Thursday, March 29, 2018

Stating the Obvious But Making It Sound Special

I was in KFC (I get cravings) and saw a rustic looking sign claiming that their chicken is, "Farm Raised." Wait a second. All chickens are raised on a farm. Whether it's a one acre hobby farm or a 1,000 acre commercial complex, both are a type of farming. Clearly KFC is appealing to our sentimentalized idea of farming.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Chanel's enchanted forest show angers environmentalists

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld "turned the vast glass nave of Paris’s Grand Palais into an autumn forest for the event, strewing dead leaves, moss and logs on a mirrored runway and installed nine tall trees inside."
I admit, it's a brilliant idea from the perspective of a fashion designer . But the concept of putting on a fashion show in a simulated forest setting reinforces our acceptance of being once removed from nature.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tiny Cabin in the Woods & The Great Contrarian Strategy

Deborah and I got back Sunday night from a week in a cabin on Penyck Lake, near Sharbot Lake, Ontario. It was advertised as an “off-the-grid tiny cabin”. I loved it because it reminds me of one of the best jobs I ever had: when I was 19 years old I had a summer job as a bush cook 400 miles north of Sault Ste Marie in a 12 man mineral exploration camp, with my weekly shopping list -  suckling pigs, coho salmon, filling for 30 pies -  ordered via ham radio and flown in on a twin otter by Glen the deaf pilot.

Or maybe what I loved about the cabin was being away from civilization. While at the cabin I went online twice, to check work email, otherwise I did not miss reading or hearing any news or clicking emails like a well-trained lab mouse.

This rectangular-shaped “tiny cabin” is 160 square feet of main floor space; plus two small lofts, one at each end, up a 6 rung ladder, about 30” from the ceiling, each loft large enough for a double bed. The place was designed and built by millennial artist friends of Deborah. It’s advertised as “off the grid”. There is a solar power unit on the roof, which creates enough battery-sourced power to run the energy efficient lights and the lake water pump. The propane powered furnace wasn’t working so on cold nights we resorted to an electric space heater run off a gas-powered generator. Does that constitute “off the grid”? Hmmm. It’s amusing and maybe a bit worrying, that people think they’re off the grid, when they’re not, actually. The 2 gallon gas container for the electric generator and the propane tank to run the gas stove didn’t sprout from the forest floor.

The owners told us the night before we arrived to bring our own firewood for the firepit because previous occupants used it up. What!! I figured there must be wood on the cabin property, we’d just have to scrounge. But we hit a bonanza on the drive up. Stopping for a break at the side of Hwy 7 I spotted a pile of chopped wood. It didn’t appear to belong to anyone, and we stuffed it in the back seat. It burned beautifully.

And there was tons of wood at the place, piled up, in plain view. It was damp and motely, but perfectly good. I couldn’t figure out why they told us to bring wood. But I spotted a few pieces of pretty looking firewood, the size and shape like what you see at gas stations, 3d printed. Ahh ok. They were running low on the perfect sized, cured wood. They didn’t think that visitors would want or know how to use the damp odd-shaped wood in their wood pile. That’s all I could figure out, because it made no sense. Of course, I used lots of their wood when my Hwy 7 wood ran out.

Most meals were cooked in the fire pit, even when it rained: chicken legs, steak, sausage, grilled over red hot embers. Bacon and eggs fried in a pan balanced on two logs, red fife pancakes, ten vegetable soup, mixed berry stove top bumble pie, and a buttery egg and whisky custard in a cast iron skillet set to the side of the pit, away from the hellish heat, served drowned in fruit with cinnamon and maple syrup compote. My best meal was kidney beans made with blackened onions, purple cabbage, celery, parsley, smoked bacon, roasted garlic, maple syrup, tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh cracked pepper, chili peppers, rosemary, and stout beer from the Perth Brewery, served with a two dollar package of wieners sizzled to wiener perfection.
The best part was the daily, sometimes twice daily, dunk in the lake. It was incredibly cold. But once in, I felt great, and when I got out I wanted to go back in. Then I'd run up to the fire to warm up and nosh. I havn't done crazy drugs like crack, but I compare it to that. Such an incredible high. The great thing with freezing water is, you get the same high again and again as the first time, and you don't destroy your brain. Even Lou, my dog, wanted to go back in, to get another hit of the Penyck Lake high.

There was a propane barbecue at the cabin. Deborah and I hate those things. They’re fey. They remind me of tv commercials where the car is driving through a forest, with the occupants looking out from behind tinted windows. Propane barbecues, images of a luxury car in a verdant forest, and cabins not-very-much-off-the-grid, they’re props in a marketing driven imitation world or simulacrum. Is having skills on how to truly live off the grid the great contrarian strategy of the 21st century? Instead of owning gold bullion or shares in a water utility company, knowing how to grow food, skin a rabbit and start a fire may be a much more valuable asset.  The few who have true survival skills will prevail. Ok, I’m not going to devote my time and energy to living off the grid, and I should avoid judging people who own a propane barbecue, but the week in the cabin reminds of the stuff we’ve all talked about, that we’re in a kind of Jared Diamond scenario where western civilization is untethered from things crucial to our survival.

If I stepped out of my car and walked into the forest, could I survive by my wits? No chance. But at least I’m not pretending that I could. That’s the best one can hope for as a person living in the 21stC.