Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

August 24, 2010

Fracking Brings a Living Hell to Earth!

Filed under: Ecofeminism,Economics,Patriarchy,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 6:59 am

Gasland is a documentary movie by Josh Fox who was approached about leasing land near his forest home for gas drilling.

The documentary film Gasland ( introduced me to the people who are living in the earthly hell created by the extreme drilling technique, called fracking, currently favored by the major gas companies who dig 8,000 feet, inject water laced with 596 chemicals (many are very toxic) to pump up natural gas mixed with the water and chemicals. Once the gas is separated, the 7 million gallons of chemicalized water from that one well is a hazard we all have to live with. The closest neighbors to the well—more often multiple wells—will breath the toxic chemical fumes, drink those chemicals in their water. We met those people and heard them describe the severe health effects for themselves, their children, pets and all of nature unfortunate enough to live near polluting gas wells. Endocrine disruption, cancer, asthma and severe headaches are just a few of the results of exposure to the contamination of the air, soil and water caused by the gas drilling industry. Dr. Theo Colborn, a leading expert on this subject has more information available here:

My opinion is that this deep drilling technique is fundamentally unsafe because of the chemicals used, the multiple deep underground blasting and the impossibility of obtaining enough water for the process and finally because the trillions of gallons of used water cannot be safely stored or restored as safe water.

No Regulations from Government!George W Bush and Dick Cheney (both oil men) and earlier Richard Nixon convinced congress to exempt the natural gas industry from meaningful regulation. The industry is not covered by:
the 1972 Clean Air Act
1972 Clean Water Act
exempt from Superfund Cleanup
exempt form Safe Drinking Water Act
needs to provide minimal environmental impact statements

The industry is dominated by several big companies (including Halibuton) who have no oversight—the EPA has no authority to regulate drilling. You may not be aware of the scale of the environmental destruction, even if you are aware of some of these problems with gas drilling. Thursday afternoon I was aware of the problem, but unaware of the scale of the problem. By Thursday evening I had seen images of hundreds of square miles stripped of life and dedicated to pulling gas from deep within the earth and destroying peaceful life in the process!!

After viewing the reality, I could not sleep—haunted by those images. And I was haunted by the faces of the people trapped by circumstances! They had been lied to and treated without regard for their health and safety. It could have been any of us. This was not a natural disaster, but an un-natural disaster, a man made disaster. No one protected them. Some were told to hire an attorney and sue if they felt wronged.

In fracking, the blasting creates mini-earthquakes that blast open underground cracks to release the gas. We are told these blasts are harmless, but do we know that? No, this extreme drilling process has only been in wide use for ten years. Can the earth sustain this assault? Will the earth sustain this assault? Our clean water comes from underground aquifers of ancient water, how will these nonrenewable resources be protected?

And where will the water to perform the drilling come from? How will the toxic water be stored safely forever? Each well drilling requires from 1-7 million gallons of water. The same well can be tapped up to eighteen times and will use that much water each time. Using the low estimate of 1 million gallons per drilling, that would be 18 million gallons of water per well. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area there are 10,000 gas wells. Again, using the low estimate, 18 million gallons of water multiplied by 10,000 wells equals 180,000 million gallons of poisoned water to store and protect. This is only for the wells in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area!

Water shortages are already predicted to be a major concern worldwide. Safe drinking water will be the luxury of the future, if we do not make major changes now!

Your well and my well, could they be next?
My concern is not merely an intellectual concern. Last year the national forest service leased forest land 30 miles or so south of here to a company determined to use fracking to drill for gas in the national forest. The owners of the nearby resort, Mulberry Mountain, called our attention to the situation and arranged for a public meeting with local officials. The process was described and the concerns and protests we offered were ignored. My understanding is that the drilling has begun and soon there will be 1-7 million gallons of toxic water used in the drilling waiting to be disposed of somewhere. Where and how?


We collect water from our roof for our garden and store it in these open stock tanks. Even this water can be polluted by the chemicals in the holding ponds of polluted water vaporizing into airborn chemicals and released as acid rain.

The gas companies have a legal strategy called “forced pool” that can deny people to decline drilling on their land! Many of us do not own the mineral rights to our land, or own only a percentage of the mineral rights. Imagine the complications this could bring to a landowner not wanting to lease to gas drilling companies.

We could be next! Several years ago, Jeanne and I were contacted by a gas company representative who told us they wanted to drill on our land. Neither we, nor our neighbors were interested. Fortunately, we have not heard from them in years. We have 40 acres of oak/hickory forest where we built our solar powered house and began our organic gardens twenty-one years ago. We love where we live and have invested heart, mind and soul here. Josh Fox, who created Gasland, began his search to learn more about gas drilling because he lived in a similar rural area in Pennsylvania, where his parents had settled in the 1970s. He grew up in the woods and especially loved the stream that meandered through his homestead. The gas company offered him $100,000 for drilling rights. He wanted to learn more. He sought out landowners who had agreed to lease to the gas companies. Gasland showed us streams near drilling sites that are polluted with gasses from the drilling and have pockets of gas in the stream that can be lighted on fire. Often the deep underground blasts force new seams to appear in the underground rocks sending gas and methane formerly trapped underground into pristine wells, springs and streams. We heard people describe all this in Colorado, Pennsylvania and many other places! His worst fear and our worst fear! These were real people stuck in a living hell.

Don’t be fooled by the PR campaign financed by the natural gas corporations that declare gas to be a “clean” energy source. The 10,00 wells around and in Dallas/Ft. Worth emit 200 tons of toxic emissions per day—more than the automobiles in that metropolitan area emit each day. And, the natural gas pipelines have built-in release valves that we are told are not toxic, but it is gas released into the atmosphere on a regular basis, yes?

We need to educate ourselves, our neighbors and our political representatives about all the consequences of fracking. However, the gas companies are big campaign contributors, so we may have to become more creative in letting the politicians know of our outrage that the gas companies call all the shots and we, the people, are left to fend for ourselves.

Stop using natural gas is another radical possibility! Radical means going to the root of the problem. If there is no market for natural gas, the gas companies have no incentive to drill. Build a clothesline! Gas clothes dryers were not common place in Miami Springs where I grew up in the 1950s. We were a family of six with lots of wet clothes and they were all hung out to dry. Put up a clothesline and hang your wash. Change those ridiculous city regulations that forbid clotheslines if you have such restrictions.

I am not a politician, so I can and will express my unpopular opinion: reduce, reduce, reduce. Conservation of all our natural resource use is the central component in saving our planet from the extreme climate changes we are heading for today. Reduce your consumption of all energy sources: batteries, electricity, oil, gasoline, propane, as well as plastic and water and food. Perhaps we can reverse the consequences of our dependence on unlimited access to energy sources. Walk in the woods. Ride a bike. Grow a garden. As my mama used to say, “Actions speak louder than words”!


Destroying habitat of millions of plants and animals from Texas to Ohio and from Pennsylvania to Colorado to extract gas to fuel consumer lust for luxury must stop. Our garden reminds me of how plants and people have coexisted for thousands of years, until now.

For more information about the drilling practices of the natural gas industry proceed to these resources provided by Joyce Hale, president of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. The screening of Gasland in Fayetteville was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Omni Peace and Justice Center and the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

Learn More about Natural Gas Development and Take ACTION!

1. ProPublica online articles
They have intensively developed the topic over the last couple of years. Their investigative reporting is some of the best out there.

2. Become acquainted with everything on the subject at Dr. Theo Colborn is the go-to person for information about the impact of chemicals, particularly on children and the unborn.

3. Make sure that any landowner facing the decision to lease is familiar with OGAP (Oil & Gas Accountability Project). Their free manual, Oil and Gas at Your Door, should be the bible of everyone interested in this topic.

4. Blogs will give you local insight and help you connect with where the action is having negative impacts. Check out: (Arkansas) (Texas) (Texas)

5. Videos are a wonderful way to learn:
a. Split Estate – This documentary about Colorado and New Mexico features the conflict between surface ownership and mineral rights. Health problems are a key part. If you get this video, be sure you watch the “extras” in addition to the main feature
b. Gasland – Film maker, Josh Fox, gained a high profile after winning at Sundance Film Festival and became popular guest with national television interviews. There are HBO showings still being scheduled so check the HBO Documentary section for listings. Copies should be available to buy in December. Go to for information.
c. What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production – An excellent description of the process and chemicals by Dr. Theo Colborn. It is available at her website or they will send you a DVD.
d. But MOST IMPORTANT is a MUST WATCH 3-part video by the Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea, revealing the true economics and scale of this problem. This is possibly the most critical thing to be understood, since it is the only argument that will resonate with the political leadership. They must be shown that they have been listening to one side of the economic equation.

Contact JOYCE HALE 479-527-2777 or


Gasland documents severe health problems for people, domesticated animals, and wild animals when exposed to toxic water, fumes and noise related to gas drilling. Children developed asthma, others experienced severe headaches. Endocrine problems were common complaints of those living near drilling sites. Some of the animals lost much of their fur. Striper is one of our seven household animals we are concerned about.

Postscript from Paula: Here at Cedar Hill we heat our 800 square foot house with locally purchased seasoned firewood, and do not use air conditioning. Solar energy collected from eight vintage solar panels located on our roof provides our electricity including the biggest energy hog: refrigeration. (We do use a Sunfrost refrigerator which operates off a 12 volt system like ours and is built to be super energy efficient. We do not have enough solar electricity to operate the freezer unit.) Propane is the energy source we use to cook and bake, although in winter when we have our wood stove burning we heat water and cook some food on the woodstove. We consider this bonus energy! Our 100 gallon propane tank lasts us about nine months. We have had to do some research to find out where and what propane is. Do you know?

Propane is a gas often found with natural gas and even with petroleum deep within the earth. Some sources name it as a by product of processing natural gas and of petroleum refining. The processing of natural gas involves removal of propane and butane from the natural gas, to prevent condensation of these liquids in natural gas pipelines. Additionally, oil refineries produce some propane as a by-product of production of gasoline or heating oil.

Because we want to reduce our use of natural gas to a minimum, this means that one of our goals is to reduce use of propane in every way possible. Instead of heating water on the stove for our showers, we are now depending more on using the sun to heat the water in our solar shower bag for a refreshing hot shower. We will wash our laundry in Fayetteville tomorrow because we are going there to do our grocery shopping at Ozark Natural Foods Coop. To avoid burning all the natural gas it would take to dry our clothes (and the electricity used to turn those large tumblers) in the gas dryers, we will hang everything here in the hot August sun to dry. Actions speak louder than words….

January 22, 2010

Trust Women, Every Day, Everywhere!

Filed under: Ecofeminism,Patriarchy,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 4:10 am

Fall, 1950
Marie said to her long-time doctor, “As you know I have had four pregnancies in six years. I have three healthy children, and I have my hands full! I’d like a tubal ligation to insure that I don’t get pregnant again. I do not want any more children.”

Dr. Boughton replied, “Now Marie, you’re young. (She was thirty.) You’ll change your mind—I can’t do that.”

This is a reconstructed conversation relayed to me by my youngest sister Lea who heard the secret from our father long after Mother’s death in 1979. According to our father, Mother had some kind of “breakdown” after this third child’s birth. She went away for a week or so, leaving him with the children. Marie stayed with women friends and (he says) played bridge with them for that week. We don’t know if her request for a tubal ligation happened before or after this “breakdown”. In telling Lea about this episode in Marie’s life, our father was not sympathetic.

My mother, Marie Virginia Donovan Neilson, was a strong woman who had overcome a number of obstacles in her life. But seeking control of her fertility was out of her reach in 1950. The shame of this situation is not my mother’s shame! She was a victim of the shameful attitudes of the patriarchal medical institutions we live with. Today, 60 years later, we are in mortal danger of returning to the days of enforced motherhood and unsafe, illegal abortions! I am writing about family planning today because 37 years ago on this date the US Supreme Court upheld a woman’s right to choose a safe legal abortion within the first months of her pregnancy in the case Roe vs. Wade. The assault on this decision has been ongoing and quite successful!


A favorite family photo of Mother, Paula (far left) and my sisters relaxing in our camper and photographed by Dad about 1959. Our brother Karl is not pictured here.

Women and girls live in intensely woman-hating societies in most parts of our planet! Facing this fact is not easy for any of us.

Our strengths are called weaknesses. Our unique ability to nurture new life within our own bodies has long been treated as a shameful condition by patriarchal societies. Pregnant women are at higher risk of physical abuse from their male partners who often beat and kick them in their growing bellies. Choosing when and how to bring forth new life is the most personal decision anyone can make. The decision to have a baby is different for a woman than it is for a man. The frank reality that motherhood and fatherhood are not equal decisions is obvious and usually ignored! Women risk their lives to bring forth new life, men do not. Men cannot give birth. Men do not risk their lives to bring a child into their lives. Nor do they bond with the unborn baby in the same manner that a woman who carries the growing child within her own skin can do.

Pregnancy is a potentially dangerous undertaking. In fact, an abortion in the first three months of the pregnancy is much less dangerous to a woman’s health than a full-term pregnancy. Every woman makes a series of choices in her life that may or may not lead to her becoming pregnant. Many times she is forced to have sex against her will. Once pregnant, we must decide what is right for us, and for the fetus beginning to grow inside of us.

In the fall of 1973, I believed I might be pregnant. I remember walking home from the doctor’s appointment, kicking leaves as I walked, and not knowing the answer to that question. For days I considered my options. I thought about the possibilities of raising a child at that point in my life. I decided I was not ready to risk my life, or to bring another child into the world–I would have an abortion. Then I discovered I was not pregnant.

Trusting women to do the right thing is not a principal of patriarchy! Patriarchy is about domination of mind, body and spirit. Dr. George Tiller was an abortion provider. When Dr. Tiller wore the words “Trust Women” on his chest, he became a traitor to the idea of male domination of women. George Tiller’s actions to allow women to choose when, and if, they wanted to become mothers, put him at grave risk. He knew the risks to himself and his family. His commitment to women who had few choices to legally terminate their pregnancies grew from all he heard from women and girls. Dr. Tiller was murdered on a Sunday, while serving in his church in May, 2009 because of his commitment to women!

Assassinations such as Dr Tiller’s accomplish multiple purposes including eliminating an individual, as well as intimidating the rest of us. Assassinations also make clear the political agenda hiding behind the slogans of the love for the unborn. Abortion is a legal right in most western countries, but the assault on reproductive rights here in the US has been effective:
Conservatives, energized by the success of their antiabortion drive, are ratching up their offensive [against birth control]. They’re doing it in their churches and in their faith-based organizations and with the help of numerous point people in Congress. Those on the right claim they’re honoring women by preserving the sanctity of motherhood, but their real beef is the freedom birth control affords women to enjoy a healthy, safe, sex life while avoiding unwanted pregnancies. That speaks for the forty-two million–or seven out of ten–American women in their childbearing years who are sexually active (and heterosexual, I add) and don’t want to get pregnant.

This warning is from Barbara J. Berg’s new book, Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining our Future. Many women depend on effective birth control and assume that will protect them from considering an abortion. (It can’t happen to me, thinking.) However, many birth control methods are being redefined as abortions! Berg informs us that so-called Right of Conscience Regulation created by the recent Bush administratination broadens “the definiton of abortion to include many kinds of birth control, especially oral and emergency contraception, and allows health care providers to withhold available medical information if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs.”(p. 154)

What does “sanctity of motherhood” mean? Mary Daly, one of the most influential thinkers in the women’s liberation movement, warned us to be aware of patriarchy’s reversals of reality. For me, “sacred motherhood” or “the sanctity of motherhood” begins with respect for a woman’s capability to make informed choices about her life and to make the right choice about bringing new life to our crowded planet. Every child born into a wealthy nation consumes eleven times the resources of a child born in a developing country. All our personal choices affect the planet. We have come to understand the resources of our bountiful planet are not infinite. We are embarking on a new world where we must trust women–every day and in every way!

October 12, 2009

Vultures, Magnificent Birds with an Unsavory Job

Filed under: Paula Mariedaughter,Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 6:58 am

Igor, the vulture with a wingspread five feet wide

Vultures are majestic birds with an important part to play in the health of our ecosystem. Vultures take their job as scavengers seriously and want our respect enough to wear tuxedos to collect the garbage! Seriously, isn’t this a beautiful bird? If you saw it, and I told you it was a relative of the huge California condor and we called it an Arkansas condor you might be more inclined to admire the common turkey vulture. The condors have a 10′ wingspan! Our local relative has the same red head with a 5 1/2′ wingspan. Both are impressive as they cruise the skies soaring along the currents above the trees.


Igor, catching his balance

When this turkey vulture spread his huge wings preparing to lift off, I felt the breeze. The powerful wings pushed a rush of cool air toward us. This huge bird was tethered to the gloved hand of Lynn Sciumbato of Morning Star Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Lynn brought four common raptors to the Shiloh Museum for a program sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society on Saturday, October 11, 2009. I was sitting front and center with my new digital camera and asked beforehand if it would be permissible to take pictures. Five feet in front of me were birds I knew from living in the mountains of northwest Arkansas for the last twenty-three years, but I had never been within feet of touching them.

Lynn brought two owls; the smaller was an Eastern Screech Owl (about 8” tall with pointy ear tufts and a wingspan of 20, weighing a mere 6 ounces), and the larger was a Barred Owl (about 21” tall with pronounced bars of dark gray and a wingspan of 42”, weighing 1.6 pounds with no visable ear tufts). These owls are more common in woodland settings and tend to be heard rather than seen. The third of the true raptors was a Red Tailed Hawk, also a big bird and the most rambunctious bird as it waited for its turn to view the crowd. Each bird traveled to the event in a large plastic dog kennel with towels draped over each kennel to minimize stimulation. Red Tailed Hawks (about 19” tall, with the distinctive long rusty-colored tail feathers and a wingspan of 49”, weighing 2 ½ pounds) are often seen soaring high above open spaces or perched near roads and highways.


Eight inch high eastern screech owl with an injured left eye. Note the heavy leather worn to protect flesh from the razor sharp talons

When Lynn first introduced us to the diminutive screech owl I was impressed by the respectful manner she handled the owl and by how comfortable the owl seemed perched on her gloved hand even surrounded by strangers. Lynn is a former teacher and is licensed to rehabilitate wild animals at the sanctuary located in Gravette, AR. Her calm, gentle manner and warm sense of humor pervaded the room. Each of the birds seemed to trust her. Someone asked if she was not nervous having the bird’s sharp beak so close to her face. Lynn explained that in her mind the beak was comparable to a knife and fork used for eating food. With emphasis she explained that all the raptors have razor-sharp feet for seizing and killing prey. When she is attempting a rescue of an injured raptor, she must protect herself from an attack of those deadly claws. According to my dictionary, raptor comes form the Latin word meaning to plunder or snatch. Their name describes their actions for survival–the raptors all grasp their prey with their weapons know as talons.

Because of DNA evidence, vultures have recently been moved from the raptor grouping and are now classified with storks. The weak claws of vultures make them distinct from the raptors. Without the predatory claws, vultures are not capable of ripping open a tough hide on dead animals–they depend on other predators (many with cars) to open such a carcass. Vultures even have a vestige of webbing between their toes that makes their feet similar to storks.

We learned that frogs and lizards are common prey for this diminutive owl with the tufted ears. At Cedar Hill we often hear the distinctive high-pitched whinny call of the screech owl. The haunting sound is common, but an actual sighting is difficult because they roam the woods at night. Note that the feathers on this owl look like tree bark–camouflage is a protection against other bigger predators like the barred owl Lyn brought out next.


Almost two feet tall, with bars of color on the tail--one big owl!

Barred owls may look like a cuddly stuffed animal, but remember those razor sharp talons! Lynn noted that the barred owl may look big and heavy, but said it was a illusion caused by the fluffy feathers. She demonstrated by poking her finger in about two inches among the feathers before reaching the owl’s body. This big owl was almost two feet tall, but weighs less than 2 pounds. The wing span is 4 1/2 feet across and the owl makes not a sound when it swoops down with its feet out-stretched to sieze a rodent. We know our local barred owls only by their thrilling calls back and forth to each other in the evenings. Barred owls perch on a favored tree during the day. Occassionally, we have discovered evidence of their residency in the form of pellets the owls drop below the tree. This sign is full of compacted bones and fur–the remains of the prey that could not be digested.

In discussing the general disposition of the barred owl , Lyn thought them to be relatively easy to deal with in her experience. She said when she is called upon to rescue an injured barred owl it looks at her with its dark eyes and says, “Please help me.” In contrast, she said that when called upon to rescue an injured great horned owl, she looks into the gold eyes that seem to say, “I will rip your throat out if you approach me.” She summed up by saying that this disposition difference is why she does not bring any great horned owls to these public events.


Red tail hawks have a dark back, light underside often with a belly band of reddish color which this one lacks.

Lynn characterized the red tailed hawk that was rattling around in the kennel as her “diva” bird. Apparently, this elegant hawk had been acquired as a young bird by a falconer who trained the hawk to hunt. The falconer hunted with the bird and was quite upset when the hawk injured its left wing in an hunting accident. While the falconer watched, the hawk siezed a rabbit, but the rabbit twisted in a way that pulled the hawk off balance and the hawk’s left shoulder/wing hit the ground hard injuring the shoulder severely. The falconer spent thousands trying to have the hawk’s wing repaired. Lynn pointed out that this injury could happen to any bird of prey when siezing its dinner, and if it did, that the bird would probably starve because it could not fly well enough to feed itself. Or it would be killed by a stronger bird. Landings and takeoffs are always the most dangerous parts of flying. This is further complicated if you are hauling up a struggling animal in your talons.


The trust level between this big hawk and the woman amazed all of us viewing the interactions.

Red is a crude way to describe the coloring of red tailed hawks because the rich rusty color is difficult to describe. The young birds do not have the red tail. Many red tailed hawks have a horizontal band of reddish color across the chest below the wings. This belly-band varies among individual hawks and some, like the visitor Lyn brought, had no band of color across the white chest. The red tailed hawk is a stocky bird; it stands about 2 feet tall and displays the prominant hooked nose characteristic of most hawks. With a wing spread of four feet, we can easily spot a red tailed hawk from the ground as it is soaring over fields and the edge of forests looking for likely prey–especially small rodents. With excellent eye-sight the red tailed hawk can detect the slightest movement in the grass as a mouse feeds.

When driving north on Highway 540 in the winter months, Jeanne and I have sighted up to forty red tailed hawks perched in trees or on fence posts in the section of highway between Fayetteville and Kansas City. Again, these birds are visually scouring the ground for their next meal. Rarely, we have seen two red tailed hawks perched in the same tree along this route and speculated about their connection to each other.


Lyn lectures, but Igor wants her attentions! Lyn indulges her turkey vulture pal. Both species are social creatures.

“A fluffy white tennis ball with a black head” is how Lynn described Igor as a ten-day old chick when she rescued him. This was twenty years ago when a fisherman competing in a fishing contest at Lake Fayetteville noticed the strange creature at the edge of the grass and Lyn was called to rescue the baby thing. Igor lived in her kitchen for the first month in a effort to keep him warm enough to survive. With all that early contact the tiny turkey vulture imprinted on Lyn and believes they are family. Igor lives in an outdoor flight cage and occassionally other vultures will perch on the upper wire of the enclosed area looking down at Igor. Lyn reports that Igor will look up at the other vulture, but does not attempt to interact.

Most birds do not have a good sense of smell. Turkey vultures are an exception; they depend on their excellent sense of smell to locate a carcass from high above the ground. This is a valuable talent for a scavenger. Black vultures flying the same skies depend on visual sightings and are at a disadvantage. Black vultures watch the actions of these gifted smellers and follow the turkey vultures to a new carcass.


The bald red head serves the vulture well because it is more easily cleaned after attacking a decaying carcass.

Turkey vultures are often sighted in groups. While driving along highway 16W (before the county line) there is a dead tree favored by vultures on cool, misty mornings. I have seen about twenty vultures sitting in that tree. All are facing the rising sun with their wings spread as they dry their feathers after a damp night. Each time I see this sight I think, “These vultures are true sun worshippers!” These groupings probably include several pairs of adult vultures and their offspring who roost together and forage together.


After living together for twenty years, the turkey vulture knows what to expect on these public appearances.

Expect the unexpected! I went to this event at the Shiloh Museum primarily because my photo had won a third place in the amateur outdoor photography contest sponsored by the Audubon Society. What I experienced seeing the raptors and the vulture up close is impossible to describe. It is a highlight of my life because my view of my world has expanded. Witnessing the relationship between Lyn and the birds she has rescued, inspired me to document the birds and their mentor. Morning Star Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is performing miracles each and every day.


Lyn appears here to have a guardian dressed up in a tuxedo.

August 17, 2009

Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter: Flora or Smart Economics?

Filed under: Economics,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:17 am

Both. Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter is a unique tomato developed by a man nicknamed Radiator Charlie for his skills at his radiator repair shop. This was Charlie Byles who sold his unique tomato plants for one dollar each in the 1940s and was able to pay off most of his mortgage of $6,000 in six years with this extra income. This story came to me from Amy Goldman in her fabulous book The Heirloom Tomato. She elaborated by writing, “ ‘Mortgage lifter’ is a generic term that refers to a set of big old tomatoes, characteristically pink, from central Appalachia.” This tomato was big and juicy, of a beefsteak shape, often with several lobes. Not good for shipping, but great eating!


Homegrown Foxgloves in Bloom

Radiator Charlie understood the oppressive nature of another holding a mortgage on your home or business! This is smart economics to look after your long-term interests. Getting out from under a mortgage was understood to be an important effort in creating stability in one’s life. “Lifting” your mortgage was a life goal. Why would we want to gamble with the home or business that shelters us? In my parents’ generation one did not gamble in this manner unless desperate. Buying a house was a long-term investment.

Not owing a mortgage opens up options and possibilities. Jeanne and I knew this when we considering how we were to make a living in rural northwest Arkansas. This is a guiding principal we used to help us understand our options:

“The less money you need,
the freer you are,
the greater is your choice of jobs
and the less entrapped you are.
There are all sorts of things
we can do for ourselves.
If we have a tiny bit of land,
A small garden,
we can grow things.
We can do all sorts of things ourselves,
instead of buying everything.”

Before we moved to Cedar Hill in 1978, I latched on to this quote from E. F. Schumacker in an East-West Journal article circa 1977. I copied it in my own handwriting and posted it where we would see it every day. (I took the liberty of writing his words in verse form.)You may remember Schumacker as the author of Small Is Beautiful.

“The less money you need the freer you are,” seems an obvious statement today as many people are losing their jobs and, often times, losing their homes too. Home ownership is a precarious undertaking! Most people who loose their homes do so because of unexpected illness or unexpected job loss—who expects these things anyway? (Universal health care would help in this personal and economic disaster.) By buying bigger and fancier homes we gamble that neither illness nor job loss will affect us. With smaller homes and a smaller mortgage we have a better chance of weathering a financial storm. For example, with a smaller mortgage or no mortgage, we should be able to set aside some money each month just in case the “unexpected” happens. Perhaps you could set aside enough to live on for six months to a year should you have to cope with the unexpected.

My birth family lived in a modest house from 1947 until 1979. When the family outgrew the two bedroom house about 1954, my father built an addition of a large bedroom with bath and a family room. With four young children my parents knew the family needed more space; they liked their neighborhood and did not want to move (and could not afford to do so). My father, Paul, built a delightful space for his three daughters. Our room had a hardwood floor, knotty pine walls and we each had a walk-in closet. Dad built this while working full time as a land surveyor. This arrangement worked well for us for decades. With that addition, my family more than doubled our living space and created a multi-use, adaptable house. When the house was sold, I was told that those who purchased it planned to use that space for an ailing parent.

Sometime in the last thirty years the concept of “starter houses” appeared. Realtors encouraged families to keep “upgrading”. A highly mobile workforce also encouraged more buying and selling of homes and mortgages. Each of these developments benefits banks, realtors and other businesses that take a big cut every time a house changes hands. The more expensive the sale, the more those businesses will profit. When we let the industry decide how large a mortgage we can assume, we are engaging in foolish and risky behavior! We must think for ourselves and consider all the risks involved. We cannot let ourselves be seduced by large lots and pretty pools or big-screen TVs. The consequences may be dire. Remember, the less money you need, the freer you are!

Big house, little house, on in between–with someone else holding a mortgage on your home you are vulnerable to loosing the roof over your head if you have money troubles. Isn’t this obvious? And the more money you owe to the mortgage holder the more risk you take. Isn’t this obvious? In my ongoing exploration of both fiction and nonfiction books written by Sandra Dallas, I have been enjoying the book Gingerbread & Gaslights: Colorado’s Historic Houses. Dallas gives a guided tour of castles, mansions, huge ranch houses, and Victorians covered with “gingerbread” trim. When she was writing about these unusual houses in 1965, many had been torn down or abandoned. Some became museums or resorts. But most have not survived the decades. Each was a treasure. In reading the descriptions of the houses, the families that built them, and then the fate of the edifice, I kept thinking of the gambles that life presents to rich and poor. I once owned a large Queen Anne Victorian house at 1718 Summit St. in Kansas City, MO. It was in a poor neighborhood, but the house had been rehabbed by a neighborhood nonprofit. I loved that house. I still love that house. But I could not move it to my forty acres in Arkansas, so I sold it and that sale helped to finance our building our humble home here.


We Put Local White Oak Siding on Our 20' x 40' Humble Abode

My closing thoughts about mortgages and the value of “lifting” or avoiding a mortgage (when possible) involves the value of “staying put”. When we “stay put” we make connections—to the land, to friends and family. We care about the environment. For example, we won’t welcome a landfill like the one planned a decade ago near Delaney which the local community successfully stopped. We think about any chemicals we might consider using on our yards or near a stream because we are going to live with the long term consequences of that action. Putting down roots and creating a stable living situation for ourselves and our loved ones means more to me than living in a fancy house with an oppressive mortgage hovering in the background every day.

E.F. Schumacker reminded me that, “We can do all sorts of things ourselves, instead of buying everything.” Home grown food, homegrown entertainment and home-produced electricity are some of the ways we at Cedar Hill do for ourselves. Mostly it feels good. Especially, it feels good when we do not have to wake to an alarm clock! Usually I wake up about six and wander outside in the garden while it is cool. I weed and wake up. Sometimes, like this morning when Jeanne picked a handful of strawberries, and we savored the sweetness of a just-picked berry I believe I have everything I need.

July 27, 2009

Sustained Commitment: the Gardener’s Challenge

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter,Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:49 am

Clematis Among the Eastern White Pine Cones in Paula's Wreath

Spring finds every gardener full of enthusiasm for the turning of the seasons. We want to turn the soil of our gardens and work magic with Mother Nature. We are ready to turn our backs on winter and our faces toward the sun. We gather our seeds, tools and bring our grand hopes to our plantings. The new seedlings and spurts of growth spur us on to get up early and work long days in our grubby garden clothes. As the days get hotter and the insects arrive to torment us and our vegetative friends, we can falter in our efforts to weed, water and pick hornworms. Tim Stark put it this way, ” After twelve years of growing vegetables, I have learned to accept that every [growing] season presents a unique set of conditions that invariably prove to be less than optimal.” Stark wrote this in Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer. Wind, rain, no rain, bugs, heat, cold, and/or animal attacks can overwhelm the most enthusiastic gardener.

I try to look to my successes and minimize a focus on the non-successes. When I started quilting in 1994, my mentor Lila Rostenberg interrupted me when I tried to point out the mistakes in my current project. Lila assured me that there was no need to point out my mistakes. I took Lila’s advice seriously and always pass it on to my quilting students. I also appy it to my garden projects. When I am in my garden I employ the same strategy–it is a strategy you know! I learn what I can about the plants that do not thrive and I keep trying until it becomes clear that my garden is not meant to grow, for example, lovely delphiniums because they cannot tolerate our hot days and hot nights. I look for similar alternative plants. In the case of delphiniums, I found larkspur which do thrive here and even self-seed themselves for next year.

Today I’ve prepared a garden tour of some of our early-season successes starting in our main garden. At the center “grows” a driftwood figure we call our Dancing Goddess! The original was a piece of driftwood we discovered down the mountain along the river after a storm. It took a decade for the first Dancing Goddess to melt back into the earth. The current goddess is formed from part of the root system from an Osage Orange (also called Bodark or Hedge) tree we had to remove twenty years ago. Her outstretched arm holds this pinecone wreath I fashioned from the cones from the Eastern White Pine. I am fascinated by the curvy shapes of these cones. Not pictured, but below the Dancing Goddess, lounge bright red bee balm flowers to entice hummingbirds.


Striper Hunts Bugs Under the Tomatoes

Striper was a howling kitten when Jeanne found him abandoned down by the river. Named for his distinctive bold orange stripes he is posed below the thriving tomatoes. Each morning and evening, Striper also looks for bugs while I scan the tomato stems carefully for the camouflaged hornworms disguised as just another tomato stem. Below Stiper are the basil plants and to the right are sage plants spilling into the path.


Cleome or Spider Flowers Dot the Garden with Color by Mid-Summer

When we expanded our garden this spring I moved these purple coneflowers, the silver lamb’s ear and the cleome to our former visually neglected compost area. We needed the bed space for edibles. I landscaped with large rocks from the river to provide steps in this steep area. In the background you can see that Jeanne has created a huge mound of fresh materials to make fresh compost. The gold flowers are the first blooms of the rambling pumpkin patch. Some of the ten foot vines reached to the fence and the deer pulled on the vines through the fence to consume the tender growth.


Jeanne's Carefully Mounded Compost Pile in the Background with Huge Gourd leaves on the Far Left of the Picture

Our birdhouse gourd vines exhibited exuberant growth up the bamboo trellis I’ve provided. They seem to grow ten inches overnight and the long curling tendrils reach out for support and comfort (or so it seems,)when I walk by. Yesterday I found the first of the delicate white flowers that will transform themselves into foot long gourds in less thatn two months. These miracles of creation draw me back to the garden day after day. I depend on them to renew me. And I depend on these miracles to renew my commitment to hauling water and attending to the other needs of a successful garden–most of which I enjoy.

Gourds large and small were used by native peoples for serving dishes, mixing bowls, plates, dippers, storage and even for heating liquids. Once dried and cured gourds are strong and useful tools. To heat liquids in a gourd, one does not place the gourd over a hot fire. Instead, one heats several small clean rocks on the edge of a fire. Then using wood tongs the heated rocks are carefully dropped into the liquid transferring the heat from the rocks to the liquid.

Birdhouse Gourds in the Background and Lavender in the Foreground

Birdhouse Gourds in the Background and Lavender in the Foreground

Jeanne and I choose to add flowers and herbs to the mix in our vegetable garden. From comfrey and astragalus to foxgloves, coneflowers and morning glories we depend on these to bring pollinaters and to offer spots of color and texture to the garden canvas. This is our most ambitious garden; we are growing strawberries, corn, basil, garlic, cucumbers, yellow squash, carrots, pumpkins, watermelon, three varieties of tomatoes, gourds, several types of beans and a variety of greens. Last fall we planted three apple trees and cleared around a “found” mulberry tree.

Morning Glories

Morning Glories Beginning to Climb the Obelisk

Our yellow crookneck squash are buzzing with bees and beginning to produce the tender squash as the flowers fade to fruit, or in this case vegetables. The leaves are over a foot across and erect like an umbrella. We are seeing unwelcome signs of powdery mildew on the leaves of the squash and the cucumbers. Both of these plants have prickly hairs that irritate the forearms as we pick underneath the leaves searching for young fruit before they become oversized. Some people have a severe reaction to this irritant. Beware.

Squash Plants

Lush Growth on the Squash Plants with many Cleome in the Background

Our end-of-July garden tour of Cedar Hill closes with a closeup picture of the tendrils that tether these luxuriant birdhouse gourd vines to any nearby object. Each tendril has its own agenda as it stretches and twines toward a stationary object. The bamboo is harvested from our own homegrown stand. Our bamboo trellis lifts the vines off the ground and toward the sunlight allowing air to circulate among the leaves. Circulating air minimizes the chance of invasions of unfriendly mildew spores here in the garden as well as indoors if not using air conditioning.

If you look closely you will see that I have used jute to train the vines up the slippery bamboo poles. Gourds too have prickly leaves, but assisting the vines by tying them carefully to the bamboo is part of my ongoing relationship to the summer garden. Cool moist mornings are my favorite time of a day in the garden. The early morning promise is rather like the hopefulness of spring. Sustained commitment to nurturing and harvesting rewards you with snacks of perfect strawberries and tastes of green beans so tender when plucked off the bush that you do not dream of cooking them. Munch them whole while they last. It will be a long wait until next year’s crop.


Tethering Tendrils of the Birdhouse Gourds

July 22, 2009

Rambunctious Canine Meets Rambling Pumpkin

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter,Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:30 am
Early July Pumpkin Patch

Early July in the Pumpkin Patch

I fell for a warty, peach-colored pumpkin at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market last fall. The knobby growths and pale color attracted my imagination as the multitude of pumpkins jostled for attention on the long flatbed trailer. The pale color and the unusual texture pleased me in the same manner that I find the nubs seen in raw silk fabric add a pleasing texture to a smooth silk fabric. I circled the display searching for the perfect pumpkin to bring home to Cedar Hill. When I asked the farmer about the name of this variety, he pulled out the catalogue and pointed to Galeuse d’Eysines adding that they are delicious pumpkins encouraging me to steam it and to eat it.

I discovered that my adopted pumpkin was from Eysines, France introduced in 1883. This unique pumpkin, Cucurbita maxima, was also called Warted Sugar Marrow. I was sure my pumpkin was no hybrid with a pedigree like this! I had fantasies of growing my own next spring.

Sugar Marrow Pumpkin

Sugar Marrow Pumpkin from Eysines, France introduced in 1883

I displayed the Galeuse d’Eysines in several spots in the house that fall and winter appraising the personality and charm of this new acquaintance. By early spring, I had moved it to a spot outside near the front bench. As the pumpkin began to sink in on itself, I discovered that Shyla, our youngest adopted mutt, had enjoyed the texture in her own way. Shyla had shredded skin and the inner membranes containing the seeds. I found seeds and membranes scattered near the rock wall that marks our first garden bed. I vaguely hoped some might sprout, but had no expectations.

Today we have three rambling pumpkin vines climbing over and around our former compost area. Circumstantial evidence led me to believe that those wandering pumpkin seeds did sprout! I noticed the small pumpkin plants nestled near the rock wall before the deer did. I quickly transplanted them to a sunny spot below the main garden where they will be able to spread their tendrils far and wide before fall ends their adventure. I do not want to “count my pumpkins before they hatch”, but I am extremely hopeful that this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Some of the immature pumpkins are the size of golfballs–smooth with no warts yet. When I wrote this last week I was convinced that I had the wonderful warty pumpkin growing.

Today I believe that I jumped to conclusions! The pumpkins a bigger, still white, and have no warts. Among my scrapbook items for last fall I found a label for a “White Carving Pumpkin” from Bottomleys Evergreens in North Carolina and a product number to go with that pumpkin. I searched their online catalogue to locate the botanical name of the thirty pumpkins glowing in our garden but found no white pumpkins. I have emailed them about my dilemma and will report any results. Jeanne and I have resolved to buy seed for the Warty Sugar Marrow pumpkin for next year!

Saving seeds from hybrid plants is risky because the seeds are often not true to form. Seeds from non-hybrid plants, or open-pollinated seeds (sometimes called heirloom seeds), are reliable in producing plants and fruit like the parent. We have transformed our garden this year with our sweat and hand tools to make room for more edible plants. All our new seeds will be open-pollinated so we can save our own seeds for the future!

Our previous raised beds did not provide room for extreme ramblers like pumpkins, gourds and watermelons–all of which we are trying this year. Each of these varieties displays an affection for hot days and nights. I am energized by the “lust for life” of the cucurbit family. The Miniature White Cucumbers we planted are so prolific that I need to eat one every time I open the refrigerator. Picked at three inches long and chilled in the solar-powered refrigerator they are a perfect summer treat. With a sweet cucumber flavor and skin as tender as an apple, this cucumber is best eaten raw and I do.


Shyla, the Rambunctious Pumpkin Shredder

A great source for open pollinated seeds is Seed Saver’s Exchange, 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa 52101, 563-382-5990, All the seeds I have mentioned here were purchased from Seed Savers including:
Birdhouse gourd: Lagenaria siceraria
Watermelon: Crimson Sweet, Citrullus Lantatus
Miniature White Cucumbers, Cucumis sativus

I was challenged to understand which of these might cross-pollinate and produce an undesired, inedible hybrid. Seed Savers recommended The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes and Gourds by Amy Goldman (2004). The author indicates that squashes will not crossbred with melons and cucumbers. However, squashes in the same species do cross with one another. We have kept it simple this year by growing only one variety of squash.

The squash, watermelon and cucumbers were purchased seed. Our Warted Sugar Marrow pumpkin was planted by a rambunctious canine and nurtured by Mother Nature until Paula discovered it sprouting in deer territory. It has been a team effort with Jeanne carrying water to the pumpkin patch occasionally. All of these are rampant growers with big leaves and curling tendrils reaching for support. Some of the pumpkin vines are twelve feet long and still growing! I have developed an intimate relationship with each plant. I find myself infected by their “lust for life” and energized by their exuberance. Thank you, Shyla, for your part in this story!

June 24, 2009

Brooms are ancient and useful tools!

Filed under: Paula Mariedaughter,Subsistence Living — Paula Mariedaughter @ 2:57 pm
Kitchen Broom from Henson Brooms

Kitchen Broom from Henson Brooms

Brooms are ancient and useful tools! A well crafted broom made with natural broom corn works well on either our hardwood floors or on the section of the house floored with river rocks. Brooms are quiet and consume no electricity! But, well-made brooms of natural materials are hard to find. I don’t want plastic brooms and I cannot tolerate the roar of vacuum cleaners. In the 1970s I found a horsehair hand broom at a thrift store that I use with a vintage metal dust pan. My horsehair broom may be fifty years old and it is still performing well. These three tools are all I need to sweep dog hair and debris from the floor. When I went looking to replace our current broom after five years of use, I could not find a local source that met my standards. No one in northwest Arkansas carried a broom to meet these standards!

We know from family lore in Jeanne’s family that one of her Dad’s first sales jobs in the 1940s was to sell the new household cleaning tool–the vacuum cleaner. Of course he approached his extended family first to try his sales pitch and to try to make his first sale. Despite his persuasive personality there was a problem with selling vacuum cleaners. Most people did not have carpeting! In fact, a well made broom still did the best job sweeping up debris on bare floors. Brooms are portable, easily stored, not heavy or noisy. Not until carpeting became the norm did vacuum cleaners become ubiquitous.

Jeanne and I have an ancient vacuum in a storage area far from the house, but I dragged it out yesterday because I need to suck up as much dust as possible because we were having part of the ceramic tile entrance area replaced. Vacuum cleaners are superior for this task. We had plenty of sunshine, so I did not have to be concerned about the pull of electricity required from our solar energy system.

Ideally, I would be growing broom corn and learning to make my own brooms or trading my skills with someone locally who made brooms. Instead, I bought this Kitchen Broom from a family business called Henson Broom shop in Kentucky ( and paid to have it shipped to Arkansas. Our new broom performs well and is a pleasure to use.

I feel good about bringing this product into my home. Often I have mixed feeling about the things I choose to buy and use–from my favorite yoguart because it is packaged in plastic containers, to the electronic devices I use to make a living like our computers and the printer/scanner.

Brooms do not require nuclear energy or coal to produce the electricity to move them. Brooms are not noisy. I find that vacuums drown out thought! In most parts of the world, wall-to-wall carpeting is uncommon and homes have tile or hardwood floors, which are easily swept, wiped, or mopped.

Is it cool to use a broom? What urban hipster knows how to make one? Try this trick when you are next looking for a good broom: five years ago a Kentucky broom maker told me that a good broom will stand up on its own and proceeded to demonstate the fact that his brooms will do so. Do you have a broom well balanced enough to stand alone? Do you have a broom story?

May 7, 2009

Foxgloves in Abundance

Filed under: Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 10:56 am
Lush foxgloves, photo by Paula

Lush foxgloves, photo by Paula

One packet of seeds purchased in the early 1990s has brought a forest of foxgloves into our lives. At the time, I was operating Everlastings Etcetera where I was growing and crafting dried flowers and herbs. I poured over seed catalogues and books looking for information and possibilities. Mark and Terry Silber’s book The Complete Book of Everlastings is still my favorite resource about drying flowers and herbs. I knew that foxgloves could not be dried, but I wanted to experience the beauty of those tall spires of bell shaped flowers. I started flats and flats of seedlings and then planted them outside as the weather permitted.

With so much to do as I grew and harvested, then crafted wreaths and bouquets that I marketed at craft fairs and the farmer’s market, I neglected my foxglove seedlings. The everlastings were my bread and butter. By August I was desperate for help with planting the overgrown foxglove plants still in the seedling trays. As a birthday request, I asked Jeanne for help in getting them moved into the ground. The foxgloves were amazingly tolerant of the crowded conditions and the delayed move to a permanent home. Most of them thrived in the eastern exposure where they are protected from the hottest of the afternoon sun.


As biennials the plants must go through one winter before they bloom. In early May, Jeanne and I were rewarded with dramatic spires of long lived flowers in shades of white, pink, lavender and magenta. Each individual flower throat was marked with dark dots leading the way for fat, buzzing bumblebees to drink their nectar.

Foxgloves are prolific self-seeders if you leave the stalks in place long enough to set seeds. For the past fifteen years we have allowed the foxgloves to wander where they will. The seedlings seem to thrive at the base of the rock walls we use to retain the soil of our raised beds. Other exotic tall flowers with spires that I have tried to nurture along are delphiniums and bells of Ireland with no success–probably because of our hot summers.

Foxgloves are one of our garden successes. I have developed a gardening philosophy that embraces success. Rare specimens of individual plants do not usually intrigue me. I’d rather have lush groupings of ordinary plants with the emphasis on lush. With this philosophy, I can gather large cuttings of ordinary mint to scent the house. My eyes can feast on masses of a self-seeding dark green hosta or wild ferns like the maidenhair fern and christmas fern that thrive in our woods. I can pot up seedlings of the volunteer hostas and gather up seeds from the foxgloves to share with friends. Some gardeners regard self seeding plants as unwanted additions, and sometimes they are–for example perilla. But I consider foxgloves and others to be durable goods for the garden. Plant sellers want you to return again and again for their products. Why not grow your own whenever you can?

I use masses of ordinary plants who often chose new settings for themselves. These new combinations of textures put together by Mother Nature can delight the eye. You can see in the photo below how the huge wild mullein leaves add a silver grey texture among the foxgloves. The mullein plants volunteered in that spot. I do weed out some uninvited visitors, seeing my action as a form of editing. A tightly controlled garden does not appeal to me. Each spring can bring new adventures and discoveries especially when we welcome the abundance that self-seeding plants offer us.

Path among the blooms, photo by Paula

Path among the blooms, note the large mullein leaves, photo by Paula

May 6, 2009

Durable Goods Can Last a Lifetime!

Filed under: Economics,Homestead garden,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 4:52 pm

The concept of “durable goods” has been on my mind. I remember my shock when I realized that economists defined durable goods as something that lasts three years or longer. How did this come to be? As buyers we want excellent quality and a long life for our purchases whether it be a refrigerator, a wheelbarrow or a garden fork. Sellers tend to want to sell us products of poor quality needing replacement as soon as possible. In fact, economists have coined the term “interpurchase time” to describe the time between two successive purchases. The seller wants you to replace your purchase as soon as possible. Planned obsolescence can produce profits, but assaults the planet.

This desire for short term profits controls many business operations in a way not known in previous decades. As consumers and citizens we can be trapped by this perverse and shortsighted goal. Unless we actively resist we will be trapped into participation in the assault on the planet. Durable goods that are not durable are the norm. I believe we need to evaluate every purchase or acquisition we make by considering how long we can expect the item to remain useful. This is the opposite of a throwaway mentality. Authentically durable products are “green “ by definition!

Nikki lounging on the mulch

Nikki lounging on the mulch

Last weekend my neighbor and I hauled two loads of wood shavings from a local handle factory to use as mulch for our yard and garden. We borrowed a pickup truck and drove 23 miles round trip to haul the shavings which are a byproduct of making ash handles for tools. I have been mulching with these shavings for almost twenty years. I enjoy working with the shavings because they are a long-lasting mulch and bring no weed seeds and because theysmell of freshly cut wood. The blond color of the shavings help us to see any snake visitors we might have moving in the yard. We have been able to eliminate any lawn mowing by laying down the shavings. We do use a person-powered weed wacker to keep grass down on the outskirts of the homestead. I feel like a sculptor as I spread the hardwood shavings in paths and around beds.

Our ash shavings will last between six months and one year depending on how thick we spread them, how much traffic they receive, and how wet the weather is that year. The ash shavings would be considered a nondurable goods or soft goods because they are used up in less than three years. In previous years, we have had the luxury of having a dump truck deliver a huge pile of shavings about every eight months paying $100 for the delivery. This service is no longer available. The shavings are free when we haul them, but cost us in gas and in our time and put wear and tear on any vehicle we use. Our shavings do not come packaged in plastic.

I use Jeanne’s vintage pitchfork and vintage wheelbarrow to move the shavings to every corner of our homestead. This wheelbarrow and pitchfork were first used by Jeanne twenty-five years ago to muck out stalls when she had horses. Jeanne purchased both tools in 1974 and both are valuable and durable goods to us. We have replaced the hardwood handles of the wheelbarrow twice and had the body repaired once. While waiting for repairs we were forced to buy another wheelbarrow. Searching for a sturdy well-balanced wheelbarrow made us realize once again what a treasure we have. Everywhere we looked the quality was inferior. Planned obsolescence plagues our society–this is one of the reasons I haunt and hunt in thrift stores.

All of us serious about living as if the earth matters want to minimize our participation in consumption. Acquiring products you intend to keep for a long time makes sense. I propose that we the people redefine durable goods. When Jeanne and I bought our garden fork and shovel in 1985 we focused on securing lifetime tools. We have dug our garden beds in the rocky Arkansas soil and cared for those tools. We still use them and I believe both will prove to be lifetime tools. One of the reasons our tools are not broken is because we were given a pry bar to help forcibly lift the large rocks we encountered. Our pry bar was a gift from a friend who is an Arkansas native. She informed us when she appeared one day with this tool that it is a modified axle of a Model A Ford first produced in 1927. Now that is what I call durable!

April 12, 2009

Ragged Treasure from the Recycling Center

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 8:40 am
Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Look at the ragged treasure of a quilt I found for two dollars. I could see the potential in the dirty, ragged quilt they were selling for dog bedding! Our recycling center here in Madison County, Arkansas gives me a chance to shop when I drop off my sorted items. It is a poor county, yet we have access to a large recycling center. A dedicated core of local citizens over a decade ago pushed local government to fund the Recycling and Transfer Center as it is called. Any reusable items donated to the recycling center are offered for sale in the adjacent resale shop. Books, clothes, flower pots, tools and more can be recycled to my house for a small fee.

As an avid quilter and amateur quilt historian I was excited by the graphic sunrise design on the tattered quilt made circa 1930. It had seen hard use as the batting was coming out of threadbare fabric in many places on the top and one edge was torn and tattered. But the biggest problem was how dirty it was. I could not begin my repair efforts until I had washed this quilt. And that would be a risk. It could disintegrate in the washing machine. I stabilized all the weak areas with multiple safety pins to minimize the affects of agitating the quilt in water. I used a commercial washing machine because those machines tumble the clothes.

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

My risk paid off. I now had a clean quilt to restore. I named the quilt Golden Sunrise. An Arkansas woman unknown to me had hand pieced and hand quilted the blocks and added triple sashing and border to create a bright and cheerful quilt for herself and her family. I decided the ragged border on one edge was beyond repair, so I cut that border off and sewed a new binding around the whole outer edge. It looked good except for the batting popping out in many spots.

I used the trick of applying a circle of fine beige tulle or net over the delicate spots and carefully stitching the tulle to strong sections of the quilt. Once this is done the repair is nearly invisible even up close. As you can see from a distance in the picture, the quilt looks intact. I believe I spent about one hundred hours recreating this beautiful piece of folk art. I added a label noting where I found the quilt and documenting my repairs because I had become a co-creator of this treasure.

Paula at the quilt show

Paula at the quilt show

Sharing My Vision

Last weekend my Golden Sunrise quilt was a centerpiece of the special exhibit I put together called “The Drama of Two Color Quilts.” Three different groups of school children visited my booth at our Quilt Guild’s biennial quilt show at the Springdale Holiday Inn Convention Center. I showed them the vintage coke bottle with a sprinkle top on it for sprinkling clothes before steam irons were invented. I used a sprinkler like this almost every day growing up in Miami, Florida in the 1950s. Many of their eyes widened at my story of our putting the rolled up, sprinkled clothes in the refeigerator if we had to leave off the ironing for awhile. Some seemed to believe that I was “pullling their leg”, but I explained that once damp we wanted to keep the clothes damp without going sour until we could accomplish the ironing. Then I showed them the heavy iron that I currently use by heating it on top of my wood stove. I explained that our only source of power was the solar energy form solar panels on our roof, so we were very careful about any electricity we used each day. This was how I iron my quilt projects all winter. I pointed out that I was using energy that would have gone unused. I commented that irons and refrigerators are some of the largest energy hogs in our households. One boy spoke up and said that some things like a TV even use energy when not turned on. Obviously someone in his life is talking about energy use in a positive way.

When I pointed out the gold quilt on display and described the ragged and dirty quilt sold as dog bedding for two dollars I had their attention. This was a “rags to riches story” to capture their imagination. In fact, the next day at the show one of the teachers told me that she had asked the students to write about their experience at the quilt show. One girl had carefully listened to each detail about the quilt discovery and the restoration because she described it all in detail in her paper.

As a school girl, I had a strong reaction to learning about all the tons of rich topsoil lost to erosion because of not plowing fields following the contour of the land. I remember being concerned about the loss of soil and then the harm all the soil caused in the waterways. My young adult career did not reflect that concern, but it was planted deep in my consciousness! When Jeanne and I began to build our homestead in 1987, we knew we wanted our raised beds to follow the contours of the mountainside. Perhaps my story of seeing treasures in ragged quilts and of living off the grid will remain an influence about possibilities with some of those young people.

Photo credits:Each of these photos was taken by Judy VanderHam at the April, 2009 show sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Quilt Guild. We thank Judy for her generous assistance!

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress