My grandmother was born in 1912 so she was "coming of age" at about the time of the great depression. Her first memories were of a ticker tape parade celebrating the end of World War I. As a youngster she was unsure of herself, had divorced parents, and was trying to do the best she could. Like many from her generation, she was incredibly frugal. But, unlike many, she grew up that way. She grew up learning about plants, experimented with religion, attended college (English and Chemistry), and met a young man at college who was to become my grandfather.
By the time I was born, my grandfather was no longer alive; My parents and I lived with my grandmother and her mother on 40 acres on a dirt road in a small southeast Michigan farm town. Because we lived together, we spent a lot of time together. She would take me into the woods to pick wild raspberries. We would harvest mint, swiss chard, and some other things that I don't know the name of from edges of the pasture, yard or forest. My family had a garden of about an acre, and a field that would alternate between corn, alfalfa, wheat, etc. I remember working as a whole family in the garden. I also remember my grandmother inferring the knowledge she had regarding ecosystems, recycling, limiting chemical usage, and being selective when making purchases. She subscribed to Mother Earth News and was constantly pursuing knowledge about composting, natural fertilizers and other earthy-crunchy, earth-friendly practices. In winters, our home was pretty cold, heated primarily by a wood stove. Each night, we would heat large stones on the wood stove. Later these stones would be placed into pillow cases and inserted under the covers to warm our beds. The stones would keep emitting heat for about an hour (or more). I believe this is similar to the way a modern-day radiant floor works - especially when the material is concrete or stone. In the summers, because the house was surrounded on three sides by forest/trees, the home stayed pretty cool.
I believe I was lucky to have grown up in a multi-generational household. My grandmother died in 2003, and I miss her incredibly much. However, she'll always be with me. Each week when I take my recycling to the curb, I remember her saving tinfoil for reuse and talking about how the Native Americans were the "original recyclers." I don't quite remember what it was in reference to - maybe string and leather - but I remember her imparting the importance of recycling. I remember her natural remedies - aloe as skincare/burncare, which in the 1970's was not all that commonly used, chamomile tea for sleepiness, and mint to settle a stomach. I remember her feeding us dandilion greens and swiss chard. And, I remember the neighbor kids thinking this was the grossest thing, since those things grew naturally and not in the garden. Now those same greens are sold for high prices in the grocery stores - sold as organic greens mix. She also had trees planted in her memory through donations to an environmental cause (I cannot remember whether it was The Nature Conservancy or the Arbor Day Foundation).
These simple things are what I'm trying to find in my life. I am looking for a way to consume less, to lessen my footprint, and to promote these practices to others. I believe there is climate change. I believe that it was unfortunate that climate change was initially called "global warming" because some people assume that if its cold in their region that the earth isn't warming - regardless of whether glaciers are breaking off, and shorelines are being lost. I am interested in learning more about the Natural Step, sustainable building, elimitating waste through selective purchasing, buying local, reforesting land, and generally enjoying nature. Today there will be many blogs dedicated to these issues, being as it is Blog Action Day and the topic is climate change. However, these issues are important to me each and every day, and many such ideas will continue to pepper my blog.