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#3 Welcome!

If you haven’t been here before, welcome to my new website. If you haven’t done so already, do subscribe to it and consider leaving a comment or two, or three or more. Ask questions, stimulate conversation, editorialize.  For now, I am quite open, not closed to conversations, so feel free to ‘talk-back’ to me if you read something you disagree with.

And remember to send me your prompts and suggestions — topics you’d like to see discussed here.  If I have enough hubris to put my own words out there, being open to the ideas and perspectives of others is, I think, perfectly reasonable way to try to even things out.

Right now, there is no shortage of issues that I want to discuss.  The topic I have front of  mind right now is the latest weather-related, very Super-Unnatural disaster that happened here in British Columbia on November 15th, but there are many other subjects as well. As a mostly-retired teacher with an extraverted personality, (with strong introverted tendencies), I have a strong commitment to the ethic that there is nothing than cannot be talked about, that most things should be talked about,  as long as the dialogue is constructive — until it’s not.

From 1981 I was a teacher in public and indigenous schools in B.C. and Manitoba.  I was fortunate to have many different assignments over the years; I met all kinds of unique and interesting people, each of whom has their own story. For most, but not all, those stories continue.

Sometimes, quite rarely, some of these people reach out: either in person, through social media, or through the the serendipity of my own memory. This is not to say this blog is meant to be a warm fire fuels by stories of the past: it’s not.  My aim and focus is this time, this place, right where we are, right now — wherever we are.

We are walking the road together.

The daily question seems to be: “Where do we go from here?”

I realize that a blog written by a once and sometime teacher might be one that is easy to pass over, reject, turn away from — so many people have had negative experiences with teachers and schools — but I hope that you might give me — give us, US, — this chance.

Like I ended up almost always saying to students who arrived a half-hour, one, two or three hours late to school during the years I taught in several Alternate Programs: “I’m SO glad you’re here; it hasn’t been the same without YOU!”

What I’m saying is that my abiding hope is this blog might, in some way, be mutually beneficial: helpful to you and to me; helpful in the reflexive moment we find ourselves, individually and collectively, when we are alone and when we are together.

 It seems my main interest right now is  human energy — where it manifests, how it is applied, how it rolls out, — and what happens when IT happens.  

So I guess that means my interest is primarily humanistic; part of me wants to find out exactly what that means now, in the darker months of 2021 and beyond.

At the same time, I arrive empty-handed. I come to you with no book to promote, no product to sell, no self-serving pitch to make about a screenplay, project, or ideology. That might and probably will change someday — nor not — but probably in ways that are impossible to predict. For now, I’m comfortable knowing that change is certain even if I am not.  My motivation is to offer you something that might be of interest or help to you in some way. 

 Right now I’m comfortable leaving that assessment to you.

Since I ‘retired’ from full-time teaching work in 2018 and relocated with Herself to this small village, we’ve been focused on easing-off the throttle, slowing down, and backing off as much as necessary.  I’ve often referred to this intention process of change as “pressing the ‘reset’ button”.   So far, it has been a salutary experience, one that we have not so far regretted.

Our decision came well ahead of the epochal changes marked by the arrival of the novel Sars-2 Corona Virus, Covid-19, and other events, and the remarkable changes to local and regional weather that are playing out.

But I’ve also kept active in areas that are still interesting and stimulating: 

— I continue to teach on-call one or two days, every couple of weeks. 

—   I continue working in my ‘Sustainability Garden’ as much as I can, but lately, not as much as I should.    

 —   I continue to pursue my evolving interest in politics, but not in the usual way.

—   I continue to chase other stuff: lots of other stuff!

I also have a digital camera that I do not know how to use, so who knows, maybe pictures and videos may eventually be part of this.

Until later,

Paul

P.S.

“Confidential to K.L: Thanks for your message today. You’ve made all of the difference. Hold on.”

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Mask wearing while teaching on-call is not that easy.

I’ve found that teaching while wearing a mask is a challenge.

So it’s easy to imagine that learning while wearing a mask is also a challenge for the Kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 students who are wearing masks all day in their elementary school classrooms.

For too long in British Columbia, too many of unvaccinated students under the age of 12 have been exempted from the expectation that everyone over the age of 12 years wear a mask while indoors.

And this week has been the first I’ve been inside an elementary school since BC’s new ‘universal’ mask-mandate was put into effect.

Last week, I decided to decline all calls for me to work as a “teacher ‘on-call’ because it seemed I had been working almost every day during the month of September — a month when substitute, on-call teachers often don’t work at all.  I needed to take last week off to do other things, such as work in my garden, process a bumper-crop of tomatoes, and to breathe, deeply, without wearing a mask at all.

So this week, as I returned to the classroom on Tuesday, I was wondering how the primary classes I would be teaching in would be handling the expectation that mask-wearing was now obligatory: yet another thing — like walking, not running in the hallway, using appropriate, not inappropriate language at all times —  than children in school are always expected to do.

By lunchtime last Tuesday I had my answer.  Every child in grades K through 4 was wearing their mask while in the classroom, all of the time.  There was not a single child who needed help with their mask nor any kind of reminder from me to put their mask on. 

No teacher goes into the profession to teach from behind a mask, just the opposite: a teacher’s effectiveness is mainly about the ability to connect with their students — not just intellectually, but across the other realms of human experience. 

And doing this well is always challenging; doing this well from behind a mask makes it even more so.

But the difficult decision was made, and teachers have been doing their best to comply.

Fortunately, in every classroom I work in, I know there will be up to 30 very good reasons why I will also do my very best to ensure my mask is always in place.

For everyone who wants to be angry about mask-mandates and other restrictions currently in effect, don’t bother.  Do it for the children because they are so totally worth the inconvenience.

Our youngest are wearing their masks without complaint, setting a good example for me!

Let’s always remember to wear our masks and minimize the spread of infectious disease.

If our youngest citizens can do it, so can we!

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Trying to save money, improve your health and simplify your life? BC’s ‘proof of vaccination required’ list just might help

Instead of downloading the BC Government’s vaccine passport app, I’m just going to avoid the places the Provincial Health Officer has ordered the passport be shown.

When the BC Vaccination Passport was announced last week, along with the list of venues where people would be required to show it, I realized right away that a lot of money, time, and complication could be avoided by simply staying away from those places.

I also noticed the Order was focussed primarily on events, social, and cultural activities that exist in the commercial sector of the economy.

Here is the text of the order on the BC government’s “Get the BC Vaccine Card” website:

By order of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), proof of vaccination is required to access some events, services and businesses. Starting September 13, you must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. By October 24, you must be fully vaccinated. The requirement is in place until January 31, 2022 and could be extended. “

The requirement applies to all people born in 2009 or earlier (12+) and covers:

Indoor ticketed sporting events

Indoor concerts, theatre, dance and symphony events

Licensed restaurants and restaurants that offer table service (indoor and patio dining)

Pubs, bars and lounges (indoor and patio dining)

Nightclubs, casinos and movie theatres

Gyms, exercise facilities/studios and recreation facilities

Businesses offering indoor group exercise

Indoor adult group and team sports for people 19 years old or older

Indoor organized events with 50 or more people. For example: Wedding receptions, organized parties, conferences and workshops

Indoor organized group recreational classes and activities like pottery, art and choir

Post-secondary on-campus student housing

Of the dozen or so venues where a vaccine passport will be required after today, September 13th, the first two, “indoor ticketed sporting events” and “indoor concerts, theatre, dance and symphony events” will also be easy to avoid, especially for those who reside in rural areas and people who have no discretionary money to spend.

Likewise, licensed restaurants and restaurants that offer table service and pubs, bars and lounges with indoor and patio dining are already fairly expensive places to eat and drink.

Up to three quarters of the Canadian population is already overweight or obese. Avoiding bars, restaurants and pubs and opting to eat healthful, simply-prepared, nutritious food, mainly at home could be a smart alternative for many looking to conserve cash by reducing discretionary spending, reduce risk of infection, and increase personal resilience.

Attendance at nightclubs, casinos and movie theatres are completely optional; they too are options for which less expensive, healthier and perfectly reasonable alternatives already exist.

Maybe it’s time to acknowledge these venues for what they are: expensive commercial and government gambling concerns that promote over-consumption of food and drink, with a higher-than-necessary density of people who may or may not be carriers of an infectious variant of the Sars 2 Corona virus.

Similarly, the BC vaccine passport restrictions limit access to businesses offering indoor exercise. Again, it’s probably easier and less risky for individuals to avoid these places, especially when opportunities to exercise outdoors are so plentiful in BC, year round.

Just going for a brisk, half hour walk most days meets the minimum recommended standard for fitness, and is easily achieved, even in more densely populated centres. When walking is supplemented with strength and flexibility training such as intentionally lifting, carrying, setting-down and picking up heavy objects, BC’s vaccine passport becomes completely redundant, and the very idea of paying a business to exercise quickly evaporates.

Lately, I’ve been spending time loading mill-end logs into my truck, hauling them home, then splitting and stacking the pieces by hand. I’m doing this even though I don’t burn wood for heat, but I do need the exercise that splitting and stacking wood affords. Besides I’ll have a ready store of dry firewood to share with people hereabout who might need it.

Indoor adult group and team sports for people 19 years old or older is another area where BC’s Vaccine Passport will be required after today. While team sports are often played indoors, not all of them are. Some of these indoor sports can be easily taken outside. The indoor, often commercial spaces that are rented and booked hour by hour to an array of age-groupings: children, adolescents and adults.

If the main purpose of the BC vaccine passport to limit the spread of #Covid-19? How effective will these new measures be especially where fully-vaccinated adults vye with unvaccinated children and adolescents for use of these spaces?

Might the BC vaccine passport will prove less effective as a measure to limit the spread of infectious disease but remain an effective way to monitor the movement of people?

The BC government order also requires people attending events with 50 or more people to produce their vaccine passport. Attendance at wedding receptions, organized parties, conferences, meetings and workshops are cited in the government order as some but by no means all of the examples given.

Are there other examples of gathers of people in groups of greater than 50 also required where monitoring of their vaccine passport will also be required?

A curious example of an organized group mentioned in the BC government Order is the inclusion of some, but not all organized group recreational classes and activities: pottery, art and choir offered as three examples.

It has been a long time time since I have attempted pottery, taken a studio art class or sung in a choir, but once again, I wonder how effective the government’s monitoring the vaccine status of amateur potters, artists and singers will be in limiting the spread of Covid-19?

All it takes is one virus-shedding individual, (who may or may not have been vaccinated) to exhale enough of the virus to be inhaled by many others in the room. No government Order nor vaccine app has so far proven itself capable of limiting infectious spread nor of deciding who or who might not be a carrier, or at risk of infection.

As of today, The BC government’s order also requires individuals seeking admission to post-secondary on-campus student housing to show proof of vaccination using the government app.

To whom will this requirement apply? Only to the students occupying the dorm rooms, shared kitchen and living and recreational facilities, or will it also apply to visitors and guests, coming and going at all hours of the day and night?

Good luck to to any government or computer-based vaccine-checking application who would monitor all of that!

As for myself, for now, I shall hold off in downloading or registering for The BC government’s mandated vaccine passport.

I’m quite willing and able to avoid all of the venues and social gatherings covered by it; I’m ready to do without it.

In fact, my taking an increased measure of personal responsibility for my own and others’ health, by avoiding unnecessary spending, exercising, and not carrying an electronic device everywhere I go, I believe that I will be doing everything I reasonably can to limit the spread of the Sars2Corona virus — at least until the BC government’s vaccine App Order expires on January 31, 2022.

Until then, I’ll continue to carry my own proof of vaccination wallet card which I will be happy to show to almost anyone who has a good reason for asking.

I think one unintended consequence of the BC vaccine passport and others like it is to describe a boundary or fault line that describes more than those who have or do not have a mandated government proof of vaccination; it also describes two populations of citizens in British Columbia: those who may have easy access combined with the desire to engage in lots of discretionary spending, and those who cannot, for a variety of social and economic reasons.

For now, let me say that I have a few abiding concerns about the BC vaccine app. In solidarity with those who are less likely to be able to patronize the businesses and mainly commercial enterprises being monitored, I won’t be downloading it.

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My tangled garden (II)

Early morning in the garden, indeed, visiting the garden at any time time during the day is almost always a calming, salutary experience; it’s a natural remedy for many ailments both real and imaginary.  

Inside the perimeter of the deer fence, there is no risk of contracting Covid-19, and though it might be prudent to wear an N95 mask when I’m shaking dry soil off of the weeds I’m pulling or running the tiller, both of which tend to throw a lot of dust into the air.

There are no vaccine passports required for admission to the garden. There is no cover-charge or need for a reservation nor any need for any kind of mask-on, mask-off ritual of any kind, such as those required for simple admission to all kinds of venues, public and private.

I once attended a lecture devoted to the garden as an intermediary space: not inside the home; outdoors, yet not fully within the public sphere.  I liked the idea; that’s probably why it stayed with me. It’s probably why I like to practice gardening now.    

What remains of the teacher in me reminds me that ‘garden’ is both a noun and a verb: a noun when I’m outside the fence, looking in; a verb once I’ve passed through the gate.

It occurs to me that many would benefit from having some kind of garden, especially during these increasingly maddening times.

On this Labour Day, I hope to find myself in the garden once again, not labouring, hopefully, but moving continually, where time is not measured by any clock but where I apply myself steadily, then realize how much has been accomplished once I’m done.

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(My) Tangled Garden (1)

The Tangled Garden, J.E.H. MacDonald, 1916, oil on beaverboardJ.E.H. MACDONALD “Tangled Garden”

My garden is probably too large for me to manage on my own, and I’m painfully aware that the garden I hold in mind has fallen short, far short of my own minimal standard of success in each of the last four gardening seasons.

I first time I’ve pushed my spade into to ground in our 100′ x 115′ “Food Security Garden” was in 2018, when we returned to the Valley of the Kettle River in Midway, BC in early July.

The only thing I planted that year were four traumatized tomato plants that I’d ripped out of the brick planter back at our old place. I thrust them into a niche I’d found in the back of the pickup truck, and them the 450 kilometers East about half way across the Southern Mainland of British Columbia to the Boundary region of British Columbia. I should have left them alone.

I thrust the transplants into dusty holes; I flooded them with water from pails. I demanded they grow.

They would have done better had they been planted here in mid to late May after six weeks or so of careful nurturing in a controlled environment. It is very difficult to prevail when the rules change in the middle of the game.

Three of the tomatoes died right away; only one plant made it until the first frost arrived in September. The only home-grown tomato I saw that year yielded a single, yellow flower before it, too, collapsed; it was a passive, silent rebuke to me for being a gardener with the disgusting effrontery to do what I had done to these plants andcall it gardening.

But I knew the potential of this ground because I had gardened there before. In 1990, I had grown some of the best Red Pontiac potatoes I’d ever seen. After weeks of careful nurturing indoors and hardening-off outside, I watched some of the greenest, most vigorous tomato plants I had ever started become established there; — but a late frost on June 12, 1990 took all of them as well.

Results of gardening in 2019 were better than in 2018. How could they have been worse? But the work mandated by the garden itself needed to be neglected in favour of building a perimeter deer fence. A week of cultivation, planting and watering was lost to the work of manually digging about 40 post holes, setting those poles, and stapling not quite 8 feet of fencing wire around the perimeter.

Another challenge was access to water. I knew there had been a proven well on the property, but it hadn’t been called upon to raise water since the turn of the 21st century, and the last time I had used it myself was in 1990. It had been at least half a century old then.

Running power to the well pump would have required either installation of a power pole to support the almost 100 foot span of the main power pole as well as the installation of a dip-service and electricity meter. In the end, In the end we decided to tie in to the village water main at an ongoing cost of at least $240 per year in exchange for a ready, constant supply of high-pressure water to meet the garden’s irrigation needs.

In order to tie-in to the municipal system we needed to provide a 5 foot deep by 30 foot trench which would have cost us about $1500, the estimated cost of a contractor equipped with a back-hoe, so we elected to try to dig the trench by hand instead.

This would be my attempt to wrest a small bit of control for our food supply back from the powers of finance, commerce, marketing and transportation.

Using a ‘Swing shovel’ allows two diggers working cooperatively to dig a long, narrow trench using only human, rather than machine energy. We saved at least CA $1000.00 digging this trench ourselves over the course of one day.

We were amazed at how easy the job of digging a 5 foot deep by 30 foot long trench was. The top 10 or 12 inches consisted of very fine dusty sand. The next 24 inches consisted of a coarser, more densely compacted sand. Both of these layers yielded to the point of the spade very easily.

Below 24 inches, digging required more cooperation between both of us. Digger “A” would take hold of the handle-end of the swing-shovel and aim it at a downward angle where it would bite deeply into the, now gravel-layer at the bottom of the trench. Digger “B”, hold one end of the rubber strap connected to the shovel’s handle just above the shovel-head, would then drag the spade forward until it was loaded. Finally, both diggers would swing their end of the gravel-laden shovel up and out of the trench. Somehow, we devised a system where we could raise and dump a loaded shovelful of gravel onto the ‘tailings pile’ in one coordinated ‘up-and-over’ motion. It was cool.

I realize the material we were digging into functioned as a silent partner in our efforts; it never required more than the odd poke from a pry bar to loosen the aggregated sands and stones. No boulders blocked our digging; no stones larger than a baked potato appeared. This made for easy work. Digging the whole 30 foot trench took us only 4 or five hours. We did most of the work in the morning and were ready to set the water-hydrant and run the waterline to the main in the afternoon. We called the plumber and he stopped by on his way home and connected our lines to the village water main about 5:00 p.m.

Part of My tangled garden in August, 2021: from left to right: Corn, volunteer Sunflowers, fresh weeds atop the compost heap, In the background the newly-installed poly-greenhouse.

All of this water-work happened in March, well before the main part of the 2020 gardening season, so I was pleased to know I wouldn’t have to be carrying water in pails from off site any more. Though expensive and less than ideal, I could use garden hoses and sprinklers instead.

In a future blog post I’ll write more about my tangled garden and the unrelenting struggle of growing food in a way that is both sustainable, reliable and cost-effective. I’ll also write about how I’ve failed to achieve any of these in over the past four growing seasons as well as the rare, but gratifying ‘wins’ I’ve had along the way: things that keep me going.

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My stone harvest

While working over in what I formally refer to as the sustainability garden and less formally as the sandbox last week, I reminded myself that besides my failures, I’ve already reaped the benefits of this and last year’s first and still my most reliable harvest: stones.

I pay close attention to the freshly turned soil a day or two just after a heavy rain. This is when the stones that are ripest and most ready to be picked present themselves.

Having noticed only one or two stones that are ripe and ready, I pick only these and maybe a few others, in the same area within the ambit of my reach while I’m bent over. By picking only the stones that ask to be picked, plus a few of their comrades, I am relieved of the oppressive thinking that tells me I need to pick all of the stones.

I pick just some of the stones: usually the ones that have been cleaned by the rain or sprinkler which tends to make them the ones I spy first.

Sometimes I kid myself into thinking they are calling to me from out of their eternal silence, somehow signalling to me their readiness to be picked. It’s makes for a good, solitary game.

I try my best to cooperate with the stones’ requests to be picked as they call out to me in their silent language. It doesn’t take long to pick a bucketful. I dump and add them to the area around the water tap which used to be a mudhole, then go back for more, or not: it doesn’t matter.

In its own way, picking a few stones very early in the morning can be just as satisfying as digging potatoes, cutting broccoli, or finding another huge squash hiding deep within the broad foliage of the mother-plant.

Now, for the first time in my life I have a patch of garden ground that is remarkably free of stones to the extent that they do not actually compete with the main part of the soil structure.

The soil here wants to be a sandy loam and will get there eventually with some help from me and huge amounts of organic material.

The stones are stones in the garden all right, but not too many of them. They’re distributed randomly, like raisins or chocolate chips in a homemade oatmeal cookie.

Already I see that my annual harvest of stones is getting smaller each year. Maybe within the next few years this part of my gardening quest will be finished. Or, maybe I’ll simply continue to pick less stones more, for longer periods of time, until the stones and I declare: “All right. Enough!”

I realize I’m actually pretty adept at picking stones, so much more so than I was when I first picked stones alongside my father, mother, and sister on their garden plot on Highland Street in Waterville, Quebec in the 1960s.

I was absolutely useless as an 8 year-old stone-picker in 1965. I didn’t have the ‘stick-to-it-iveness, that my mother often mentioned, and which I took to be a desirable trait and Dad tended to use stone-picking as a punishment, which didn’t help much.

Still, I would accompany my parents to the garden in those warm Spring and Summer evenings, and while I lacked focus and perseverance, I now find I can pick stones continuously for hours at a time!

Have you ever picked stones? Do you pick stones now? Have you ever thought about taking up stone-picking as a form of recreation, or as part of a comprehensive fitness and exercise plan?

I’d love to read your comments, either here in the ‘reply’ section, or sent me an email at psteer@gmail.com

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Update on Fires N61679, N19276 and N61687

MIDWAY, March 19, 2021. — As reported by the BC Wildfires information service at 08:00 hrs. this morning, there are currently three wildfires burning within an approximate 100 kilometre radius of Grand Forks, British Columbia.

The largest of these, covering more than 927 hectares, is the N61687 fire, burning the the lee of the Christina Range in Gladstone Provincial Park. It is currently shown as “Out of control”.

A second fire, also attributed to lightning, is burning to the North West of N61687 near Burns Creek. This comparatively small fire is reported to be about 1.5 hectares in size.

The third fire, also caused by lightning is N61679. At approximately 4.5 hectares, it’s burning near Boundary Creek to the North and West of Greenwood, BC. According to the BCWildfire Service, this fire is also characterized as ‘being held’.

Information about forest fires burning in Northern Washington State will be reported in a future update.

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What can I do?

In my last post I used the calendar as a prompt to write about the utility of New Years’ Resolutions and to ask whether or not the mid-point of the year might offer people a chance to assess how well they’ve been sticking with the resolutions they’d made six months ago.

With that in mind I also decided to revisit the archive of John Michael Greer’s 2006 Archdruid Report blog which ran over a decade between May, 2006 and May 2017. Here’s a direct link to it: https://thearchdruidreport-archive.200605.xyz/2006/12/index.html

It was there Mr. Greer proposed ten resolutions for people interested in in adjusting to a the unfolding reality of life in the years after peak oil, in a context of declining industry, the rise of the so-called ‘service’ economy, and a brave new era of diminishing returns.

For those who have not read Mr. Greer’s original post nor my original blog post from two weeks’ ago — a list which will include just about everyone — I’ll reprint those ten fifteen year old resolutions here followed by my comments:

1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents

When I inspected the lighting in the house we moved to in 2018, I was pleased to note that just about every light in every fixture is either a compact fluorescent or an (LED) light, the one exception being the 25 watt incandescent bulb inside our 28 year old refrigerator, and two 100 watt incandescent bulbs Ms. B. uses as her office. Is there more that I should be doing? I notice all kinds of ‘phantom’ loads drawing power from various household appliances that are ‘on’ all of the time. What might we do to limit or eliminate these?

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation

With the exception of the house we live in now, which, built in 1994 is also the newest house we’ve ever lived in, we’ve always done something to help us conserve energy, to hang onto as much of the heat released through the burning of fossil fuels, or the using hydro electricity. Since moving here in 2018, I haven’t even peeked into the attic to see how much insulation is up there so I guess this is something I’ll be doing fairly soon.

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption

I’ve been trying to reduce my own gasoline consumption fairly consistently since at least 2005 when we purchased a large crew-cab pickup truck from a dealer in Surrey, British Columbia.

I rationalized the purchase by convincing myself I actually needed it to help me ferry around our teenaged kids and their equipment to a variety of organized sports events and practices, as well as to haul garden soil, compost to the vegetable gardens and other stuff. It was an easy rationalization to make in those days; it seemed affordable and we had enough cash circulating through our household to afford it.

The truck has a large displacement V-8 engine. Though very powerful, gasoline consumption is as high as you might expect it to be with a large vehicle, so I’ve always taken every opportunity to leave the truck parked while seeking out other, less costly forms of transportation. As a consequence, after fifteen years’ of conservative use, the truck’s total mileage is now considered low for its age, and I believe that I’ve finally made the last of the necessary repairs to it to fix the problems I inherited when I first bought it. From here on, I’ll certainly be looking for ways to reduce gasoline consumption as well as the usual wear and tear. New and newer trucks are expensive and I want this truck to perhaps be the last I’ll ever own.

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden

Mr. Greer’a 4th resolution has been the one that I’ve been most consistent with over the years. I’ve attempted to have some form of vegetable garden going every year since the early 1990’s — with varying degrees of success, and where we live now, I’ve been particularly fortunate in having a large plot of level, mainly stone-free ground to work with. It’s across the street from our house and I’ve planted a garden there each Spring since 2018. So far, my attempts have fallen far, far short of what I would have hoped to achieve, but I keep plodding along. Garden work is arduous. It demands much in terms of physical and mental work. It doesn’t take long for idealistic notions of home-grown bounty and bumper-crops to be dashed by an array of accidents and surprises, some caused by the vagaries of the weather, the natural limitations imposed by geography and climate, or mistakes made by the gardener himself of which there have been many.

So far, 2021 has been a very challenging year in terms of garden vegetable production. Our Zone 5B climate with its short growing season, (about 125 frost free days) limits what we are reasonably able to plant grow and harvest. Extremes of hot and cold, intense sun, and desiccating wind have all had their negative effects, but for every challenge presented it has so far been possible to effect a remedy — at least for now. At this writing, the potatoes and corn are growing well, with the Winter Squash not far behind. We may also be rewarded with some tomatoes this year, provided we keep them watered, and the climbing beans are reaching for the strings we’ve installed for them to climb on. There is still time to plant and sow certain Fall crops, and I have an ace up my sleeve for the Fall, something that should effect to bump out the shoulders of our growing season by a few weeks, something I’ll aim to document in a future blog post.

5. Compost your food waste

While reflecting on John Michael Greer’s fifth suggested resolution from 2006, I astonished myself when I realized I’ve been composting food waste more or less continuously ever since the early 1990’s. In the Spring of 2020, with the active help of my son, Mr. T., I built six discrete compost bins, each one big enough to hold more than a cubic meter of garden and food waste. By adding compost to the bins and turning them regularly, and by soliciting and accepting donations of additional garden and food waste from neighbours, I’ve amassed quite a volume of decomposing material and I’ve noticed my pile of finished compost continuing to grow, which means I have more work to do: turning it back into the garden.

I designed these bins to make them labour-intensive and a good source of light, continuous exercise for me. It’s challenging and probably unwise for me to keep going during the extreme heat of the summer, but I have been able to consolidate bins sufficiently well to keep the process moving along.

I wonder: What shape or form might food waste composting take in the unique circumstances we find ourselves, particularly if we are doing it without the support of supplementary energy to move it from one place to another?

I realize I’m exceedingly fortunate to be living in a small rural village where there is not only room for me to establish multiple composting bins: I have six. Not everyone is able or wants to do this. When it comes to composting, what are the unique challenges readers of this blog face? What adjustments, if any do you want to make to the circumstances of your lives, if composting is something you want to take on? I’m not suggestion that individuals erect a 3 bin composting system on the balconies of their high-rise apartment buildings, but what are alternatives to fossil fuel dependant curb-side food-waste pickup do you imagine? Again, don’t be shy about leaving your best thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

6. Take up a handicraft

Unless writing a blog counts as a handicraft, I’m afraid that I’ve not acted on Mr. Greer’s 6th suggested resolution for post peak-oil, post-industrial activity. This is something I’ll have think about, but I am a bit apprehensive. I’m already almost 64 years’ old, too old I’m afraid to make a serious commitment to any new craft, too old to become proficient with it. I’ll think this one over to see if something presents itself to me. Your comments and suggestions are welcome too!

7. Adopt an “obsolete” technology

When I go into schools to work as a teacher on-call one obsolete technology I now realize I’m fairly good at is cursive handwriting. This wasn’t always the case. Starting in grade 1 with the uppercase letter “A” and the lower case “a” We laboriously practiced the fine-motor skills required to print neatly for most of that school year. In grade 2 we extended our skills by copy-printing long passages from the blackboard that our teacher, Mrs. Robinson, (not that Mrs. Robinson), lifted from the Old Testament. In grade 2, “Abraham” was the longest word I was obliged to print until grade 3 Only to be displaced the next year by “Nebuchadnezzar”. In grade we transitioned from printing to cursive writing practice. We also managed to escape from the Old Testament and started copying complete sentences in English. It took years’ of practice to learn how to write using a cursive script but I kept at it and eventually got quite good at it. As far as I can tell, these kinetic skills are not really taught anymore, and there isn’t really a lot of discussion about whether we should revert to learning and practicing these skills again. Will it ever be necessary, profitable, desirable or therapeutic for people to be able to write legibly and well using long-hand script? Again, leave your thoughts in a comment below.

8. Take charge of your own health care

Even in jurisdictions where publicly-funded healthcare is provided to citizens, it’s increasingly evident that there has probably been no better time for individuals to take a larger measure of personal responsibility for maintenance of their own good health. Especially now, in the middle of the second year of the SARS2 Corona Virus pandemic, hospitals are good places to avoid if at all possible. Even if a trip to the hospital is unavoidable due to accident or injury, being able to draw upon an established reserve of strength and good health can be extremely helpful in avoiding further setbacks and speeding a return to good health. What are some of the habits and behaviours that support improving health that you have made a conscious part of your life over the past while? Even if nothing springs to mind, is there anything that you’ve started to think about possibly starting or re-starting? Do share your insights in the comments section below.

9. Help build your local community

In the small village where we live a minor crisis arose a couple of weeks’ ago where a developer from the city arrived and quietly announced his plan to build a multi-storey apartment building on a footprint of land he owned. As is often the case in the chaotic urban context, his plans exceeded those permitted in the Bylaw by a couple of storeys. The project required the approval of the Village council if it was to proceed. In the city, this is a continual and routine process, and proposed developments are routinely approved through a process that very few citizens outside the municipal bureaucracy are rarely aware of. Here, even the soft approach of the developer to council was ultimately noticed by an individual property owner, a neighbour of the proposed new apartment building who raised objections to having over a dozen apartment-dwellers’ windows looking down into his formerly very private back yard.

The concerned neighbour, with the help of a very few others, took small-scale but immediate action to stop what they saw as an end-run around the limits of the existing development bylaw. The project was stopped, but it might just as easily have gone ahead if a sufficient number of citizens hadn’t taken action at the last minute.

This anecdote helps to bring Mr. Greer’s ninth suggested resolution into focus for me, and potentially, for everyone else who lives in a community, whatever the size. What does ‘helping to build local community’ look like?

I have a few ideas about what building local community might look like in the small-village context where we now live, but I’m very interested in how might answer the question, in whichever community you reside.

10. Explore your spirituality

For the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, writing in the late 1950’s in his essay, Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth, offers the following perspective on “the dictator State”, which is quoted verbatim below including the gender-restrictive language of those days. I offer it here not as any kind of prescription for those wanting to examine their own spirituality, but as an invitation to a certain self-reflection, however that might arise for you:

It is a fact that in a dictator State the individual is robbed of his freedom, and that we too are threatened by this political fence. Hence the question arises in all urgency: are we going to let ourselves be robbed of our individual freedom, and what can we do to stop it?

Anxiously we look round for collective measures, thereby reinforcing the very mass-mindedness w want to fight against. There is only one remedy for the levelling effect of all collective measures, and that is to emphasize and increase the value of the individual. A fundamental change of attitude (metanoia) is required, a real recognition of the whole man. This can only be the business of the individual and it must begin with the individual in order to be real.

Large political and social organizations must not be ends in themselves, but merely temporary expedients. Just as it was felt necessary in America to break up the great Trusts, so the destruction of huge organizations will eventually prove to be a necessity because, like a cancerous growth, they eat away man’s nature as soon as they become ends in themselves and attain autonomy. From that moment they grow beyond man and escape his control. He becomes their victim and is sacrificed to the madness of an idea that knows no master. All great organizations in which the individual no longer counts are exposed to this danger. There seems to be only one way of countering this threat to our lives, and that is the ‘revaluation’ of the individual. (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, vol. 10, pg. 379-380)

In future blog posts I hope to explore some of the themes identified above in more detail. In the meantime, thank you for reading all the way to the end. I encourage you to leave constructive feedback for me in the comments section, and to share your own perspective on the topics discussed.

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A mid-year retrospective

Resolutions for a Brave New Year

I’m of two minds about New Year resolutions. Most of them have the same shelf life as a week – old Mimosa forgotten behind the curtains on a window sill on a long-forgotten New Year’s morning. There it stands, hidden, steadfast until someone clears it away; it serves as a mute sentinel to the party that ended days, weeks, even months before.

But it’s the resolutions themselves that I’m interested in. In particular, I’m interested in the spirit which prompts them to arise. Where did they come from? What purpose do they serve? What are they for?

I don’t have an answer to these deceptively simple questions. All I know is I can be rolling along quite contentedly when all of a sudden, the need for one or more resolutions emerges as from the depths like flat-topped stepping stones that present themselves to the eye of cautious travellers as the waters flowing around them gently recede. They offer one indication of a way forward; they hint at the possibility of getting to a place called ‘The Other Side’ while still keeping my feet as comfortably dry as they already are ‘Over Here’.

The mid-point of the year is one of the places offering a calendar-driven opportunity to reflect, first of all, on how well I might be doing with any personal resolutions I made made last January.

I already know the answer to that question: not as well as I’d hoped.

Here at the end of the sixth month of the year, I thought it might be worthwhile to review how We, the collective We, might be been doing with some of the collective resolutions that have been proposed to us from time to time over the past number of years and decades.

I think the answer to that question is almost self-evident: not too well!

By coincidence, I was looking into the fifteen year old archive of John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report, which the author closed back in 2017 in its eleventh year. It was toward the end of 2006 where Mr. Greer proposed ten New Year’s Resolutions, “for a world on the brink of the deindustrial age. . . “.

For those who’ve forgotten or who were not yet born, in 2006 the fledgling internet was animated by a lot of crowd-chatter about the fairly new popular awareness of “Peak Oil”, understood as the highest point of annual world oil production, An inevitable event which after it had been surpassed a variety of calamities and crises would ensue.

When Peak Oil based calamities and crises didn’t arrive suddenly enough to satisfy the internet cloud monkeys, I noticed a lot of manic excitement and speculative disasterizing combined with just plain crazy-talk. Noise would rush in to fill the gap.

In those days I appreciated Mr. Greer’s knowledgeable approach to the issue of Peak Oil as much as his calm, practical approach to the problems at hand. He recommended a sensible approach that most [North] Americans could take with minimal cost and inconvenience. This advice was typical:

For some people the following ideas will be impractical, and for almost everyone they will be at least a little inconvenient. All of them, however, will be an inescapable part of the reality most Americans will have to live with in the future – and quite possibly the very near future, at that. The sooner people concerned with peak oil and the rest of the predicament of industrial society make changes like these in their own lives, the better able they will be to surf the waves of industrial decline and help other people make the transition toward sustainability.

The archdruid went on to suggest his “10 Possible Resolutions for a Post-Peak New Year”. I’ve listed them below without Mr. Greer’s encouraging commentary, as follows:

1. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents;

2. Retrofit your home for energy conservation;

3. Cut back on your gasoline consumption;

4. Plant an organic vegetable garden;

5. Compost your food waste;

6. Take up a handicraft;

8. Take charge of your own health care;

9. Help build your local community;

10. Explore your spirituality.

Irrespective of whether or not you’ve seen resolutions like these before, I invite readers of this blog to comment on these or other collective resolutions they’ve made over the years, to propose new or different ones and suggest other approaches all together.

In weeks to come, with your feedback and support, I’ll be exploring the themes identified in the 10 resolutions above, as well as other topics that may arise along the way. I’ll do my best to respond to advice & suggestion received in the comments section of this blog. I invite any and all discussion, commentary and argument as long as it’s presented in a civil manner. If it’s not, after a caution from me, I’ll block you!

Happy Mid-Year!

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No Loitering

KELOWNA, March, 2021. — We’d generated a list, so after breakfast we decided we’d leave Midway for Kelowna in the 3/4 ton. We took Highway 33 North from Rock Creek, via Westbridge, then slightly West through Beaverdell and Carmi to the Rock Creek/Kelowna summit. 

As we neared the summit, we saw evidence of the work of crews who have been busy ripping trails into the woods probably for logging but we saw no sign of the cow moose we’d seen before on each of our two previous Winter expeditions. She’d probably been scared off.

  From there we descended quickly, passing the Big White Summit, where so many Covid-19 infections had been identified this past Winter. We continued down through Joe Rich then carrying on down through the Black Mountain area of Kelowna, Rutland and into the commercial junk scape of Kelowna.

Our first stop was the Bottle Depot on Kent Street. We parked the truck in front of one of the NO LOITERING signs on one side of the building and carried the had one very large polyethylene bag packed almost to full capacity.  

Our collection included beverage containers made of glass, polyethylene, aluminum and a vile, industrial sandwich sold as a “Tetra-Pak”, which is made of paperboard, (75%), polyethylene (20%), and aluminum (5%).

Inside, we sorted the containers which for our purposes fell into two main categories:  ‘Clean’  and ‘Absolutely’ filthy.

The ‘clean’ containers were filled with empties that we’d accumulated since December, 2020 and were mainly made of aluminum or glass.  They were pop and beer cans mainly, with a few wine and liquor bottles mixed in.

The ‘absolutely filthy’ containers were also made mainly of aluminum or glass, but also of many made of P.E.T. (polyethylene terephthalate), a synthetic resin. 

The worst of these might include empty beverage containers filled with piss and tossed out the window by truck drivers unwilling to stop, but most were simply pitched from vehicles once they’d been emptied and picked up months later after being covered with a Winter’s worth of road spray and spending the Winter buried in the dirty snow.

 These, over the course of 1 hour I’d picked from ditches and shoulders of the Crowsnest Highway No. 3 a long a distance of no more than 1 kilometre.

I’m very pleased the government of British Columbia has mandated an economy for beverage containers because it gets more of the used materials: glass, aluminum, and plastic to, back into the manufacturing process and out of the litter stream.

An extension of this is it  but also gives me an  excellent incentive to get some fresh-air, sunshine and light exercise at the same time.  

Picking up cans on the side of the highway is a lot like gardening , except the main crop is mainly aluminum, glass and plastic, not fruit and vegetables.

We cashed in our empties and received $20.25 cents. To prevent touching during the plague, the money was passed to us in a grey, polyethylene plastic basket from the dollar-store. It had been extruded in China to resemble a real basket, one hand-made out of woven reeds.

My companion on this trip made a lunge for the money, but I turned quickly to one side.  “Hey!”, I said, “I already bought your Breakfast!  This belongs to me!”  

That’s what I said, and I believed it,  but I didn’t realize until we went outside that it wasn’t actually true. The twenty dollar bill didn’t belong to me, any more than any of the ‘clean’ or ‘absolutely filthy’ beverage containers we’d cashed in ‘belonged’ to me.  

It was only being handled by us until we passed it on to someone else as part of a transaction, hopefully a ‘mutually beneficial exchange of values’. 

In the end, we spontaneously decided and agreed the $20 actually belonged to the very old man loitering near the truck with a sign taped to his walker. The sign read: “I need some money”, as candid, and honest a statement as I’d recently seen. 

I noticed the man had hooked the right rear wheel of his walker around a parking curbstone in the same way I often do when I’m turning left and forget that I’m driving the truck and not my much smaller car. I fail to account for my truck’s long box and forget to drive far enough out into the intersection to clear the invisible ‘pivot-point’, just past the truck’s mid-point. When I start turning right too early, as if I was driving my much shorter car, the left rear-wheel invariably gets caught and climbs the curb, much to the annoyance of my travelling companion.

The old guy looked very frail. I hoped he would realize his walker was hung up on the curbstone and adjust it a bit so that he wouldn’t fall when he tried to move forward.

“No 85 year old guy pushing a walker would make a sign that said ‘I need some money’ unless he was telling the truth’”, said my travelling companion.

I agreed. So we gave the deposit-money to him.