I guess these top 10 of 2014 are going to come out in dribs and drabs. A few weeks ago I was invited to photograph the clean-up and eventual remodel of the oldest house in Torrey. I dropped by during the first phase, which was spraying the place down for Hanta virus. I probably did more inside than I should have before that work was done since I didn’t have a mask. But the debris and junk that was in the way of the disinfection would be removed, and then I would miss it, so I grabbed the opportunity. More on this project in the weeks ahead.
Some days I feel like I’m still coming out of a fog from last summer. I didn’t realize how hard that time was, the pressure I put myself under to keep the trees alive, then the family illnesses and loss of my father. My photographic output was the lowest in ten years; I was sure I didn’t have enough material to do a credible top 10 post.
I haven’t finished sorting and I might not have 10 worthy images, but as I was exploring my Lightroom catalog, I realized I hadn’t uploaded any shots from my big freelance gig of the year, for the Salt Lake Tribune when the Utah Symphony came to Wayne County as part of their Mighty 5 tour. Another dope slap, another measure of recognition of how much I dropped over the summer. Anyway, I had a good time shooting competitively–the place was swarming with media. But Trent had said to just shoot it like I would shoot Highway 89 and once I started doing that, I started seeing the story I wanted to tell about my community experiencing this mighty cultural event.
Blue hour, now that’s something I know what to do with. And cute kids in overalls. The part I could not photograph was the confusion at intermission. I reckon a good fraction of the audience had never been to a symphony performance before. The maestro was very serious and didn’t interact much with the audience in the first part of the program. It was pitch black by then, and no one could read their programs. Not to mention it had started to rain. When the musicians stopped playing and exited the stage, people were asking me, “is it over?” How would you know if you hadn’t been before? I was glad to see the conductor relaxing a bit in the second part, using the microphone and building a bridge across the divide. But then I had to leave, the photos were due before the performers even started the encores. Blue hour was long over anyway.
The paper must have thought they were ok, they paid me. And they used one on the front page of the digital edition until some tragedy or other bumped it off, and they put another on the front page of an interior section of the printed edition. I didn’t see what any of the competition published afterwards, but I can guarantee, because I was shooting alone at the time: no one else saw the kid in the overalls standing at attention for the national anthem at the top of the playground tower. That’s my kind of thing.
Epic Storm Update
- At least 12" of snow here.
- The swales captured a bunch of windblown snow.
- We got the bunkhouse up to 79 degrees with the new woodstove, just trying to keep the fire hot enough to burn cleanly. Seriously, I had to open a window one night. I am anticipating a happy dance when the power bill arrives.
- The goats yelled and complained but ate and ate to regulate body temperature. R set up a plywood sheet to shield them some more from the wind and declared the shed warm enough that he’d sleep there, if they didn’t smell like goat.
- The chooks have declined since Thursday to come out of the coop. They are just hanging out on their roost. No eggs. Going to move them into the hoophouse soon. They probably still won’t lay until after the solstice. Freeloaders.
- The hoophouse stood up fine under the snow. R used a push broom to encourage some to slide off each morning, solar gain did the rest. There is a 3′ pile on the north side that has essentially sealed the roll up door better than all my shovel work. Yesterday, with full sun, we had a 42°F differential (74 inside/32 outside) yesterday. In the worst of the storm, we were still getting 10 degrees at noon under cloud cover.
- I carried Slate out to the hoophouse when I couldn’t stand his cabin fever whinging antics any longer. He got into the redneck root cellar and spent some happy hours in his lair. Now he begs to go out there–I don’t need to worry about mice in the feed if he’s on the job.
Wholesome mindfood clickables for your consideration.
Several friends have sent me links to this Mother Jones article, “Why your supermarket only sells 5 kinds of apples,” about one man’s efforts to preserve heritage apples in Maine. John Bunker is a legendary fruit exploer, someone who hunts down old and abandoned apple trees and propagates them for future generations. Because apples don’t come true from seed, they must be cloned from existing trees. When a variety falls out of fashion for whatever reason, we risk losing that unique genetic material forever. Bunker, who founded Fedco Trees (one of our favorite nurseries), has spent decades trying to save our culinary heritage.
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I remember learning about the six simple machines that convert force into useful work when I was in elementary school; I would have loved the GoldieBlox toys back then. Today I love their video, and their homage to another Rube Goldberg video by Ok Go. And forget the hater comment that the video only teaches girls to make a mess. If only my nieces hadn’t grown up already, I know what they’d be getting for Christmas.
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Alternative power, both at the homestead and neighborhood-to-town level, is as critical to local economic resiliency as food production. It may even be a solution to closing the environmental loops to convert waste to utility. Cooperatively owned biodiesel plants, for example, could run in most counties off of local waste streams, which makes far more sense than trying to build huge petro-refineries. If for whatever reason, one plant goes down, the disruption to the national supply is minimal. There’s plenty of white space for action at the local and individual level for fuel independence.
But as I study the numbers in a run-up to another reading week this winter, the economics of electric generation make no sense today in our local economy. Our rural electric cooperative sells residential electricity at only 5.9 cents a kilowatt/hour and buying it back through net metering at only 2.6 cents/kWh! We must have the cheapest electricity in the U.S., which yo’d think would be a boon for economic development. But there’s no guarantee that the coop can sustain that rate, and there may be other reasons, like our dependence on the Bonanza Power Plant, a coal-fired operation in eastern Utah, or the frailty of the national electric grid in a natural disaster, to gear up. After looking at NPR’s Interactive Electrical Grid Map, the system looks pretty brittle to me. With our woodstove, we can manage an extended power outage, but I’d rather have the computers, lights and frig running too.
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In the category of “why haven’t I heard this story before?” is the Women’s Land Army, a World War II program to recruit middle-class town and city women to replace labor lost by the millions of men leaving the fields to serve in the armed forces. The Victory Garden is small potatoes compared to the real story of thousands of women leaving their homes to grow food for their country.
“We’re working for Victory, too; growing food for ourselves and our countrymen. While other women work at machines and in factories—we’re soldiers in overalls.”
The 1993 story from Prologue, http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/winter/landarmy.html the magazine of the National Archives, describes how voluntary women’s organizations led to a federal program to get women on tractors and in the fields as part of an all-out war mobilization effort.
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Oatmeal, toast, eggs? You can partly blame me for Kellogg’s plummeting sales of breakfast cereal, since I have stopped buying marshmallow-laced oatish kibbles for humans. I’m really slacking off on my part as an American consumer of convenience foods. Apparently, I’m no the only one. Campbell’s red and white cans of flavored salt in water aren’t flying off the grocery shelves like they used to either, according to this Bloomberg report.
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If this storm is headed your way, be safe out there. Hopefully you aren’t shopping with the hoards for last minute Thanksgiving supplies. Have you read anything lately that has changed the way you grocery shop? Are you saving for a solar panel? Do you remember anything at all from sixth grade science class? Do share!