Tuesday, July 20, 2010

our land

just before landing at salt lake city airport.

then flying north into southeastern washington--a rich agricultural region where my dad's family has their roots.

just the view out the window.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

more handmade shoes

i was looking for handmade shoes again today and came across some beauties.

my favorites right now are these from Aurora Shoes, made in Aurora in upstate New York.

These shoes can last for more than ten years. It seems that over time they evolve to fit your foot. The shoe I like (below) is about $160.

Here and here are pictures of someone's Aurora shoes from Flickr. And below is a picture of shoes someone has been wearing for 14 years. I think the shoe on the right has been polished so it looks darker.

Another company, Green Shoes in the United Kingdom, also has some beautiful handmade shoes.

These shoes are slightly more expensive but look just as good. I just think I'd prefer to support a company that is closer. So few good shoes are actually made in this country!

Finally, Glen Leasure of Healthy Handmade Shoes in Virginia makes customized shoes. You have to visit his workshop and he molds the shoe to your foot. These shoes cost $300 and up. They look great too.

I like these old-style historical shoes:

My favorite thing about this shoemaker is that he can make shoes for people with deformed feet that otherwise would not be able to wear any shoes at all. He literally has changed people's lives this way.

Aren't craftspeople such a treasure?

Friday, July 16, 2010

"living better than ever in an age of less"

I just finished reading this book by John Robbins. It addresses our relationship to money, and gives lessons and advice on how to become more aware of our use of money and how to become more free and wise with it. He gives suggestions on ways to reduce our needs and expenses and live more happily with less.

"Money, it seems, is a little like beer. Most people like it, but more is not necessarily better. A beer might improve your mood, but drinking ten beers not only won't increase your happiness tenfold, it might not increase it at all."

I particularly appreciated a section on household cleaning products. Many of the manufactured products are expensive and filled with toxic ingredients. By switching to using vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and borax, we can eliminate the toxins we are exposed to, save money, and have just as clean a house.

He particularly recommends Dr. Bronner's soap, which is made from organic and fair trade plant products. It can be used for soap, but also as a dish soap when diluted 1 part to three parts water.

Sprinkle baking soda in a sink or counter or stove top as a safe alternative to Ajax. Scrub, then rinse away. It will also clean your drains. Follow with hot water. Even a toilet can be cleaned by emptying the bowl and then sprinkling baking soda. Wait a while, then scrub and flush.

Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener. Mix half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water for one load.

I have heard of using vinegar as a hair conditioner too. Try one part vinegar to 4 parts warm water. Rinse well afterward.

To clean windows use 1 part vinegar (white is fine) to 3 parts water.

Pure vinegar can be sprayed on moldy areas. Wait a few minutes, then scrub and rinse or wipe clean. It should prevent recurrences.

Add half a cup of borax and half a cup of baking soda to a load of laundry (in addition to a regular detergent, I guess) to clean clothes better.

Hydrogen Peroxide is a gentle alternative to bleach. You may need to repeat treatment to get it whiter. (I tried this once and didn't get a perfect white on the first try, but next time I'll repeat.)

I'm excited to try using these products.

As a side note I tried using baking soda as a shampoo on my hair but it was too harsh. My hair started falling out. Perhaps my solution was too concentrated. For now I'm back on regular shampoo.

Monday, July 05, 2010

two movies about water and life

This first movie is actually two movies; Jean de Florette is a father who moves to the country to make his way as a farmer, close to the land. In the sequel, Manon of the Spring, his daughter continues to be affected by the land, their neighbors. Water is central to these beautiful movies set in Provence. The tale is surprising, profound, and ultimately a spiritually uplifting experience.

Just today, we caught the second half of Flow on television. It is a heartbreaking tale of corporations polluting and stealing water away from the poorest people in the world.

Interestingly, Flow has much in common with Jean de Florette. People who only care for large profits will disregard the suffering and death their enterprises can cause to communities.

My parents lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia for 7 years of my childhood. Not long after we left, the struggle between the people and a foreign for-profit water company came to a head. Protests over large increases in water prices eventually led to the corporation being forced out of Cochabamba.

Stories like these don't always end well. In Flow we meet people from communities in India and Africa and even in Michigan whose water has been contaminated or stolen by corporations. Corporations have dammed rivers in order to harvest water that they then sell to citizens at high prices. Not only this, but dams have also displaced many millions of people from their family lands.

However there are tales of many years of struggle ending in an eventual victory for communities.

Watching Flow made me want to make sure that any retirement plan I benefit from does not make money from these unethical corporations. Nestle and Coca-Cola both show utter disregard for the impact of their practices on communities and the environment.

I feel like I am still finding out what it is I am supposed to do. For now I am taking in almost too much information about corporations and the terrible toll they are taking on our planet. I have come to believe they are the Beast, the insatiable appetite for money that doesn't care what it consumes, and leaves behind desolation, pollution, illness, and death.

Our government is giving these entitites immunity to devastate the environment and at the same time giving them massive tax breaks. When it's time to clean up the mess, the cost falls to tax payers.

I am not sure how this beast will eventually fall. Do I need to re-read Revelation and interpret it as a message that somehow this evil power will be toppled in the end? Or perhaps my inspiration should simply be the small but beautiful stories of success around the world. Aquifers replenished, greenery restored, children playing in ponds that had disappeared and now are back again.

I highly recommend both these films. Watering your garden will never feel the same.