We got a puppy a week ago, who is now 7 weeks old. Most animals that people keep around a farm are what I would say are a few meals away from being feral. They are unpredictable, and training is based on repetition and/or food. Cats are smart, but they are indifferent... for example, when we brought the puppy home our two adult cats peed on our bed and pooped on our blankets - which they have never done, ever. Obviously smart enough to stage a protest but not willing to suck up to us.
Dogs are unique. They are extremely sensitive to your feelings of approval or displeasure, and your sadness and happiness, and they are willing to accommodate you in response to that. I've had quite a few dogs, and read quite a few dog training books, but most often my relationships with these animals was temporary since I often rescued them and passed them on or we moved and had to give them away.
My first dogs were Bear and Panda, two Collies. Bear was sable and very smart, and his brother Panda was black and white and very dumb. I was only 8 years old so I didn't train them very well but I remember them being fairly calm and affectionate and that I taught them to sit. We moved years later and eventually had to give them away, but I think Collies, despite the long hair which gets everywhere, are probably the most intelligent and gracious breed you can get.
Previous to Bear and Panda we had Keisha from a shelter who seemed so sweet, but a few days after bringing her home she began biting our ankles and herding us viciously. It turns our she was an Australian cattle dog who had such a drive to herd things that it consumed all her thoughts. She also tore apart a fox in our backyard. The lesson here is that you should always choose an appropriate breed for your family, and also remember that dogs will do anything to get out of the shelter. They are smart enough to schmooze you. We had to give her back to the shelter and hopefully she got a good home. If you can't spend time with your dog or can't give it the one on one training it deserves, it is important to give it the opportunity.
Much later I got two separate puppies when I was a teenager on two separate occasions that did not work out. The first was a Lab/Springer Spaniel mix named Annie who was the last of the litter, which I knew wasn't a good idea but I felt bad for her. Springer Spaniels are also not very smart and so she was very hyper and not submissive. She was going to be quite a challenge so I gave her to a lady who trained dogs for a living. The second was a Collie mix named Dante I took from the shelter, and he was very young. He would have been a great dog but he caught Parvo from the shelter and I paid $600 of vet bills then returned him to the shelter so that at least he didn't die. When you adopt a dog the shelter provides documents that the animal is disease-free and since I was a teenager the vet bill took all of my savings and I couldn't afford to keep him since his health was so compromised. I felt glad that at least I probably saved his life.
The best dog I ever had was Kiri, and she was a bit controversial because she was an illegal wolf mix. A friend asked us to take her because they were moving, and a shelter would immediately put her down. She was spayed so I didn't see an ethical problem with it. She was a puppy, although a very big one, and super intelligent. She was also very different from a regular dog in that she had to have a pack with an alpha male and alpha female, and so we had to be careful when John and I were relating to each other (this was before we had kids). She was my dog, or was protective of me and so if John sounded angry, even in play, she would feel defensive of me or concerned. At the same time she was wasn't as submissive to me as she was to John and so punishment had to come from him. She had instincts about people that bordered on psychic ability. We would meet people for the first time and she would make an immediate judgement, either barking or wagging her tail, and it seemed completely random. We soon learned though that the people she barked at were always those that had some issue, people that we simply wouldn't trust. She was easy to train, could sit and stay and lay down and would love playing hide and seek in the forest. In the end we moved and had a baby and she found a lovely home on a farm and lived very happily.
So now we have Nora, our purebred (but paperless) golden Lab. She's sweet, willing and will be a good protective little beast, lol. After all the mistakes I made as a kid with dogs, I now feel as though I understand them pretty well. Dog training doesn't have to be a method, but rather an understanding that dogs have instinctive needs that are somewhat similar to humans: the need for love, affection, a close group, consistency, regular meals, and work to do.
The postcard above is from a collection owned by Dave Thomas.
I've been hearing this a lot lately:
"The fact is..."
"I believe in..."
"This is the truth..."
I hardly ever hear:
"In my humble opinion..."
People use the terms fact and belief and truth interchangeably, but they are all very different. A fact is indisputably the case - something no one can argue against. A belief is an acceptance that something is true or something exists. An opinion is a view or judgement formed about something that is not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Let's use some examples.
"I don't believe in climate change, I think it's just a scare tactic." In this example, the person has decided that scientific evidence, or facts, are not enough for them to accept that something exists. The person thinks that the climate is fine, but what is really going on is that they have formed an opinion based on their own beliefs. Climate change might be used as a scare tactic by political forces, but it doesn't make the scientific facts discussed by the IPCC any less true.
One of the more dangerous things I have heard is this one:
"America shouldn't donate to Haiti because we have too many problems of our own." In this example, someone has formed a judgement based on an opinion, and a very selfish one at that. It is indisputable that America has some problems. More than Haiti? It makes me wonder what is going on the media or in people's minds when someone thinks that an economic recession is justification for not helping a neighbor after a total destruction and breakdown of a society. A twist on this I have heard is that either the government is using Haiti for their own agenda, or that Haiti should be sent the American government so they can deal with it instead. This sounds like people want to punish Haiti because they obviously had an earthquake on purpose? I'm not sure how the logic works on that one.
Belief in God, or belief in no God, belief in a liberal government or belief in a conservative one, those things don't really hurt people. Beliefs are closely held in the minds of humans, and usually the intention is good. Opinions, on the other hand, can hurt. Just to give another example, a Muslim terrorist has an opinion about Islam that is not based on fact, and it hurts people. When people accept their opinions as beliefs or facts, that's when things go wrong. Part of my goals as a human being is to make sure that my mind is open enough to differentiate the difference between my own opinion and a fact, and respect the beliefs of others.
I hope this post wasn't too abrasive. If your opinion is that climate change is hogwash, that's fine with me. If your political beliefs are different than mine, that's fine too. This is because freedom of speech and belief is a human right.
All you need is love. :)
After my raw food/quasi-Paleo adventure week I got a very nice email from a die-hard Paleolithic diet guy, Don Wiss from PaleloFoodMall.com. We had been eating granola and oats because they don't have gluten, but he let me know that's not Paleolithic. He said it was ok to quote him, and I will because it was informative and his meals are interesting.
"Oats are a grain, and definitely not paleo. The traces of wheat come in as all commerical oats are contaminated with a small amount of wheat. This is why celiacs that want to eat oats will only eat oats that have been specially grown and processed. This includes walking the fields and making sure there is no volunteer wheat from the seeds.
Molasses are sugar, and not paleo. Flax seeds are debatable. Personally I don't consider them paleo. I can't imagine my ancestors collecting and eating the little things. And if you don't grind them are they even digested? For Omega 3s I eat fish several times a week. Usually flounder as it is a small fish, inexpensive and there are no bones.
On my PaleoFoodMall.com page I have collected what I can find for paleo snacks. They are heavy on the fruit. For snack bars I eat some of the Larabars. I have made pemmican in the past to use when traveling. I need to make it again. I live near a bunch of Pakistani take out places and I keep a supply of their chicken kabobs on hand to eat as a snack. And of course nuts, with organic walnuts being a favorite. And dried apricots.
Here is my breakfast (which I'm copying and pasting below):
I make a large breakfast and then only eat most of it, with the rest eaten later. It consists of:
1 1/2 Pakistani kabobs
4 eggs (bought from the farmer)
.15 lb of freshly ground organic walnuts (using oval Krups coffee grinder)
1 cup homemade applesauce
6 oz frozen raspberries (Dole or Wymans)
5 oz frozen Wymans wild blueberries
1 plain coconut yogurt:
All in a big pile layered as listed above. (Berries defrosted either partially in the refrigerator overnight, or entirely in the microwave. I use a scale to split the bags of berries up evenly, and knowing the weight allows me to learn the microwave times.)
He also added:
I've been paleo (not raw) for almost 14 years. I do believe fruit should be raw, though my applesauce is of course cooked. And my red meat I barely sear the outside.
Right now Pathmark (in the Metro NYC area) has Australian grass-fed tenderloin beef on sale for $4.88/lb with a club card. Or they did for the sale week ending yesterday. If not this week the sale comes and goes. That is wonderful just barely seared.
I think for all technical purposes the diet we have fallen into our second week around is more Paleo than raw, since we are eating eggs and some meat. But everything other than those things are eaten raw. We feel better than ever and the cravings for sugars and breads and processed foods is starting to subside. We are starting to crave fruit all the time. The next phase of this experiment is to make sure we try to eat seasonally, which is much more difficult when you have lots of kids and you can't rely on potatoes.
I found this really neat pie chart, and I wish I knew the source, but it illustrates the principle behind the whole thing fairly well.
Heh heh heh... pranks!!!
We are nearing the end of our week of raw food. Here is what we discovered:
1. Autumn is not less itchy from her eczema, but maybe in time she will be? Who knows.
2. Annie is a different person!
3. I feel full of ENERGY!
So the other day I mentioned we were going to try only eating a raw food diet to see if it would help our allergies. Admittedly it usually takes at least 2 weeks for something like that to really take effect, but I can already see some of the results. Autumn hasn't really gotten less itchy, but miraculously Annie has changed. If you've read any of the Autism category, you will know that she has some interesting eccentricities. We eliminated dairy because of her, but it was really, really tough to get rid of gluten. No bread? Bread is so GOOD. SO SO GOOD. I miss bread already! But I'm loving the calmer, happier Annie. We actually didn't really expect her to change, we just wanted Autumn's rash to go away. Raw food seemed like the easiest way to do that.
We've been eating grapefruit, bananas, oranges, pears, raisins, almonds, avocado, rice crackers, sun dried tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomoatoes, some granola... and a teeny bit of friendly yoghurt which is the only dairy I let in. I also sprouted lentils and quinoa and made a salad out of it with some organic salad dressing and Annie and I liked it alot. She's fortunately not picky though, lol.
After battling the initial forceful cravings for breads, I felt really good. The only troubles I have had is that I have a super fast metabolism and I get hungry so fast. I end up starving if I don't eat every 2-3 hours. I need some more protein so I might turn this into more of a raw food/Paleolithic diet and add some grilled chicken or something. But so far this is awesome!
John worked super hard and got the rest of the seats out. The Nanaimo School District bus guys came out and took them because our seats are newer than some of the ones that they are currently using. The mechanic for the school district stopped by too and was impressed by how nice the engine sounded and what a good deal we got. Being a bit ignorant about buses it definitely put our fears to rest that maybe we could have done better.
After I posted about our adventures with eczema, many things happened.
My weird sense of humour thinks that if I ended this post like that, it would be hilarious.
Anyway, I put cold chamomile compresses on Autumn's itchy spots and had her take oatmeal baths and the rash itself cleared up and healed. But an area next to where the rash had been became infected because she had scratched it so much. Last night John took her for a quick visit to the ER because the infection suddenly got way worse - clear fluid suddenly just started oozing from different areas and she couldn't sleep and it was nasty. So she's gotten some antibiotics and hopefully that fixes the whole thing. Just a side note... they were only in the hospital for an hour total and waited about 2 minutes - in Canada! lol
BUT, what caused all this in the first place? The doctor agreed with me in that she probably has eczema triggered by an allergic reaction to the topical anesthetic they put on her arms in the summer, and they put that stuff on her allergic list. So now her body is super sensitive to EVERYTHING. We already do not eat dairy, food coloring or preservatives of any kind, and we tend to eat about 50-75% organic, which is what we can afford. We use no chemical cleaners, and all of our soap is fragrance free and usually very natural, if not homemade.
So what's left? I've narrowed it down to a few things:
Detergent (even though it is a very natural German one, it still has fragrance in it and stuff)
My next goal is to eliminate those four things. The biggest one to change is the wheat. So we're doing an experiment and we switched to basically an almost completely raw food diet. It's almost because we are still eating some bran cereal, granola and some soy milk, and some rice crackers. The only thing I added to our diet was some yoghurt - Autumn needs it since she's on antibiotics. I have a whole bunch of organic quinoa that I started sprouting instead of cooking, and I am experimenting with sprouting lentils too. I don't even try to make those fancy raw-food recipes that sell so many cookbooks. We just bought tons of fruit and vegetables and we just eat it. For example yesterday:
Breakfast: Granola and rice milk
Lunch: oranges, raisins, almonds, cherry tomatoes, rice crackers, guacamole
Dinner: Salad with sun dried tomatoes, and watermelon
Bedtime snack: Strawberry, mango smoothies
We got a Magic Bullet a while ago and we get juice in bulk that is mango carrot or something... it has two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables. Then we get big bags of frozen fruit and blend it with the juice and it's soooo yummy! I will report back after our bodies have adjusted and we'll see how it goes.
I don't need to say it. You know what to do. Haiti is the worst disaster in recorded history. We are donating many clothes and supplies through a warehouse charity that is shipping a container there and also plan to text 'haiti' to 90999 to make our $10 donation. Do it!
"Anyone else here feel like they're never fully rested, like there's dead space in your brain? I have lost most of my emotions and the connections between the physical world and my mental state. I have a girlfriend, good friends, a decent job, and my own place. What's wrong with me?"
This is a common symptom of a 21st Century Syndrome. The link contains some cussing so I'll paraphrase for my more sensitive readers:
"You could be suffering from early 21st century syndrome. Don't bother googling it, I just made it up. But the symptoms you describe are typical of the new malaise.
You should be happy. You have fulfilled the requirements of a media driven life. You have your own place. You have a 'decent' job. You have a woman. And yet, underneath it all there is this dissatisfaction. You can't quite place it but it is there nonetheless, gnawing at your brain.
You flick randomly through internet pages for hours after dark. The TV chatters in the background. Every world developement is known to you a few minutes after it happens. You are the master of an external world that appears and presents itself through text and pics and vids.
You go about the business of living as it has been described to you and you can check all the boxes for relative success. And yet it doesn't feel like success. Not the way it does in the movies or on TV. No orchestral music chimes in when you do something good, no ominous montage depicts things negatively when your performance is not up to par. Life itself is removed from you because consciousness itself does not match up to the way 'we' are used to receiving information; that of third person observer through a cam. The P.O.V. first person view is somehow limiting, it limits us to this space and time which is not in keeping with how consciousness can effortlessly cross time when 'connected' to the internet.
Life today in a modern industrial society has an air of rigidness about it. Everywhere you go, you run up against barriers and rules. Speed limits, parking restrictions, decorum, social rules (unwritten but bearing on the mind), myriad exacting laws. All of them supposedly designed for the collective benefit of everyone. But no individual feels like everyone, each individual feels like you. So you end up being oppressed by the collective rules designed to protect you. This is called the "system".
There is nothing "wrong" with you brother.
You are merely suffering from the collective malaise of having all that we are supposed to want. Supposedly, human existence today is the best it has ever been. The 'facts' bear this out. Life expectancy today for the average person is higher than it's ever been, right?
And yet you long for the hunt. The risk. The hunter gatherer life, buried deep somewhere in your hypothalamus, longs for that time when your own ingenuity resulted in food for your group. When you could exploit your human genius for real and direct gain...feeding yourself and your tribe. Going to the office/cubicle today gains you money to obtain these things. But it does not offer the thrill of the hunt. The risk. The adrenaline rush of the successful raid on the enemy camp, the high of the perfect kill.
Homo sapiens sapiens is not a very old species in relative terms. But it is a cunning one and the greatest force this planet has ever seen. But, the amount of time we successfully gathered as hunters (2 million years) is far longer and evolutionary significant in comparison to the existence of human civilisation (8 thousand years). Yet, all cogent information tells you you are better off today than anyone in human history.
And yet, on a quiet walk outside the city, you stare at the moon through leafy glade and can almost touch the truth of a different life. A life you were designed for but no longer is.
There is nothing wrong with you brother, that is not wrong with all of us...."
All of this from a great writer simply known as TyPower. I can't really add to it. I thought it would be good to make a tribute since this is post #401.
So next week we will be paying the import fees and we also ordered the recall parts from Blue Bird. These parts have to be replaced and then Blue Bird will give us a letter that we can take to the import inspection place saying that all the recall work has been done on it. There is also a sudden battery problem. This never happened before, but when we leave it for a day the battery dies so with the help of John's dad we disconnected the battery to see if it will hold the charge. If so, there must be a draw somewhere that we'll have to figure out. The gauges on the bus still don't work so Rob at Kirkman Bus Sales in Vancouver was nice enough to send us the wiring diagram for it. Awesome!
We also had Cameron from Seabird Welding to talk to us about removing bus windows and putting in RV windows. This meant that we had to quickly do a final floor plan which I will have to post later. We opted for a slightly unconventional floor plan. Most buses and RV's have the entryway into a living room area which goes through the kitchen to a master bedroom. It is very rare to have another bunk room for lots of kids... and we have to have three bunks plus kid storage. So what we have done is designed the entry to go through the kitchen/dining area and then into a family room. I'll post that later, possibly after my dad has a look at it. He is an architectural designer who will do some elevations for us (http://faustiniart.com).
Putting RV windows in makes the bus look a little more legitimate, and also gives us double-paned glass which is super important in Canada. John is continuing to take out the heating ducts and the seats and so progress is slow at this juncture, but in the next month there should be some huge changes to it all.
So lately we've been dealing with some mild health issues. Autumn appears to have eczema... actually we've all gotten itchy lately. I should say itchier because we all have sensitive skin and so it's just an increase in the itchiness. We already don't use anything with fragrance and our laundry detergent is this eco-friendly stuff from Germany. The detergent isn't completely free of irritants, but we've always used it so I don't know if that's the culprit. Nothing else has really changed except that we got a couple of cats, which could be it. Autumn is really suffering however. When she had food poisoning or the virus that she had (she was the only one so we don't know) and got so dehydrated that she needed an IV, they put a topical anesthetic in the crevasse of her elbow so they could put the needle in. This was covered by a sticky tape so it didn't spread anywhere else. Unfortunately they left it on for too long - and even though I was with her the whole time I was unaware of it because I don't know anything about that stuff. The nurse came in hours and hours later and realized it and pulled it off with some concerned commentary like, "Oh this shouldn't still be on here!"
Anyway it was fine for a while... her skin was just irritated there. But over time it has gotten worse and worse because it just stays itchy forever and she keep scratching it. This week it was particularly bad... and she has these two silver dollar-sized dry, itchy scabby circles. The left arm isn't so bad, but the right is tremendously difficult to keep under control. My first instinct was to dry the thing out and cover it so that the scabs could heal and maybe she wouldn't be so itchy. I put a bit of tea tree oil on it and wrapped it up. It improved a bit but as it dried out she scratched it way more and it became much worse. So then I did some more research.
Evidently eczema is a pretty common childhood thing that often shows up in these dry itchy spots in the elbow and knee crevasses. It can go other places too, and I realized that Rainn has dry itchy spots in her knees too. They are very mild but she already knows how to scratch them and I have to keep them covered up. At the same time Autumn has been scratching around her neck too, and John and I have itchy arms. For Autumn it probably didn't help that she had that stuff on her arms but it seems that we've all become even more sensitive to something, which I'll have to figure out. We will be getting rid of all of our synthetic fabrics, our detergent, and I think the cats will have to go back to their owner. I kept Autumn away from them for a few days and it seemed to help.
So after all the research I put a honey on it for a day to clean it up again, and now I keep it moist. If it becomes dry it becomes itchy and she scratches and it will get infected. I keep clean, moist cotton cloths on it wrapped with one of those fabric splints that use butterfly clips, which came with my first aid kit. It has really improved and she feels much better. The other remedy I may try is to put 1/4 cup of bleach in a lukewarm bath twice a week, and let her sit in it for 10 minutes. This is supposed to help chronic eczema because it kills whatever bacteria on the skin that is causing the problem. It is bleach though so I'll wait and see.
The other issue we deal with all the time is John's headaches, which seem to happen almost daily. It is frustrating because there is no known cause or cure for headaches, and pain relievers no longer work for him. A friend of mine recommended craniosacral therapy, and I don't know that I believe all the so called science behind it, but at the same time I can't discount the effect because I use it to help my family, in my own way. I've always given good massages because it seems like I can intuitively listen with my hands to find the source of the pain. For John's headaches I can do the same thing on his head, following the edges of the plates of his skull and applying pressure in the right places which relieves his pain and his headache goes away. Probably more research should be done on the healing power of touch, because it is the one thing that works for him.
I found this old-style web journal of a family with a bus who moves to Belize and then Honduras. I thought it was fascinating! Probably too much adventure even for me, but I loved reading about it.
The picture above is from Time in the Kitchen on their trip to Strawbery Banke Museum, a historical seaside village from my favorite period of history. This is a set of pewter that a family proudly displayed, even though they are used for every day. Many times during that era not everyone in the family had their own plate, so a display of shining dishes for each child would have been quite an accomplishment. It looks like a lot but people had many children and also needed serving platters. The average family during that time had 7 children (that's the average, remember), and they would capitalize on that as much as possible. While some families had children take turns doing the dishes, since everyone generally only had one plate and one fork, sometimes each child would do their own. Once they were excused from the table, each child simply stood on a stool and washed their plate in the washbasin, dried it and put it away. Makes sense, doesn't it?
This week I am going through a lot of our stuff so I am going to cut down on my dishes because I need to not rely on my dishwasher. I am going to segregate one plate, bowl, cup and a set of cutlery for each person, and each person has to wash their own after the meal. We just have so much stuff.... and it just causes clutter in my house and it clutters up my time.
Of course the other puzzle is laundry. We actually have less laundry than most people because we have less clothes... each person has about two laundry baskets of clothing. But that's 10 loads of laundry! And each person needs to wear all of that every week?! In the 19th century they had strategies to have less clothes and laundry. Each person had maybe 2 everday outfits and a Sunday best. At the same time, they wore a lot of extra layers. Those outfits rarely touched the skin, and most of the time were covered in an apron. This meant that the only thing really getting dirty were the pantaloons and chemises and long johns, and the frilly aprons. I've been working on my goal to get all the girls in dresses full time, which is getting there, slowly, lol. I am going to have just a few dresses and lots and lots of underthings and pinafores for them. I also want to do the same for myself.
I love this outfit from Clockwork Couture, although would I wear a corset on the outside of my clothes? Would I wear this all the time? lol
I found a great carnival today, and I don't really participate very often in these kinds of things, but I thought this one was a good idea.
Dear Tooth Fairy
I want to apologize to you for promoting an image of you that may not be entirely accurate and/or positive. You see, when I continuously forget to put money under my child's pillow when they lose a tooth, I can't let them think that's my failing. I'm also not really very dedicated to this whole mythical character propaganda either. That is why I told my children that you are an overweight, slightly balding older man who gets his kicks by wearing a pink tutu and collecting baby teeth. I told them you are lazy and sometimes it takes a few days to get the money, and sometimes they write nasty letters to you demanding payment, which is entirely unfair.
I understand you have been around a long time, and you are part of my Anglo-Saxon culture. So I'm sorry I've pretty much killed any opportunity for you collection of baby teeth from my descendants. You have to admit though, it's a pretty weird habit.
I found some great things today on my little breaks in the midst of cleaning up the house. The first was this guy who who wanted to see eastern Europe, but there's no gas available out there. So he built a car that runs on wood:
Then I found this article in The New York Times based on the recommendation of a friend who saw it in the Globe and Mail. This family lives in a yurt in Alaska with no toilet and no running water and only wood heat, and no car. They have walked thousands of miles just because they think it is the right thing to do.
Last of all, a documentary is coming out in April following four babies from around the world through their first year of life:
Removing heater vents and charging the battery.
I thought I would answer a few questions since I haven't been writing much and haven't been philosophical lately. Why are we making our bus a steampunk bus? Why is it called the Albatross?
The first answer is: because we can.
Steampunk is a look back at the future. It's the answer to the question... what would happen if modern technology were put in the hands of Victorians? As the author of a book on how to do things by hand and from scratch, it may seem like a bit of a contradiction. I see it differently - I believe in appropriate technology... technology that is appropriate and doesn't take away from the human experience.
Anyway, steampunk is cool because it's another level of scavenging, which is the highest form of recycling. I just read this article about a woman who lives almost for free by scavenging everything she needs. Our bus represents a huge recycling project - we took a retired ski bus and an RV that has bad tires and simply can't go very far, we'll combine them together with thrift store finds and handmade things to create something amazing.
Why is it called the Albatross? Besides being cumbersome and huge, seeing an albatross following a ship is considered good luck. The real reason, however, is that we were trying to find someone famous to name it after. The Edison? The Tesla? We decided to pay homage to someone not so famous, someone who failed but paved the way for someone else. We decided to name it after Le Bris' Artificial Albatross.