a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for July, 2008

Fun With Grass and Shrubs

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Every morning, I’m in the woods, I enjoy seeing the imperfection of nature. I know these woods well, yet constantly am seeing new and interesting things – trees growing from under rocks, branches shaped like question marks, stones shaped like a smile – designs of nature, some constant, some ever-changing. It provides a very strong contrast to to what we see in many of the manicured and edged neighborhoods. How wonderful if we could treat our backyards with respect for it’s true “nature” of wabi sabi beauty and give it and ourselves the freedom to create! I was considering this at length when I noticed something strangely interesting while biking through town.

Yesterday, I noticed two rubber balls  – the kinds little kids play with – stuck in the end of a row of bushes. I was curious, but assumed it was simply kids up to mischief and biked on past. Today, I noticed this same bush, balls still in place, obviously trimmed, so I looked more closely. There were two long and bushy branches standing up above the rest. Interested, I slowed down and coasted by (something I couldn’t have done safely in a car!) and looked at the rest of the row, neatly trimmed in a curving shape. Aha! I stopped and laughed and said out loud, “It’s a catepillar!” I turned back to see the ball “eyes” again and the long branches above them – perfect antennae!

I haven’t stop smiling yet today – or thinking about that oddly shaped orange bush in my own yard that looks a little like a dancing bear…

Have fun. See all nature has to offer, not just the straight and narrow.

Build Sense, Inc. – tells it like it is

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Build Sense, Inc.

“We only design and build genuine SUSTAINABLE houses. if you want a cheap code standard house, please don’t call us. if you want high utility bills and mediocre indoor air quality, don’t call 919-667-0404. if you like drafty and poorly lit rooms, don’t call us. if your weekends are better spent maintaining your home than relaxing with friends and family, please don’t visit if you want to needlessly use enough water to drain falls lake, please don’t call us. if you need a five car garage for your hummer collection, please, please don’t call us. if you want to reduce your initial budget to bare bones only to pay twice as much as your “savings” in the first five years of operating costs, please don’t call us. if you think that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by nutty left wing liberals, please don’t call us. if you think that we will continue to have an inexpensive energy source in the next few decades, please don’t call us. if size matters more than quality, don’t call us. if you’re not interested in leaving a livable planet for the next generation, please don’t call us. if you’re content to live in a neighborhood without trees, don’t call us…”

Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path – a journey

Monday, July 28th, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

This just in:

Less is more!
Also, more is less!

I’m feeling really inspired right now.  I’m sure I sound like a raging idealist on this blog, but really I’m still somewhat pessimistic and cranky.  I am happier, though, I must admit.  These less & more’s are making me that way:

More work
Less pay
Less meat
More butter
Less car
More aspen trees
More eco-daydreams

I have taken on another job and now I work almost 60 hours a week.  No, I am not trying to make partner at anything.  I now have a gig as housekeeping assistant (heh) at a fantasticly cute little bed and breakfast in town, called the Cristiana Guesthaus.  The assistant job is more fun than being a housekeeper, which I don’t know if I could do.  This is actually a widely varied and super busy job.  I don’t stop moving from the time I get here to the time I leave.  Part of the point of off grid rent-free living is money savings that I really want to maximize at this point. I want to keep living the hiking / biking / camping life of leisure, but I have some credit card debt I really want to knock down.  This second job will help me do this quickly because my low-paying 30 hour a week job has been easily covering my no-rent lifestyle (student loan and cell phone / credit card payments included.)  My job at Mountain Earth pays almost $10 / hour less than I was making at my last real full time job.  So I’m working 7 days a week, but I am not working from 9am to late in the day.  I have big breaks during the day and two days that I don’t start until 2pm – which means plenty of sunshine.  At my last well-paying, full time job I would longingly stare out the window from my desk at the beautiful Durham days and wish for a tire swing I could lounge on in bare feet.
I have not resigned myself to working menial jobs for the rest of my life, and at 34 I get a little twitchy about my current lack of professional work, which I’m told is really the societal mirror talking – that is, my perception of what society thinks I should be doing.  Which, theoretically, is where people go wrong – because they choose their work to define / esteem themselves instead of really listening to themselves.  For me, for the time being, more jobs and less pay = more motion, more action, less sitting at a desk, less screwing around aimlessly online and a general feeling of purpose and happiness.  I have been reunited with the high school side of me that learned to perform even the smallest tasks with pride.
I eat meat.  I am not entirely convinced that humans should live without meat, even though I do agree that perpetuating the need for killing animals is sort of an act of violence.  My sister Anne (and one of my favorite people) gave me a book to read on the move out to Colorado, and the chapter on slaughterhouse practices – current slaughterhouse practices, not those from the days of Upton Sinclair – had me crying through half the state of Kansas.  Why would I want to be part of the gluttonous machine that drives that need for horrible suffering?  Eating less meat means I can afford to buy meat that is truly raised and slaughtered humanely and not a lot of it.  The kind of meat that is raised in such a way as to not destroy the environment.  Nancy told me three Colorado winters living in a yurt showed her very quickly that she needed meat to stay warm.  (Notably, after living in the yurt she designed the coolest and most beautiful hexagonal straw bale home for herself that she has lived in for the last 12 years.) Thanks to Steph and Nancy who made me some wonderful veggie based meals this past week, I have really rekindled my passion for making healthy food.  Armed with a little chicken broth and tamari, I’ve done some pretty good work.  When I use meat and cheese, I’ve been using them to season meals, while using salt, butter, and oils a little more liberally.  On vegetables, not on a piece of meat with cheese slapped on top.  I don’t guess the really fatty traditional butter is bad is if you’re having a little on a big old bowl of sauteed kale.  For me right now, more veggies, more fruits and less meat, more butter, more salt, less bread, less pasta = really great food that feels good to my soul.
I’m working on ‘less car.’  I’ve slacked this week because I’ve been working so much.  I’m renewing my commitment to riding back and forth now that I think I’ve adjusted.  I still have time to go on 3 or 4 hikes a week, taking in the aspens and  wildflowers that abound here.  I have to be careful, because sometimes too much biking and hiking in one day and I’m exhausted at work.  I can report that I am addicted to the biking now, because it’s like a big old happiness fix everytime I do it. (biking’s got to be the new prozac)
I’m having some trouble with the solar panel, that I’m keeping an eye on.  I’m not at the camper as much so I haven’t been minding the frozen water bottles in the fridge and if I’m not careful about what I buy, the food will go bad (I hate that!) I have less time to find for laundry and showers and I’m trying to stay on top of those things.  I take more baths in sinks these days and wear my bandanas more!  People tell me I smell fine, whenever I ask, I hope they’re not just being nice.  I still nurture my eco-daydreams, and wonder what life would be like if everyone composted, recycled paper, plastic, cans, or even better – thought about whether they really needed that drink in the plastic bottle, and only bought one when they really wanted it.  They’re something to be said for having the regular things in your life become treats. *sigh.  Someday people will realize that conservation is a happiness fix, too.  Caring for things beyond yourself has been proven time and again to improve a person’s self worth.
There’s also something hugely satisfying about falling out of your shoes at the end of the day, having the energy for nothing but a glass of wine, reading before bed while snuggling with your dog – then passing out at 9:30 for the rest of the night.  it’s been a long week!

Also, I think all this talking about myself in one fell swoop is making me a better listener.  Maybe a possible side-effect of blogging.  Peace and love,


The Tao

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Tao, the young deer, died yesterday, in the loving care of her rescuers and  other fawns at the sanctuary. I am wistfully sad and believe more than ever that her name was not any kind of “tribute” to me for finding her, but a reminder that this is “The Way”. Thank you all for sharing the experience with me and sending love.

Kindra, Director at NC-Claws, sent these consoling and wise words:

“One thing I always have to tell people is that my job as a rehabber is to help animals along to the next phase of their life. The hardest part of this job is that sometimes that next phase is not life as we know it. Thankfully, I do not believe that animals have the fear of death – or even feel that it is not just an extension of life – as humans do. To them, it is just another way of being.

This excerpt from Animal Medicine Cards by David Carson  –

“Deer teaches us to use the power of gentleness to touch the hearts and minds of wounded beings… Like the dappling of the Fawn’s coat, both the light and the dark may be loved to create gentleness and safety for those who are seeking peace.”

What’s In A Name? deer story continued

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Tao says: I had to let you know about this next note that just arrived regarding the deer story — (if you have not seen the first two pieces, just scroll down). Keep in mind that the rescuers knew nothing of my blog, my initials, or my nickname….read below!

From Kindra at NC Claws:

Thank you so much Tracey,
This is so odd, and I’m really not just saying this, but we named her Tao! Every one of our babies gets named. I’m superstitious about this, if they have names, they can’t die!  Or rather, if they don’t, they will.  If they know we cared enough to put thought into giving them JUST the right name, then they will have hope.
I just got back from seeing her.  She’s drinking and walking.  Unsteadily, but walking. She crossed the whole pen twice while I was there.
I do very much believe that warm thoughts help those who have lost hope to cling to hope and survive.  I have a network of people that I call and email if we have one who is losing their battle and I feel has the will to live.  I’ve seen the power of positive thought work too many times to not believe in it.  The weasel we have here now would not be here if it weren’t JUST for that.
We are maybe getting a new permanent groundhog in soon.  If and when we do, I will tell you her story!
I have to run, we have a program at the planetarium most of the day today.  And I’m all alone, so this is going to be a tough one!
Again, thank you for caring so much for this girl.  Please keep her in your thoughts, she’s not out of the woods, she still needs all the help she can get!

Thank you,
Kindra D. Mammone
Executive Director, CLAWS, Inc.
Donations needed.  We are a non profit organization funded solely by donations.  Please help.  All funds go directly to the animals.

Fawn Update

Friday, July 25th, 2008

This morning, I received this update from the rescue:

Hi Tracey,
I wanted to give you a real quick update on how the fawn is doing.  We kept her with us until this evening.  She’s really too big to be inside and really didn’t care for being inside, but we felt that her condition warranted watching.  Given the head trauma, she was “nodding off” often and that worried me.
Today she began staying awake more and more, so we decided the best thing for her was to be with her own kind and breathing fresh air.  So we took her to the pen with the other babies.  She is by far the largest we have!  It took her a while, but after several long drinks and a big rub down by me, and then a total deer bath from her new friends, she was doing well.  She is up and around.  Not fast, mind you, I’m sure she’s achy from the car accident, but up and around none the less.
For her age, she is very trusting of us, which, for now, is a good thing.  We are still treating her eyes and several other wounds, and it sure helps to have her put her head in my lap to do this!
So, for now, her prognosis is good.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your life to help this beautiful girl!  She deserves every chance she can get to live wild and free!!!

Thank you,
Kindra D. Mammone
Executive Director, CLAWS, Inc.
Donations needed.  We are a non profit organization funded solely by donations.  Please help.  All funds go directly to the animals.

Helping The Animals – Is It Really All About Love?

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking with my dogs along a wooded road and we all saw it at the same time – 4 legs, moving in the air from behind an old fallen log. It was a young deer, completely upside down and trying, weakly, to right itself. The dogs looked up at me as if to say, “What now?” I wasn’t sure, but we turned and ran the half mile back to the house to my phone. A 911 call sent an animal control officer to meet me.

I bicycled back to the spot, but no deer. The animal control officer arrived shortly afterwards and I explained the situation. I walked through the woods, searching for about 10 minutes as the officer waited by his truck. I was partly relieved that the animal had been able to get up and walk away, but seeing it in such a precarious position earlier made me greatly worried about its condition. The officer left, but I couldn’t bring myself to do the same. I then called NC-Claws (a number I keep in my cell phone), a volunteer group licensed to work with injured wildlife, and left a message – but without much hope of finding them available.

Next, I called my twin sister, Beth, in Nevada and asked her to communicate with this deer and find out about it’s condition. (Yes, she can and does communicate telepathically with animals – please keep reading!)  Beth told me she would let the deer know that if it needed help, it should do something to be seen or heard. I hung up and waited.

In around two minutes, I heard the bushes rustle and then watched in surprise as the fawn walked towards me, wobbling and stumbling with the effort. It looked at me from a distance of about 15 feet and then fell to the ground.

A closer look revealed cuts on its head, back and legs. I sat down a few feet away. I was encouraged that her head was still up and she even started to lick her injured shoulder, but she also seemed to be fading in and out of consciousness. I spoke quiet words of encouragement, my heart aching. When flies started to buzz around her wounds, I was determined that she would not die alone.

I was now sitting next to her, wondering how I could help. More time passed. Since the deer did not seem afraid, I reached out and put my hand gently on her back. She opened her eyes fully and reached her nose towards me, sniffing all the way up to my shoulder. I was now holding her head in my arm and stroking her face, ears and neck. She closed her eyes now and then, but mostly gazed up at me.

It had been over an hour since I had first seen her. We both started a bit when my cell phone buzzed – it was the wildlife rescuers, saying they could be there in 20 minutes. They were there in 15. I had made another call to Beth, asking her to convince this injured animal that the new people were coming to help her. When they arrived, the poor thing did struggle to her feet to flee, but something made her then stop and allow herself to be picked up and carried to the waiting van.

These two dedicated people took time to explain the details of the care they would provide and how to contact them for information. I stood for a long while after they drove away, some of it spent on the phone to thank my sister for being there. Some of it, I spent simply staring into the trees, thinking about love, trust and nature.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

There’s a lot of us out here making some basic changes in our living and driving habits and finding out that it not only doesn’t suck, but it’s a whole new world of suprises that feel good. My friend, Jeannie (watch her weekly posts on this blog) reaping the rewards of small town life in a camper with a dog and a bicycle. Another friend, Greg, living car-free and self-employed in Asheville who contra-dances his heart out regularly in his community. Of course, there’s the abundant declarations of No Impact Man and his family, who experimented during a year of off-grid, off-stuff life in NYC and never went back to much more than a laundry machine and lights.

It was an article I saw yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle that drove this happiness message home for me. It describes a more conventional family of three, including a 12 year-old son, living small outside the city with lights but no television, a non-potable water supply for everything except drinking, a hand-crank clothes washer and only a fireplace for heating. Though one parent needs to commute to the city for work (he carpools with 2 others in a Prius), when the other was laid off, they decided that their cost-efficient lives could be supported on one income, stating, “Living simply makes it easier to weather what could otherwise be hard times.”

To sum it all up from the closing paragraph, written by journalist, Kevin Fagan:

The two say that if they suddenly became so rich that money was no object, and their impact on the environment mysteriously didn’t matter any more, they still wouldn’t change much in the way they live.

Good enough for me.

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