Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's Only Water

Much of the developed world has enjoyed public water infrastructure over a century by now. Several generations of descendants have become so used to the facility of running water that the casual abuse of this precious liquid is considered normal by the majority of many countries. Local waterworks are aging, pipes corroding, from the aquifers to the sewerage, pumps are failing sporadically; it is time to pay attention to the stuff that slips through our fingers.

How many times a day do you consciously think of this abundant commodity and dismiss conservation advice? No time to stop the tap when brushing teeth? No patience to turn off the shower-head between soaping? How easy it is to be rushed into mindless gestures when a stressful lifestyle is knocking at the front door?

Preppers are people who seem to be aware of eventual conditions upon Planet Earth once the billions of inhabitants have neglected or abused its resources. We are advised to save water, to put water in clean, safe receptacles in case of public utilities failure due to disastrous weather events. The media are bombarded with fear tactics about the demise of polluted bodies of water. And yet, few are heeding the warnings. After a steady diet of “what ifs” we become inoculated against specific anxiety. We shrug and chug our worries between the kitchen sink and the bathtub. From home to workplace water flows easy.

The privatization of water is often necessary, because most consumers would not have the financial clout to dig a well and obtain pure H2O. Pipes, pumps, and plumbing are costly, corporations with legal and economic know-how can provide all aspects of bacterial and chemical safety, storage and pressure on a large scale. Water is not just that easy –come - easy - pshtt! Stuff for public use, it must first undergo a plethora of tests and twists, from a mayor’s desk to Councilmen’s chambers, to scientists and experts, to ditch diggers and well drillers; salaries are on the line. All of a sudden, I feel tired sorting through the tangible emergence of that earthly liquid.

I grew up where water was not readily available but rain was plentiful, in the city, we had a cold water flat. Comfort came the hard way in the countryside; eventually a well was dug, a hand pump was installed, a few years later, a tank was welded above it, then pipes were thrust through the two foot thick stone wall to the kitchen, and again to a water closet. Experiencing such a slow progress in the country prepared me for another slow ordeal in the western desert. Water was not expensive yet; it simply was not easily reached. We carried heavy plastic bottles till they were hot and we were exhausted.

When the news are replete with hardships inflicted on so many migrant populations, I immediately imagine how scarce potable water must be wherever they walk or live. From tap to toilet, the wait must be long and unsanitary, on whatever continent people live there are too many needs that are not met—and—water is the primary need, besides human connection. Looking for affordable solutions and humanitarian involvement empowers the reader and benefits society at large. Type ‘water’ in the search bar, see?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rearview Mirror, Same Driver.

 Here is an older article of mine which i have resurrected from a blog on the web.Posted in Dec 2007 on lamarguerite.

  So much has changed Casey's has moved uphill, friends moved to country, cars sold, children graduated or married..much of life used and re-purposed, so here is one blog post reused for comparison..

Thought Soup, an Environmental BlogAct by Nadine Sellers

 December 3, 2007 by lamarguerite

One day, Nadine surfaced in my blogging existence, and graced my blog with one of the most poetic comments I have ever come across. That was a few months ago. Since then, I have had the privilege of discovering her oh so inspiring poems and thought provoking pieces of prose. Nadine Sellers is a French writer… an observer of nature and mankind, a healer by profession, a teacher by avocation. After years in the desert West she is now living the writer’s perennial hope, sculpting a novel out of empiric survival and adventure. As she settles in the plains of the American Midwest, Nadine is in the process of crystallizing a lifelong passion for living, into an artful translation of ecological concern. Nadine brings science and literature into a blend of experimental exposé. You may find this fledgling project in Greenadine, verdigrass, her new blog, the inspiration for which arose from perusing green blogs and finding La Marguerite. just like that! out of the –green.

Six centuries BC. Lao Tsu wrote a set of basic principles which would simplify the relationship of man and nature. Succeeding philosophies have led us to an environmental impasse. Each moral cycle has spiraled mankind into poorly applied reasoning, and so man has lost his equilibrium. It will take good will and a lot of resolve to restore balance. Science has met with resistance ever since duality fostered a climate of rebellion in the mind of men.
” Knowing ignorance is strength, ignoring knowledge is sickness” from the Tao Te Ching.
As a lifelong amateur naturalist, i have found myself submerged by mounting evidence dooming personal efforts to irrelevancy. But wait! Before i drown in a nihilistic ocean of self pity, do allow me time to shake myself from defeatist complacency. The very nature which seeds doubt in mind, also offers enough resilience to adapt to changing conditions. As data streams in faster than laymen can fathom, the rest of us find the vestiges of old instincts kicking in under more than a century of industrial indoctrination.
Wherever i live, i seem to meet inveterate negaholics who refuse to admit there may be a causal factor to climate change. I have not confronted them publicly, but have met them within the ranks of family or friends. They question my way of life, very generously commenting on my apparent miserliness; Why do you save this? Just throw it out, nobody cares. Why bother, you’ll be dead before it becomes a problem. The list stretches beyond comprehension. So i use the wall strategy: when confronted, walk slowly around the bricks, actions speak louder than arguments. And then i write.
Resistance to change seems to drag the efforts of many a socio-economic level to adjust their consumption patterns. According to incoming scientific data, It appears to stem from an aversion to authority. The teacher, the preacher, the tax collector, and now some stranger wants them to give up the Trans-Am in the back-yard, and quit using the dual wheel monster truck to go to get a pack of cigarettes at the corner store? Clearly a clash of cultures here.
I live in the Midwest and yesterday, i saw the first cloth bag prominently displayed at the grocery store: “paper or plastic? Neither” boasted the printed logo. And i knew this tiny town had heard the drummer of the future. Of course the resident Amish culture slows the competitive edge of progress, and i appreciate it. Respect for the horse drawn carriage on the highway teaches necessary patience. Simplicity and conservatism can be useful attributes in the conflict of man versus Gia.
Thought Soup, an Environmental BlogAct by Nadine Sellers
There is a symbiotic relationship between spenders and savers in this, our biosphere. The insurmountable pile of evidence which dooms our puny efforts, also gives rise to new hope. In the most mundane of gestures you will find tiny treasures of personal pride. I write this first draft with a plastic pen, the logo claims “fire and water damage clean-up”, how relevant. The paper which i use to scratch out my outlines on, results from an apparent leak in the marketing strategies of junk-mail zealots. Any blank space is an invitation to real use, then the paper kindles my fire, added BTU for hearth and home. No waste in this household. I don’t play games with my conscience, no carbon trade-off mentality, not even a shade of humor in my staunch resolve to optimize the use of every resource available to me.
It is a game; a challenge to my imagination. I must find just one more way to use and re-use each product for which i am essentially grateful. Of course in the trial and error field of empiric savings, there have been casualties. Just yesterday, my innovative soupe-du-jour turned out so blahh, i had to prematurely commit it to the compost pile, much to my palate’s dismay. What a waste of a perfectly good Halloween pumpkin! It was the last stringy crop of turnips that ruined it all.
Out here in the back room of convenience, i ride the comfort zone. Bicycles parked in the garage for winter. Gas heater plugged in as nocturnal back-up to the fireplace. Electric appliances at the ready, though manual versions preferred. I console myself with the fact that the town council has voted for the installation of a wind farm upon the hill. How romantic, they’re going to grow some wind; i like local utilities, i prefer the ones which make responsible choices to produce energy from sustainable sources. And let me tell you, the winds around the prairie states are indeed sustained.
Entrenched in semi solid autonomy, i view governmental leadership as entertaining rather than worthy of worship. It saddens me to watch the mainstream throng catering to corporate idealism. When elected officials downplay irrefutable research and steer their constituency toward run away consumerism, i find my easy chair much too confining. If ecological concerns are relegated to dishonorable status beneath the lofty goals of economic growth, we could destroy entire biomes across the planet. We have. We continue to do so.
Readers, take heed from the Indonesian Government; a communique from Jakarta informs us that the Bali summit which is to begin Monday Dec. 3rd will be taking measures to save tons of carbon emissions. I can envision 190 international ministers and assorted staffs commuting by bicycle between meetings and workshops. The whole motley group followed by as many journalists and servants. All are cautioned to wear light clothing and short sleeves. Representatives of the United Nations Climate Change Consortium should not mind applying their own advice.
From this green segment of the map, i wish to extend a sense of communal spirit. I derive existential satisfaction from exchanging experience, be it mundane or universal. May the current steer us away from blind consumption, and toward true appreciation of our nature. I do believe it is in the acquired taste of a simple glass of water. Drink up to the new greens and the old ones too!.
House sold, new one restored, old garden mowed, new one inspired, old car to new owner, old Casey to parking lot, the horse and buggy remain valid, one more birthday and the wind still blows in Albany!

Friday, November 28, 2014

An Omelet in my Pocket

I baby-sit chickens, OK, I chicken-sit, no, I chicken-care. Guess there are no precise terms for the vigilant feeding of fowl. So, here I was last night, all hens in the coop-condo and time enough to check the self-feeder and water-warmer. I placed a rock across the critter lane under the wall to block passage to the nightly convenience store that was kitty-corner to the roosting perch, just within reach of leaping rodents and flying squirrels.
Doors and gates duly locked, I scanned the horizon, no traffic in town this frosty night. Then I saw a red fox coming up from the creek three blocks down. Tail held straight behind his long body, the magnificent animal did not break stride as he walked up the street. His pelt would have been a trapper’s prize. His image could have graced nature magazines. I was busy making memories to soothe the savage within.
Then he spotted me, nose to breeze, eye alert to human, he listened for far away vehicles. Resuming his rhythm, with thin legs limber under floating shape, he peered both ways before crossing the highway. His white cheeks disappeared into long black stripes along his imperturbable snout. The bright tip flashed behind his fluffy dark tail. I remained transfixed for the privilege of meeting this handsome specimen of local fauna.
After starring into the anonymous darkness of the woods, I remembered the solitary night calls of a yipping fox chasing lawn rabbits. A smile crept along my lips under the woolen scarf. I crossed the ‘fox’ highway, looking both ways, of course. Reached into my pocket and found a viscous mess. three casualties of haste must have been smashed while attending to chores. Sticky yolks, snotty whites and sharp eggshells met bare fingers. This would surely enrich the composter.

I felt content enough to let the sight of a free animal guide me between the day and the omelet in my pocket.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Food Passion or Food Fashion?

pockmarked and disregarded; an apple in a world of glossy food photographs.

Food passion or food fashion?..In a week of focusing on the 2013 Zero Food Waste Week, there will be many angles from which to see the way our ingrained appetites affect our impacting waste environment; and enlarging waists.

Tradition rides on the back of hunger, and as historical observers can attest, waves of famines have carried poor nutritional habits to perdition. The most notable in the last centuries being Ireland and Darfur, passing by Biaffra. For every mother who has ever invoked the sight of bony starvelings to induce her children to happily taste their fare, there is a larger truth behind the despair of food waste.

Those reading from a conveniently located screen may have to use imagination to feel the full weight of near starvation. Several agricultural movements have imbalanced food production since global trading began. Larger, more powerful means of cultivation and transportation made it too easy to manipulate the markets.

For millenia, middlemen have conspired to speed up growth and containment of food distribution. I obtain sugar from Hawaii, cloves from Zanzibar or vanilla purely extracted of Jamaican exotic! Recipes goad me to use more of each, more of every ingredient at each social turn of event. Spice of life means raking, prodding earth and utilizing distant resources, human and otherwise. I can' t lose one single gram of these precious commodities. That's sacrilegious!

Foodies are the new gourmets, they have brought culinary arts to the doorstep of every reader of cuisine blogs. Digital photography has enhanced saliva secretion over wide publications across the entire planet. I am sure there is a Jivaro, right now, sitting in a hammock under a thatch roof, thumbing through delicious shots of head cheese on pickled grape leaves from Greece, elegantly displayed on silver platters.

Satellite communications disregard political frontiers to the point of elevating expectations in any random area. Discontent rises with technological progress. Grandma grumbles when dial-up slows down her new recipe download. Neighbors find better cookie patterns. Teachers make funnier faces on their weekly cupcakes. Food fashion is out of control...and who's gonna clean up the mess? I mean THE mess. Shipping miles, oil spills, mechanical problems, trucker's motel bills, somebody's gotta pay for all that. Somebody' s gonna get hungry for that.

Ask any kid in lunch line if he knows where his food is coming from and you won't need to switch on the comedy channel for a month. His parents are so alienated from the farmers, packers or milkers that it' s very easy for him to chuck the food in the bin. Oh the waste! Where is Darfur again? Oh yeah, I forgot, children starve there, the school holds a subscription to National Geographic; so I am aware.

Food waste is not just about hunger, it is about the damaging attitudes growing as fast as mold around us. It is not the half bun, the bread crust or the apple with one bite out of it sticking out of the lunch box. It is about the lack of pleasure in the face of the child. It' s about the disgust in the adult's eye in the cereal aisle. How about the sadness in my eye when I pass what should be fresh and local foods, now imprisoned under plastic wrap with cartoon figures winking at short wailing beggars from the shopping basket seat.

Time to give credit to my own, I've never had to poke or prod mine to clean their plates, they left very little reason to wash dishes at all. No matter what was served straight from garden or desert. OK, the burnt meat did not pass the test, how could I ever forget that? and one still doesn't like watermelon. But I waste here!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zero Waste prep post.

What binds writers and readers together in any measure is the humanity. I wish to approach the experience of Zero Waste Week from such a standpoint; not as a scientific exposé. The only research I will rely on is empiric - mine by will or accident, (and I 've had plenty of the later). My whole kitchen, my entire life has been a more or less joyful experiment in living according to the laws of nature, rather than strictly those of mere men.
 these tiny toms were ready for chutney...

I suspect our attitudes are formed early, eating habits seem ingrained by age two, oh yes I have observed lots of these little creatures that spit and squawk at the sight of vegetables..I 've been subjected to amazing restaurant displays of wee ones screaming for something 'other' than what they were served. And don't forget the parents, scoffing at a perfectly presentable dish of magnificent look behind the eatery and you' ll find all these wonderful cuts of expensive items, some nearly intact; that's enough to make a zero waster march back in and shove the indecent leftovers in the large purses of the offensive patrons.. alright I never have acted on such unsociable impulses..just indulging my wild imagination here.

Waste is no longer acceptable on a planet carrying more than seven billion people, oof! That's a lot of mouths. Think that I can instantaneously feel guilty when I must send rough peelings to the soil enrichment program; compost pile or bin..well it is a rare day when I put in more than eggshells and coffee grounds or tea leaves on there. My usual installments run along the truly indigestible or the rare rancid range of neglect. In the days when I had a VITAMIX, a superb blender by name, I included eggshells and banana peels in the smoothies for calcium phosphates and potassium. Although I did not enunciate each mineral benefit, my children still benefited of a free science lesson at every meal. It worked! Oh yes, they still eat well, in fine health.
this is the recycled industrial vacuum container for food and paper waste compost bin; see it works!

My humble secondhand blender makes use of overripe fruits and end-of-cycle vegetables. Many speedy wonders can be performed with past-their-prime veges. For example, cukes and kale leaves for a spontaneous creamy vichyssoise cold soup; just add sour cream, sea salt, pepper or in my case, a garlic clove. For Zero Waste Week, I shall drop some taste hints about more successful ways to make-do-make good recipes to avoid any waste of ANY FOOD..math tells me that zero means nada, none, zilch. That's always been my subconscious aim.

Morality does not necessarily motivate the act of saving foodstuffs, frugality plays a part in the daily activity of an inveterate saver, of course..but I believe the innate gratitude of a person remains an inherent factor in that kind of behavior toward natural resources. Well, natural has become a 'relative term' in GMO parlance. Unless you have lots of free time or money to shop carefully, you may be saving something more than organic substance. Unless you grow your own (I mean foods) you run the flexible risk of adopting unknown ingredients to sustain bodies and minds.

So, are we ready to face a whole week of No waste? Easy for me to say; this coincides with a huge cache of garden harvest. I am the fortunate recipient of gorgeous tomatoes and cucumbers from folks who appreciate my utter appreciation of their bounty. And then I have my own squash and onions, melons and grapes, apples or pears. What is a cook to do? Can-can-can do. I will illustrate the lazy kitchen maid's way to preserve goodies, so that only tails and apple worms are returned to such generous dirt as I am glad to have right here in compost heaven... 

Read you later! Comments are a rich source of innovation; crossing toes, hoping to learn and enjoy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Going to Zero Waste Week.

In a very productive year on my food agenda, I dare not complain. In 2013 yardening (that's turning your yard into a garden with a Y)  has been proven to satisfy my chewing muscles. Now, how do I store and eat all of this abundance? There shall be no waste in this household. I aim to starve the compost pile and put the worms on a diet. This is my 'Zero Waste Week pledge!

Although I have been a near zero waster for all of my conscious life, I find there is some possibility of refining the art of home foods management. My inspiration is kept current by reading the writings of Rachelle Strauss, aka, Mrs green at My Zero Waste blog. She is a diligent router of all manner of wasteful behavior and a positive influence on the path to personal or corporate responsibility. Her honest and thorough posts, her family videos and tips incite readers to reduce, use, re-use or recycle all that is bought.

The annual event of ' Zero Waste Week' is coming up in September and I am ready to join the fray. Not exactly a frenzy as I live in a far off rural community, but accessible by medium low tech laptop the second of next month, I should have enough photos and how-to's to satisfy the do-it-yourself saver of precious nutritional resources. Please follow the recycled brick path to my yarden and climb the wooden stairs to the kitchen for a peak at how a french born writer remains dedicated to some modicum of preservation.

Mind set at zero: no cement block necessary to keep freezer door locked, no double stacking canned goods or jars of preserves in the gluttonous cupboards. I am saving for a food dryer < next year>.

Meanwhile back at our humble home;
dried foods take much less space than canned goods, so, I thread a needle with strong cotton and pass it through the goodies..usually in the center because it is unnerving to have to pick up your gardening efforts from the floor, no matter how clean it is..and a pitiful picture of me on all fours blowing dust before the project is completely ruined. 'True Grit' is a movie, not a crunchy food alternative.

Washed and towel dried mushrooms Agarics, boletus, chanterelles or morels, or cleaned, cubed fruit, apple slices, pears, apricots, plums or veges such as peppers, carrots, rutabaga, winter squash, all keep well when sliced thin enough to dry in a day or two for good measure. Hang in convenient area, away from walking patterns ( our basement has adequate ventilation, so I can suspend my scrumptious garlands from the beams with strong nails, of course) and set a fan on high, till the poor veges and fruits of the land are reduced to shriveling remnants of their former beauty.

To store the winter treats, I loosely roll some around in a bowl of cinnamon sugar for snacks, or simply stack the thinly sliced yellow or green squash in clean, dry glass jars, store in darkest corners of shelves to add to soups, sauces or use as dip chips..mmm!

For my flop of the day, I confess that tomatoes have not been my most successful drying experiment; they slid off, squished together and ultimately ran away with molds and mildews prior to joining some other failed trial in the very forgiving compost area. Someone has to feed the beneficial nematodes?

Reminder to self—save for food dryer-- <or make one out of wood slats and nylon screen, plus fan>. Plan to shrink a few exotics when on sale..kiwis, pineapples, bananas, seedless grapes, mangoes, papayas, quince..I think I hear the strawberries squirming in their patch out back!

I am definitely no joiner, but this is something I can use to sharpen my ecological muscles.
Zero Waste Week, Sept 2-8 2013.wherever you are..on facebook or at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Snailing Night

Snailing night.

Looking in the mirror, I see the ten year old girl that I was. Stringy blond strands fighting straw like underbrush, brown, bronze and wet. A large childish smile parked on dark laughing eyes, I am rain, I am happiness. Can't wait to gross out my friends with my old recipes.

As I pull weeds in the garden, beset with a week of strong storms, I find the American Midwest akin to my temperate humid Southwestern France. I am that child again, standing in the narrow plot behind the house in Angoulême. Feet ensconced in rubber galoshes, I track mud in the paths between vegetables and flowers. It is getting dark and the chill of relentless rain penetrates perception to the bone.

I have set the upturned clay pots amid the thick vegetation and will return after supper to find what the traps have collected. I shake my red raincoat before hanging it on its hall hook, untie my rain cap, slip the overshoes off, and check for moisture on my felt house slippers before stepping on the bees-waxed floor. The strict protocol routine brings comfort in its predictability.

Dinner served, dishes done, I swiftly grab the one rectangular flashlight from the kitchen cupboard, there are some distant rumblings in the sky to the west. I know the sound of nature, little frogs pip in the lilacs, birds stir and shake feathers in the fat peach tree.Facing south the first cloche hides amid Swiss chards, I lift it carefully as if snails could or would run away; the light reveals a good dozen large snails, I pluck them from the safety of their newfound shelter. Guilty, yet hungry for more, checking under dripping plants, I skip from pot to pot, raise them from the rocks I have set them on, drop snails into my wire basket, their new cage.  Tremble and tumble, I moan and bite my lip at every find.

By the time I have walked the entire distance to the last one on the metal shavings pathways, the basket is heavy with the globes of brown striped common snails. A local delicacy. I have done my pesticidal duty, these won't eat our prized endives anymore. I swing the basket of live prey and apologize to them for imprisoning them in this ancient wire structure. I close the lid on them and on my conscience in one swift gesture, click! And there I go trotting to the kitchen, proud of my bounty.

Ah, not too bad says father lifting his demi-tasse cup of dark chicory that smells of Armagnac. Now the spiraling helixes will go on a fast till all fecal detritus is expelled from their systems. Down the basement, I set the tall tower on a newspaper in the ambient darkness for them to become lean and hungry. For us to satisfy a gustatory taste for rare delicacies. I bow my head in hesitant apology.

A week later I bring the terrestrial shells up to the slaughterhouse that will be the kitchen table. I check for dead ones by poking them tenderly with the point of my knife. My Pradel knife finds only two lame victims of this practice to return to the compost pile. The rest are washed in salt water, left to salivate and froth for an hour. Then I must drop them in boiling water, pull the basket up in two minutes and proceed to extract them from the shells. Wash them carefully, as the cooked creatures will be served in these.

Meanwhile I peel garlic, two entire cloves, chop parsley, two whole handfuls, heat olive oil in the sauce pan, throw the minced garlic in, stir till brown, sprinkle a handful of flour over it and pour white wine in it till the sauce thickens—not too thick- not too thin, not a single add the parsley, just in time to present at table. Perch platter on tile, add the snails and gently enrobe them with the sauce, grind pepper and sea salt over it. Cover and wait.

The plate full of scallions and fresh radishes, celery blades and carrot wedges with three salt wells full of gray Atlantic sea salt is empty, the hors-d'oeuvres plate removed, the shellfish forks installed, I majestically lift the lid off the terrine and exclaim “bon appètit!” I serve father first, line up the thin two pronged wood handled fork perpendicular with the small knife. With great care, I raise the sauce ladle full of the gourmet entree; I am not breathing, nor looking at anything but the steam rising from the centerpiece. The aroma intense in the small kitchen, the sun rays at right angles through sheer curtains, mother sits motionless on her woven reed chair. Hands on apron, I neither budge, nor blink. The suspense unbearable. The tiny fork travels slowly to his lips, I see the dark stubble of evening beard on his chin, I spy the teeth which will tell of the effort I have made.

Now I serve mother, then sit myself, no word, she takes a second bite, kicks my leg under the table. She pushes a flour lump on the side of her plate, slides her tongue on her teeth as if something distasteful had bothered her sensibilities, I dare not take a taste as yet. Just as I inhale, “ ça va, pas mal! Un peu trop salé” ( Ok, not too bad; slightly too salty) father tilts his head in cockeyed approval. I hold a runaway smile under tight lip. Mother silently keeps hunting for lumps with croutons impaled to fork. I plunge into the rare dish and savor each rubbery morsel closing my eyes at every bite, separating the flavors on my palate, grainy garlic, pungent parsley, gray spirals of smooth protein, and the semi-sweetness of the slowly simmered wine lingers on the memory.