Thursday, December 30, 2010
How about this dandelion fabric? OK the color is a bit mustardy, but otherwise?
Kristen Kimball, of The Dirty Life fame and hard work, has written an essay on the Oprah website - worth reading. There is also a great interview with her here, which I don't think I have linked to before from this blog. More about living off the land locally, on this blog.
And while you are reading all these great things, often building on shared resources and shared commitments and responsibilities, here is one woman who's research is famous for studying this, everyday life around the world and how we share things ethically and honestly: Elinor Ostrom. She got the Nobel prize in Economics for her research, which is pretty remarkable, when you realize that:
"Ostrom’s key idea is that neither the state nor the market is the best manager of our collective resources—it’s us, we the people. The commons concept is catching on in a big way as we look at how to lighten our impact on the earth, live within the means of our natural resources, and navigate the ownership issues of a new digital era."
Read more here, and there is an interview with Elinor here. I met her last year through work, and the best quote from her that day was: "Shame can be a most useful feeling." She was talking about shaming people into doing the right thing, like when they had mock trials along the Rhen River accusing big companies of destroying the water of the river with pollution. It led to the clean-up of the river, quite voluntarily, by several companies who wanted to be known as the ones that do the right thing, not the wrong thing. The same process can be used when a village manages a common forest, grazing land, etc., but it only works if you have democratic processes in place and if all people care about the outcome. Her research is most fascinating, and have implications for how we don't manage common resources today like the air, oceans, water quality and quantity, and carbon dioxide pollution.
...especially mallard hybrids. It is all explained here, but even after that thorough explanation and gorgeous photos, could you always identify a mallard duck hybrid?
In Swedish, mallards are called 'gräsand', which means grass duck. Ni idea why, I guess they like grass.
(PS. It seems the Manky Mallard website is down right now (link above, so if it doesn't load, try again later.)
...head down to the corner of Market Street and 19th Street (maybe 20th? I am not 100% sure), and stand in line at the Greek falafel street cart and you will get the best falafel in town. The vendor, a very talkative and funny Greek chef, runs a one-man show with all food from scratch and fresh, including marinated grilled lamb, chicken, and of course, falafel. There is fantastic grilled jalapenos, tahini, salad, olives, fleshy giant grapes, and on and on. All plates are made to order (and he makes everybody wait while he makes them, so the line is slow but worth it), and there is no menu. You just say what you want, and he makes it and you pay. Fantastic!
Posted by LS at 11:07 AM
As on cue, just like last year, the old reliable heavy-duty trains made for winter and to last are brought back to life - here comes the 50+ year old museum locomotives to use again, and in another place on Sweden a 100 year old snowplow is also being used. One major problem is of course that Sweden has the harshest (coldest, snowiest, etc.) winter in over 100 years, but with global warming more and more snow and colder winters can be expected here. Another is the lack of financial support for maintenance. And the third, is that modern trains are too technologically vulnerable (just like our cars, computers, and stoves), and are more electronic than mechanic, and electronics and microchips break more easily. Plus, the new modern locomotives do not have big good snowplows on them in the front. It seems to me that a large part of the Swedish winter train failure is not just lack of money, but modern technology.
The Swedish railroad authorities just opened a new museum exhibit called "Oj det snöar!" (Wow, it is snowing!") about railroads and snow through time, which opened on Dec 11. I don't think they expected it to be as relevant as it is this winter. But still, why is anybody surprised it is snowing? In the Rocky Mountains a hundred years ago they had trains going through snowdrifts 5 meters tall and the trains were seen as reliable and functional ways of transportation. And now the trains are having problems with 15 cm of snow.
All the convenience and efficiency innovation we love so much doesn't work so well when, for example, electrically opened doors freeze shut and there are nobody to shovel off ice snow of a rail switch (apparently this takes 2 people 2 hours of work per switch, and there are 12 000 switches in Sweden, according to the Trafikverket). What priorities should be prioritized? Convenience in the short term or reliability in the long term.
I should add that American trains have huge problems too, especially during the last snowstorm. Sweden has a fantastic train system compared to USA, for example, connecting many of the smaller towns and with fast and efficient trains. The Swedish railroad system is an important part of public transportation together with commuter trains and bus lines that crisscross the nation and millions of people use these everyday.
My last comment (ha! you think so?) on this is that "Oh boy, it is snowing"! Maybe we humans have to realize that the forces of weather and other Earth processes (remember the ash clouds from Iceland?) are stronger than we sometimes, and you just have to hunker down, stand back, and not try to travel in the worst weather. Sure it inconvenience us, but come on, it is only in recent years that we even have expected to always be on the go.
In really severe weather it is best just to stay home (or away) and be flexible with your plans. The problem is when a little severe weather breaks down systems that have worked before. Another problem is our demand for convenience because what we have to do all the time is so hurried, important, and can't be changed - come on, relax and throw a snowball, make a pot of soup and reschedule your plans. Reduce your need for instantaneous gratification from the web and other non-real sources of friendships, and appreciate the moment and the people around you. And this summer, by a ticket and ride a reliable (non-plastic) train at a train museum to support their work in preserving the locomotives that are needed when the weather gods hit hard, at least in Sweden.
PS. PP asked me to add this: Fire keeps both switches and people warm. (link to photo by Nick Suydam on Flickr).
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
If you have heard, like me, that there now are more people alive than ever have been alive before on Earth, you have heard a myth that seems very resistant and impossible to kill off. Apparently somebody in the 1970s uttered this false fact, and it has made the rounds many times now in articles and books.
The truth, as calculated by the Population Reference Bureau, is that "about 5.8 percent of all people ever born are alive today." (That is today = year 2002). Read their article, it is very interesting how they calculated it, taking birthrates and death rates, world population sizes, average age of death, etc. In total, they estimate that 106 billion people have lived on Earth until now.
Imagine all those millions and billions of people! I think it is strange we don't run into old archeological bones more often than we do.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Jeanette Walls wrote the fantastic but also tragic memoir The Glass Castle (I guess I never reviewed it here on the blog but it is an A+++ book), and this book, Half Broke Horses is her follow-up. It is not a memoir in the usual sense, because it is about her grandmother, and to some degree her mother, but she didn't have all the facts about her grandmother's colorful and adventurous life. But she had some, so she wrote a 'true-life novel' where she filled in what could have happened between the things she knew and had (photos, letters, etc.). Her grandmother was independent, wild, and not the typical southwestern girl - she helped her Dad break in wild horses at a young age and became a school teacher in remote, rural villages in desert Arizona as a very young girl. Half Broke Horses is different than The Glass Castle, less immediate, less heart-breaking, but still a great book where you get the feel for everyday life, tragedy, and adventure out in Texas, Arizona, and Chicago in the early 1900s. I loved it, mostly for the personal style of writing in direct and short sentences about life as it is - not to intellectual and reflective, but straight-forward, funny, and unhappy, just as it can be, and because she can describe characters as real people, not simplified caricatures. Lovely book, well worth reading
A sample (when her grandmother has decided to learn how to fly an airplane):
- Mom, how can mushrooms grow straight out of branches, says son.
- Because they are endophytic and can grow inside the branches until the fruiting body comes out, says the botanical mom.
(Of course the red and white fly agaric never grows endophytically, only in the soil, but who cares? It is Christmas! And Swedes love to decorate with replicas of poisonous mushroom at Christmas time, :). )
Saturday, December 25, 2010
In our kitchen PP's New Mexico heritage is showing with the glowing chili-shaped lights around the window, and outside the cats are chewing on the sharp holly leaves (who said cats were smart?). For dessert our amazing neighbor brought over the most amazing chocoloate cake with raspberry sauce - mmmmm! That has become a tradition. We fed him and his wife some homemade gravlax in return, but I have a feeling we owe them some more...
Not a snowflake in sight here in New Jersey, but it is supposed to start tomorrow... and northern Jersey might get over 20 cm. God Jul everybody!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
There are many kinds of accidental mysteries out there. (Design Observer, always a joy to look at)
Isn't this a really cool bench? (core77, another internet place with fun stuff)
I still don't get why Swedish design magazines love black and white and not some color... (Sköna Hem)
This is one of my favorite photos of the year - you never feel as small and insignificant as when you stand next to something like this, right? (photo by Terje Sørgjerd)
There will be a full lunar eclipse tonight, which we in North America should at least be able to see, if the skies stay clear (keep your fingers crossed, right now we have scattered clouds). In Sweden, you have to look at it right before sunrise. Not since 1638 has there been a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. I am setting my alarm clock to get up at 2 AM to see some of it. Imagine the old vikings, celebrating around a bonfire on the solstice, and then suddenly the moonlight disappears and the moon turns dark red - how could that not be seen as a sign of some sort?
In honor of these amazing celestial phenomena, I also would like to share a great moon poem by Molly Fisk:
slips down the rungs of its blue ladder
into indigo. A late-quarter moon hangs
in the air above the ridge like a broken plate
and shines on us all, on the new deputy
almost asleep in his four-by-four,
lulled by the crackling song of the dispatcher,
on the bartender, slowly wiping a glass
and racking it, one eye checking the game.
It shines down on the fox’s red and grey life,
as he stills, a shadow beside someone’s gate,
listening to winter. Its pale gaze caresses
the lovers, curled together under a quilt,
dreaming alone, and shines on the scattered
ashes of terrible fires, on the owl’s black flight,
on the whelks, on the murmuring kelp,
on the whale that washed up six weeks ago
at the base of the dunes, and it shines
on the backhoe that buried her.
(c) Molly Fisk, reprinted with permission, and you can read more about her work on her website.
chorizo and lamb sausage made by OK and EH and friends this past
weekend. Yummmmmmmy! I wish I could be in Sweden and eat it too.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Winternight in Sweden in december, how long do you guess it is?
12 h? 14? 16? No it´s 17h and 28 min at the longest! And around 'midvintersolståndet' the nights is all the same length since the sun is so low. More here (swedish, sorry guys)
Natten till 19 december – 17 timmar och 28 minuter
Natten till 20 december- 17 timmar och 27 minuter
Natten till 21 december – 17 timmar och 28 minuter
Natten till 22 december – 17 timmar och 28 minuter
Natten till 23 december – 17 timmar och 28 minuter
Natten till 24 december – 17 timmar och 28 minuter
This plate of chile rellenos from High Country Restaurant in Chama, NM, has only red sauce on it, but it was fantastically delicious anyway. If you are ever in Chama, avoid Foster's Bar and Restaurant (=worst huevos rancheros I have ever had) and go to High Country instead. Foster's is the only place where I have ever seen a sign like this... and it is not that hard to refuse service when you barely have any to begin with. Foster's have great history, but it seems like it has been sliding downhill recently.
Summer flowers from the Rocky Mountains - red Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata), blue Aster, and yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus).
Which way to go? The rail will make the decision for you.
Here comes the narrow gauge steam train of the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad through the Tanglefoot curve, shaped nearly like a circle. It is named after an event where someone jumped of the train at the beginning of the loop and run across to the other track, through brush and bushes. But his foot got tangled, and he fell, so he missed the train he should have jumped back on.
The Galloping Goose is a funny railroad contraption, unique to this part of the world. With its cowcatcher, silver box, and railroad bell, it looks like a hybrid of train, airplane, and small truck. When the narrow gauge railroads here started to do bad financially, one railroad (Rio Grande Southern) used these customized one-car trains to get mail and passengers to the different stations and save money. They were first made from Pierce Arrow cars.
The Rockies are home to lots of mushrooms, including ones that look just like Swedish 'flugsvamp' (fly agaric), which are popular Christmas decorations in Sweden (and on our Christmas tree too). This 'baby' mushroom was about 5 cm in diameter.
A lapland owl that I saw in Westmanland last summer. The feeling I had when I sat beside the big owl, just a few meters away, was enormous. Now we have deep snow but the owl can still hunt because of its good hearing. It can hear the mice under the snow. Now I have painted a picture of the memory.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.
This movie is amazing - telling the story of finding an old encyclopedia with pictures, and then remaking it from the original image blocks with old-fashioned methods. Each copy is over $4000. It describes the process of printing and bookbinding in fascinating detail. PP found this. The Linotype machine is my favorite.
Monday, December 13, 2010
And in Sweden this means Lucia buns ('lussebullar') on December 13 (today), a new advent candle lit for each of the 4 Sundays before Christmas, gingerbread cookies ('pepparkakor'), stars, presents, food, and decorations and ornaments, and so on. All featured here on official Swedish stamps as letters spelling JULPOST 2010, which means "Christmas mail" and used as stamps for holiday greetings and any other letters. Enjoy!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
The drawing above is by one of my favorite biological artists, Ernst Haeckel, who lived at the end of the 19th century. He was an accomplished scientist and drew both animals and plants, and both large and small things. This drawing is of nudibranches, 'naked slugs' or sea slugs, that live in the ocean and often have elaborate appendages on their colorful bodies. I love these animals, and they often look out of this world. There are over 9000 nudobranch photos on Flickr to explore and there are more than 3000 species of sea slugs in the world. They can be pink, yellow-pointed, dotted, look like plastic toys, or like bursts of icicles. Amazing creatures.
Picture from the live cam at Abisko, northern Sweden. This one is from dec 7, 2010. At this very moment light is faint but check in, it can be quite a show. LA -good for stargazing and from time to time you can see a "shooting star" on photo
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This book describes the development of her passion for farming, and first her relationship and then marriage with Mark, who is a somewhat crazy hippie-like man. She is brutally honest, funny, and writes eloquently about everything from her mom's appalled face when Mark shows up with a newly slaughtered turkey in a plastic bag (with the neck hanging out) at their first Thanksgiving, to the feeling of warm, good soil that is just waiting for the spade and shovels and plows.
They move away from New York, trying to find some land to farm organically and 'completely', in the sense that they want to be a self-sustained farm that produces everything a family might need year round: grain, sugar (maple syrup and honey), vegetables, milk (and cheese and yogurt), pork, chicken and eggs, beef, sheep for lamb, and so on. That is a lot complex than to farm just one thing (milk cows or corn for example), but also much more rewarding.
They find some land they are allowed to lease in upper New York State and start Essex Farm. Mark is a true back-to-old-times person, hating any kind of plastic and waste of resources. They decide to try to do as little as possible with tractors and instead they buy two draft horses, which will help them to plow and weed and transport manure and maple syrup buckets around, you name it. There is a great interview with Kimball here.
The first year they work all the time, live on nearly nothing except on what they can grow and are worried because they are not sure that the neighbors are willing to become members and get everything they need from the farm instead of from the regular grocery store. But, if you build it they will come. The neighbors, many of them retired farmers from farms that now are abandoned, help them out with sage advice, ancient rusty but important draft horse equipment from old barns, and a hand here and there when needed. And they start to sign up as members to get part of what is produced at the farm.
Today, 7 years later, the farm has over 100 members and is thriving. Kristin Kimball wrote her book on early mornings between 4 and 7 in the fire station, before her daughter woke up and the work at the farm started. I really loved this book, and read it faster than most because it captures you. Not only is the story both compelling (and sometimes disgusting) and interesting, Kimball's way with words is beautiful, often poetic. But mixed with a great sense of humor - she never takes herself too seriously, but she also can be very serious at times.
I am not ready to become a farmer with draft horses after this book, but I sure would love to have a farm like this close-by to get great, real, local, handmade food from. I am so glad Kimball wrote this book because I hope it will inspire both young people to become farmers and conscious eaters and 'cookers', as well as all of us to think about what it is that we really need in our lives. Flat screen TVs and the latest world news don't seem that important after you have read this book. A bunch of hay and a sunset and a well-cooked meal is more real. So, read it. It is one of the top ten books I have read in 5 years, and I mean it. So, grade A+, 5, or *****.
[Disclosure: I did not get paid to say anything of this. :) Better put this in here so I am not like those corrupt and greedy economy professors in the movie Inside Job, which I recommend the whole world to see, but more on that later.]
About preparing bull testicles for dinner after a slaughter:
Friday, December 3, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I have search the net for webcams with bird feeding. Here´s some favorites.
Pennsylvania, US: http://bucksbirdcam.com/
Atlantic rainforest, Brazil: Wildlife focus
Dalarna Sweden; winterfeeding
Store Mosse, Sweden: eagle feeding in winter (not active right now)
Estonian website: http://www.looduskalender.ee/en
Yesterday I took some screenshots from Brazil, see more pictures here.