Memorial Day

A while back, I began a series on “the war of masculinity“. I meant to continue writing it, and Fin tells me I really should. Some things need to be said, and hopefully in a way that gets people to think, as opposed to react with defensiveness or highlighting other social issues.

In that article, I highlighted the lack of respect for our troops as a lack of respect for “masculine” values. Whatever term we choose to describe the underlying willingness to fight and die, to conquer over evil, to defend the weak, … The letters and social constructs of the term don’t matter. The value does.

There are many that have died for our freedom. And, no doubt, many still will die to attain or preserve freedom. Whatever the politics of an individual war or armed action, the willingness to serve should be honored.

The most important “support” for our troops we can give is our respect. Walking through the Washington DC area, feeling the history, and seeing several veterans visit monuments for wars they fought… I saw those that simply gave lip service to “supporting our troops”, and I saw those that did. The difference? Respect.

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I’ll continue my series on the importance of values later. But for today, for all those men and women that died or otherwise sacrificed… You have my utmost respect and thanks.

— Fate

Chicken Feeder

I built my own chicken feeder out of a 4 foot piece of 5 inch pvc pipe and two end caps.  I had my brother cut all of them in half, then I glued the end caps on with JB weld and sealed it with some silicone to keep the feed from getting caught in between the glued part.  I made an L – shaped holder out of some of the scraps of wood left over from my fodder rack, and some stuff I found laying around.  I always keep scrap wood around, it always ends up coming in handy.

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I used some 2 x 4’s on the outside as well since the wood that is the chicken coop walls is pretty thin:

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Here’s the whole thing:

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It works out really well to feed the chickens.  I put their fermented feed in one side and the fodder in the other.  They always eat the fodder straight away, then come back for the fermented feed over the course of the rest of the day.

It’s a total hack, but I’m extremely happy with how it’s working for me.

-Fin

Some Yard Modifications

I put in the first fence to cross fence the yard in for the animals:

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I even built my own gate!  This basically fences in the yard that is attached to the gate in the garden, so now I have to go through 2 gates to get into the garden.  It’s a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it to give the chickens their own part of the yard, a rather large part, as well as keep the dogs from running up and down the fence line barking at the neighbor dogs on that side.

1 down, 2 to go!

Now If I could only keep the neighbor dogs from barking at me when I’m in the garden….

-Fin

My First Seed Swap

I went to my very first seed swap last weekend.  I ment to go to this one last year,  however,  I didn’t have any seeds to trade,  even tho they say you don’t need to bring anything,  and somehow I missed it.  I think it didn’t end up on the calendar somehow.  I almost missed it this year too… Somehow I managed to run across  it on Facebook.   I made sure I signed up for the group running it this time so I don’t miss it again next year.

It was AWESOME.

It was set up in a medium sized room,  probably 50 x 20, with tables set up around the perimeter.  There were a couple of vendors there sharing information   but they weren’t there selling as far as i could tell,  everything at the swap was free. All the tables were covered with seeds,  broken loosely into categories.  Fate and I arrived around noon (it ran 11-2) and the place was packed. I probably should have snapped some pictures but there was so many people it just didn’t occur to me,  next swap I will bring my phone instead of my tablet.  I will also leave my purse in the car,  easier to maneuver that way.   There was no real rhyme or reason to the flow of people,  you basically had to float from table to table and wait for there to be room,  then slide in.

I brought:

Black krim tomatoes
Purple Cherokee tomatoes
genovese basil
Green shisho (perilla)
Green tomitillo
Blanket flower
Tall snapdragon mix colors
Bachelors button
Cardinal creeper
Black Eyed Susan vine
Raw milk kefir grains

I just took my seeds in the coin envelopes I bought,  labeled what they were,  and as I went around getting the seeds I wanted I dropped them off at the appropriate tables. Some of the seeds were in envelopes that people had labeled and put out. Basically you pulled out a few seeds and put them in one of the envelopes you brought, then labeled it. Some people had their seeds in little packets:

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The idea being that you took one of the packets, like so. Others just put them in bulk and I put them in my own envelopes:

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I got: Pie Cherry, rice, hairy verbane, golden rod, Joe pye weed, feverfew, toothache plant, milkweed, Grey headed coneflower, orange watermelon, butternut squash-rogosa violina gloia, parsnip, Malabar spinach, redbor kale, aunt molly’s ground cherry, radish-saxa 2, Turks turban squash, box car Willie tomato, chocolate poblano, massive lumpy tomato, chervil, Fruita bianca squash, hibiscus, zebra hollyhock, red hollyhock, dill, mustard, cayenne, choke cherry, Tuscan kale, lime basil, yellow current tomato, blocky Asian cucumber, wahoo, giant blue hyssop, big long thick wall spicy pepper, winterberry, cheyanne spirit echinacea, passion vine, Mexican sour gherkin, and good winter leek.

So, just a few.

All of those are how they were called and spelled on the envelopes I got them from. A few of them I am going to have to do some research on to see how to get them started. My brother brought over some 4 bulb florescent lights for me today, I need to get something set up with them so I can get some plants started over here. Mostly my flowers and the new peppers and tomatoes I picked up this weekend for now, but soon cole crops need to be going in.

I’m really looking forward to the next seed swap in a couple weeks. I have some more seeds to take with me to that one, and I’m excited to see what other people will be bringing.

-Fin

Scotts 14" Reel Mower Review

For division of household chores, Fin holds that mowing is "not her job". So, when it comes to trimming grass, we're a very traditional 60's style house – that's the guys job. Not that I mind, I rather like mowing, and… Well, Fin does a lot more around the house than I do. Like tons. Proportionally, I'm but a small blip on the radar when it comes to things moving around here. 

Unfortunately, mowing proves to be yet another area where technology and I don't get along. As on many other Saturday's, I pulled out our mostly trusty old gas mower, starting mowing, and…. bzzzttt fart dead. As fate would have it, we discussed reel mowers a few days ago and narrowly talked ourselves out of purchasing a sub-$100 Scotts model. Perhaps the universe heard and zapped some sludge into our push mower's carb.

Since a hardware trip was required anyhow (carb cleaner + oil change + spark plugs), I figured I'd venture off into the truly hardcore green movement. I donned a green shirt, green shorts, and went out to reduce our lawn cutting emissions to 0. When Fin and I purchased the push mower, years ago, we'd talked about working toward "green".

But reel mowers? Nahhh, that's too hardcore. Give up powered mowers? Oh hell no. I'll keep my powered lawn mower and use pig farts if required.

Nowadays? Hell yeah, we're hardcore. I head to Depot, grab the required materials for our gas guzzler and brave the head shaking looks of many, proudly walking our Scotts reel mower out. And yes, someone DID ask, "why are you getting THAT?" Why? I'm hardcore.

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Greener than a hippie chained to a tree

Back at home, it's time to discover just how long this experiment will last. As a child, I recall a small reel mower tucked in the back of the garage. I mowed with it a couple times, I don't recall much about it except… it sucked, a lot. Tough to move, and it cut next to nothing. Unpacking, I keep careful track of everything, remembering my childhood experience and doubting my resolve against mowing a yard with human power only.

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Sustainable, but plastic is still in

Scotts does a fairly decent job packaging everything. The box and mower matched nicely with my clothes – green… Just to let you know you're doing the "environmentally correct" thing. The package advertises tool less assembly. No lies. Build time took less than 5 minutes.

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5 minutes after opening, maybe…
Unfortunately, Home Depot hadn't seen fit to put these on display. (After all, who the hell is CRAZY enough to purchase this thing? If they do have some on display, pay careful attention to which models, there are significant differences beyond cutting deck size.) First Impression? Houston, we have a problem. This thing is SMALL. Built for an 8 year old child small. While sturdy, the general appearance doesn't say "screw you combustion engines, I'm a MAN and I can best the powers of industrialization through shear brute strength, Hu-fucking-Rah".

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Picture with child-sized mower
I walk inside and inform Fin that I can't be seen pushing around an 8-year old's toy outside. Still, I must admit it's built well and looks like it could do some damage, and Fin thinks we should get an overall impression and decide if the reel mower experiment is worth continuing or not. Really, what better time to test out the most manual of mowers than in the high heat of a Midwest insta-sweat summer day.

How'd it do? Perspective first: I've used everything from a riding lawn mower, to a fancy electric, to a standard non-self-propelled push mower on our yard. Obviously, we're not talking riding lawn mower ease here. Our yard hasn't been cut in too long, so we've got some high grass and a few nice tall weeds. Our grass is generally a mixture of multiple types, mostly thin bladed.

Overall, this mower was substantially easier to push than our gas guzzler push mower, but not as easy as working with something motorized and self propelled. I was moderately surprised by the cut, a nice even and natural look. I didn't have any trouble with weeds popping up or high patches left uncut. I found the cut exceedingly easy when keeping a slow, steady pace – attempting to speed up or slow down resulted in the blades stopping. Also, you'll need to cut in straight lines -> turns don't work well. However, it's VERY easy to backup, and restart cut paths. I quickly found a natural rhythm forming and managed to cut most of the grass before I stopped to discuss it's abilities with Fin.

Fin broke her no-mowing rule to try cutting a couple paths. Her immediate reaction was positive, though she agreed with me on the rather funny picture of a rather tall guy marching around the yard with mini-mower. Her thought was to take it back and get one with a slightly larger / adjustable handle.

I packed it up and returned it to Home Depot and was pleasantly surprised that they didn't give me any hassle at all on the return. The clerk asked if it hadn't worked for me. I told her it seemed like a great idea, but I needed to find something a bit more adjustable for my height. "Well, I don't know if you noticed this, but you're REALLY tall," she replied back. Heh. Glad to see at least some places still keep a strong view toward customer service.

TL;DR? Let's summarize.

First, for real mowers in general:

Pros

  • So Green, you'll make Prius owners realize their farts really do stink
  • No worry over getting gas, charging batteries, or maintaining engines
  • Easier to push than heavier non-self-propelled push mowers
  • Leaves a very natural, even, nice cut
  • Much quieter than anything gas operated (potentially louder than electric)
  • Quiet operation allows for early morning work while its not boiling hot outside
  • Materials research is cool -> modern reel mowers use composites that are lighter and more resilient than those of yesteryear
  • Significant evidence your yard will look better

Cons

  • Multiple weird looks from even your "sustainable" friends
  • Significantly more work than riding mower, not as easy as a self propelled
  • Requires more yard care, need to pickup branches and leaves, instead of mulching over
  • Smaller cutting deck means a lot more passes required
  • If you're maintaining acreage, this isn't realistic (I'd argue push mowers aren't either though…)

Second, thoughts specific to the Scotts 14":

  • Solid construction, very lightweight, but wheel plastic did seem slightly cheap. Handlebar padding didn't stay put well / slid on handlebars.
  • Rear discharge means grass gets thrown directly against your legs/feet.
  • Cut height isn't easily adjustable and limited to 1 3/4" at the highest.
  • Handlebar is very small, larger individuals will feel a bit compressed moving this around.
  • It WILL work for taller people, but the handle adjusts up, meaning you'll walk practically on top of it, and get grass blasted against your legs.
  • Awesome value for the money, I could see this unit lasting for years with only blade sharpening required.

For what it's worth, I'd recommend the Scotts 14" for cutting smaller areas. Scotts moves to a slightly more open handle design in the 18" series, but the 16" and 14" use a T-style design. If you have wide shoulders or are taller, I would NOT recommend the 14" or 16" for that reason. If you keep a well maintained yard without trees, these mowers are actually easier to use. And that's coming from a rather large fan of gas powered yard tools.

We're doing some research before getting another reel mower, but this time, it'll be less experiment and more tool.

Water Bath Canning – Part 2

If you missed part 1 about water bath canning earlier this week you can find it here.

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Ah,  the tools of the trade.  I think this is the canner I have,  although I bought mine at an estate sale about a year ago for less then $5,  so I’m not sure that’s the exact size.
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I regularly see them at estate sales and thrift stores for $5-$15 so I don’t know if I recommend buying one new or not.  It should come with the metal rack you see there though,  otherwise if you have to buy a new one it kind of defeats the frugality of buying a used one.  I almost never see just a rack for sale without the canner,  I’m guessing they don’t hold up as well,  get rusty,  and then get trashed.  Be sure to examine the canner you are considering buying for rust on both the canner and the rack.  Don’t buy it if there is rust present,  trust me,  another one will come along before you know it that won’t be rusty (and probably cheaper too!) and you will regret buying the first one you saw.

I highly recommend getting a wide mouth funnel even if you don’t can a day in your life.
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I have at least 3, maybe more,  and I constantly use them.  They come in handy for filling glass jars with left overs,  dry goods,  or really just about anything.   This is something that gets used in my kitchen on a daily basis.   You can find them at estate sales and thrift stores as well,  usually in the $. 25-$2 range.   I’m currently looking for a stainless steel one,  but no luck so far.  I do run mine through the dishwasher (top rack only) on a regular basis,  so even though this one says hand wash only,  I don’t.  Honestly, if something truly is hand wash only it doesn’t make it long in my kitchen.

I would definitely recommend getting a jar lifter.
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Yes,  you could probably use a pot holder or a towel to remove the jars from the pot,  especially if you use the metal rack to lift them out of the water,  however,  I found the jar lifter to be very helpful in getting a secure grip on the jars while moving them from the pot to my counter to cool.  You actually hold onto the flat pieces,  which are rollers,  and the rubberized side is what grips the jar.   The rollers on the handle give you a far more secure grip on your jars then you would expect.  I really felt that it was worth the money.   I got mine at Ace Hardware,  since I never see them for sale at thrift stores or estate sales,  though maybe you will have better luck then I did.

My next purchase will be a magnetic canning lid lifter.
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I used a pair of tongs,  which worked okay,  but was a bit more of a pain then I would like.   Your supposed to have a small pot of water sitting on your stove just under boiling to heat your lids to sterilize them and also heat the rubber ring to make a good seal.  The magnetic lid lifter helps in getting the lids out of the hot water much easier then the tongs.  I found it hard to just grab one lid at a time with the tongs,  so I’m hoping this little doodad will help with that.  It also serves as a device to run around the inside of your jars to get rid of any air bubbles inside before you place the lids on.   I used a plastic knife (don’t use metal to remove the air bubbles,  it can scratch the glass and cause the jar to break) this time,  but it would be nice to have a 2 in 1 tool in my canning supplies.

Of course you need jars.
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Now,  I don’t think I have ever bought a case of new jars.   I get almost all of my jars from estate sales, and occasionally you will find them at thrift stores.   I try not to pay more then $. 25/jar, unless it is a bit unusual.  Often I can find them for $1-2/box (of 12.) When buying used jars to can with it is very important to check the top lip of the jar to make sure it’s smooth.  Any chips or scuffs in the glass will lead to a failure to seal,  and so make the jar useless if you are trying to can with it.  If you are just using it for dry storage,  it will work fine,  but I prefer to pass on any jar that’s flawed,  there are plenty of perfect ones out there,  no sense in giving yourself room to fail while canning if you forget to check for perfect jars.

Finally,  you need lids and bands.
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The band’s can be used over and over,  the lids can be used for canning only once.   They can be used for dry storage over and over though so it’s worth holding on to them.  Usually when I buy jars they come with the band’s already so I only have to buy the lids.
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They also make reusable canning lids.
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Now,  I’ve never tried them,  and from the Amazon reviews it seems like you’d either love them or hate them.   They are on my list of things to get,  however,  I don’t have any yet.

If you want to use your jars for dry storage I would definitely recommend getting a foodsaver.   They make an attachment to use with jars to suck all the air out.

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This is great for things like chips to keep them from going stale so fast.  It’s NOT a replacement for canning things like jelly for long shelf life,  this is just to remove the air,  like with foodsaver bags.

This is all the supplies I have or want for canning,  next up is to actually can some jelly!

– Fin

Water Bath Canning: Part 1

I have,  for the longest time,  had a mental block of some kind regarding canning.  I’ve always intended on learing how to can,  I just thought,  for some reason,  that I needed someone to show me EXACTLY what to do,  or I wouldn’t be able to get it right.  This isn’t because I thought it was too hard,  or there was a special trick to be learned,  or anything like that,  it just seemed to me like something that needed to be learned from someone,  in person.  Like I said,  it was just a mental block about the whole thing. 

I had grand plans of going to South Dakota to visit a friend of my mother’s to learn everything there is to know about canning.  In retrospect this seems silly,  but at the time I was convinced it was the way to go about it.  The trip seemed to be a hazy plan “in the fall,  during canning season” about every year since I got serious about gardening several years ago.  Every year something came up and it just never seemed like “the right time. ”  

This spring,  came the tipping point. 

This year,  I have had an absolutely amazing crop from my rhubarb that I planted 4 years ago.  This is the biggest crop I’ve had from it yet.  I was determined that this would be the year that I finally managed to can something,  and I decided that that “something” was going to be shrawberry-rhubarb jelly.  I LOVE strawberry – rhubarb jelly.  Like,  can eat it straight out of the jar love it,  and boy is it be hard to find (especially organic),  and when you do (most of the time at a farmers market) it is usually very expensive.  Now,  I don’t begrudge the cost,  since I know organic produce is more expensive in general,  and organic strawberries even more so, but that just makes it a rare treat indeed. 

I was absolutely determined I would figure out this whole canning “thing.”   This year.  In fact,  this spring.  Right now,  while my rhubarb was producing a luscious crop and strawberries were in season. 

My first major hurdle was finding organic strawberries that actually smelled like strawberrys and weren’t rotting.  This actually proved to be harder then I expected.   Everywhere I went it seemed like their organic strawberries were in one of three categories: 1. Unripe 2. Rotting 3. Nonexistent.  Non organic strawberries were found by the billions everywhere I went,  however,  strawberries are one of the things I insist on buying organic since they are part of the dirty dozen.  Apple’s are another big one for me,  and man,  it’s getting ridiculously hard to find organic granny smith apples these days,  for any price!  I finally lucked out at Costco,  where they were selling 2 lb containers for $7, which,  although double the price of non organic,  is a good price for organic strawberries.  I bought 10 lbs since I wasn’t sure how many I would need for the amount of rhubarb I had.

Allright,  organic rhubarb? Check.  Organic strawberries? Check.  Organic sugar? Check (also from Costco, that’s the best price I’ve found on organic CANE sugar,  since I refuse to buy beet sugar.)  Organic lemons? Check.  Organic pectin? Che…… errrr,  what? I didn’t think this one through apparently.   I actually have no idea if you can get organic pectin or not,  sadly I just grabbed the first thing off the shelf I saw in the canning section at my local Ace Hardware,  which is where I got the canning lids I used as well.  I have since discovered they are almost half the price at the local big blue box store (which I absolutely loathe shopping at with a passion I can not even begin to describe),  which might be enough to get me to shop there if I start doing a whole bunch of canning in the future.  I do plan on investing in some of the Tattler reusable canning lids in the future,  however,  I didn’t want to make the investment until I was sure I was going to be comfortable canning in the future. 

I already had a whole bunch of canning jars that I’ve collected over the years in sizes ranging from 4 oz all the way up to 1 gallon,  in both the wide mouth variety and the regular ones.   For years now I have been using glass jars for storing food both in the fridge and in the cupboards.   Not canning things,  just using them as dry storage for beans,  lentils,  chips,  popcorn,  and things like that.   I’ve also discovered if you store things in glass in the fridge they both last longer AND taste better.   No funky refrigerator taste in the food and no food adding funky smells to the refrigerator.

This has gotten so long that I am just going to end the first installment here and continue on with part 2 in another post.  

-Fin

The War On Masculinity – Part I

This post comes after Fin encouraged me to write it here – mostly, I think, because she was curious to read it. In formulating my ideas, I’ve discovered there is too much for a single post. This will be a running series and theme. For a while, I’ve termed myself as a “male feminist” – strongly believing that women should be afforded equal rights to men in society. When I talk about the war on the masculine – I’m not directly talking about the “Battle of the Sexes”.

I’m still looking for good terms and definitions that are not overly loaded on all this. When getting out on my own and developing an internal code of conduct, I’ve struggled constantly with how to be a man. The church defined things very narrowly and leaving left a gaping void in my personal philosophy. On some deep level, I wasn’t comfortable with the church’s definitions of gender rolls. Mostly, I found myself repulsed by “the good wife” described by the church. Fin, in a lot of ways, is the polar opposite. As I worked at growing personal, and especially after developing my relationship with Fin, I began noticing an odd trend. “Men” are under attack. Now, I don’t men as in male. I say “men” as a people – male or female – at the moment expressing a masculine quality. In this case, the English language is somewhat lacking in expressing ideas.

In explaining difficult abstract concepts, sometimes mythology helps.

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Meet “The Green Man”. He exists in many different religious traditions and provides a base-type for multiple fictional characters and myths. He’s generally portrayed as grown from vegetation, or made with stone. Much of Robin Hood’s image and mythology points toward the Green Man symbol. I pick the green man as being a very specific symbol of masculinity without too much extreme baggage. Many religious traditions use the masculine in their figures such as Jesus in Christianity, the Horned God in Wicca, or Hercules in Greco Roman mythology.

Looking at the Green Man and related figures, we find a general set of values represented by the Masculine – strength, courage, ingenuity, sexual prowess, independence, protection, and sacrifice. While termed “masculine”, there is nothing male specific here. Indeed, on rare occasions the green man could be depicted as female. The importance of the myth is a reminder of masculine values in ourselves.

While some would say feminism has done a lot to “push-back” masculine values, I would disagree. To understand why, let’s start with how I see masculinity being attacked:

  1. Preventing children from expressing masculine energies when they are inclined to do so. Young children need healthy outlets for masculine energies – including competition and physical activity. EVERY child (boy and girl) should be doing something they enjoy that at some point will cause them physical and/or mental pain. Another way of putting this: kids should be kids.
  2. An insistence that everyone be constantly “in touch” with their emotions. Dr. Phil is probably the worst offender here. A stoic countenance requires extreme emotional control – not a lack of depth.
  3. The idea that all problems can be solved without use of force, or that the use of force to solve a problem is a failure.
  4. Forcing men to act feminine, and not accepting women acting masculine. There are naturally feminine men. There are naturally masculine women. This has nothing to do with gender identity or sexual orientation.
  5. A generalized view of the “intellectual” as superior to the “laborer”. I say laborer for lack of better term. I’m speaking of the skilled trades here – electricians, farmers, janitors – as opposed to the banker or software engineer. There’s definitely intellectual aspects to wood working and so on. I must admit, I’d find it more difficult to speak for the physical aspects of software programming…
  6. A lack of respect for the warrior. We “support our troops”, right? We support them yes, but we don’t give them anywhere near the respect they deserve. This is really somewhat contained in the previous item, but it’s important enough it needs added again.
  7. A pervasive sense of entitlement. I don’t think our perception here matches the reality, this cuts a lot of ways and across all demographics – from “trust fund kids” to the stereotypical abusers of social programs.
  8. A constant desire for safety, and freedom from pain or consequences. This beyond anything else, is perhaps the most damaging to masculinity.

As an aside, these are societal pressures against masculinity. There’s been various mentions in news sources and documentaries about environmental impacts as well. Our growing mastery of chemistry exposes bodies to a whole range of newly created concoctions. Why are young girls entering puberty earlier? Do these environmental impacts also hurt male development? I have a feeling they do, but without knowing the exact causes, there’s no telling. This aspect is interesting, but I’m not going to go too much into depth here.

In parting my list of the current attacks on masculinity, only a few are directly associated with “female” centric values. The observant might note that several items on the prior list are rooted in feminine values not being expressed. In these cases, a furtherance of feminism would help restore masculinity.

I hesitate to name a single “enemy” collecting troops to fight, but at least two weapons are clear: fear and wealth. Combined, these weapons have driven us to drive away the Green Man, pushing him back into the forest as a lowly creature worthy of no respect or honor, and removing all but a dim shadow of his vitality.

I think there’s a lot of questions I’ve introduced here: Are the above attacks on masculinity valid, important, or real? What exactly is causing them? Is there anything to be done? I hope I’ve at least introduced a new viewpoint for anyone reading. Phrased simply, this viewpoint is – Masculinity is under attack and Feminism has little to do with it.

— Fate

Distractions

I often find myself annoyed by the environmentalist type so caught up in what they’re “doing” that they wonder around stomping on others without realizing it.  Often, they’ll look at others doing various projects with a distinctive air of superiority reeking of smug.  There’s a word for them: assholes.

For roughly 3 years now, I’ve been vegetarian.  Fin turned to the vegetarian path not long after for her own reasons.  And now, after 3 years of towing the hippy not-quite-vegan line, I’m scarfing steak, jerky, and chicken soup.  Well, sortof, I’ll get into that later.

When making an active attempt to build/create a different lifestyle, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in your own shit.  Next thing, a long look in the mirror and it’s pretty obvious you’ve joined ranks with the asshole crowd.  I’d like to think 3 years of being vegetarian would be a net-win for the environment.  Now, it looks more like a distraction than anything meaningful.

Before jumping into the asshole camp again, let me say if that’s your thing, kudos to you.  I’ve done it long enough to know how much it can suck living in a world tailored around veggies as side-dish only.  Going out to eat is near impossible, parties tricky at best, and often meals require substantial backup planning.  A vegetarian diet isn’t easy.  Of course, you can look in the mirror and say – “I haven’t supported factory farming today.”

Well, not really.  You haven’t support factory MEAT farming.  That load of chips?  Factory.  That veggie burger patty?  Factory.  That bottle of ketchup? … The list goes on.

From a “sustainability” culture standpoint, Fin and I made some big mistakes while we were vegetarian.  Instead of meat, we ate meat substitutes grown with fairly traditional agriculture, occasionally slapped with an organic label, and then thrown into the super-market complete with easy-plastic packaging.   Making one big decision led us to cheating on hundreds of day to day decisions in food purchasing.

After some substantial discussion as to pro/con on being vegetarian and other general dietary choices, Fin decided to leave the vegetarian camp, and I decided to follow her.  We also decided at the same point to only eat meat after doing some homework to insure the farm treated its livestock with dignity.  In practice, this leaves eating out mostly vegetarian. I’ll leave it to Fin (or at least another post) to fill in the details.

When researching local farms, farmers markets, and coops though, Fin and I saw the local community in a new way.    There’s a fairly good number in the metro area dedicated to the ideas of local agriculture and sustainability.  Organic or no, a quick search finds multiple producers nearby.

Of course, we knew about the local farmers markets, but the reality of our food choices became clear.  Our vegetarian lifestyle didn’t include supporting the local markets, it just continued feeding the Walmarts of the world more profits for overpriced ‘organic’ goods.

In short, sometimes multiple small and continued gestures can do more than a concentrated grand gesture.  Something to keep in mind for our next effort.

The Folly of Modern Convenience

For over two years now I’ve been comitted to an every other week meat pickup that consists of the trashed meat from a major retail chain.  This is a twice weekly pickup, of which I only participate in twice a month.  The average size of the pickup is in the 1500lb range….every time.

Did you realize that those clean, tidy, non bloody, sterile, styrofoamed bottom plastic wrapped chunks of meat in the grocery store were once a living animal that had to die so you could have the convenience of popping in to your one stop shoping experience so far removed from the place that meat comes from that there are actually people out there that have no idea what meat really is?  I wish I was kidding.

We were a society with a farm on every corner, a garden in every back yard, milk delivered fresh from the cow in glass reusealbe bottles , a society that knew the person who raised their food and the location of where it came from.  These days if you ask somene where food comes from they are likely to say “the store.” When asked where the store gets it from they probably don’t even know. If you ask the store where the food on their shelves comes from they are likely to name off one of only a few conglomerate food distribution companies…and have no knowledge of where those companies get that food from.

Every time I turn around these days it seems like there has been another recall on some form of food that has been tainted in some way or another with bacteria of one sort or another.  Back when I started to keep track of all of this, back when I went vegetarian, it was only meat of one kind or another that was involved in these recalls.  These days it seems to be a little of everything.  Within the last couple of weeks a local man died from tainted cantelope.   Tainted cantelope.  Tainted….cantelope?  This just blows my mind.

I’ve seen first hand in the last 2+ years how much food gets thrown away by just one major retail store here in the metro area.   This is just meat and processed meat products.  From there I can extrapolate easily the amount of fresh produce, bread, dairy and so called shelf stable foods get trashed as well.  Let me tell you that the shear amount of waste that goes on from each and every retail store around the states will absolutely blow your mind.  You truly have to see it to even imagine the scope of it.  This was, before it passed its “use by” date, perfectly edible food for human consumption.  I’m not even talking about the millions of pounds of food included in the recalls for one reason or another that is destroyed.  I’m just talking about the food that was shipped in from all over the globe so the average consumer could have the convenience of one stop shopping.  This is the food that gets too old to be either “pretty” or “safely eaten.”

I have little to no sympathy or patience for the talk I hear about people starving either here in the states or around the world.  It’s not that I’m not a compasionate person, that’s not it at all. My heart goes out, it truly does.  However let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that there isn’t enough food in this world to go around.  I’m not even including the food each and every one of us lets go bad in our pantry, freezer, or fridge here.  I’m sure that adds up as well.  I’m simply talking about the food that every day ends up in the landfills feeding no one due to our cultures insistance upon “convenience.”

So, for the last 2+ years, I’ve been picking through the meat only garbage of a typical major retailer for food for my cats and dogs.  99% of this food is either on the day of expiration or only 1 day past it.  Perfectly edible for even human consumption.  Yet, its trash.  Don’t talk to me about people starving in this country, I’ve seen the reason.

This meat pickup that I’ve been doing for 2+ years is at an end, I won’t be seeing the folly of modern convenience anymore going forward but you better believe that I will never forget it.

– Fin