We’re getting a new fridge.

Simple, Black, and Sexy, with a freezer on top and way more cubic feet  (and better designed for todays products) than my beloved 1947 Kelvinator.

 

Now, before anyone accuses me of anything silly, don’t fret. The Kelvinator is not going away. It WORKS great, and it’s going to go live in the mini-barn where it will be used for the aging of meats, and probably be outfitted with a new gasket this summer.

 

In case anyone is not aware of the current weather though, it’s WET here. Rain and snow mix, and my back yard is a puddle. This doesn’t make the chickens very happy, believe me, and it makes stomping around back there trying to deal with the maple tree rather unpleasant. This also makes the prospect of moving a VERY heavy Kelvinator across a VERY wet and mucky yard a rather daunting one. I’ll need to get some wood scraps to roll the fridge across or I and whoever I have helping me are going to get hernias.

 

The addition of a fridge with a freezer on it has an added benefit: It looks like I’ll be able to turn the small chest freezer into a lagering chest and kegerator.

I admit it. I’m a geek. I’m your more classic kind of geek, OpenBSD server in a hand made rack mount hanging in the top of my utility closet, as well as your food and sustainability geek.

These things do in fact collide more often than one might think.

Case in point: I just made the dinner menu for game night. Game night means a Dungeons and Dragons style game, though for this particular campaign, we’re playing Pathfinder from Paizo Publishing, using my own game world. The dinner below isn’t a one off. This kind of thing is rather common.

Pre-dinner cocktail: Manhattans (Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Lillet Blonde, and American Spoon Balatons Cherries)

Main course: Venison stew

Side dish: Batate All’Abbamelle (baked Sweet potatoes with a sardinian honey and pollen reduction)

Dessert: Pannacotta kin Abbathu (Custard with abbamele and berries)

Wine pairing: Riverside Red from Purple Feet Winery

Beer pairing: Black Velvet (my own hard cider, with Faircy Irish Stout from Arbor Brewing Company)

I bake. Not quite as often as I’d like to or should, but I bake, and one thing that most baking requires is sugar. Living as I do in the Land o’ Sugarbeets, it’s usually far cheaper to get white refined beet sugar than cane sugar. But sugar takes many forms, and throughout the world and history, we’ve found ways of getting it.

It used to be that you couldn’t go anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest USA in February and March and NOT see buckets hung on the side of trees, collecting sap to be boiled down into syrup. Tapping ones own trees has fallen away from common knowledge though, and it makes me a little sad to look out my window, across the snowy yard, and count the GALLONS of maple syrup that could be derived from just the trees of this little subdivision.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need a Sugar Maple tree to make syrup. Sugar Maples are prized because they have the highest percentage of sugar in their sap, thus producing more syrup with less boiling, but ANY maple tree can be tapped. Around here, you’d be hard pressed to find a sugar type, but Silver Maples are everywhere.

Last year, I decided to try it myself, and tapped the massive maple tree in the backyard, as well as a couple at my grandmothers house. This is the tree in my yard, which I tapped last week in the warm weather. For perspective, that’s a 5 gallon bucket I’ve hung on the tap.

image

Last year, from the 4 taps I ended up with about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup, but I was only taking sap for a week. I could have started sooner, and gone later, as I am this year. This cold snap has stopped the sap flow, but as soon as this tap starts again, I’ll tap the other trees, and put another into this one.

Chickens in a yard eating

Chickens, are not a source of sugar. The breeds shown here are: A Black Australorp (Bad Mama Jamma), Golden Polish (David and Bowie), White Cubalayas (no names yet), and Exchequer Leghorns (Alcatraz, Sing Sing, and one un-named).

These are the Apocalypse Chickens. When civilisation crumbles, and the yuppies are milling about unable to feed their families, I’ll have eggs each morning. Before that point I will need to make sure I have suitable roosters (The one Golden Polish in profile above is a cock, but GP are an ornamental breed). I’d like to increase the flock a bit to 8 hens or so, a mix of Australorp, Exchequer Leghorns, and some Chantecler. I’d REALLY like some Scots Dumpy Chickens, but I seriously doubt I could find any reasonably in the USA. It’s not one of the breeds available from Sandhill Preservation where I got these birds last year.

 

But snow is about to fly here. I enjoy winter, but I’m anxious for the maple to flow, and my chickens to enjoy the outdoors and be able to forage again.

I’m sitting in downtown Ypsilanti, in the newly opened B-24’s Espresso Bar, in the space that used to be Bombadill’s Neighborhood Coffee House. The previous owner decided he needed to sell, unable to make the coffee shop successful while dedicating the physical and emotional presence he thought needed to his family. I like Peter a lot, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to make the kind of decision he made. His assistant manager, though, worked out a deal with him and the landlord to rework the place and re-open it. Today, B-24’s opened, and it is FABULOUS. I’m currently drinking a pour over of Mighty Good Coffee Company’s Black Diamond coffee.

In other news, I’ve a job! I am now a full-time employee of Zingerman’s Mail Order! I worked as one of the temporary holiday Service Stars, starting in October, and wonderfully, amazingly, I was able to get a full time job there for the REST of the year. I am truly excited by this, not only because it’s a health care and paid-time-off providing company, but ALSO because I truly love the work. Yes, it’s largely customer service, but as I told one of the managing partners, it’s a job that has all the things I liked about my job at the ISP, without the drug dealing boss, mom-and-pop-shop drama, and it’s not Tech Support. I’m no longer slave to AT&T being idiots. Added bonus: My profession is now something I’m actively interested in. I’d long ago lost desire to work in the IT industry in any environment where I’m working with the general public. I’m quite content to be a geek at home, and to apply my geekery to things at work, without such work encompassing EVERYTHING I do. I’m far more interested in food, and sustainable living, than I am computer security and connectivity.

But, it’s back home for me. I’ve a pantry to finish building!

I have a few thoughts I’d send along to the folk at GA about some of todays bylaw amendments.

First, is the amendment that would allow the UUA Board of Trustees to remove another Board member or a member of a Committee of the Association “with cause”. Four years ago, at GA in St. Louis, as a GA Planning Committee member, I allowed some underaged young adults, including my fiancee, to consume alcohol in my hotel room. When the GAPC found out about this, they asked me to resign, and told me that if I refused, they would ask the Board to remove me. In reading the bylaws, it became apparent that the Board didn’t have that power, unless my actions showed that I was morally incompetent to continue my service. In the end, I did resign, but had I not, the Board had little they could do.

The Board and our Association are going through many changes right now, shifting to Policy Governance, discussing massive reorganisations of services and districts. One of the big discussions the Board is having, is if GA is a Board function, or an Administration function, as Policy Governance requires these delineations. I believe that GA is the responsibility of NEITHER, but is in fact a function and the responsibility of our Congregations, and thus Equal To the Board of Trustees, and allowing the Board oversight of the committee is a bad idea.  If we need to make bylaw changes allowing committees or the Board to remove people, give the Board and the Committees of the Association the same power and restrictions as the Board of Review, the only Committee of the Association that CAN remove it’s members.

Next, is the amendment to allow the Board, not the GA Planning Committee, to set the GA agenda. This I also would ask our delegates to decline. I believe over the last decade or so, the GAPC has been a bit negligent in its duties, allowing the Board and Moderator to largely set the agenda and just rubber stamping it. At least that’s how it happened when I was on the GAPC.  Similar to my reasoning above, it is essential that in this time of massive change, that we require the elected servants of our faith to do their duty. The GAPC needs to take back their responsibility, and set the agenda. This means the GAPC will need to be in more and better contact with our congregations and Association leaders to determine WHAT business is needed.

Why did the Commission on Appraisal review the Principles? Because they were asked to by the President.

Why did the President ask for the review? Because the people setting the Agenda hadn’t done their due diligence and had them reviewed on the timeline the bylaws call for. That is the fault of the GAPC, and its own issues in having little long term vision, being caught in the minutia of one GA after another. Call on the GAPC to due its duty, and work with the Moderator to set the agenda, but to do it itself. They are supposed to be the check and balance against the Board of Trustees, working for the congregations.

So please, consider that giving the Board powers and oversight over other sections of those committees that belong to US as the GA and the Congregations, is not wise or prudent at this time.

This is the report of the Secretary of the Church of the Younger
Fellowship. For the purposes of this report, Steering Committee  refers to those elected or appointed to it, as well as the Tech Team, and our minister/Administrator, unless specified otherwise.

In 2009 the Steering Committee has engaged in the following:

  • The restarting of semi-monthly scheduled chats for members
  • A more regular posting of worship
  • A re-distribution of work between the volunteers, contract staff, paid staff, and CLF administration
  • Engaged in the beginning of a visioning process.
  • Revised a Mission Statement that has been submitted to the community for discussion.
  • Adjusted the Steering committee work and meeting schedule to optimise the limited resource of volunteer and staff time.

As Secretary, I am responsible for ensuring the integrity of our
documents. In this capacity, I have several concerns:

  • The Steering Committee played no part in the determination of our budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
  • Similarly, the Steering Committee played no part in the drafting of a grant proposal submitted for our ministry.
  • For the entirety of 2009, the Steering Committee was provided inaccurate information as to the status of our surplus and deficit.
  • The Steering Committee had no fiscal nor fund raising plan for 2009, and has made neither for the current fiscal year.
  • The redistribution of work previously cited has never been articulated.
  • CLF Board Policy requires that a new Memorandum of Understanding be negotiated annually. We are currently operating without one, and our Board Liason has expressly told us to ignore that Board Policy.

These are of particular concern, as Church of the Larger Fellowship
Board of Directors policy requires the Steering committee be responsible for the expenses of our ministry. It is impossible for the Steering Committee to meet that responsibility without information from our fiscal agents that is both accurate and timely, coupled with a fiscal plan and an accurate understanding of our responsibilities and limits.

As Secretary, I have striven to make information timely and accurate for our meetings. I have not always succeeded, but with the co-operation of the rest of the Steering Committee I believe that the records of our work and thus its consistency are far more stable now than when I came to office in March 2009.

However, being the Secretary of the CYF as elected by its members, I have failed in my duties of reporting to them. This failure has been intentional, as I have sought to maintain as healthy a relationship with my fellow Steering committee members as possible, believed that bringing our work to a stable point was essential, and that airing my concerns over the lack of integrity of the Steering committees work would not allow us to meet those ends.

I still believe that the work of the Steering Committee has no spiritual or institutional integrity without being part of a long term fiscal and programming plan that is informed by the revised Mission Statement, a current Memorandum of Understanding with the Board, and a defined relationship with the CLF staff. Further, the negotiation of these agreements and the creation of this plan must be the top priority of the Steering Committee for the first half of this year and completed before General Assembly. This process need not necessarily include the Tech Team or Administrator.

During the 2010 year, I seek to announce and publish minutes of each
Steering committee meeting on the CYF website, and to furnish the
community with quarterly reports of our work and finances. I will also seek to engage the community in discussion of including our ministry in other aspects of the UU world, through the creation of what I hope will be some of the most comprehensive, approachable, and integrated denominational affairs work in our Association.

I look forward to the rest of 2010, and the work of the CLF’s Young
Adult Ministry.

Submitted in Faith,
Donald Wilson
Secretary
Church of the Younger Fellowship

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