Oct. 15th, 2014 @ 12:43 am Science!

The kiddo and I are currently science experiments. This would be easier if I had access to some simple lab equipment, but I don't, so I'm performing the experiments on us directly.


He got head lice, probably from school. We have each shampooed twice with louse shampoo, which is supposed to kill them and leave a residue that "prevents reinfestation." I used it preventatively right away, but even with little contact with him and washing everything, I found a couple on myself after a week. The people I've talked to say that it doesn't work well, and that the only real solution is meticulous combing and literal nit-picking...every single day...which takes about an hour per person.


I refuse to believe that is the best solution.
The problem is that the shampoo kills most of the adults/young but not the eggs, and isn't safe to use every day. In between treatments they breed more than can be kept up with. So we either need a treatment that kills all the adults and the eggs, or we need something that kills the adults and is safe to use every day. The latter seems more likely so that's what I'm trying to find. My list of possibilities includes: baking soda or vinegar (change in pH,) hydrogen peroxide, herbal flea spray with essential oils, diatomaceous earth, Neem, rubbing alcohol and Witch Hazel (both astringents: tiny things dehydrate easily,) dish soap (used on aphids,) chlorinated water, heat.


My head is currently powdered liberally with diatomaceous earth (and wrapped in a scarf to prevent a giant mess.) If you're not familiar with it, it is the shells of plankton that have silica exoskeletons. They die and collect in drifts in the ocean, where they are mined and ground to powder. It is microscopically razor-sharp and cuts insects to shreds. It is used on pets and in houses to kill fleas, so I know it is safe. I'll know in 2-3 days if it is effective.


Gregory has been rinsing his hair every day in the shower with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution. Today was day 3. The idea here is that most parasites have a very narrow range of conditions that they have evolved to fit. If you change those conditions, adjusting pH, temperature, or humidity, they often die. I don't expect this approach to kill the eggs, which means keeping it up for a bit longer than a full life cycle.


All of the things I want to try are cheap, safe, and readily available. If effective, they would fail to catch on because they can't be marketed and profited from. Still, I'm hoping for some new information that can help others as well as us.

Oct. 2nd, 2014 @ 12:52 am teenage metabolism
G was  weighed and measured today at the doctor's office. Since his last measurement 6 weeks ago (by the same nurse, on the same equipment) he has gained an inch and lost 3 pounds. I swear I feed him! I can't believe how fast he grows, but all of it seems to be up. 
Sep. 29th, 2014 @ 06:06 pm cider pressing and local barter fair
Yesterday I went to the Community Cider Pressing and Barter Event put on by Sustainable North East Seattle (SUSNE.) I love SUSNE's events. Instead of having lectures and documentary screenings and book discussion groups, they put on fun events that kids and adults alike want to go to to learn and put into practice. We go to the cider pressing every year.

Usually we bring home gallons of cider but this year there was no truckload of donated apples. We gleaned 3 grocery bags full of apples from a tree a few blocks away. They said that they never use them and were happy to have them not be wasted. We also picked up and composted all the spoiled ones from the ground, as all good gleaners should. We came home with a quart and a half of sweet-tart cider that tastes like bottled Summer.

I brought bunches of fresh herbs for bartering since I always grow more than I need: Rosemary, Marjoram, Licorice Agastache, Shiso, Chives, two kinds of Sage, Australian Pepper Bush, Coriander, Thai Basil, Lime Basil, Italian Basil. (I wish I had taken a picture of my table.)

I traded for: two large cucumbers and two lemon cucumbers, two yellow Summer squash, two cornbread muffins (which were promptly eaten,) a lovely little hand-made blue-glazed dip bowl, a bag of Concord grapes, two bars of goat-milk soap, three native Columbine plants, a bunch of strawberry plants, and a jar of rhubarb sauce.

Quite the successful bartering, I'd say. We had pancakes with rhubarb sauce for dinner, delicious and so reminiscent of my childhood.
Sep. 29th, 2014 @ 04:37 pm my adorable husband

I came home today to find a napping Jeremy on the bed, shoes still on, my stuffed animal wrapped in his arms.


Feb. 13th, 2014 @ 01:45 pm cuteness

I got a new charm for my cell phone. I've been looking for a while for a tiny Hello Kitty. Most of them are too big for a cell phone. But...she's wearing a mushroom costume! It's perfect for me. *dies of cute overdose *

Feb. 6th, 2014 @ 07:26 am Attack of the Killer Plants!

I rearranged one of my plants yesterday. In the process I got to measure it. (I foolishly forgot to take pictures, unfortunately.) See, I have a Golden Pothose that Gregory refers to as Audrey, I refer to as my house pet, and Jeremy worries is going to wrap her vines around a guest some day and eat them. The vines are strung across the ceiling. The new growth dangles down, then has a sharply upturned hook with a pointy end where the next leaf is tightly furled. I admit, it sort of looks like a hook on the end of a fishing line.


The pot is hung above my fish tank. I have directed some of the vines down into the tank and back out. I also have some vines that are cuttings that are only rooted in the water. (They will grow forever that way, without need of soil.) Excellent biological filtration system!


The normal leaves are about 3" across with vines the diameter of my pinky finger. The ones growing out of the fish tank have 6"-8" leaves and vines nearly an inch across. The ones that come down from the pot go into the tank small and come out gigantic.


While I had all the vines down and untangled I used a measuring tape to get a rough length of the longest one. 37 feet! Holy smokes that's a lot of vine!

Jan. 27th, 2014 @ 11:16 pm Things I wish I could have asked a ranger

1. What were the flocks of tiny birds that made the high-pitched twittering? I would guess Pine Siskins or Golden-Crowned Kinglets, based on the season, their flight patterns, and their gregarious behavior, but I couldn't actually see any of them close up, and I don't know either call.


2. Halfway up the Rapids Loop Trail, on the river's right-hand side, is a tree with a white splatter down one side. What IS that!? It doesn't look like sap, though it's hard to tell when it's frozen. Is it bird poop? If so, then from what? I couldn't see a nest up above there.


3. There are three kinds of moss that I seem to always or usually find growing together. Are they different species, or are they different life stages of the same species? Or maybe male, female, and undifferentiated?


4. What is the dark red stone that breaks with sharp edges? What is the greenish-blue one that breaks the same way? Are they chert? Can you tell me a little about the geology of this place?


5. Do salmon make it up the Staircase rapids? Do fish live above there, and if so, did they climb the rapids or did they get up there at some time in the past when the falls weren't as high?


6. What makes Vanilla Leaf leaves decay like that? Is it biochemical, or is there a symbiotic association with a little insect or some such critter?

Jan. 25th, 2014 @ 10:12 pm The most delightful vacation

I need to write in my journal more often. I enjoy going back and reading about things that I have experienced. If I don't write them down they slip away into memory and squeeze together, like thin sheets of sediment compressed by time into a single massive whole. I remember the really major events, and I remember a general sense of the tone of each time period, but details get blurred or lost.




I'm on vacation. The last time I took a vacation was two years ago, right before things got really bad for Gregory. I've not wanted to leave him since then, afraid that without me to be his rock, a bad day could be disastrous.




My amazing husband gave me a precious gift for Christmas that touched me so much. He asked "When was the last time that you spent time alone in the woods and mountains?" I truly couldn't remember!  His gift to me was a vacation by myself, that he would pay for and make possible, while he stays home and takes care of Gregory and the house and everything. At first I objected, of course, that I couldn't possibly leave. Gregory would have homework and appointments and want to go places and need me...but my eyes lit up when he said it, and I knew how much I wanted and needed this. I hadn't known I needed it until Jeremy said it, which amazes me. He knows me so well and offered me something that it hadn't even occurred to me I could ask for. 




I've been Gregory's support structure for so long and I am exhausted from it. He came back to live with me so messed up, mostly from his dad and his aunt, but a lot of things converged at once and he sort of broke. I've been holding the pieces together and trying to teach him how to put himself back together. I've gone back to my own counselor from time to time because I need to untangle my complex thoughts and feelings about the whole situation, and Jeremy is wonderful about supporting me emotionally day-to-day, but few things recharge me like wandering alone in the woods.




One of many things that I dislike about where I live is that there are no healthy, lonely forests that I can wander in close by. There are parks, sure, but they are rather trampled and always full of people. I can't spend an afternoon in one and expect to see a person or two, if any. I can't take my clothes off and lie on the moss or splash in the water. The tiny details that I love to photograph, flowers and insects and floating leaves, are often smashed into the mud by so many passing feet. Communing with a forest like that gives me a tummy ache and a buzzing in my ears. It is alive, but not well.




So I'm out on the peninsula.  I'm at Lake Cushman Resort, which is cheap in the off season but still open, unlike many places. I decided that a cabin would mean more time hiking in the woods and less time spent on "life support". I like camping, but tents and camp stoves take time. Plus, here I can get wet, tired, and muddy all day, then come back to a hot shower and a soft bed.




I HIGHLY recommend the cabins here. I expected "cabin" to mean what I've rented several times in other places: a solid wood box, a rustic bed with a lumpy mattress, an electric light, maybe a heater, and otherwise empty. For $70/night I have a one-bedroom house, bigger than some I've lived in and quite cozy. There is a bathroom, shower, kitchen, fridge, living room, couch, TV, woodstove, table, chairs, and a comfortable bed. There are lots of windows and double doors opening onto a porch. The "resort" includes camp sites,  several cabins, a boat launch and small marina, and a little store. There is a lovely deck at the lakeside that I will probably eat all my daylight meals on.


Tomorrow I will go up to Staircase, in the Olympic National Park. I love it up there but haven't been in years. Usually I drive further North, but I wanted to minimize drive time for this trip. I forget how close this end of the Park is to Olympia! I'm less than an hour from Oly, and only just over two from Seattle. I may spend part of Tuesday down at the beach in Hoodsport, on my way back out, but mostly I intend to go as far up into the woods as I can. I brought a swimsuit and may jump in the lake, something I couldn't do without the nearby shower and woodstove. I brought a painting I'm working on,  for when I'm too tired to hike any more, and a book to read after it gets dark.


I stopped on the way for a couple of hours to visit a friend in Olympia. It was nice to see her and catch up. I'd have liked to stay and talk longer but I was eager to be out here alone. I know that my vacation sounds boring or torturous to many people: alone in the middle of nowhere, in cold weather, at an empty resort that is mostly shut down, with no skis or boat or atv. To me, it's heaven. I am so glad to be here right now, so glad that I picked the perfect place mostly by whim, so glad that Gregory's bond with Jeremy is strong enough to make this possible, so grateful to Jeremy for this opportunity, so fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest and to have such a wonderful husband.


And now I am going to go to bed so that I can make the most of tomorrow's daylight. I'm even excited that "go to bed" means "brush teeth, get in bed" instead of my usual lengthy process of putting away dinner leftovers, making sure G's stuff is ready for school, cleaning the litter box, tidying dishes, turning out all the lights, and checking my 6 am alarm.

Nov. 16th, 2013 @ 12:37 am rain

It's pouring rain outside, the kind that feels more like standing under a garden hose than a shower. I want to take my clothes off and go outside and stand in the rain. I hate that I live in a condo in a city with no private back yard. I can't remember the last time that I felt the rain on my naked body. Have you ever done that? It feels wonderful to have your bare feet on the Earth and the rain plastering your hair to your back. Even when it's cold, like this, as long as you have a way to warm up after...


Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing in this city. I don't belong here. I can feel the buzz of electricity wrapped around me, I bruise my feet on the concrete, I worry that the food I pick may be contaminated, every scent is tainted with soot and gasoline. I can wander aimlessly in the woods all day and never get lost but I can't find my way through a hospital without stopping for directions five times.


I miss the forests and mountains and rivers, riding horseback over the hill for a picnic. I miss the close, dark womb of a cave. I miss water on my skin. I miss climbing trees. I miss washing the dirt off in a stock tank after getting dirty in the garden.


I am doing my best with what I find here, wildcrafting berries and mushrooms, kicking the fallen leaves so they release their scent, nurturing my tiny garden and the few plants that manage to live between our building and the sidewalk, training my house plants across the ceiling.


Sometimes, though, I still want to escape back to the country so that I can play naked in the rain.

Oct. 19th, 2013 @ 11:36 pm confessions of a neoluddite

Things that terrified me to the point of tears, irrational panic, and refusal to touch them at all the first time I encountered them:


◆ escalators
◆ computers
◆ jello


I have vivid memories of my first encounter with each of these things, from jello in kindergarten to computers in 4th grade.