Happy Earth Day. I know — Earth Day was on Monday. But we’re talking about a whole planet, can I have the week to think about it before I post?
You’ve heard of the slow food movement, I hope. I like to think of myself as a slow blogger.
Hazel’s half birthday falls on Earth Day. She reminds us each year and we mark her height on the wall with sharpie. These past six months, she grew 1 cm. I would have guessed more. I suppose the real growth spurts tend to get rolling right about now, though, don’t they? The kids are eating like gorillas.
April 22nd is not a date Edmontonians would choose to celebrate Earth Day, is it?
I get why other Earthlings have it scheduled for Spring — Spring is green grass and sunshine and hope. Except in Edmonton. In Edmonton late April is snow banks receeding away from sodden muck. It’s snow mold on wet ground and swathes of road crush left behind on dusty roads and boulevards. It is months of litter hidden in the anonymity of snow suddenly revealed. It is occasional flurries. It can be hard to keep your chin up in Edmonton, late April. Nevermind getting all rah rah about Earth. I snapped this yesterday on my way from the mothership to the grocery store:
Not even instagram can make that look good.
Edmonton hasn’t been celebrating Earth Day in any official way these past few years. I don’t know why. This year Edmonton’s unofficial Earth Day event was in the asphalt parking lot of a store off a busy street. I’m not criticizing the people who organized it in any way, but, well, sigh.
The real Earth Day news, according to the Flurfels, was Putrella blooming at the Muttart Conservatory. That was nice. Putrella is a Corpse Flower. Aptly named because the meter wide and meter tall blossom smells like rotten flesh. Think dumpster full of fish guts near a boat launch in July:
What a beaut. Very exciting. And not just to us nature-nerds — there were people lined up for hours outside the conservatory to catch a whiff of Putrella who only reeks for a couple days. Thousands of people. Lined up to smell a flower. There was even a fiddler.
It made me happy to see so many people excited about a putrid blossom.
The week before we were at the WEM aquarium and an interpreter was telling us about sharks. When she got to the part about how sharks, a 400 million year-old species that survived every mass extinction to date, are now endangered due to human causes — finning, pollution and habitat loss — my Hazel shed a few real tears. Why does my kid care so earnestly?
Because she is a sensitive person who understands biology at a level of depth that often surprises me. She loves animals and she simply has not built up a thick layer of environmental fatigue like the rest of us have. She is utterly convinced that the Earth is a precious and beautiful place that should be protected and cherised. She does not understand why she has inherited a legacy of environmental destruction and why the people she’s inherited it from don’t observe some basic rules such as “don’t shit where you eat” and “don’t poison and then eat the hand that feeds you.”
And it’s not just her, it’s the boy too. I took him to see this at the Imax:
Oh, dear. He softly wept during the opening footage of glaciers crumbling into the ocean, just as soon as Morgan Freeman narrated that the Earth’s beautiful crown of ice is melting away to nothing. By the time we reached the part where a baby polar bear dies of starvation because the polar ice has shrunk too far away from the seals for him to be able to swim for his supper, Oliver let out the most sorrowful wails.
Is this simply terrible parenting on my part? Am I a jerk who shouldn’t be exposing my kids to such depressing information about the world because it’s simply not age appropriate? Is this because I breastfed them too long and have an unhealthy infatuation with growing organic vegetables?
To my credit I did ask at the front desk before buying our Imax tickets if the film was suitable for 4-year olds. I was assured that it was. It’s just nature footage, I was told.
Even if I refused to read all the non-fiction books about sharks and such that Hazel brings home from her school library, and prohibited the watching of their favourite PBS show in our home, and burned The Lorax and stopped growing kale in the community garden and serving it for supper, and even if I showed a general disdain for nature and yelled at them not to get dirt on their clothes and didn’t swoon with rapture when we went on hikes and saw things like baby foxes, and even if we traded in our canoe for a case of beer and some fireworks and yabbered on about how the economy is something that people need to nurture and obey instead of vice versa and even if I was utterly convinced that the way a policy affects the next revenue quarter is more important than how it affects the next generation, even then I think my children would notice that a bum deal is going down.
What can we tell them? Can we buy them off with a stuffie of a panda bear and a “real fruit snack”?
What’s the solution? I know it’s not putting our faith in this guy:
He is NOT on it, people.
The solution definately isn’t to get rid of scientists so they stop uncovering such depressing information.
Nor is the solution to just seperate ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically from nature and hope that works. Even if that was possible, it’s not desirable.
Playing outside is healthy. I think we can all agree on that. So why do the parks always seem so hauntingly empty? Have you noticed this too? Does it bug you?
In this case, the playground is being ignored because the puddle is way more interesting. Or, as Oliver kept shouting gleefully, “EPIC PUDDLE! E-PIC!”
Solutions necessarily have more to do with hope than despair.
I think the solution, if there is one, has something to do with letting kids muck about. I think it has to do with knowledge and ingenuity. Keeping chins up. Despair isn’t useful even if the hurt is real. Beyond that? It’s murky as an Alberta lake in August.
I would like ask Stephen Harper how he would explain the crumbling of polar ice caps and drowning baby polar bears to a 4-year old? I would like to hear his tips on convincing a 7-year old, ahem, 7 and a half year old, that her concerns about animal habitat are unneccessary.
Cause I could use a little help. I can assure you, I do not have it all figured out over here.
Puddles and hugs, Earthling. That’s really all I got.
Did I mention Happy Earth Day?
I took some photos of the first day of Spring in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (March 22nd, 2013):
Really, springtime in Edmonton is more about a longing for green than anything, isn’t it?
On the first day of Spring we went to school by toboggan.
The snow plows celebrated the equinox by making lots of money.
Honestly though? It’s like this every year. We get spring flurries. And no matter, we are always surprised and can’t resist complaining/bragging about the ridiculousness of it. This is our “potting shed”. After a decade, I should know better than to store pots in it. Because when it’s time to start tomatoes, the pots are not handy.
Meanwhile at the hardware store….
Not tempted. We have a perfectly good patio set:
One foot in front of the other. A spring stroll…
And then what a difference a week makes:
Spring is a dramatic surge of melting.
And suddenly our winter jackets seem oppressive instead of essential. Did I mention these photos were taken ONE WEEK apart?
It’s all puddly and mucky.
No more snow plows… I don’t know what they do in the off-season?
I’m sure they have a better time of it than this vanquished snowman…
There aren’t any baby bunnies hopping through green grass here. It so doesn’t match the greeting cards and calendar photos.
But it’s Spring. And it’s amazing. And it feels good. Like we’ve accomplished something through hard work and determination.
Happy Spring from House of Flurfel!
We asked Brent what he wanted for Father’s day and he said “Camping, please.” We had a thing on Saturday and another thing on Sunday, so we could only go for 24 hours. I reserved a site at Elk Island National Park.
It’s less than an hour’s drive from our house in Edmonton, so a totally do-able quick trip and the perfect opportunity to test out our rig for the longer trips we’re planning this summer. Also, it’s gorgeous. It’s a Prairie Safari. The white flecks in this photo are nesting birds.
One of the big attractions is the Bison Loop road. From the safety of the Mothership we steered our car-seated kids through a herd of bison who had just finished calving. They complained all the way about how incredibly boring it is to be stuck in the van and then started shouting ecstatically about baby buffalo and proclaimed it THE BEST THING EVER.
This guy isn`t camera shy.
Oddly, the herd of bison do not stop munching on grass to deliver shocked and reproachful glares when a baby buffalo needs buffalo numnums.
A baby and a yearling.
This one’s horns are pointing in different directions.
There are plenty of stunning hikes to choose from. Some are all day epics and some are short and spectacular. We choose a few that were under 5K and made a day out of it. There is so much wildlife to see. We saw tons of ducks and geese and a muskrat on this boardwalk.
This is just a family of geese with 7 fluffy yellow goslings swimming across silvery Astotin Lake.
This is just a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly drinking some nectar from a Wild Honeysuckle.
Our littlest hiker exploring the park.
Our littlest hiker having a nap.
A good spot for a picnic.
I like the dragonfly in this photo. See it? Top right corner.
Happy Father’s day, Brent. You are so loved.
Marlene, Hazel, Oliver, Josephine & Gus
I am a fan of spring cleaning. It just feels good. I think our Northern clime makes it even better for us. I think that because we survive one of the longest winters on the planet we experience the most rapturous spring cleaning in the world.
For 6 long months (at least), there just isn’t enough light to penetrate into the farthest nooks and crannies of our homes, and the light that does make it in is just too thin and non-committal to bother illuminating the grode that is busily accumulating while we scheme about flying to Mexico to join all the other Croc-sporting Canadians for una cervza, por favor.
When the light finally returns to thaw our decks and burn our shoulders, so much is revealed. I’m not talking about what you saw your neighbour mowing his lawn wearing, save it for your therapist. I’m talking about the filth in every room of our homes. And the clutter, Oh! The clutter! And all the crap in our yards that, months ago, looked so pure and clean blanketed in snow with chickadees flitting through the bare branches of our trees.
It’s just so awesome to muscle a broom, a wet rag, and a Goodwill donation bin at all the crap, grime, gunk, scuz, dust and amassment. It’s just so satisfying to make it all gleam in the lemony sunshine.
This year, we went a step cleaner than last. For years I’ve been meaning to switch to homemade, non-toxic cleaning products. I want to run an ecological household. And I want my army of munchkins to help with the spring cleaning without Mr. Clean and Windex seeping into their wee helping hands. But I didn’t bother before. I don’t know why. This year, though, I did. I just stopped restocking store-bought cleaners. Then I printed off these recipes:
Then I stocked up on soap granules and castile soap, washing soda, white vinegar and borax. I already had olive oil and essential oils of lavender, grapefruit and bergamot. I bought some dollar store spray bottles and collected some containers to re-use like milk-jugs to store large batches of solutions in and laundry soap containers for laundry soap. Then I just made the recipes as needed and put a little elbow grease into cleaning with them. They work! The ingredients are easy to find at Earth’s General or the aisles of Superstore.
The all-purpose spray and the stainless steel polish are my favourites. I love how nice the spray smells and how handy it is to have something on hand that cleans without poisoning. And the stainless steal cleaner — which is more a method than a recipe: put some olive oil on one side of your rag and wipe away the smudges, then put some vinegar on the other side of your rag and make it brilliant — is hugely better than store-bought.
The laundry soap and the dishwashing powder (all purpose scour) are the big money savers. Wow. We do a lot of dishes and a lot of laundry and would probably spend about $40 a month on these products. This month I estimate we spent less than $5. And I’ve got jars of homemade laundry soap (that smells like lavendar!) left. Do these products work? Absolutely.
I like how much money we’re saving, I like how much safer they are for my home/children/planet, and I like how it helps us shrink our ecological footprints.
Try it — if you’re any where near as cheap and dirty as us, you’ll love greening your spring cleaning.