Friday, January 13, 2017

My War on Plastic

The Biggest Fail!
Bad news for waterways and roadsides.   Michigan was in the news this month when they joined 6 other stars in passing a law banning cities from banning plastic bags and other plastic containers.   Apparently the restaurant lobby in the state pushed the ban through the legislature.  

There are over 200 forward-thinking U.S. cities 
that have banned single use plastic bags.

 Unfortunately, a state bag ban ban will supersede city laws.

That's not going to stop me from doing what I can!

This was our shopping this week, along with another bag of fresh fruit and vegetables.  

The staples, all from bulk bins, will last at least three weeks and probably a month.  We have to drive about an hour away to access a store like this but if we do it monthly and combine other errands (and some fun) with the shopping, it's worth it.  The bags are paper and we save them to fill over and over.
We bought: 2 kinds of oatmeal, a variety of  dried beans, oat bran, lentils, barley and rice. We also bought olive oil and coconut oil in glass jars (in stores near us we can only get them in plastic bottles).  
We carried all our groceries to the car in cloth bags like the red one.  Not one piece of plastic came home with us with this lot!  
We didn't do as well in the produce department.  Most produce was prewrapped or bagged in plastic.  The fails: no loose carrots, cauliflower, or parsnips and the apples and oranges that were loose were double the price of those prepackaged in plastic (even though they looked exactly the same).  The wins: onions, sweet potatoes, and an avocado. Nope, we didn't buy the ones on the left! 

The Writer bought something we needed from Amazon because we live in an area with limited shopping and sometimes Amazon is the only place we can find what we need. 
 The item itself was in the small box with no other wrapping inside.  However, the small box came inside this giant box (which I could have easily sat in) with plastic packing all around it.  The item itself was not fragile and could just as well have been shipped in the small box alone.


The Writer is 6'1" tall. Easily eighteen feet of unnecessary plastic.

I'm claiming this last one as a win.  We checked all the stores near where we live for a new handheld scrub brush that was not plastic.  This was the best we could do.  It's kind of big for my hands and is meant to be used on a long handle.  But hey, it is made of wood and has natural bristles, and the only other one we could find was from Amazon and would have been shipped from England!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

McClellanville, a South Carolina Fishing Village

Welcome to McClellanville, our favorite little coastal town just down the road, population 525.  When you turn off the main highway and head east into town through the moss-draped oaks, past the huge white colonial homes losing their paint, you feel as if you are going back in time.  
McClellanville has no chain stores.  There's a coffee shop, three or four fish markets, and an old restaurant with the bathrooms outside on the porch serving seafood that was swimming in the sea that morning.  You can buy supplies at the gas station out by the highway.  

For sightseers, there is the Deerhead Oak, 67 feet tall, 30.6 feet in circumference, and judged to be a thousand years old.
There are usually people visiting 

at the picnic tables 

and children swinging on the tire swing 

in its shade.


McClellanville became a fishing village when Portugese shrimpers up from Florida settled there.  Today fishing, shrimping, and oystering are still its only industries.  

Shrimp trawlers are docked at the Carolina Seafood Company on Jeremy Creek and two other fish companies that buy and market the seafood caught by McClellanville fishermen.

In 1989 Hurricane Hugo nearly devastated McClellanville.  The huge shrimp boats were scattered about yards and roads in the town and up against century-old oaks.  The strongest part of the hurricane passed directly over the village and residents took refuge in the high school, which was the designated storm shelter.  To their horror, the storm surge surpassed all expectations and threatened to drown those in the school.  In complete darkness, they managed to boost each other into a crawl space above the ceiling of the building as the water rose higher and higher.  Fortunately they were safe there and no lives were lost in in McClellanville during Hurricane Hugo.



The high school auditorium the morning after Hugo where those sheltered had first climbed on tables, then on tables on the stage, then into the crawl space above the ceiling as the waters rose around them.

Huge shrimp boats and other boats were scattered about the yards and roads in town, piled up in heaps of debris.

(Photo from ABC News)

There is a small museum in town with exhibits about the rice plantations that once stood on the land the town now occupies, the fishing industry that is its livelihood, and a bit of good advice about some of its less friendly citizens.

Like this guy.

In case you are ever out in your kayak and see a log with eyes (also known as an alligator), you might need to know exactly what size critter you are looking at.  Did you know (I didn't!) you can tell by estimating the distance from its eyes to its nose (do NOT get out of the boat to do this!) and, calculating 1" per foot, that's how long your gator is.  

Yes, that is a gator skull and those are its REAL teeth.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The 'Jazz Singers' of Quilting

"Like a jazz or blues singer teasing apart a melody,
the artists play off their grids with unexpected riffs
of color and form."

I can't remember when I first learned of the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, but I've been intrigued with their quilts and their story for years. I've envied those who got to see exhibits of their work in some of the largest U.S. museums.  Then, a few weeks ago we read that some of the quilts were going to be in a small gallery an hour or so up the coast from us and I couldn't wait to go!
The quilters are African-American women who still live in Gee's Bend, an isolated island-like curve in the Alabama River, that was a cotton plantation built in 1816. Descendants of the plantation's slaves, many families retain the last name of Pettway, the plantation owner who required all his slaves to take his last name.
From slave times on, the community was, and still is, one of the poorest in America.  


Their quilts were made from the smallest scraps of fabric the women could get their hands on, made purely for a practical purpose -- to keep their families warm.  

Because of their poverty and isolation well into the 20th century, they developed a style like no other, all their own.


One of the early quilts, made of the men's well-worn work clothes, denim shirts and overalls.

Scarcity of material forced the quilters to find beauty and creative expression in unique ways.


"a palette of old shirts, overalls, aprons and dress bottoms whose stains, tears, and faded denim patches provide a tangible record of lives marked by seaons of hard labor in the fields of the rural South."

The Gee's Bend style is considered unique and one of the greatest African-American contributions to the visual arts.  
Each quilt grows from the center out, with surprising colors, unusual patterns, and unexpected rhythms.


The little community was quite shocked when the outside world discovered  their quilts in the late 1960s and began offering money for them, as much as ten whole dollars a quilt!  

When museums began exhibiting the Gee's Bend quilts in 2003, most of the quilters had never seen any part of the world outside of Gee's Bend.  Their presence was requested at the opening of a large exhibit in New York.  They refused; no one would ride in an airplane!  Some did finally did consent to riding a bus and the film about their trip is quite moving as these humble, sweet women have their first look at the world outside of Gee's Bend.  

Corduroy quilt
In 1972 Sears and Roebuck hired some of the women to sew pillow covers from corduroy provided by the company.  They sewed the covers for a few cents ... and then used the scraps for their artistic expression: their quilts.  



Seven hundred people still live a simple life in Gee's Bend.  
The fourth generation of Gee's Bend quilters still create their original designs.  
If you want to buy one, I hear the going price is now $2500.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's Resolutions and Stuff Like That

It feels like these last months of 2016 have left a bitter taste and I for one am ready to leave the old year behind. 
Here's to 2017!

I believe a brand new year merits some appropriate forethought and planning.  I've been pondering for a few days and came up with a couple "resolutions" for 2017.

 Mason is pondering .... not sure what!  

What is a 3-year old with a 

blanket over his head

thinking about?

I have no clue!

The thing most on my mind going into the new year is the damage the new president who will take office in a few days will do to my country, he who has vowed to take away so much I hold dear.  Will my Social Security check disappear or be cut so severely I can't live?  Will my Medicare insurance be taken away or go up so much in cost I can no longer afford health care?  
What will happen to issues I care so deeply about like immigration and a peaceful multicultural society?  protecting public lands from oil drilling, mining, and other greedy and shortsighted purposes that will destroy them?  gutting social programs for the poor, the elderly, the disabled?  civility, kindness, and honesty?  destruction of the environment my grandsons will live in?

I go crazy, lose sleep, thinking about these things I feel helpless to change politically.  
Which does no one any good.

Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That helps bring the overwhelming down to a level I can affect. 

So, my plan for 2017:
New Years Resolution #1:  
Step up my own efforts to leave the natural world a livable and beautiful place 
for my grandsons to inherit.  
 #1a. Personal War on Plastic
This is a raft of plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean. 
 It covers 8.1% of the Pacific Ocean!  Mind boggling, isn't it?  
It's full of toxic chemicals, toxic to sea life now, how long until it is also toxic to human water and food supplies, health, etc?


 And it is here pretty much forever.

But I won't be adding to it ever again.

I will be doubling my efforts to recycle  what plastic we have and to buy as little new plastic as is humanly possible. 

#1b.  Get Environmentally Involved in my New Community.
Participate locally in cleaning up beaches and roadsides.  Search out opportunities to educate others about environmental issues.
 I haven't explored exactly how we will get involved, but we have joined the local branch of the Sierra Club and will attend our first meeting next week.  They seem to have plenty of need for volunteers in various capacities and it will be great to meet likeminded people.

#1c. Write.
Be a voice to badger politicians, stores that force people to consume plastic through packaging, and whoever else needs poking about issues.  Sign petitions.  

New Year's Resolution #2.
Write (the other kind).
Move on beyond my blog and letters and emails to politicians and put some of the stories and poems in my head on paper.  Drag out the young adult novel I started and see if it is worth giving it another go.  Edit my dad's letters from World War II and think about putting them into a book for my family.  Etc.


That's it, plenty to give me a purpose 

and keep me busy for a year.  

How about you?  

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cleaning House

Blog-wise that is.  I thought I better catch up before the new year begins, so this post should wrap things up in my photo files.  

1. The plantation house in my last post was given to the state along with the land that once 
made up the rice plantation. 

The house is empty but maintained by the park service 
and tours are available. 

 Someday they plan to furnish it inside as it once was.

2. On Christmas Day we went to the beach for a picnic and a walk.  We thought there might be no one else there but a surprising number of people were out enjoying the beautiful weather.  And the people watching was superb!  There were children in bathing suits running in and out of the water and there were other people bundled up in parkas and boots!  

Dog walkers, 
a man riding a Segue,
a heavily-laden shrimp trawler low in the water and 
heading home with the catch


Gulls hoping for a handout from our picnic basket

3. The only Christmas snow in South Carolina ...
4. The roses and camellias blooming in front of our house ...
5. Rosie's favorite Christmas present -- boxes with paper!

6. In case you haven't heard this version of the Christmas story ...


 My grandma always said that you should leave no projects unfinished 
going into the new year.  Something about you would be 
behind in your work all the next year if you left a basket of ironing or a crochet project incomplete.  

So there, 2016 on my blog is tidied up and ready for a calendar change!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Quiet Christmas Eve

We spent most of our Christmas outside as the weather was so lovely.  On Christmas Eve we took a picnic to Hampton Plantation State Park.  
After sandwiches and fruit, we went for a hike among the giant oaks that grace the front lawn of the plantation. 

The house sits on a small rise and in front of it stretches the great lawn where the Horrys used to hold horse races between the oaks on Sundays.  A fine view it must have been of the proceedings from seats on the front porch.

The house was built in the 1735, with additions in 1757 and the porch and portico in 1790.
Nearest the plantation is the Washington Oak, which has a story behind it.  In 1791, President George Washington visited the Horry family when the tree was just about to be cut down.  Eliza, mistress of the plantation, complained that the tree blocked the view and thought it should be removed.  Washington said the tree should  be spared, it was, and still stands today.


The Washington Oak is historic but it's not the most beautiful tree left on the front lawn.  Look at these!
An old tree is known as an Angel Oak when its branches become so heavy 
that they begin to grow along the ground.   I sat on this branch for awhile and soaked in the peace and tried to feel the spirit of this old behemoth.  If I closed my eyes and concentrated, I could hear the thunder of the racing horses and smell the hot sand and grass they kicked up so long ago.



A whole ecosystem grows on the branches, including resurrection ferns, moss, lichens, fungi.

I love all the textures in the old bark. 

We finished our hike before sundown and came home to a quiet Christmas Eve dinner, a movie, and some FaceTime on the iPad with my family back in Minnesota.