Monday, September 29, 2008


So when I tell people I'm on the verge of giving vermicomposting a try, they get sort of a greenish tinge to their faces and start edging away (well, really, they shake their heads and wonder if I have it out for rats, mice, and other rodents that cross my path, but it's probably close to the same thing). Here's the full explanation.
Our story begins in our heroine's childhood: she has dark memories of nasty-smelling containers that she would have to take out to the compost pile... there would ALWAYS be a potato peeling or another evil something of some sort sticking vehemently to the container's side. Ewwww - it gives me shivers just reporting it!
But as a "grown-up" she was troubled. She thought the idea of composting was actually a good one, "Composting recycles or 'downcycles' organic household and yard waste and manures into an extremely useful humus-like, soil end-product called compost. Examples are fruits, vegetables and yard clippings. Ultimately this permits the return of needed organic matter and nutrients into the foodchain and reduces the amount of "green" waste going into landfills." (Wikipedia) but couldn't think of a way to make it practical in her garden- and yard-free apartment-dwelling life.
To make matters worse, a friend of hers told her that manufacturing companies are actually starting to work less on biodegradable stuff, and more on "compactable" stuff, because we seal off landfills - so the biodegradable things take up space and never (well, you know, not for a long time) get to actually do what they were designed to do: biodegrade.
Our heroine started thinking about all the biodegradable things that she throws away or sends down the garbage disposal, and she was not happy with herself. Not happy at all.
Enter the hero! No, it was not a knight in shining armor. It was a web site. This one, as a matter of fact. It's cool, right?! Can you see why it replaced the despair in the heart of our heroine with a faint but unmistakeable ray of hope?
So this past Saturday, her oh-so-rockin' friends Ray and Becky helped her make one. For real. Ray worked on the frame, our heroine worked on the bag, and Becky helped both! There's still a smidgen more work needed on the frame, and the much-anticipated purchase of the worms, but it's a start!
Pic 1: Trying to cut out the pattern on super-slidey nylon.
Pic 2: Trying to sew super-slidey nylon.
Pic 3: Doing cool things with wood.
Pic 4: Progress So Far (the frame's drying, but at least it's a hint at what it might look like when finished!)
Tune in next time for an update on how our heroine fares on this bold new adventure!

some few updates

Do you ever feel like it's hard to keep up with yourself? Not as straightforward as pure busy-ness, really, but because there's more stuff going on than time to reflect on it?! It sure happens to me! Here's what I've been up to:

The Weekend Before Labor Day Weekend
After getting back from Colorado, I was a bit overwhelmed with... everything, and it actually sounded the most restful to hop in the car and take the 5-hour drive to visit Amy and Tim. So I did! I had a wonderful, relaxing weekend - no pictures... I was in too chill a mood for that! - but they sent me back with the best-ever sweetcorn and feeling on much better terms with myself and the world. We mostly just hung out, but we DID get to Delta Diner for breakfast on Saturday - HOORAY! - and just had a nice time before Amy's school year starts up again.

Labor Day Weekend
For Labor Day Weekend, I drove to the Twin Cities and hung out with my friends Jen & Mustafa. We had a jolly time, checking out the Minnesota State Fair, watching movies, meeting up with Chris & Augusta, going to the beach, painting the deck, and (for Jen and me) getting pedicures! For some reason I spaced & didn't bring a camera, but here's a pic I love of them from when we were browsing through this crazy clothing store in Nebraska.

The Next Weekend
My friend Tracy got married - hooray! Jen & Mustafa were my "date" for that one, and we had a great time. Tracy looked marvelous, the wedding was beautiful, and the reception was great fun.

The Weekend After That
Chris and Augusta, who hadn't been camping for like 10 years, met me at Devil's Lake State Park. It rained! So the fact that we were still friends at the end is a pretty decent accomplishment, right? It sure helped that we ate awesomely and our tent didn't get wet (unlike our neighbors - who ended up sleeping in the car the second night!). We had fun exploring around the park and thinking about what we would do if it weren't raining. Oh, and buying wet wood from the state park that we were assured was dry... and then trying unsuccessfully for a couple hours to get it going! (It wasn't just us - the night before we'd had a great fire and s'mores and everything). Luckily, we had gummi bears to get us through. I think we got through 2 1/2 pounds between the three of us throughout the weekend - Chris even took them into the tent with us Sat. night, "just in case"!

The past two weekends
have been much less gasoline-intensive. I've spent time reacquainting myself with my apartment (rather a nice place, really), and hanging a bit more with Appleton friends. There are definitely some fun things to do around here: going on walks, indoor climbing, disc golf, checking out the car show at Oktoberfest, watching movies, rambling doing PowerPoint for church, and so on. Oh, and reading like a maniac! I also took on a couple of projects, which I think I'll post about separately!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

on misery and the Great Outdoors

I'm learning!
Maybe five or six years ago I agreed to sign up for a weekend canoe-camping trip down the Wisconsin River. I was really apprehensive. I mean, I'd gone to summer camp many times as a kid, and I'd slept in a tent on the lawn, but I'd never been out tent camping. And this wasn't easing into it at an escape-car-and-bathroom-close-by setup either. We'd be floating down the river and camping at a different site each night. I remember being particularly afraid about the etiquette of the thing. What if there were tons of unspoken rules and unconsciously held "everybody knows"-type rituals that I wouldn't find out about till I was on a sand bar in the middle of the river? What if I was ridiculed for not bringing a multi-bladed whatizmajiggy and everyone else relied on them implicitly for survival? My friend Linda took pity on me and made me a camping list that I still rely on, and all was well. And of course I had an amazingly-awesome time.
Since then I've had heaps more amazing camping - and eventually, kayaking and backpacking! - experiences. Because I didn't grow up with the stuff, though, I still feel green in many respects. I get excited about learning new things. My best one so far, I think, was one of those "profound once you hear it" kind of things that I gleaned from the BOW weekend this winter. It was getting down to 40 below at night and the weekend coordinator announced that we would not be having the planned bonfire. Reasonable right? But her reasoning surprised me: "the wind is strong enough tonight that if you were to dress in a way that would keep you comfortable at those temperatures, you'll be wearing something flammable, which won't be safe with sparks from the fire". Wait a minute - all this outdoor stuff isn't supposed to be about pushing misery to her very edge, growling fiercely, and carefully retreating back to civilization??!
As I think about it, though, she's right on. Camping really isn't supposed to be about being miserable. It's about (among other things, of course) finding ways to be comfortable in conditions that would be miserable without preparation. And while I might have been able to nod and smile at that thought after my first camping trip, it was about half-way through our crazy (well - crazy to flatlanders! Coloradans, don't laugh!) backpacking trip over Flattop in the Rocky Mountains a few weeks ago when I suddenly realized something. I was comfortable. I had finally packed and left behind the right stuff, had figured out the things in the past that really had made me miserable, and figured out ways to avoid them this time around. It wasn't perfect, but I think I'd reached a turning point. In that light then, I think I may post a few things that have made a difference for me so far, and others as I learn more.