Blanket Content Warning: This blog may include mentions, descriptions, or other media with information involving menstruation, pregnancy, sexuality, breast care, abortion, and anything else generally considered relevant to inhabiting an assigned-female body, but centering a genderqueer trans male experience. I also talk about dieting a lot.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Warning About DietBet

Note:  This post may be triggering to folks who have eating disorders or certain addictions, particularly gambling addictions.  It contains very detailed descriptions of eating disorder like behavior I just came out of.

I'd written a few days ago an update about how I stopped using DietBet as a catalyst for losing weight, despite my former posts (and there are a lot of them) talking about this program quite cheerfully because for the first three or four DietBets I was losing weight very easily and with it making back the money I put into it.  It was rather an exciting thing to do for that couple months.  Then I hit... the plateau.

I don't know if I've hit a real plateau or if it's an issue of dietary creep (this is when you start eating more and more foods outside of your diet and exercising less and less, gradually, without realizing it) or changed metabolism.  What I do know is that I haven't lost weight in quite a while now.  I lost my last DietBet and will probably lose my next one.

That one will be my final one.

And it's not because of the stall, really.  There was always a chance I'd start losing and it would become financially unfeasible for me to continue on that path, and so I would probably just be able to moan about it a bit were it not for the fact that this sort of competitive app really started triggering some eating disorder bullshit in me.

The worst part is that I knew better. That's really how it goes, isn't it?  You intellectually know something isn't going right, but you're really into doing it and so you just ignore the problems.  I was going to go ahead and just post this and just let the other posts stay the way they were as a sort of record of what had been going on, but I decided after a couple of days of soul-searching that I can't do that with a clear conscience as I have no idea who will stumble on this and possibly emulate my behavior.  So what's going to happen in the next few days or so is I've already put every post except for this one mentioning DietBet into draft mode and will be going through each one one-by-one to add more robust warnings and take out parts I think are likely to encourage particularly destructive behavior, perhaps even just straight up delete posts that have no redeeming qualities in hindsight.  I'd rather that descent all be in this post where people can see it as a warning rather than believing whatever was going on in my head when I originally wrote those posts.

So here's the warning:  Diet competitions (and that includes DietBet as well as those Biggest Loser knockoff contests so many workplaces are doing under the guise of "healthy living" programs and literally everything even vaguely similar to that) encourage eating-disorder-like behavior, and I strongly encourage you not to get mixed up with them.

What happened to me in a nutshell was that I started off this DietBet thing at 270 pounds after a pretty long stint of repeated binge eating.  I decided to go back on my paleo diet--something I started because it eliminates quite a few foods that do legitimate damage to my body, like wheat--and prevents me from binge eating.  In all transparency:  I love paleo.  I don't preach diet, but I do strongly believe in eating a paleo-like diet.  But paleo wasn't the problem, it was combining it with things that are quite frankly quite far from a paleo philosophy.

So I joined DietBet.  This is an app where you bet money that you can lose 10% of your body weight in about a month.  Everyone who makes weight gets a share of the pot.  You prove it by taking pictures of your scale with code words.

Here's the thing about weight loss:  It starts out easy and gets harder.  But winning money while also losing a lot of weight gave me a rush that clouded my brain a lot.  I was setting these lofty expectations, like that I could reach my goal weight in less than seven months if I just kept up my current progress.  I thought this stuff even though I knew--and I do mean knew--that this initial weight was probably mostly water.  But I looked thinner!  The scale was lower!  I felt great!

I hit a stall after around 20 pounds of weight loss.  Had I been diligent about losing weight without DietBet, I'd probably just view it as a temporary setback to wait my way through, re-read my favorite paleo article on weight loss plateaus, and get on with my life.  But I'd put down actual cash money on this that I was going to lose, and so I started strategizing in a way that was, in retrospect, extremely self-destructive.

I started replacing meals with shakes strategically.  I'd already been making shakes for myself because I don't really have an appetite in the morning, but I started doing it explicitly to start losing pounds during key weigh-in times.  I even made the base liquid coffee for the diuretic and laxative effects and would not weigh myself until I was sure those effects had occurred.  This led to me more than once going to work--where I work twelve hour shifts--and consuming nothing but a protein shake all day in hopes of shaking a few pounds off by nighttime.

This worked great for those first two months when I had a lot of water to lose, but afterwards it stopped being so reliable.  I'd try it anyway, only try it worse.  I started doing things like avoiding certain exercises because I was worried about gaining too much muscle or retaining water, just in case it interfered with the number on the scale.  The number would still not budge.

These are all eating disorder level activities.  If you've ever gone to pro-eating-disorder websites (and please don't), this is exactly the sort of strategy they talk about.  So in the end I had to stop.

I railed long ago in my other blog about the Biggest Loser knock-off contests that workplaces keep doing.  This was because one year, when I was doing contract work at a hospital that had a contest like this, their repeat winner always won by fasting and taking laxatives only to gain the weight back again when the competition was done.  I've watched lots of people get serious anxiety from this sort of thing, including my mother who entered a lot of them and lost a lot of weight only to become depressed when it suddenly wasn't easy anymore and the quick money was gone.

I'm OK.  I've nipped this in the bud before it took over my life (at least I think I did).  But since it's been such a big part of this blog I wanted my readers to understand where those buds all went.

Like I said, I'm not giving up my eating style.  Even if I fail sometimes (or a lot), I love paleo and similar diets.  I believe in it as an overall biologically appropriate lifestyle, not just a weight loss strategy.  Paleo has been great for me even if I lose exactly zero more pounds in my life.  In fact, part of why I'm giving up DietBet and other high-stress strategies I've tried is because they're so bafflingly unpaleo to me.

It's not paleo to work against your body to lose undifferentiated body mass for some ridiculous contest.  It's not paleo to obsess over the number on a scale to the point where you start panicking over it.  So I'm revising my strategy.  A lot.  I'm revising my exercise.  I'm revising my diet.  And the kicker:  I'm not going to try to lose weight anymore.  I'm going to work on my overall health, and if I lose weight, good, if not, I'll at least be healthy.

Until then, happy trails,
-- Jackson

An Herbal Hike-and-Bike and some Words on Ghost Pipe and Herbal Ethics

I was able to get my bike all fixed up (new tires, adjusted the brakes to get rid of a weird sound they were making, added a back rack), strapped a basket on it, and took it on an herbal run.  I'm creating some herbal routes that took me to places I didn't actually know existed in this area... including a trail that led to a more wooded trail that I'll be visiting more often due to a lot of promising herbal terrain and just generally gorgeous scenery.  The non-wooded trail has a lot of ditch weeds, which are my wheelhouse.

Gorgeous bridges, too, over rushing waters and some less-rushing waters that clearly are being used as a swimming hole by local folks.

There are also fields and fields of jewelweed, a highly healing plant that is used as a cure for poison ivy and other skin conditions (it's in a lot of soaps made for poison ivy dermatitis).

I saw a one-antlered deer that was staring at me through some grasses and weeds that was stunning.

Anyway, I just learned about ghost pipe--a plant that's really popular to harvest and tincture despite starting to become rare and being a plant we cannot cultivate--not that long ago, meaning I now hear about it everywhere, and I wanted to talk about it because it's a great example some toxic attitudes that permeate herbalists.  And I don't mean this as a finger-pointing exercise... these are attitudes that permeate in herbalists because they permeate through the rest of society, and I am prone to them just as anybody else is.  I mean, this is basically the reason I started a pine powder regimen, isn't it?  Yes, pine pollen is abundant and can be collected in my bioregion, but that doesn't mean it wasn't marketing hype that made me initially start taking it.  So these toxic attitudes are things that we all need to be working on, even if we think we're ethical and good people.

Seriously:  Don't harvest ghost pipe.  Don't make tinctures of it.  Don't buy tinctures of it.  I've already heard your excuses, and they're all bad.  To elaborate...

"I feel spiritually called to harvest ghost pipe" or "The plant told me I could harvest it," or--ugh--"I have been called by the spirits bring this plant to the masses," is likely bullshit.

As a bona fide spiritual person who talks to Goddexes and spirits (including plant spirits) and tries very hard to listen for when they speak back, this is one that requires some serious tough love:  The spirits of plants that are being actively overharvested are not giving you permission to pick them, you are just confusing your selfish desires for spiritual messages.

This is an especially important thing if you are new at listening to spirits and deities, because many of us spend years trying to learn to sort out our own stream of consciousness from divine intervention and still wind up having to really think about it when it happens.

One thing I am always super suspicious of is when I think I hear spirits telling me I should go ahead and do something I want to do but know has serious ethical ramifications.  There's a very good chance this is your id--which is looking for immediate gratification without concern for consequences--trying to convince you to do something you know deep down is wrong.

But let's say that this message really is real, and that this plant spirit is really, genuinely saying it's OK for you to harvest.  Have you ever had (or been) a friend that was really easily taken advantage of, like you could ask zir for anything and ze would exhaust zirself and expend more money and time than ze had in order to do what you asked without ever saying no?  Just because somebody consents to something doesn't mean it's automatically ethical to do it.  Finally, keep in mind that due to a lot of factors plants aren't necessarily used to people making medicine out of them anymore, they may very well not be experts on the commodification of nature or the epidemic of overuse going on.

The idea that these plants exist only for us to use them is extremely anthropocentric.

Herbalists can acquire some damn weird ideas about plant medicine.  There are folks who strongly believe that if we just look hard enough we will find easy, natural cures for literally every malady or condition in the plant world, because it's part of a pseudo-creationist worldview they have in which every cure is already provided without scientific achievement.  A corollary to that is the idea that plants exist for us as humans to make them into medicine.

Even if you have a belief somewhere that plants intentionally have healing properties through some spiritual world clockwork, it's extremely important that you try to avoid the belief that these plants exist only for us.  Life on earth is a big web of interactions; the same plants we use for medicine may be used by other animals for food or habitats or even their own medicine, they may protect other plants or provide nutrients for them.  So although it is our natural right to use plant medicine, they don't exist exclusively for that purpose, and it's irresponsible to imply that they do.

Buying and selling a plant like this is even worse.

People traipsing off into the woods harvesting the aerial parts of ghost pipe for personal use might still have ethical ramifications, but the real problem comes in doing so when there is a huge market for the stuff.  There are folks picking and purchasing pounds and pounds of this stuff to make into tinctures that are purchased by new agers largely because the tinctures themselves are pretty and purple.  Said new agers could have gone out and picked a small amount to make their own tinctures and left the purchasing to folks who have access issues with getting out to find them, but instead there's a massive market for them.

I'll be writing something someday about the "no ethical consumption under capitalism" idea that permeates social justice spaces right now, but the gist of its relevance to that is this:  Ethical purchasing is bullshit, but what isn't bullshit is not purchasing at all when you have the ability.

Furthermore, although there are certainly small dealers of ghost pipe tincture who pick and tincture it themselves, there's a good chance this could turn into the next American ginseng where people are going out and picking it only because they want to sell it to corporations.  

"But what if I really, really need it?"

This is another very anthropocentric, egocentric way of looking at herbs.  Ghost pipe's scientifically demonstrable medicinal value is quite dubious, and many folks use it for the spiritual messages rather than any tangible healing use.  It is a good plant to get such messages from, tapping into the hidden network of the forest as it does, but it just doesn't have enough objective value to justify telling people they should "only" pick it if they "desperately" need it, because there is no such thing as desperately needing ghost pipe.  There is no desperate human need for this plant, and there are other more abundant plants that you can harvest instead.

And for that spiritual connection stuff?  You're really better off working for it while its roots are still in the ground, and leaving it there when you're done.

Rarity does not equal usefulness.

One of the reasons I'm into explicitly bioregional plant medicine is because the herbal communities I first started learning in were into exotic and rare plant medicines.  They would import something from China or India when they could have been creating a thriving local medicine culture instead, or they would go for the rarest plants they could find because abundant plants were not cool enough.  Ghost pipe, as it becomes rarer while also becoming more popular, is a part of this category.

If you live in an area with loads and loads of ghost pipe (as areas like this still exist), I'm not going to press you about taking a few pieces to make tinctures.  But I'm willing to bet most of you aren't, and if you're picking this plant or considering it I would encourage you to seriously look at your wildcrafting ethics.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

YouTube Channel Introduction

I'd like to finally formally announce that I've created a YouTube channel!

I actually started it a while ago and have been slowly embedding video adaptations of my essays on their respective pages (most are not direct readings, they're more like "inspired by" pieces).  I decided on this for accessibility purposes, because when reading some tips and tricks on bringing anti-capitalism to the masses I found the suggestion that keeping everything in books and blog posts is not accessible, as there are folks who learn better by hearing than by reading.

I'm the exact opposite, so I have mostly stuck with text, but one of the parts of my personal history in which this hasn't been true is FTM transition videos, which were monumental in helping me through my transition on testosterone.  When I decided to go off testosterone, I tried using the same resource but didn't find nearly as much information, so I think it's important to have somewhere people can see a trans guy transitioning back to estrogen without socially detransitioning.

I will also be posting herbal and spiritual stuff, the same subjects in this blog as I really view the YouTube channel as an extension or alternative to this blog.  I tend to post in spurts, so as of now there is no regular posting schedule, just whenever I happen to have time to film something.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pine Pollen Day #5 and Adventures in Repair, Herbal Remedies, and Other Radical Praxis

It's day #5 of taking a pine pollen supplement daily.  I did notice an increase in sex drive, although who knows if it's the pollen or just some residual sex drive left over from my period.  Normally the menstruation-enhanced sex drive ends when my period does, though, so if that's the case it's a little weird.  Whatever the case, my sex drive did increase, and not in the scary way it did when I was on testosterone.

I've been working a lot to fine-tune my personal praxis, meaning the practical ways we manifest our philosophies, in other words, how do you "do" whatever your political or social beliefs are.  How do you "do" anti-capitalism, or anti-consumerism, or communism, or anarchism, or feminism, or queer liberation, or whatever else your philosophy may be?  That is praxis.  In this essay I'm going to talk mostly about my anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist praxis, namely trying to avoid the medical industrial complex (unless medically necessary, of course; I'm not David Avocado Fucking Wolfe) and consumerist throwaway culture.

My increase in motivation for making natural medicines has continued, at least for now.  I've been tincturing basically everything available to me that can be tinctured and am just starting to run out of space.  Most recently I started tincturing some motherwort, chamomile, and peppermint.  I may tincture some broadleaf plantain if I can find a good reason to (I did start some plantain oil as I associate plantain for medicinal uses with topical use).  I did find a company in Australia selling broadleaf plantain tincture for a seriously exorbitant amount.  Yikes.  I also started a large amount of fire cider, something I am making almost entirely because some asshole company decided to trademark the super generic term "fire cider" and heckle people who use that term for their own products.  And while I roll my eyes at the assertion that small businesses are better than large ones, trademarking general knowledge is bullshit.

Patched a huge hole right in the seat of my pants.
I'm in a nice repair spurt.  For the past couple months I've gone to great lengths to repair things that I normally would throw away and replace, often (when appropriate) in a way that owns that I have repaired them.  For instance, in the picture of the pants I patched up to the right, I used bright red thread so it is very obvious these pants were torn and repaired.  It's similar to the concept of kintsugi in which pottery is repaired in gold to emphasize where it was broken, but the red actually was inspired by my family's age-old tradition of using red yarn to knot their quilts no matter what the color of the quilt was.  Most of the other repairs I've done aren't this obvious, just because doing so was out of my skillset or not practical.  For instance, I did glue together one of my wolf dishes recently, and while kintsugi is super cool, I don't have the materials or skills to do something like that.

These pants, by the way, were super cheap and a great example of the type of thing I'm fighting against.  Clothing and pretty much everything else is literally made to break and wear down easily in order to encourage people to keep replacing them; this strategy makes sense in a world where "a good economy" is one in which people are spending more and more money all the time.  So I'm going to especially try repairing clothes a lot, and I'm also going to try getting most of my clothes second hand (this is actually very psychologically hard for me as I went through some bouts of poverty where I rarely got new things, which makes shopping particularly addictive for me).

My next little repair project will probably be the bucket I take camping, which has some holes in it.  My partner tried patching it when we were camping but it didn't quite work (it was a lost cause; we didn't have good enough materials).  I also have a pair of flip flops in which the thong came loose.  These are a pain to repair, but I'm going to try anyway.

My "new" bike, with night lights on.
Finally, I've been working on getting my bike fixed and ready for my purposes.I replaced the back tire after finding there were no holes in the innertubes, and I did some repairs on the chain as well.  Does cutting the locks off count as a "repair?"  My uncle left two locks on the damn thing that don't have keys.

Since this bike is going to be used for errand running, I want to get a basket for it of some sort.  They have some that have lift-off shopping baskets which might be perfect or they might be a shitty idea.  One of my best friends, though, fixed up his own bike by putting kitty litter buckets flanking the back wheel, so we'll see.

I noted last night when I was taking a casual ride that the front wheel kind of moves funny and makes noise.  I'm hoping it just needs a tire replacement, but I may need to replace the rim as well.  Either way it should be pretty easy, considering I did replace the tire on the back wheel successfully, and that's the hard wheel.

Admittedly I did go against the whole repair-and-buy-second-hand thing by getting a helmet, but come on, I'm not going to try DIYing a fucking helmet.  Plus it is built to accommodate ponytails and has a lot of space for radical and quirky stickers.

Speaking of radical quirky stuff, I'm considering doing booklet drops in Little Free Libraries and other such things.  I tend to get a lot of radical queer literature to donate to my alma mater's LGBT center library  (this has documentedly influenced people and come to think of it I have a copy of "Queering Anarchism" for them I keep forgetting to bring) but I want my scope to be wider... but in the case of Little Free Libraries, there's a not insignificant chance that people will find radical or queer-friendly literature and just throw it out, so I need options that are inexpensive.  I have a couple ideas, but as I don't really commit to one political ideology I want to make sure there isn't anything utterly awful in them before I distribute (they're things I've read but when I read something without intent to distribute I'm not taking too many notes).  I also want to donate any queer Pagan books I can find to the LGBT center, since like most places it's overpopulated with queer Christian books without much representation for other faiths.  Yuck.

Anyway, it's getting late so I should probably go to bed so I can do more excellent praxis tomorrow.  Tongue-out emoji.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Radical Weed Herbalism

No… not that kind of weed.  This kind of weed:
Motherwort found in my backyard.
As an aspiring radical herbalist, I am a big fan of localization of herbal knowledge.  What this means is that whenever possible I think it’s best to learn and use herbs that are available locally… not just imports available at a local health food store, but plants that you are able to either find or cultivate yourself in your own bioregion.  In theory, you should be able to go out to your garden or to a natural space like a park and create a number of your own basic medicines without any exchange of capital at all, excepting maybe a solvent or carrier if you don’t have the skills necessary to make your own.

I started writing this as a love letter to local herbal medicine, about how you should go out and do this, you should definitely do this, it’s such great praxis.  And then I remembered American ginseng.  And I decided to both tone down the excitement a bit and clarify what kinds of medicinal herbs I am talking about, because although in a perfect world we would be able to go out and harvest the bounty of nature unfettered, we are not living in a perfect world.

Let me first talk about the ginseng.  Ginseng is a plant that grows wild around here, and is widely renowned as a highly medicinal plant.  Because it is in such high demand, you can sell this stuff for gobs of cash.  Because you can sell it for gobs of cash, a lot of people go out to pick it.  In Wisconsin (and probably elsewhere) you need to purchase a fairly inexpensive license to pick it as an individual, and a more-expensive license in order to purchase it from harvesters.  It’s hard to find a place to harvest it because it’s not legal to pick it on public land; you basically need to own property or have permission from somebody to take a highly lucrative item from their property.  This, of course, hasn’t stopped overharvesting, and especially poaching.  People are constantly trespassing, clearing out entire populations of plants, taking plants that are very young, taking plants that don’t have fruit (this is illegal; it needs to have berries and you need to replant them), and clearing out cultivated ginseng, as people often plant this herb in ways that don’t look like they are being cultivated.  These are by and large not used for local medicine, but to sell to companies that put them in supplements and sports drinks.  This is exacerbated by shows like Filthy Riches, which show people making a lot of money doing this without a nuanced perspective of the ecological harm done by an oversaturation of harvesters.

I decided against getting a ginseng license for this reason.  Even if I did find property to hunt for it on and only used it for myself, I would be further harming a very threatened plant.

Recently I learned about a plant called ghost pipe that is being seriously over-harvested as well.  People take whole stands of this stuff, often uprooting it (a dick move that kills the plant) to make tinctures to use and sell.  When called about it people babble about how spiritual they are and how they asked permission of the plant (something I'll need to address at a later time).

A lot of herbalists use the term “plant ally” to refer to plants they work with.  As a social justice activist, when I think of an “ally” I think of a fair-weather friend who ultimately only works with an oppressed group when it benefits them, and this is the perfect description of how so many people view plant medicines.  I use the term “plant comrade” instead; no, I’m not trying to make that “a thing,” and yes, it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek (and kind of backwards), but it’s also a good way to describe my philosophy on working with plants and fungi in this way.  An ally relationship is very often one-sided, and that’s exactly how it looks when somebody treats medicinal plants as these selfless organisms that exist only to create medicine for us, as if all making of medicine from them is by nature honoring that plant.  A beneficial relationship by contrast is one in which your use of that plant helps the plant or avoids wasting it or poisoning the planet… which I admittedly call camaraderie mostly because it’s super pinko communist and that just happens to be my aesthetic.

That’s where ditch weeds come in.  These plants are the biggest victims of plant blindness--people see them and just see generic bushes of weeds without value-- most people believe them to be nuisances, and most importantly, they’re abundant.  Some of these plants may very well have a market, but their local nature is kept hidden for the benefit of people selling them.  Recently I found motherwort in my backyard, a plant that it didn’t even occur to me lived around here and that has probably succumbed to the weedwackers of many a suburbanite.  It is invasive.  It is a plant that shouldn’t be here, that through no fault of its own is ecocidal in this environment.  So instead of pretending it’s a big secret thing that should be purchased in tincture form at an alternative health store, I have been making it into medicine myself, honoring the plant and its healing properties without harming its species.

There are many plants that almost nobody harvests--or not enough people harvest to make an impact--that can be made into local medicinal preparations.  Biking down a heavily-used trail I will not find any ginseng, but I could find buckets of dandelion, chicory, mullein, yellow dock, plantain, red clover, purslane, burdock, yellow wood sorrel, wild carrot, pineapple weed, motherwort, lamb’s quarters, rocket, ground ivy, mustard, and plenty more I’m forgetting.  There are a lot of trees that are intentionally planted in high enough numbers that collection is not a problem, such as ginkgo in certain parks, pine, maple, willow, elderberry, mulberry,  and several species of nuts.  And that’s not even mentioning plants that are easy to maintain once they get going, like raspberry (of which the leaves are used as an herbal), grape, garlic, chives, most types of mint (preferably in pots as it likes to escape), echinacea, and rose.  These local plant comrades can help with a wide variety of ailments and assist in nutrition without needing to participate at all in the exchange of capital and without paying somebody to destroy entire populations of rare plants.

So why don’t we do that?  Because so much popular herbalism is vapid and consumeristic.  We’re led to believe that exotic or rare plants are better for us or contain some special property that we can’t find anywhere else so that we’ll purchase them for a high price when there are local alternatives widely available, or we're not told when we are spending money on plants that literally grow two feet away from us.

Does everyone have the ability to learn wild plants, harvest them, make medicines out of them, and so forth?  No.  People have disabilities, they have time constraints, they have--dare I say it--a normal lack of interest.  And there are certainly very valuable herbs that cannot be locally acquired.  Because of this I’m not saying that there is no excuse ever to purchase a medicine or sell a medicine (local herbalists need to survive under capitalism too, after all).  But I think it is best praxis to create a local natural medicine culture, one in which we first look to plant comrades which are close to us, accessible, and abundant before we start turning to the exotic and rare stuff.  Through that we can make herbal medicine free to affordable as well as kind to the planet.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Beating Meat Fatigue, Sprouting Experiments, Gardening, Wildcrafting

In the great wheel of food experiments that I cycle through year after year like the fickle hipster I am (fermenting - hunting - wildcrafting - gardening - curing - etc.) one thing I haven't done in a while is sprouting.  There's a reason for this:  I generally strive for paleo, even if I'm pretty loose with it, and most of the seeds I know how to sprout are legumes.  In addition, when I went through my "sprouted wheat phase" I found that it didn't really improve my wheat tolerance (I can often handle einkorn wheat, but even that is probably because it's too prohibitively expensive to buy a lot of it!).  As I mentioned earlier, I'm having some really bad meat fatigue, meaning I get really sick of eating meat really fast.  It's not that it makes me sick--it doesn't, as far as I know--but I ate so much of it at PSG that it's hard for me to eat it.

There are some exceptions.  I don't get fatigued of bacon, jerky, or other of those super addictive and hyperpalatable cured meats.  And I certainly eat meat.  Actually, today was a good example of the meat fatigue, because I made ribs in the slow cooker and only was able to eat about two thirds what I normally would.  Then I went and ate a bunch of fruit, because I desperately wanted it after.

So I have a little sprouting operation going on on the kitchen counter that's going pretty well.  The first thing I started was lentils, my favorite sprout because they're just so damn easy and delicious.  I also am sprouting some of the same beans I prepared dry the other day, some kamut variety wheat, brown mustard seeds, and wild rice.  The lentils I started two days ago and they're already well germinated, while the red beans are starting to grow roots.  The mustard has some roots growing (since I just got them from my spice jar I won't be too surprised if they fail).  The wild rice and kamut I'm not super optimistic about, but go big or go home.  I started those two today.  The kamut is very old, so it may very well just not work, and wild rice has a habit of breaking and therefore dying.

I may sprout some sunflower seeds if I can find them raw, and maybe some quinoa and chia (chia is difficult but, again, go big or go home).

I don't know how I'm going to eat them quite yet.  I love eating raw sprouted lentils and will probably mostly make little microgreen salads with them and mustard sprouts.  Note:  Due to some disease worries it's generally considered best practice to cook these, but in all transparency, I almost never do.

Some gardening stuff... I think I mentioned that I had a few tomatoes reseed from last year, so there are plants that I didn't even need to do shit with just growing there.  They have started growing fruits, and I'm fairly sure they're cherry tomatoes!  I did plant three varieties of tomatoes in that bed, though, so who the hell knows what's going to grow or if they cross-pollinated or what.

I have two raised garden beds with quite mixed results.  One has the world's tiniest watermelon plant (it started growing its secondary leaves early and I've pretty much lost hope it will be productive).  There's also a tiny tomato plant, some lettuce, some carrots, and some radishes that might not reach their full potential.  The other raised bed also is having some malfunctions, but I am pleased to say that it will at least grow something.  This is a three sisters bed, it has a couple varieties of corn that will be tied together, a couple varieties of beans, and zucchini surrounding it.  The zucchini is fruiting.  The corn is growing fairly well for backyard corn.  The beans are also growing.  Since I got some of this in the ground a little late, I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but at least I'll have zucchini.  There are some pots I planted garlic in that are doing well.

I picked some raspberries today.  The birds got all the cherries, but I actually got to eat some this year.  I have more mint than I can possibly eat, and more rhubarb than I would eat either.  The grape plants are growing great, although obviously it's too early to grow grapes.

The wildcrafting is going pretty good.  I got another big bunch of purslane today, although it was raining so I didn't go out near my workplace to find anything else.  So far I've found pineapple weed (wild chamomile), rocket, red clover, wild carrot, maple, ginkgo, bull thistle, chicory, burdock, mullein, curled dock, plantain, and a number of other things.  I haven't picked all of them, but I see them along the road.  I may go wildcrafting when I go fishing, which should be soon now that the local park with fishing piers finally has an opening to get into it; last year there was so much road construction it was impossible to get in.

Finally, tomorrow I'm going to pick up a bike from my parents' house.  I was looking to buy a bike new (with Amazon Prime I could get one for literally like $75 new) but it didn't sit right with me considering my PSG-driven spurt of motivation for reduction of consumer pleasures (we'll see how long that lasts).  So I looked at some thrift stores and then it dawned on me my parents probably have some of our old bikes in their basement.  I texted my mom and she said that my uncle's old bike is there and that it looks pretty good.  So I'm going to go check that out tomorrow, see if it looks like it's in good shape or needs some repairs, take it home, and that's that.  I'd like to fix it up with storage so I can go shopping with it (my friend Ben has a bike with huge buckets on it, I may just ask him about it).  The thing is, where I live it's just shy of too far to walk to most places, but on a bike it would be a not-very-difficult task to go pretty much anywhere I need to go other than work.  The numerous trips I take with my car to the grocery store, the movie theater, and a number of restaurants are pretty frivolous, and it would be great exercise.

Also, I am admittedly doing it because I saw some ridiculous meme being posted that argued that bikes are an inefficient form of transportation, one of the many results of a trend where people take discussion of access to green or otherwise socially aware acts and rather than just have a nuanced discussion about that access they warp it into some bullshit about bikes being eco-unfriendly or some shit.  And it'll help me hatch eggs in Pokemon Go, so...

Alright, that's about enough for now.  Happy trails!
-- Jackson

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Pine Pollen Day #1 and Tick Bite Update (with Bonus Hilarious Trans-at-Doctor Stories)

Content note:  This essay talks about sex in a marginally explicit way.

Today is day #1 on pine pollen.  I am taking a powdered supplement I purchased on Amazon; I'll be using the storebought stuff until I can get a good personal supply wildcrafting next spring (unless, of course, I don't like the results, but I may wildcraft it anyway because, well, wildcrafting).  Pine pollen is the trendy thing right now.  I never claimed not to be drawn in easily by herbal trends.  I'm starting with a quarter teaspoon a day (this is a low dose) in my morning medicinal protein shake and will increase that if I see fit in the future.

If it works the way it's supposed to, I think it'll be of benefit to me as a post-hormonal trans guy.  In cis women it is reputed to  help with the same things I struggle with after stopping testosterone, although admittedly all of these are low-key struggles.  The main issue is sex drive, of which I have strikingly little nowadays.  My libido tanked after I gave up testosterone to the point where I basically do not have a sex drive at all unless my partner is actively available or I am on my period, and a lot of things that I was really turned on by on testosterone don't turn me on anymore.  This was somewhat alarming, as my sex drive before testosterone was quite high.

Mind you, this is all mostly a good thing.  The stuff that turned me on while taking testosterone was really awful, and I became viscerally disturbed by the places my mind would go and the erotica I was starting to seek out.  So it's not a bad thing that my libido tanked, but I would like more sexual motivation, as my lack of sex drive is starting to make me for lack of a better word lazy.  This has led to some innovations in the area of the sex toys I design as a hobby, as I am creating things that allow me to have sex without much physical effort.  So believe me, I make it work, I'm a goddamn inventor, after all.  And I love these toys, but it would be nice of this herbal helps me expand my tastes a bit so stuff I used to enjoy is enjoyable again.

Pine pollen is a general testosterone booster.  I believe that the hype around testosterone is ridiculous and fully embrace that I am estrogen-dominant (I'm quite proud of it, in fact, hence the blog) but am curious to see how this experiment goes.

Had to edit this because I realized as I was re-reading for proofreading purposes that, ha, I forgot to write about the "being trans at the doctor" story.

So at Pagan Spirit Gathering I got bitten by a couple ticks.  One was a Lone Star tick I'm praying does not give me a meat allergy (I may not know for months if it has).  The other was a tick of unknown origin, as I only saw the later bite.  It doesn't look like a traditional Lyme rash, but the medical personnel at PSG told me to come back if it got bigger or started itching or being painful.  It didn't at PSG, but it did start itching and stinging when I was at work on Thursday, prompting me to have a minor panic and leave work early to go to urgent care.

I have good reason to be anxious about tick bites.  I worked at a summer camp one year with a man who was only like 20 years old who had an obvious Lyme-ridden tick bite, was told by our nurses it couldn't be Lyme because there wasn't a tick (I would not claim these nurses are incompetent, but this was incompetent advice).  Eventually he acquired them all over his body, and I noted to him they looked like Lyme rashes.  He stated the nurses didn't know what they were.  A day or two later he's acting really agitated.  I ask him what's wrong, and he snaps back at me, reminding me of first aid videos showing how people act during heart attacks.  "He's acting like he is having a heart attack," I thought to myself, puzzeledly.  Later that day he collapsed in the mess hall, having had a form of heart attack that happens to people with untreated Lyme disease.  He survived, but it's rattled me ever since.

So I worry about tick bites.

Anyway, I get to urgent care, and am told it's probably fine (the problem is that not all Lyme disease bites have a classic Lyme rash, but I'm monitoring myself as best I can and have no real evidence it was even a deer tick to begin with).  But that's not the good part.

I am talking with the nurse before the doctor gets in, and she's taking my blood pressure and going over medical history as nurses often do, and suddenly she exclaims, alarmed, "OB... why is there a box for OB/GYN history here?!  How come that's there?!"  She says there must be a problem with Epic (the application they use in medical systems to keep records) and that she will get it fixed as soon as possible.

I explain, calmly, "I am transgender, so that's there for a reason."

"Oh?  Oh!"  She looks slightly embarrassed.  She gives it a couple seconds of thought before saying, "But you don't get, say, a  period or anything like that?"

"Actually," I continue, "I do, because I went off of hormones and didn't get any surgeries."

Slight pause, "OH! Then... when was your last one?"

"Right now!"

"Alright, I'll update that for you then."

I am a very lucky person as far as trans people go, because I have very few negative stories of going to the doctor.  I have awkward stories and funny stories, but whenever a doctor or nurse has fucked up (or thought they'd fucked up) they have attempted to correct it very quickly.

The worst experience I had was transitioning at work at the same camp with the Lyme sufferer I described above.  I worked there one year as a woman and when I came back as a man I expected their on-site physical would similarly be a private deal.  It turns out that in many contexts men get considerably less privacy than women, and the doctor has me lift my shirt with all these guys there.  He apologized later, but it was a serious issue while it was happening, and I have no idea if he even understood what had happened.

Second worst was going to a doctor for uterine cramps a couple years on hormones.  It started with a nurse who, when I explained the issue, got a super awkward frozen smile on her face and started replying with nothing but "uh HUH? uh HUH?"  She probably wasn't trying to look as uncomfortable with the situation as she looked.  Anyway, the doctor came in, and rather than being uncomfortable he was uncomfortably ecstatic to meet me, as apparently he had trans patients and had no clue who to refer them to (he was unaware that the hospital system he is a part of provides hormone therapy; I actively go to a secular system because the Catholic systems here will often treat trans people pretty respectful with the exception that they don't give us the transition-related care we need).  In retrospect I think he also thought I was trying to cheat the system to get rid of my uterus on insurance.

One of the best, though, was going to a work physical (a private one this time).  I seriously thought that the doctors and nurses knew about me, because I was pretty clear about my medications, but right near the end of the physical the doctor says "Just one more thing... we need to check you for a hernia."

"That won't work."

"What do you mean it won't work?"

"I know what test you're talking about.  I am transgender and do not have testicles, so that won't work."

"Oh," she pauses, mulling it over.  "Well, then we're done, have a good day.

Bright side:  Whenever I feel like I don't pass well enough (something I understand is absurd, even though due to my long hair people do misgender me from behind fairly often nowadays), I just need to remember the doctor who tried grabbing my balls and the nurse who was confused at my OB/GYN history.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Little Things of Pagan Spirit Gathering

I haven't yet finished my "raw camping stuff" essay, so this is wildly out of order, but I wanted to write my "Little Things of PSG" essay, which goes over all the stuff that maybe doesn't need a whole dedicated essay but was interesting enough for me to talk about nonetheless.

The Gnome Exchange - Every year somebody called "Gnome" hosts a Gnome Exchange, where you take a lawn gnome and put it at Gnome Camp to party with other gnomes.  Then you take a different gnome home.  Last year I accidentally got to participate in the Gnome Exchange, because in a rush to get going I shoved my big orange crate of magickal tools in my car and took them all along, and there happened to have been a little stick gnome in there for potted plants that I'd used as an elemental symbol like five or six years ago.  I also bought a little gnome at Goodwill because I know I'd be taking my girlfriend and I wanted her to be able to participate in the gnomy goodness.  I took a "cool gnome" who is talking on a cell phone and wears a bandana and jean chain.  Nakiiya grabbed one whose foot had broken off who had a gardening trowel and was petting a squirrel.  I mentally questioned this decision, but when I got home I got some air-dry clay and gave him an amputee's stump (I could in theory have created a new foot, but I like the disability-visability angle of making him a happy amputee).  So now he's probably the best gnome.

Hekate at the Crossroads Ritual - I like acquiring sort of side-relationships with the Goddexes of my Pagan friends and partners, as a sort of "extended family" if you will, and since one of my best friends is a Hekate devotee I decided to go to a Hekate ritual.  It was mostly dance and movement based, very few words at all.  We were instructed that we would "just know" when it was time to move.  This was a really cool and moving ritual that I teared up during more than once.  Early in the ritual my shoulders started involuntarily swaying, I feel like I was low-key hypnotized.  At the climax of the ritual the woman who was putting this ritual on went up to each of us and looked us in the eye, giving us non-verbal messages.  I don't know if she actually intentionally invoked Hekate, but I certainly felt like I was looking into the eyes of Hekate.

Magickal Gift Exchange - I love giving gifts and donating beautiful things and seeing people's reactions.  The gift I received was a little polymer clay kitty that is now on my ancestor shrine next to my cat Sherlock's urn.  The gift I gave was a woodburnt spoon with a pentacle design.  The woman who got it seemed very excited and explained that she hasn't been able to cook in a while but was actively planning on doing it more, so it came at a good time in her life.  I'm thinking next year I want to make something small, beautiful, and yet poorly wrapped because I like the idea of somebody thinking they were too late to get any good gifts and suddenly bam they get this gorgeous gift.  Jewelry would probably be good for that, or maybe a small pewter statuette.  I always make rather than purchase my gifts for this, because I'm a reasonably competent artisan.

Raffle - I feel like I need to start donating cool stuff to this.  There are a lot of prizes and not all of them are great.  I do, however, love winning things and was excited to see that I got three prizes.  The first was a butterfly necklace that I gave to Nakiiya.  The second was a sewn drawstring bag that turned out to be great for my until-then unbagged set of black maple runes I got at my first PSG in 2014.  The third was a dress sewn from tie-dye sarongs, including both a top and a bottom.  I'm not really a dress person and feel like I may do something else with the top (the skirt portion I would wear because I like wearing just sarongs around my waist at PSG; longer than my usual sarong but who cares?).  Fun note:  I put the top on to try it out when I picked up the prize for the first time, and noted as it began tearing that it "was not made for my figure."  Somebody I don't know responded "If you like it and it fits it's made for your figure!"  It was cutely supportive but it really wasn't because of the feminine style (I could always use it in between-worlds work if nothing else), but because putting it on feels... fragile.  Like I'm too big for it but somehow at the same time I'm too small.
Me in a Celtic-print sarong dress tie-dyed in blue and gold.
Our Yorkie Penelope looks on with mixed feelings
Awakening the Black Bull Ritual - I couldn't go to this because I had a work shift, but wanted to note that when I got there to view the remainder it was a bunch of people running in a circle and shouting, after which they all (all genders, and there were at least three represented) pulled out their breasts and symbolically breast-fed a goat skull.  I strongly regret not going, because weird shit like that is in my wheelhouse, but you know, maybe they'll be back next year.

The Bast Cat Ritual - I went to this one last year and loved it.  It's super dorky... and I mean that in the most positive way possible.  I'm talking people calling elements with cat toys, blessings with catnip and milk, wearing kitty masks, prowling around meowing.  And despite being so dorky, it's very moving at the same time, as people always talk about their sick and deceased kitties and we all send energy for them.

The Rainbow Ritual - I cringed a bit because they used colored cornstarch (my sister in law recently acquired a very bad corn allergy--to the point she cannot go into a movie theater--and I'm hyper-aware of allergy issues at events like this).  The ritual itself was lovely.  They assigned a color to each letter in "LGBTQA" (I was purple, representing trans folks, this was negotiated before PSG) and we each wrote our own parts.  I wish the representatives were more gender balanced, but they really had to go with who volunteered in the group.

Food Trucks - They were better than last year, but honestly I didn't have as much of a problem as other people did with it last year.  To be fair, I'm extremely patient with people in food service and very annoyed at people's entitled behavior with employees, so I was viewing a lot of the complaints through that lens.  One of the food trucks had excellent, inexpensive food (Nakiiya and I had ribs twice and cheesy chips, they were very inexpensive and delicious!).  The other was lackluster... I laughed when somebody at the first aid tent came with a "mushroom burger" she had ordered at that truck and found that the mushroom was not a portabella cap (which is what one would expect), but just an average-sized button mushroom... one of them, smooshed into the center of a bun, with no fixings.  Seriously.  I wish I had a picture of it.  It was hilarious.  I did eat their a couple times and did enjoy their root beer floats.  The last day the mushroom burger truck left and a different truck took its place.  I only ate their once... not a lot of food for the price, but it tasted good, and food trucks are expensive anyway.  Oh, and two days they brought an ice cream truck in, which resulted in hoards of grown adult Pagans running down the street full-bolt to get in line.

Plants, Re-Making some Plant Medicines and a Word on Plant Blindness, Did I Mention Plants?

Pagan Spirit Gathering as well as just my general diet have given me severe meat fatigue. I have no intention of going vegetarian again (there are reasons I am not one anymore, after all), but I crave more food that is plant-based or at least not very meat-heavy.  I'm preparing some dry beans today... it's not paleo, but I question the avoidance of beans and not nuts on that diet anyway, so we'll just see how it works for me.

I was looking at my collection of oils and tinctures a couple days ago and hyper aware that I didn't really make them appropriately (I used flavored spirits in some of them, left them steep too long, didn't stir or shake enough).  Since some of these medicines are things I really want to start using to deal with things like menstrual cramps and headaches, I decided to re-make them using straight up vodka, actually writing dates and uses on them, etc.  Some of the oils I just strained and re-jarred... I am less worried by these because they are topicals, and while topical doesn't mean safe, I'm less concerned they will acutely poison me, at least the ones I use (which are generally pretty safe to begin with).  I also harvested some broadleaf plantain from the lawn and peppermint from the garden a couple days ago to make a topical oil.
Photograph of my shrine (my Goddexes are in the cabinet)
with jars of labeled tinctures and oils.

I made tinctures of calendula, skullcap, cramp bark, black pepper, and elderberry that are currently sitting on my shrine steeping.  In a couple weeks I will strain them and put a portion of each into a glass dropper bottle.  The oils (the arnica oil as well as the plantain/peppermint oil) I'll do the same with, the latter I'll also put a few doses in plastic single-use vodka bottles I have because they're a great addition to a street medic first aid kit (unlikely to break, so a lot safer than the glass bottles, cheap enough to give away).  I may also harden some with beeswax to put in tins.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to get some reishi and pine pollen that I'll both tincture and use in shakes (the reishi I guess makes you want to sleep so it may not be wise to put it in my morning coffee, but you never know).  The pine pollen, according to the book I talked about here, might counteract a few of the effects of going off testosterone.  These are also two things I may be able to collect rather than buy, speaking of which...

I'd like to take up more wildcrafting (foraging) again.   While on a lunch break recently I was able to collect some ginkgo and purslane.  The purslane I tend to just eat, as it's quite delicious.  I'm probably going to do some totemic work with the ginkgo as I don't know that I have a use for it right now (I have the book "Plant and Fungus Totems" by Lupa which was a great eye-opener as far as plant spirituality, and I will be using that).

I want to learn more mushrooms, too.  I have been taking Four Sigmatic's Mushroom Academy course, which describes some mushrooms (including the now-popular reishi) which do grow around here in some form.  I'm reasonably sure I would be able to identify reishi, but want a competent instructor before I actually look for it to use.  I may look for it on my wildcrafting walks to work with it in a magickal/totemic sense until I am able to confidently identify it.  I miss mushroom hunting; I used to collect morel mushrooms but developed a toxicity reaction (I vomit violently if I eat it).  So I collect it for others, because I do love the act of foraging, but I would like something I can actually use, and medicinal properties are a huge plus for me.  I may try some of Four Sigmatic's stuff someday but I would like to be able to acquire things without purchasing them as much as possible (it doesn't help that they've started making K-Cups, which are fucking terrible).

I've been doing a lot of thinking about plant blindness.  I've been an edible plant hobbyist for a really long time (starting in my teens but with spurts even earlier, coming from a hunting family we did things like forage for asparagus and rhubarb).  When you start learning to identify plants, the natural world starts looking really different.  You realize that most people growing up in an industrial culture, when they see a natural space, they see a sea of indistinct green.  The more you learn, though, the less indistinct it is, the more you notice individual species and the easier it is to rapidly distinguish them.  I noticed one day maybe four or five years ago that driving down the road I would naturally start picking out ditch plants and my mind would wander to their uses.  "Bull thistle, that tastes like artichoke, chicory, that's a coffee substitute, there's some wild mustard, there's some curly dock that will explode into seeds that can be made into flour, there's wild carrot, that's a popular birth control."

Walking through a lawn for me is a very different experience than it was.  My eyes wander and pinpoint things like broadleaf plantain--which is a very healing plant--wild chamomile/pineappleweed, and poison ivy, even the little baby poison ivy nobody notices because it's mowed down in a lawn, sticks out to me like a giant danger sign.  It's even resulted in my weirdly specific talent of being able to find four- and more-leafed clovers without looking for them.  I just... see them.  My dad and I actually have a game when we forage, where we try to find four-leafed clovers without bending over.  If you bend over and you were wrong, you lose.  I don't really lose often.  I am reasonably cured of my plant blindness.
This looks like a five-leafed clover, but if you look close,
it's actually a six-leafed clover.
"Well good for you," you may be thinking, "but what does this have to do with anything?"  As it turns out, plant blindness is actually a big deal for the planet, because when average people think of protecting the environment, they're thinking about animals, especially relatable animals.  They're thinking about polar bears dying, or how we killed the dodo and the passenger pigeon, or the poaching of elephants and rhinos.  And although all of these are very important things to think about, we wind up ignoring less-relatable life.  This includes things like fungi, insects, and plants.  Things we consider either nuisances or indistinct parts of the scenery rather than life worth protecting.  And it's not even just about the plants and insects, but the fact that they are such an integral part of keeping the relatable animals we try to protect fed and safe.

I don't believe environmentalism should be about human needs, but this is still a big and important thing for humans.  When we allow plants to be destroyed because we think animals are all that matter, we are allowing potential plant medicines that could treat all manner of human illnesses to go extinct before we can discover them.  I'm not some bullshit Pinterest board, I'm not going to tell you that an herbal tea or eating lemons are going to cure cancer, but there are compounds in these plants that are valuable to scientists that can be used to make valuable pharmaceuticals.  All in that sea of green people refuse to see.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Stuff That Resonated With Me at the Green Wizardry Workshop

I usually find myself in a philosophical pickle.  Although I'm not some sort of alarmist prepper going on about an unreasonably specific disaster I full expect to happen in the next ten years, I have a lot of anxiety about the state of the world and where it's going, and I am very heavily influenced by anarcho-primitivists, anti-civilization activists, and other people you probably hate.

I found this on I think Genderqueer Gengar
and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I don't really bring up my influence by these groups often because, as the graphic above indicates, there are lot of problems with those communities.  There's a gross overlap between transmisogynist radical feminists and every well-known offshoot of this philosophy, not to mention rampant ableism.  The idea that pre-civilization society was ideal and we ought to go back to it inherently includes the belief that folks who cannot live without modern medicine ought to have died, an idea that rightfully pisses people off, especially because a lot of these people seem to happily look forward to it.

For me, it's not about looking forward to things.  The idea that civilization is tumbling and could possibly end, especially considering how little humanity as a whole is doing to stop it and how much we are doing to make it worse, stresses me the fuck out.  I have a computer-related profession, I'm on my phone a lot, I love my Netflix and video games.  I would strongly prefer not to have to give these things up.

But things like global climate change, overuse of natural resources, overpopulation, lowered genetic diversity in our food, antibiotic resistance, waste, planned obsolescence, pollution, they're already happening, and they're already causing decline on so many levels, and preparing for that--preparing for times when we may need to rely on human power, on natural and low-energy medicine, on hunting and foraging, or--more likely--having these things as supplements to stave off our overuse of resources, these things are really important to me.  It's a case of "I hope this doesn't happen, and it probably won't happen to a disastrous degree in my lifetime, but if it does I want to help keep the knowledge of these skills alive for future humans."

I can't speak on Green Wizardry on its own because I haven't read the book (it's on my list but I have a long book queue), but the workshop I went to as Pagan Spirit Gathering really resonated with me because it talked about a lot of the stuff I already do but with a lot of energy-related information that could easily accommodate advances in healthcare and technology for the betterment of humanity.  The basic premise was to harness less energy, to rely more on human power, to use energy for fewer things.

One of the problems humanity has is that when we find a breakthrough in energy reduction, like a way to create appliances that utilize less energy than their predecessors, it doesn't result in a net reduction in energy used, it results in us getting more appliances, so our net energy use keeps going up rather than down.  So what the world really needs is ways of doing things that reduce the amount of energy we use, which in some cases sends us backwards, technologically speaking.  This is a great accompaniment to my habit of getting manual appliances whenever they're available, especially in the kitchen... I use hand-powered blenders, whisks instead of mixers, I tend to overall avoid getting electric appliances unless they preserve energy (I got a toaster, for instance, when I was toasting things in the oven too often for the energy of heating a whole oven to be worth it).  There are exceptions, but I tend to keep manual options, just in case (like my meat grinder, I'm glad I have it, but I admittedly also got an electric one as well because the manual one is such a supreme pain in the ass).  It's also important to recognize that the creation of all these things involves energy in its own right, so reducing disposables, foraging for food, gardening instead of having food imported, preserving food in ways that require less refrigeration, buying fewer things in general, are all a part of this.

Eventually what this can lead to, if it becomes a strong movement, is that we can dedicate the energy that we do produce--hopefully in a more sustainable manner than we produce it now--for things that are really important, like medical equipment.  We can have our medical advancement in a world that takes the decline of civilization into account and actually values the environment, but it turns into a pissing match between "all criticism of technological advancement is ableist" and "people should really be dying before 40 from preventable illness" without the realization that maybe neither of those are true.

This is an optimistic vision of the future that shows me that philosophies centered on preserving the environment and backtracking technology can be non-sociopathic.  The incessant articles talking about how millennials are ruining the economy gives me some hope in this, as my generation (especially those a bit younger than me, as I am admittedly an older millennial) doesn't define success and growth in the same destructive way as baby boomers do.  But I'm still pretty pessimistic, because I don't think people understand how deep the problem is.  In this case, the knowledge I try to hold and teach becomes its own backup plan... it can be used to stave off the worst parts of the problem, or it can be used to mitigate its effects.

I'm going on a lot of tangents that didn't really take place in the workshop... the point is that it made me think about a lot of things outside the actual content.

There was also a Green Wizards Meetup that I unfortunately couldn't go to due to a work shift.  I may try to go next year if it's there again (I know the Green Wizards stuff was also there last year and I couldn't go, so maybe it'll make another appearance).  This was a meeting place to talk about our own Green Wizardry type projects, largely DIY stuff.  I think my own lifestyle would be great for this kind of meetup, and I'd love to meet other Pagans who are that heavily into DIY.