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In Case You Wondered... [Nov. 24th, 2015|08:54 am]
[Current Mood |thoughtful]

...why, with all the total insanity going on in the world, I've spent time posting innocuous things here--like finishing the purple socks, starting roof repair, refurbishing a living room--does it mean I don't care? (the common attack when someone isn't talking about whatever your favorite problem is) or I'm too stupid to realize what's happening?   Er...no.  It means I thought it might be useful to more than me to have a space set aside from noise and chaos for a few weeks, where others might spend a few minutes being reminded what it is all the screaming and shouting and threatening and counter-threatening and name-calling is about.   Those things that most people really want: a safe place to eat and sleep and welcome into a home friends and neighbors. Things too many people in the world don't have, but that some of us do have, and have only so long as civilization--including civility, the ability to get along with each other--exists.   So the pictures of socks--that most humble of garments--and the disappearance of a danger to ourselves and neighbors in the dying tree--and the change in a single smallish room in a single ordinary house are there to say "This is still here.  The quiet places.  The steady day to day work of the roofers, the carpet layers, the tree removers, the furniture makers and the delivery men on the truck, and those who keep the electrons flowing in the wires, and mend roads, and haul food from warehouses to stores...it goes on, and it goes on because we notice it enough to keep it going on."

Knitting socks is one symbol of this: of infrstructure maintenance, of a sort, of people doing something constructive to make things better.  So is replacing a leaky roof,  cutting down a dangerous dying tree,  saving the chopped up limbs and leaves to use as mulch, turning an uncomfortable and ugly space into a comfortable, serene refuge for people to enjoy.   That's what these posts have been about--things ordinary people can do, and many accomplish,  that--multiplied across neighborhoods, towns, cities, countries--make things better in the face of the determination of others to destroy things and make things worse.   Things that must not be forgotten, in the scary chaos of the news--because these things are upheld by our awareness of them and by our practice of them.
So what about Thanksgiving in the face of all the anger, fear, hatred, and those who want everyone to be afraid, angry, and hating?   It's another tool for civilization and civility, Thanksgiving and the thankfulness the holiday is meant to inspire.   Gratitude enables actions that anger, fear, and hatred cannot enable.  Thankfulness makes possible a mind open to possibilities, to imagination of better futures, that anger, fear, and hatred cannot contemplate.   Those who want to control everyone, manipulate everyone, know that scared people are easy to make angry, and thus to make hate...and thus easy to shape into a mob that wants to destroy.   And those bullies (for that is what they are)  oppose holidays like Thanksgiving as mere sensual excess (which mere underlings are never supposed to have.)   They exist on every side of every conflict, saying "How can you enjoy yourself while [this other] is happening--it means you're bad, thoughtless, uncaring."  No.  It means you're defiant.  Quietly defiant, carrying on a civilized meal in spite of demands to obey the bullies.  (OK, if you have a warlike family, then maybe not.  But there's a way to avoid that, at the cost of a brief discomfort--saying "No" to those who think you should come be miserable for four hours or so while they rant at each other.  Your choice.)

I have plenty to say about certain politicians and candidates and foreign leaders and movements and so on, much of which I've said elsewhere, online and off.  Including to the complete idiots who are supposedly my representatives in our government, most of whom are practiced at making things worse.   I am not immune to what's going on.   But--long, long ago my mother taught me three things to do when the world (near or far) was going crazy:  1) help somebody who needs help and 2) make something useful and 3) clean up a nearby mess.  The helping part is not to be displayed, but the making something useful and cleaning up a mess can be.

I hope Thanksgiving dinner comes off well this year (the book deadline, the repairs & restorations, and Thanksgiving all collided.)  I'm glad most of my guests are returning ones and thus likely to be forgiving if the pumpkin pie or the gingerbread-apple-walnut loaf is sticky in the middle.  I'm glad for the new guests, too, and hope they enjoy themselves.   (And now, back to the book.  To be followed by...more prep for T-day.)

[User Picture]From: muaddim
2015-11-24 03:04 pm (UTC)

I'm do agree,and,as well known to a at least a couple of people on this blue-green planet,the best way to help- it's to start by helping folks around.
Btw,it's one of the basic Hebrew sayings,as "Poors of your city is the formost.".
P.S.Completly off-topic -do You read in other languages ?

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-24 04:13 pm (UTC)
I don't read any other languages well, though I studied several. Lack of practice. I can pick out simple things in Latin, French, Spanish, Italian (very simple things), used to read scientific German at a basic level, have pretty much completely lost the classical Greek. I was never good at languages--like a baby goose that imprints on a human as Mother, I imprinted on English. My mother was bilingual English/Spanish; we had Lebanese neighbors who were multi-lingual. Me, I was the dummy. Latin's probably stuck the best, because we sing a lot of church music in Latin, so for those phrases I'm solid.
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[User Picture]From: muaddim
2015-11-24 08:30 pm (UTC)
Oh,i see 8)
OK,one conversation went away 8( .
I'll live with that,thoutgh .
P.S.English is not my native,actualy,Russian is one i was burn with,so i has been planning to ask,if anything fancy You in recent authors - probably,never gonna by 8) .
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[User Picture]From: fatcook
2015-11-24 03:07 pm (UTC)
This is one of the reasons I read your journal. Well, I came for the socks first but found it to be a lovely place to visit with great views, cozy corners and excellent conversation. Even if I don't take part in them very much. I'm like that in real life too.

So thank you for making socks and safe spaces. They are deeply appreciated
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From: sheff_dogs
2015-11-24 06:05 pm (UTC)
As so often you have espressed somethng I have been thinking on this week, thank you. I hope you and your guests have a lovely peaceful day on Thursday
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[User Picture]From: cgbookcat1
2015-11-24 06:09 pm (UTC)
I appreciate the space you've made here to talk about the little things.
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[User Picture]From: catsittingstill
2015-11-24 06:53 pm (UTC)
It's important to have peaceful spaces for refreshment.
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From: geekmerc
2015-11-24 11:44 pm (UTC)
Anyone can lend their voice, or give their opinion on a matter. However, a random voice on an Internet blog doesn't often actually accomplish much when it comes to current events and the rantings of everyone. There is already too much noise.

Keep doing what you are doing. It actually interests me and is useful in my day to day existence. I can sometimes make practical use out of your knitting knowledge and tree cutting information.

I'm a strong believer in doing what is right within the scope of my abilities as an individual. For me, that generally means doing good deeds close to home. It's not like I can give money, food, or shelter to everyone.

On a positive note, my house is the woods is almost completed. I'm saddened by the number of trees that were removed (for both houses and cleaning the ranch fence line, we have around five huge piles of trees). I probably won't be so sad when we clean out some of the brambles in the trees around the houses. We're leaving some areas untouched as they are safe harbors for the local wildlife, but we are making areas near our housing more passable for humans. I wish there was something more useful to do with the tree piles than burn them, though. :(
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-25 12:13 am (UTC)
YES, there are things more useful to do with tree piles than burn them.

The wood: can be made into decorative fencing, used to contain raised beds for gardening, be made into rustic furniture, offered to those who need firewood (which includes places that cook over wood, such as barbecues--they go out searching for cut-down trees in this part of Texas.) Depending on the species you cut down, some of the wood may be of interest to craftspersons (including those who replicate older tools and weapons), to the SCA or similar organizations for targets for archery and other practice. If you have wedges and a maul, you can split larger chunks into layers and make wood "steps on slopes (reduces both erosion and slipping when you go up and down--wood stabilizes even slick clay until you can find some rocks the right shape. Walking sticks, rustic arches to frame a view, sticks laid over a frame (of larger branches) to make an arbor you can plant vines on.

Stuff that's too small for any of these uses can be used for erosion control (dumped into any runoff channels to slow the water down), woven into mats for muddy places (you can walk on a mat of giant ragweed stalks, should you ever be out in a wet woods and find a nice stand of giant ragweed, dead or alive, but sticks and branches are also a help.)

I don't know where you live, but you can probably find someone who will take the larger wood either to use or sell to those who do. Think wide: SCA, people who need firewood, places that sell firewood, any furniture builders, crafts people, etc. Woodworking is not just a hobby.

If you can rent a chipper, the chipper will turn smaller branches and twigs into mulch for gardens or for paths to walk on.

A fallen or downed tree is a resource--with many uses. Have fun learning them. And before you destroy the brambles, find out if they're blackberries, dewberries, raspberries...in which case, keep them pruned so they'll keep bearing, but enjoy the fruit.
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From: geekmerc
2015-11-25 12:39 am (UTC)
Cut down berry producing plants? Never! Starting this winter and going through next year, we're monitoring, researching, and categorizing all the plants and trees on our land. We'll be hiring a botanist to check our work. We are paying closes attention to natural food producers for both us and wildlife. I'm not sure what the thorny brambles are or the massive tree climbers yet.

I believe most of the trees were blackjack. I don't know enough to know the difference between post oak and blackjack. I'm just going by what I was told. I believe 20% or more were already dead or dying. Less than half of the piles are large trees. Most of it is smaller trees. The piles look bigger than they are due to the cavities formed by the branches.

I know we have quite a few dead trees, standing or fallen around our house. We're going to have to figure out something to do with them. You've given me some additional ideas, though. Thanks. While I don't mind using the ashes for ground fertilizer (which works fine in natural forest fires as well as when the ranch does controlled burns), I feel it isn't the best use. Perhaps for some of the leftovers.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-25 01:54 am (UTC)
Oh, good. Knowing what you've got is super. Blackjack oak is just another species of oak...Someone who barbecues seriously could tell you if it's as good for barbecue as post oak. Bet it is. Oak has a lot of potential. Cross-sections of branches can make trivets to put hot dishes on. Cross-sections of trunk can make seats for rustic stools (you make three legs out of thinner but strong wood, drill holes in the seat, then cut the legs off the height you want. Oh--one way of seasoning it...seal each end of the cut log with canning wax and store up off the ground for a year or more depending on thickness. That way the wood dries out slowly and you avoid cracks. Oak can be turned on a lathe, too. My dining room table is solid oak (and heavy as a battleship, it feels like) but that takes a bigger tree.

Standing dead trees--if they're not endangering the houses, leave them as "standing snags" for wildlife. Woodpeckers and other insect eaters will drill into them for food, lichens and mosses will grow on them in wet weather, they make perches for owls and hawks, too.
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From: geekmerc
2015-11-25 12:57 am (UTC)
On a similar note, I think you'd love my little forest. It's what I believe Oklahoma calls Lowland timber (We're in southern Oklahoma not too far from the I-35 corridor). A major creek runs through our property. Between the creek and the flood plains, we have some beautiful trees. Where I built my house is on the fringe, outside of the flood zones. We have a lot of post oak and blackjack in our area, I believe. A lot of it has a white pasty look to it, like Bob Ross went a little heavy with the white highlights (Twitch streams Bob Ross every Monday, btw, if you miss watching those episodes). As you go down the hill into the flood planes and the creek, the trees are larger and more beautiful. You will also find more variety due to the readily available water. While the trees around my house are very small leaf, which allows for a lot of smaller trees and underbrush, the trees near the creek are often large leaf and have a clear floor due to the shade canopy they create.

We'd have loved to build in the perfectly large field downhill where all the big trees are, but when that tropical storm hovered over us, it put the field 6' underwater (the estimated 100 year flood mark). I'm still thinking a floating cottage down there might be cool.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-25 01:56 am (UTC)
It sounds lovely. I took the train from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City in June, came through some lovely hills--the track had just been repaired from a wash-out, but it was definitely pretty country.
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[User Picture]From: davesmusictank
2015-11-25 02:55 am (UTC)
I tend to agree. Sometimes we need to floods the bad with the good things that happen.

Edited at 2015-11-25 02:56 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: Gareth Griffiths
2015-11-25 05:41 pm (UTC)

Have a great thanksgiving

Have a great thanksgiving. We'll be thinking of our US friends tomorrow whether they be close personal friends or those we 'know' via their books and blogs that give us so much joy and thoughtful deliberation.

(based in UK)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-26 01:58 pm (UTC)

Re: Have a great thanksgiving

We enjoy it--the only holiday not tied to patriotism/politics or a particular religion. It's a great excuse (and for many of us, we *need* a good excuse other than just "it's fun to eat with friends") for gathering in fairly large numbers.
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[User Picture]From: absintheforest
2015-11-25 09:58 pm (UTC)

Great post! Thanks for sharing your mother's words. I want to take them to heart.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-25 10:20 pm (UTC)
She had to say them many, many times before I really listened, and it was later that I began to internalize them.

In our conversations in her last year, she said it had been a hard lesson for her, too. And that no matter how rotten you felt, there was always something you could do--however small--that improved things for someone (including yourself)--if only scrubbing the kitchen floor. I now grasp that part of it is the doing--when you're grieving, scared, angry, you have a lot of emotional biochemistry going on, some of which benefits from being dissipated in physical activity, while the task--especially if it's aimed at helping someone else--can distract your mind from your own pain/fear/anguish and begin to open it to positive possibilities. I find it difficult, but less difficult than years back, now that I know some of the neurology and biochemistry involved. (I was a kid who asked "Why?" a LOT. My mother, with an engineering mind, was more about the "How?" then the "Why?" "How?" is already one step on the road to doing something. "Why?" can be important questions, with important answers, but when you're scared/angry/in pain/confused, the brain's ability to think carefully through a "why" to a useful answer is compromised. "Why?" is a question for calm times. In my opinion.)
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[User Picture]From: absintheforest
2015-12-07 02:58 pm (UTC)

Agreed! Even in calm times you might not find an answer to why. But can cleaning your floor help an unrelated disaster? Absolutely, if it makes you fitter to handle it. That's why I love that advice.

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[User Picture]From: mirtlemist
2015-11-25 10:14 pm (UTC)
I'm very grateful when my friends continue to provide space for periods of normalcy and calm in times of profound outrage. My childhood was violent and loud and when the world begins to resemble it too much, I seek out those who still offer glimpses of serenity and poise. When those people are few, I retire to my quilt room and sew, surrounded by soft music and try not to let negative thoughts saturate what I'm making. Sending love and beauty back out into the world may be the only thing left to do sometimes, but it surely can't hurt.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-25 10:23 pm (UTC)
Sending love and beauty into the world not only doesn't hurt, it can and does heal. I'm a knitter, not a quilter (because sewing makes me frantic) but I know the refreshment of sitting quietly with colors and music and making something new and lovely. (Well, I think my socks are lovely. Other opinions are valid for that person.)
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From: (Anonymous)
2015-11-29 06:29 pm (UTC)


Innocuous is good - too many posts by too many people are dedicated to abnormality so it is good to read something normal.

But your dedication to socks has got my feeble brain to thinking of Paks showing a guard how to darn. With three cohorts, how many sheep are required to keep Fox Company in socks - not to mention blankets, uniforms, etc. Added to everything else, the cost of running Fox Company must have been enormous and the supply people quite busy.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-11-29 07:57 pm (UTC)

Re: innocuous

You're quite right that supplying a fighting force (of any size, any time) is not cheap, and wasn't cheap in a fantasy world, either. How many sheep for the necessary wool (different breeds of sheep produce difference amounts of wool, as well as different types of wool, from what used to be called "carpet wool" (very hard-wearing) to the cushiest, softest wools (that often won't stand up to hard usage as well.) Infantry soldiers are notoriously hard on socks--they walk a lot, on a lot of different terrain, and they carry a heavy load (in the old days, esp.) They don't have time (or interest) in caring for their socks, so socks may be worn with abrasive dirt in them, worn wet, or washed (if they are) by harsh methods that wear them down faster (rubbing on a rock.) Foot wrappings other than socks were often used because rags were easier to come by than socks, and it's likely that narrow woven strips of cloth were cheaper in some areas/periods.

But by the time of the first series of Paks books, the Duke's Company had a land grant large enough to support flocks of sheep. What kind of sheep? Do those sheep supply all the wool used by Fox Company? I don't think so. They would provide most of the coarse wool (for socks, for recruit uniforms, perhaps for winter uniforms for those soldiers up north in winter, for blankets, rugs, stuffing mattresses, etc. in the north) but he would buy woolen cloth for the summer uniforms in Verella, where there are commercial weavers using more southern wool. He might even buy completed basic uniforms from tailors in the south...otherwise everyone who could sew in the north would be busy making uniforms.

And nobody would be out raising and harvesting the grain they need to feed the soldiers...

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[User Picture]From: gifted
2015-12-03 08:14 am (UTC)
As someone who has been through a lot, I always appreciate those quiet and comforting spaces.

For the record, I also appreciate your opinions and strengths. The balance is good.
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