Environmental concerns

Each day I see another news article about the amount of plastic in our oceans and our landfills. Another article that reiterates that every piece of plastic that has been made still exists. Another article, that most plastics can’t be or aren’t being recycled.

I drive by the local hay storage fields and see large round bales wrapped in non biodegradable white plastic. As the winter moves into spring, those fields are littered with the white plastic that was torn off of the bale before feeding it to the herds or flocks. I see that plastic in the streams and creeks that flow down to the New River, on to the Ohio River and the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico.

I try to not buy or use one use plastic plastic, but with Covid, you can no longer take your reuseable cup or mug to be refilled, if you want to eat out, it is take out and though we are seeing more and more use of cardboard containers, there are still styrofoam clamshells used by some food places. When you go in the grocer or even the Farmer’s Market, items are in plastic, so it is difficult to avoid.

Each year I stress when the garden starts providing food that doesn’t get canned in reuseable glass jars with reuseable canning lids, food that is destined to be frozen like peas and beans because the available containers are plastic bags or boxes. I tried wide mouth glass jars one year and had a lot of breakage. Yesterday an ad popped up for compostable 32 ounce bamboo fiber containers with snap on lids. They are hand washable, can go in the microwave or even the oven up to certain temperatures and when you are done, they compost in 90 days. That sounds like a winner. I can freeze peas in a smaller silicone bag and then remove them and pack several lumps in one container. Blanched green beans can be frozen on a cookie sheet and packed loosely. The snap on lids can be labelled with paper tap or written directly on the lid. I ordered a 50 pack to try this year. I hope that I have found a more environmentally friendly way to save my produce that I don’t want to can in glass for the shelves.

Our state has recently enacted legislation that will ban styrofoam and single use plastic by 2025. I see even Glad coming out with alternatives to plastic. I hope there is more of this type of restriction and innovation and less plastic in our future. I wonder how many of our health problems are the result of the rapid increase in the use of plastic in our environment and our everyday life. We already know that the industry has had to change the formulation to remove certain chemicals. Lets hope for change.

Rainy Day Olio – 3/25/2021

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

My Facebook memory for the day shows snow 3 years ago, so I have to keep reminding myself that it is spring on the calendar, but still 6 weeks to the last average frost. I am not patient when it comes to the garden. Once I start, I want to plant, to harvest, to start putting by for the off seasons, then I look at the pantry shelves and freezer and realize we haven’t used all of last year’s stuff up yet. I have never had much luck starting my own seeds that aren’t direct sown, but the new hydroponic unit with 12 plugs has the healthiest little dozen tomato plants. The unit has LED lights and a gentle fan so the plants are sturdy and only several inches tall, not shooting for the moon as leggy starts.

Eventually they will be transplanted into 4″ plantable pots and start spending part of each day outdoors on the deck, but not yet. Most of the starts of spinach, kale, and mesclun greens that I transplanted and then covered with plastic didn’t get enough water from the rains and few survived. The 8 mini head lettuces that I bought at the Farmer’s Market as transplants are doing great. Yesterday after morning showers and before today’s rain, I direct sowed more lettuce, kale, lacinato kale, and spinach in the bed and left the plastic off. I see no frost nights until late next week and I will cover them just for the nights then.

I have resumed my love affair with spindles over the past year. They are so portable and can be put down on the side table and left until I’m ready to return to them. They can be put in a tin and dropped in my bag to take with me in the car, and the smaller ones can even be used when hubby is driving as long as the road isn’t too winding. On a spindle I can create fine, even, consistent yarns, the small balls wound together and plied on either a larger spindle or even on my wheel. My wheel has suffered neglect this year. To use it by my chair, I have to move the ottoman and move the wheel every time I need to get up. But day before yesterday, I chose to pull it over and decided to finish spinning a 5 ounce braid of very soft wool/silk blend I had started on the spindles. It took me two days to finish spinning two very full bobbins and plying it on my jumbo flyer and large bobbin. I told hubby I thought it was about 1000 yards of singles spun.

I finished plying it last night and let it sit overnight before winding it off this morning. I was close, it is a two ply yarn, lace weight, and finished at 484.5 yards, so it was 969 yards of singles. It is a very pretty, soft and drapey yarn that has been washed and is drying now. The spindle is the one my hubby gave me for my birthday last November and it is spinning wool for my breed blanket. I should have 14 or 15 squares finished by the end of the month. I will lay them all out and take a picture then.

When a spindle isn’t in use, it is safely nested in it’s own little compartment on thick felt in this box. When out and about, it travels in a tin like one of these, nested on a bed of the fiber being spun on it.

On Sunday, the museum where I used to go and spin in costume, regularly, is scheduled to have Founder’s Day. As I am fully vaccinated and the event is supposed to be outdoors, I plan to attend as a period spinner with wheel and spindles, combs, and cards, and wool I washed to process for spinning. The event has other re enactors, carriage rides (pre-registered) through town, but the weather app is showing a 90% chance of rain. I can’t take a wheel, yarn, and knits out in the yard in the rain. I guess I will wait and see if the forecast improves or see if I can be on the roofed porch, still “outdoors,” but protected. I will be so glad when it is safe to resume life again.

Vacation in the mountains

As a child we spent a week every summer in the Virginia mountains having travelled from the coast. It was a big “family” reunion, family being both biological and folks we saw but once a year, every year in the same cottage.

When we had children of our own, there were a few visits to the same location and other visits to Big Meadows on the Skyline Drive in the mountains of Virginia on the opposite side of the Shenandoah Valley.

Before children, I backpacked in the mountains with a Trail Club and then both sons became Scouts and I took up backpacking again, going as one of the troop adults on many weekend trips, a couple bringing us near where we currently live.

As our children became old enough to leave home or stay home alone, hubby and I began taking one weekend a year with my Dad and Stepmom to a B&B somewhere away from both of our homes near the coast, usually to the Piedmont of Virginia, they would plan one year and we would plan the next.

As retirement approached, we began looking for a place to build a retirement home and I wanted to move to the mountains. I was most familiar with the Shenandoah Valley areas, but land was so expensive there. Son 1 had hiked the Appalachian Trail and then rode his bicycle from New Orleans and both times coming though the south western part of Virginia. He suggested we look here for land and we found our farm in the Virginia Mountains, a few short miles from the Appalachian Trail, near the West Virginia line, in the county that was the birth place of my maternal grandfather. We built our home here.

I have learned old homestead skills, canning, spinning, raising chickens, making soaps, some herbal medicine knowledge to make healing salves. Along the way, got involved in the history of the area and began to do some 18th century re-enactment using my spinning and fiber history.

We have a lovely small University town only 15 miles away, trails to walk, ponds and lakes to visit, ever changing flora and fauna. I feel like I’m always on vacation in the mountains now.

Coltsfoot blooming on a trail.
Winter resident geese at a local pond. They usually stay until their young fledge.