Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

February 18, 2014

Quilting With Heart

Filed under: Needle and Thread, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 3:24 am

Inspiration is where you find it! You’re the only one with your particular life experience. Even if you had a twin, her experience of life and the world would be different! None of my own teachers in sixteen years of formal schooling considered me “artistic” or “creative”. Another woman’s insight expanded my thinking about creativity when I read this quote, “Creativity is usually regarded as an individual attribute, but it depends on opportunities for expression and on a receptive audience.” Margaret Cruikshank wrote these life-expanding words in her book Learning To Be Old: Gender, Culture and Ageing published in 2009.

GoldDust.

Gold Dust, 2001, inspired by the traditional Wagon Wheel block featuring contemporary batiks and even a lame fabric.

Because of that insight, I no longer view “creativity“ as an individual attribute! All of us have creative impulses lurking inside and waiting for a chance to be expressed! I know we quilters influence and inspire each other. I find that my local quilt guild, Quilters United In Learning Together of Northwest Arkansas, or QUILT, provides both an “opportunity for expression” and “a receptive audience”. Fascinated by fabric since my girlhood, I’ve found my creative home in quilting. My talented mother, Marie, loved creating with fabric and I believe this love is in my genes or at least in my Scotch-Irish heritage.

Almost thirty years ago I made my first quilt–a baby quilt for my sister Lea’s young son, but it was not until 1994 that I had the time to begin quilting with a passion. That year I met Lila Rostenberg who had recently opened a quilt shop in nearby Fayetteville AR. In Lila, I found a friend and mentor.

Two hundred thirty quilts later, I still feel the excitement of playing with fabric both in my mind and on the design board. Historical quilts thrill me, batiks fascinate me and bold plaids call to me. Some of my quilts are traditional and others are contemporary. Many of my quilts are scrapbook quilts or memory quilts full of visuals and vital events in my life. Perhaps I can describe myself as a visual historian making scrapbooks in fabric. I want to record happenings and thoughts and attitudes that shape my life. Quilting is my grand adventure! Teaching and sharing my skills and my enthusiasm are part of the adventure.

Without the guild I would be limited in my opportunities for expression and a receptive audience. In reality, I find we quilters are vital inspirations for each other. A recent example of this phenomena happened last July at our quilt guild meeting. Jeanie Schneider showed her wonderful quilt featuring large hexagons all cut from different sections of the same bold fabric. The hexagons tumbled down from the upper left hand corner moving from lights down into darks at bottom right. I found Jeanie’s quilt a complex, exciting visual feast. When Jeanie showed her quilt to the group she explained that she had been inspired by my quilt Gold Dust (displayed at my show at Arts Center of the Ozarks in 2008). I appreciated her acknowledging that connection. Both quilts are here for you to see the similarities and the differences.

StarDust2557.

Star Dust by Jeanie Schneider, 2013 inspired, in part, by Paula's Gold Dust, 2001.

Jeanie had not yet named her quilt and asked if I had any suggestions. Days later I thought of “Stardust” and suggested that as a possibility. Jeanie was delighted and did name her quilt “Stardust”–another connection between our two creative efforts. Whenever I teach classes and show “Gold Dust” I always mention that the arrangement of blocks was a principle that I learned from Lila. She had pointed out that since in our culture we read from left to right and begin at the top of a page moving downward, we are used to and quite comfortable viewing that arrangement. It is pleasing to our eyes to have the lighter colors arranged at the upper left moving down to the heavier and darker colors at bottom right.

Writing this blog and thinking about quilts and creativity has inspired me to create another blog, www.paulamariedaughter.com to explore these ideas in depth sharing my own quilts and what influenced and inspired me to spend hours and hours making “blankets”. Quilts are not blankets, but some cannot see the difference. My quilt blog is dedicated to those who know the difference first hand! If that is you, please visit and leave me a message.

You have a chance to express your own version of the world in your quilting. Playfulness and creativity go hand in hand. “What if” thinking is one doorway into playfulness. Quiltmaker Betty White speaks to all of us when she wrote in Quilter’s Newsletter (August/September 2013) “Respect your gift. Not everyone can or wants to make a quilt. If your gift is to do so, then by all means make quilts.” There has to be room for all of us to express ourselves in the “big tent” called quilting! Whether we work with preprinted panels or intricate appliqué or traditional pieced blocks we are all exploring creating with fabric and our own ingenuity. Go for it! Work from your passion. Enjoy petting your fabric, bonding with your machine, and praising your outcome. We quilters are united in learning together!

February 5, 2013

Motherhood, Only if Chosen!

Filed under: Ecofeminism, Patriarchy, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 6:38 am

Paula,1950.

Paula, in 1950 Miami Springs, Florida, surrounded by the tools of womanhood in that historical era.

I am thankful for the women before me who worked to secure my right to make motherhood a choice! Compulsory motherhood is central to male control of women, that is, patriarchy. Access to birth control gave me the chance to explore my heterosexual self. Six years later, at 28, I was actively involved in the women’s liberation movement. I fell in love with women. I found these women exciting, funny, articulate, determined, talented, and sexy. Lesbians became my people. Only because other determined, strong women proceeded me, was I able to make this choice. I am thankful for their courage to stand together against all the institutions of patriarchy, including church, state, science and educational institutions.

My mother, Marie Donovan Neilson, did not have these choices. Marie was a “war bride” in 1944. My father William Paul Neilson, was shipped to the Phillipines as part of the force preparing to invade Japan. He left knowing my mother was pregant with me. After his safe return in 1946, two more babies arrived in quick succession. After her third child in five years, mother asked her doctor to “tie my tubes”. His condescending reply was, “Now, Marie, you know I cannot do that. You’re a young woman still.” Her body, her life, her marriage, all suffered form this man’s callous disregard for her wishes to limit her exposure to motherhood.

Mother,1958.

My mother, Marie Donovan Neilson, wearing her new dress and smiling at my dad, Paul, on Christmas morning 1958, Miami Springs, Florida.

Our family in 1958.

Our family on a Florida vacation trip in 1958, Paula, Karl and mother in the back, with Marsha and Lea (the youngest) in front. Photo by dad.

Yes, there were two more pregnancies—one resulted in a miscarriage and one was a perfect towhead girl. Four children to love, nurture and care for—she gave us all her love. I am thankful to this woman who loved and nurtured me. She gave me strength and courage. I wish she had not died at 62. I have so much I’d like to say to her….

I am thankful for all the other women today who dare to defy the commands of patriarchy! Compulsory motherhood is the goal of every effort to limit access to birth control, family planning services, and abortion. Creating and nurturing a new life within one’s own body needs to be a chosen experience. Carrying a child full term is more dangerous to a woman’s health than having an abortion in the first trimester. Every preganant woman risks loosing her life. Or she may experience long-term health problems resulting from pregnancy. These risks should be taken by her own choice!

Women who dare to question compulsory motherhood deserve my praise. Women who dare to question compulsory motherhood will be ridiculed and condemned by many people as selfish and unwomanly. Patriarchy is the root of overpopulation and climate change–domination is the central tenant of patriarchy! Without this supreme value neither overpopulation or climate change would be our issues today. Ecofeminism makes this connection! I mentioned by mother’s personal experience because it is one vivid example of how overpopulation is linked to patriarchy! I mentioned my choice to be a lesbian because it, too, links to a solution to overpopulation–a lesbian’s feritlity is totally controlled by herself (unless she is raped.)

I am proud of every woman who questions the “breeder role” assigned her by the patriarchy. Every woman is indoctrinated with the cult of motherhood from birth to our death. Women labeled “childless” have failed in the basic expectiation of woman in patriarchy. When we women question all this, we resist patriarchy.

When we women question the patriarchs, the power of resistance is both personal and political! Demanding the right to think, talk, write and explore questions about mothering is an act of resistence I support and promote. We “childless” women made our complicated choice for complicated reasons. We women, mother and nurture on many planes. We add our creativity to the universe and nuture in many ways whether or not we have been mothers to a human child. I am thankful for the creativity of women because it keeps me alive and thriving.

June 14, 2012

Gumption and Grit Grabs the ONF Board’s Attention!

Filed under: Ecofeminism, Economics, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 12:12 pm

On strike at ONF, June 11, 2012.

Ozark Natural Foods, our coop, was shut down by striking employees on June 11! Yes the doors are locked on a Monday morning!

“Closed until further notice,” the voice on the answering machine for ONF informed me! The staff of Ozark Natural Foods was on strike demanding the resignation of two of the board members who have in recent months participated in firing Alysen Land, long time general manager, attempted to change bylaws and hired an unscrupulous lawyer. Gumption and grit fueled their actions! Many of the staff had sent letters and signed a petition in support of the general manager, and voiced their opinions at board meetings and owner meetings. Most all of the staff are also vested owners of the coop and believe strongly in the cooperative model of doing business.

These women and men were as frustrated as I have been in trying to communicate our desires to the seven people on the board of directors of ONF. This new board (seated in April, 20012) has been dealing with trying to fix the poor decisions of the previous board. (Note: five of the board members are holdovers; two are newly elected including the president.)

On strike at ONF, June 11, 2012.

Staff members carried signs expressing their demands to the board.

After the last ONF’s owner’s forum on June 2, I wrote this to a friend:
“The board has, in fact, set itself apart from the member/owners. It all feels very patronizing–the board seems to believe they must hoard information and make the decisions for the peasant membership–all the while hiding behind “legal vulnerability”. (Remember the legal system is set up to protect the status quo, and those in power benefit most from the legal system.)Delay, postpone and stall seems to be working! The situation seems very discouraging–unless someone takes up the banner and does protests outside the store or something.”

Bold action!

Well, someone did take a bold move–the staff closed the store! In the letter posted on the ONF website and in the flyer handed out in front of the store, the staff described their frustrations and their demands of the board. Sixty staff voted on Sunday, June 10 to close the store and to hand out information on Monday to all who came to the store (see a copy of this letter below). They announced their intentions to the media on Sunday evening. The interim general manager Mike Anzalone, who worked under Alysen Land as store manager, was one of the strikers.

Monday morning was bright and sunny. The staff erected four ONF tents to shield them from the blazing sun and from the rain predicted later in the day. The tents lent a festive feel to the somber, yet determined, action these women and men chose to take believing they were acting in the long-term best interest of their coop. I agree. Their letter lists no demands for raises or improved working conditions. Arkansas is not a state known to be sympathetic to the needs of employees. And these workers did not even have the protection of a union. Each of the staff took a personal risk because they believed the board was not hearing the voice of the owners and the staff.

Staff explaining their actions to shoppers

Dialogue between ONF staff members and concerned shoppers.


President of the board with staff.

President of the Board of Directors, Joshua Youngblood, (on left) talking to staff members before the Monday afternoon meeting to discuss the demands of the striking workers.

Early Monday when we heard about the strike, Jeanne and I headed to town. We had been to board meetings and owner forums. We created a handout in May and passed it out to other shoppers–one of these is still on the bulletin board. I called everyone I can think of to ask them to email the board. All this seemed futile, until the employees united and made their strong voices heard.

We talked to the strikers and listened to their stories. I also spent about two hours talking to shoppers and owners who came to ONF. I explained that as a long-time owner, I had gone to the meetings, read the previous board minutes for the last year and still felt like I only had a small piece of the puzzle. That’s why you will see me standing with the sign. Most people were supportive and understanding. Some even asked how they could help.

The personal is political and the political is personal!

As an ardent radical lesbian feminist I observed several principles during all this. We know that, “The personal is political, and the political is personal.” I interpret this to mean that each of my personal choices—say to not eat meat—has additional political implications. A vegetarian diet uses far fewer resources to keep this one human alive. Animals will not be mistreated to offer me meat calories. Long-term healthcare costs are generally lower for non-meat eaters, etc. Additionally, all my political choices have personal implications and responsibilities. When I advocate for reducing our carbon footprint as a nation and as a species, it means my personal choices are going to be affected—no more jet plane trips, choosing to live without using air conditioning in my home, etc.

Come sit with us...

Come sit with us.... It was a long, stressful day for ONF staff who tried to make the best of the situation..

Taking a personal risk of losing one’s job because you believe your risk may correct a political situation in a positive way is a powerful statement. Taking personal power is a heady choice as we have seen in those involved with the Arab Spring uprisings. Exercising personal power is a risk. Collective action can change your world!

Positive outcome

The ONF Board of Directors has not taken retaliatory action (although I have heard that some on the board suggested this). In fact, the board by a four to three vote has chosen to rehire Alysen Land as general manager for the next year! I am pleased. The staff is relieved. However, her boss will be this severely divided board of directors. It will not be an easy year, but if feels like a hopeful move on the board of director’s part. I appreciate each of the directors who voted to hire the best person for this job. Their job has not been an easy one. The next few months will present more challenges. We, the owners at ONF are the only “boss” of the board. We need to be informed and involved in order to keep our coop strong.

I believe the board could benefit from radical feminists’ concept of power. We differentiate between “power over” and “power with”. “Power with” is the essential willingness of people to work together to create solutions to all the situations that face humans. “Power with” models depend on consensus decision-making where the voices and concerns of all are heeded as important and valid. The hierarchy that produces more attention to “prominent citizens” and “powerful men/women” is not reinforced. “Power over” models depend on top down rule-making and depends on fear to keep people in line.

Avoiding a discontented minority

We live in a culture where the “majority rules”. Consensus may take more effort to achieve. But those of us who believe in the consensus model are well aware of the damage the dissatisfied minority usually creates in ongoing disputes where the majority attempts to impose their decision on the others. This is my fear about the current situation with a severely divided board of directors. I know that the current president has made determined attempts to have the board “speak with one voice”. I have no easy answers. My observations are that the current methods of decision-making and communication are not working. Spontaneous cooperation is our goal. Let’s brainstorm about what would help make us all more willing to spontaneously cooperate.

On strike at ONF, June 11, 2012.

Paula's first strike experience was in 1971 striking as a flight attendant against Trans World Airlines (TWA)--she needs to keep up her striker credentials!

The staff wrote this letter to the public explaining their actions. The letter was posted on the ONF website and passed out during the strike. Many of you may not have had the chance to read it. I value this letter because it is strong, simple and clear.

Letter from the Coop staff addressed to Co-op owners:

We, the staff of your co-op, Ozark Natural Foods will no longer stand by while your voices and the will of the staff remain ignored.

A group of owners asked for a special meeting in order to discuss the conduct of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham. The owners were denied that meeting. The owners chose to meet anyway. Those owners met quorum; voted to remove both board members, and submitted those results to the board of directors. Linda Ralston and Sue Graham remain seated against the will of the membership.

The majority of the staff wrote letters to the board of directors and overwhelmingly signed a petition for the reinstatement of Alysen Land. That request has not been acknowledged.

We, the staff of Ozark Natural Foods, believe that our co-op is in crisis. We will no longer stand by while we are hushed like children and told to be quiet while the adults in the room decide our fate.

As of the close of business on Sunday, June 10, in the spirit of passive resistance, the doors of the co-op will be locked; and before you we will sit down. We refuse to work under these conditions. We refuse to continue as if nothing is wrong, while the basic tenets of co-operation are being ignored. We will fight for the co-operative principles, for transparency, and for the voices of the ownership and the staff to be respected. Because we insist that the vote of the ownership be respected, we sit before you with a single goal:

We demand the resignation of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham.

We believe that it is impossible for our board of directors to carry on a reasonable relationship with this management team, with the staff, and with our ownership until Linda Ralston and Sue Graham resign. We believe that in their absence, Alysen Land will be returned to her postion as General Manager; that John Eldridge will be removed and an attorney who is willing to defend our bylaws will be hired; that our mortgage will be paid in full as we promised the ownership many months ago. We believe that in the absence of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham, our ownership and our community, rather that personal agendas, will once again become the focus of our board of directors.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this will cause to you and to the interruption in your ability to get wholesome food for your families. But we believe that the very nature of co-operation is now in jeopardy. We ask you, our owners, our friends, our family, our community to please sit with us in protest.

We ask that you contact all of our board members and plead for the resignation of Linda Ralston and Sue Graham. We hope for a speedy resolution so we can return to being your community owned co-operative grocery store.

May 12, 2012

Cooperative Principles Gone Awry

Filed under: Economics, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 8:02 am

Rock St

Ozark Natural Foods, our coop, used this location on Rock Street in the 1980s. The house was funky, cramped and cozy.

About Consumer Cooperatives, aka a Coop
Consumer cooperatives are a direct challenge to capitalism. We owners do not receive profits from this business model! We contribute a particular amount of money to become an owner—this is our owner equity in the coop business. Currently it is $140 at ONF which can be paid at $20 per year–and we can withdraw the entire amount later, if we choose. If a cooperative pulls in more money than the cost of goods, services received, and employee salaries, all that money is returned to the owners. This returned money or, as our coop calls it, “patronage refunds” is not profit pulled from employees salaries, extracted from suppliers or the result of selling poor quality goods as many of the big-box retailers operate. This patronage refund returns to owners money they spent at the coop during the last year.

At times, the general manager and the board may choose to keep back part of the owner equity to cover planned expenses or unexpected expenses. The board votes each year on what percentage will be returned. Usually 20% is returned and 80% retained to be returned at a later date. Some coops don’t return the retained. However, during general manager Alysen Land’s watch, the funds have been to returned to owners within 7-10 years after they were first retained. This all depends on the financial health of the coop.

Dickson St

ONF moved downtown to the Dickson Street location in 1993.


current location

ONF moved to this current location in Evelyn Hills Shopping Center in 2000 and has since purchased the building.

About My Coop, Ozark Natural Foods
ONF began as a coop in 1971. I began shopping there in the early 1980s when I first bought land in the area. I became an owner before I even moved to northwest Arkansas. The first place I remember shopping regularly was the cramped house located on Rock Street across from the police station. It was a funky little store with some severe management problems. After a long financial struggle the store recovered. In 1993 ONF moved to a downtown commercial location on Dickson Street. There the store grew, but parking was limited. After the move in 2000 to Evelyn Hills Shopping Center and the financial crises involved that year, the current general manager resigned and Alysen Land was promoted from within to the general manager position.

With the help of a financial consultant and some drastic cuts, the coop struggled to reduce its debt. Within six months the financial picture was improved. ONF, under the leadership of Alysen Land, has gone on to win national awards and now has an excellent credit standing. Recently ONF has purchased the entire building allowing for the possibility of expansion. Current plans project paying off that mortgage by fall of this year! Would you fire a general manager who has accomplished all this? I would not! I would give her a raise!

Firing a Successful General Manager for “No Cause”
On March 22, 2012, the previous board of directors of ONF fired general manager Alysen Land for “no cause” in a four to three vote by the board. We, the owners did not receive any official word of the firing and the employees were warned by the board not to talk about it at the store. Rumors abounded. I was shocked and then outraged the more I looked into the situation. Below is my letter to the board of ONF. This is a board with some new members. I urge you to write your own letter to the board: board@ozarknf.coop

Dear Board Members,
Ozark Natural Foods is one of the main reasons I live in northwest Arkansas! As a member since the early 1980’s I have watched the many transformations that bring us here today. The board is answerable to the owners—that means we need information about important board actions. As one of the owners, I expect to be allowed to attend any meeting of the board when the board is conducting Coop business. I expect the Coop Newsletter to inform me of important Coop news –like the board decision to fire general manager Alysen Land last March. Keeping vital news of board actions from the membership does not serve the owner’s best interest.

I attended the so-called Owner’s Forum last Saturday and was sorely disappointed in the tone and content of the board response to our owner concerns. Many of us care deeply about the ongoing health of Ozark Natural Foods. We have trusted Alysen Land and her leadership team for the last twelve years. The board gave us no information to make an informed judgment about the wisdom of the board’s action to terminate her contract.

In light of your actions to date, I am doing everything in my power to inform owners and other community members of the current situation at ONF and encourage both owners and shoppers to seek out the truth.

I sincerely hope that the board will reinstate Alysen Land at the May 15 meeting and I encourage you to give her an apology for all the previous board has put her through. Additionally, I believe a well-earned raise is in order! I also hope this board will eliminate the restrictions place on discretionary spending imposed by the previous board. I urge you to hire legal counsel who respects coop principles.

Unannounced and secret board meetings serve to heighten suspicion and mistrust. An open meeting policy would go along way to healing the rift the previous board created.

Best regards, Paula Mariedaughter

April 30, 2012

Garden Connections

Filed under: Ecofeminism, Homestead garden, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 10:29 am

hawthorne flowers

Hawthorn trees are thick with thorns year round and lush with flowers in spring.


hawthorne flowers

Hawthorn trees are thick with thorns year round and lush with flowers in spring.

A garden is a web of life: mineral, animal and plant life.

We gardeners orchestrate much of what appears in the garden. But Mother Nature is the true spinner of the web of life in our gardens. I am drawn to a garden with personality and unexpected quirks. I am drawn to gardens emphasizing the collaboration with Nature. Our gardens have appeared slowly over the last twenty-five years. Nature has presented unexpected treasures like the tree along our front entrance with the large thorns marching up its trunk and spaced down the limbs. The deer would not dare browse this formidable forest citizen. But, a wild grape vine with a five-inch trunk had engulfed the canopy of this unidentified variety of hawthorn almost killing it. Once we cut back the grape and removed some large sweet gum trees that kept the hawthorn in shade, we discovered this lovely spring bloomer. Four years later our sturdy hawthorn has grown taller and greets the sunny days of spring covered in delicate white blossoms as it arches over the walkway. In fall the red/orange berries provide food for the birds preparing for winter. In this case, all we did was remove the other plants stealing the sunshine on the hawthorn–we just got out of the way!

ladyslipper flower

In the orchid family, but Yellow Ladyslipper flowers bloom in our Ozark hardwood forest.

Providing a shady spot for the native yellow ladyslipper orchid was a different challenge. Over a decade ago we discovered a small colony of these showy yellow wildflowers
in the moist woods beyond our house. Each spring we looked forward to viewing their spectacular curved blooms. Then came the spring where the deer mowed the entire colony to the ground causing us to fence that three foot area and hope the plant would recover. It was several years before the ladyslippers recovered and bloomed in their protected enclosure. Five years ago I noticed that a single stem of new growth had grown beyond the fence. I carefully transplanted that shoot because I knew how fragile was the existence of the colony given the deer population. By that time, I knew I could provide a spot for it in my Rusty, Rustic shade garden. You can see the picture of this plant thriving next to a lush maidenhair fern. Ladyslippers are in the orchid family—our Orchid Creek was named by our neighbor Sharman Sturchio in honor of these lovely native orchids. In this case we actively assisted nature by providing a protective enclosure for the ladyslippers.

lady slipper flower

Here the Ladyslipper is thriving next to a lush maidenhair fern.

Years ago I heard an interview with southern writer and avid gardener Bailey White on NPR as she recounted how gardens had been an important asset in binding a community together. In the South, in the days before big box garden centers, gardeners swapped plants and gave starts to each other of plants that thrived in the locale. “Pass-alongs” were a tradition connecting gardeners with a passion for growing as many plants as possible. She explained that if you wanted a start of a particular rose or a lush hydrangea in south Georgia in those days, you made sure you were in good standing with the gardener who grew those plants. Gardens were nurtured by gardeners who shared extra plants. Seeds, seedlings, slips and starts, cuttings and divisions from one gardener enriched the life of anyone receiving these pass-alongs. Often the shared plants came with stories of their origins. Always the plants came with accurate information about preferred growing conditions. And you knew the plant was well adapted to your area!

Seven hundred hostas later I can speak of the value to my garden of a dark green hosta given to me by my long time friend, Martha Payne. Eighteen years ago Martha gave me three hostas belonging to her mother after her mother’s death. Once the lovely white flower stalks mature they drop hundreds of seeds teaching me the meaning of the phrase “prolific self seeder”. Often times that phrase is issued as a warning when one receives a pass-along plant to warn you of the possibilities of many more seedlings. In this case Martha’s hostas from Kansas City, KS have thrived here and given a lush richness to my shade garden and to the shady sections of our back yard. I pot up hundreds of seedlings and pass them to neighbors and friends. If you want some of these hosta seeds, send me a self-addresses, stamped envelope and I will pass hosta seeds along to you.

red gazing ball

Fran's red gazing ball reminds us both of Jeanne's mom.

Our red gazing ball is a new addition to our garden. Jeanne gave it as a gift to her mother a number of years ago. Fran enjoyed seeing it in her yard for many years before her death at 94 last July. Her gazing ball compliments our blooming peonies. We want to update you on our ceiling project–we’re two-thirds finished.It has been slow-going due to Kas’ schedule and our own schedules. It looks good and we look forward to removing the scaffolding from our living space.

The other news is that our kitten, Catfish, and Scout have bonded! Catfish is full of energy and enjoys following Scout to pounce on him whenever possible. They often sleep together like good buddies. Catfish is now eight weeks old. We feel we have been successful in providing a new feline companion for Scout after loosing both Summer and Striper. All four dogs have accepted him and Zora enjoys playing with him at times she chooses.

Catfish and Scout--feline companions

Catfish and Scout--feline companions.

March 21, 2012

Creeks Are Up!

Filed under: Global Warming, Homestead garden, Patriarchy, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 11:00 am

Orchid creek rises in heavy spring rains and we can get trapped at home or prevented from returning home! The tender creeks are transformed into rushing, raging rivers. Sometimes these rivers move boulders through the country roads we drive on to get home. Until the county graders and dozers restore the road, we are limited to foot travel. Tomorrow night is our monthly quilt guild meeting in Springdale about 43 miles from Cedar Hill. It has rained for three days. Our garden paths are now flowing with water even though we built the garden following the natural contours of our mountain. We know from this sign that it will likely be days before the creeks are passable in a vehicle. And the road may well be washed out where the creek overflowed and ran along the road heading for the White River. It is still raining. So far we have our phone landline. If the line survives the flooding intact, when the county road grader reshapes the road, the phone line is often cut. No other road connects us to the outside world. Living with rough country roads has the advantage of keeping out strangers, sightseers, and would be burglars!

truck

Kas lost her brakes on our steep mountain road and lived to tell the story.

Many times city people romanticize the idea of living in the country. Many times people who live in the country encourage this silly idea. Living in the rural mountains of northwest Arkansas is full of delights and overflowing with challenges. Water is an ongoing issue for us here at Cedar Hill. We haul all our drinking water using five gallon BPA-free plastic containers. For the gardens, we collect water from our metal roof in large galvanized stock tanks. By August, those tanks are low and we may be hauling water to keep the garden alive. As we age, Jeanne and I are considering options to modify this arrangement, but no solution seems easy or perfect.

Maneuvering our roads can be a challenge as you can see in the photo. Kas is our carpenter friend working with us to install our beadboard ceiling. She was hauling a flatbed trailer loaded with supplies for our ceiling project. Home Depot, where we purchased the insulation and beadboard will not deliver to us because their semi-trucks cannot handle the narrow country road! As Kas approached a steep part of our road, her truck lost power and the power brakes. Both truck and trailer started sliding backward and lodged in this postion.
Kas managed to get out safely and walked to the house to
get our help. I was in Fayetteville going to guild. Jeanne and she eventually found our local tow operator who maneuvered his vehicle past hers on this narrow road to carefully move her truck and trailer. He has been doing this work for forty years and is quite skilled–he has been here at least ten times over the last twenty-four years so he knows our place. Jeanne said he reported that his vehicle was about a hand’s width from
her vehicle as he went up on the steep bank to pass to the front. Jeanne was
awed by what she witnessed. As you can see from the picture it was a life-
threatening situation that ended well! No one was hurt and no vehicle or
cargo was damaged.

Jeanne, Kas and I started the ceiling using a five foot tall scaffolding to make it easier, but the scaffolding is almost eight feet long and five feet wide. Across the top are six boards each eleven foot long. Obviously it takes up lots of space. We started on Jeanne’s side. The scaffolding sits like an elephant until we finish the project. We will slowly move it from section to section. We have completed one sixth of the ceiling and now project it could take months of living in turmoil. After our crew boss, Kas, leaves each day we try to carve out some liveable/workable space until the next workday. You can see Jeanne at her desk located under the scaffolding in the first photo. In the second picture I focused on the part of the ceiling we’ve completed.

jeanne-desk

Jeanne framed by the scaffolding.


ceiling

View of our new beadboard ceiling.

Keeping our feline and canine companions safe from local predators continues to be difficult. Five years ago, out rat terrier Taylor was snatched while Jeanne was walking with her and the other terrier on the top of Mahaffey’s Knob not far from home. Since then we have imposed a curfew on our two small dogs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m., unless they’re locked in the main garden with us. Additionally we got two bigger dogs to help patrol the area. We learned that the peak time for predation of pets by wild critters is March and April when the wild animals have their own offspring to hunt for.

Last Tuesday, March 13. we came home from errands in Fayetteville about 4:00 and saw vultures on a small carcass near the parking area for our house. Striper, our big orange tabby cat, was dead. Apparently killed by a coyote the night before. With tears in our eyes, we gathered our shovels and buried him. We marked his grave with large rocks we hauled from nearby. About six weeks ago, Summer our small seal point tabby cat, disappeared after living happily with us for nine years. What comforts me is knowing they both had a good life here enjoying their freedom to be cats in the outdoors. Our remaining cat Scout is now out only in the daytime, but this will be hard to enforce when the days get warmer. We grieve for both cats and their place in our family group. Both got along with all four dogs. Scout misses his sleeping companions, so we’ve located a kitten who will soon become part of our homestead family. Keeping the cats safe without locking them inside all the time will be on ongoing learning experience.

cats again

It took several years for Summer to warm up to Striper.


cats

Summer is on the left as she and Striper lounge together on the wood box.


two cats

Striper and Summer snuggle in the chair I recovered.

Trouble and trauma are only part of the fabric of our lives. We live with our disappointments large and small. Romanticizing other people’s lives does no one any good. Pat Carr writes in Writing Fiction with Pat Carr, “Our world has become increasingly fragile because of separations and misunderstandings, and right now it needs our shared wisdom. We must learn to understand and sympathize before it is too late. Now is the time for our stories to be honest and authentic.” I want my words to be authentic whenever I write here. I do my best to not romanticize. I do not want to only write about “upbeat” subjects because I do not believe it serves our best interest in understanding our own lives or the lives of others.

Living on the land here in the midst of an oak/hickory forest with a reliable roof over my head pleases me every day. I love the quiet and I love the light that streams in our windows with views of the forest around us. Yet, I know there are dangers around us—from brown recluse spiders to timber rattlesnakes. Every environment has its pleasures and dangers. I am comfortable in mine, but realize that comfort can be destroyed in an instant. I like to focus on the words of poet Emily Dickenson written in 1861:
“’Hope’” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all…”

It is extremely unlikely that I will be able to visit my quilting friends at our quilt guild tomorrow night because we will still be flooded in by the creeks. If not, perhaps I will be able to finish the hand quilting on the doll quilt I’ve made from vintage bowtie blocks. That would be fun!

forsythia

The vivid yellow of the forsythia brightens my day each spring.

February 4, 2012

Time is a Seamstress, continued!

Filed under: Homestead garden, Needle and Thread, Paula Mariedaughter, Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 1:58 pm

“Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. If you have not read my previous post, please do because I wrote about all the events of the first months of 2011. I will continue writing about our October vacation in Colorado near Mt Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs. The last quarter of 2011 brought many challenges.

quilt shop

Paula lounging with the local quilter's scarecrow at Bev's Stitchery.

Bev’s Stitchery, the local quilt shop was thriving. Jeanne took my picture with the decorative quilter posted outside the shop. I found fabric I likes and enjoyed my conversation with Bev–we talked knitting and quilting and visited about her long history as a quilt shop in Buena Vista. Next, Susan, Jeanne and I went exploring the ghost town of St. Elmo high in the mountains and found a happy colony of chipmunks usually fed by the summer tourists. We were feeding them in October and they scrambled and scavenged for the crumbs we offered. Some bold chipmunks scrambled up our hands and arms. Then the local big blue Steller’s Jays appeared on the scene to steal what they could. We watched the spectacle for at least an hour enjoying all the activity generated by our feedings. One of my favorite pictures from our trip, was one I worked really hard to frame. Finally, I caught an image of one of the striking dark jays against the patch of snow.

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Dramatic Stellar's jays are well adapted to Colorado's climate.

More of those unique scarecrow figures dotted the small town of Buena Vista, from the local newspaper office to the library and the knitting shop. I see them as examples of public art and humorous adventures into creativity. As you can see these figures added personality to a small community for both the locals and for the visitors like us. I persuaded both Susan and Jeanne to be part of this photo shoot too. Jeane is pictured outside of the newspaper office and Susan is associating with the library’s mascot who holds a stack of–what else–books.

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Jeanne with a crow and a scarecrow.


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Susan outside the library in Buena Vista, CO.

Hiking and soaking in the hot springs pool and in Chalk creek happened every day, sometimes we visited the hot springs twice a day! Because it was October, we sometimes had the creek area to ourselves. One late afternoon, we three soaked in the hot water and looked across the creek to see deer browsing without regard for our presence. These mule deer act like our whitetail deer in Arkansas, but they have tall, mule-like ears. I wonder if they can hear any better than whitetail deer? Chalk creek, at Mt Princeton resort, is about thirty feet across and the cold water rushes across rocks and boulders with spots of very hot water along some edges. We visitors can rearrange the rocks to create sandy soaking pools. The mountain air is cool, but by laying back in the water one is delightfully submerged. Today the resort makes no claims that the water has healing properties, but one hundred years ago this area was advertised as having mineral springs with healing properties. Before the Europeans arrival, the Ute Indians sought out the springs when in the area. All I can say is that the water feels healing to me–both emotionally and physically.

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Mule deer browsing at dusk across Chalk creek while we soak in the hot water.

The local landmark named the Chalk Cliffs rises to the north of Chalk Creek. The cabin we rented backed against the chalk-white cliffs rising straight up hundreds of feet. Susan and Jeanne did some difficult exploring of the shard-filled area below the cliffs, coming back more than ready for a long soak. We heard and saw deer there morning and evening. While hiking a different mountain, Susan took this photo of us and the rat terriers with the Chalk Cliffs in the background.

dogs and us

Jeanne and Paula hiking with the Chalk Cliffs appearing the background.

The Arkansas River is a predominate feature of this part of Colorado and we found Heckla Junction public access area and park to be our favorite part of the river. Two different days we explored this river park and reminisced about our dog, Annie, swimming across the river the first time we discovered Heckla Junction. Annie was a red heeler who we rescued as a puppy after she was hit by a car on AR highway 16, our notorious narrow and curvy local highway. She was headstrong and half wild, as well as a great swimmer. These pictures give you a sense of the beauty of this high desert area fed by the Arkansas River. The boulders are personalities that inhabit the landscape.

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The Arkansas River at Heckla Junction in early October.


river,too

The rocks and boulders of Heckla Junction park seem like living creatures lounging in the water.

While in Colorado, we got a phone call from our realtor telling us she had an offer on the Kansas City House! We were hopeful that we could find an ideal buyer. Before our trip I had seen a doctor about a suspicious spot on the mammogram of my remaining breast, but I felt hopeful that it was benign. I had chosen to seek a second opinion and found a woman surgeon in KC. We had an appointment after our trip to Colorado. That small growth was not benign.

The first offer on the house fell through, but a second one appeared and looked promising. Adjusting to the shock of a cancer diagnosis is not easier the second time. Adjusting to this new reality and considering my options took time and energy. Time at home and time with Jeanne both helped. Along side of this bad news, came the good news that the sale of the house was proceeding. My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, November 21 and the closing on the house was to happen November 30. We needed to have everything out of the house by Saturday five days after surgery! Jeanne’s cousins helped load the rental truck and we did leave KC on schedule.

Friends have been supportive. Returning to the routines and rhythms of living together on our homestead has sustained me. Yoga classes at the Arkansas Yoga Center (www.aryoga.com) have helped me regain my strength and full range of motion in my arm and shoulder. In fact, yesterday I moved three huge rocks with the help of a prized homestead tool. Over a decade ago a friend gave us this unique tool—it is six-foot long pry bar created from the axle of a Model T Ford! One end is modified to slip underneath the rock to initiate movement. Once I can get the rock (really a boulder) to wiggle, I know I can move it. And I did without hurting my back or shoulders.

After having our favorite carpenter, Kas, do some major renovation needed in our cottage/storage area, we are sorting and organizing and passing things along. We are rearranging all our indoor spaces, as well as trying to clear space in the cottage for me to have a three season quilting studio! This is a dream that pleases me and excites my creative self every day.

Kas will also be working with us next month as we add more insulation and our first ever ceiling to our house. We’ll be up on scaffolding and working over our heads for several weeks, but after that will enjoy our beadboard ceiling every day. In winter, the house will be warmer and in summer it should be cooler. Jeanne researched insulation to try and find something with relatively minimal environmental impact. She found this one with a R-14 value: 4’x 8’ sheets of 2” thick ThermaSheath (polyisocyanurate) from a company called R-Max (special order from Home Depot). Some companies make this with ozone-depleting processes. Others don’t, so check out your sources. We’d have preferred to use a more natural material, but this product is a panel that can be nailed to the bottom of the rafters, adding to our existing nontoxic insulation.

Here at Cedar Hill in the Boston Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, we have hundreds of daffodils popping up in sunny spots. The snowdrops are setting buds even without any snow. If you think we do not get snow here, you are wrong. Here’s a snowbound picture from last year. Climate change has brought us a mild winter. Today it was 65 degrees! On February 1 we planted the Amish Snap Peas we are fond of eating–often we eat them in the garden right off the vine because they are so fresh and crunchy! Our Virginia bluebells are waiting for their chance at center stage again this spring—that hasn’t changed. We are back online and hope 2012 will be a good year for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint by growing more of our own food and by staying home to enjoy all home has to offer.

snow

Eight inches of snow covers everything in our Rusty, Rustic shade garden last year.


knitter

The women at Serendipity Yarn (www.serendipityyarn.com) created a scarecrow for an avid knitter featuring a variety of her UFO's (unfinished ojbects).


aspen

Aspens at the lower altitudes were still golden bright. Look closely to see the gold leaves resting on the fir needles here. Behind Jeanne and Paula is an unusually large multi-trunk aspen growing in a sheltered spot.


pumpkin

Images reflected in the window behind Paula create a new dimension to this simple portrait.

January 30, 2012

Time is a Seamstress

Filed under: Homestead garden, Needle and Thread, Paula Mariedaughter, Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:12 am

The wheel of the year has turned through four seasons since we communicated here! “Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. John O’Donahue cautioned, “…be patient with the natural unevenness and unpredictability of living.” Both people expressed ideas that helped sustain me through a year of unpredictability and rapid change. When my friend Lila shared those two quotes with me last March, I had no idea about the changes I faced!

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Virginia bluebells, a native wildflower, up close in our shade garden.

Looking back along the length of the circle of 2011, I’d like to share some of the highlights of my year as recorded by me and my camera. Winter moved into spring with no grand surprises. Virginia bluebells are an expected spring miracle, producing delicate blue flowers when the weather is still unpredictable and cool. I delight in the red-purple of the unopened buds gathered next to the blue of the dangling flowers. The bluebells bloom when the hostas are still nudging their foliage up about six inches. As a spring ephemeral, bluebells gather their sustenance for the year and die back by summer to rest until the next spring.

In early April, our quilt guild held our biennial quilt show creating a deadline for me to finish several quilts I wanted to include in the special exhibit I did called, “When This You See, Remember Us”. I asked others in the guild to loan any timespan, memory or signature quilts for this display and several other women responded. I am pictured here in the midst of the display.

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Special Exhibit of Memory Quilts: When This You See, Remember Us.

Guild members also created a large exhibit of antique and vintage quilts from our own collections allowing everyone to see the inspirations of our mothers and grandmothers. You can see the selection of antique quilts I brought to share.

antique quilts

Most of these antique quilts are treasures I found at flea markets or thrift shops over the last thirty years.

In May, the guild gathered together for our annual picnic and Airing of the Quilts where we drape favorite quilts along the fence at a member’s house. After our potluck picnic, we walk the fence and learn about each quilt. Some are antiques and some were finished yesterday. In the picture, Valerie and I were admiring fat quarters of fabric destined for my stash.

Valerie and Paula

Valerie and Paula at the Airing of the Quilts in May.

Jeanne and I planted our big front garden although she was in Kansas City much of the time caring for Fran, her 94-year old mother. I watered and sewed and kept the homestead functioning. The days went quickly, but the evenings did not. I’ve listened to hundreds of audio books from the library over the last three years as I sewed or washed dishes. Our dogs and cats were good company too. One night in the midst of the drought, we had a disturbance in the back yard and I found a raccoon trapped under the two big dogs and the small terrier was nearby, barking her excitement. Once I managed to get the dogs in the house, the raccoon left. I believe that critter must have been desperate for water and came to the stock tanks where we collect water from the roof.

On a late afternoon Shyla, our mixed breed dog, alerted me with her special bark to the presence of a rattlesnake in our driveway. I hustled all three dogs inside and grabbed my camera. The large, but docile, snake was moving steadily into our asparagus bed and away from all the commotion. We are always alert for snakes in the summer, but a recent sighting renews our awareness of their presence.

rattlesnake

In late July, we have often seen large timber rattlers passing through our land.

At dawn on the morning of July 20th Jeanne called me to tell me Fran had died in her sleep overnight. She had been failing, so this was not unexpected. We comforted each other and began the process of accepting this loss of the woman who birthed and raised Jeanne. I was there in Kansas City by late afternoon and we began the plans for her funeral and memorial service. You can see the collage of photographs from Fran’s life that we created for the service.

The next months were spent making repairs on Fran’s house, interviewing realtors and preparing for a huge estate sale. I traveled back and forth trying to keep our garden hydrated and the tomatoes, basil and cucumbers picked. Jeanne managed to get home some, but her energies were focused on clearing out Fran’s house of 40 years of possessions, and on finding the perfect new owner for the house her parents bought new in 1969.

funeral

We displayed pictures of Fran taken throughout her life.

We planned a Colorado vacation for September to celebrate Jeanne’s birthday, but it had to be postponed until October where it snowed on our first night. Our long time friend Susan accompanied us and our two rat terriers. We returned to central Colorado where we enjoyed the hot springs and hiking in the clear mountain air. On a whim we visited Serendipity Yarn shop (http://www.serendipityyarn.com) where we were dazzled by the vibrant yarns. Jeanne and I each bought enough to make a simple scarf. As we planned, I returned and took a refresher lesson on knitting. Once I got my needles clicking, I showed Jeanne how to maneuver her bamboo needles to start her scarf. We made our favorite meals, read and hiked together from the home base of a cabin we had rented. Every day we soaked in the hot springs and melted our cares away! Jeanne’s knee started to heal and my body relaxed all its kinks. Susan was great company and accompanied Jeanne on some of the more adventuresome hikes.

hike

Susan and Jeanne with our dogs hiking in the snow and ice.

As three book lovers, we were enchanted by the Book Nook in Buena Vista. While browsing there I discovered strong words from Susan B. Anthony. In 1871, she is quoted as declaring, “Away with your man-vision! Women propose to reject then all, and begin to dream dreams for themselves.” Susan, Jeanne and I often repeated her words at appropriate moments for the rest of the trip.

One night we opted to eat out at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Driving in the late afternoon, we saw two red foxes playing along the edge of the road. I managed to photograph one as she merged with the dusk.

fox

This elusive red fox showed herself along the edge of the road, then faded into the dusk.

Some things had changed in the area since our last vacation in 2005—we searched and searched for our favorite beaver dam-filled valley. We had visited that valley several times before, but could not find it. I did photograph the recent demise of a tall tree to the persistent nighttime visits from a beaver determined to use that tree as a log for her own purposes. Change is everywhere…. To be continued in early February.

beaver chew

Night time forays allow beaver to select the trees they'll harvest.


quilt

Spring Beauty is my original design inspired by the work of other quilters and featuring a spring iris broken in segments by strips of silk. I made the blocks after seeing Adele Athea's quilt in our 2009 quilt show. I separated the blocks when I discovered the iris fabric at our 2011 show and used them to surround the blooming iris.

December 14, 2010

Brain Health or Talkathon

Filed under: Ecofeminism, Health& Safety, Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:38 am

WARNING, DO NOT HOLD THE PHONE ON THE BODY reads the tiny type on your cell phone. But, you are probably ignoring this suggestion like millions of other people. In fact, you are engaging in “risky behavior” that may cost you your life! Every cell phone releases radio frequency radiation. Use of mobile phones by children should be limited to essential calls, yet many children have their own cell phones. Use a speakerphone or earpiece to keep the cell phone radiation away from your head or other parts of your body! Do not carry it on your body.

Author Devra Davis, scientist and professor at Harvard, has described the evidence of cell phones and the increase in brain cancer she believes is linked. My information here comes form her book Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation. What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, available at the Fayetteville Public Library.

Devra Davis declares, “No matter how hard I look at various ways researchers have tried to measure the incidence of brain cancer and its rate of change, I remain convinced we should not wait for proof that population-wide shifts have occurred before taking simple precautions to reduce direct exposure of our brains and bodies to cell phone radiation. Science on this complicated topic remains uncertain for two reasons. First of all, science truly is complex and not easily understood by most of us. But a very large part of that uncertainty on this issue has been manufactured by those with deep pockets whose bottom line remains their primary focus. (emphasis mine) Many of those engaged in efforts to study cell phone radiation have made up their minds in advance [having been hired by the industry to perform the study]. The fact that ready money has been there to support those who would cast doubt on the dangers of radio frequency radiation certainly plays some role in the perpetuation of their views, as it did with tobacco, asbestos, benzene, and hormone replacement therapy.” p. 202

Do you realize that cell phones operate with the same wavelength used to heat and cook food in a microwave oven? Yes, the power in the cell phone is reduced, but we are probably cooking our brains when using a cell phone for any length of time! p. 210

Please understand that your smart phone or any cell phone radiates radiation! Author Davis recommends using a landline at home, not a cordless phone. When using a cell phone keep it away from your body. Do not carry it on your body exposing your internal organs to an onslaught of continual radiation. Don’t sleep with your phone turned on while it is near you. Texting uses less radiation, and it keeps the radiating phone away from your head.

Stop pretending that your cell phone is a harmless toy. Recognize your cell phone as a tool with potential to harm you and your loved ones—rather like a power saw. Read this book by Devra Davis and you may disconnect your phone and reach for the clunky landline like ours. You will probably save money too!

phone

Our cats won't knock this clunky phone of the hook, we will not misplace it, and we will receive no cell phone radiation while using it.

September 15, 2010

Pawpaws for Social Change?

Filed under: Global Warming, Homestead cooking, Paula Mariedaughter, Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:46 am

For thirty years I have been studying what makes people change our beliefs and our habits. I embarked on this journey in the early 1970s when I enthusiastically embraced the revolutionary ideas of the Women’s Liberation Movement. My experiences as a girl growing up in the 1950s in the segregated south, then as a young woman attending college in the 1960s and working as a flight attendant and union activist all made clear to me that the prescription for girls and women in our society were not in my best interest! The human institutions of patriarchy and capitalism surrounded me and influenced my personal behavior and most of my “personal” decisions.

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Young volunteer pawpaw trees growing near the pioneer Mahaffey fireplace from the 1890s located behind our house.

Other women in the Women’s Liberation Movement had named this reality and coined this potent phrase, “The personal is political and the political is personal.” We understand that each of our individual daily choices adds up to the whole. For example, when I was disturbed by the on-screen violence in movies, I realized that each time I bought a ticket to see a violent movie I was “voting” for more violent movies with the purchase of that ticket. My individual actions have not lessened the number of violent movies, but when hundreds of us change our choices and behaviors, change will happen. My personal choice is a political action.

For the last two weeks Jeanne and I have been eating pawpaws as the fruit in our oatmeal breakfasts. Many mornings we cut up apples to add to our breakfast bowls. However, the only apples available this month in our local coop, Ozark Natural Foods, are flown in from New Zealand or Australia. In the past we did not have access to this information. Last summer we were eating apples airlifted to the US. Global warming activists and local food activists have encouraged stores to label the sources of their food.

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Our pawpaw grove adjoins our back yard on the west and helps keep the yard a shady spot. Pawpaws thrive in rich moist soil as understory trees in hardwood forests from New York south to northern Florida and west to the south eastern part of Nebraska.

Supplied with this new information, I can choose other fruits or choose dried apples or go without. With pawpaws ripening in our back yard and dropping their edible fruit everyday, we had a perfect alternative! Free, local and tasty! Sometimes called the “false-banana” it is quite sweet and has a texture similar to a very ripe banana. Yet, we have lived here at Cedar Hill for twenty-two years and I have resisted eating this delicious fruit.

In examining my own resistance to eating pawpaws, I believe we can learn something about how people change and make new choices. I resisted pawpaws because:
I did not grow up eating pawpaws,
I was unfamiliar with pawpaws, no one I knew ate pawpaws,
the fruit looked unattractive to me,
the fruit was messy to eat with large seeds inside,
the fruit did not come from my refrigerator,
I believed that food needed to come from the store to be safe,
I believed it did not matter that I bought apples at the store grown far away.

Global warming is affecting us all. I believe I can make changes in my daily life that will impact the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. We can all make personal choices that have political consequences. I am not willing to be silenced by those who tell me to wait for the politicians or the technocrats or the right technology to fix global warming. We, the people, will change the world.

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Pawpaw fruit varies in size. Perfect fruit on far left. Pawpaw fruit on far right is over ripe and inedible when this dark. Red dogwood berries found on the ground near the pawpaws.


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Two green, almost ripe, pawpaws cluster in the tall branches twenty feet above the ground. Sometimes we can hear the heavy fruit fall to the ground from a light breeze.

Those who stand to profit from our unthinking consumption of water, electricity, gasoline, air conditioning, food-flown-in-from-afar, do not want us to rethink our consumption patterns. They see communities as “markets” and people as “focus groups” and, especially, we are seen as “consumers”. No longer are we citizens who use our critical thinking skills to make informed choices. The corporations and their spokespeople expect us to respond to their marketing strategies and consume whatever they are “pushing” today.

Corporations are not marketing pawpaws. Ripe pawpaws are delicate. The flesh is soft and mushy—they would not ship well. When pawpaws ripen they drop from the trees and are often bruised by the fall. Without a strong protective skin like apples or oranges, pawpaws must be eaten within days of ripening. Edible and delicious, the texture and color recall a ripe mango. The flavor is often described as similar to custard.

Once Jeanne started collecting and eating pawpaws, I had a model to follow. Someone I knew was eating this new fruit and enjoying it. I had tasted it, but was not ready yet to eat them. When I shopped for apples, my conscience would not allow me to buy an airlifted apple. Then one morning before breakfast, I walked by an intact, ripe, pale green fruit laying on the ground. “Perhaps I should try a pawpaw once again,” I thought to myself. It seemed a gift from the forest.

I still resisted because I did not know how to successfully peel the skin away and harvest the edible pulp. But now I was motivated to try. I sliced off the top and used a potato peeler to remove the skin and a paring knife to slice the flesh form the seeds. It did not take much longer than cutting up an apple, but it was messier. Apples were not yet available, and these pawpaws were readily available. I enjoyed my breakfast that morning. I’ve enjoyed knowing that I have eaten from my own environment and have not consumed additional carbon with my oatmeal breakfast imported from Canada.

My observation has been that people change when it is in their self-interest to change. I wanted fruit with my breakfast. I did not want to eat apples flown in from the southern hemisphere because of the environmental consequences involved in that transport. I had a sweet tasting fruit literally fall at my feet. Couldn’t I just pick it up and try it? This would benefit me and benefit the planet. If no one shopping at the coop bought apples from the southern hemisphere this fall, next fall the coop would not order them. When we expect food out-of-season, we encourage long haul transport of our food. Eating food from local sources and eating foods in season will provide us with more nutritious foods, will encourage local farmers and reduce carbon emissions of transportation.

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Foggy fall morning looking east toward our main garden. The pawpaw grove is adjacent and to the west of our back yard, that is, behind me as I took this picture.

Pawpaws are an understory tree of hardwood forests and thrive in moist soils. Height to thirty feet, with straight trunks and spreading branches and long leaves, pawpaws have interesting reddish brown flowers in early spring. Pawpaws will form colonies from root sprouts. Wildlife including opossums, squirrels, raccoons, birds, and coyotes enjoy harvesting the windfall fruit. The range of pawpaws is widespread: from southern Ontario and western New York, south to northwest Florida, west to east Texas and north to southeast Nebraska. Pawpaws can also be used for cordage as the earliest inhabitants of the Ozarks did! Jeanne has experimented with peeling the inner bark to twist the fibers together to be used as string or twine. Since hundreds of pawpaws grow together in large colonies, some of the saplings can be harvested year round for cordage.

Thinking about the consequences of our individual actions is one way to reclaim our power and to acknowledge our responsibilities as responsible citizens of our planet. Considering the individual, daily changes we can accomplish to benefit the planet is an ongoing process for all of us. If any one wants pawpaw seeds, please let me hear from you. I will mail you seeds to plant this fall. Once established, the pawpaw is carefree tree. In ten years, you can harvest your own “false-banana”.

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