Sunday, September 27, 2009


I've spent quite a bit of time in cemeteries recently, so I thought it would be a good contrast to blog about life. In this case, grapevines. Biblically, Christ uses the vine and branches analogy to talk about salvation through Him. I like grapevines because Concord grapes grow native in Massachusetts without being tended. This tree has grapes growing all the way up it's trunk into its branches. I also dislike our local native grapes because they grow too high up in the trees to reach and taste very bitter, and most of the grape is comprised of seed (I, like many others, am spoiled by a history of eating only seedless grapes).
However, I am sure these hearty native plants have good uses. For wine, or jam, or something that involves straining out the seeds and adding lots of sugar. So, I read how to start my own vines (since the current vines are somewhat inaccessible due to their height in the trees). Evidently, all one needs to do is cut out a piece of vine about a the thickness of a pencil and a foot long, and stick it in the ground in the fall. In the spring, it will sprout into its own vine and grow leaves. This method only has a 50% success rate, so you want to try it with twice as many vines as you want to grow. Once you realize that it has successfully started, you leave it for a year or so to establish itself and then transplant the vine to the desired location. So, a year from this spring, I should be able to transplant four little grape vines to somewhere of my choosing. I haven't chosen the spot yet, but I have a year to figure that out, and built my mother an arbor for them to grow on. Definitely a long term, but low maintenance project.
Unfortunately, this whole way of growing new vines doesn't work with Christs analogy, unless you're pluralistic. I however, am not pluralistic, and soundly ascribe to the idea that to live and bear fruit, the branch must be attached to the vine.
As you recall from my blackberry bush writings, as well as this example, it's a good thing that there's a difference between biology and theology.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This is why we document cemeteries!

This lovely Sunday morning I was busy grinding up yet another load of pears to make pear sauce, when a friend of our family, Gail, called the house to talk to Mom. Mom got off the phone and informed me that the cemetery in the Douglas State Forest, one of 24 cemeteries which was covered in the cemetery documentary which I helped with, had been vandalized. Vandalized! This is one of the worst nightmares of all people who protect cemeteries, second only to a cemetery being dug up completely by construction equipment (we've had a few close calls with that in the past). I informed my mother that I had to go see the cemetery and take pictures, and asked if there was a police report. Our friend had already reported it to the police. My mother told me that I could go to the cemetery once some work was done, so I put a bucket worth of pears through the fruit squisher while Mom went to work calling the town Cemetery Committee officials and anyone else whom she found relevant to the event.
When I was done I drove down to the forest and met up with Sue, a resident of the area and fellow open space committee member. From there Sue and I surveyed the damage. Initially it didn't look that bad, stones were still upright and there was no spray paint. However, people had scratched offensive images and stuff onto two of the slate stones, and someone had dug up an area and re-filled it. You can barely make out the depression in the ground, its on the right hand side in front of the stone with the rounded top. All this damage had been done prior to the last few rains, as it was clear that rain had fallen on the fairly fresh dirt. Whoever dug up the area used a shovel. The area had not been dug deep enough to uncover anything, if there even was anything left in the grave to uncover. All I could say to myself was "WHY?"
It was not until I returned home to look at pictures of the cemetery prior to vandalism that I realized some significance of the hole. As you can see in the before picture, there is a square stone in the right hand foreground that reads "Selena" on it, and a smaller stone behind it which is her footstone. It stands in exactly the same area that had been dug up. Selena's headstone has been moved off to the left and back a bit and is now facing the wrong way, but upright. Her footstone is now in front of her headstone and standing upside down (as seen in in the previous picture, to the left of the depression in the ground).
The grave belongs to a girl by the name of Selena Kimball who died in 1822 at the age of 2 months and 20 days, her parents are buried in a different cemetery, likely meaning that the infant died of smallpox victims of smallpox were often buried apart from otherwise healthy dead people because of superstition, and there was a smallpox epidemic in Douglas in the 1820's.
I'm so angry, someone dug up this girl's grave and haphazardly rearranged her stones. But had it not been for older pictures such as this one (there are a few, this one was taken by username Svadilfari on we would not have known where her stones and grave are supposed to stand. This is one of the reasons it is important to document old cemeteries.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day; beginning of the harvest.

Today was a good day for work. My father and I continued work in the upstairs insulating the wall/roof. I continued clear-cutting the blackberry patch since it is full of non-blackberry bushes and old canes that no longer produce, once it is clear cut it will only have fruit bearing branches for next year. This is much easier than pruning other types of plants that don't regrow every year. The New Testament of the Bible speaks of judgment day through a parable about a gardener who cuts off branches that do not bear fruit and throwing them into the fire. Blackberries are pruned Old Testament style: the plants are good, over time, the plants become and full of weeds and less fruitful, rather than picking out the bad parts the gardener clear cuts the whole patch and starts over. Good thing I'm not God. There is no salvation for my blackberry patch.
Today we also harvested peaches. The pear harvest is already underway and I have been selling some at the farmers market, and the trees are still laden with fruit. The peach trees were harvested for the first time today, and it's a good thing we got to them. Some branches were so heavily laden with fruit they broke off. We then took the peaches, boiled, pealed, pitted, and put them in jars into the freezer. While the freezer does consume energy, it also saves. One key to sustainability is eating local foods rather than having food shipped from faraway places on fossil fuel powered trucks from mega-farms. But for those of us in the harsh northern climes eating local fruits and veggies is hard in winter.
Therefore, let us do what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did before us, canning and freezing! Though I may seem like an anti-technologist, I do thank God for the invention of the mason jar.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recycle and Reuse your Electronics

As you can imagine, we affluent few in the United States go through quite a bit of electronics, not only because we have so many (think of how many TV's and computers the average person owns) but also because we get rid of and buy new ones so frequently. We live in an era where everything gets thrown away rather than lasting long enough to hand down to ones children for generations.
To get an idea of the amount of electronics we go through, here is some statistics from the EPA,
1.9 – 2.2 million tons obsolete
1.5 – 1.8 million tons disposed
345,000 – 379,000 tons recycled,
just in the year 2005. As you can imagine, this number has likely increased since then.
Why should we recycle our electronics rather than putting them in landfill?
This information is taken from
Computer monitors with cathode ray tubes (CRTs) contain four to eight pounds of lead on average. The EPA has identified electronic products as the largest single source of lead in municipal solid waste.
Printed circuit boards in computers, music players, and other electronic devices contain toxic metals such as chromium, nickel, and zinc.
Batteries in the computer may contain nickel and cadium.
Relays, switches, and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) may contain mercury.
Plastics used in many computers also contain flame retardants that are toxic and persist in the environment. Studies suggest they accumulate in household dust and in the food chain, and they have been detected in some fish.

To top it all off, I have come to personally realize that some electronics don't even make it to the landfill, but rather these toxins are dumped right in our own community environment. While hiking in the Douglas State forest, there was once a railroad bed for the Grand Trunk. Much work went into the carving of this railroad bed to make it as flat as possible despite the hilly Massachusetts landscape, hence many steep valleys were dug into the hills to enable the train to pass on level ground.
This steep valley dug for the railroad just off my street south of my house has become a dumping ground for all kinds of things that people didn't take to the dump or recycle. Instead, for whatever reason, they dumped their waste in the State Forest.
And there it lies, leaching its toxins into the soil and destroying the view. It makes me so angry.
So, I've decided to fix it, the best I can. I pulled out some computers already, and there are a few more. Conveniently, the 1st Congregational Church is having a recycling drive on the 5th of September. I'm still working on how I'm going to come up with the recycling fee.
I've talked to some people and they said I needed to talk to the Douglas State Forest people, since its their land. I'll have to get on it this week.
I only pray that I will be able to find the means to turn this ugly sin against the environment into resources so that new products can be generated without mining more and more materials out of the ground, then lessening the horrific impacts of America's insatiable demand to new stuff...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Historical Typos...

Even history books have typos...well, I'm assuming it was a mistake.
Today's adventure started while I was in the midst of typing out on my computer a local history book by Lucius Marsh, who wrote the book on a typewriter in the late fifties but never had it copyrighted or printed and so all the copys that exist are just photocopies that are three hole punched and put in binders. Worse, he organized his history by location, as in, he thoroughly covered the individual history of each house in Douglas. The histories are then organized by location along the street they are on, then the streets are organized in the book alphabetically. Needless to say, if you need information about a person's life, you have to know all their street addresses. Actually, just the location, since there weren't street numbers.
Therefore, I have undertaken the great task of typing it out on my computer so that it can later be provided as an electronic resource rather than a fat three ring binder and one can just hit Ctrl+F to search for a persons name, or event, or object, such as "axe-shop", as the axe making industry was very influential in the town of Douglas.
However, today as I was going through the book I noticed that it stated that Paul Dudley, an ancestor of mine, was born in 1776 and died in 1857. Which is rediculous, since Paul Dudley was in the Revolutionary War, and I'm quite sure he didn't fight off the Red-Coats as an infant. Also, we have documents that show his widow was recieving money from the Government from Paul's involvment in the Revolution in 1843. If Paul died in 1857, why was his wife a widow in 1843?
After being utterly frustrated with Lucius Marsh, I checked his source, which was Emerson's History of Douglas, published 1879. I found that Marsh did not make the mistake, Emerson did! Emerson's book shows the Paul Dudley died in 1857 at the age of 80 (hence born in 1776ish considering he died in February and was born in August). This same history book records that Paul's first son David was born in 1788. Emerson either actually thought that a man from the colonial era married and had his first son at the age of 12 or didn't look over his work.
Frustrated with both sources, my mother went online and found his marriage was in 1782 (if we beleive Emerson, that would have been when Paul was 6 years old) and confirmed that he was a Private in the Revolutionary War. But, alas, no record of his birthdate.
So, out to the cemetery we went! My mother and I went a few hundred feet out of the house to the Douglas Center Cemetery, found Paul Dudley's grave, and found that he died in 1837 (notice that's just one digit off the earlier number) at the age of 80. With this new date, it means Paul was born in 1756. Therefore, he fought in the Revolutionary War in his 20's, was married at the age of 26, had his first child at the age of 32. Which sounds a lot better.
Message: always check for typos, always check your sources, and if you want to be sure to be accurate, check your sources for typos. Or better yet, just use common sense to figure out if you've made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, including reputable historians. I would love to be able to inform Emerson and Marsh of their mistakes, except they're dead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Get thee to a nunnery?

There are a great many things I admire about nuns. Their devotion to God, the simplicity of their lives, the self-sufficiency of their convents, lifestyle that always values people above material things, and their constant prayer and service to all those in need. My interest in them was sparked primarily by an old article in Yankee Magazine entitled, "The Hidden Life of Nuns". However, being protestant, that's not much of an option. Though their are a few protestant convents (see the article in time, "Religion: The Protestant Sisters") but in general the protestant church has some issues with the concept of monks and nuns, mainly that most protestant denominations teach that one should be in the world to serve and witness, not apart from it. I think that this is still a possibility for nuns, I guess a group of protestant nuns could be called "nuns who get out a lot". They would still live a self-sufficient and simple lifestyle, devoted to prayer and service, but would make a point to get out into the community to serve it. Perhaps even take in the homeless and needy into their convent (assuming they had the space) and those housed their would help with the upkeep as they were able.
Overall, these theoretical protestant nuns would be sure to have plenty of opportunities to interact with and thence serve the community in the world through their prayer and work. They would teach in the community, help the needy, make and sell goods for the upkeep of the convent or to donate to charity, and care for creation by living a self-sufficient and simple lifestyle. They could even carry rosary beads, only to remind them of things to pray for rather than traditional Catholic prayers such as Hail Mary, and would not have a crucifix but rather a simple cross as the Heidelburg Catechism states that the church should never create images of God (in fact, it also forbids pictures of Christ even for the education of children, which makes most Bible coloring books and felt board kits for Sunday school in violation of the Hiedelburg Catechism, but that's a debate for another day). All the same, what I mean to get at is that the theological differences between Catholicism and Protestantism should not prevent protestants from taking this brilliant concept, the idea of having a life devoted to God rather than a family or other obligations, from Catholics and adapting their own means.
Maybe someday I will start an order of protestant nuns, in my effort to live a life devoted to God and to devote my dreams of running the Dudley farm to the service of God.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Farmers Market

This past Saturday I went to the Douglas Farmers Market in downtown East Douglas by the E.N. Jenckes Store, where the Historical Society is located. I just love the vibe down there, all the farmers, historians, and fellow persons who care about the well being of the environment and our little locality that is the town of Douglas. It's quite wonderful. There are fresh eggs, all kinds of produce (blueberries are in season) and honey. I found the honey especially exciting as I want to have some bee hives someday in the future.
While I was there I mentioned my newest source of income, selling decorative firewood down by the side of the road and collecting the money in a coffee can. So far people have been honest and I have made 35 dollars on this little side project, hence I have had to go out in search of more viable birch trees to prune. The old birch on top the the hill which frequently gets struck my lightning has been my most recent subject. I will leave most of the tree there however, it is a beautiful tree and the whole concept of it being struck by lightning every few years is pretty unique.
In pursuit of a bit more side income, I may bring some of my wares (as well as some of my mothers homemade things, she too has a blog and an Etsy shop) to the Douglas Farmers Market. I have taken up a new craft, I am now making garden hods. I have only made one so far. They are made from scrap wood from our garage and galvanized wire. The one I have made I took the liberty of stenciling the farm emblem on it as this one we will keep to collect produce. Hopefully I will be able to put a few more together in time for Saturday's market. I encourage all for who it is feasible to stop by the Douglas Farmers Market on Saturday, 8 to 1, and support a more sustainable world by supporting local producers.