Friday, September 23, 2005

"Water, Water Everywhere. . ."

We measure our water by the number of gallon bottles we fill. We use one and one half gallons per day depending on how much time we spend in the area. Our errands may take up most of the day, thereby reducing the drain on our captured water. No rain has fallen in a weeks, so filling the drip-drip from the mountains is unthinkable to capture it into several one-gallon containers. Thinking how much water we use needlessly back home, we hope to be more aware how precious this commodity is and alter our habits.

Campers staying in campgrounds in the East have to pay a quarter to shower for one minute. It doesn’t take long for one to learn to use that time wisely to avoid reaching out with a soapy hand to locate that elusive quarter on the outside shelf. Our first experience came in Massachusetts in a wooded location. We arrived late and with the camp store closed, we had to rummage through our RV to find enough quarters. I figured if it took me more than a minute to shower, I’d certainly learn quickly how to reduce the time before we got to the next state. Most of the owners of big rigs tell us the bathroom was their consideration in buying up from a smaller rig. That way no one had to worry about the water nor waiting in line for a shower. The presence of so many big rigs has given us exclusive rights to the camp restrooms, a real treat.

Friday, September 16, 2005

When Disaster Strikes

Since we've learned how little most citizens take preparedness seriously, I'm heartened by the photo in last week's New York Times of the young woman in New Orleans who had a year's store of water, gasoline, and food. She didn't want to leave her apartment; she was prepared to live there indefinitely. What caused her to prepare for a disaster? There's a story there.

In readying for our living in the woods, I did find one website from which I bought items for experimentation. You may wish to see it and others like it. This is I ordered some of the dehydrated food and must say I don't want too many packages a week to eat. However, other sites I roamed through let me know all kinds of equipment and supplies are out there for purchase. Another is which sells kits.

Our home in Mississippi is in tornado alley and despite my crowding our hall closet with 2 gals of water, a couple of cans of food, our meds, important papers, and purse, I'm still way behind being ready for emerging from that closet after a disaster. However, our simple living here is giving me ideas for what I need to stock upon our return home.One thing we do know, if we have to go to a central safety place, we will be carrying our "luggable loo."

We are pleased that most of our extended family has a place to go despite losing their homes or their suffering damage. Let's hope the outreach of money generated by relief programs will help everyone we know. Perhaps, too, more awareness of proverty in our own country will be addressed by states and the federal government. No more grants to those counting extinct flowers in Arizona or taking census of domestic animals or some such inane project.

How Kudzu Put Us in Eastern US

Our journey to and subsequent summers in New York State resulted when Scott opened Kudzu Food and Goods in 2002 in a 1934 gas station sitting at the northern edge of a hamlet. We met a variety of people, introduced the plant into their vocabulary, and sold them jars of kudzu jelly made by sisters in Atlanta.(Tastes similar to apple jelly.) "Kood zoo" was a soon-dispelled mystery as well as the rare comodity of three Mississippians in this part of New York. Who would have expected two of the three to be true storytellers when they entered a conversation. I'm reminded of what dear Eudora Welty said upon being asked, "Why are there so many writers in the South?" She hit it on the nail when she said, "Because we have so many stories to tell."

For us the new living experience enriched our lives. We found people with different philosophies, education, attitudes, work and speech patterns. We became acquainted with many people whose families were from old world countries, a rarity in our hometown. However, we discovered another Mississippian who moved to the Delaware area within a year of our store’s existence. Who could expect such a coincidence in this small town!

The store lasted the three planned years. But its name lingers as part of our story we relate to New Englanders as to why we Southerners are in their part of the country. As soon as I begin my story “Our store was called Kudzu Food and Goods” someone invariably hits upon the word “kudzu”, and a new conversation results. We Mississippians pronounce this Japanese word “kud zoo”. Just recently on Peaks Island a woman passing around me in the crowded art gallery heard me explain this to a transplanted Alabamian and stopped to tell me she had just finished contributing to a book called “The Book of Kudzu.” She went on to explain her trips to Japan to learn more about weaving and discovered the miraculous fibre of kudzu (and gave me the Japanese pronunciation as “koo soo”).Having seen how this much misunderstood plant in the South is so valuable, she agreed with me that because all parts of the plant are edible and useful, it should be considered by the government as a food source for poverty stricken areas. I related to her what I had learned in my reading and she suggested we work together to promote this plant. Interesting proposition.

In the August issue of Southern Living, Steve Bender writes about the discovery of kudzu as helping cure alcoholism. He fails to realize Krazy Kudzu Products, produced by those Atlanta sisters, puts out vinegars, honeys, jellies, jams and a cookbook with recipes using all parts of the vine.

Kudzu was introduced, as I understand it, into the country at a world's fair by the Japanese for soil erosion, and soon farmers in the South were planting it profusely. However, little did they know they had lost their land to this invasive, non-destructive plant. The Department of Agriculture in its literature states that eradication is iffy, as a poison should be administered over a period of seven years for best results. And to know a cash crop lies along the highways as a green mantle hiding decaying sheds, rusty vehicles, and disguising telephone poles and trees! If you wish a copy of the recipe book put out by Krazy Kudzu Products, look up their website. Very interesting. Anyone for sauteed leaves?

September on Peaks Island

Just as we were completing a week’s stay visiting our daughter, a well-written article appeared in the Boston Globe about the island. Her art gallery is cited as one of the places to visit. Read for yourself this insightful view of our daughter’s home at Locals emphasize that September is their favorite month, as there are fewer visitors and the weather exhibits sun, breeze, warmth and coolness just short of perfection. We agree and choose this time repeatedly.

Our island abode is at Eighth Maine. Our first encounter with this term was a mystery. Not an address as we thought, but a location. Built in 1899 as a meeting place for Civil War Vets who served in the Eighth Maine Regiment, it provides lodging for all the descendants of this regiment as well as for visitors to the island. This gigantic lodge faces the east side of the island, the Atlantic Ocean area of the bay. Crashing waves over the gigantic rocks put us to sleep nightly. Many interesting conversations with fascinating people have occurred in front of the fireplace on chilly evenings.

The islanders showed their generosity at their Katrina Relief program, September 11 with food, entertainment, games for the kids, and a silent auction of beautiful art and gifts, providing approximately $10,000 for victims. This matched a similar fundraiser for tsunami victims. For the small number of island inhabitants this is a magnanimous feat of which most cities and towns can’t boast.

We are learning yearly how wonderful these Mainers are, whether they are native born or baptized by their settling here. Many are transplants from other states, the South notwithstanding. Fiercely opinionated about all subjects, they are loyal, friendly, and cooperative. We like their open mindedness, although you need a persuasive argument if you offer a different opinion. We support our daughter’s fondness for this community. Her art gallery has brought a much-needed service to the island artists, so we’re reminded often, and she has loyal community support.

Since Wednesday we are in the woods, having returned to our newer living habits after a week of lounging in civilization, and realize how comfortable we are in this once primeval forest. Lots of projects keep us busy and the mundane responsibilities we face cheerfully.

Still haunting me is the less-than-three mile daily visit we make into town. It takes up so much of our day to make contacts, answer mail, buy groceries (ice is our daily purchase), and chat with friends we encounter. I still seek weeks of quiet, but I have to grasp it in fists of hours. Those hours are gifts. How grateful I am to be here as thousands deal with displacement and turmoil. That fact I’m not ignoring.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pause and Observe

Below is the sculpture by Mom Nature, a branch and root of the mountain laurel. How creative she is! Throughout the woods are similar bits of her work, as though she's dropped them for me to find. Above is the beautiful mulch pathway from our cabins that friend and hard worker Joe made for us. He dug out the large boulders to make our walk easier. Notice the beautiful ferns are changing colors. Cooler weather is turning the ferns to yellow, and before we know it, into brown. This week will bring us mid to low 70's so it will seem more like Indian Summer here. Here's your assignment: when the recent tragedy gets too much, go to a nearby woodland and see what God has wrought.