Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So, 'green' is the new black?

Everybody's doing it (being 'green', I mean) - and I couldn't be happier. When we moved to our little off-grid homestead 6 years ago, we had no idea what the picture would look like from a wider angle just a few short years down the road.

Who knew, then, that all we needed to do to reduce our carbon footprints was to have a great job and live in a city so we could use transit, buy our necessities of life as mindfully as possible - even if it costs alot more, recycle, and donate time/money/resources to organizations that would do great things like plant more trees to offset our effect on the planet? On a bad day - say, for instance, the day last summer when the well pump broke and we had to not only FIND the oodles of dollars to buy a new one but also do that AND install it within hours because it was a really hot day and our critters would be needing even more water than usual - that may have seemed a sinister reality. I might have even slapped myself and asked, WTF are you doing? It could have felt like all this pressure, all this independence (which, as you know, is a paradox - the more independent you are the less you can rely on anyone else to save you - lest you do something really stupid which means you are maybe more likely to do just that) may have been in vain. I may have cussed lots some, indulged in a beer or two, and praised the coffee bean. I could have been bitter.

But, on a good day - say, the day when we had the exhilarating experience of the first lamb being born combined with a great day in the shop so I could finally let the Things buy something on a their 'wish list' (for the record, thing 1=books, things 2 $ 3 = games). We sat down to dinner that night with our hearts full, our backs sore, and a general feeling that all was very fine, indeed - that picture would look drastically different. I mean, I might no have to spend most of the winter sleep-deprived between lambing and feeding the great dragon woodstove in the night, but, ya'll - I'd have to live in the city. And, I'd have to work in an office all day - no fresh air, no opportunistic sheep surveying the gate just waiting for me to be distracted and leave it open so they can hog up all the seedlings I spent 6 wks lovingly tending on their 15 minute bonanza of selfish gluttony! No way!

It's not that ONE way is the right way or even the best way. It's that we are all finding our way that's important - at least that's how I think about it. You could have gallons of water in a pool - but you'd see so much more if you watched it be filled drop by drop. We're all a drop. Not so impressive alone - but pile many drops on each other- and big things can happen. It serves no genuine good to have only one kind of 'green'. Much better to have everybody putting some 'green' in their daily regime, in their hearts I daresay. Spreads the green around quicker and, as it would happen, time is pretty crucial.

Of course, the race to get 'greener' will inevitably draw out the few who are willing to pretend 'green-ness' to be more alluring to the green seekers. This means we have to challenge 'green-ness' - dig for the deeper truths. Unfortunately, that will only titillate those who believe they hold the one facet - the panacea of green-ness. It feeds their furious desire to reveal their cure-all greater truth and thereby save the WHOLE WORLD. Sadly, they will seek to convince us that the ONLY way to be green is their way - and their way will require us to be indoctrinated with fear and loathing for ourselves. It annoys me but I fall back on my 'live and let live' ideology. I can surely live with people who see things vastly different from my own ideas - but I cannot 'live and let lie' or 'live and let make false claims about you' with certain people anymore. I'm not here to bash the vegans. I love many people who are vegans. I've known some who are very concerned about their health and the health of the planet and so have chosen to be vegans. I've also known some that used their 'vegan' status to sit around harping on everyone else about what they do to destroy the planet while they sport their chemically manufactured 'pleather' shoes and order pizza but pull the cheese off and throw it in the trash (like that's really helping anything). And, I'm all for honoring our four-legged friends. Honoring them. That's why we raise our own. That's why they are our family. So, I have two things to rant about and then we can oggle some pretty yarn.

1. IT IS NOT CRUEL TO SHEAR SHEEP! I can't tell you how much the above linked article made me want to strangle a dammit doll. If you don't know what a dammit doll is - it is a oft used tool in teaching children or aggressive adults how to release their tempers. The idea being you bang the doll on the ground, against the wall, or just pull its hair and say, 'dammit' until you are either exhausted and therefore less likely to rage on the world or you are laughing so hard at yourself that you barely remember what you were mad at in the first place. Seriously, though, sheep wool is not a perfect insulator in hot weather - as evidenced by the dopey article before that one about sheep dying because they were crowded together in the heat. It's hard being the almighty deliverer of rightness but, people who wrote these articles, if you aren't going to be bothered with getting your facts straight, at least make sure to coordinate your hysteria so that you don't contradict yourself in the same breath. Shearers barely get paid at all - hell, we don't even like to let them do it for free anymore, let alone for educational purposes - that might require the bending of the almighty right ways to be green doctrine mentioned above. In my case, hubster still dutifully does the job himself and I think he's expecting the sort of payment that would probably only further scandalize this already misinformed and over-dramatized article. He doesn't hurt them. In fact, he will often stop while shearing to calm an animal if they seem to be getting upset. Just two days ago, I walked into the barn where he was shearing our 300 lb. ram and Rufus was laying on his side, relaxing, whilst hubster was clipping away and carefully removing the hair that would otherwise matt and yank on his testicles when he walked, causing great discomfort - which, as you know, makes a man (or man sheep in this case)a real joy to be around.
Wool does not hurt people - or sheep. More importantly, it does not cause mutations in frogs due to pcb's and other 'pleather' making chemicals being dumped in our rivers and streams by manufacturing plants.

2. Eating meat is not destroying the human race. In fact, if it weren't for meat, we might never have found the strength to evolve and learn to plant and tend crops so there would have not been a population to muck up the planet. Just this morning, I heard a report about world food prices accelerating and, as usually happens, someone made the point that feeding CEREAL crops to cows and meat animals consumes more resources than feeding the same CEREAL crops to humans. Of course, the point would have to also be acknowledged that cereal crops (i.e. grain) are not the natural diet for these animals and that mass production has a significantly different impact than small, non-agribusiness farms do. They eventually got back around to it and acknowledged that the best way to be sure that you're doing what is right for the environment, for your health, and for the global economy is to either GROW YOUR OWN or buy local when possible and to investigate purer sources for your food. No one touted genetic engineering of seeds as the source of our hope. No one said we should set all the animals that we've domesticated and taught to need us free and let them terrorize the neighborhoods until they are either shot by some suburbanite who just paid for landscaping or they become diseased and/or die of old age in an ethereal field somewhere over the rainbow. They implied something far more challenging - which is to know what you consume. To make your choices personal and informed. To reckon with your very nature....and maybe to put a little sweat into it. Because, if you do that, or if you work closely with or buy your food from someone who does, you are more likely to know the intimate truths. Like, that animals are animals. Unless you're going to sedate all the sheep, goats, cows, chickens of the world and rip their reproductive organs out - they're likely going to have sex. If it is a bull or a donkey - trust me - you don't really want to look. Curiosity might compel you to it - but you'll be forever marked by what you see. And, when they have sex - they will have children. Like in all forms of the natural world, chaos will peek in from time to time and a most unnatural creature will be born. Or, maybe many natural rams will be born. Only, a ram is genetically designed for a harem so he's not likely to sit happily with just one ewe. He, instead, may pick a fine day to begin beating his head into all the other rams until he kills them. So, you can't have ALOT of rams. I'm sure PETA doesn't want me taking the testicles from all those extra rams if they are terrified simply by the notion that I'd cut their hair but it has to be done or they will be even more profoundly marred by the result of 'letting nature take over'. You don't get to choose what is so primal and natural as an animal being born. Some are a joy to be with, and some are your best friend. Likewise, a few might be mean, they might go around trying to kill all the other mother's lambs because they are horrid and stinky and gross. Some might be weak and suffer all their days. Fortunately, there are plenty of cruel and inhumane farmers like us who will put our 'feelings' aside for good practices that support the good of our herd, our family, and our land. We will even cut their hair!

purple quartz handspunNow, for the spinning. I love custom spinning jobs of all kinds. My latest one, though, was really special. I felt totally honored to be asked to be part of it. Kinda like when someone hands you their newborn baby to hold, ya know? That feeling you get as you nuzzle their little treasure and you realize they trust you enough to let you hold their very self in its most vulnerable form. I can't say much because I don't want to spoil anything but this job was done for someone who's making something for someone for their 60+(secret number not to reveal and spoil here) wedding anniversary. I mean, the fiber is pretty special. It's the 'purple quartz' batts I had in the shop, made with some of our own Cotswold wool grown (and cut!) here on the homestead and it has all the 'added' ingredients that you'd expect from me - tussah silk, angelina, recycled sari silk, etc. But, it nowhere compares to 60+ years of marriage. All the while I was spinning it, I was thinking about that. Especially when hubster brought me a cup of coffee one afternoon and I thought about how great his coffee is and how wild it would be for us to be celebrating our 60+anniversary together. And, to balance that, I thought of it the day I was finishing the last skein and he was running here and there and generally getting on my nerves. 60+ years - no matter how you slice it - that's a long time to share your existence with someone else. I'm in awe, and also all sentimental about it and I may be tearing up whilst typing. That's a long time to let love rule over conflict, change, and chaos! Happy Anniverary!