Also…about water

Living off the grid puts you in closer touch with the basics of life, like water. To rinse out something large, or get any force of water pressure, I have to carry the piece down to the stream, squat by the side of the path and lean over. I’m usually wet by the time I’m done.

Our water comes froma  beautiful little spring, through a pipe and into a moss-lined natural basin. My dilemma was that I did not have a suitable pail to carry water when we arrived. The only pail was a two gallon plastic bucket with no bail or handle. If you’ve ever tried to carrya pitcher or jug or pot of water any distance in your arms you know the result. You are soaked from the shoulders down. I looked everywhere for some rope or heavy yarn or alarge piece of cloth.

And then it was like a revelation. We had two canvas carrier bags for groceries. I put the pail inside one and found it was the easiest possible way to carry the pail back, better than the original wire bail or handle. After years of carrying water in pails to sheep, why hadn’t I thought of it before? Also, if you have a dog and a water bucker, make sure to cover it or place it high so your friend doesn’t use it for a waterbowl. (I found my dog doing this.)

Now I wish for a rain barrel and matching eavestrough…that’sr ain gutters to Americans! Nothing is better than rain water for washing clothes or yourself, especially hair. Right now, I wash clothes just before a rainstorm and hang them on the line to get rinsed naturally! Sometimes they have to come in before dark and be hung beside the stove to dry as I’m cooking supper, but I’m in no hurry these days.

Needing a treadle machine

Off the grid, my free Pfaff isn’t much use. I used to use a treadle machine at the museum, but where does one find a good old foot-powered machine without paying the hefty price for a new one sent over from the States? A lot of the machines have been converted to decorative objects. The last one I saw for sale was $75 and in poor shape, with foot, belt and parts of the cabinet veneer missing!

Perhaps I need to sit down with the computer and do a search on the free classfieds, but doesn’t that seem a bit of a dichotomy…using hi speed internet on a digital computer to look for a people powered machine?

On Art and Artists

I used to be an artist. Galleries showed my work. People sometimes bought it. Some of it was impressionist landscape; moonlit winter scenes sold best. They had a Nordic charm to them, perhaps, a kind of hard-edged mysticism. I did a lot of collage, as well, a woman’s art, with religious and mythic themes. It didn’t sell much, but it was shown a lot.

And then I stopped. I didn’t need to create anymore, and art is a poor, secondhand kind of creation. I’ve read Bishop N.T. Wright on art and music, and it’s not that I disagree, but I no longer find much importance in it. Rarely do the creative arts transcend the ego of the artist.

And that would include me. Too much ego was involved, and in all honesty, I soured on the constant push to produce something that would sell. I didn’t care that Van Gogh sold almost nothing in his lifetime but is reckoned a genius. I agree, he was.  But he died an ill, suicidal, bitter-souled artist. Certainly, I am no Van Gogh in mood or talent.

I think I always disliked the creative compulsion. It is too selfish. I disliked the childish dare-you attitude of the art world, always pushing to shock and intimidate. I disliked the accolades given to both the outrageous and the sentimental.  I was dismayed by the messy personal lives of so many artists, by their arrogance and their introspection that made servants of their families.

Yet I appreciate a lot of art. We live with icons around us. They are constant prayer, a praying without ceasing that connects the subject, the iconographer and the viewer in the divine presence.

I like the visionary paintings by an 18th century Quaker on the theme of the Peaceable Kingdom. It is the landscape of the soul, a yearning for the New Creation, the fulfillment of the incarnation. Naif in style, the animals have almost human expressions; they are as spiritual as any of the great cathedral works of art. There is a depth to the Kingdom paintings unappreciated by a generation or so who think of them as mere Americana, a suitable decoration for a Colonial themed room. Seen with Quaker eyes they are a powerful statement, icons in their own right.

Perhaps some day I will again be able to visit a museum or art gallery with aprpeciation of the artists’ endeavours, but now I feel too much pity and sorrow for the paltriness of human vision without divine inspiration.

A mere whimsical aside…

We are off-grid again. I like that life, Nicholas doesn’t notice the difference, really (except for missing the last Stanley Cup playoffs) and the dog is in heaven. This is really nice off-grid – woodburning cookstove, beautiful natural spring, and a luxurious, well-ventilated, shaded outhouse.

I am not ashamed to say that the little shack out back is much preferable to the “throne room” of most homes. I dislike in-house toilets, I really do. That stuff belongs outside! And the outdoor room doesn’t break down (except from rot eventually) and never requires a plumber, just a shovel, a strong back, and someone to help move the shack.

Weekly maintenance means a quick scrubdown, sweep-out, and a shovelful of leaf mould down the hole to speed up decomposition. Some people, with big families, like to use some lime to keep things breaking down and smelling sweet.

The most important consideration is that the outhouse be downhill of the spring, to avoid contamination. Make sure your neigbours don’t install their thundershack uphill or upwind of your place, either!

Ours is framed of one by twos, with rough boards, which makes it breezy and pleasant in the summer, but for winter, I would suggest shingled, board and batten, or at least tarpaper to keep out the drafts and snow.

The door should latch from the outside as well as the inside, since you don’t want small animals deciding it is a really nice abode or winter storage shed.

As for the required cleanliness paper, standard, unbleached TP will do, or plain newspaper if you are the uber-recycling type. Small rodents love to steal TP as nest lining, so keep it in a covered coffee can.

For handwashing, I keep a basin and hot water on the stove, along with soap and a towel near by. We have had no problems with this system, and the only downside is when you have to get up in the dark hours, find the flashlight, and make yor sleepy way down the path…

Modesty, Christian Girls and Women

Summer is upon us in the Northern hemisphere, and I don’t think I’ve seen so much exposed cleavage outside a LaLeche League meeting. We can’t speak to unbelievers about their behaviour. We have to witness to them first, show them the way of Christ, and then lead them into Godly ways.

But young Christian (and older) women – what are you thinking?  Who would ever know that you have opened your Bible and read the epistles of Paul and Peter? You look and act and talk worldly. What difference is Christ making in your life? What kind of witness is that? Dressing in worldly and salacious ways is the same as lying down with pigs. You will get up covered in mud.

Paying too much attention to your clothes, face and hair means you are concerned about the world’s opinions. Be more concerned with the state of your soul!

Sisters of an age, you should be examples. Instead you are wearing tight jeans and shorts, tops suited for much younger and slimmer women, and cutting off your hair while dying it artificial colours. Are you unhappy with your years of experience and wisdom? Can your daughters look up to you as examples of Christian virtue and humility? Apparently not, because you are all about vanity and self-interest. Christian sisters for millenia have turned to the wisdom of the apostolic church to order their lives, but we now turn away from that tradition and go after the world.