Category Archives: ecology

You Never Know What You’ll Find

green up loot…on Green Up Day, when Vermonters comb the Land for garbage and citizens with trucks (not uncommon in Vermont) haul it off to the dump. Literally tons of garbage statewide.

I found the usual assortment of party implements plus mystery stuff. Like Spider Man underwear (size: extra extra small; they make underwear this little?) and a shoe so badly destroyed you had to wonder what happened to it (threshing machine? Two bears fought over it?) Also a sign thgreen up shoeat said WATCH IT GROW (watch what grow, the cubic volume of garbage? A Bud Light tree?) The kindly lady I worked with had somehow hauled a mattress into her truck, after days of rain. New Englanders are tough, man.

As I passed other Green Uppers later in my car, I gave them the same double-honk and thumbs-up out the window we’d gotten earlier.  Good work, keepers of the Land!

See the refuse of Green Up Days 2013 and 2012.


wheelhouse pngWith steaming temps and standing pools of fetid water and everything dripping always, the New Bayou that is Vermont has done a number on our hair. Forced to pull mine back in a frizzy bun, I look like “Mother” in Pyscho.  Not sure what the Tunbridge World’s Fair theme is for 2013, but it could be The Year of the Insect…featuring slugs, skeeters, silverfish, giant ants, leggy fliers, and those mini-snails that destroy irises.  Spiders are building webs double-time. Even the moths seem diabolical—lurking doorside, waiting for a shot to jet in and eat your best fabric.  It’s like some TV movie from the 70s. Slug Slime SaboteurRevenge Of The Various Classes Of Insects.  Don’t Go In The Basement.

When I’m not obsessively checking my phone for storm updates or competing in catch-and-release firefly programs, I’m lying around lifeless, thinking deep thots to share with Dear Reader.  Thus was born Aggravation Theory.

Sure, nature occasionally goes nuts. Only, weather-wise, it does it all the time now.  I don’t believe nature is retaliating for petroleum use; it’s just aggravated. Aggravation Theory, a correlate of String Theory, says this: all matter is energetically connected and reactive to other matter. In this paradigm, violent weather is basically collateral damage; that is, when humans are constantly stressed—panicking about hiring freezes and elastic IRAs and tech menaces and global contagion and will we lose the house and can I work 24 hours a day to get the kids through college and and and and—we are vibrating at strung out, inharmonious rates. Through no fault of our own, really; anxiety is a logical place to go when overwhelmed by burdens and fears. In Aggravation Theory, anxiety makes for bad weather. Bad weather makes humans…even worse.

It reminds me of when in New York it was hot for so long that cockroaches crawled up to my 6th floor apartment. I asked the exterminator why, since I’d never seen one in five years. He replied, “It’s their nervous systems. They’re aggravated. Doesn’t hot weather make you aggravated, Sweetheart?” Modern tymes are hard tymes. They rattle our nervous systems.  As do strangers using the denigrating “Sweetheart” versus the loving one, but I digress. We’re aggravated, and I think our unchecked anxiety is making the whole planet aggravated (which, to be clear, is not proper use of the word; to “aggravate” means “to make worse.”  Really, we’re all irritated. Or exasperated. Or probably losing it.)

Seeing people on Facebook scaling mountains, giving their antique roadsters a spin, and laughing broadly on power yachts isn’t helping any.  I say get the heck out of there. Avert your eyes. Hide the people with the full and easy lives. I don’t know how to, but I’m gonna learn.

Meanwhile, grab onto what little you have control over. Court sanity. When my house is a mess, I wig. Quit walking around piles! Take 10 minutes a week to relocate crap. Chuck it! Also, as adults, we have control over what we eat. If eating a greazy burger and a bucket of macaroni salad makes me happy, that’s exactly what I’m having.

Also worth considering: Luck Theory, which states that people are at birth assigned different kinds of luck. I have bar stool luck. Denise has parking luck. Ochre has baby luck. Jose has first tennis serve luck plus checkout aisle luck. Other lucks reported: celebrity sighting luck, husband luck, sea shell finding luck, hand-me-down luck (clothing), lucky timing (general), dental scheduling luck, and spider avoidance luck. What’s yours? Use it.

I have bad travel weather luck, but I do have a built-in Nutter Locator I make good use of. If I’m lost and need directions, my Nutter Locator leads me to the craziest loon in town. I don’t get the best directions that way, but I do get the best experience. So try, much as you can, to live right in your wheelhouse. Good parking luck? Drive people places. Bad travel weather luck? Stay home.  It makes other things go smoothly when you are unaggravated. And, right now, the entire planet could use your good mood. I know I could.

Your monthly good news is a laundry invention: Shout Advanced, a reported action gel…formulated for set-in stains. You’ll weep when the load is done, “It’s a miracle, Betty. It’s a miracle.”

Good luck in the swamp, Sweethearts. Remain calm. Stay right in your wheelhouse. Catch fireflies. Spread action gel over your entire life. Good day.

“Gardening Makes People Happy.”

Eagle Street Garden – Photo by Jackie Snow.

In rural America, we hear little about urban farming.

“Gardening makes people happy,” says this urban farmer in Chicago. “I do not believe we are in a bad spot with community. People know how to be together.”   (Good news!)

This garden in Brooklyn is up in the air. Its High Priestess, the Manager of the Edible Academy at the New York Botanical Garden, talks fast in a New York way I miss.

This crunchy Cali textile artist makes lovely yarns from local plant dyes and animal wools. Looking at colors makes people feel good. It’s why we knit in a troubled world.

Every day, do something sensory that makes you feel good, even if it’s just watching upbeat clips like these. Keep it clean, people.

I Love Old Shit

Just the right height, baby.And by sh** I mean “things.” I like the color of them, their materials, engineering and, occasionally, smell.

This gem I got at the FREE table at the dump.  I call it my Gentlewoman’s Plunger—small and delicate enough for Lady.

With a clogged sink of late, I’d have paid yard sale top dollar—if only to buy a usable item headed for landfill that’s not yet been in a toilet. I hope.

Here’s some more old sh** I like:

How to serve crudites, a la 1957.

Flip side of trivet. From Taiwan, by way of…Mt. Vernon!

L’il avacado beauty.

Nothing spoils nature’s splendour

gu sullies

Hover over photos for secret commentary.

… like garbage. gu dew

Green Up Day in Vermont is a day when the people of the Land take to the roadsides, woods, and riversides to pick up all the crap left behind — or thrown from cars —  by careless losers. (No photo available.)

People of all ages out with their special green bags (and latex gloves) stumble upon points of interest as a reward. Today I saw I giant marshmallow, a tricked out tree, and a [Northern?] Magnolia. I learned that beef from grass-fed cows contains the recommended ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s (3:1), and that cows fed hay cut from the flood zone after Hurricane Irene had guts blackened by snails in the grass. Sooper ick.

  gu bag

If You Hate Keurig Cup Waste

Every day is Earth Day with Ekobrew.

…and I know you do, here’s a swell little gadget by Ekobrew just in time for Green Up Day. You fill it with your own coffee (at a mighty savings) and throw nothing into landfill. Ahhh.

Tips: I got mine on eBay. Use a medium to coarse grind. The basket empties much easier if you let it dry out. It’s hard to get the full aroma with decaf, so I switched to flavoured coffees. There are videos on YouTube on its use; this guy fairly compares the rivals. I refuse to buy Keurig’s version of the device because, welllll, they certainly took their time in making it, now didn’t they?

Find out what your Vermont town is doing for Green Up Day here. Catch you by the river.

This Is Your Brain on Liquid Manure

All my artists crapped out on me so this will have to do.  Ann Aikens 2012, Sharpie® and pencil on reused printer paper taken from the office.

Vermont has many seasons, including Ski Season, Mud Season, and Black Fly Season. Spring is Fertilizer Season, which means the varnishing of the Land with  liquid manure. While natural, this vile potion comprises not only manure, but plenty of ripe urine (there’s your eye-burning factor right there.) The strongest-smelling means of application is  the low-cost  “Spray ‘er good, Jeremiah.” They try to do it just before it rains, but they don’t always catch it right so it roasts in the hot sun for an indescribable finishing note of putrefaction.

Some use  swine manure—if you’ve never caught a whiff of that, don’t. And we have very few CAFOs in Vermont, thank God. If this doesn’t make you buy local, nothing will.

Have neighbors making your life hell? Get your own manure spreader. You’ll bring them to their knees, lit. and fig. But you didn’t hear it here.

More Garbage


So let’s forget about how every recipient of this mailing has definitely won something (a 2012 wallet calendar? A pickup truck?) Point is:  I’ve never been to this place,  I live nowhere near it, and that means a whole mess of people received by mail the glued-on, totally useless, piece-of-garbage key that will go straight to landfill.  Shame on you, Capitol City, for your eco-costly gimmick! The Footprint Warriors are on your tail.

Waste: The Final Frontier


We had a foreign exchange student in high school who, for unknown reasons, exclaimed occasionally, “Baby garbage!”   He found this hilarious.  Something was clearly lost in translation, possibly involving what is known as the diminutive. The idea of a little baby garbage, or female or beloved garbage, must have been comical from his culture’s perspective.


In May, we in Vermont practice Green Up Day, when volunteers pick up garbage, baby and otherwise, from roadside, riverside, and public spaces.  I’d never done Green Up Day, so this Earth Day I got myself assigned to a remote stretch of dirt road.  Sometimes you can have an excellent time alone. I did, filling two bags with all manner of Vermonty refuse—shell casings, beer and wine bottles, 175 cig butts, condom, saw blade—presumably tossed from cars by the Party People. But I came across lovelier man-made items as well: a fairy house, Royal Larocque’s farm, a stack of rocks.  There are people who stack rocks, some sort of Skull and Bones-y secret order, I imagine. Perhaps you know their work. The Rock People.

Garbage has troubled me since the Mobro 4000 (a.k.a the Gar-barge) cruised around aimlessly and unwanted for seven months in 1987 with 3,000 tons of trash and no port from Brooklyn to Belize willing to take it.  It was darkly comic to readers of the tabloids, but it probably wasn’t funny at all to the poor slobs piloting the thing, who no doubt needed gas masks by week two. The Gar-barge People also happened to be Mob People. No surprise there.

Years later, I became similarly dismayed at a resort in Jamaica. No one seemed to know where the thousands of plastic cups the bartenders chucked daily were going. And this was just one of a dozen such resorts. The waste was ruining my good time. Why couldn’t they use real glasses? Why’d I have to beg bartenders to re-use my plastic cup? Not that I ever had a second drink.


When questioned by my nieces about worldly horrors, I am often at a loss for words. They once asked me why I got angry when they ran out of sight in a park. I stammered, “There are beings… who… steal… children!” making it sound like some crazy troll in a fairytale out to get them. The author of Garbology, interviewed on the radio recently, revealed terrible facts about garbage that I could never explain to my nieces. The information was too disturbing for a family newspaper. Let’s just say we have a major problem on our hands, particularly in the oceans.

So I’m at the dump, where we recycle for free. I ask the attendant exactly what kind of machine can separate paper, plastic, and metal. He said, “It doesn’t. This goes into a trash compactor.” Oh. We don’t have that magic zero-sort machine other towns have?  I ask him who wants our compacted garbage. China.” China?! What are they doing with it?! He answers by tugging on his shirt and letting it snap back while tilting his chin in the air.  “We’re wearin’ it.”

I’m not really opposed to wearing garbage, but what else are they doing it with it? What do they need it for, what with many garbage-producing citizens of their own? I’m sure Garbology holds the answers. I’ll read it to my newborn nephew. He’s the only one who can handle the truth. Because he won’t understand it. He’ll just squawk and coo.

When confronted with distressing realities we can do little about, we look to scientists. In the future, whole planets may


be used as garbage dumps. Surely scientists can come up with something better. Look at all the solutions they’ve already delivered! Problem is, in a fame-obsessed culture fanned by reality TV, the Young People don’t want to become scientists any more. I propose a reality show where the YP compete for a fat cash prize (and, yes, celebrity) to solve Earth’s problems. Friend Harry suggests “Footprint Warriors.

Do it up, Young People. We oldsters made a mess. It’s yours to fix. Maybe your hot young musicians can start  by singing songs about garbage. Then, as some oldsters would argue, and have for generations, they already do. Good luck…and good day.

No Fracking Way

We’re cracking down on fracking. When our bill converts to law, Vermont will be the first state to can hydraulic fracturing entirely. Let the other states proceed with that earth-quaking  idiocy; we’re out. And kudos to Gov. Shumlin for tryna not tax the Cloud to promote biz in VT. He was shot down.  This time.

Vermont’s been first in major issues, including the first state to outlaw slavery and the first (of only four) to ban billboards—and let’s not forget the first ski tow.  The first American private military college, Norwich University, was also the first to admit women and “minorities.” As for lasts, until 1996, ours was the only state without a Wal-Mart, and Montpelier (the smallest U.S. capital, btw) remains the only capital without a McDonald’s.

As my Dad used to say when we drove across the border in the Oldsmobile…

“Yea, ‘mont!”

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