Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More evidence my religion might be green

Ohmigosh, ohmigolly! Yet another sign my religion might be green. A group of Elders (Mormon missionaries) were featured in a photo for Treehugger.

Once again I am inclined to think this merely demonstrates that we are cheap, not green (and apparently lack a little taste in ties). But of course, I'll take what I can get.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For my next trick, I will transform myself from a misanthrope to an humanitarian!

So whenever I am desperate enough to post on Facebook about my despair of ever having a fulfilling life, my friends inevitably suggest that I get involved in volunteer work. They are correct, of course, in thinking that getting outside of oneself will natural lead to greater happiness. It has been proven to do just that. And I have, in fact, been trying to volunteer my time and effort. Here's what I have tried in the recent past.

Bleagh. Just, bleagh. Who knew parents were so political? Besides, all they want is people to do fundraising. You can't even pay me to do that job. I have done some informal volunteering at the school taking care of neglected trees and clearing weeds. I also volunteered (twice, once in writing and once in a direct conversation with the principal) to install a food garden next to the cafeteria. The project was not approved. The idea was floated at least once more by another individual (as a potential Eagle Scout project) and it was not approved that time either. Ben finds me too embarrassing to have me help out at his school. Helping in Michael's class makes me want to throttle him, an impulse I already spend a great deal of effort suppressing. And I am thinking maybe it would be best if I remained blissfully ignorant of Jillian's actual classroom behavior.

C.E.R.T. Team
I did Community Emergency Response Team training last year, thanks to my siblings being willing to watch my children during class time. The idea of CERT is that, in a large-scale event such as an earthquake or terrorist attack, emergency personnel will be overwhelmed by people needing aid. Trained members of the community can assist them by taking care of more basic functions like preliminary triage and basic first aid, small-scale fire suppression, and light-duty search and rescue. I enjoyed the training, but the mock-disaster event at the end of the course rather freaked me out. Some of the actors were pretty darn good at faking trauma. I would like to do more training eventually, but the training usually occurs at times when my children still need supervision. I am hoping for next year.

Atherton South Neighborhood Association
This is my local neighborhood association (not a homeowners association-we don't narc on the neighbors for leaving their recycling bin out overnight!) My neighborhood is a bit scruffy and most folks just want to be left alone. That's OK by me. My function on the association board is to be the CERT representative. To the best of my knowledge, I and the association president are the only folks in the neighborhood who are CERT trained, although I do have a HAM radio operator in the area as well. The association sponsored a tree planting last month. The five Brimleys all showed up, met our local city councilman, and helped plant a half dozen 8-foot saplings. Yipee!

Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewards
Many people don't realize that Long Beach used to have a sizable wetlands. All that is left of it, after years of both legal and illegal development, is a degraded, scruffy, weedy patch of land pockmarked with antique (but often still operating) oil wells. Despite its unappealing appearance, it still functions as a breeding ground for various species of native birds, fish, and other wildlife. Given what is happening to wetlands worldwide, I support preserving this one as best we can. I help with their mailings and store their tabling supplies (the information that volunteers hand out when they have a booth set up at fairs and farmer's markets) in my food storage closet. I would do tabling as well, but it usually happens on Sunday mornings, when I am teaching Sunday school lessons to 7-year-olds. But that is another category.

Church Calling
I teach a Primary class (that's basically Sunday school, for those non-LDS readers out there) of 6- and 7-year-olds. I am certain I could never be an elementary school teacher. I prefer being in Primary to being just about anywhere else at church. And I think I need to volunteer for nursery duty soon, so I get one more crack at it before my knees give out.

LDS humanitarian efforts
The LDS church has a long history of humanitarian activities. In recent years, they have made a more concerted effort to lend a helping hand to people not of their faith. I have participated in these efforts by making quilts and putting together school supplies and hygiene kits. I have done these things both on my own and as part of organized "service days", like last weekends' tree planting project at El Dorado Park. 350 people showed up to do about 150 people's worth of work. (Uh, yay? Maybe I shoulda gone rogue and headed over to the LA River cleanup instead.) In any case, I always participate in service projects sponsored by my local congregation/s unless I have a children's schedule conflict. More info on LDS humanitarian efforts can be found at, if you are inclined to see what kinds of things are being done in your area or how you can help. At present we are being asked to volunteer with charities in our own communities.

Which brings me to my next point. As the above haven't brought me much satisfaction yet, but well-meaning people (whom I generally consider to be intelligent enough to have some idea what they are talking about) keep telling me I should be doing service to feel better, I am going to try different service opportunities. It is possible I just haven't found the right one yet. The ground rules are that I must be able to do it weekday mornings (with my availability starting in the fall, after the kid's summer vacation), and I must be able to ride a bike to the location. I am determined to both incorporate physical activity into my daily life and reduce my dependence on pollution-generating modes of transportation. I'm an asthmatic trying to stay healthy and strong. So that means locations within about 5 miles from my house are best. These are the candidates I have found so far.

Local Library
This would only work the one weekday that my library branch is open in the morning. But one day is better than nothing.

Meals on Wheels
This would only work if they allowed me to help in the kitchen or in some other back-end function. I am not prepared to be a driver. My father volunteered in that capacity for some time and did an excellent job at it, but his experience is enough for me to judge myself not suited to cheer up the elderly and home-bound.

Arts and Services for the Disabled
Gardening with disabled individuals, various ages. I have very little information about this option, but as gardening is involved, it is on my list.

These ideas came from a search of Have any others?

On Becoming Legal

I'm gonna post a link to another blog today. It is from Feminist Mormon Housewives, but the post has nothing to do with feminism, and everything to do with becoming a citizen of the US legally. I knew it wasn't easy to do, but it's rather more difficult than I realized.

Did you know?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Farewell my Grapefruit Tree

I have spent scores of hours each of the last seven summers trying to prune a 20-year-old pink grapefruit tree into a shade tree. I wanted a shade tree because it is next to the pool, where a shady spot to supervise swimming children is highly desirable. It was a pink grapefruit tree because that was what my parents planted there, many years ago. Unfortunately, our climate is only marginally suited to growing pink grapefruit. The tree produced prolifically, more grapefruits than we could use (and I tried many a recipe to try to raise our consumption). I did give some fruits away, but the tree was infested with so many sucking insects that the skins of the grapefruits were, shall we say, unappealing. The fruit itself was good if you left it on the tree long enough, but more often than not we would pick it too soon and it would be bitter. Sugaring helped, but never completely masked the bitter flavor. My efforts at insect control only got me covered in angry ants, which nurse along the scale and aphids for the "honeydew" they exhude. (The ants eat it. Ew.)

So it was with regret that I began to cut down the tree some weeks ago.

(This is actually our lemon tree, which is alive and well, but I neglected to get a photo of the grapefruit tree before I started taking it down, and I wanted to give a sense of scale.)

Cutting down a mature fruit tree is not a small undertaking. There is a remarkable amount of foliage to be dealt with, and I don't throw away good greenery, even if it is buggy. But I no longer have a chipper, so composting woody material is a slower process than it used to be.  And until a few days ago I was afraid of our electric chainsaw, so I was trying to cut down a 12-foot, branched tree with a handsaw. Yep, that was just as ridiculous a sight as you are now imagining it to have been.

This is the tree after I cut it in half. There had been two major branches/trunks. I hacked away at the left one until it gave way, leaving this funny popsicle shape.
I separated the small, leafy branches from the trunk and placed them in various places around the yard where the chickens have been making messes. It keeps the hens away for a little while, giving the grass a chance to grow. Then I just mow over the piles of dying leaves and twigs whenever I do the lawn, which makes a small, slow compost heap. These tend to get bugs, but then, the chickens tend to enjoy that aspect of the process. I only have so many places around the yard that can handle these piles, though, so it was just as well that the tree take-down was a gradual process. 

I cut the trunk into sections and placed them around the bases of young trees (of species unrelated to citrus.) I haven't noticed old citrus wood getting termites in the wood pile. I have noticed that citrus wood makes noxiously smoky firewoood. I'm not going to throw away good captured carbon, however. I intend to bury it in the garden, chunk by chunk, to become worm food. My clay dirt can always use more organic amendment, even if it takes a decade to get it. For now, the sticks and logs keep the chickens from doing too much digging around some of my younger trees.

And Saturday I finished the project. Well, this phase of it. I finally overcame my fear of the chainsaw, took the main trunk down, and distributed the debris around the yard. Grrlpower, and all that.

Next week I expect to buy a large patio umbrella. Then this summer I will spend my idle poolside moments drilling into the stump and roots, hastening their decomposition. I already have two candidates to replace the old grapefruit, but they're just seedlings and will need a few years to grow up before one of them can fill the spot. By that time, I should have a ratty old patio umbrella I want to be rid of. (Cue "The Circle of Life" playing in the background...)