January 30, 2008

My Latest and Greatest Etsy Purchase!

I came home today to find I had finally received my patchwork scarf from Etsy seller Handpicked. I say "finally" not because it took a long time, but because I was so excited to get it that it seemed to take a long time. I was not disappointed... I love it! There's not much else I can say about it. Pictures speak louder so...

Thanks Handpicked!

The "Free Range" Myth

So, I mentioned a couple days ago that I had started buying free range chicken and eggs to cook with. I was feeling good about it, thinking (like most people do) that I was buying meat and eggs from happy, healthy chickens who, while they still had to die for me to eat, at least lived natural lives. Last night I was tranquing out on YouTube and somehow a search that started with drop spindle spinning demonstrations led to some videos of factory farmed chickens. I did not subject myself to these - I've seen the beak clipping, the disposal of male chicks, the over-fat chickens, etc. So, to make myself feel a little better, I searched for "Free Range" chickens, and I was surprised and saddened by what I found.

It turns out that chicken whose meat and eggs come from "Free Range" or "No Cage" farms are basically treated exactly the same as factory farmed chickens. The public is being mislead (by the big companies and our own consciences) to believe the myth that I outlined above, that these animals live in a chicken heaven and die quick, relatively painless deaths. For someone like me, who is considering vegetarianism but doesn't know if they can kick the meat habit, "Free Range" is marketed as the humane alternative. And as much as I want to believe that, it looks like it's just not the case.

I'm not going to post any gruesome pictures here. I don't think there is any point in broadcasting that kind of negativity. If you want to learn more about it though, here's a blog for an animal sanctuary called
Peaceful Prairie, which provides care for rescued farmed animals. It is pretty informative. They don't beat you over the head with pictures just for shock value, but they don't sugar coat the situation either. Also, they have a lot of great links to resources for those who want to become vegetarian or vegan.

I guess the only way to know you're consuming well-treated animals is if you see the farm they're coming from personally. Ten years ago I spent a summer living in
Bamfield, BC, (one of my favorite places on Earth), a tiny town with a population of 200 and one 4-way stop. I stayed with my friend's aunt, who raised chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. Every morning we went out to the hen house to gather eggs for breakfast. We only took what we needed and there was always enough. The hens weren't manipulated to breed abnormally quickly. At night they went into the hen house (to keep them safe from bears and cougars) and during the day they had the run of the farm, along with all the other birds. So it is possible to raise chickens naturally for meat and eggs. Unfortunately, given how many of us there are, it's not realistic to expect that could be the norm for the industry.

Anyway, I intended for this to be primarily a knitting blog. I don't mean to harp on this, but I just wanted to share what I had learned because it really surprised me. As for me, vegetarianism is starting to look like the only option I can deal with...

January 28, 2008

Morning Walks

I have made a habit of setting aside time every morning to go for a 20 - 30 minute walk around my neighborhood. It started a couple months ago when we had a really windy day. The trees were whipping and the wind could be seen sweeping across the grass. I stepped outside and the air felt so alive with energy that I just had to be out in it. I went for a walk and instantly remembered all these carefree times in my life when I really felt in touch with my higher "self" and nature and all that good stuff. I thought about it and realized that many of these moments were as a kid or a teenager, walking to and from school, listening to music like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Doors, Joni Mitchell, etc (I thought I was living in the 60's back in highschool - it was actually during the late 90's). I had such a powerful experience on that first walk I decided to make it a daily habit.

It has been the single most effective thing I have tried in years as far as improving my mental, emotional and spiritual well being. I would strongly suggest this for anyone who feels stifled or depressed. Now instead of dragging myself half-asleep into my car to get to work and spend my day inside with no windows, only to emerge in the dark, climb back into my car, come home and spend the evening indoors, I start my day with a few moments of timelessness, relaxation and fresh air. Even on the mornings when I have to wear multiple layers of clothing, my warmest scarf and hat, I still get out. I'm rewarded with sights like this...

I've come to rely on these walks to give me perspective everyday, to help me let go of stress or worry. Walking allows me to get out of my head for a few minutes and just observe, and that has proved invaluable to me. Out of nowhere, insights and inspirations have hit me during these early mornings that I know I would have overlooked or written off if I was still doing things the old way...

January 27, 2008

You mean I'm not the only one?

For the past few weeks the pressure has been building... I've been re-reading the Ishmael trilogy by Daniel Quinn, which is always an eye-opening experience for me. I got the latest of the three, My Ishmael, for Christmas and I guess that's what started this most recent bout of restlessness for me. This book really gets into the origins of our culture of working our whole lives for food, money, security. It turned my attention to my life, to the last 10 years or so that have flown by while I worked one meaningless but tolerable job after another.

After a short panicky period during which my boyfriend had to convince me that it's not realistic for me to run away from "society" and live off the land, I calmed down and set out some plans that were do-able for me. These include: cutting back my day job to 3 days a week for now (hopefully altogether down the road), working on my passions, music, guitar lessons, crafts. I've decided to start cooking for myself instead of eating out, and this includes buying free-range chicken and eggs, and supporting local farming operations instead of the huge corporations that are ravaging the planet. These are the small things I can do for now.

I have been inspired by the artists on Etsy, the supportive community there, and the hand-made movement that is taking place. I have bought quite a few items on Etsy, for myself and for others. This was definitely an "Etsy Christmas" for me, and it was so calm and wholesome. I think I spent a total of about 1 hour in the mall this year. One of my favorite indulgences so far were these beautiful hand-forged silver lotus flower earrings, from Stone Soup Jewelry. I wear them pretty much every day.

For my mother, who has been spinning yarn for the last year or so, I got some gorgeous batts from Loop. I couldn't believe how stunning this fibre was. I can't wait to see the yarn she spins from this, and also to learn to spin myself.

And today I read a post on Suze Adams' blog, 2am, which echoed the thoughts I've been having. Suze also has an Etsy shop, Coffee Cup Quilting, and has taken the plunge - doing what she loves full-time. It's so nice to know that there are others out there who are not content to work their days away for someone else. I think this "work ethic" is so engrained in us that any thoughts we have that this is not the way we want to live amount to cultural blasphemy. So many people in my life who I've shared these sentiments with immediately write me off as lazy or idealistic. But the reality is, supporting yourself is probably a lot more "work". It's just so much more rewarding that it doesn't feel that way. I am so grateful to have found a group of people who share these values. It has given me the strength to admit that I want more out of life, and to go for it!

January 26, 2008

Time for a change...

This is my first blog... took me a while to jump on the band wagon, but hey better late than never, right? It's coming at a good time for me anyway. In about 2 weeks I will cut back to part-time at work and focus on getting my guitar studio going again, and on my crafts.

I think this blog will be a great way for me to document the upcoming months, during which I hope to build some momentum for myself, doing the things I love to do, and enjoying life more day to day, not spending the majority of my waking life in an office. More and more lately it has seemed to me that this is not a natural way to live, at least not for me. The voice in my head has been screaming, "Run! Get out!" and I've been increasingly aware of the passing of time... it seems to be going faster and faster everyday. I'm fortunate enough that my employer has agreed to me working part-time so I can take this leap of faith without having quite so far to potentially fall.

For now, I am working towards filling up my Etsy shop with hand-knitted wares. The first items I am listing for sale are these cute needle-felted zipper pouches, like this one:

I have been knitting for just over 2 years, and learned needle felting about a year ago. The real challenge for me with these has been learning to sew in the liner and zippers! I've got some beautiful fabrics to work with, a lot of Japanese prints and batiks from my local quilt shop, and I want to make the most of them. I've really been working on improving my sewing skills, and I think I've gotten pretty good...

Once I get a few more of these pouches (which I've got in various stages of completion) finished and listed, I plan to experiment with other ideas such as needle felted neck warmers or scarflettes, combining kntting with fabric in other ways, and anything else that comes to mind.

Well, I think it's time to go do some crafting. More later...