The Life of Things

IMG_1019

Hat-clock. Antique Warehouse

When it comes to antiques, I’m not one for a lot of clutter. Personally, I think there are some things that just shouldn’t have been made in the first place. So my trip to the Stratford Antique Warehouse wasn’t completely successful. I think this mall-like store is of more interest to people who like to collect smaller things. However, it’s a lot of fun to wander around there; there’s a ton of fun things to look at, the prices didn’t seem too bad, the people are friendly, and from an environmental perspective, it’s keeping stuff out of the dump and preventing the manufacture of new things. I think this could be called an environmentally friendly business.

 

IMG_0999

Dressers, Glen Manor Galleries

 

But today I was really out looking at more practical objects, so I decided to continue on to Shakespeare, where there’s a whole community of antique stores. I started off at Glen Manor Galleries, which has a number of breathtaking pieces. I asked Brian Campbell, the owner, if he thought his business is environmentally friendly.

Brian does not suffer fools gladly. It is obvious to him that fine furniture is much more ethical than Ikea particle board, and he told me as much. I then asked him if there were any problems with chemicals used in refinishing furniture, as when lead paint must be stripped off. His eyes bulged slightly. “Paint? On my furniture? I would never stock such a thing.”

Brian has pretty well convinced me that for the high end of the antiques market, there are few environmental concerns, and he’s also made me reflect on how we relate to the things in our lives. Many of the pieces in Brian’s store were made before he was born, and Brian is not a young man. The things in our life sometimes have more permanence than we do, and the careful selection of a fine piece of furniture that may outlast you could well be an act of anti-consumerism.

IMG_0993

Barn Boards, Flip! Vintage Antiques

Helpful as Brian was, I still had unanswered questions, so I crossed the road to Flip! Vintage Antiques. It seemed to be a little more my style. The first thing that caught my eye was the wonderful barn boards, at five bucks a linear foot. The owner, Wayne Ross, also showed me a huge slab of walnut, about three inches thick. I was in heaven.

I was surprised to learn from Wayne that the great majority of his customers are local. I would have thought they’d be tourists, and this really changed the way I’ve been thinking about Stratford antiques businesses. They aren’t just bringing money into our community, they are providing a service for it.

 

 

IMG_1003
Wayne also runs Land & Ross Antiques & Designs, across the road from Flip! He refinishes a lot of the items he sells, so he could help me with my environmental questions. He said he uses mostly Varsol and TSP, which he believes to be relatively harmless to the environment. He also reminded me that there are organic paint strippers. I’ve used these, and they do work, but I know they’re a lot more expensive than Varsol.

When lead paint must be stripped, Wayne keeps the waste in a barrel and disposes of it through a waste removal company. It is apparently burned, with a heavy use of scrubbers to clean the air. This news didn’t thrill me, but after researching this a bit, I don’t see how Wayne could deal with this waste in any other way.  On the other hand, there is room for change, but I’ll talk about that in another post.

Wayne also had his own reflections on how we deal with the things in our lives. Sometimes a piece will stay with a family for years, always with the idea that it could be sold through a dealer. In a way, the relationship with the furniture is just temporary, and somehow gives the piece an independence, a life of its own.

IMG_1012

Coat rack(?), Uptown Gallery

I finished my visit to Shakespeare at the Uptown Gallery. This store has a lot of midcentury modern items, and also one or two really cool old pieces, like this (coat rack?) made from barn utensils. I know mid-century modern is more appealing to the under-40 set, so I asked the owner if he thought younger people were as interested in antiques as the older generations.

He shook his head sadly. “The younger generation is a throw-away generation,” he said, “but that’s really a story for another article.”

He’s right.

So that was my antiques trip, a visit with the three wise men of Shakespeare. All in all, it was a positive one. After doing my research, I’ve still got a lot of reservations regarding refinished furniture. I think I’d have to insist on pieces that were stripped with organics (I am happy to pay extra), but I think I can continue to go antiquing with a clear conscience. It is the ultimate reuse and recycle experience.

 

Crows and cats

In my last blog post I talked about finding employment for feral cats. I was kind of joking around, but I do think that we should be considering ALL living things when we think about how our community works.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 3.36.37 PMSo I was interested in this post, which describes a project in Amsterdam that trains crows to pick up and dispose of cigarette butts. At first reading, it sounded like a great idea — the crows learn fast, they pick up the trash, and they get paid a peanut. What’s not to like?

However, a commentator brought up a point I hadn’t thought about. John Marzluff, a professor of forest sciences at the University of Washington, argued that ” it is unethical to ask a wild animal to do our dirty work. Crows have other things to do, being highly social animals and intelligent, and it doesn’t seem right to me to enslave them to work for us. Why not just pay people a good wage to do the work?”

Now, you’re probably thinking that we are getting into Philosophy 101 territory when we start worrying about making wage slaves out of crows. But I don’t think this is a silly argument. It seems to me to be a highly moral argument that we should be applying to the wildlife that lives around us. Perhaps when we start seeing nature as valuable in itself, rather than something that has been set up for us to use, we will learn to inhabit our communities in a way that promotes a healthy environment for humans and animals.

So what’s the difference between crows and cats? Basically, cats aren’t part of the ecosystem. We domesticated them and brought them here. So I think we owe them a free lunch or two. Or maybe even a career in rodent removal.

 

Cranky cats find gainful employment

I love to go into Watson’s downtown. It’s such a cool store, and there’s a cat there who is soft as dandelion fluff. Sometimes you have to wait in line to pet her. I’ll bet that cat has made a few sales in her time.

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 1.33.23 PM

Not all cats are as skilled in customer relations as the Watson’s cat. Some have attitude. Others are terrified, and will bite and scratch.  A select few will even pee in your shoes, just for the fun of it. It’s difficult to place cats like this in customer service positions.

The good news is that some shelters in the U.S. have come up with an ideal solution to the cat placement problem. They provide neutered, microchipped, vaccinated animals free of charge to businesses with rodent control problems. This means that no poisons or traps are needed. Sometimes just the scent of a cat sends rodents running for the hills, but if not, more drastic measures are taken by the cats.

And it’s not just warehouses that provide jobs for cats. Barns and stables are, of course, the traditional place to find a working cat, but they are also using them in condos and suburban areas. In California they’re even using them to patrol dumpsters. However, not much seems to be said about what those cats are doing to the bird population.

In any case, outside patrol isn’t really a year-round solution for unemployed cats in Ontario. I wondered if there were any programs here that provided year-round indoor work. I checked around: The Stratford Perth Humane Society has two programs for unsociable felines; one is the “Barn Buddy” programme, where you can pick up a neutered/chipped/vaccinated cat with no adoption fee (though they would like a donation). The other programme, one you’ve probably heard of, is called “Return to Field:” they clip one ear, vaccinate/neuter, and have the person who brought the cat in return it to the same place. The cat is identifiable, and because cats are territorial, it not only hunts vermin but also keeps other feral cats away. However, I don’t think they last long in an Ontario winter.

So it seems to me there’s a place in our business community for a whole army of unemployed cats, who would not only reduce the rodent population, but would also reduce the need for adding  poisons to our environment. Indoor work also avoids the bird problem. The “Barn Buddy” programme would work for this. All it needs is a little rethinking, and an advertising push to present it as a solution for businesses as well as for farms.

Wouldn’t take much. Wouldn’t cost much.

 

Source: http://www.dispatch.com/entertainmentlife/20171018/for-ornery-shelter-cats-2nd-chance-is-job-chasing-mice

Alas, Poor Periwinkle . . .

 

Since I’ve made the decision to become a Greener and Completely Better Person I’ve had a lot of tough decisions to make. One of the hardest has been the problem of my old friend, the periwinkle.  Now, I just love periwinkle.  I love the cheerful blue flowers at the beginning of summer, I love the dark shiny leaves, and I love the fact that you just can’t kill it, no matter how neglectful you are. It just trudges along, rain or shine, spreading out gracefully and replacing that nasty grass. And the name—I mean, how cute is that?

But periwinkle, you may be surprised to learn, is an invasive species, and as I’ve made a vow never to buy invasive species, I could never get it for my garden. Unfortunately, my periwinkle is inherited. It was here when we moved, and the first spring in Stratford, it was about the only thing in the garden to greet me with a cheery smile. I didn’t have the heart to kill it. Besides, it has sneaked into my garden under the neighbour’s fence, so I know it’s up to no good over there as well. I think I will take the advice from this website, and just contain it as much as possible.

Berberis_thunbergii_(3)

Barberry leaves and berries

I feel guilty about this, but its not as if I had planted Japanese Barberry. Now THERE’S a plant that will keep you awake at night. Japanese Barberry is an extremely attractive plant, with bright red berries, easy to prune, and because it has spiny leaves, deer don’t eat it. This all sounds great, until you learn that because the deer eat other plants instead, Japanese Barberry is spreading rapidly, blanketing the forest floor. But even worse, the thick leaves of the barberry are an ideal home for ticks. I read an article a little while ago that said these plants can carry more than ten times as many Lyme-infected ticks! Just thinking about kids playing around those bushes makes me shudder.

Berberis_thunbergii_`Atropurpureum`

Japanese barberry                        (Berberis thunbergii)

If you, too, are trying to be a Greener and Completely Better Person, here’s a list of invasive species to keep out of your garden. And if you were surprised about any of this information, it’s probably because you have seen these plants at local nurseries—Klomp’s and Cozyn’s both carry them, and I’m sure they’re not the only ones. You wouldn’t think that a nursery would sell plants that were bad for public health and the environment. I guess there are no government regulations to guide them.

Crazy world, eh?

 

Further reading:

Japanese Barberry: A Threat to Public Health

Barberry, Bambi and bugs: The link between Japanese barberry and Lyme disease

Images: Wikipedia

 

Time to pack it in for winter

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 12.43.34 PM

 

I don’t really feel sad when it’s time to pack up the garden for winter. I’m already planning for next year. I’ve learned from my failures, and I’m planning to capitalize on my successes. The big success this year was the Heritage Pink Bumblebee cherry tomatoes — wow. They were fantastic. So sweet!

I got the seeds at the “Seedy Sunday” event at The Local CFC way back in February. I also got some nice heritage slicing tomatoes, but the cherry tomatoes were the big winner. They really produced well, too, and for some reason, squirrels don’t get at the cherry tomatoes as much as they do the larger ones.

The event also offered several lectures on seeds and gardening. I attended the lecture on seed saving and learned a lot from it. The nice thing about heritage tomatoes is that you can save the seeds, and they will do just as well next year. This isn’t true of the hybrids you buy in catalogues. If you’re a gardener, it’s worth it to plan to attend “Seedy Sunday” next spring; there are all kinds of different seeds, and a lot of knowledgeable people to help you.

How to Beat the Recycling Blues

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 11.37.31 AM

When we first came to Stratford I had the worst time with the garbage. I mean, the WORST. I had always lived in cities where the garbage was picked up on a given day, and that was that. In Stratford, we do things differently. Sometimes it’s garbage, sometimes it’s yard waste, sometimes it’s recycling, and sometimes it’s other stuff. It can get confusing.

I used to case out my street the night before collection, sneakily trying to figure out what I should put out, but many times I was wrong. Then I would have the humiliation of having to drag it all back in off the street, proving myself to be a total garbage noob. Finally, a neighbour took pity on me and gave me the collection schedule sheet, and it was great for a while, but then I lost the schedule. I think I recycled it.

So you can imagine my joy when I found Recycle Coach. It’s a free app, easy to use, and it’s personalized to your own street. When you sign up you take a little quiz to see how much you know about recycling. I did pretty well, but not great, and I think of myself as someone who knows about recycling. Once you join, you have a little calendar that appears on your phone, very convenient. But best of all, I’ve set it to send me little reminder notes in my e-mail. You don’t have to do this, but I’m a person that can’t survive without little reminder notes, so that is just perfect.

I’m wondering if the city of Stratford is interested in apps like this. In addition to their free account that allows municipalities to set reminders for citizens, Recycle Coach offers services  (not free) that allow them to communicate with users, sending out announcements of special collection days, for example. There’s also a package that lets the city educate citizens on what is acceptable for recycling and at the landfill. It might be worth looking into.

Click on the picture above to go to the site. If you try it, or if you know of a better app, leave me a reply.

What is the half life of a Red Rose tea bag?

Rose_OsakaI turned my compost today, and there, right at the bottom, just as I suspected, is a massive clump of Red Rose tea bags. Again. Everything else has rotted away, but these little bags are completely unfazed by the workings of Nature. They just don’t seem to decompose. After a year in the compost! What are these things made of?

Now, I love Red Rose tea, and up until now I believed it to be an environmentally sound product, but enough is enough. I have dragged out my brown betty teapot, and I’m doing it the old fashioned way, and not with Red Rose. I don’t want to wind up like Jacob Marley, dragging long chains of tea bags after me as I wail my way into eternity.

In the meantime, I have written  to the Red Rose people (see below), to find out if their bags are part of a plan to carpet the world in Canadian tea. I’ll let you know what develops.

To Red Rose Customer Service
https://www.redrosetea.ca/contact-us

I am writing to ask why your tea bags do not decompose. Mine have been in the compost for nearly two years. I am beginning to suspect that I am drinking tea from bags made of plastic, so I am switching brands, and that’s a pity, because I love Red Rose tea.

I would be very happy to learn that Red Rose is an ecologically sound product, and that your company is concerned about our environment. Please contact me at the above address.

image source

 

%d bloggers like this: