Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reluctantly Returning to Facebook (click unlike)

After four years (or more) I have returned to Facebook. After much thought and heartburn, I decided to rejoin. I don't like Facebook. But everyone else seems to love it or like it (click like) and face it (no pun intended) people don't communicate the same way they used to ten years ago. So I sit here in the dark most of the time. I can't change the world. I can either join or be left behind.
I left Facebook after having spent a whole day at a holiday craft show sitting next to someone's booth who was a "friend" on FB. We never spoke, not once.
So I decided then to do an experiment to test my hypothesis that making new real live warm human body friends was still possible for someone over 50, you know, the kind you call, stop by to see, spend real time with?
Not counting the women in a group I faciliate, here are the results of my study.
New real live human body friends made since leaving Facebook - 0
Projected pretend data friends that I might have made if I stayed on Facebook - 2245
Effort extended - 85%
Emotional status - very dejected and sad
I imagine when the telephone came to be, there were some hold outs there too. They probably found themselves nodding politely while there friends and family spoke of conversations with so and so on their new Westinghouse telephone.
I am tired of saying "where did you hear about that?" "Facebook".
I still do not like FB. I still much prefer human contact. I feel in order to be part of this changing world I have to comply. As the Borg say, resistance is futile.
Now let's see how many friends I make. The race is on.

Monday, August 17, 2015

From the Mouths of Babes

I have a love hate relationship with my neighborhood. I love the diversity, the older folks, the park behind my house. I really don't love my crazy neighbors, the ones who make life miserable for the rest of us. We have had some challenges this year that has finally prompted me to start whatever process I have to do to move to a safer, quieter, more sane area.

There are two little girls that live across the street, beautiful blonde-haired blue-eyed princesses. One even wears an impressively sparkly tiara. The girls ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk day after day after day. They have grown up in that house, well, as grown up as they can be at age seven or so.

The girls discovered a paper wasp nest hanging from a tree and have been totally intrigued, riding their bikes under it then sharply turning around screaming "the Queen is out the Queen is out!!!" and racing back home.

Over the weekend I saw the two little girls plus their little female cousin and a couple of high school girls approach the nest. I figured the princess and the pea were going to show the older girls their discovery.

Was I wrong.

Before I knew it all five had picked up rocks and were winding up for the pitch. I thought only boys did this kind of thing.

"Knock it OFF!" I yelled, just in the nick of time. I began my lecture from across the street and they sulked back to their house. It wasn't long before I heard "the Queen is out the Queen is out!" and saw them tearing back down the sidewalk to their homes. I had visions of wasp formations zooming out of the nest, stinging the shit out of the girls. "It would serve them right," I thought.

I grumbled about those kids the rest of the weekend, along with my complaints about the rest of the dweebs I share this street with. In my mind they grew into rats, blond haired blue-eyed rats. Stupid girls acting like stupid boys trying to kill yet another helpless little bunch of creatures.

Tonight I went to check my bees out at a farm, and when I pulled in my driveway up rode the one without the tiara.

"Are you the lady that yelled at us the other day?" she asked.

"Yes," I replied, waiting for her smart ass remarks to start flying.

"Thank you" she said.


Thank you?

Not, "You're a mean old lady and we're gonna smash your tomatoes!"

She said thank you. A seven year old.

I told them I was afraid they would get stung. I asked if they wanted to learn about the wasps. She said she loved nature and wanted to learn all about them. So I told her. Soon Princess arrived, then they called over the little cousin. Question after question poured out of their little blonde mouths.

"If a possum or raccoon is in my backyard will they kill our dogs?"

"Do you know about every kind of animal in the whole world?"

"I found a bug with red legs and a red body, and it was real big. What is it?"

"I found a green caterpillar and gave it leaves and it turned into a butterfly and it was so cool!"

"I want to learn about Moose."

And on and on they chattered.

I went back into the house feeling like a bigger asshole than my neighbors. Lord it's hard to be humble when you are ALMOST perfect in every way.

After I put my things away, I went to the basement and searched my nature library. There, on the top shelf, was my collection of Golden Nature Guides. Reptiles and Amphibians. Birds. Insects. Trees. Butterflies. One by one I pulled them down, blew the dust off, and went to find my new friends.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Fear of Nature or What We Really Need to be Scared Of

I NEVER watch the news on TV. Damn if it wasn't right there when I turned on the television this morning. A story on ticks and Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever. They were making a huge deal of the fact there were 2000 cases of it in the US last year. The "expert" said before you go outside, you should spray yourself with insect repellent that contains DEET (never mind all the health implications associated with that use), wear long pants, long sleeves, and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Right. All this on a 90 degree summer day. 2000 cases out of 3,800,000 people in the US. That is 1 in 1900 chance of getting the Fever. There is a 1 in 3000 chance of being struck by lightening, for comparison.

My insurance agent told me the association where her business is voted to spray chemicals on the lawn to kill ticks (and a whole lot of other creatures) because one person saw a tick on the floor of the dentist's office there. Seriously!

When I worked in the field as a biologist, I had ticks on a regular basis. My record was 14 in one day. No big deal. They were like mosquitoes, just part of being outdoors. I had numerous tick bites and never contracted Lyme's disease, never got Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever.

One of my co-workers was bitten by a mosquito on her eyelid and she picked at it until it got infected. She went in and got tested for West Nile Virus.


This is yet another symptom of people being removed from Nature and thus unfamiliar/uncomfortable with things that are common place if you spend anytime outdoors. There is a beautiful paper wasp nest in a tree across the street. Of course the neighbor guys (it is always the guys) informed me (with a graduate degree specializing in insects) how dangerous they are and that they will fly out and chase you down and that they can kill animals. They gloat about how many of these nests and wasps they have destroyed.

Mind you the only reason those or any of the other stinging insects would attack anyone is if you disturb their nest or harass them.

I heard a story on the radio the other day about a man who chased another man down because he had broken into his home. He then proceeded to shoot him dead.

Who do we really have to fear?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Liberals vs. Fox News Ain't Got Nothin' on Small Cell vs Large Cell Beekeepers

When people have their beliefs threatened they can get nasty. It goes far beyond just a difference of opinion. Just talk to a Fox News fan and ask about Hillary Clinton. Whoa.

I am finding that this hostile beast sometimes rears its ugly head in the seemingly mundane world of beekeeping. Why, I am not sure.

I was recently told about a workshop held over the weekend that was attended by novice, newbee, wannabee, and experienced beekeepers. This description is second hand but from reliable sources. When the alternative beekeepers offered observations different from a couple of the traditional beekeepers, a storm started brewing. The traditionalists dismissed the alternative folks, basically telling them they were lying about results they were seeing using small cell bees. Tensions kept building, and later in the afternoon, one of the traditionalists threw his hive box in anger, killing hundreds if not thousands of bees. Apparently with no remorse. Folks left the workshop feeling angry, confused, upset. Some said they would never come back. Who can blame them?

One of the heated topics surrounded small cell bees. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a long time ago commercial beekeepers supersized the honey bee with hopes that they would produce more honey. Some folks over the past several decades have been raising "small cell" honey bees, the original size bee. Many believe that these small cell bees are more resistant to mites, live longer, and are more healthy than their larger sisters and brothers.

I thought I might do some research on small cell bees, given the vast difference of opinion on the subject. There are numerous scientific studies looking at whether small cell bees have fewer varroa mites, live longer lives, etc... I found more research studies supporting small cell than not. But like many controlled scientific experiments, they don't address the larger complex set of factors affecting the honey bees. Are they feeding the bees sugar water or corn syrup? Chemically treating the hive? Are they in a lab or in an organic agricultural field? A conventional farm field or inner city? No study can be developed that can factor in all those variables. This is nature we are talking about.

If you think about our bees from an ecological perspective, they are being assaulted on many fronts. Are they healthy enough to sustain themselves from the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides being dumped on the planet every day? What about all the chemicals some beekeepers put in their hives, believing it is absolutely necessary for the bees' survival? Sadly, the honey bees' lifestyle puts their lives at risk 24 hours a day. They have no choice but to venture out into their toxic world, a world we have created. Both inside and outside their hives.

We can argue with folks that work their bees differently than we do until the cows come home. But really, each beekeeper needs to find what works best for them. My way works for me, it may or may not work for you. However, there is one thing I feel very strongly about and that is that anyone who works with bees should know their life history inside and out. They should understand the effects of the food they give them, whether is is sugar water, corn syrup, honey, or some commercial product. Beekeepers need to understand how the chemicals they put in the hive affect the pests they are targeting AND how they can affect the bees. We should know exactly what will happen if we switch brood boxes in the spring, or moves frames from here to there. How will these things affect the ecology of the hive? The communication network? We should know why we do what we do, not simply relying on the fact someone told us this is what we should do. We are responsible for researching and understanding the lives we are working with. I was taught very differently 20 years ago than how I practice today, simply because I took the time to learn as much as I could. I always question "authority".

I can only hope that by the time I turn 80, I will more fully understand the ways of honey bees and not make too many mistakes along the way. I also hope that we beekeepers can learn from each other and respect that there are many ways to keep bees, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. There is a bigger war going on against our beloved honey bees and they need us to stick together and be their voice.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Love Farmers But...

Last year I asked my sister if I could put a hive of honeybees on her property, as she lives out in the country. She agreed, so I started a small colony in preparation for the installation. I am not sure how it happened, but it wasn't long before the bees became her bees. I painted up the boxes a nice shade of peach, loaded up the Jeep, and made the drive to Three Rivers. Diann was a bit sheepish around the bees, but curious and eager at the same time.  For the next several weeks she would give me reports on "her girls".

Diann's bees made it through the winter and are strong and healthy. If you talk to her about her bees, her voice changes. She becomes a young girl again, deeply and passionately in love. It happens to everyone who starts being kept by bees.

Every once in awhile I go to her home and help her check on the girls to see how they are doing. Her hive is the strongest and largest I have ever seen in my 8 years of beekeeping. Our Father designed a nifty water container that sits prominantly on top of the hive. These girls want for nothing.

Last night, my phone rang. It was Diann, sobbing so hard I could not understand a word she was saying. It didn't help we had a bad connection. I asked her to call me right back. Finally, I could make out something about an airplane, spraying, cornfield, bees.

Diann's property sits adjacent to an ag field currently planted in corn. She has spoken with the farmer about her bees and asked him to let her know if and when he was going to spray his fields. He agreed. Apparently something happened because he did not notify her of the aerial spraying that occurred last night.

When I heard her voice, I thought one of our parent's or her dog was killed, it was that frantic. She was devastated. So was I. And angry. Even though the spraying happened in the evening hours, the honeybees were still on the wing, flying back to their home.

There are no laws that prevent herbicide, fungicide, or pesticide drift. Farmers can spray five feet away from your property on a windy day and that poison can drift into your kitchen window and there is nothing you can do about it. They can spray from an airplane and if the drift of the spray happens to land on top of your apiary (bee yard), too bad for you and the bees.  There is a serious lack of regulation and you can bet Monsanto and their agribusiness friends will fight to keep it that way. Farmers can voluntarily tell the beekeepers he or she is going to spray so the beekeeper can keep their bees in their hives until it dries. Of course there are still effects on the bees through bringing treated pollen into the hive amoung other things. But what do you do if the farmer won't work with you? The fact is there is absolutely nothing you can do.

My friend Sylvia has bees at her home and an ag field adjacent to her property. One day the farmer was out spraying Roundup. She went out and asked him if he would move his sprayer over just two feet (he was spraying directly on the property line). He got angry and called her a very derogatory name. He continued his spraying and all she could do was watch. This was maybe thirty feet from her hives.

There was a little grassy patch on the corner of that field, which by the way is owned by the Township and leased by the farmer, that Sylvia and her husband had cleared of brush and mowed. The farmer came back later that day and doused it with Roundup.

Many of my ancestors were farmers. My maternal Grandparents were farmers. I love farmers. But the antiquated laws that govern their activities need to be revisited and revised in this day of dramatically escalated chemical use. Since the invention of Roundup ready crops, "weeds" have started to become resistant. This has resulted in an increase of herbicide use, not a decrease. To the tune of 383 million pounds! What kind of world are we leaving to the child yet born?

Diann tried calling the farmer last night only to get a busy signal each time she rang him. She will visit him today and find out what he sprayed and why he did not let her know. Only time will tell now how this will affect her beloved honeybees.

Please support organic farmers by purchasing organic meats, fruits, vegetables and grains. Educate yourself about natural alternatives to the harsh chemicals you have in your home and use in your yards and gardens. Remember that all life is a Circle, and everything we do, whether it is spraying a dandelion with RoundUP or salting our sidewalks, affects many species and is absorbed into the ecosystem. If we don't change our ways, we will lose our honeybees and alot more. And I don't want to hear my sister cry.

Monday, July 6, 2015

What Happened to the Want Ads?

Once upon a time when I wanted to buy a car I would pick up the weekly newspaper and scour the Want Ads to see what fine vehicles were for sale. If one looked promising, I would pick up the telephone and call, and then if all went well I would go see the car and give her a test drive.

In today's world, no longer do people put their cars in the Want Ads. In fact, newspapers themselves are endanger of going extinct, replaced instead by the invisible and mysterious world of the internet.

Lately I have been shopping around for a used pick up truck for travelling to my beehives on the organic farms where they are placed. Nothing fancy, just something reliable, clean, and under $3000. The closest thing to a Want Ad in today's world is Craigslist so I began my search there. After reviewing what seemed like dozens of ads, I found the perfect truck, a red Ford Ranger, low mileage, mint condition. And the price was low. Incredibly low. I emailed the seller and soon received a reply. The seller was an officer in the Air Force and had been transferred to Alaska from a base in Ohio. She told me she was having the truck shipped to the nearest base then she would pay for a tow truck to deliver it right to my door. I couldn't understand why the truck was so inexpensive and felt like I should offer a bit more as surely she must have been selling it so cheaply due to some hardship she was facing. I was excited over the find and felt the bee goddesses had smiled upon me. I imagined it in the driveway, all shiny and red, full of beekeeping equipment.

Needless to say, after much investigation I discovered that it was a scam.

A few hours later I found another truck on Craigslist, a nice Toyota Tacoma, again at a low price. Suspicious, I emailed the seller. Lo and behold it was a military officer who had just been transferred...this time I recognized the deception and replied "SCAMMER!"

Not to be deterred, I contacted another seller later in the day about an ad that stated they were from a town just south of here. It was a very sweet elderly man selling a 1990 Ford Ranger. He was so excited about his truck he was gushing over it. I scheduled a visit for later in the day. While waiting for the appointed time to arrive, my father looked at he ad and told me the truck was way over priced. I checked online and of course, like always, he was right. It wasn't long before the gentleman called and I had to tell him I wouldn't pay what he was asking. I could tell he was crushed. After all, this was his baby. To him, it was worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I get that. I deal with those same feelings every time I have a garage sale. Most of the items on my table are way overpriced, at least in the buyers' eyes. Of course not in mine.

In the end I told him to give me a call if he doesn't find a buyer and we can talk about lowering the price to something more reasonable. He thanked me for my honesty, but swore if I only came and took it for a ride I would fall in love, too. I smiled and wished him a good evening. And I was sure he was right.

So here we have three types of humans. First, the Scammer, who disrespects those who serve in our military and attempts to con other trusting humans into sending them money for something that doesn't exist. Second, the Innocent, who trusts everyone and cares about strangers so much she would have given a scammer an extra $500 thinking she was helping out a fellow human in need. Last, the Lover, whose old white truck is the apple of his eye and in his mind is priceless. And I wonder if this process is more about learning a little something about people rather than finding the perfect truck. It is a reminder that the world is a much bigger place than the one I grew u[ in and while there are still many kind people, it is hard to know who to believe anymore.

I miss the Want Ads.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Hatchet in the Night

It is mosquito season, so to avoid the clouds that surround my head the second I step outside, I thought I would take my dog on a walk early. I stepped outside and walked to my car and low and behold there in the grass, right next to my car, was a hatchet.

Of course my mind immediately went to all the horrible crime drama television shows I have ever watched. Was the ax murderer on his way to my back door, to break in and chop me into pieces? Was he foiled by some passerby just in the nick of time, and dropped his weapon and fled?

I picked up the hatchet, then quickly switched my grip to the blade. After all, this could have been used to commit a crime and may need to be fingerprinted. I placed it on the table in my garage, loaded up my dog, and drove downtown to the Capital area, where I am pretty sure I won't run into any loose dogs.

On our way down the sidewalk, just in front of the Michigan Supreme Court Building, I ran into a State Police officer. "Good morning," I said. "Good morning," he replied. "I have a strange question to ask you," I said, knowing he is already staring at my left eye, swollen from a bee sting yesterday. I proceeded to tell him about the hatchet and asked if he thought I should contact the police, just in case. He said yes, so I called the Lansing Police Department and they said they would send an officer over.

We hoofed it as fast as we could go back to my car and sped off to the house, hoping to get there before the police showed up. My neighbor told me as I pulled in the driveway that the officer just left.  Of course. "Did you find a hatchet in your yard?" the neighbor asked. "Yes," I said, suspicious...was HE the ax murderer?  "We saw a group of twelve-year olds last night at two in the morning, using a hatchet on trees, telephone poles, anything they could chop on, just a bunch of kids. They threw it at your tree but missed and it landed in your front yard and they just kept on walking. No big deal, just some kids."

No big deal.

What kind of kids, twelve-year olds to boot, are out walking around at two in the morning with a hatchet? I don't know about you but where I come from that is something to be concerned about. Where are their parents? What are they doing out that late? And what is there intention carrying around a hatchet? And why do they think it OK to destroy public and private property?

I had to call the police back and they sent the officer over again. He didn't want to take the hatchet, two hours of paperwork he said and they would just throw it in the trash. Just some kids, he said. Just some kids??? I hate to think what those kids will be doing in five more years.

He asked if there was still an issue with speeders on my street. "Yes," I replied, "and gun shots in the park weekly. And there are also numerous mini bikes, go carts, and four wheelers travelling at high speeds up and down my street."  "Not much we can do about that, I mean really how would it look to the public if we gave a kid a ticket for riding a go cart in the park" (which is prohibited by law, I might add).  I am wondering if this is the same officer who told the ex con down the street that he was pretty sure the ex con wasn't supposed to be in possession of the shotgun he had just used to kill a raccoon in a tree, which incidentally landed on the police car hood (I am not kidding). He told the ex con that he didn't want to know and gave him a ticket for discharging a firearm in the city limits.

Anyway, the officer said they are so short staffed they have to focus on more serious issues (my hatchet obviously wasn't one of them). I thanked him and off he went.

Now I know some of you are saying, why don't I just move out of the city?

Over the years I have learned that I am much safer as a lesbian living a city than I ever would be in small town USA. And that makes me angry and very sad. I don't have the freedom to live where I want to. Forget the whole "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" thing. It is an illusion for people like me. Yes, we won the right to marry but there is still so far to go. I would much rather have a cabin in the northwoods and go to sleep listening to the sounds of frogs or crickets instead of gunfire and sirens. My soul yearns to look up into the night sky and see the Milky Way, the Aurora Borealis, a shooting star. I want to breathe in the scent of pine trees and rivers, hear the rushing of water over rapids or the waves lapping the shore. I grieve over this.

But at least I can eat in a restaurant and not have to hear the bigoted comments of the locals. I can go to celebrations for people like me if I choose. I am surrounded by the beautiful diversity of different races and cultures of people. I have a park in my backyard and am friends with the snakes and toads, skunks and raccoons, and even the sparrows that are living inside my wall right now raising a family. I can tap the trees and make syrup, and grow my apples and grapes, and have illegal campfires and parch corn and wild rice, and raise my honeybees without the fear of someone driving by yelling a derogatory name at me.

So I try to feel grateful that I have a safe harbor somewhere in the world. But it is a very high price to pay for someone like me, who is as much a child of the woods as she is a lesbian.

As long as there is such hatred and bigotry in small town America, I will always have to live in the city. Hatchets and all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Religious Freedom and Imposition

Like many across the nation I celebrated the Supreme Court's decision upholding marriage equality. In fact, I am still in a state of shock. Much like the morning I found a guitar under the Christmas tree.

But I am also becoming increasingly alarmed and concerned by the attitude of some Americans who believe their religious beliefs should be the law of the land (American Taliban?) and are willing to ignore rulings by the Supreme Court. Even the State of Texas told its clerk they don't have to issue marriage licenses if it goes against their religious beliefs. Do we really want anarchy over two people who love each other being able to be in a legally recognized relationship that HAS NOTHING TO YOU WITH YOU?

Ok, so let's go with the religious freedom argument. Here are some other things that might happen....

1. You are having a heart attack and are rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The ambulance driver, who's religious beliefs are against eating animal flesh, finds out you are a meat eater. He/she refuses to drive you to the hospital because eating meat is against their religion.

2.  You are refused service at a restaurant because the owner's religion believes all men should wear a head covering and no shoes. You are hatless and wearing loafers.

3.  Your children are not allowed to attend school because you are Catholic and the school only allows those of Protestant faith.

4.  Your mechanic won't fix your car because her religious beliefs say that women are head of household and yours is run by a man.

I think you get my drift. Most all of us have religious beliefs of some kind. Some are the same, some are very different. Some we don't agree with. And I mean really don't agree with. And that has to be OK, because we live together here in this land. I don't expect you to follow my religious beliefs (although I wish more would love the Earth and feel the connection I do) and you should not expect me to follow yours. For if you do subscribe to that expectation, then you should expect others to act in the same way - I have the same right to force you to live your life according to my beliefs.

There is an easy answer here. It is called honoring Freedom and Equality, which I believe is guaranteed under our Constitution for ALL people. I have a copy of this document on my piano. You should read it if you haven't. God is not mentioned in this document at all. Intentionally. How about we help each other live in happiness, to enjoy this small amount of time we each have on this old Earth?  If you don't agree with what someone does with their own life and it has no direct impact on you, I would think you would be much happier to mind your own business. If you don't want to marry someone of the same sex, fine. Don't. If you don't want to have an abortion, fine. Don't. If you don't want to own a gun, then fine. Don't. If you don't want to eat yogurt on Wednesdays, then fine. Don't. Although it is especially tasty on Wednesdays.

If an individual behaved this way in a relationship with their spouse, we would call it domestic violence. One person making rules for another, controlling them, shaming them, ridiculing them, punishing them for simply being themselves. Why then as a society do we not stand up a bit more and say "ENOUGH"? If it isn't acceptable in relationships with each other, why is it acceptable in the larger context of society? I say it isn't.

I guess part of this story is that these folks honestly believe theirs is the only way and everyone should follow their way. So what they are doing should be expected. Yet, it doesn't make for good neighbors. What baffles me even more is how anyone can wish for another person to suffer. From what I know about Christianity, I don't think that was the intention Jesus had in mind.

It is apparent that the religious right (I pray it is still only the religious right) feel their religious beliefs should be the law of the land. Some of the most horrendous acts of murder and torture in human history have come from this religious zealousness and it continues across the big pond. How's that working for ya? Wouldn't you rather live in a loving, happy world rather than in your tortured angry hell worrying about what everyone else is doing? I know I would. It must be exhausting being the behavior police.

My Grandmother Aldrich was a devout Christian. She had a very difficult time with accepting my sexual orientation. Yet she flew to Pennsylvania and attended my commitment ceremony. Because she loved me and knew how important it was to me. She did not turn into a turnip or a lesbian, nor burst into flames over the matter. Instead, she filled the heart of her Granddaughter with love.

I think the religious right could learn alot from Grandma.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

What's In It for You?

I recently had an idea to create a connection between organic farmers and beekeepers in Michigan. There are many beekeepers that want to expand the number of hives they manage but have no place to put them, and there are many farms that don't have bees. Turns out a few other folks had the same idea, so we worked together and created the Healthy Foods Healthy Bees Connection. Farmers and beekeepers can go online and register, and then I play matchmaker. How elegant!

I ran into a coworker in the hall at work and he told me that he shared this with his wife. Her response?  "What does she get out of it?".

I recently began roasting green coffee beans at home. I can't believe I didn't know about this sooner. Now, I am a coffee snob. The difference in taste between fresh roasted and store bought is unbelievable. In my office we have a coffee club, basically you bring in coffee or half and half (if you drink it) once a month or so, and that keeps up stocked up in the beverage. I started bringing in fresh roasted beans.

It was a hit.

I love to roast beans, so I offered to roast beans for the office. Folks would donate a certain amount of money every month and I would order and roast the beans, and keep us stocked up in delicious fresh roasted coffee. This worked for a couple months, then due to office politics it ended. One person said to me, "We so appreciated you bringing in that coffee, but really it was over the top don't you think?"

Over the top.

It dawned on me yesterday that hanging out so long with my Tribal friends has changed me in ways I didn't even notice.  You see, in the Tribal world, everything one does is for the family and the Tribe. It is not about the individual. That is one of the reasons Tribal/family identity and bonds are so strong.

I didn't know how to respond to those two folks mentioned earlier. I really didn't. I created the Healthy Food Healthy Bees Connection to help farmers and beekeepers, people in my community, create healthy good food for all of us to eat. I roasted coffee for my office mates to help make our dreary cubicle government offices a little more pleasant, to help lift our moral. They are my work family.

Mainstream America has a good deal to learn from our Native sisters and brothers. This is one example.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ring Ring the Telephone Rings!

Yesterday I had my land line reinstalled. A nice technician from ATT, complete with very large rings in his ear lobes, did the job in record time AND rewired one of my old phones. He gave me a quick lesson in how to upgrade from multi-strand to single-strand wire should I wish to rewire other old phones. In exchange, I gave him a taste of black walnut syrup and a handout on how to tap trees, as he was intrigued by the blue bags hanging from the trees in my front yard. In fact, he didn't introduce himself when he arrived, just asked right off the bat what those blue bags were. It was a nice visit.

After supper, I sat down in my chair and a friend called me on my flip phone. We talked for a few minutes, then the rotary phone rang! Ring ring ring, ring ring ring. "Go answer it!" said my friend. It was so exciting to hear that familiar ring once again. I picked up the receiver and held it to my ear.

"Good evening, Barton's" I said in the best imitation of my Grandma I could muster.

I chatted with another friend for awhile who was calling to inaugurate the phone, then I hung up and began to "type" an email on my iPhone using voice recognition, while Survivor blared from my laptop. Why have Dish TV when I can watch my shows a week later on the computer for free? I know it won't last long, they will figure out a way to charge me. Anyway, I am almost finished with the email when my rotary phone rings again.  I pick up the receiver.

"Hello, hi," I said, a bit confused as I was trying to stop the email I was working on. I looked at the screen on the iPhone and "hello hi" appeared in the email, then whoosh, off it went! Nothing I could do about that.

When I hung up the phone, I looked around me. I had my rotary phone and flip phone on the table next to me, my computer on in front of me, the television playing Jack Ryan, and my iPhone resting on the arm of my chair. Five pieces of technology. And I am trying to downsize. No wonder I can't sleep at night.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Don't Like Technology? Take Prednisone.

Last November I slipped on a patch of ice and broke my wrist. I also tore a few things in my shoulder, which I just found out about thanks to an MRI. I am finishing up a course of Prednisone before likely having to endure surgery.

One of the fine side effects of Prednisone is what I call the Pink Rage. Your cheeks get a rosy hue, your blood pressure increases, and you become the Incredible Hulk. Especially when dealing with technology.

In my Pink Rage today, I had an idea that I would buy some rabbit ears for my TV, as I have put Dish on vacation so as to see just how much I don't miss satellite TV. I only watch about three shows a week, all on network television. So why am I paying this much money for religious channels, infomercials, and reality tv? I figured a pair of rabbit ears would do me just fine to get the local stations.

So I hop down to the local Radio Shack (I hate Radio Shack, it is nothing but cheap junk) and the manager tells me I can get local HD stations with this pair of ears. So I take the thing home and hook it up. Nothing.  I drive back and he says, "You do have an HD TV, correct?"

"NO!" I scream in a Pink Rage. "Just a giant behemuth of a thing that takes ten people to lift."

"Oh, I am sorry," he says. "You need a converter box to make your TV HD."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because they don't have those waves in the air anymore," he said politely.

"Just give me my money back, I'll live with what I have," I say to him and storm out of the store.

Honking at every driver that pisses me off (and getting numerous middle fingers waved at me), I go home and hook the Dish back up. Oh good, a free preview of the Western Channel. Now I can watch Maverick.

Just before I went back to Radio Shack to return the stupid rabbit ears, I tried to call my bank to find out how to put a stop to an automatic payment that is to come out next week. Apparently I had to tell the YMCA to cancel my membership two days ago, and now they will charge me for the next month anyway. That is criminal in my book. After being on hold forever, I try to end the call, but of course have 10 buttons to push on the damn iPhone before I can finally hang up. "That's it," I say out loud. "I am getting rid of this piece of crap and returning to my flip phone. Better yet, I am getting a landline again so I can use my rotary phones. Big handles, big dials, beautiful sound quality, brass ringers. EVERYONE wants to call someone on my rotary phones. God how I hate cell phones.

So I leave Radio Shack for the second time with some sense of optimism that my day might just get brighter, when I am cut off by about five cars merging onto my road. HOOOONNNNNKKKKK "YOU ASSHOLE!!!" I scream, my Pink Raged cheeks now a bright fusia!!! Some cigarette smoking bimbo in a Subaru flips me the bird in her rear view mirrow. I scream at her. What is happening to me?

Next I head to the vet to pick up my dog who had his teeth cleaned today. I told him I was having Pink Rage and it is best we just go home and isolate ourselves from humanity before I kill someone or they kill me. He just looked at me with groggy eyes. Aw.

Ok, so my next mission was to call ATT, the biggest funder of the Tea Party, to get my landline hooked up.  My cell phone carrier is Credo, the biggest funder of liberal causes, so I just cancelled out both sides of the karma equation. Cool.  Lucky for me, they are giving me a special deal, yes my rotary phones will work fine, and I have unlimited calling both local and long distance. No texting however. Duh. So Tuesday it is. I will once again have the beautiful sound of a real life honest to goodness telephone in my home!

Now the plan is to smash this computer with a hammer, as it overheats and is burning my hands as I type. The return button sticks and I have been pounding on it relentlessly. The Pink Rage is driving me to destroy all technology in my home, and I love it. Soon, it will be me, my guitar, my beagle, a beautiful old rotary phone and a short wave radio, comfy cozy. I can't wait.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Bees Came Home to Die

Last fall I visited one of my bee hives and found hundreds of dead bees at the hive's entrance. A few days later there were several hundred more. They had been poisoned yet spent their last bit of their energy flying home where they died a slow and painful death before they could enter the hive. Home. A place so very important to the bees. I can't imagine what their sisters felt when they saw that pile of death blocking their exit from the hive. Sheer horror.

Yes. I do believe all living beings can feel. To believe otherwise is ludicrous.

I called the nearby golf course, sure they had sprayed some noxious chemical. But no. They told me they love the bees and know how in danger they are. I was assured they only spot treated here and there.

I needed to find someone, something to blame for this senseless death. I plan on drawing a circle around my home on a map, this will be as big as the flight distance for my girls. I will then try to figure out who is spraying chemicals that would kill my bees and go talk to them. I will do whatever I can to protect mine and all the other bees in my town.

It is amazing to me how we can disregard the littlest creatures. No one would argue that spraying humans with nerve gas would be a horrible thing. And to sit and watch the effects of that gas on someone's nervous system would cause the most hardened heart to weep. Why then do we think it OK to spray the littlest creatures with the same chemical? Have you ever watched an insect or a mouse or any other being after they have been chemically attacked by a human? They suffer greatly. Yet we still go to the local box store, by the Raid, and spray away.

I just don't understand it. What have we as humans become when we inflict such suffering on the rest of our family on this Earth?

Monday, March 9, 2015

You Came Too Soon

It happened on Sunday. I was carrying a laundry basket down the basement stairs when my right knee gave out. Luckily I was able to regain control of it before falling down the stairs to my third Life Alert moment in the past six months. There was no reason for this to happen, at least none that makes sense to me. Later, I was walking around my backyard and it happened again.

I remember the first time I saw a basketball court. I was in elementary school. Late one afternoon of the neighborhood kids told me about this cool place behind the nearby high school where there was a basket way up high with a net hanging on it. I hopped on my bike and followed him to the spot. As I saw the basket from a distance, I noticed a surreal glow surrounding the court. I slowly got off my bike and walked onto the court. I stood in front of the basket in the center of a painted rectangle that had half a moon at the top. My friend had brought a basketball with him and tossed it to me. I bounced the ball several times and took a shot - I couldn't get the ball anywhere near the height of the basket. But that didn't matter. Next to playing my guitar and hunting morel mushrooms, this was the most magical moment of my young life. I should add here that it took me weeks of trying every day, but I finally got the ball as high as the rim!

When we moved to Michigan, I was lucky to have a backboard above the garage door and a floodlight to boot! I would play basketball by myself every night until Mom and Dad made me come in. I couldn't get enough. All I wanted to do was to play in the Olympics. Mind you, this was 1972. There was no women's basketball team until 1976. But I didn't know that, nor did I care.

I played varsity basketball starting in the 9th grade, but those knees that ached since I was knee high to a grasshopper kept giving me trouble. When I was sixteen I had knee surgery on my right knee. That was the end of my Olympic dreams. I once could jump to within an inch or two of the rim, after that I could barely hit the bottom of the net. I still received an athletic scholarship to college, but I was never going to play in the Olympics.

My knees still served me well. I backpacked all over Michigan, the Rockies and the Smokies. I hiked from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. I worked for years as a biologist, traipsing up talus slopes, wading in swamps, climbing mountains, scrambling in caves, chasing butterflies across a military base and a prairie fen. I don't blame them for saying enough is enough.

But it seems so fast, this advance of age. When I fell not once but twice in November (thank God I can still count without a calculator), I sustained injuries that just seem to take forever to heal. Pain is my constant companion, so much so that I am nearly debilitated most evenings. And it isn't uncommon for a passerby to hear me sniffling as the frustration mounts.

Living alone with chronic pain leaves me feeling vulnerable and helpless sometimes. I have wood to chop, sap to boil, a dog to play with, snow to shovel, a house to clean. And I pay dearly.

I am only fifty six years old (OK I turn fifty seven in May). I may be around another thirty years. I wonder what will become of me if this pain doesn't subside? My arthritis seems to find a new location every few months, so that the only thing that doesn't hurt is one foot, knock on wood. If I start replacing all the joints that need replacing, I'll be in recovery for the next two years.

It is a hard thing to not feel in control. I exercise at least every other day, I eat healthy, I have done many things to reduce my stress levels. But it isn't enough. I can't control what an Elderly friend of mine calls "the surly advance of decrepitude". It just happened so fast.

My shoulder doctor loves to remind me how old I am. "You know, I'll schedule an MRI for your shoulder but I can guarantee that anyone over 40 has some kind of rotator cuff tear." I want to sock him in the eye. My shoulder was fine before I fell. How dare he blame it on my age? I am not 80, or 70, or even 60!

I have lost my Jedi powers. I once used the Force to cope. I could will away the pain, ignore it, run right over it with life. Not anymore.

I am visiting my rheumatologist again in a few weeks, I haven't seen her in years. I am hoping she will have a magic cure to help my quality of life, but until then I will close my eyes and remember all the wonderful memories that were made possible by this beautiful body that has served me so well. I will be grateful for my strong legs that have carried to me to places few have seen, that have stomped a beat while on stage, that have danced in my basement where no one can see me. I will be grateful for strong hands that have played beautiful music, picked mushrooms, woven birch bark, and made delicious pies. I will love them and care for them and settle into what will be. And hope the warmth of spring will heal them.

Friday, March 6, 2015

For the Love of Folk

Kitty Donohoe

I used to play rock and roll a long time ago. Then, one evening when I was in my late 20's, I went to a concert in the basement of an MSU dorm. There, on the dark black stage, hot lights shined down on a beautiful auburn haired woman. The music that was pouring out of her went directly into my heart. I was in love. Not just with her, but with the music. Her name was Kitty Donohoe and her music shifted my musical career forever. I turned into a folkie that night.

I idolized Kitty. I went to all her concerts and soaked up her beautiful lyrics and incredible melodies. When a fellow musician suggested I invite her to play at my coffeehouse series, I kind of stuttered and said, "Do you really think she would play music with ME?"


I swallowed hard.

Kitty did in fact agree, and she came to my tiny brownstone apartment one afternoon to rehearse. I could hardly talk. My idol, sitting there in MY apartment. Like a giddy 13 year old, I asked her to play my favorite song, which she graciously did. Can you say h-e-a-v-e-n?

Eventually I moved away, but once in awhile I would come back to Michigan for a gig and she and I would have breakfast together and talk. Every few months we exchanged letters. The paper kind. We were becoming friends. Don't get me wrong, I still idolized Kitty the artist. But I started to learn about Kitty the woman through our friendship. I respected her even more.

After that tragic day on 9/11, Kitty wrote a beautiful song called There Are No Words, which she performed at the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial in Washington D.C. It was broadcast live on C-SPAN across the globe. She was joined by David Mosher and Pooh Stevenson. These three musicians from Michigan touched the lives of many people that day. Singing folk music. As one of my fans astutely observed, "They cleaned up real nice!" After that broadcast I thought Kitty's career would soar.

I have gone from a starry-eyed 28 year old to a mature 57 year old. I still believe Kitty is one of the best singer/songwriters of our time. But in this era of American Idol and The Voice, folk music isn't the kind of genre where artists rise to national or global fame. Folk music is for the people by the people. It is organic and free range. It tells our stories, connects us. There is nothing about folk music that is directed toward fame and fortune (although we can still dream). We hold true to our hearts and Spirits, and our deep roots in community. And thus, we stay pretty broke.

I look at folk artists like Kitty Donohoe and my other fave Claudia Schmidt - women who are so incredibly talented it is almost sinful, and it makes me think about what defines success. From a financial view point, we as a society don't reward folk singers. We are often expected to play for free, for a meal, or very little cash in most cases. High paying gigs are hard to come by these days. No limousines, no five star hotels. So if we judge ourselves based on financial wealth, well, some might say we have failed.

But there is a much greater success for the folk singer than money. It happens when your music changes a person's life, or touches their heart. It is achieved when you make someone laugh or cry, or feel exuberant joy so big it can hardly be contained. It happens when you inspire someone so deeply you alter the course of their life. How can one put a price on that? So in that regard, Kitty has achieved success that many can only dream of. But the beauty is the dreams she inspire really can come true.

Nearly thirty years after that first concert in the basement of an MSU dorm, Kitty came to hear ME play. She said I sounded great. I don't think she can ever know what that meant to me.

Monday, March 2, 2015

I Just Want a Pair of Levis

It has been several years since I went into a department store. I despise them. I abhor them. One of those trips makes me feels like I am underwater, long strands of polyester seaweed wrapped tightly around my legs, pulling me down. I have always shopped in thrift stores, finding well made clothes dirt cheap. But there are five things I buy new: underwear, nice blue jeans, sheets, towels, and socks.

In past years when I needed a pair of jeans, I would go to Sears. All the jeans were in one location by brand, and then broken down by style. I wear Levi 515 boot cuts. Nothing else. I would go to that pile, find my size, and get the heck out of there. Unless I needed socks and underwear, but that is a story for another time.

One day I made myself go to Sears to get a pair of jeans. When I got to the section that previously had that nice, orderly display of denim, I found racks of shirts. Where did the jeans go? After much searching I found them. Well, some of them. The marketers in their infinite wisdom decided to scatter the jeans all over the women's section to force us shoppers to look at other merchandise as we run from rack to rack, table to table, searching for a pair of dungarees. After 30 minutes of futility, I stormed out of the store, vowing never to return.

This week I have a gig, so I thought what the heck, why not get a new pair of jeans. I asked a young coworker where I might find my trusty Levi 515 boot cuts and she suggested Kohls. So I took an hour of precious leave time and hit the road. When I walked into the mega department store, I was immediately overpowered by brightly colored garments that looked more like a coral reef than springtime. I touched several of these articles of clothing, trying to find something made of natural fibers. Nothing. Finally, off in the distance I saw blue. I pep stepped over to the jeans section. There were racks and tables piled high with denim - blue, washed out, black, stretchy, not stretchy. They were organized by brand and style. Of course the signs were impossible to read IF I could find them, so I was left to pick up a pair from every table to see what brand I was looking at.  Finally, I found them. Levi 515 boot cut.

I had to bend over and contort to find a size label. My trifocals slipped in and out of focus, partly because they were slipping down my nose from the upside down position I found myself in, and partly because that is just what trifocals do. Why do they put the big sizes on the bottom shelf? I mean REALLY! I can't see any darn thing so I reach down and start to pull out jeans to see what size they are. Not one pair matched the size label, and half weren't even the correct style! What happened to the good old days when store clerks went around and made sure everything was folded properly and in the right place? Huh? What happened to those good old days??????!!!!!!!

It was the third reach that sent me through the roof. I have torn something in my shoulder from slipping on the ice back in November (yes it was a Life Alert moment). Reaching down and under and over and into to find a pair of jeans sent me to the moon with pain. That's it, I screamed in my head. I will NEVER come back to this store again. I stormed out and went grocery shopping, where by the way, the bagger jammed the groceries into the paper bags so hard he crushed a plastic container of baby kale. Never going back there, either!

I try to shop locally, but without the small mom and pop stores to visit, I give up. I begin to daydream. I will go online, find a pair of Levi's and order them from a stranger. I will do it without having to make my way through aisles of cheap clothing made of god knows what in a sweat shop god knows where. I will make a nice cup of decaf, put on some jazz, and click "buy now". Just like that. Done.

When I finally arrived home, I almost wiped out from ice built up by my back door, due to a faulty gutter corner. After some tricky maneuvering whilest carrying three sacks of groceries, I entered my humble abode, almost falling on my butt due to a grease covered kitchen floor left behind by a well intentioned guest who made frybread. I balanced carefully and put the sacks on the counter, got out the Dawn and started mopping. Once. Twice. Finally, I stuck to the floor.

Ahh. It is finally over. I kicked off my shoes and settled into my recliner. There, staring at me from below, were two big toes, poking out of a worn pair of black socks.

Oh God.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gray Nation Network

I fell in love with a TV series a few years ago called "Harry's Law", which featured one of my favorite actors, Kathy Bates. The show was cancelled because, although it had high ratings, the demographics weren't the 20 something crowd the network was looking for (or should I say the network's advertisers). Kathy was outraged, as were the show's fans.

Last year I fell in love with a show called "Longmire", a modern day western mystery set in Wyoming. A&E cancelled the show, even though it had very high viewership. Why? The majority of the viewers were Elders. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support for the show from the fans, Netflix bought the show and the fourth season is now in production. Thank you Netflix!!!!

In between episodes of my favorite cancelled shows, I get to watch countless commercials basically telling us GN citizens how ugly our wrinkles are, that we should be able to perform sexually like we were in our 20s, and that our beautiful namesake hair color should be forever banished! I even saw a magazine with an article on anti-aging tips for folks in there 20s!

Our society is increasing its cultural attack on the Gray Nation. In Lansing, every new development is targeted at the young crowd, "We must attract the young people and boost our economy," touts the Mayor. Multi-colored apartment buildings are displacing beautiful historic brick buildings. The Gray Nation is being pushed aside.

I imagine a time fifty years in the future, where a band of lost young people come upon a village of Elders deep in the woods, people they have only heard about in legends.

I have an idea. Why not create the Gray Nation Network (GNN)? Bring back Harry's Law, Longmire, and all the other shows that rate high with the over 50 demographics? All anti-aging ads would be banned. All little blue pill ads would be banned. Smucker's "Look Who's 100 Years Old Today" segments would run every hour on the hour. People would be competing over who has the most beautiful gray hair, or white hair, or salt-and-pepper hair!  Ads for growing old in the healthiest way possible would replace wrinkle cream chatter. A celebration of Elders. After all, we ARE the wisdom keepers. Although you wouldn't think so with so many of us buying into the cultural message that we are ugly and worthless.

If advertisers won't fund it, then how about a Gray Nation Public Television Network? I'd become a member in a second.

What do you say Ted Turner? And by the way, love the hair!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wild at Heart

I remember watching Al Gore's documentary "Inconvenient Truth" and seeing a graph showing the exponential growth of the human population. It really hit home, because I could actually see this growth over my lifetime. It wasn't just a concept, it was reality. I will soon be 57 years old. I looked at that graph and saw the population numbers in the 1960's. My little hometown of Angola was much smaller then. There were still wild places one could go to be part of nature, away from human encroachment. "Up north" in Michigan meant lots of forests and rivers and little filling stations and mom and pop grocery stores. It meant few people and lots of wild.

I am wild at heart. I need those unspoiled places to survive. I don't want humans to take over the Earth. I want to believe there are still places where the Plants and the Animals can roam free with no worries of being tortured or run over or captured or sold. I need to believe there are still silent places where one can look up into the sky and see the stars without an airplane or satellite coming into view, or the sound of a distant train or highway interrupting the calls of the loon. I thought back to the mid 1980s, while lying on a stone beach far out in Prince William Sound Alaska. I believed I was in the wildest place in the world. There were billions of stars blanketing the dark night sky, the Milky Way streaming like a ribbon from one end of the horizon to the other. Then I saw one. Then two. Then three. Satellites. My wild heart was broken.

Our beautiful state of Michigan is being eaten alive by the cancer of development, the mantra of our capitalist society. Every day, every year, we are losing more and more of our wild natural lands to development of all kinds - oil and gas, forestry, paved mini-roads being passed off as trail systems, mining...there are very few places left that are safe. Why is it we cannot find value in letting the wild just be - wild? Why is it we can't value the serenity and beauty found in an unspoiled landscape as much as we seem to value holes in the ground left after gravel mining, or clear cut deserts, or polluted waters gifted to us by industry?

Are we really willing to destroy the beauty of this land for the insatiable greed of capitalism? We all want jobs. But can't we create a society where we live sustainably? Where enough is enough, and let all the other creatures live as they are intended?

My wild heart is hurting today.