an offspring ‘beginners’ group reading Gaia’s Garden. It’s great.

I have been devouring Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, the 560 page textbook/bible. It is essentially earth science as it relates to ecological food production, coupled with a very methodical approach to the design process. I love it. Bill Mollison is the scientific counterpart to Wendell Berry’s decidedly literary work, and you know how I feel about Wendell. They are both extremely thorough and concise, dense enough to be academic but with heart and pulse (and a healthy cynicism about academics). Putting them together fulfills all my fantasies of intellectual stimulation.

And, guess what? I had fantasies. They were unspoken, nearly unconscious. I was jealous of My Man when he was in school. Not because I wanted to be in law school, hell no! But because the idea of taking one’s knowledge to the next level, of devoting oneself to studies and furthering oneself intellectually, was delicious.

But, I gave up on the idea of finding the things I wanted to learn in a school setting long ago. I love to use my brain, to challenge my brain, but the things I like to use my brain on are the domestic issues never ever discussed in universities. Everything else just seems mundanely boring. I have always been mildly interested in ecology, but never interested enough to put any time into it. Ecology as I’ve read about it before seems so unrelated to me. It was not until now–reading about it in the context of learning to grow food based on natural ecological processes– that it became fascinating.

At first I thought it was because permaculture relates everything back to food and/or design (my two top favorite subjects, hands down!) but there are plenty of food history books that I find boring. After some thought I realized that it’s the fact of being related to something I can do, and furthermore want to do! It’s the possibility of involvement and participation that compels me.

That’s all good, but what I really wanted to share with you today is just how much blissed-out fun I am having learning something big! Considering that the manual is 560 pages of dense, sometimes technical reading, coupled with the self-made ‘final project’ of creating a genuine permaculture design for our property, I have given myself and the Homegrown group 5 months to get through it. It’s like a real college course! And since it builds on what I already know, it is quite literally ‘continuing education.’

I think my ecstatic joy at the learning process might be particularly based on where I’m at right now, mama-wise. I was at a kind of a shifting point, well primed for a learning phase; and having just moved back to our own place, I am ready to re-immerse myself in the project of living sustainably in this environment.

Whatever the reason, my oh my, does it feels wonderful. If anyone else is feeling the need for some continuing education, I highly recommend taking a good book on the subject and turning it into a DIY class. I did this once before, years ago (Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, doesn’t that explain in 8 words the shifts my life has made?) and also really loved it. The right book is important, but I think equally important is treating it like a real class. Which means setting aside consistent and adequate time. That’s the hardest part. After that, if the subject is of interest and the book is good, the rest unfolds itself.

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Forgiveness

She was trying to explain something to me, just exactly how she wanted me to open the cheese so that the wax held together, and I wasn’t getting it. She was getting increasingly frustrated, her voice rising. I was getting increasingly agitated, my voice rising and hardening. Eventually she was yelling at me and I was yelling right back at her not to yell at me, which always feels so stupid. So I changed tact. I summoned all kindness and patience and carefully evened my voice out. “I can’t just let you yell at me anymore. I’m going to stop listening until you stop yelling.” A threat obviously, in retrospect, though it didn’t seem so at the time. I don’t believe in threats, partly because we are incapable of upholding most of them. But there I was.

She immediately broke out into tortured sobs and I felt the regret flood in for a move I could no longer take back. She crawled under the table and wailed for several minutes before the words finally came. A pivotal moment in any mama’s life.

“You don’t love me! You don’t love me!”

There was some mad in her voice, and certainly a little drama, but so much raw emotional devastation that I wanted to cry. I came over and crouched beside the table, explaining as I have before that no matter how mad I get, or how much I don’t like the things she is doing at the time, I always, always love her. “The love is the part that doesn’t go away, ever.” I say.

But she’s too wild to hear me. If you don’t have a child like mine, you might not understand what I’m talking about. You might make the mistake of thinking I am describing a fit. It is not a fit, she has those too sometimes. These are different. I understand them because she is my daughter and the fruit did not fall far from the tree. We are sensitive. Not that we are easily thrown into oblivion– in fact we are both, in a sense, fairly stable. But that oblivion, when we do hit it, is exceptionally engulfing and terrifying. The difference is that I have always been stoic and private. I experience life and emotions on an extreme level, but I do no share that level with the world or almost anybody at all. I keep it all locked up healthily inside. My Girl on the other hand, is expressive.

At any rate, she screams at me to talk to her, then when I do, screams at me to stop talking. There is a lot of screaming, while I go back and forth between trying to calmly and undramatically reach out to her, and tending the soup on the stove (see this old post about her 2yo fits for the story of how I arrived at this “technique”). Eventually she starts to calm down and, still teary, asks to watch a movie. “Sure,” I say. “Will you come out and sit with me for a minute first?”

She hesitates, but climbs out onto my lap. “Mama,” she says, still upset but quickly deflating, “You never say ‘please’ when you’re mad!” She says this to me often. I don’t think it’s really about the please, I think it’s about the way that I get mad and then stop being kind and caring, the way she thinks a mama should be. I think that she feels upset that I am not consistently nice, not realizing that she is asking me to be inhumanly perfect.

“You’re right.” I say, “You know I honestly just forget. When we’re mad, we kind of forget how to be nice.” Which is certainly true. Ideally, as perfect people, we would hold it together even when we were mad, and all of our actions would be intentional. We would be like practice scenarios at the counselor’s office. But in real life we get mad and lose it. We are all of us imperfect, by a long shot.

I try to explain all of this to her, and suddenly I realize that the solution to human imperfection is forgiveness, and that I have to explain forgiveness to her. That the concept is essential to her right now. She needs to be able to forgive me, and to understand that I forgive her. She needs a way to deal with the budding knowledge that I am not perfect and that that’s okay, she is not perfect and that’s okay. That we get mad, and we get over it, and we have a special way out of it, a special human way that we move forward with love.

I stumble around, trying to figure out how to define forgiveness to a 5 year old. I tell her that when someone does something you don’t like and it makes you mad, forgiveness is “accepting that they aren’t perfect and loving them anyway.” To which she says, predictably, “What’s ‘accepting?'”

….Shit. Then I have a little brilliance. “When you were under the table, you were still really mad at me. And when I asked you to come out and sit with me, you kind of didn’t want to, right? ‘Cause you still felt mad? But you did anyway, you came out and let me put some love on you. That’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is when you came out from under the table.”

I don’t know if it worked. It’s a big concept, and probably takes time. I had honestly never even thought about it before. Like so many milestones my kids have hit that I had never thought about. And maybe she’s not even really ready yet, but it’s a start.

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Solo Parenting

Straight from working full-time away from my kids, to 24/7 solo parenting for three weeks. Geesh, we are writing a case study for crazy-making this year.

The good news, the great, fantastic, thank dog news, is that My Man passed the Bar. Although I have no doubt that the next year of setting up his practice and finding work will be very hard, at least we know (more or less) what lies ahead. We can make plans now, stability of a sort has been found. Waiting the three months for his test results, and not knowing what the future held, were absolutely excruciating.

This also means I am back to full-time mama, pretty much indefinitely. And I am glad. It was really excellent to have a break, and do some other work. I felt almost guilty with the enjoyment of it. But to work away from home year round would get wearying for me, in a different way. Overall, if given the choice, I still choose the mothering and revolutionary housewifing. I made my first batch of granola since the move this week, and I feel ridiculously satisfied.

It also means all this is once again my responsibility.
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I swear this floor was pristine less than 48 hours ago. I have a witness.

But, not unrelated to the mess, I have time to do projects with my kids! I didn’t miss playing, and I certainly didn’t miss the endless hours of fight-breaking-up, but I did miss projects. Currently underway is a T Rex costume–
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She’s painting the teeth gnarly and bloody. That’s my girl. While she was painting she said, “Mama, when something is really fun, I like when it takes a long time.” My sentiments exactly.

All this glowing pontification on motherhood is quite sweet and absolutely true, but I didn’t plug my kids into netfl*x so that I could write because I was so overjoyed. Nope. I did really good for the first 5 days of solo-parenthood, but about day 6 I started to crack. Last night I let a really shrieky-mean yell loose on them right at bedtime. They were caught off guard and looked genuinely scared. I realized that with these few months of doing other work, of getting my own separate physical and mental space for 8 hours/day, I had not had many attacks of mama-rage.

Solo parenting is hard. Three weeks will definitely be my longest stint yet, though My Man’s finals while in law school probably compared in hard-ness. These next two weeks will be pretty rough. But, good news for you, you’re likely to see more of me here! Desperation makes for the best blogging.

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I’ve just finished my second reading of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and have been obsessively listening to a set of free online permaculture lectures given by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. The world outside my window has been recently blanketed by snow, and temperatures have fallen to 20 degrees F. The long winter is here, and I am feeling the need for some juicy brain-work.

Although I had dabbled in it before, I have only recently started serious exploration into permaculture. I am attracted by it’s depth. I’ve been doing and thinking ‘sustainably’ for long enough that I have fully exhausted all the classic beginner books. Permaculture seems to me to take things to the next level.

For those many of you who have only the vaguest idea what permaculture is, let me take a moment to explain. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) was coined by an Australian named Bill Mollison back in the 70s. It’s about conscious design of functional landscapes; it’s about following absolute ecological principles, but keeping human needs as the end goal.

It’s also a lot about thinking outside the box, creatively turning ‘problems’ into ‘solutions.’ (Your garden doesn’t have a slug problem, instead you have a lot of duck food in need of ducks.) Sadly permaculture has grown to a full on religion, complete with a living prophet and an actual bible, the $85 Permaculture Design Manual. It’s ironic that something intended to push us past our mental boundaries has created new mental boundaries, but– that’s humanity for you. We love a dogma.

Anyway, I’ve gotten better about looking past the dogma for the pearls. All widespread religions are based on something really good, that’s why they take off. And I just can’t resist permaculture anymore. Permaculture is all about design, and I am a designer, above all else. I am designed to design. I love to garden, and I love to read about gardening, but designing my garden has always been my favorite part of the process by a factor of 12. I have reams of designs for gardens I never even planted, I once designed a homestead for a piece of property I coveted but knew for a fact I would never own. Just for the shear joy of the brain-work.

I can’t help myself, sometimes it’s actually a problem. Because although I love the work, I love thinking about the work even more, and doesn’t that make me one of those dreaded ‘dreamers?’ But permaculture tells me it’s not so. Permaculture instructs me to spend 100 hours observing and thinking for every one hour of doing, thereby insuring my actions will be appropriate. Whether or not this is a truth for the world, it sure sounds attractive to my brain!

So, winter is coming on. The perfect time to do a lot of thinkering, and I am primed. With limited free time, you all might be thinking, ‘Damn her! She should spend those free moments writing posts for us!’ And I do hope to do a little of that as well. But there are times in one’s life for sharing, and times for learning. After several years of mama-induced intellectual stagnation, I think I am ready for some serious learning.

For the uninitiated, permaculture is an international phenomenon with accredited Permaculture Design Courses offered all over the world. There was even one in Anchorage last summer! They are a minimum of 72 hours, sometimes spread over a full year, other times done all at once as an intensive. They’re a big damn deal, and priced accordingly– starting at $1,500 and going up considerably from there! Even the online courses range from $800-$1,600.

I would LOVE to take a course, but 1. I’m poor, and 2. I live in the middle of nowhere. I started thinking about it, and realized this must be a boringly commonplace problem! Surely there are other perma-curious folks out there willing to spend the time, but not the money….

Reading books is all well and good. I read a lot. Drawing up my own plans at home over and over is great fun. A teacher would be fabulous, and I do not mean to diminish the value of a qualified mentor. But I think what I would value most out of an actual course is the commraderie and idea sharing of a group.

So, here’s my idea. We make our own online class! If we are so keen on doing everything ourselves, why not education as well? So, I’ve put together a permaculture study group prospectus, over at Homegrown. I hope to find at least two or three other folks interested in committing to 6 months of serious independent study, I’m thinking 3-4 hours/week. If that sounds like a good time to you, come on over, join up and introduce yourself!

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