Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chemical Free Cleaning Frenzy

I went on a bAzzUrk cleaning frenzy today. A little secret about me is that some may call me dirty, messy and I have even thought of myself akin to "Pig Pen'... like the time i jumped in someone's car and the sun shown just right through the windshield only to reveal a cloud of dust poofing off my clothes. Then they sneezed. Not to say I am totally disgusting but I can relax with a mess around - as long as everything I need is perfectly organized and in it's place. A little dirt won't hurt.
When I do finally decide it's time to repair the tornado that is life - I do everything eco friendly without a single chemical.
I hand wash my clothes in a Wonder Wash (spins them clean in just a few minutes) without using soap! I usually squeeze a lemon into the wash, drop some baking soda, or vinegar... or like today I boiled some ginger & lavender in water and poured that in. Mmmm.... smells so good. I stopped using soap many years ago when I could not find one that was gluten free plus chemical free (I bet there are some like that now but I dont look for it anymore.)
Once the clothes are washed I hang dry them - outside in the spring, summer and fall and then inside over the main heat source during the winter. The outside sun does the best and makes the clothes smell sooooo good, so in the winter I really miss it. I don't eva' use a clothes dryer.
For cleaning my kitchen counter and table I invented a neat little liquid scrub in my blender today... I took a huge chunk of ginger and a few sprigs of fresh lavender, tossed them into the blender with a cup or two of water and blended the ba-jezuz out of it. I then wiped clean all the smooth surfaces! It totally got up the whatever that makes globby spots and sticks to tile. It worked good on hard to clean dishes too. :)
I swept the floor and picked up bits of trash. All tidy and smelling good without any chems or much electricity.

But I am not even through...


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Walkin' On Willow Creek Road

Yesterday I took a walk down Willow Creek Road, the sun was actually shining and the snow on the main road has melted away (mostly). My favorite thing to do is see all the animals people have on their properties... I came upon a bunch of teenage cows huddled together.
Two of them were closer to the gate and let me walk very close to them until they realized I was a stranger - then they took off running. It's not often I really see cows run and these were flying downhill like a gazelle!
Down the road further I got to see one of my buddies who I have visited a bunch of times while riding my bike - my donkey friend I call "Freedom"! Freedom got really hairy for the winter and looks to fuzzy and cute... I feel bad for him though , cause he's been all alone in a too small area for many months now and it's made him highly aggressive (AKA he's not friendly). He starts snorting and trotting quickly before I even get close to his fenced in territory, over the months he's gone from curious to downright spooked and crazy. I want to set him free and that is why I call him "Freedom".
Right next door to Freedom is a baptist church called Ebenezer (like the scrooge?) - I am not too happy with them since they ignore Freedom's needs so I figured maybe that "444" address is really code from something else.... hmmmm, like 666 Saaaaaatan!?!?
Moving right along... sometimes I dream about making a pretty coffee table photography book about barns of Big Sandy Mush. Each one has such a thumbprint of personality.The pic below actually has what is called a "shit pond" behind the sign. Farmers wash the cow poop into one holding spot, then later pump the poop liquid out to use as fertilizer on the fields. While this smells horrid and I always think I might puke smelling it - I have to say I would choose this over chemical fertilizers any day.
Look at these pretty horses!!! The white one in the back blends in with the snow. I wanted to jump on and ride away.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Project Fail: Skinning A (roadkill) Opossum

WARNING: The following post is graphic, with graphic photos of a poor wittle opossum who was killed by a dog on the side of the road. I attempted to skin it's fur, so it wouldn't be entirely wasted.Remember the opossum I found dead during the epic snow storm here last week? Well, gross at it may be to some people I felt so strongly about not wanting his death to be a total waste I picked up his heavy frozen body, placed it in a plastic bag and carried him to my house. When the possum thawed out I decided it was time to try and skin the fur. I took some string and hung it up by it's two back feet to prepare for skinning. I could not find a really decent instructional video online about skinning an opossum so I had to rely on sketches and word of mouth. Also, this is the first time I have skinned an animal (except for the copperhead snake), so as always was a difficult learning process with some major FAILS!

Two Things You MUST have for Skinning:::
  • An awesome sharp as hell knife,made for skinning (I didn't have this)
  • Rope to hang it up and hold it in place
The first thing I did was cut complete circles around it's ankles, then a line down the inside of the leg (that part was easy). Then I saw the genitals & butt -at this point I realized a few things which were going to make this project hard for me...
1. My knife sucked, it is imperative you have a very sharp skinning knife (otherwise the gross factor and accidental punctures are in high frequency).
2. The COLD! It was freezing freaking cold out, so cold that the animal's fat was all sticking/congealed and the skin was tougher to pull.
3. I could not cut by the anus. I have anus issues. I had to eventually cut a big circle around the whole tail, balls, anus area because something green emerged from the anus, terrifying me.... and i was all alone out there with a dull knife.

When the green stuff emerged I lost my ability to deal with the project and had to step away. For a few days. Working up a plan and nerve to go back to it- the 30 degree weather kept the poor half cut thing well refrigerated till I came back to him with full resolve to finish what I started.
I PULLED! And pulled! Just like i was told to do, trying as hard as i could to peal off the skin. I pulled so hard I heard the wood beam I hung it from cracking and i nearly lifted my feet off the ground using full body weight.
I Pulled More! It pealed a little, mostly along the back - the belly was rock hard with fat. Out of fear I was going to rip down the porch beam and was a little defeated by my own lack of strength I had to stop.
I decided to accept my fail, and cut a small piece of the soft fur off it's back that was good, so that I can watch the process of drying (just to learn from it!)
I cut him down finally, and put the rest of his body to rest - and then took the skin off to the side to de-fat it.
When the skin is pulled off it has excess fat that has to be scraped off - which in the freezing cold outside is not too easy. I was told though getting rid of the fat makes the "leather" more pliable. (This is without tanning it after either - which I wasnt ready to do the non toxic way... with brains.)
I scraped it best I could with my shitty knife, and hung it up outside. I look forward to seeing how it dries and oh please gawd someone tell me this is easier when the circumstances are right!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Review: Clan Of The Cave Bears, Handmaid's Tale & Island Of The Blue Dolphins

With big snow storms and holidays I got into the groove of reading again this past week... in fact I plowed through all three of these awesome books - all of which had a unifying factor I happen to love in a novel. A female character who changes her life, learns skills to cope with life as is, yet also effects great change in the process... freeing herself. This is the theme which never seems to stop thrilling me and whenever I am asked what kind of book i want to read i always say "about a girl who changes her life".
Thanks to the peeps who gifted me these cool books! Here's my review::::

Clan Of The Cave Bear : It wasnt just the beloved girl changes her life plot that made this book rock, but it was the vast amount of research of flora and fauna knowlege, the primitive interptations, the cultural and DNA difference over time - which all sucked me in like lips on the straw of a chocolate milkshake. This book takes ya back in time while somehow unifying and defying time all at once. It is apparently part of a 5 part series, so the only flaw is the end leaves ya hanging bit. Even though it has dragged you through more detailed description then most human minds could ever think to plot on paper- you want more, you feel like if the book ends maybe you will too.

The Handmaids Tale : This is one creepy freaky, terrible tale which still has beauty in the sick and mundane. Maybe lots of grotesque things happened in this story, but somehow it is described in such a way that you are only moved as much as the main character is moved. It is not entirely apocoplytic, but somewhat of a disintegration of society as we know it- and for this I find that I like it's offshoots and reasoning as to why things have become a little bit like Pink Floyd's THE WALL meets Hilter meets The Stepford Wives for the people in America. OF course the main character is a woman, and oh hell does her life change and then change some more. This book is not cheery and is good for a day when you are depressed and wanna stay that way, or would enjoy thinking of all the ways things really could go wrong and how simple it would be for the government to control us like frightened sheep.

Island Of The Blue Dolphins : This book fascinated me because it is based on the true story of a women who ends up living on a island for a looooooooooog time all alone. Like Clan of the Cave Bear, this book has cool survival elements to it, where I felt like i was learning more then just the story of her life- but about how humans come to survive any situation we are in, our adaptability and our willingness to continue on in the face of bad odds. It is compelling, lonely and creative- and includes animal enemies and animal friends (which i happen to love that stuff in stories!) It's not a long book, it does not drone on, nor is it filled with plotted fluff - it's a simple read with a simple ending.

Do you know of any books with these kinds of story lines that I might also like?!? It can be about a guy who changes his life too ;) !!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Animal Tracking: Prints In The Snow

The snow has made some really fun animal & bird prints this week! Every inch of snow is like an empty canvas waiting for the imprint of nature to draw something simple, complex and soothing on it. There is nowhere an animal can tread now without leaving a sign of it's passage in the fluffy frozen snow...
The first pic up top I am pretty sure is a hopping bird. This is close under the apple tree and bean rows where I have been watching tons of birds each day try to find food. This spot in particular looks as though they sunk a little and then had to hop out.
This next pic above may look a little scattered, but that is because it is from the Guinea Hens - they stay in close tight groups while walking around in search of food which leaves prints in a jumbled mess in the snow.
Unlike this next pic...
The perfect skipping paw prints of a small dog!

This next evidence is from a rabbit, who is using the same path over and over again under the fallen bamboo! I was pretty sure it was rabbit tracks, then i saw this scat (poop) pictured below and was certain it must be a big bunny!
This last pic below was the prints of a tiny brown and white feathered bird next to the well house. I am not sure how they ended up being straight lines, except maybe the snow was not sinking as much, and the bird's hops were tiny and connected? Or possibly it goes to the same spot over and over and re-traces it's steps? What do you think?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Giant Red, Black and White Woodpecker

Ya'll would not believe how excited I was when this morning I saw this giant woodpecker fly right to a dead branch of a native Cherry Tree outside my window and start pecking! I have only had the privilege of seeing this type of woodpecker two other times in my life in the last 9 years of living in the smokey mountains - they are HUGE woodpeckers, the second largest in North America and are hard to stalk or get a glimpse of. This one was the smaller of the three I have seen (and is female), but just as powerful a presence and just as striking with it's strong colorful markings and red mohawk head.
They make loud wild jungle cries, which you can listen to at click here!
The first time I ever saw a Pileated Woodpecker it was tremendous, I had never seen a bird so big. I was living in Bethel, NC in the Pisgah National Forest, the woodpecker had landed on a wooden outbuilding behind the house as I had been quietly standing there. It had not seen me and we were hardly 10 feet apart, when it did see me it did not seem to care I was there- we locked in a long unifying stare that I could never put a time frame on. I was in awe and wished I could see another one like it after it finally flew off.
The second time I saw one of these woodpeckers I was sitting inside my tiny house in Marshall, NC which was also deep in the woods - some unpainted wood siding had just been put on a small portion of the house. I was totally alone when I heard something hammering so loud on the side of the house I thought a human was pounding the back of the house with a sledge hammer! It was deafening and scared the crap out of me. I slowly walked to the back of the house, as I heard more frantic hammering but I could hear no human moving around back there. When I got around the corner of the house, there was the giant woodpecker slamming away at the wood. I had got my wish to see one again. :)
Info from "After the extremely rare Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), this is the largest woodpecker in North America. Despite its size, this elegant woodpecker is often shy and hard to observe. Obtaining a close view of one usually requires careful stalking. Although primarily a forest bird, the "Logcock" has recently become adapted to civilization and has become relatively numerous even on the outskirts of large cities, where its presence is most easily detected by its loud, ringing call and by its large, characteristically rectangular excavations in trees. Its staple food consists of carpenter ants living in fallen timber, dead roots, and stumps. The woodpecker excavates fist-sized rectangular cavities, then uses its enormously long, sticky tongue to reach the ant burrows...
17" (43 cm). A crow-sized woodpecker. Black with white neck stripes, conspicuous white wing linings, and prominent red crest. Male has red "mustache," female has black...
Lays 4 white eggs in a tree cavity."


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Epic Snow Storm

DAY 1The news had predicted about 8 inches the day before the storm. I knew that meant much more would fall, but I had no idea I would spend the next 5 days without any phone, internet, electric or an easy way out! It came down so fast, so blury, flurry and wet that it was leaving a tall coating of snow on everything. A specific kind of pile up, that weighs down trees and power lines. But it was sooooo pretty I was super happy and excited to see such a unique snow storm.
I noticed within the first few hours that trees and bamboo were leaning, cracking, and falling down to the ground. It had a creepy crushing feeling, just to watch everything be pushed, their tops now at their roots.When i hiked through the snow to check on the pig, we was happily eating some fluffy white to keep the entrance of his door clear. Sometime soon after the power in the house began to flicker and I rushed to prepare every flashlight, lantern, the one candle, cook food, fill pots with water, wash dishes, set up blankets, keep the wood stove fire going, crank up an electric heater...make a few calls, till everything went dark and the phone went to static in the middle of a conversation.
I woke up to the pure silence of no electricity. As quiet as my environment already is, this was something to adjust to - no running fridge, no internet, no IM blinging away, or typing keys, no radio (no music!), no ringing phone, no low hum of all that is electric. The ice castles that formed on every branch of every tree were something out of nature's magical imagination - like nothing I ever saw before. So sculptural and majestic, so cold and foreboding.
The snow was up to 18 inches in some spots - varying from my knee to mid thigh. Pushing through the wet snow took strength I did not realize- especially uphill! My muscles got very sore very quick! People in regions used to this much snow might think this is no big deal, but we don't usually get large amounts of snow, especially the kind that takes down so many power lines and fills up so many roads that people lost all contact with the world for days... some still don't have it. I spied an old phone line in the bamboo and it was so tangled in fallen stalks it looked like the heartbeat on a heart monitor! When I saw that, i knew it would be a while before things went back to normal.
The beauty was astounding. In the pic below, you can see the tiny brown spot under the roof of white snow - that is the house i live in!
I trudged my way all the way up into the orchard to see the stormy view....the snow was still coming down.

By the end of day 2 I decided the fridge and freezer food would need to be moved on ice - so I took an old washtub and filled it with snow. I placed it in the bathroom which was as cold as outside, but protected from animals. My idea ended up working great for storing fish, eggs, tofu and leftovers that i was cooking on the wood stove.
The drabness started to get to me, no sun, no way to call friends or family, the other person in the house with me was endlessly moody and stressing out --- i concentrated on cooking food on the woodstove, tending to the fire to stay warm, and began two activities : Reading books and hand writing a journal of the power outage. (Look forward to seeing it online in it's hand written form maybe tomorrow!)
This picture below is the driveway/road to the house. Bamboo had created an elaborate maze to jump under and over. No way in by vehicle and ya had to crawl out...until someone came with a chainsaw... then you just had to duck on your way out.
There still was no power or phone, but the sun came up and somehow that warmed my heart just enough! When I walked to the end of the road to use someone's cell phone plugged into a car charger, i knew things were gonna get better cause the FIRST SNOW PLOW came down the road and was clearing the snow and ice!!!
YAY for the snow plow man!!!!!!!!! This meant it was only a matter of time before the workers would come to Big Sandy Mush Valley and clear some of the mess... trees had been hanging off power lines and the area had been virtually untouched since the storm.
PLUS music played in the car, music was like magic to my ears. Pink Floyd no less..."we don't need no education"... so i got excited for a little while and took the dare to jump into the snow. (Did you know wet snow sticks to wool, then melts and makes your warmers wet?!!! it does!)
But this poor opossum on the road just broke my heart looking at him ( killed by the neighbor's dog most likely) pretty much sums up this week of snow hell. It's amazing what takes place when we lose our protection, whatever illusion or physical protection it is we have. Being vulnerable in a dependent modern world is no joke...I learned alot of good and hard lessons. The biggest of all lessons ***What Doesnt Bend Breaks***.
on DAY 5 during yesterday evening the power came back on!!! It turned off once after, but has been on ever since. Let's hope it stays on (in spite of the warnings from the radio it may go back off and they predicted snow on X-mas!!!) NO more snow pLEASe!

  • hand cranked LED lantern + No battery flashlight
  • wood + woodstove (heat and cooking)
  • snow 'cooler' for food
  • humanure toilet system
  • water stored in pots + water stored in hot water heater
  • books and writing
  • help from others