Sunday, September 23, 2007

Eating for Change

Nearly twenty years ago Wendell Berry wrote, "Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used." I agree with this wholeheartedly. In fact, it's precisely what I meant a few months ago when I dramatically announced to Chris that "food is perhaps THE most important issue of our time," although I hadn't yet read Mr. Berry's essay. Given my adoration of Wendell Berry, it should come as no surprise that he was quietly and articulately giving voice to my thoughts ten years before I even knew I'd once have them.

I've cared about how the world is used for almost as long as I can remember. It's why my favorite book as a child was Be Nice to Spiders and why my dad spent our pre-curbside pickup years shuttling me and a bunch of overflowing brown bags to the recycling center. It's why I started walking to work and why I stopped eating meat. It's also why -- after devouring a little yellow tome called Plenty and learning that each ingredient of our meals travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table -- I abandoned organic and eagerly embraced local, and why I've been frequenting the farmers market ever since.

Oh, and it helps to explain why yesterday I woke up even before Chris, like a kid on Christmas morning, and shortly thereafter dragged him an hour south to to attend the Shetler Family Dairy's Open Barn. "You get to meet the cows!" I gushed excitedly.

And we did meet the cows who have been supplying our milk all summer, but more importantly, we got to see how the Shetler family treats its cows and to determine whether we're comfortable with that. We saw where and how the cows are milked, took a hayride through the cow pastures, and toured the bottling room. We were able to walk freely through the barn, meeting and feeding and petting the cows, one of whom liked me so much she licked me. And I tell you what, if I were a cow I'd want to live with the Shetlers.

I like knowing this; I like being connected to my food. I suspect that if most Americans had to actually witness their food being produced rather than dropping a pretty package into a shiny grocery cart, the world would be used much differently.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mission Accomplished

When we woke up Monday morning, the little brown mouse was cowering in the corner of our store-bought no-kill mousetrap. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince Chris that we should keep him, I released him (the mouse, not Chris) into the wild. I'm sure he's now frolicking happily with all his mousey friends.

Either that or he's since been eaten by a snake, but that's not on me.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Morning Punditry

Last night I dreamt that Hillary Clinton had plastic surgery and ended up looking like Heather Locklear.

Question: would that make her more or LESS electable?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Building a Better Mousetrap

There's a mouse in our house.

As Chris has already mentioned, the mouse was a gift from one of our cats. HIS cat, to be more precise. On Wednesday night we were sitting on the couch happily enjoying an episode of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Chris heard a hairball-type noise and got up to let Sam (the cat formerly known as "The Assman") in from the deck. I glanced at Sam as he came in and thought to myself, "hmm. . .what's that on his face?" Then Sam lowered his head to the floor and the something on his face became a little brown mouse on our living room floor.

"Oh, ewww, aaaaack, oooooohhh, MOUSE!" I shrieked as I moved from a sitting to a standing position on the couch. And then two things happened: A) the little brown mouse scurried across the living room to take refuge under a bookcase, and B) I realized how dopey it was to be shrieking and waving my hands around from the top of the couch in the face of something as mighty and fearsome as a little brown mouse.

So I hopped down and said something to the effect of, "Here, little mousey," and then Chris and I spent the next forty minutes or so trying to capture the poor little guy (could be a girl. . .I really don't know). It didn't work. For one thing, Chris is afraid of mice. I noticed him flinching every time the mouse poked his little head out from under the bookcase and I promptly relieved him of his mouse-catching bucket. "What? I just don't like mice," Chris responded. "Think of him like a hamster," I said, "he's really cute." I'm pretty sure Chris shuddered.

Anyway, Chris kept trying to scare the mouse out of his hiding place and I kept trying to reason with him (the mouse, not Chris). "I just want to help you, little mousey," I explained. But neither of us was successful. Every time the mouse ran out from under something I became more focused on not squishing him than on actually catching him, and eventually the mouse ran into a hole under our kitchen cabinets. "He'll have to come out eventually and one of the cats will get him," Chris said, relieved. "No!" I exclaimed. After all, if I wanted one of the cats to get him I wouldn't have just spent forty minutes chasing his cute little mouse ass around the house.

My mom told me recently that my dad had discovered two dead mice in a fabric-covered wastebasket in his study. They reckoned the mice had scrambled up the outside and fallen in, and then were unable to scramble back up the slick plastic inside. I figured this could work to our advantage, so I emptied our bathroom wastebasket, wrapped the outside in a towel, and placed it near the hole. Then I sprinkled a trail of cheese from the hole up the towel and into the wastebasket. Then I went to bed, worrying about the poor little mouse stuck under our cabinets. "He must be so scared," I said to Chris.

In the morning, there was no mouse in my trap and the trail of cheese appeared undisturbed. (Probably because I used shredded taco-flavored cheese -- it is a well-known fact that mice abhor monosodium glutamate.) So I dismantled my mousetrap and hoped that the little mouse had somehow found his way outside. Yesterday passed without incident, and today was fairly uneventful until I sat down to write this post, at which point I saw the mouse run across the living room.

Now, a mousetrap is obviously entirely out of the question. I don't even like killing wasps; I'm certainly not going to kill a cute little brown mouse who is probably more upset about being in my house than I am about having him here. No, we have to SAVE this little mouse.

So when I saw the mouse run across the living room this afternoon, I barricaded off the rest of the house and sequestered the cats. Then I overturned the couch and the cushy chair, leaving only the TV to hide behind (see, if we didn't have that TV, this mouse would be gone by now. yet another good reason not to own a television). Finally, I reached behind the TV and tried to catch the little mouse in a plastic cup. But he kept scurrying out of reach. I sighed and kneeled down near the little mouse. "Come on, buddy," I crooned as I gazed into his little beady eyes, "come on out of there."

But my little buddy did NOT come on out of there. Instead he wedged himself somewhere so far out of sight that, well, I can't even see him anymore. I know he's still back there, though. For one thing, I made it nearly impossible for him to get out of that corner without my help. Also, a few hours ago I put a bit of cheese (smoked Gouda this time) behind the TV, and the cheese has since disappeared.

So now what? I considered ordering this no-kill mousetrap, but it's Friday and even with expedited shipping we wouldn't have it until next week. I will most certainly run out of Gouda before then. Fortunately, my Google search for a live mousetrap turned up this:

So I've emptied the bathroom wastebasket (again) and rigged one up behind the TV.

Chris says if I actually get the mouse outside I get a BIG surprise.

I hope it's a cute surprise. I hope it's a pet mouse.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My First Day of Not Having a First Day of School

I didn't go back to school today.

For, like, the first time ever. I went from high school to college to grad school to teaching, so for pretty much as long as I can remember the day after Labor Day has been The First Day of School, a day of both nervous anticipation and new beginnings. But today was just any old day, with nothing in particular to anticipate and nary a fresh start to be made.

And despite the fact that I made a conscious decision not to teach this year, I'm feeling out of sorts. Sure, I'm looking forward to a year without papers to grade or bratty students to reprimand, but I already miss the not-so-bratty kids and I haven't quite grown used to my new identity as someone other than a teacher.

So because I can't let go -- and because I never got around to it back in June -- please enjoy Exhibits D through K from last year's classroom portrait gallery.

Exhibit D:

What I don't like: Dude, I NEVER wear heels. Plus that apostrophe is totally unnecessary. And, um, I know I was concerned about the lack of teeth in exhibit C but these teeth are just weird. Oh, OH, and poor Luna!

What I do like: The GMOs! We were totally studying GMOs at the time, and this kid knows enough to know they're bad news.

Exhibit E:

What I don't like: Oh gosh, where to begin? Let's see. . .A) meat is NOT good, B) why is my face a different color than my body?, C) did I just decapitate my cat?!, D) belly shirts are SO 1994.

What I do like: Um? I see the word "organic." That's nice.

Exhibit F:

What I don't like: Whoa. Crazy hair! I look scary.

What I do like: Nice pink dress, plus this is the portrait of a chick who doesn't fuck around. I mean, you'd sit down if she said to, right?

Exhibit G:

What I don't like: Hellooooo, arms?

What I do like: "shhhhhhhh" sounds a lot more like something I would say than, "sit down you fooooolls!" Also red is a good color for me.

Exhibit H:

What I don't like: Um, hellooooo, ARMS? Also why am I twice the size of Mr. Michigan?

(sidebar: Early in the year I got so tired of trying to distinguish between the inseparable and nearly identical Blair and Ashby that I just started calling both of them Blashby. It worked.)

What I do like? Awwww, first portrait to include my totally awesome boyfriend! And I think he's making a kissy face. :-)

Exhibit I:

What I don't like: Dude, that ring is WAY too big for my nonexistent finger. Plus it is important for young ladies to understand that there's more to life than snagging a husband and scoring a nice rock. Seriously, is feminism dead?

What I do like: If I WERE getting hitched, the Outer Banks (or OBX in local parlance) would sure be a nice place to do so.

Exhibit J:

What I don't like: Am I wearing Timberlands with a DRESS? An ORANGE dress? And what is UP with my eyes?

What I do like: I'm rich! Look at all those dubs ($20 bills) I got!

Exhibit K:

What I don't like: At the end of a year-long Geography course, you'd think my students could read a map well enough to determine that Michigan does, in fact, have beaches.

What I do like: Is that a beer in my hand? Oooh, and I have a much nicer rack here than in real life.