Book Review: How to Keep House While Drowning

I found this one through TikTok somehow. It’s a book about housekeeping for spoonies (people with chronic illnesses that cause them to have low or variable energy from day to day). It’s not very long (less than 200 pages, with skippable sections) and I think it’s really worth reading if you have a chronic illness and you ever struggle to keep on top of care tasks. The author also includes other essential care tasks such as bathing and childcare. Unlike many other books about cleaning, this book tries to dispel all the moralizing myths about the “right” way to keep a house. Instead, KC takes a very pragmatic approach.

Firstly, our spaces exist to serve us, not the other way around. The real reason to tidy a space is not because tidy spaces are morally superior or “the right way”. It’s because there are concrete benefits to tidying, such as being less stressed out because you can easily find things and don’t have as much visual clutter around you. This shift in perspective is important because it takes the shame factor out of cleaning and allows us to make a real assessment of those benefits against the costs. If you only have enough spoons to bathe OR do the dishes, you can make that decision based on the relative utility of those choices and move on with your life. If half your laundry is dirty but you know your chronic pain can’t handle hauling laundry today, you can make a decision to defer without feeling like you’ve done something wrong, especially since you still have laundry to wear for a little while yet.

Plan for what you’ll actually do, not what you wish you’ll do.

To take this way of thinking to another level: since you are a person with unusual needs, it makes sense if your spaces are unusual, in service of those needs. Instead of setting everything up as a “normal” person would and beating yourself up when those systems don’t work, pay attention to your actual behaviour and set up systems around that. Basically, you’re going to pave the desire paths that you see around your home. One of KC’s examples was that at one point, she was doing laundry and outfit planning for the whole household, but she was spending a ton of time folding it and putting it away in five different closets, which was exhausting. So she just stopped putting it away. She kept all the clean laundry in the laundry room and then she had a centralized place to pick everyone’s clothes from. Another example: her general “fix” for clutter is to add an appropriate basket to wherever it pops up. She keeps a dirty laundry basket in every room of her home. After reading her book, I put my largest recycling bin in the living room instead of in the kitchen, and my apartment is a lot less messy as a result.

I would definitely recommend this book. Even if you’re not a spoonie I think the concept of designing your space around how you actually use it makes a lot of sense. KC Davis also has a podcast called Struggle Care and a bunch of social media you can find on her site.

What is modernity and what is truth?

These are my notes from the first lecture in Edwin Hodge‘s lecture series Conspiracies and radicalization in the “post-truth” era.

What is modernity? A time period and mode of thinking.
What is truth? Who are our truth-tellers, how do we make sense of the world, what does the world look like and how do we fit in?

What is modernity? political, social, scientific, and industrial revolutions caused fundamental changes in how we view reality.
– Political (such as American, French, etc)
– Social (belief in rights, social contract, etc)
– Scientific (empiricism, scientific method)
– Industrial — this is the result of the other 3. Results in urbanization, specialized work, concept of wage labor.

A “rationalized” society requires:
– Efficiency (produce as much as we can with minimal resources, time, money)
– Predictability (yesterday, today, tomorrow’s output should be comparable)
– Calculability (measurable progress in some metric, like time, money, steps, views…)
– Control (we can control outcomes with standardization and automation)

What is truth? In modernity, scientific knowledge is the gold standard. When people have questions about the world, they ask scientists or domain experts. What we consider legitimate knowledge is produced via increasingly rigorous and arcane methods (not directly accessible by laypeople). As knowledge production becomes more complex, the number of people who can directly access it decreases.

The broken promises of modernity: near the end of the 20th century, sociologist Ulrich Beck points out that the promises of modernity have not been met. Freedom from scarcity, fear, and uncertainty was not attained for the common person, only for the privileged. In reality, risk and instability increased because society began to shift so rapidly that careers/lifestyles/etc could not be predictable from one generation to the next. Increased urbanization meant more crime, poverty, and disease. Automation also increased poverty by eliminating types of work. Society became more complex, which made it more difficult for an average person to navigate.

Loss of community: In 1990s political scientist Robert Putnam noted that civic organizations (think Freemasons, rotary clubs) were dying. Average age of membership was going up because young people weren’t joining. In addition, most people adopt a “good fences make good neighbors” attitude to the point where they do not know their neighbors’ names. These kinds of relationships have a flattening effect that brings people from different walks of life together.

Loss of trust in social institutions: Millenial, Gen Z and younger have lost trust in social institutions. Earlier generations had cheap rent, cheap real estate, single earner families, a robust social safety net and affordable post-secondary education. Not anymore.

New Media problems: Old (mass) media created a coherent shared narrative and largely listened to experts. New media consists mostly of a large number of niche social media creators. Each creator tends to target a group which is ideologically-aligned and there is less pressure to fact-check. People consume media quickly and shallowly; they have poor information retention and may also misremember key facts. It is easy to avoid challenging or opposing information/viewpoints.

Options for continuing ed

I’ve been wanting to take some continuing ed for awhile now and finally got around to signing up to some things. I’ve been waffling for a long time about how to pick the right thing so I picked four things that seem likely and I figure I can work from there.

Some considerations:

  • What kind of education do I want? There’s two broad categories I’m interested in pursuing. Firstly, I want practical skills so I can be more self-sufficient or more able to help others. Some thoughts here are permaculture skills, carpentry, and first aid. The second category is the humanities. In college I wasn’t able to take as many humanities classes as I found interesting. I find people very interesting, especially how surprisingly surprisingly different AND surprisingly similar we are to people in very different cultures.
  • Do I need a piece of paper? Do I need teacher feedback? Getting the equivalent of an anthropology/psychology degree would be a lot cheaper if I just audited the classes, but it would mean I can’t use those skills toward a career if needed. Most free/cheap education options don’t include teacher feedback either, so you have to hope you can keep yourself on the right track.

So here is my 2023 class schedule so far:

  • A two-week in-person PDC class in the beginning of July
  • A 4-session lecture series on “Conspiratorial Thinking in the Age of COVID”, March
  • An at-your-own-pace edX class “Anthropology of Current World Issues” (comes with a certificate)
  • Anthropology 275 at Athabasca (at your own pace and qualifies as a 3-credit university course), begins in April

I think for now that’s probably enough different things to give me information on what I want to pursue further.

2020: a (partial) retrospective

My last post here was in fall of 2019 and it was surprisingly prescient for me… commenting on how day-to-day changes in our lives add up to be a whole new life over a long period of time. Things have changed a lot between October 2019 and March 2023… we all know the headlines but I wanted to reflect on some things that happened which were more personal to me.

At the start of 2020, I was already under a lot of stress. At work, I spent most of my time dealing with an unfairly demanding client, and while my manager agreed their demands were unfair and saw the stress I was under, they would not step in nor would they give me the actual power to say no to them. At home I had been so subsumed into a controlling common law marriage that I was convinced that I had no worth, because if my partner (who said he loved me) saw no value in me, then there must be none there.

In March, when COVID started hitting the news, my sleep cycle started getting a little iffy. I have always struggled somewhat with insomnia so I chalked it up to this and to my body syncing up with the sun cycle. The days were getting longer and I spent a lot of time outdoors and in natural light. Back at this time you couldn’t buy a reusable face mask in stores, so I made this one from a pattern I found online. I used fabric I had laying around (I thought the SOS life preserver fabric was funny). A couple of my remote coworkers were making them too. My then-partner was very dismissive and turned down my offer to make him one.

I think around George Floyd’s killing in May was when I really snapped. If you pile up enough stress on someone who has a genetic vulnerability to bipolar disorder, it can trigger it, and once you have it there’s undoing it, only learning to treat and manage it. I’d always been a pretty resilient person and I think if 2020 had been a little less chaotic or if my personal/work life had been better sorted out, I would likely not have BP today. I like to joke that in 2020 everyone else got COVID and I got BP, but in reality there were a lot of people in the newly-diagnosed support groups who were older. There were people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond who were diagnosed with BP at an advanced age because 2020 finally stressed them out enough to overcome their natural defenses.

Around the end of summer I was hospitalized. The sixth month period between summer and winter 2020 was easily the worst six months of my life and I’m not sure I want to put it to paper at all. Maybe another day.

Fall is Falling

This morning I lit a fire in the wood stove to keep the chill off, and finally “called it” on my corn experiment. I have a bunch of not-quite-baby corns that I’ll probably end up using in a stew or something like that. Growing corn in a shady rainforest isn’t easy, but I’ll try again next year.

Now that the hubbub of spring and summer are over, it’s giving me a lot of time to think about, and prepare for, the future. Something about autumn makes it feel like a good time to step back and contemplate. Where have I gone this year and where do I want to go? Navigating in the modern world feels complicated, like a maze. There are a lot of wrong turns and some of them are easy to spot early on while others look promising at first. Until you’ve actually made it to the end, you’re just taking it on faith that there even is an exit.

The climate protest was last week and I was heartened by how many people participated from all over the world. I also turned 30 this week, and spent a lot of time thinking about how much my life has changed over the last 10 years. Day by day it feels like nothing is changing, but over a scale like that, everything is different. I wonder what my life will be like at 40.

Book Review: How to Cheat at Gardening and Yard Work

Recently I went to the Pender Island Library for the first time (unbelievable that it took so long) and picked up a nice fat stack of gardening books. The one I read this evening was How to Cheat at Gardening and Yard Work and I found the content a bit all over the place. Some of the content was sound advice, some of it was novel and interesting, and some of it was just plain awful. Below are some examples.

The Good

  • Heavy emphasis on planning around irrigation and watering schedules. Recommends drip irrigation over sprinklers, watering more deeply less often, rain catchment, and using larger pots that won’t dry out as quickly.
  • Good advice for lazy but effective composting.
  • Suggests easy-care flowers such as bulbs and native plants.
  • Simple design tips for beginners such as planting in drifts/large sections rather than a scattering of individual plants.

The Bad

  • Heavy emphasis on companion planting, the majority of which is not supported by any evidence.
  • Overgeneralizations that seeds are “too much effort”. Many seeds can be planted in the ground and will outperform transplants due to skipping transplant shock and rootboundedness. For plants that fare better with transplanting, setting up a seed cabinet allows you to skip most of the fussing and work. Planting from seed also allows you to select from a wider range of varieties, meaning you can choose seeds bred to thrive with specific climates, growing conditions, diseases and pests.
  • Suggests reusing your seedling heat mats to dry herbs. Firstly, the vast majority of herbs will dry if simply bundled and hung up somewhere. Curtain rods, closet rods, eaves and ceiling beams will all do the job just fine. Secondly, some seedling heat mats pose enough of a fire hazard that I would be very hesitant to leave dry plant material piled on top of them.

The Ugly

  • Suggests stuffing the bottom of pots with newspaper or packing peanuts to save money on potting soil. Elsewhere they recommend buying larger pots to prevent rootboundedness and slow the pot from drying out. Adding packing peanuts to the bottom of the pot completely defeats the point of having a larger pot.
  • Their deer-proofing suggestions are exhausting. Since one half-baked method won’t work for long, they suggest endlessly rotating between all of the half-baked methods to keep the deer on their toes. My suggestion: get a fence.
  • Two words: lawn paint.

In Short

This was an interesting book and was definitely worth borrowing and reading, but probably not worth purchasing or giving a permanent spot on one’s bookshelf.

End of Summer Garden Gallery

My garden is starting to wind down for the summer but it’s not over yet. 💁

The Draining of Gardom Pond is the Shame of the CRD

Let’s recap shall we?

  • Pender Island relies on artifical bodies of water like Gardom Pond to provide potable water for local businesses and households. 100% of North Pender’s groundwater comes from precipitation. Gardom Pond serves, effectively, as a really big rain barrel which catches water during the rainy season and slowly feeds the aquifer underneath. People then draw water out of the aquifer year-round using household wells.
  • The Gardom Pond fire hydrant is also a significant local firefighting resource. Due to our seasonal drought, our wildfire risk in the summers are very high. Every year there are campaigns begging people not to toss cigarette butts on the ground, and it is currently illegal for me to mow my lawn after 1pm, even with an electric mower, because it might throw a spark.
  • Our drought and wildfire risk is expected to worsen with the advance of climate change. The CRD announced a climate change emergency earlier this year and claim they are “taking steps to adapt, mitigate and reduce climate change impacts”.
  • Due to widespread dam safety concerns, the provincial government has ordered hundreds of dams across the province to be either repaired up to standard or decommissioned. The Gardom Pond dam was one of these dams.
  • The Gardom Pond dam was originally built to ensure water supply for the Razor Point district (see above), and approval of housing construction in this area was contingent on the dam being built.
  • The CRD has not conducted any groundwater study to determine the impact on the wells fed by the Gardom Pond aquifer. An analysis by a local freshwater geoscientist, William Shulba, has suggested that there is a significant risk that the lowered level of the pond will lead to a collapse in the aquifer, causing saltwater intrusion in the wells.
  • The CRD’s publicly-released estimate for repairing the dam was 1.5 million. Multiple independent engineers stated that this estimate was absurdly high. When pressed, the CRD admitted that this figure was effectively made up. An actual quote from CD Inc places the cost of repairing the dam at $278,000, which is 60% of the $460,000 cost of draining.
  • In order to pay for the draining of the pond, the CRD applied for a federal government grant which they claim could not be used for dam reinforcement; however the grant they applied for is applicable towards climate change resiliency infrastructure.
  • The CRD still refuses to reconsider their decision to drain the pond. In fact, Dave Howe is not even returning mail or phone calls.

There is a pretty simple win-win-win solution here, but the government is refusing to even consider it, because that would mean admitting that they initially made a mistake. 💁 What a high price we are paying for their pride.

Perennial Vegetables

Annual vegetables are awesome, but I love perennial vegetables even more. Bigger plants tend to be hardier than seedlings, so they’re better able to handle stresses caused by things like unreliable weather and pests. They also get a head start over annuals at the beginning of the growing season, since they have bigger roots, making it better able to collect water and nutrients from the soil. Some perennials will also have stalks and leaves that remain throughout the winter season, which also means a head start on collecting sunlight and nutrients from the air.

Here are some of the perennial vegetables I’m currently growing or planning on growing:

Walking Onions

Walking onions (also called topset onions or tree onions) are a type of perennial onion that reproduces by growing little baby onions at the end of its stalk. They are hardy through the winter here and while they slow down during cold and snow, they otherwise don’t seem to notice that it’s there. I like to use walking onions as green onions, since I don’t think the bulbs get very big very quickly.

Multiplier Onions

A multiplier onion (or potato onion) is a type of perennial onion that reproduces underground, like a potato. You buy a bag of little baby bulbs (called sets) and plant them individually, and at the end of the season when you dig them up, each individual bulb will have grown into several bulbs, each a couple of inches in size. You can save some of the bulbs for next year and eat the rest like shallots.


You can plant asparagus from seed or from crowns. If you buy crowns, you’ll usually get only male plants, which produce better spears than females since they don’t have to put any energy towards producing seeds. If you grow from seed, you’ll get a mix of both male and female plants, which might be ideal if you want a more self-sustaining food-forest-style patch of it.


We’re growing a lot of strawberries now so this was a must. 😊 It’s also rumored that rhubarb can be used as a natural pink colorant for soaps, though I haven’t tried it yet myself. There’s also plenty of foods you can make with rhubarb even if you have no strawberries left over after berry-picking is done.


I have one (1) baby artichoke plant. We’ll see how it does. 👶

Nine-Star Broccoli

We eat a lot of broccoli and cauliflower, but I didn’t bother planting any this year because they haven’t done exceptionally well on our property. Nine-star broccoli is a perennial brassica (actually more of a cauliflower) that I would love to try because it lasts for around 5 years after it’s first planted.

Miner’s Lettuce

Tastes a lot like lettuce; comes up earlier here and grows back without replanting. I’m not 100% certain if mine self-seeds or if it’s the original plants coming back (said to be hardy up to zone 6). I suspect a bit of both.