environmentalism

PINK CAMERON | A CLEAN BREAK

 

After three months of unforeseen joys and sorrows, triumphs, frustrations and lessons learned in the confines of a seventeen-foot camper, our time at Pink Cameron has come to an end. The arrival of September in Vermont has brought sub-forty degree nights and a generous offer to move into a one-room stone cottage on the farm. As such, we have moved our lives a few hundred yards up the farm road, into "The Smithy," a former blacksmith shop built by Consider Bardwell himself in the early 1800s.

This was a summer of scaling back, of learning (and choosing) to live with less. We washed and ate from the same two bowls, the same four forks and spoons, time and time again. Our clothes, all of which fit into a snug camper shower-turned-makeshift closet, faded in color with repeated and heavy use. We slept on an air mattress for three months—well, two air mattresses, since the first one popped after a month of dutiful service. It was a summer to trial a new way of life, in many ways.

Most notably, we started our own herd of meat goats, four in total. We gave them names: Satchmo, Smithers, Dill & Tuna. We had to say heart wrenching goodbyes to Satchmo and Smithers, having tried everything that we could to keep them alive, ultimately watching them both succumb to the same parasitic disease within the span of ten days. It was extremely painful, a time wrought with feelings of utter failure and sadness—an experience we did not feel open to sharing in this medium. The real failure, though, would be to bury the reality of what had happened. Thankfully our time at Pink Cameron was filled with a parade of other beautiful and poignant experiences. The gathering and passing of each summer storm; the fields alight with fireflies in June; the daily majesty of the sunrise, the sunset, and the infinite night sky. All was gift. Right before we moved out, and against all odds, seven pathetic zinnias sprouted. They were piddly with weak stems, but those zinnias gave us hope. After so much growth and experimentation during our Summer In The Camper, we knew that, come moving time, we would need a clean break. A figurative break, we thought; but what we got was literal! Enter REDBUDSUDS.

Camper living was not particularly clean. Though we did our best each day, it was never going to be the sort of living to be handled by a person who prizes cleanliness above all else. When you have no choice (and we did not—it was our home), you simply adapt and make do. If an apt name were to be given to this summer, Dirty Feet Summer wouldn't be a bad contender. By the first of September, outdoor showering was frigid. By using a tough bar of Castile soap as shampoo and body wash, we were able to be in and out in under a minute. It left our hair equal parts greasy and dry, but it mattered not. Adapt and make do.

Around the time of contemplating our "clean break" strategy, Sam received a providential email. The creator and owner of a small-batch soap business in Ohio, REDBUDSUDS, reached out to us about testing her new product, the Shower Bar, in our outdoor shower. Aubrey's new soap eliminated the need for separate bottles (or bars) of shampoo and body wash. In other words, she was asking us to do what we had already been doing, except with a product that was made for the job.

Sam has known Aubrey for a year or so, having chatted at farmers' markets and commiserated over the unnecessary packaging waste of shower products. Long before we knew the woman behind the company, we had been mailing our Greek family her soap bars because they smelled and felt really rather exceptionalWe've read enough sponsored blog posts to know that the job of the blogger is to write an unbiased review. But, in this case, we already believed in REDBUDSUDS. She makes soaps with ingredients derived from the earth. They are soft yet durable, lather beautifully, and smell gently of meadows and forests.

It feels a bit challenging to write a "review" because we are not "review" people. Reviews can feel gimmicky, non-substantial. We are farmers who bring in humble incomes. We like simple products—food, wares, and body care—that are utilitarian and work nicely. We work hard to prioritize investing in people and products that do good for the planet and do good for us, even when it costs more. Aubrey's soap meets all of our criteria, and it doesn't cost more. It is biodegradable—which will remain every bit as much of a concern in The Smithy as at Pink Cameron—and leaves our hair and skin feeling soft and truly clean, without any of the residual greasiness left by other bars of soap. This all goes without mentioning that, along with all of the REDBUDSUDS soaps we have used over the years, it is beautiful and feels like a treat to use. The Shower Bar is a substantial product that we will continue to use as our showers move from the great outdoors to the indoors. 

So we have made the clean break. We are out of Pink Cameron. Our possessions, removed; our dirty feet, cleaned. For his inaugural shower in our new home, Mark set down 'That Extra-Meter Cedar' bar on its cedar soap deck and used nothing else. 


—M&S

THE SEASONS | ON OBSERVATION + STILLNESS

 
canadiangoose

Life in a four-season environment can be a humbling experience. Ohio is such an environment, where there is a very real chance that you may feel the touch of winter, spring, summer, and fall in a single day. Over the course of an entire year, it is a guarantee. 

Our coexistence with nature's annual phases of change is a blessing. It is a lesson on stillness and observation, and a reminder that all things must pass. But we have to be there for it. We must show up.

Each year seems a new opportunity to be present with the changes that come and go seemingly too quickly, and to appreciate the unique state of our environment at any given time. We tend to enter into the cycle in the throes of a deep freeze; we see the local flora & fauna slowly come to life, grow, and flourish before retreating in a cherished (and currently ongoing) display of autumnal glory. 

cardinal-in-trees
cardinal

The distinctive presence of all four seasons is, without a doubt, the greatest joy of living where we do. If not for the seasons, Ohio might be (ok, would be) humdrum. But because of the seasons, we are ecologically rich. Even so, as an Ohioan it is all too easy to get out of your car, bundled in thirteen layers, after having navigated brutally & very frightening snowy roads, vowing to never leave your house again. 

We have all cursed the snow. But hear us out. There is beauty to be found in it all. Our feeling is that a little observation goes a very long way. 

canadian-geese-walking

The sky alone is seasonally contingent: migratory patterns play out, gifting us with glimpses of a vast array of species to appreciate; the sun, the moon, and the stars reveal themselves to us in different configurations; the clouds offer us snow and rain, and sometimes disappear altogether. This year, it rained on all but one day in June, giving way to two full months of drought in July and August.

There is more change, yet, on the ground. The trails we hike scarcely resemble themselves from one season to the next. The trees are constantly transforming. They are obvious, and they deserve our gratitude unabated.

Produce. Ah, produce. We pull fruits and vegetables from the earth and from branches, sustaining ourselves on a bounty only possible at a specific time & in a specific place. (Seriously, seasonal, local eating will transform your perspective on our food landscape. It will probably transform your health, too, but that's for another post.) The animals around us forage & hunt, rear their young, and plan for the seasons long before we doburying foodstuffs, growing a winter coat, doing that magic thing they do.
But what about us? Where do we fit?

backpack

Ideally, as stewards of this unbelievably complex & dynamic environment. If all of the animals around us are observing & adapting to the changes ongoing, should we not, as well? The human race is a part of the environment, not its master. There is no us and them. We are codependent from the moment we arrive in the world. And the seasonswith all of their unpredictable, volatile, and beautiful waysshould be a reminder of that.

Let us observe. Let us be still. Let us learn from the seasons; moving and growing and dying together, but always always always making way for the next.

canadian-goose-on-water

—M&S