George & 2 Oldest Daughters

George & 2 Oldest Daughters
George, Oldest Daughter, and Me, 2nd Daughter 1968.

Caroline and Oldest Daughter

Caroline and Oldest Daughter
Caroline and Oldest Daughter in Photo Booth 1964

Boy George

Boy George
George and younger sister in 1940's

George and his Oldest Daughter

George and his Oldest Daughter
George and His Oldest Daughter 1964 in Photo Booth

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Challenges of Being An Adult At University

This week, I began a Project Management course based on the PMBOK curriculum from PMI. At the University that I attend, I am the odd student out in the age groupings. Most of the students are untried (for the most part) in life, and between 18-22. At the age of 44, I am sitting with students as contemporaries the ages of my three children. I am the old and wise woman that needs to learn to not jump in all the time with examples they can't comprehend. More than once, I have had a professor heave a deep sigh when I say something that the professor can relate to, but my fellow students cannot. Personally, I would think this an opportunity to expound on the example and bring other students into the conversation from the dark ages of life before the world wide web. However, I am simply learning to take notes and listen mostly.

The Project Management course is at the local community college. It will be for 2 quarters, and meets once a week for 3 hours at a time. The coursework is from books, and we turn in assignments online. We meet to discuss the readings and work on group projects. I was pleasantly surprised as out of the 11 students in the class, only one was from the 18-22 age group. It amazed me to weigh the difference between the chattiness and contribution of the adults as opposed to the students I am in class with. Instead of feeling like everyone is just sitting and waiting for class to end, this class was actively engaged. I don't know if it is the fact that we are all there with the purpose of adding credentials besides required classes for a degree, or the fact that we all come from the working world, not from high school. All I can say, is how wonderful it was to finally have fellow students my age to engage with. Every day holds new experiences and opportunities, I am trying to make the most of every one.

Taking Delight in Life

As frustrating as life can sometimes seem, the daily challenges can be delightful memories as the story unfolds over time. This past week has been involved with my daughter purchasing her first car, transferring the title, and finally getting her license on Friday. She would not let her grandfather, George, drive her Saab unless a fair exchange was made; she would be allowed to drive his Corvette.

George does not allow people to drive his Corvette, as that is his baby. However, his fellow Aquarian, my baby, had yet to stare him down with the same determination and fortitude George possesses. George wanted to see how her car handled, and she said "Grandpa, no one drives my car but me". George was not thrilled, but accepted the answer, since it is one he is fond of issuing himself.

We went to lunch after transferring the saucy minx's title into her name, then on to George's house to look the car over again. He played the video he put together of my brother and his family's visit with us this summer, then, all of a sudden, the two Aquarians were out the door. George came back in for his keys after 10 minutes, and I asked what was transpiring. He said that it was only fair that since she allowed him to drive her Saab, that he followed through with his Corvette. I was floored, to say the least.

On our way home, she admitted that it was fun in George's Corvette, but she disliked the reclining of the seats and the way the steering felt. She loves her Saab, and is happy with her decision; and smug in the fact that she is the only other person George has allowed to drive his Corvette...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sascha the Saab

My youngest daughter just purchased her first car, a 1996 Saab 900s, in beautiful condition, and she has christened it Sascha.

We have all been instructed that there is not to be any food in the car, she will be the only driver at all times, and Sascha is likely the cleanest car you will ever encounter. She is in love with her first car, and enjoying college and having her own job. At 18, she is proving to be quite responsible and cogniscent of where she wants to be in life. Time will tell if Sascha remains clean, and the campaign to push her way through to her goals prevails. My belief is that my youngest cub will persevere and claim victory in her quest. After all, she is George's granddaughter :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dendochronology; How Trees Talk

When I was a kid in rural Washington State, I grew up on the property my father was raised on. I heard the stories from my grandparents about how when my father, the 7th of 8 children, was a toddler, he used to like running off and trying to hide, so they put a red hat on him to be able to spot him on the 100 acres of old growth timber. My grandparents came from Slovakia, and were a team in every aspect of the word. When they cut the firewood or lumber, my grandmother and grandfather worked the crosscut saw together, split, stacked, and hauled the finished product to its designated spot.

My dad bought 20 of the 100 acres and the house from his parents, and we had a routine every year as I was growing up, to venture to the swamp and cull the widow makers and snags for firewood that coming winter. Dad would warm up his Stihl chainsaw after carefully filing the chain to sharpen its teeth, and tell us all to stand back with our safety goggles in place. Sawdust would fly; the buzz of the chainsaw would fill your ears, and then cut out just before the telling crack of the tree falling. We had the joy of calling “Timber!” as the tree was going down, and resting on the stump as dad came back from checking on the fallen tree. It was one of those times that my dad informed me I was sitting on a map of the tree’s life.

I quickly hopped up, and looked around me. He pointed at the tree stump, and at the tree’s freshly cut log end. “Those rings tell you how old a tree is, and what kind of life or environment has happened while it grew.” We counted the rings of the trees after that every year and Dendrochronology was a word I became familiar with at seven years of age.

Now, as an Anthropology major in college, I have learned more about Dendrochronology, and that even the Viking ships that are unearthed, are able to be dated by the tree rings within the slabs or logs on their ships, along with the knowledge of where the tree was likely harvested from and the weather or climate conditions the tree had endured up to the time of its harvest.

People often say “if trees could talk”….well, they do. Every tree is individual and has a story to tell; which is why I enjoy looking at the furniture Robin Wade makes, and deciphering what the tree went through before I was able to enjoy its wood in my table, chair, bench, or countertop. I wonder who sat under its branches many years ago, had their first kiss, shot a bear or deer to feed the family. If only, trees could talk…

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby Learns to Drive

Not too terribly long ago, I had a young girl running around asking "what is that" or "can I try that"? Now, she is asking, "Hey, when are we going? I want to drive." Yes, my youngest is 18, a freshman in college, and a very good driver. Today she took the initiative to scour my truck, and look up insurance quotes. Be still my heart, I may not have to drive her anywhere much longer....that is both exciting and terrifying simultaneously. I am proud of this young lady, my baby, all grown up.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Change is in the Air

My grandfather was Slovakian, and came to America in 1918 on the ship Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic. He worked as a Powder Monkey (Dynamite Setter) in the coal mines of Roslyn. His mother had left him behind as an infant, and come to America and remarried. When his stepfather found out about him, he sent for him, and the rest, is history.

He sent for my grandmother and their son in 1922 after having saved up enough money over three years for their passage. This man, and his wife, had 8 children, purchased a 100 acre farm for cash after saving in the coal mines, and Grandma selling vegetables from her garden. They raised potatoes, cabbage, and ran 40 head of dairy cattle that were milked twice a day, by hand.

This garden with my older sister standing with our grandfather is how he retired from farming. He never took a vacation, as all he knew was that if he didn't work, he wouldn't eat or have a roof over his head, neither would his family. There is much more that I can write about my grandparents, as they were amazing people, but the fact that we never wondered what was in our food or if we were healthy is another testament to how our lives have changed so dramatically in the last 100 years. It is my firm hope, and belief, that we are returning to simpler ways of feeding ourselves and the world, but it will not be without a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who don't want to change their lifestyle.

Whether we wish to change, or not, we must. Our survival will require cooperation of industry and government with the citizens of those countries, to develop better infrastructure, less pollutants, and a healthier population that is a sustainable reality.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sustainable Gardening

This summer, I took two courses at the local community college in order to meet some requirements for my undergraduate degree at my university. I took a Physical Education course, that also involved some nutrition information, and Environmental Science. The Physical Education course did make me think about movement and what I eat, but my Environmental Science course involved a project that we had to present to our class using PowerPoint.

We chose topics that were of interest to us, and formed groups. The topic my group discussed was Seed Banks and the Future of Our Food. What we uncovered was really quite revealing and changed how I approached my gardening, daily purchases, and awareness. Here in the United States of America, we are fortunate to have the soil and water we need at the moment to grow our food. The forethought of others to stow seeds in a seed vault or seed bank I always believed to be quite interesting. Now, it makes me wonder how imperative it actually is.

I learned more about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and a company called Monsanto than I ever dreamed I would. The Monsanto opponents have been very vocal, and there are postings all over Facebook that "inform" you as to what you are really eating. How to choose a traditionally grown or organic piece of produce over a genetically modified one. So, what makes the genetic modification so frightening? Humans have been modifying crops and domesticating them since the Fertile Crescent c. 10,000 bce.

What is frightening, alarming, chilling, whatever word you choose to use, is the fact that not only plant species are being crossbred. In 1991, a company called DNA Plant Technology submitted a request to the FDA for a new type of tomato it had created. The company claimed it had developed a tomato that produced its own anti-freeze. So, in essence, instead of attempting to freeze a tomato, and have the result be mushy and inedible except for sauce or ketchup, this would keep tomatoes on the firmer side. How did DNA Plant Technology achieve this? They had crossed the genes of a deep sea fish known as the Winter Flounder, with a tomato I do not know the name of. Biodiversity at its best? This tomato never did become commercialized on the open market. However, Monsanto is definitely commercializing their corn and cotton crops.

From the research I have read, Monsanto owns the patents on the seeds they produce, which they mix with their chemical product Round Up, with their Round Up ready seeds. The plants are supposed to be weed resistant, and the farmers that grow them are not allowed to save seed, as a farmer using traditional methods may. They are required to purchase new seeds every year, and, if by chance a plant is seen elsewhere, maybe carried to a location by the wind or a bird, and a Monsanto agent chooses to pursue it, the person owning that land with the plant is very likely to be sued, for growing a patented seed. A seed that grows a plant that is becoming weed resistant, and if a crop is to grow successfully, requires different chemical agents to be used and developed. Corn and BT (Bio Technical) cotton crops have failed in India and South Africa recently that were Monsanto crops. Farmers in India commit suicide sometimes when they have a failed crop, or are forced into bankruptcy. The problems in South America with the Soy Bean crops is also becoming an issue.

It is my understanding that the EU and UK have voted for no GMO produce in their markets. Are GMO feed supplies being used to feed their livestock? Soy Beans from South America, the USA? What is happening as the GMO is ingested up along the food chain is yet to be seen. So, what are our options for farming? Permaculture is something that I have been looking into with a great deal of excitement.

Permaculture is designing and maintaining a sustainable community/ecosystem using self-maintaining ecosystems, mirroring natural ecosystems. So, to put it simply, ecosystems within a community that sustain life, and food, and that the humans and other life living there maintain. Composting everything that you can, recycling, rotating your crops and avoiding soil depletion, taking only what you need and storing the surplus. Really, to me, this is just getting back to basics and the common sense farming of the past.

In Africa, where some of the soil is so badly compacted and rocky with little or no opportunity to grow food, they are making what are called Keyhole Gardens and Bag Gardens. These are examples of vermicompost where grey water is used, food scraps go back into the soil, and families are fed. I found them here and am still amazed by the results. Of course, I am not saying everyone needs a garden in a bag, or anything extreme. However, in a world where we are trying to feed people with monoculture crops like soy beans, corn, wheat, and limit the biodiversity that ecosystems require, this is a simple demonstration that we do have alternatives.

Here in the Seattle area, we are seeing a Food Forest planted by volunteers to allow people to come and harvest for themselves as needed. Ron Finley in Los Angeles has done that on his own .

There are many other examples available if you open your eyes. Once you become aware though, beware, you can never stick your head in the sand again. What is the future of our food? Will we own our food, or will companies like Monsanto lay claim to ownership after patenting seeds? Approximately 10,000 years ago agriculture and domestication of animals and plants came into being as hunters and gatherers settled in the river valleys and grew their food. How can any one group of people, or corporation, lay claim to owning the technology that has fed the human race for as long as we have farmed our land?

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