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Monday, October 31, 2011

[Hannah]: Caitlin Moran on relationships

"You can always tell when a woman is with the wrong man, because she has so much to say about the fact that nothing's happening.

"When women find the right person, on the other hand, they just .. disappear for six months, and then resurface, eyes shiny, and usually about six pounds heavier.

"'So what's he like?' you will say....

"...but she will be oddly quiet. 'It's just...good,' she will say. 'I'm really happy.'"

[Hannah]: Caitlin Moran on a Bad Bra

The relief of taking off a bad bra is immeasurable.... Bad bra removal is a measure of your friendships. If you would feel comfortable in going round to someone's house at the end of a long day, and saying, 'I'm just going to take my bra off,' you know you are intimate friends.

Of course, on occasion, bad bra removal has to happen in a more urgent location. I have seen women taking bras off in cabs on their way back from clubs; women taking off bras in cabs that are still outside clubs.

I once saw it happen at a bus stop, outside Bar Rumba on Camden High Street.

I understood.

[Hannah]: British journalist Caitlin Moran on the library

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate “need” for “stuff”.

A mall – the shops – are places where your money makes the wealthier wealthy. But a library is where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary instead. A satisfying reversal. A balancing of the power.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Jethro fulfills his mission in life.

If it is true that America is becoming a third-world country, I am finally in the vanguard. For the last few days I've been strapping Jethro the donkey into his pack-saddle (which I repaired using tarp tie-downs to tighten the straps under his belly) and using bungee cords to secure my chainsaw to the pack saddle - I also put a long piece of chain in a backpack. Then I take Jethro off into the woods with his heavy burden (he doesn't notice it at all), use the chain to hobble him to a tree, and he chows down while I cut down sweet-gum trees. Then we reverse the process and come home. He loves having a job. I love not lugging the chainsaw.

Jethro usually has happy ears when I've got him lugging stuff through the woods, whether it's rocks, water, or a chainsaw. Happy donkey ears: parallel and laid at an angle back from the head. That means he isn't afraid of anything and isn't waiting for something better to happen. It's the donkey version of "be here now."


Thursday, October 06, 2011

A visit to my favorite hay farmer Roger Tate and his 40,000 chickens

I go to Mebane with my little truck every once in a while to strap down 18 bales of orchard grass for my donkey Jethro and Superman, his pet miniature horse. Unless he's too busy, I quiz my farmer friend Roger Tate, third (or fourth) generation owner of Roger Tate's Harmony Hill Farm in Efland, NC, sometimes about the state of farming today ...

... for instance, about weather and his amusement that fellow farmers deny climate change (yesterday he told me MANY of them think Al Gore invented climate change so he could make millions of dollars) - and sometimes about his kids and his wondering if his daughter will be the next generation managing the Tate Farm. Sometimes he tells me about his wife and her Community Supported Agriculture project (she's made a Harmony Hill CSA Facebook page). You sign up and get a box of their home-grown produce every month.

Yesterday he took me to see his chicken houses, newly certified organic. We became the object of intense inspection by tens of thousands of chicken eyes when we drove up - we can see them milling around in there behind the chicken wire. A chain drags the organic chicken food down the length of the house in a trough - a truck comes and dumps a mountain of the stuff into Roger's silos. His chicken feed costs $28,000 A MONTH!! There is a pipe of water with a zillion red nipples in it that runs along just over the chickens' heads. There are outdoor areas at the end of each of the chicken houses where the girls can mill around and play volleyball.

He recently joined Braswell, out of Georgia, which supplies Whole Foods throughout the Southeast. Some day he'd like to be able to be a direct provider but there are a lot of problems that would have to be solved first.

He's gotten out of the "broiler business" - there've been serious bankruptcies and the industry is suffering because farmers can't afford to raise chickens for the prices they receive. He was shaking his head in pleased surprise at McDonalds and Walmart both requiring major improvements in the way the food (flora and fauna both) they buy is grown and prepared. "These are interesting times to be a farmer."

He said it used to be automatically recommended that cows be bred in the spring for most economical management. However, the last few seasons he tried that, disaster ensued - half his cows remained "open" (not pregnant) which means no calves and no milk. It turns out the incredibly hot springs we now have (due to Al Gore making millions of dollars off global warming) make the bulls temporarily sterile! So now the operation must be shifted to the fall.

You really have to be brave to be a farmer. He lost 30% of his hay crop this year due to the vagaries of weather, "but that's about typical." I find it amazing any farmer has the courage to stay in business. Ever seen those bumper stickers that say No farms, no food - you can get one for free from the American Farmland Trust and make a donation to help preserve local farms and farmland.

He told me in amazement about his visit to the place newborn chicks are sexed (after all, if you are supplying layers to farmers, you don't want to be sending roosters). Most of the chicken-sexers are from the far east (he forgot what country), and they are treated quite well because it's a tough job and nobody else seems to be good at it...

... They sit there as the chicks go by and pop the chicks into the "male" or the "female" holes nest to their stations, and there's a vacuum tube that sends the little chicks to the correct boxes down below, where they arrive very fluffy and surprised, but unharmed. (I've bought chicks through the mail in these little boxes - you'd think they'd be traumatized when they arrive at the post office, but they seem just fine - that's to say, no more traumatized than YOU would be if you were everybody's favorite dinner.)

Lastly: my son sent me a link to Cud, a short movie about a farmer who's gone organic and is raising grass-fed cows. He isn't happy unless he's on his land, about 365 days a year (he estimates roughly), having his first cup of coffee in his field in the dark early dawn and a bottle of wine (does he drink that whole bottle himself??) in the same place when the sun's gone down.

I hope you think every once in a while that, until we're living on processed seaweed, we rely unthinkingly on these guys to keep doing what they do.

Thanks for the hay, Roger!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Give the customers what they want.

I saw this great quote from the MIPCOM media conference: "When consumers tell you what they want, give it to them. Figure out a way to give it to them, because they will figure out a way to get it."

My family's full of ingenious people; we're constantly searching for things that are hard to find, and if we don't find them we make them ourselves, so somebody lost a sale.
  • I started sewing again because there was so little variety in clothes being offered for sale in stores. And - what is this stupidity of "color trends"? Each year everybody is supposed to buy all new clothes so they can wear the same color?

    One year I poked my head inside a clothing store and there were racks and racks of clothes all made of denim - another year, chartreuse! If I buy, it's at used clothes stores where the "colors of the year" of many different years are all presented at one time.

  • How about a lonnggg swivel arm for a big flatscreen tv? Had to make one. A movable shallow tv stand for a flatscreen tv? Had to make one.

  • Nicely fitting halter for a donkey? Had to take an old horse halter apart and stitch it back up.

  • Now let's talk about Netflix and all the movies and tv shows it does NOT have for its streaming customers. Somebody I know will do illegal downloads for me of shows which are not available to me legally. Who (besides me) benefits from this?

  • Furniture for people whose homes are not gigantic! Most furniture stores are presenting merchandise for supposed customers who live in a very different world than we do! Those giant fat sofas would take up all the floor space! So we don't buy them. The coffee tables are similarly gigantic - so instead of buying one, I got a friend to help me weld a smaller frame together.

  • Why can't you buy a solar chicken coop fan? My son and a friend cobbled one together. Sale lost!

  • Why can't you buy windows with big panes? That was my only requirement when I was looking for windows for the house we were about to build, but they couldn't be found so I built 33 windows myself in the carport.

What have you searched for and not been able to find? What did you do instead?