Thursday, August 18, 2011

my cylinder count: five

merriam park on a summer evening.
Our 'cylinder count' went up by one this week.  We own a small rental property, and since the caretaker has moved on, I've mowed exactly once with our reel mower.

I love the reel mower, but it's not the easiest thing to load into the car, and it's not the best at mowing the tough weeds that have grown up in the rental building's yard over the years.

So Gita went on craigslist and found a used gasoline mower for $50 and brought it home before I could object too much.  It's a 4.5 horsepower Craftsman and looks like it has quite a few more years in it.  We'll park it at the rental and let whoever opts to be caretaker wrestle it around the yard.

The idea of 'cylinder count' came from overhearing some middle-aged exurban guys at my work brag about how many cylinders they had in their home/shed.  "What's yer cylinder count up to?" was the question I heard asked.  The idea being that bigger was better.  At least 8 in your car or truck(s), then a tractor, a riding mower, a few gas-powered tools, and of course the toys- the 4-wheeler and the snowmobile and maybe a boat.

I don't remember what their cylinder counts were, but I don't think it matters much.  I take pride in the inverse: keeping my cylinder count as low as possible.  With the new mower, we are at five.   Four in the Corolla, now one (apparently that's all push-mowers have) in the lawn mower.  We got rid of the broken mower earlier in the summer, so that avoided pushing us over into six.

That puts us at 1.25 cylinders per capita in our family.  Not a bad cylinder to human ratio.

True, we live in the city, so we need fewer cylinders than if we lived in the country.   But by keeping life simple (me riding the bus to work, no motorized toys) we've definitely helped keep it lower than most.

I could make a self-righteous statement about reducing our carbon footprint or about saving the earth from ourselves but I won't.  Though I agree that making the effort to do both is mostly a good thing, I'm tired of the rhetoric and tired of self-righteous proclamations of all kinds.  Climate change will happen regardless of what I do at this point.  We've pushed the earth past it's capacity, and now it will push back.

True, when in a hole, it's wisest to first stop digging.  However at this point, adapting to climate change seems like it's more worthwhile than making loud, and mostly symbolic gestures to change its course.  Only a large-scale shift in human behavior, particularly wasteful American behavior will make a difference, and then only well down the road.   Peak oil may prove a turning point, or it may not.  I think we've shown, as a culture, that we're not willing to make changes to help the future generations, so at this point, adaptation becomes the only real possiblity.

I think the loud, symbolic gestures may have even done more harm than good.  It has galvanized the right wing around doing just the opposite: buying the largest possible vehicle to commute to work; stockpiling incandescent light bulbs so that their children's children can have the god-given right to waste energy.  Giving a big middle finger to Al Gore has trumped common sense.  I imagine that some of the good ol' boys I heard bragging about their cylinder counts have had to borrow a fair bit of money to be able to produce that amount of pollution.  They're cutting off their noses, and everyone else's nose nearby to spite their faces.  My three-year old son does much the same thing.  From him it's understandable (and a bit less damaging).  From grown men it's a bit harder to put up with.

Really, in a way, I sort of enjoy the wilder weather and longer warm spells that climate change seems to be bringing to Minnesota.  Minus this winter's La Nina conditions, we've had a string of wonderfully mild winters.  The summer storms have been more frequent, bigger, and unfortunately deadlier.  But we spend a few more evenings in the basement, listening to the rain pitter-patter and the thunder roar and we come up in the morning to see a few branches down.  That's adaptation in action.  As things progress, it may become more difficult, but hopefully we'll learn to adapt to that too.

post-beetles, winnipeg parks roses are back
But back at the eighth acre farm:

The Japanese Beetle plague seems to be subsiding.   I found only 4 adult beetles on my roses today, where I was picking off  dozens each day for a while.  The grubs are probably hatching right about now, and the assault on the roots of turfgrass will begin.

Not having much turfgrass, and not caring all that much about what I do have, it's not that big of a deal for me.  But I want to do what I can to prevent next year's beetle hatch before it starts.  Apparently Milky Spore is effective in some areas, and not in others.  There's no data specifically for Minnesota, so I'm stuck wondering whether or not to get it.   Given the price, I will say probably not.

The beneficial nematodes look more promising, and I'm working on getting a neighborhood-wide purchase of some put together.  I have no idea if it will really happen, but at this point, it looks optimistic.

Our community garden space continues to thrive.  (Sorry no picture of it this week-  hopefully next)  A co-worker gave me some "Winter Luxury" pumpkin seeds this spring and I planted 4 or 5 on a single mound in our community garden plot.  They all took off, and we have squash vines everywhere.  I've managed to harvest one already- a volleyball-sized orange thing with a few fading green stripes.  We baked it up, and made some squash ravioli with half of it, and saved the other half for pie this weekend.

The ravioli was fantastic.  Google squash ravioli recipes and try it sometime.  I won't post it here, partly because I'm tired at the moment, and partly because I didn't write anything down.  But it's a worthwhile experiment.  Even the seeds were tasty.  I fried those in some olive oil with a pinch of salt, and they were delicious- very sweet!  Winter Luxury is already a big hit, and from the looks of it, we may get 10 more good sized ones from our little plot.

The squash ravioli may be the closest we've come to an all-garden meal so far this year.  I used our squash and last-years' sage (with store-bought flour and butter and eggs) for the ravioli, diced our fresh-picked yellow and red tomatoes with some of our fresh basil (and store-bought balsamic vinegar and salt) for a topping.  We had some of our cucumbers, sliced, as a side and our yellow watermelon for dessert.

This is the main reason I love August.

this is as much fun as it looks
Of course, I also love setting up the pool for the kids, so that they slide down into the water from our playset.  Some days I wedge the hose into the side of the frame for the slide so they can have the full waterpark effect of water making the slide cold and slippery.

That's another good adaptation in place.

Got any others?  Please leave a comment.

1 comment:

  1. I'm interested in reel mowers, but my husband is not -- and since he is usually the one who mows, I am not arguing with him. We did find a useful alternative to a gas guzzling thatcher, though. There are actually thatching blades that you can put on your regular mower. And they actually work!

    I wrote about it here: . Ignore the odd links on the header. I think I know what I did wrong, but don't have the energy to fix it yet.