What I’ve done recently

I have spun many sample skeins of the wools given to me as part of my spinning class.  I have some simply beautiful bamboo to spin up later tonight.  It looks like silk and is dyed a deep red that reminds me of roses. I have a new problem.  I don’t have enough spindles for my wheel!!  Why I ever thought three would be more than enough is beyond me.

I made three loaves of bread yesterday, and finally made DH happy.  I made two loaves of unbleached white flour bread just for him.  He doesn’t like the whole grain loaves, he thinks they’re too heavy.

Our home grinding of grain is still going on; DH suggests getting an attachment for the drill and using the drill to grind…kind of defeats the purpose of getting a hand powered one, but doable if I get a small solar powered battery charger.

Our best blend: either organic unbleached white flour about 50/50 with home ground wheat, or home ground pastry berries with home ground wheat.

The worst one: hard red winter wheat 60% with 40% buckwheat. Yuck. It makes bread bitter tasting, and HEAVY. Doesn’t rise well either.

I found a local source for milk, if I can get it. She gave me a sample jar, warning me it doesn’t taste like holstein milk. She was right but I don’t think it’s because she has dexters and jerseys, I think it’s because they free range on the desert plants in addition to their feed. Very rich, but definitely a different taste than the stuff you get from the store.

Pictures later; I went with my middle son to a blacksmithing demonstration by Henry Pomfret from England. Simply fascinating! A very nice bunch of people too!

If I live to be 100…

I will never understand people who abuse animals and children.

Understand the impulse, the anger? Of course! I have three kids, I was angry enough to hurt them many times…but instead I injured and killed many many wooden spoons on my countertops. My kids knew it was time to settle down and pay attention when I started banging the spoons on the counter like a gavel. Now, I admit that wasn’t the best example I could have given my kids about controlling my temper, but I started young and learned a lot I wish I would have known when they were little.

Understand the actual action? No way. How can you take a hot curling iron and deliberately burn your kid with it — or both of your kids? Especially a baby?

Like I said, if I live to be 100…

Riot for Austerity

I have NOT formally committed us to that challenge. However, it is fun and educational looking at our numbers vs the nationwide average. Riot4Austerity if you are interested in comparing your own energy usage.

In electricity usage, we are 66% below average; we also are signed up for our electric provider’s Solar Partners program and get 45% of our electricity from renewable sources. We pay extra for it, but supposedly the extra money is funding for future renewable plants.

In water usage we are 80% below average; I am AMAZED that the national average is 100 gallons per PERSON per day! How in the hell does one person use that freekin’ much water??? We don’t use that much even in the height of summer when I’m watering some of my garden beds twice a day, for crying out loud!

Garbage we unfortunately have a lot of, even though we’re still well under the national average of 4.5 pounds per person per day. We have no recycling program in our area, and the carbon miles I would expend going to Phoenix specifically to drop off recycling wouldn’t make sense. We have about 3 trash bags a week of garbage, about 50% of which COULD be recycled if we had it available. We compost most of our vegetable matter, either by putting it in the compost bin or by giving it to the chickens.

Heating gas: we use propane and the conversion is .91 times the gallons of propane. We use about 350 gallons a year, so we are at approximately 68% less than average. I actually expect our usage to go down further as we are no longer using the furnace, and we converted to a pilotless ignition stove. The one propane sucker we have that we presently cannot control is our water heater, which has a pilot light that necessarily is on all the time.  But HOLY CRAP those reflector pans that you put on the stove REALLY WORK.  I have had to relearn how to cook on our stove — the temperatures are so high with the heat turned down that we are using probably 50% less propane for each meal than we used to.

Gasoline is one that we are way over average on; we live at least 35 miles from everything, and even farther from our jobs. We do try to conserve by combining trips, and only going to town once a week if possible. I really don’t see this changing unless someone invents a truly green car that runs on sunshine and happy thoughts.

Shopping: well, I am a thrift store addict, and buy much of what I wear from thrifts. However, powering down requires purchases of things that are not electric or power dependent, and most of that requires new purchases, so here we are still over the average of $1000 per person per year. Plus, DH can’t take meals with him when he goes to work — they would get mashed in the baggage compartment for one, and two they wouldn’t hold up for a week at a time in a hotel room. So he eats out a lot. I do try to take my own meals, and to use my own silverware, so that I’m not making more garbage at work than necessary.

Food: we buy in bulk from a coop devoted to fair trade practices, we buy local and organic when possible, I try to cook and store as much as possible. We still have meat as a part of our evening meal many more nights than not, but we both love Middle Eastern and Indian food, and we are eating more and more with meat as a garnish to the rice and sauces. We are still eating stuff preserved from the garden last year, and I plan to expand our plantings manyfold this year. There’s just no comparison in taste, and I love knowing that what we are eating came in large part from our own labors.

So. How do you compare? We have a long way to go. In fact, I may just sign up officially for the r4a project. It couldn’t hurt, even if we never get to the target areas.


We have eggs at last! And they’re early according to their age, by about two weeks. The first one I found yesterday, and another today.  I’m so excited!  Everybody I know who has chickens has been telling me all winter I wouldn’t get any eggs until next month at the earliest.

Our first two eggs in my new egg basket

Our first two eggs in my new egg basket

I got the vintage egg basket at one of the local antique stores. I actually found two but with some WIDE price disparities. The one I bought was in better shape, and $6. The other one was $45.

Good morning, what goodies did you bring us?

Good morning, what goodies did you bring us?

These are my ladies.  They sound exactly like stereotypical old ladies sitting on the porch gossiping.

Zoning restrictions

James Howard Kunstler, in his weekly podcast called “KunstlerCast” has featured zoning restrictions as one of his early topics.  It is called “The Tragic Tale of Zoning Codes” and is very instructive on the history of them.  He also deals a little bit on the psychology of them.  He thinks that they will go the way of the dinosaur in a few years.

I disagree.  I don’t disagree that to a certain extent they need to go away, at least some of them.  But I think he’s a little too optimistic (Haha, Kunstler being optimistic) with his predictions in this regard.  I live in a county in mostly rural Arizona; my county has been hit very hard by the housing fiasco (which is a good thing as we don’t have enough water to support the people we have now, long term, let alone all the new people they were so anxious to take tax dollars from) and our county planning and zoning office is looking at laying off more than a dozen people.  So.  How do they maintain their revenue when there is no new building going on?  Easy.  They increase enforcement.

According to my friend, who used to work for the City of Prescott until she got laid off, the county has an enforcement officer who goes up in a private plane, funded by the county, and takes pictures over populated areas so he can compare the new photos with old photos and find people who have built anything that requires a permit (which is now everything — even a gravel spot for a car is considered a driveway and therefore needs a permit) so they can fine them for violations.  Now, this works well in an economy where people have money to spend — but not so well in an economy where people can’t afford the fees.  Much of the work I see being done is needed stuff — fixing a leaky roof, mending broken steps, etc.  All of this now needs a permit thanks to the greediness of the people in charge…when you start looking at fees as revenue instead of costs of making sure citizens get work done in a safe manner, you are greedy.

I see this state of affairs continuing, and even escalating, as more and more government bodies look at enforcement of whatever they are in charge of as a means to extract monies from the populace.  What worries me is that this may ultimately place much of the private property and incomes of the citizens in the hands of corporations as government agencies sell off their seized assets to cover unpaid bills.

Off to another spinning class tomorrow.

I took a spinning class about three years ago, a basics class when I still had my Babe Fiber Starter wheel. I hated the wheel so much I didn’t really ever spin — every time a bobbin filled, I had to take off the tensioner, which meant that my next bobbin would never look quite the same. It was a hassle so I didn’t use it.

Well, I was finally able to sell it and get the wheel of my dreams this past August — with selling a bunch of books, and selling the wheel, I was able to cover about 50% of the cost of my new wheel. It is a DREAM to spin on! The SpinOlutions double treadle wheel.  Problem is, I don’t remember much of what I learned in basics class, and although I can spin wool “in the grease” just fine, I can’t seem to make a decent worsted yarn out of the simply fabulous Corriedale I got from the Fiber Factory in Mesa.  It’s beautiful but I can’t seem to get the hang of it.  And I want to do it worsted, because that shows off the beautiful sheen of this wool to the best advantage.

Worsted means that you draft the fibers parallel to each other – they are straight, and that means that the shaft of the hair is fully able to show the sheen inherent in the fiber.  The other way means that the fibers are drafted into the yarn folded in half — it gives a loftier, softer yarn, but it doesn’t allow it to show off the sheen.  I am spinning this yarn to make myself an aran sweater, and the worsted method is essential for the pattern to show up to best advantage.

So, off to spend money on yet another class, to refresh my memory on how to do this stuff.

Below is a video of the spinning wheel in action via YouTube.

My new spinning assistant ; )

Honest mom, I'm just keeping the wool warm for ya!

Honest mom, I'm just keeping the wool warm for ya!

This is Baree.  It is Arabic for innocent.  Also, has the added benefit of meaning something in Gaelic, marksman or spear.  I love dual purpose!  He’s our newest addition to the household, he came bounding into our yard (and our hearts) on Christmas Eve.  He’s about 3 months old, and is getting over coccidiosis and giardia.  You can just imagine the fun we have each morning and evening giving him his antibiotics.



Actully, we’ve gotten him on a timer of sorts — we immediately tell him what a good boy he is and give him a treat of about a tablespoon of wet cat food immediately afterward.  So, if we’re late giving him his medicine he’s following us around, meowing for his meds/treats.  DH says I’ve created a monster, but he was peeing on the couch the first couple of days in protest, so I comfort myself by thinking it’s a good compromise.

Just keeping it from flying off her lap, that's all!

Just keeping it from flying off her lap, that's all!

As you can see, he’s also my knitting assistant, performing the valuable functions of keeping my projects firmly on my lap, and tasting the yarn to make sure it’s not bad.  I appreciate such dedication.  : )

This is what happens when government starts looking at itself as a profit making machine, instead of protecting and upholding public interest.

As of January 1, Arizona drivers got a special delayed Christmas gift from the legislature: a new way to extract money from unsuspecting citizens. Now, keep in mind that in Arizona, the legality of traffic cameras to begin with is actually in a VERY grey area…our constitution is pretty strictly worded and clearer than most on a citizen’s right to confront their accuser; you can’t confront a camera.  And there are many stories out in the ether regarding citizens being ticketed while doing the speed limit — three years ago, the city of Scottsdale lost a class action lawsuit brought by citizens wrongfully ticketed and had to refund all the fines, take the points off the drivers’ licenses, and pay the court fees.  There is also the incident of a traffic camera sending a photo radar ticket to a man who had been dead for three years.  I wish I could find this news story, but it is apparently too old to be in the AZ Central’s archives any longer.  And more recently, there is the case of a 60 year old woman who had her license suspended by a judge for a photo radar ticket, even though it was obvious by the photo it wasn’t her, nor was it even her car.

I have been hearing recently of people — spouses and family members of people I work with, so I take the stories very seriously — who were not legally served with notice of a ticket and having their licenses suspended.  They found out in one case by being pulled over based on the license plate and being arrested.  Apparently the UN-official directive by law enforcement has been for process servers to just drop off the summons at the last known residence and forge a signature of receipt, thereby allowing the courts to allow a false acknowledgment of summons and suspend the license when the ‘offender’ doesn’t show up in court.  So then not only do they have to pay the fines associated with the ticket, they have to take time off work at their own expense, and pay to have their license re-instated.  How ridiculous.

Our state has a 1.1 BILLION dollar shortfall for this year, according to a press conference that was covered by our local radio station KTAR we will run out of operating money by next month.  Our governor, being largely responsible for creating this budget mess (highway contracts awarded to friends, lawsuits lost regarding said, etc), will not of course be around to fix it — she will be the new director of Homeland Security for Obama.  It has been known for well over a year that there will be large budget shortfalls, yet the only action the state has really taken is to attempt to increase their revenue by instituting the expansion of traffic cameras, and by instituting obscure laws with high fines in order to generate revenue.

Even some of our legislators and law officers are against these types of laws, for good reason — this is an older story, but highlights the conflict well.

This editorial by Mike Bibb from Safford, hits the nail on the head.  “[ARS 28-2354] seems to be an obvious attempt by the legislature to extract additional fines and penalties from Arizona’s motoring public under the pretense of safety.” It gets even better, because this new law applies ONLY to Arizona residents — out of state, and out of country plates are exempt.  How much clearer could it be that this law is designed to extract fines from citizens as a new form of revenue?

Representative Bill Konopnicki is well aware of the true purpose of this law as shown by this story and is one of the good guys, at least on this item.  His courage in standing up to the idea of law abiding citizens as revenue sources over and above taxes, is to be applauded.  His common sense solution of course probably will not pass as it will cost the state millions, both in lost fine revenue and in increased costs associated with making a license plate that actually makes the law obsolete.

In related news, DPS has raised the speed over which the cameras will *flash* you, this is due to lawsuits being filed about the fact that the actual rate of speed in certain areas of the state vs. the speed limit are about 10 miles per hour different, and people slamming on their brakes to avoid a ticket was causing more accidents than there were when traffic was allowed to flow.  That story is covered in part here.

The video linked to here is pretty great.  Mike Urbano used to be a DPS officer, got fed up with the system, became a lawyer, and helps the little guy fight back.  He says in this video that police were actually thinking about arresting him because he was helping citizens alter their plates so that they could keep their plate holders.  How crazy is that???  And how much more clear could it be what the law is actually about?  Open the video, it’s well worth your time to watch.

The traffic camera question is about to become a citizens’ initiative according to the Tucson Citizen. Now, I am not in favor of ‘mob rule’ being how laws should be enacted and enforced, but in this case the government obviously doesn’t have our best interests at heart and I can’t wait to sign my name to the petition to outlaw the cameras.  The new sherriff of Pima County already has, but the County Board of Supervisors have put a hold on his directive until Jan. 21.  Of course they did, the man was voted into office based largely on his campaign promise to get rid of the cameras, and the BOS sees their income drying up if they allow him to make good on his promise.

I predict a further rash of ill conceived laws enacted as legislators look for ways to make a quick buck at the expense of common citizens, and further public outcry and ballot initiatives/lawsuits that will end up costing the state even more money.  I also predict the further erosion of the rights of the common citizen as police get further militarized, and more nervous about their job security.  If it gets a whole lot worse, I predict that there will begin to be stories about police extracting bribes for protection.

anarchy, continued

Update:  this story from USA Today is exactly what I’m talking about, as is the story about the BART police shooting an unarmed, nonviolent man in the back while they held him down and stood on his neck.

Fascism, anyone? I swear, Orwell was a prophet not a novelist.  I truly cannot believe Kissinger actually said that in his outside voice…New World Order???

If you think I might be over-reacting, just take a good look around you.  Or read this, or this, the second of which is actually an update from the original CATO Institute document by the same name written in 1996.

I read a blog post by the wife of a police officer who says she was brought to tears by the viciousness of the people who wrote saying terrible things about the police, and protested that her husband was just not that way.  Well, having worked in the fire service for 10 years, and in Emergency Medical Services for 15, I have to disagree.  The system is set up so that the officer either becomes the paramilitary machine or gets out of the service altogether.  They are pleasant enough to those they consider in their ‘tribe’ but view basically everyone else as the ‘enemy’, dehumanizing them in order to keep any feelings of remorse or ethical behavior at bay.  Everything becomes easy to justify if you simply say ‘They had it coming” “If they wouldn’t have broken the law this wouldn’t have happened”  and so forth.  Where is the responsibility of the police to stand with the citizens they are charged with protecting, to ask why these draconian (in some cases) laws are in place and help to change them?  Those ‘animals’ they are arresting are citizens too, in most cases, and even if they aren’t still deserve to be treated with basic human dignity.  Otherwise the police are merely the government sponsored animals caging the law breaking animals.  They both wear a number and a uniform.

What happened to the idea of a police officer as a public servant?  It’s long gone, never to return.  I say, as a mostly law abiding citizen (after all, who can obey ALL the laws all the time?) that the police are NOT my friends and are NOT on my side.  The best thing to do is to stay out of their field of view.  This will only become more important in the coming years.