Steve Bivans

Author, Coach, Urban Viking

Tag: hobbit (page 1 of 2)

Gale Woods Farm: a Hobbit-y Sunday Afternoon

Hey y’all,

Just dropping in to let you know what we were up to today.

We did a little bike riding around the neighborhood this morning, then rode out in the country to check out Gale Woods Farm, a working, extensive farm in the Minnetonka area. Paysh’s grandfather, Ray Felt, used to be the farm manager out there many years ago. sustainable agriculture

It is a beautiful spot, very hobbit like, and after having a picnic, we took a long stroll around the farm on a beautiful, cool summer day.

What’s really cool about the farm, is that they try very hard to practice sustainable agriculture, using buffer zones to help keep the water clean, compost to help regenerate the soil, as well as animals (sheep, goats, cows, and chickens) to fertilize the soil and keep down weeks and bugs.

This is the future of agriculture, just as much as it was the past. Very nice to see it happening in such a place.

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Review of ‘The Church of Mercy’ by Pope Francis

The Church of MercyThe Church of Mercy by Pope Francis

My Hobbit-Wizard rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not Catholic. I was raised as a Protestant, but mostly I avoid organized religion altogether. The fact that I was compelled to read this book means you should as well. If you’re reading this review you’re either Catholic, or not, and you’re already in love with this pope. Just read the book. Sure, for me there was a bit much of the religious, but hey, he’s the Pope for Christ’s sake. What do you expect? But his message, or I should say messages, have a central theme that I agree with completely, and that is that it’s our job to look after our fellow human beings on this planet. His message is to all Christians, but it might as well be to everyone, and I think it is. If you want to call yourself a Christian, or a religious person of any kind, then you must have compassion for those who have so little. They are the path to salvation. I like this guy. He’s a Hobbit Pope, with a touch of ole Gandalf thrown in.

View all my reviews

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Bringing Shire-ness to the World: What the Hell Does that Mean?

by Steve Bivans

If you’ve read some of my stuff, you may have run across my life’s purpose…

‘To bring Shire-ness to the World, and Spring again to the Trees.’

“Ok, that’s awesome, but what the hell are you talking about?” You ask.

First off, “What does ‘Spring again in the Trees’ mean?”

Let me start at the beginning, well, technically at the end of a quote. It’s from a J.R.R. Tolkien speech given in 1958:

I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentle hobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.

Spring to the Trees, means to help in some small way–blue-flower-in-spring-forest-wallpaper,1366x768,64512and to inspire others to do small things as well–to clean up the pollution and mess that we have been dumping into our environment for centuries, so that Nature can function as it should, with minimum interference from Mankind. Yeah, it’s kind of tree-huggy, I know. But I love trees, and so did Tolkien, and hobbits, and Treebeard.

What is ‘Shire-ness’?

The Shire was the homeland of hobbits, in the books,

Click the here to preview the Kickstarter Campaign!

Click the here to preview the Kickstarter Campaign!

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It was a rural, farmscape surrounded by wild places, forests, streams and rivers. I am coining the noun, Shire-ness to describe an ideal living condition for humanity. Here’s my not-so-formal definition:

Shire-ness: n., a sustainable, free, and open, ‘hobbit-like’ way of living, rooted in Nature, cooperating as a community, with humanity, hospitality, and humor.

Am I suggesting that we all move ‘to the country’ and live in holes in the ground?

No, as idyllic as that sounds, it would in fact be disastrous, as one of the biggest problems facing the Earth, especially in developed countries like the U.S., is the loss of farmland to the suburbs. This must stop. But where will all 7 billion of us live? Answer, mostly in cities. We need to address population problems—a much larger subject that I won’t go into here—and to build UP, not OUT.

The idea of Shire-ness, is rooted IN Nature, in other words, it requires a different mind set about our place in the natural world; it doesn’t suggest we should all move into hobbit holes and out in the country. What it means is that we need to stop thinking of the Earth as simply OUR RESOURCE, to use as we will. It is not. That is an ancient myth birthed in the misty dawn of civilization; it is patently false, and is at the root of all our problems as a species.

What we need to do, in order to live in the Shire, is not to move to the sticks (the boonies, boondocks, hicksville, etc), but to bring the sticks, or Nature, into our minds. We need to change our story. We need to rewrite our thinking so that it states that we are PART of Nature, not Nature’s masters. We need to return to harmony with Nature and with each other, to become what humans were destined to be, builders of gardens and Shires, hobbits (if you will), not Masters over creatures great and small.

That’s what Shire-ness is, according to me, which is what really matters, right? I mean, this is MY life’s purpose, lol. Of course, feel free to steal it if you want, and I hope you will, even if you just chip off a bit of the edges, and incorporate it into your own.

The other words in the definition, you could look up in Websters, but I’lll define them in the context of my own perspective, to tell you what the words mean to ME, in the context of my Purpose.

Sustainable:

This word gets thrown around a lot these days, but is rarely defined. I’m employing it to suggest a way of living within Nature, like mentioned above. Instead of a take, take, take mentality, we can begin thinking about how to close the loop on all our systems, to eliminate wastes—of all kinds—so that we stop polluting our environment and corrupting our systems of government. Waste of any kind is a sign of bad system design. In Nature’s design, everything returns to the system as a useable by-product; think of trees, leaves, forest floor mulch, soil, back to trees. Nature perpetuates itself in a closed loop. There is no waste, ever.

We, however, have produced shit-tons of waste, and are doing it as we speak, namely fossil fuel laden products, like plastics, which will never bio-degrade (though there are some wizard/scientists working on that). We need to cease making such things, and find other ways to make the same, or better products, with bio-degradable, sustainable materials. They exist already, and other wizard-scientists are working on new ones every day.

Free and Open:
This is the one that will get me in trouble with my conservative friends. “Nothing is Free, man!” they will say. To which I will say, “Yes, and fuckin’ no.” Sunlight is free, water should be—though that is almost locked up in the hands of Saruman too. When I say ‘free’, I’m not referring to some communistic, utopian idea of society, where everyone works to produce stuff for their neighbors on the assumption that their neighbors will do the same, and that everyone will put in equal effort and produce equally valuable contributions to the group. How awesome that would be, but it’s highly unlikely to ever work. It goes against human nature–though not as much as some would argue–and it falls apart under any scrutiny, or logic. Some people will just be lazy, or try to take advantage of the system, but not usually those at the bottom, contrary to what those same people would argue. (See Thanks for the New Yacht: the REAL Welfare Scams.)

No, free, in my definition, refers to freedom of person and mind, like in the Declaration of Independence. Everyone on Earth should have the right to own their own body, soul, and mind. Not everyone does, even in places where we claim it, like in the U.S. There are both actual slaves, and practical slaves in the so-called ‘free world.’ Millions of them, and their numbers are growing, especially the latter kind.

When I say ‘Open’, I’m referring to the movement for ‘open source’ resources. This is the way many products were produced in the past, but increasingly, the world has moved to the idea that products, ideas, and governments need to be secret. It is a hoarding mentality based on the idea of proprietary ownership. Our world has become too complex as a result, and expensive.

Such closed mentality benefits the large corporations, but not the consumer or society. We need to start producing goods and services that are ‘open’ in nature. In other words, instead of locking up the insides of your cell phone, the software that you use, the shadowy workings of our governments, they need to be transparent. It’s okay to own a patent, but the formula should be open for other people to use, not for free necessarily, but open in such a way that others can improve upon it, make off-shoot products from it, or in the case of government, allow the direct participation of society, and to simplify the system so that people can understand what governments are up to. If you want to read more on the open source idea, check out Robert David Steele’s book, The Open Source Everything: Transparency, Truth and Trust. Click on the link, it will take you to my full review. Great book, by a former head of the U.S. military intelligence community.

Cooperating as Community:

Seems simple, and it kind of is. Basically this refers to the human ability to work together in a group to achieve prosperity for the whole of the group, not in dog-eat-dog competition. Healthy, friendly competition is good for society, but not if the participants are flouting the rules of Shire-ness. In other words, you can compete, yes, but it has to be in a spirit of working for the greater good of society, not just for your own greed and gain. Wealth and prosperity are good things, greed never is. It is rooted in fear. I’ll write more on that later.

If you want a more in depth look at what I mean by ‘cooperating’, read Rachel Botsman’s book, What’s Mine is Yours: the Rise of Collaborative Consumption or Lisa Gansky’s, The Mesh. Basically, I’m talking about modern people/hobbits, working together, sharing resources, ideas, expertise, in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few Sarumans at the top. What’s amazing, is that if those Sarumans, or corporate heads, just thought about it for a bit, cooperation is actually good business, which is the message in both Botsman’s and Gansky’s books, as well as one of the messages in Steele’s book too. It’s also my message to you. Cooperation and capitalism aren’t mutually exclusive things. They just aren’t.

Hobbit-like:

If you really want to know what I mean by hobbit-like, then you simply must read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, or at a minimum, watch Peter Jackson’s movie renditions. But for me, hobbit-like is summed up in the words, humanity, hospitality, and humor.

Humanity:

When I say ‘humanity’, I’m referring to all it’s definitions. It includes the idea of community, the species of homo sapiens sapiens, but mostly the idea that despite what differences we might have, we are all basically the same. We want the same core things, at least in this lifetime. We want to feel free to express ourselves. We want to be free from fear—though we pretty much never are. We want our fair share of resources. Yes, there are those among us who seem to want more than their share of all of that, and to dominate the rest of us. True. But they are working on faulty assumptions about the way the world ‘is.’ Their stories are screwed up. They could rewrite their stories, just as we all should, but many of them will not. That doesn’t change the fact that deep down, they want the same things, even if they’ve forgotten it.

Hospitality:

Hospitality refers to our innate ability to show compassion and generosity to our fellow human beings, and to all living things. We do it all the time, especially in times of extreme crises. We tend to forget our differences and remember our shared humanity, and that comes out in an outpouring of hospitality. firecatWe take in our neighbors, feed them, clothe them, and house them. This is an appeal to all of us to remember this, more often, and not just in times of crisis.

Humor:

Ahhhh Humor. Without a sense of humor, you might as well eat a shotgun blast, and you probably will–metaphorically at least–because you’re already dead. We need to stop taking ourselves so damned seriously. I’m guilty as hell of doing that, but I’m also known for joking and laughing, sometimes at my own absurdities, like ‘being pissed off that I’m pissed off,’ for instance. Yeah, I do that. Sue me.

By humor, I also mean our natural bent for socializing, which is linked to hospitality as well. Most of us love to spend time talking with other people, Beer-Snob-Rantsharing food and drink, and good times. Indeed, if not for humor and hospitality, I would argue that humans have no place on this Earth anyway. It is possibly our greatest contribution, maybe our only real one. Most of us have managed to do this with a small group of family and friends, but I’m suggesting that we need to include our neighborhoods, our Shires too. We can’t socialize with everyone on Earth, not all at once anyway, but we can extend our social networks—and I don’t just mean Facebook—to include those people living around us, not just people we agree with, or think we have something in common with. We have something in common with every human on Earth, and with all the living creatures upon it.

“Ok,” you say, “But how do you propose to accomplish ‘bringing Shire-ness to the World’?”  If you want an answer to that, then you’ll have to read my book when it comes out! I could sure use your help bringing that to fruition. Please consider clicking on the Kickstarter link below, and contributing to the campaign, and then sharing it with your friends. Thanks!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Introduction to Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth

Introduction to Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth

The book is available for pre-ordering now on Amazon and Kobo The book will be released on December 17th! Get it now!

Click the here to preview the Kickstarter Campaign!

Click the here to preview the Kickstarter Campaign!

I’m a Hobbit.

Yes, I know I look like a human, except maybe in the morning when I first wake up, when I look—and probably smell—much more like an orc. I definitely grunt in the Black Speech for 30 minutes or more, until I manage to stumble to the kitchen, fry up a couple eggs, some sausage, and toast some bread, onto which I scrape plenty of butter.

I’ve been accused, not inaccurately, of being more Dwarvish: warlike, belligerent, greedy and self-centered. I suspect that somewhere back in my lineage, one of my ancestors probably lived in a cave, ate fire-roasted shanks of pork, drank kegs of ale, which dribbled down his hairy chin while he rested his posterior on sacks of dragon-gold. Or was that me, last night?
I’m not really a dwarf, or an orc. I’m much too tall for either. At slightly over 6 feet tall, most of my friends would probably say that I look more like one of the Rohirrim: long, curly blonde hair, salt n pepper goatee, blue eyes, and an overly serious scowl. I have to admit that I would probably look more at home on the back of a horse, with spear in hand, smashing into waves of orc-flesh on the Pelennor, than tiptoeing through tulips in the Shire. In the ‘real world,’ I’m a teacher, trained in Viking military history. I love reading, researching, and writing about martial subjects. I’ve dreamt of wild adventures: riding into battle like Theoden or fighting my way out of stony rooms full of gnashing orcs in Moria, so that’s certainly part of my nature. And by appearance, that’s what you would think, too.
Other than my belly—evidence of very few skipped second breakfasts—and my hairy feet—which thankfully remained covered 7 to 8 months of the year—no one would ever know to look at me that I’m a Hobbit. Truth be told, however, I would rather be blowing smoke rings from my pipe, reading a dusty tome in my little home study—and occasionally tiptoeing through tulips; just don’t tell any of my friends. My favorite days include activities like looking out the window at snow falling, sipping a cup of warm cocoa, or sitting in my garden, drinking a cold beer on a summer afternoon, dreaming of second breakfast, or sixth supper.  In fact, one day at work not long ago, I was thinking to myself, “You know what I really love the most in life? Food.” Yep, just food. I love the cooking of food, the eating of food, the talking about food, the thinking about food, and the dreaming about food. Food, food, food. That’s what I love. Can there be anything more Hobbity than that? I reckon not.

But I’m not writing a cookbook. I might do that one day, but that’s not what this book is about. This book is about how we all can learn to live more like Hobbits—simply, hospitably, bravely, with a sense of respect and awe for Nature—and, in so doing, save this Middle Earth, much as little Frodo and his companions did so very long ago.

Why THIS book, and why NOW?

Our Middle Earth, Mother Earth, is dying. A dark power is assaulting her daily. Her species, both plant and animal, are disappearing at an alarming rate. Her great rivers, lakes and oceans are steaming with pollution. Poisonous fumes belch into her atmosphere, trapping heat upon her surface, raising the levels of her seas, disturbing her weather patterns, whipping up ever more massive storms and droughts. Hordes of orcish exploiters wielding massive chainsaws are felling her forests so quickly that they may not last another 50 years. I won’t belabor the point. For most of you, you already know these things, in general, if not in exhaustive detail. I will cover it in brief detail in Part I, Mordor is at the Door, but even there, I will only give you the briefest glimpse of the iceberg. There are plenty of books on what is wrong with the earth. Suffice it to say for now, the Shire is burning. But why is this happening?
Why would we, the human species, with so much professed intelligence, devour, devastate, and destroy the ecological system supporting our very existence? In this book, I assign the underlying cause of our insanity to the evil power of the One Ring. Yes, the Ring does exist, metaphorically at least. But what it is, and where it resides, is not so obvious, because it is an ancient cultural myth, long forgotten, hidden in the long, dark of our collective ‘Moria’. Forgotten, but just as powerful and destructive as it ever was. And the Ring has nothing to do with religion, not directly anyway. Neither is it some kind of new age boogyman, or a gift from Marvin the Martian. The Ring is cultural, and it’s entirely the product of perfectly ‘normal’ homo sapiens sapiens; to understand it is not to abandon one’s religious beliefs, or beliefs in boogymen or martians—though you may abandon, hopefully, some of your key cultural preconceptions.
You may be asking, “Why do we need to know why we are destroying our planet? Is it really important to know the cause? Isn’t it enough to know that we are doing it, and to just stop?” I suppose that the point could be made that on a personal level, knowing the underlying cause of our insanity isn’t that important. We could, after all, just choose to treat the earth with respect, recycle our garbage, put up solar panels on our houses, grow our own food or buy organic and local produce, join protest rallies at city hall, at the White House or Downing Street. Certainly all those are good ideas, which I will discuss in the last part of the book. But I will argue here, that unless we really know why we are screwing up our precious planet, we really can’t change the course of our actions in an effective way. Knowing why is a transformative experience, and at the heart of real change. We must first change our minds, our way of thinking. Then, and only then, we can begin to live as Hobbits should, as stewards of the Earth, and do as Tolkien challenged us to do, to “outlive the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.” I would add that in order to defeat the power of the Sarumans and Saurons, we must first bring Shire-ness to the Earth, by repairing our scoured Shires, our communities.
All of that brings us to the primary subject of this little book: how to ‘be’ a Hobbit. In Part III, Saving the Earth: Sustainable Shire Living, I will attempt to do what so many modern, eco-preachy books have not: to lay out in extensive detail just how, and what, we can do, individually and collectively, to carry the One Ring to Mount Doom and toss that evil thing away, once and for all. I will also make a case for why I think it’s possible for individual Hobbits, like you, and me, to save the Earth. It will take a massive, collective fellowship of humanity to accomplish this task. But the journey begins with the first step outside your door, as Bilbo said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Why Tolkien?

This book could be written in infinitely different ways, and the ideas should be shouted from rooftops, in every language; it is essential that the message gets out, because our future depends upon it. There are numerous authors shouting similar messages to their audiences. That being said, one must choose an audience, or have none at all, so one day, while contemplating on which direction to go, I stumbled into the Hobbits.

Applicability vs Allegory

I chose to apply Tolkien’s world as a lens through which to view our own, for a couple of reasons. First, the story is applicable. Tolkien’s Middle Earth was under attack by a dark, mysterious force that threatened to lay waste to all in its path. Our earth is also under attack though the dark power is not as obvious as it might seem. As in The Lord of the Rings, the solution to the problem is a simple one, if arduous, dangerous and nearly impossible. Frodo, with the help of the Fellowship, was charged with carrying the Ring to its source to let it drop into the abyss whence it came: simple, but not easy. In the real world, we are all Frodo; we must each discover the true nature of our Ring, be willing to destroy it, and come home to our Shire and clean it up.
The other reason I have chosen Tolkien, other than the fact that I’m an enormous fan of his books—having read most of them some 7 or 8 times through—is that I truly believe that J.R.R. would approve of my ends, if not entirely of my means. This is where I will probably lose some of the Tolkien purists. I understand your reluctance. Many fans of his books, have taken umbrage with critics, and movie directors, for polluting Tolkien’s stories with insertions of allegory, cutting key chapters, or adding unnecessary characters and scenarios. Tolkien, himself was outspoken about people—especially other scholars—attempting to read ‘allegory’ into his books. It’s not extreme to say that he detested the attempts to find hidden meaning within his works. Tolkien, while shunning allegory, did acknowledge that applicability was always a possibility when reading works of literature, “That there is no allegory does not, of course, say there is no applicability. There always is.” Thanks, Professor Tolkien, for the leeway!
The reason I think the renowned professor would approve of my ends, is that my ends are the protection, and eventual redemption of our poisoned planet. Tolkien was, at heart, a lover of Nature. He was an outspoken defender of all things green and growing, both in his fiction and in his personal and professional life. His books exude his love of natural things: trees, forests, streams, rivers, fields, mountains, the sea, animals of all species (with the possible exception of wolves and spiders). His detest for those who would destroy in the pursuit of power is evident, as well. Describing orcs he wrote: “It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosives always delighted them” (The Hobbit, 73). Much more could be said about Tolkien and his love of Nature; much of it has already been written, and a sense of it will come across as we travel along through the book.

Plus Tolkien has already done it…

If these reasons weren’t enough to convince you that I’m not profaning the good professor’s life work, then I will refer you, again, to the epigraph of this book:

I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentle Hobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.[1]

I love this quote. In it, the author himself applies his work to the modern world in much the same way that I propose to do it here in this book. In fact, I have adopted part of it as my life’s purpose, since Tolkien himself has charged us with a mission: to see spring again in the trees. Should we not all aspire to that? I think so. I have added to his words to construct my own purpose: To bring Shire-ness to the Earth, and spring again to the Trees. I hope that by the end of the book, it will be part of your purpose as well.

The Earth Depends on Tolkien’s Message

The most important reason I have chosen Professor Tolkien’s works for this project is that the message I hope to impart to you is, I believe, the most important one that you need to hear at this very moment in history. To reach the largest audience possible it is necessary to target the message. If I were to write this in a general way—without Tolkien’s assistance that is—I might reach a very small segment of people already concerned about the environment, governmental corruption, pollution, over-population, etc., looking for new books on the subject. Thankfully, Tolkien’s audience is a massive, global group of people, who should be, in my opinion, receptive to the ideas in this book. Most of us Tolkien fans already live in Middle Earth. In a very real sense, we view our world as an extension of Tolkien’s and wish that we were in fact, there. Many of us have travelled to that distant land and have never really returned. To view our modern world through such a lens isn’t a stretch, I think.
This is important, because if this message does not rapidly spread over the earth, and if it is not taken to heart and put into action, the Earth that the esteemed author loved so well, and the one that we should love at least as much as he, will not much longer sustain our existence. Middle Earth, Mother Earth, will reject us, and as a species we will perish or, at the very least, be reduced to a remnant of our current population. Even if that were to happen, and the odds are stacking against us—much as they were against Frodo and his world—`the survivors would still need to know the information I hope to pass along here. Because if they do not it is a distinct possibility that they will only rise from the ashes to form new civilizations on the same flawed premises on which ours was conceived. How much better it would be, for us all, if we take the little Hobbits of The Shire as our models  and save the Earth.

 

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Hobbit Shopping #1: How to Buy in Bulk and Reduce Plastic

by Steve Bivans

I hate plastic.

I always have I reckon, though my house is full of it. I’m sure yours is too.

But if we want to Be Hobbits, and Save the Earth, we have to find ways to eliminate plastic from our homes. This is especially true in the kitchen with regard to food storage.

Plastics leach chemicals into whatever they contain. They especially do this when they are heated or cooled in a microwave or refrigerator/freezer. While many manufacturers have removed the harmful BPA chemical from their products, the replacement chemicals (that they rarely reveal to the public) have been tested no more than BPAs were when they were introduced many years ago, and sold to us as perfectly safe! So, until plastic companies can PROVE to me and the public that they are safe, through verifiable, independent tests, I will be trying to eliminate them entirely from my kitchen.

All hobbits should. Even if plastics were safe, they are made from oil, and it’s running out while polluting the environment. And plastic will be around long after we’re gone, and never disappear, or biodegrade. Therefore, we need to find alternatives for storing our food. Luckily, plastics are a new thing. People were storing food for over 10,000 years before some jackass invented plastic.

Glass

If you’re storing food, probably the first option is glass.

The beauty of glass, is that you can see what’s in it. I love Mason jars. I’m from the South, and down there, they are used for everything, including drinking glasses. When we recentlysweetteaFIX jar moved to St Paul, we got rid of most of our ‘normal’ drinking glasses, especially the plastic ones, and replaced them with a bunch of quart-sized Mason jars. There’s not better way to drink South Farthing Sweet Iced Tea, than out of a big ‘ole Mason jar! I also make my ‘Kentucky Tea’ in them. But that’s a recipe for another day.

What’s great about them, too, is that they come with lids, so I can take my tea to work, by just screwing on a metal lid, and head out the door! Now, most of them do have a bit of plastic in the seal, but it’s minimal and since you’ll be using it over and over and over again, it’s not a huge concern. Plus, you can recycle it one day down the road when it finally stops sealing.

There are numerous other glass containers out there that are great for packing lunches, storing food in the fridge and freezer. Yes, you can freeze glass, as long as you leave some air space at the top so that the liquid in the food can expand. If you’re going to freeze glass, make sure it’s heavy duty glass. You want a Mason jar that weighs at least 1 lb; Ball Mason Jars are really good. They’re heavier than the Kerr brand.canning-maters

You can also ‘can’ food to store it for winter or longer. This is particularly useful if you have your own garden. You may have canning expert in your family already that you can call up for tips, otherwise, Google it. There’s plenty of help out there. I”m going to do it for the first time this year, probably in the fall when the tomato season is about over. I love ‘maters.

We also bought a couple packs of glass containers from Costco, by Snapware, that have snap-on plastic lids. Yes, there’s plastic involved—which bugs me—but they are used over and over and over again, and are BPA free. snapwareFridgeI do not microwave stuff in them with the lid on it, though I have frozen food in them. I try to make sure that the food isn’t in contact with the lids, as much as possible. These are great for storing hamburger, or ground pork—for my breakfast sausage recipe—or to pack lunches for work or school! I”ve carried soup in them, without incident.

So we’ve covered what to store food in, but how do we buy it without all the plastic? That takes some planning and thinking, but eventually, you can greatly reduce, or eliminate the need for plastics. We haven’t reached the elimination stage yet, but we have cut way back, mostly by buying bulk.

Buying Bulk

No, I do not mean going to Sam’s Club—which I hate, if for no other reason than they treat their employees like slaves—where you buy a pallet full of Fruit Loops to last you till the next milennia. That is not really buying in ‘bulk.’ That’s buying a shitload of crap for a slightlystock-photo-a-large-selection-of-bulk-dry-foods-in-clever-dispensers-and-a-weighing-scale-at-an-upscale-grocery-131422709 reduced price. What I am talking about is going to a store—preferably a local, coop grocery store—where they buy many items in very large bags, and dispense them via large containers. Most of these have spouts at the bottom so you can fill your container or bag with the contents. I’m sure you’ve seen them in a regular grocery store, usually in the ‘nut’ aisle, or coffee section.

This system helps to eliminate, or greatly reduce the use of plastics, and other packaging materials, which are unnecessary. Most stores that have bulk sections will provide you with plastic or paper bags to put things in, but that isn’t reducing the use of plastics, and paper is also wasteful—even if it’s biodegradable—because it signals the death of one of Treebeard’s friends (This is never a good idea, remember what happened to Isengard?), and consumes a piss-load of water to make it. So bring your own containers, like Mason jars, or the glass ones with the snap on lids.

Don’t forget to bring your cloth shopping bags too! There are very few things more wasteful than plastic grocery bags. Billions of them are used every day in the U.S., and then tossed, or discarded along our streets which ends up in our rivers, lakes, or floating around the North Atlantic Garbage Patch.

Co-operate!

When it comes to shopping for food, co-ops are the best places, if not directly from a farmer. Co-op grocery stores are member owned. Most of them will allow anyone to walk in off the street and shop however, so just walk into one and check it out! The one where my girlfriend and I shop, Mississippi Market, is super friendly and helpful, like strolling through Hobbiton.

I’m lucky. It is literally right across the street from the school where I work, so I can just pop in there when the bell rings, grab the things I need in my cloth shopping bag, and before you know it, I’m back in my hobbit hole, ready to cook dinner.

I shopped there for a few months before I finally said to myself, “Self, uhhh why don’t you just join already? You shop here 3-4 times a week for cryin’ out loud!” So I did. You pay a membership fee (mine was under $100 for life), and you’re a stockholder in a local grocery store! You get member discounts and specials, and you’re doing something to help save Middle Earth!

And they have great organic choices for food. My favorite is the chocolate milk from Castle Rock Dairies. It even comes in old fashioned glass bottles, which are returnable! Imagine that! In fact, one day, I came back with about 5 or 6 of them, turned them in, bought some bread, and maybe some tea (which is sold in bulk), and the cashier guy said something like, “That will be minus $8.56. Would you like that on your card or in cash?” To which I gave a double take before it set in. After a few seconds, or years, I realized that he was trying to pay ME back! I said, “Uhhhh cash I reckon! THAT’S never happened before!,” as I laughed, and walked out with more money than I came in with.

How to Buy in Bulk

If you’ve never bought bulk items before, or never brought your own containers, then you have to get used to bringing them. That’s the hardest thing, actually: just remembering to put the containers in your reusable grocery bags, and then into the car before you take off for work, or anywhere. Try to keep them in the trunk of the car, so that you won’t be caught unprepared should you need to pop into the store on the way home from work. It takes time to get the habit down. We’re still trying to get used to it.

Once you’re in the store, however, there’s a couple things to think about, to avoid mistakes that everyone makes—and you will too, it’s just part of the learning curve. First, make sure to weigh your EMPTY container, before you fill it with product. If the store sells bulk, they will have a scale near the products. Just place your container on it and mark down the weight. This is called the ‘tare.’ The best way to do this is to bring along a grease pencil or permanent magic marker (I have a Sharpie that works like a spring-loaded pen that I keep in one of my bags at all times). You can mark the ‘tare’ near the bottom of the jar, or container, and then the cashier can subtract that from the total weight when you check out. This isn’t that important if you’re using plastic or paper bags, since they don’t weight much. But if you’re using glass, you’re gonna be paying way too much for your product if you pay for the weight of the glass too!

Once you have the tare marked on the container, start filling it with yummy, hobbity stuff! This is the fun part. It’s all very old fashioned, which makes it more interesting. It’s not just mindlessly wandering up and down aisles of prepackaged ‘food,’ chucking boxes and bags into your cart. You have to actually ‘think’ a bit, and physically ‘do’ something. It’s really quite engaging. I love it, and I normally hate shopping, like I hate bubonic plague, and spinach. I fuckin’ hate spinach.

What can you find in bulk?

It depends on the store. Coops are likely to have more options, and most of them are constantly working to find more things to add to that section. At Mississippi Market, for instance, you can find the usual suspects: nuts, coffee, rice. But you can also find flour (many kinds), yeast, peanut butter, honey, meats, tea (see my South Farthing Sweet Tea Recipe), soaps (dish, hand and shampoo/conditioner), and oils, and probably some other things I’m forgetting.

You won’t find everything you need in the bulk section. Maybe one day that will be the case. But every little bit we hobbits can do adds up, and the more we buy bulk, the more stores will supply it. That’s how we use capitalism to save the Earth. It’s the way the system was supposed to work, but somewhere along the way, we, the consumers, forgot that we were in charge, and gave up that power to Saruman’s corporations, and his evil, advertising wizards. Spend your money locally, and on quality stuff, or don’t spend it. That’s the number one way to Save the Earth.

One thing I love about buying the bulk items, is the way they look in your pantry and kitchen.pantrybulkitems There’s something beautiful and rustic about dry or wet goods stored in Mason Jars, lined up on a pantry shelf. For one, they are uniform, and they’re not plastic. Plastic is ugly. I’m just gonna say it; it’s ugly, like trying to shave a monkey’s ass and teach it to walk upside down. It may look vaguely human, but I wouldn’t want to kiss it.

So avoid plastics hobbits! Get yourself some good ole Mason jars, and go shopping! Oh yeah, don’t forget your bags!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

The Funeral of Boromir, Plastic Jugs, the Mississippi, and the North Atlantic Garbage Patch

by Steve Bivans

 

His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.
O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, II:20)

The funeral of Boromir is one of the most beautiful scenes in Tolkien’s great story.

Departure_of_Boromir_72

By: Anke-Katrin Eissman http://fan.theonering.net/~rolozo/cgi-bin/rolozo.cgi/collection/eiszmann?hide=-3&order=filesize

It’s a powerful image: the fallen warrior, in his mail, his battered weapons and broken Horn of Gondor clenched upon his chest, arrayed in an elven boat, encircled with the weapons of his foes, swept away down a great river past cities, farms and fields.

I awoke one night, in the dead of night, to this image, and a burning question banging around in my skull, “Where does ole Boromir end up?” and “What the hell does that have to do with the book I’m trying to write?” Then it hit me. It’s all about plastic!

I know, that was abrupt. Hang with me here people, and I’ll make the connection.
A little story might illustrate the point.

Let’s follow the path of two ‘objects’ if you will, down two different rivers, one fictional (Tolkien’s Anduin), and one ‘real’ (Mark Twain’s Mighty Mississippi). I’ll resist the temptation to argue that the Anduin might be more ‘real’ than the Mississippi, though I could probably stretch that into a chapter all by itself.

We have two rivers. Into one Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli gently nudged Boromir’s funeral canoe, piled high with his manly corpse, his gear, the bloodied and bent weapons of his orcish victims, a few cloven orc heads; use your imagination. After composing and singing him a song, he drifted off, down the Anduin.

Into the Mississippi you and I will throw a plastic milk jug. I know, it’s not quite as poetic, but that’s actually the point. Let’s say we drive over to Minneapolis and chuck one of my jugs into the great American river, the central character in Twain’s books. So, now we have two objects floating along great rivers. So hitch up yer Huckleberry britches and let’s float along with them.

Boromir and his funeral trophies were swept in the current towards the golden falls of Rauros, and by some miracle prone to warrior funerals, he, his canoe, and all its contents were not separated or crushed upon the rocks below, but continued in the elven boat, over the torrent and on to southern lands, his homelands of Gondor. At some point he passed through the smoking ruins of Gondor’s former capitol city, Osgiliath, recently overrun by hordes of nasty orcs and trolls. Perhaps some of his fellow Tower Guard glimpsed his shadowy bier as it slipped past in the morning mists.

At some point earlier, perhaps in a particularly jouncy rapid, the cloven remnants of his great horn, the Horn of Gondor, fell from the boat and drifted to the muddy banks of the great river, where his younger brother, Faramir, discovered them, and guessed that Boromir was no more. The vessel slipped ever on and on, southward leaving the gleaming white tower of Ecthelion in the distance, where his fretting father yearned for news of his favored son. Onward Boromir’s body raced, racing past the port city of Pelargir, the great Bay of Belfalas, and into the Western Sea.

Meanwhile, my milk jug bounces along over the not-so-impressive St. Anthony Falls, past the two towers of the University of Minnesota: the Social Science building and Heller Hall. Trust me, these are not Baradur and Isengard. Though to look at them, one might guess they were built by the modern Sauron, Stalin, during the cold war.

So the little jug jounces along past cliffs and parks, the great cities of St. Louis, Memphis, Vicksburg (which–like Osgiliath–was once a smoking ruin itself after the Yankees left in 1865, no I’m not comparing them to orcs or trolls, ok, just a little), past the moss-covered trees, and whiskey-scented streets of New Orleans, and out into the Gulf of Mexico.

There our little jug is picked up by the Loop Current, a mini gyre (a vortex current), eventually to be swept away by the Gulf Stream, around sunny Florida’s oranges, north past Georgia peaches, Myrtle Beach-es, the Hatteras Lighthouse, over the Graveyard of Ships, and eventually reaching what’s known as the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.

The NASG is a current vortex in the Atlantic Ocean. What it does, is collect an enormous amount of debris, especially plastic. How much debris? Such great volume that it is commonly referred to as the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, an area stretching from roughly the

North Atlantic Garbage Patch

North Atlantic Garbage Patch

latitude of Virginia to that of Cuba! West to East, it spans most of the Atlantic from North America to the Azores. This is not the only such ‘patch’ on earth. There are at least 5 major ones, the largest by far, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is about the twice the size of Texas, and lies between California and Hawaii.

So what happens to our two cargoes over time? Well, we can safely assume that there were no plastics in Boromir’s canoe, though I’m sure, given enough time, Sauron or Saruman would have developed such nasty things.

Boromir’s body began to decompose immediately after death, and within a few weeks at sea, what was not consumed by sharks, slowly dissolved and become part of the ocean. His clothing of natural fibers slowly rotted and joined him. His gear, especially the iron, sank to the bottom of the sea. His sword, covered in silt, probably lasted a very long time indeed, possibly centuries, but caused no real harm, and eventually, over millennia rusted and disappeared. His wooden boat sank in a storm, was crushed by the pressures of the deep and dissolved into nothingness.

On the other hand, our little jug, constructed of man-made plastic, will never truly bio-degrade. What will happen, over time, is that it’s structure will break down into smaller and ever smaller particles, much of which will be consumed by unsuspecting marine life: birds, fish, plankton, turtles. Many of these poor creatures will die a nasty death. Many will not. Instead they will be eaten by a larger creature, who may in turn be gobbled by a larger one, until one day, months or years later, they end up on our plate, in a seafood restaurant, in some quaint little sea-side town like the ones I love so much back home in North Carolina. Yuck.

The Moral of the Story…

My girlfriend, Patience, when presented with my Boromir funeral/plastic jug idea was completely confused at first, befuddled to the point where we ended up arguing in the kitchen, at 5:30 AM one morning. To be fair, it was too damned early in the morning for such discussions, and my presentation pretty much sucked ass. Instead of waiting for her to wake up, drink her ritual cup of coffee and let her read what I had written, I just blindsided her with it: a bolt out of the blue, “Hey! So Boromir is pushed into a river, and just like a plastic jug in the Mississippi, they end up in the ocean! Get it?”

Needless to say, she did not. She screwed up her face in a ‘whatthefuck’ look, while I was standing there dumbstruck, with an emphasis on the ‘dumb,’ wondering to myself, “What the heck is wrong with her? This idea is absolute genius!?” Then, slowly, I began to realize that while the idea might be clever, probably not genius, my delivery was, well, not so clever.

Part of the problem, as she explained on the way to work later, was that she, as an English Literature type person, was expecting more allegory, or some deeper meaning between the connection of Boromir and the plastic jug. After dropping her off at work, and on the way to mine, I gave it some more thought. After cogitatin’ on it for a bit, I came to the conclusion that she was right. Here’s what I came up with.

While there are similarities between the two events (both are ‘stuff thrown into a river that end up in the ocean’) there are far more differences, and they are significant, even crucial. The scenarios are different in two fundamental ways: intent and result.

The intent motivating both acts is very different indeed. Aragorn and company were performing a funeral ritual for a fallen comrade. The act is meant to pay respect for Boromir’s life, bravery, deeds and accomplishments. It is to remember him as the great defender of Gondor and its people, and his final stand against the forces of Saruman in a desperate, bloody defense of the two hobbits, Merry and Pippin. The funeral of Boromir is respectful and mindful toward the sacrifice the great warrior had made, and with a realization that they are returning him to Nature, where he will eventually become ‘part’ of Middle Earth in a very real way. The occasion is ritualized with ‘grave’ trophies, and with song.

On the other hand, throwing a plastic jug into the Mississippi, even if it accidentally drops from our trash can, lacks intent. There is no ritual, though one might argue, as Patience did with me, that taking out the garbage is a ‘ritual’. I completely disagree, and I think I convinced her in the end that the word has been abused for so long that ‘ritual’ has come to take the place of ‘habit’, and usually not a beneficial one. They are NOT synonymous.

The plastic jug reaches the river, not through ritual but by habit, the habit of tossing things that have been used only once. There is no ‘remembrance’ of the jug’s accomplishments, but an immediate forgetting of them. Where there should be mindfulness and respect–for Nature, if not for the jug–there is only mindlessness and disrespect: disrespect for Nature, and quite frankly, for our own future and the future of our children and grandchildren on this planet. Once our jug is tossed, it goes ‘away,’ never to be contemplated again. It is simply waste, disregarded, discarded, and forgotten.

The problem is, that there is no ‘away.’ All things end up somewhere, if out of sight and mind. If they are no longer in our backyard, they are in someone’s: your neighbor’s down the road, in the next state, or in the middle of the ocean. They will return to us in very nasty ways, quite possibly in our fish n chips.

What’s the lesson here? One, we need to be more mindful of those things we throw ‘away.’ Where do they go? Are they part of a cycle, or will they do harm to us, the environment, our children and grandchildren? Two, plastics suck ass. Do I still buy them sometimes? Yes, but I hate them. They are the products of Sauron and Saruman. If you have to buy them, make sure they are recycled, or at the very least, make it to a landfill, which still sucks, because they will be there, forever. Find ways to avoid plastics. Start today. I will post more on that soon, but in the meantime, look around your house. How much plastic do you throw ‘away’? Can you cut that back? The next time you throw away plastic, think about Boromir and the Plastic Milk Jug of the Mississippi.

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

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