40 posts categorized "Religion"


Graffiti Birds



The Year in Food: 2011-2012 Photojournal

This winter has alternated between sudden snows and surprisingly warm, wet conditions.

Digging these Jerusalem artichokes was easy as late as November, though the ground stayed soft through December.

Getting out for some sun and exercise in the winter, and working up an appetite for hearty root vegetables.

Fall greens and mature lettuces thrived as a long, mild autumn did not succumb to any sudden fall frosts.


Welcome visitors to the garden were 'spotted' on these lemongrass transplants brought inside for the winter.

All photos (c) 2012 Gabriel Biber


Resolutions for the end of the world...

You know those stamps with an adjustable date?  Like the ones library's use for a due date...you think that sounds old fashioned?  Stuff like that is usually built to last only so long.  Like all those forms that asked for a year like this: 19___ .  Obsolete now that we are in the dub millenium.  Ok, so now think of 2012.  Was this just as far as the Mayan's felt they needed to think ahead?  Maybe its not the end of the world, just as far ahead as they felt it necessary to account for with their quotidian instruments of temporal measurement. Or as Wikipedia has it, "The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of...beliefs according to which cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012.[1][2][3][4] This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae related to this date have been proposed....Scholars from various disciplines have dismissed the idea of such cataclysmic events occurring in 2012. Professional Mayanist scholars state that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the extant classic Maya accounts, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar "ends" in 2012 misrepresents Maya history and culture."

And yet, we are indeed threatening the existence of the world as we know it.  Regardless of the peril of Dec. 21, 2012, if that's the deadline we need to get ourselves in gear, let's use the energy.  I would suggest following the guidance of Franklin Rooselvelt, when in his inaugural he suggested attacking the economic and natural resource management problems of the day with the same mobilization and unity of national force that typically attends a war party.  In that spirit, here are ten personal and national resolutions to avoid a cataclysmic destruction of our planet at our own hands.  Don't let the hype fool you, destruction is real.

Resolutions for End the End of the World

  1. Eat in moderation.
  2. Drink more, flush less: Conserve water, and drink it instead of soda.  Consider a gray water system to fill your toilet tank.
  3. Walk a mile.  Whether its to the store or in the other guy's shoes, literal and figurative journeys at the speed of a walk allow for a human-scaled understanding of our environment and fellow peeps.
  4. Save your money for when you need it.
  5. Meet your neighbors.  When armageddeon hits, there might not be time for coalition building.  Then again, if we all work together, maybe we can de-stress the planet enough to avoid further catastrophe.
  6. Laugh at the good and the bad, cry for the good and the bad.  Finding a middle ground between attention and despair allows for action without panic or apathy.
  7. Do that thing you've been thinking about all year (or for your whole life).  Get started.
  8. Choose based on principles.  Evaluate habits and ask yourself, why do I do this?
  9. Connect with others.  Let's all model for one another that we can rise above divisiveness, jealousy, fear, and hate.
  10. Love with actions.  Love this life, love this planet.

It's all one.


Keep Your Dough: Local Economy for Shopping

Eating local is an integral part of supporting a local economy, and vice-versa.  Getting Thanksgiving turkey from a local supplier?  Don't stop there.  Before heading to the mall or a chain store for holiday shopping this year, check out the independent stores here in greater Lansing.  Got a favorite?  Let us know below.



Sukkot commemorates the history of the Hebrews.  The sukkah is reminiscent of both temporary harvest abodes and nomadic shelters.


Taking meals, spending the night or otherwise enjoying the sukkah are encouraged activities.




 The covering is proscribed to allow one to see the stars and permit the entrance of rain.



New Potatoes and Bird Spottings

Crispness...it's a word, and it's in the air.  Birds are afflutter with the changing seasons, and even if your potatoes aren't full sized, enjoy a few.

These redskins fresh from the garden are especially delicately flavored when boiled or gently roasted.

Butter, salt and pepper is often plenty of seasoning for these fresh beauties.  As potatoes age, you may want to add a pinch of thyme or sage--but with new potatoes give the real potato flavor a chance.

Seeing birds like this in the garden while harvesting is gratifying; we've both benfited from each other's activites this year.


From Tepuis to Petit Cool-Out

Stained glass Arriving in the Caracas airport was frenetic, but as the day waned so did the frenzy.  We spent the night in the airport near this huge stained glass window to catch a small plane out to the mountains of Merida in the morning (it appeared the airport door was basically propped with a brick for the cleaning crew).

Venezuela has a diverse interior, with urban and rural areas a Michigander would find familiar, but also with shantytowns stacked upon themselves, dense Amazonian rain forest, and a number of other unique eco-systems found nowhere else on earth (including a cave where live some freaky nocturnal birds--not bats--but that's another story.)  References to the traditional inhabitants of the area--like the Yanomami pictured below--appear in contemporary street art.


The stencil shows a young boy with distinctive Yanomami features and piercings.

From the more densely populated north, one can take an extensive bus system to the more densely forested south.  You know you're in the hinterland when there are no more bridges and the bus (along with any other traffic) crams onto a barge to be shuttled across the major tributaries feeding the Orinco and other rivers.  From here and points south, it is not impossible to find a boat to take you into Colombia.  The border is patrolled by Colombian soldiers who mix with local residents and traders along with the occasional traveler or tourist (below).  The following picture shows a full view of the common type of log boat you can see in the corner.


These boats are used to house and haul families and all sorts of commerce up and down the eastern Colombian river systems.  Once you get a little deeper into the jungle, the generally flat, thick forest is punctuated occasionally by a tepui, a huge rock that looks fairly...anomalous.


Those streaks are the remains of rivulets that appeared suddenly during the usual mid-day rain storm.  On some of the tepuis, significant brush survives on the rock thanks to these regular deluges.


Swing north through the Caribbean basin and you're likely to intersect the Lesser Antilles, the small windward isles that include Bequia, a fascinating island with a rich sea-faring, fishing and whaling history.  I found this creative pottery at a ceramics studio on the island worth a look; it playfully nods to the persistent themes of the place.


Further northward is the island of Dominica, where Noel and I helped Jerry build this 'petit cool-out' which served as our digs for our extended stay.

SA400469 .

The view from the petit cool-out, just a few steps from the river.  In the background is Jerry's house.



The stars are aligned and the weather is fine: plant peas.

The purple peas I planted in spring dried out and died off a few weeks ago--these seeds (dried peas) from those scraggly vines are now planted under a snug inch of compost where the onions just came out of the garden.

As July turned into August, there were a few more hot sunny days which were perfect for curing these onions.  When the recent sprinkles kicked in I brought them under cover, and the waxing crescent moon combined with cooler, wetter weather made pea planting a no-brainer.  The rotation of legumes following alliums is a nice genus succession, but these fall crops can go wherever you've got the space.  The row that is now empty where the garlic stood will soon welcome some fall lettuce.  Hard to believe it's that time already!  With the extremes of wet and dry we've been having, watch out for splitting tomatoes; don't stop harvesting!  It seems beets are among the more photogenic of garden veggies, not to mention they grow nearly year-round in almost any soil...



B-Rad's Sun Pickles (Recipe Included)

These refrigerator pickles are an easy weekend or evening project.  Start by filling clean jars with uniformly sized (or sliced) cucumbers, then toss in a few dill tops and garlic cloves.  You can also add peppercorns, chile peppers or other spices according to your taste.


Next, just mix up a bowl or pitcher with the following ingredients (makes enough to cover 4 quarts or 1 gallon of pickling cukes):

        Sunshine Brine

  • 5.5 cups water
  • 2.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Alum (in the spice aisle)

Stir until salt is dissolved.  Pour into jars to cover cucumbers.


Here comes the fun part: set the jars outside in the sun for a few days.


Yep.  This is my first go at it, but B-Rad swears by the method and has had success over the years.

 According to the maestro, check the developing flavor of the pickles as they relax in the sun, and when they taste how you want just stash the jars in your fridge.  Estimated keeping time?  About a month.

I'll keep you posted on how these sun pickles come along.  You can 'pickle' just about anything, not just cucumbers.  Let me know if you've got a favorite pickling procedure.



Coop Scoop for Hot Chicks

My neighbor has a well-deserved reputation for quality construction projects.  So when he said he and his son were "throwing together" a chicken coop a few months ago, I already knew that his thrown together shelter would end up looking better than any I might build, no matter how carefully.  I was right.

The south-facing window on most chicken coops which lets in that precious winter sun also turns the coop into a greenhouse if you're not careful.  Make sure to vent as necessary, but there's no substitute for a patch of ground for the birds to roam.  Pecking out grain and bugs from the ground give the animals a workout while keeping their food supply diverse.  Chickens will eat most anything from the compost bucket (or most anything, period).  A healthy diet will result in healthier chickens, which means better eggs and/or meat according to your tastes.

Another friendly household with chickens I know used some nice found branches for accents like door handles for their coop.  With local laws lenient on fowl, many city-dwellers in Lansing are finding that with a simple shelter and a little consistent care, keeping chickens is a productive delight.

Don't forget that a little shade goes a long way to make animals comfortable on a hot day.  No need for AC in the coop.


Gabriel Biber

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