Saturday, March 22, 2008

I feel like things are continuing to shift for me, although I can quite put my finger on it.

Overhearing snatches of conversation—how self-important and self-absorbed people are, and so identified with their jobs. I heard a guy at the library on his cell phone—I think he was fishing for a new job so he was really trying to sell himself—and I got really sad. I thought, when your mama had you, is this what she hoped your life would become? It just all seemed so trivial, so cut off from the real essence of life.

In a Mother Earth News magazine some guy proudly wrote an article about how his family reduced their electric usage roughly by half, I believe. But their annual electric usage had been over 93,000 kWh!! I added up my usage for the past twelve months and it was 9,305 kWh. For all of his tips, he certainly missed out on the big one—move to a smaller house! Even his new, reduced energy usage is obscene.

I get so disturbed by the blight of suburban sprawl. That area where I had originally looked for places to live three years ago, between Highway 287 and I-25, continues to be massively developed. Every time I drive through there, another development is going up. I can’t understand the madness. Surely not everyone wants a massive house, but where are the other options? In the old town centers the small cottages are being scraped off for gargantuan replacements. Why are we allowing this?

I’m moved by how deeply Collin appreciates our life here in the country. I don’t often talk with him about my beliefs, I simply live them and experience them, and Collin lives and experiences this reality too. He sees beauty everywhere. He grumbles about going back to suburbia when he has to go to his dad’s. I’m so deeply grateful I’ve been able to give him this life.

I’ve been trying to avoid the radio, but Collin has suddenly developed an interest in it, so when he’s in the car we often have it turned on. I can’t bear to listen to the commercials. I can’t bear to hear anyone hawking anything. We need food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond that it’s about wants, desires, greed and egotism.

We stopped at the dollar store on Thursday because Collin wanted to get something for P. and C. for Easter. I saw a little booklet there with tips on how to spend less. All of the tips involved buying something, not avoiding the need to buy in the first place. Why does this rub me the wrong way? I’m escaping the consumer paradigm. I can’t expect society to be right there with me, evolving at the same pace.

I’m really moving away from the need for many products that I formerly believed to be necessities. I’m realizing how deeply I’ve been brainwashed.

I gave up deodorant about two weeks ago, something that would’ve been utterly unthinkable even recently. I’ve been meaning to switch to a non-aluminum deodorant for a long time, since aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems, but I had never considered that deodorant (antiperspirant actually) might never have been necessary in the first place. Sweating helps us excete toxins-- why would we want to interfere with that process? And if you eat a healthy diet and bathe or shower daily you’re not going to stink unless it’s really hot or you’re exerting yourself. I first tried swabbing with witch hazel and then dusting with baking soda, but the witch hazel contains fourteen percent alcohol and the baking soda is irritating, so now I’m not using anything. And guess what? No odor so far. I’m sure when the summer heat hits I’ll have to do something--maybe just wash by underarms mid-day, but I don’t think I’ll ever be using a commercial product again.

Then last night I was online looking for a laundry detergent recipe that I had previously written down but lost. I just finished my last load of laundry with my commercial detergent and am ready to mix up my first batch of homemade stuff. I had bought the ingredients last month--just washing soda, borax, and Fels Naptha laundry soap. The Fels Naptha has a really strong chemical scent, so I think I will skip that and use Ivory soap (which is what I’ve always used for bathing).

Anyway, while looking for that recipe I stumbled upon a discussion about shampoo, or rather it was about not using shampoo. Now here’s something I would’ve thought was just totally, wickedly gross in the past. But now? I just might give it a try. It sounds like a long process—many months until your hair’s oil production normalizes. But the no-shampoo proponents have a lot of good points. Here our body performs this natural function—for free—but we go undoing it, stripping our hair of its natural organic oils, then replacing them with chemical-laden shampoos and conditioners. I’ve wondered for awhile if my ear problems aren’t due to the chemicals in my shampoo. Other people who were considering the no-shampoo route mentioned ear problems too. It makes you wonder. So I may try this, just water rinses and maybe occasional treatments with some things suggested on the site (baking soda for one).

Last month I finally got around to making a bunch of cloth menstrual pads (felted wool with flannel covers). I made a sample last summer and absolutely loved it, but could never quite get around to felting a batch of wool. I’ve been trying to get off tampons for years since I know the bleached tampons release dioxins. When I lived in Longmont I bought a menstrual cup, thinking that would be THE answer, but it ended up being only a partial solution. Now, with the combination of the cup and the cloth pads I think I’ve found the solution. I always hated pads—paper and plastic they can’t breathe, are uncomfortable, feel like they crinkle when you walk, and the fluids tend to disperse through the cellulose too, and want to leak out the sides (although this was when I was a teenager—supposedly there have been improvements, but I wouldn’t know). Cloth is deliciously comfortable, it breathes, fluids are absorbed and don’t spread out. It costs nothing, contains no chemicals, and is reusable. I may never buy another box of tampons again in my life. And laundering the cloth pads is not the big deal people think it would be. I just rinse the blood out immediately when I change the pad, in hot water, then wash in the next load of laundry. Other women just toss the pads in a bucket of cold water until they’re ready to do laundry, and use the bloody water to water plants.

I love the fact that with each of these small changes I’m incrementally becoming more and more self-sufficient. By the time I move back to Pennsylvania and build my off-the-grid cabin I will have already largely adopted the lifestyle.

The next thing on my list is to start growing my own sprouts, herbs, baby greens, and wheatgrass in the house. I want to get a wheatgrass juicer too. When I first looked for them online the only ones I found were really expensive. Now I’ve found some manual all-stainless steel ones for less than $100. I prefer manual things anyway, so that’s good.

I’d also like to have a garden, but I’m not sure I can afford it this year (I want to build some raised beds, trellises and so forth). I’ll at least start some perennial herbs outside though.

If I owned this property and could turn most of it into a garden, I could actually raise the bulk of our food. It’s comforting to know how little space is really necessary for food security.

The book I read about the Kalahari Bushmen back in January has brought about another change. The Bushmen’s diet regularly included foods from 85 different plant species, and ancient hunter-gatherer tribes also had similarly diverse diets. Today, the bulk of our diets come from just a handful of plant foods. So, starting last month I made a resolution that I would eat at least 30 different types of fruits and vegetables each month, and over the course of the year eat from at least 100 different plant species (that 100 includes not only fruits and vegetables but nuts, seeds, beans, grains, and fresh herbs). The ancient hunter-gatherers were actually taller than we are today (indicating better nutrition) and the introduction of agriculture caused height to plummet. I want to have as much variety in my diet to ensure optimal health and nutrition.

I have an idea for an article but I have to do an experiment first. The article would be about the presence of preservatives and pesticides in food. The experiment would be to take a slice of store bought bread and homemade bread, place each in a sealed ziplock and document how long each takes to grow mold.

Now, I bake most of our bread products, but buy occasional loaves of white bread here and there. Last Thursday (two Thursday’s ago actually) I took some store bought bread up to Boulder county for sandwiches. There was one piece I didn’t use and it stayed forgotten, locked in its ziplock since then. I discovered it yesterday and was shocked to see that it still looked perfectly fresh, without the slightest hint of mold. That’s just not natural! And shouldn’t that scare the living daylights out of us? I’ve heard that dead bodies are taking longer to decay because we’re so pumped full of preservatives. And this particular loaf is marketed as a kids’ loaf—fortified with extra nutrition for kids—so moms are deceived into thinking they’re buying something healthy.

In a book I just finished, there was a story about an organic farmer who compared a stalk of his corn with a stalk from his neighbor’s conventionally grown corn. Not only did his have more extensive roots, but when he left the two stalks out in the yard, mice devoured the organic corn, but wouldn’t even touch the conventionally grown corn.

And a law passed last fall requires almonds now to be irradiated or flash-pasteurized. Almonds! More and more, unless you grow your own food, you’re eating dead, damaged, and dangerous foods.

On all fronts we seem to be on a suicidal mission. It just defies all logic.

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