Unplugged: South Park’s Ode to Internet Addiction

In the vibrant realm of South Park, where laughter and irreverence take center stage, there lies a hidden gem of insight. Picture this: I recently found myself in the midst of a short-lived internet outage, which unexpectedly thrust me into a state of disconnection from the digital world. As a Gen Xer, the sudden disruption made me contemplate the age-old question of our reliance on technology, a topic that South Park humorously explored in the episode “Over Logging.”

In this hilarious installment, the colorful denizens of South Park grapple with the consequences of an internet outage. Their attempts to adapt to this unexpected disruption, while laced with humor and absurdity, highlight the ubiquity of online connectivity in our lives. And as I navigated through my own momentary disconnection, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the episode and contemplate the impact of our reliance on technology in our fast-paced, digital era.

So, let us take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of South Park, where the blend of laughter and social commentary spark introspection. Whether through crude humor or animated hijinks, the creators of South Park have a knack for unveiling profound insights that strike a chord with audiences of all ages. And in the case of “Over Logging,” this episode has certainly served as a lighthearted reminder of the potential consequences that come with tethering ourselves too closely to the digital realm.

The Internet Addiction: A Modern Phenomenon

As I sat with my cell phone, staring at a blank white screen during the outage, I couldn’t help but reflect on the addictive nature of the internet. South Park’s satirical portrayal of internet dependence in its early days now appears eerily prophetic. The episode “Over Logging” originally aired in 2008, when the internet was still in its relative infancy compared to today’s vast and intricate digital landscape. Back then, the idea of an internet outage causing chaos and panic seemed like a far-fetched exaggeration for comedic effect. Little did we know that the cartoon’s fictional scenes would foreshadow a far more intense and concerning reality.

In the 15 years since “Over Logging” first aired, our society’s reliance on the internet has grown exponentially. With the rapid advancements in technology, the internet has seeped into every aspect of our lives, from communication and entertainment to work and education. Two generations have come of age during this digital revolution, and the internet has become an inseparable part of their daily routines and identities.

Today, the fear of temporary disconnection from the internet goes beyond mere inconvenience; it reveals a deep-rooted dependency that has permeated our lives. Social media has become a primary platform for communication, validation, and self-expression, making us question our self-worth and belonging without constant online validation. The ability to access limitless information within seconds has transformed us into digital beings, continually craving the next piece of content, news, or notification. Sadly, the South Park episode which was such an exaggeration when it aired 15 years ago, doesn’t seem like such a stretch anymore given some of the anarchy our country has witnessed since.

As we confront the reality of our internet addiction, we must ponder how much of our lives have been consumed by the digital world. The simple joys of face-to-face interactions, outdoor activities, and hobbies that once filled our days have been pushed aside in favor of scrolling feeds and consuming endless online content.

The cautionary tale depicted in “Over Logging” becomes increasingly prophetic as our world continues to be heavily dependent on the internet. In today’s society, the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, permeating nearly every aspect of our existence. From communication and information access to entertainment and commerce, the internet has revolutionized the way we interact with the world.

The episode “Over Logging” serves as a stark warning about the consequences of internet addiction and the potential dangers of overreliance on technology. It foretells a future where our connection to the internet becomes so deeply ingrained in our lives that we lose touch with reality.

In this thought-provoking episode from 2008, Shelley’s online relationship with Amir serves as a glimpse into a world where people are more comfortable with virtual connections than in-person relationships. It highlights the growing trend of relying on online platforms for social interactions, work, education, and even healthcare. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified this reliance, underscoring the importance of the internet for maintaining connections and accessing essential services.

However, “Over Logging” warns us of the potentially detrimental effects of this dependence. By neglecting real-life interactions, outdoor activities, and genuine human connections in favor of instant online gratification, we risk losing touch with the richness and depth that the physical world offers.

While the internet undoubtedly brings numerous benefits, we must approach it with self-awareness and establish healthy boundaries. It is crucial to find ways to disconnect from the virtual world and reconnect with the physical realm. By doing so, we can preserve our humanity, foster authentic relationships, and cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling existence in our increasingly internet-dependent world.

“Over Logging” serves as a powerful reminder that we should strive for a mindful approach, recognizing both the advantages and pitfalls of the internet. By maintaining a sense of perspective and actively seeking a balance between the virtual and physical realms, we can navigate the digital age while preserving our well-being and genuine human connections.

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Life Before the Internet 

Boomers and Gen Xers like myself were fortunate to experience life before the internet’s omnipresence. We remember when we communicated through handwritten letters, kept our thoughts in journals (which I still do), and solved complex equations with calculators. Today, as an internet outage forced me away from my digital devices, I found myself tending to the garden and reconnecting with nature – a reminder of the simpler days when we didn’t depend on constant connectivity.

While weeding the garden beds and spending time with Gertrude, our hen, I realized the value of disconnecting from the digital world. Embracing this moment of respite allowed me to reflect on the importance of slowing down and engaging in offline activities. I took the opportunity to draft this article and find joy in reading a few pages from my current read, Maame. I even cooked dinner, savoring the process without the constant distraction of notifications.

When the internet and cell service finally returned, I felt the overwhelming urge to catch up on missed tasks, highlighting just how deeply ingrained our internet habits have become. It served as a reminder to strike a balance between the online and offline worlds, making time for both technological advancements and the simple pleasures of life.

A Glance at the Amish: A Simpler Lifestyle 

The Amish provide an interesting contrast in our tech-driven society. Despite all the technological advances around them, they thrive without these modern conveniences. Their simpler lifestyle is a testament to the potential of finding fulfillment beyond the screen. They have built strong communities, relying on close-knit relationships, traditional skills, and a deep connection with nature. In a SHTF scenario, my bet is that the Amish would do just fine, hardly missing a beat depending on the disaster. While we may not need to go to such extremes as the Amish, we could certainly learn something from their ability to thrive without internet addiction.

In our hyperconnected world, where digital devices and social media consume much of our time and attention, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel a sense of disconnection. We often lose sight of the importance of face-to-face interactions, meaningful conversations, and genuine human connections. The Amish, on the other hand, put a strong emphasis on family, community, and shared values. They prioritize quality time spent together, engaging in activities that foster personal growth and strengthen their bonds.

Imagine a life without constantly checking notifications, scrolling through endless feeds, or being bombarded with information overload. It may seem daunting at first, but the Amish lifestyle reminds us that there is joy and fulfillment to be found in simpler things. Instead of mindlessly consuming digital content, they invest their time and energy in productive pursuits such as farming, woodworking, quilting, and other crafts that bring them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Unplugging from technology can be liberating. It allows us to be more present in the moment, to connect with our surroundings, and to engage with others in a deep and meaningful way. The Amish have embraced this way of life for generations, successfully navigating the challenges that come with living in a world where technology is pervasive. They have found ways to adapt and thrive without sacrificing their core values and beliefs.

Of course, it’s not realistic for everyone to completely disconnect from the digital world. Technology has undoubtedly brought numerous advancements and conveniences that enhance our lives. However, incorporating elements of the Amish lifestyle can help us find a healthier balance. We can strive to set boundaries with technology, prioritize offline interactions, and discover the joy of engaging in activities that bring us fulfillment beyond the virtual realm.

The Amish lifestyle serves as a reminder that there is more to life than the constant pursuit of digital stimulation. By embracing a simpler, more intentional way of living, we can find

The Over-Logging of Hours Online

Like the destructive consequences of over-logging on our environment, our excessive internet use has left its mark on society. The constant logging in and logging out, the relentless browsing, and the mindless scrolling have led to a troubling epidemic of internet addiction. Studies have shown that excessive internet use can severely affect our mental health, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. As we lose ourselves in the virtual world, our real-life social interactions suffer, and the genuine connections we once cherished take a backseat to superficial online interactions. We prioritize virtual likes and comments over meaningful face-to-face conversations, further isolating ourselves from the richness of human connection.

Additionally, our obsession with the internet has taken a toll on our productivity in everyday life. The constant influx of information, notifications, and entertainment acts as a major distraction, preventing us from fully focusing on important tasks. In our quest to juggle multiple things at once, we often find ourselves scattered across various online platforms, unable to give our full attention to anything in particular. This constant screen swapping leaves us feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied, making it difficult to concentrate and engage in deep work.

In the era of boundless internet access, it is crucial to be mindful of how we allocate our time on the digital landscape. Findings suggest that excessive online engagement can overshadow essential aspects of our lives if left unchecked. To overcome this challenge, we must prioritize self-awareness and adopt intentional internet habits. By actively regulating our online activities, setting clear boundaries, and cultivating tech-free moments, we can ensure a more balanced and mindful existence. Let us embrace the power of being present, forging genuine connections, and savoring the meaningful moments that unfold beyond the screen. Together, we can navigate the digital realm with purpose and reclaim control over our time and attention.

Life in the Internet age offers undeniable benefits, but we must recognize and address the drawbacks of excessive Internet use. As a society, we must learn to cherish moments of disconnection and embrace simpler pleasures, much like the Amish lifestyle champions. South Park’s humorous take on internet addiction may have been entertaining in its early years, but it now serves as a poignant reminder of the growing problem. We must reflect on the generations born into this addiction and work towards fostering a healthier relationship with technology. So, let’s log off, step outside, and rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen, just as the Amish have done for centuries.

So let us learn to live with the Internet, not for it.

Randy Marsh, South Park – Over Logging

Wild Neighbors: Antlers, Feathers & Paws Unveiled

Welcome to The Earthy Alchemist’s first installment of “Wild Neighbors: Antlers, Feathers & Paws Unveiled,” where we embark on a captivating journey into the enchanting world of wildlife thriving right on our doorstep at Marleywood, nestled in central New Hampshire. No need for hiking boots or mosquito netting, and leave your pack behind – just grab a tasty beverage, sit back, and let’s set out on an extraordinary adventure!

I’m beyond thrilled to share with you the hidden stories and mesmerizing visuals captured through the lens of our trail cameras and my camera. Every time we retrieve the camera cards, I am filled with awe at the privileged glimpses I get of the secret lives of our “Wild Neighbors.” The woods are teeming with wonder, and together, we will uncover the magic that lies just beyond our doorsteps – a realm where wildlife thrives, and the spirit of nature dances freely.

A bear walking up to our house one morning through the berry field

Find a cozy spot to nestle into and prepare to be immersed in the captivating world of wild America. Here on the mountain, we share our lives with a magnificent array of wildlife, including moose, bears, bobcats, deer, coyotes, porcupines, turkeys, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, groundhogs, and a myriad of birds. With each passing season, we have the delightful opportunity to witness the growth of adorable babies, and it’s especially thrilling to see so many twins being born on our mountain sanctuary. So, let the sights and stories unfold as we venture into the heart of Marleywood, discovering the marvels of the wilderness that surrounds us.

Black bear

Let’s start with the majestic Black Bear (Ursus americanus) – a symbol of untamed wilderness and strength. These powerful creatures roam our woods with grace, and their presence is a true testament to the resilience of nature. One fascinating fact about black bears is their remarkable ability to hibernate for long periods without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating.

Their metabolic rate reduces significantly during this time, allowing them to survive on fat reserves. This awe-inspiring behavior is nature’s way of coping with food scarcity during winter. When we go out with our dogs walking in the woods, I usually attach bear bells to them so that they make a little more noise than usual as we walk on our trails. If I walk alone – I tend to sing and make my presence known, not wanting to startle any wildlife around.

What a rack!

Next, we encounter the towering Moose (Alces alces) powerfully galloping through the woods. These magnificent animals are known for their impressive antlers, spanning up to six feet wide! The moose’s antlers are shed and regrown annually, with each set becoming larger and more intricate than the last. This constant renewal symbolizes life’s cyclical nature and the wild’s ever-changing beauty.

However, encountering a moose in the wild is not without its risks. Despite their seemingly calm demeanor, moose can be unpredictable and territorial. It’s important to keep a safe distance and admire them from afar, respecting their natural habitat. The awe-inspiring sight of a moose in its natural environment serves as a reminder of nature’s grandeur and our responsibility to protect and preserve these incredible creatures for future generations to admire.

The graceful Deer (Odocoileus spp.), whose superpower makes any forest look like a fashion runway. With their elegant leaps and graceful gait, they have inspired many runway walks in the animal kingdom. These beauties thrive in our woodlands, gracefully maneuvering through the dense underbrush, effortlessly leaping over fallen logs, and blending perfectly with their surroundings. It is truly a sight to behold as they navigate the forest with poise and elegance.

Many times, we have witnessed the heartwarming scene of a newborn fawn stumbling after their mama. These precious babies are adorned with delicate white spots, creating a striking contrast against their reddish-brown coats. It’s a true testament to the wonders of nature, watching these tiny creatures take their very first steps and eagerly follow their mother’s lead. As they grow, we see them develop into magnificent individuals, and it’s always a joy to witness the bucks as they proudly showcase their impressive antlers, a symbol of their strength and maturity.

The deer truly captivate us with their beauty and grace. They remind us of the marvels that abound in the natural world and the significance of safeguarding and appreciating the diverse ecosystems that sustain their existence. Whether we encounter them in the wild or simply admire their elegance from afar, the Deer will forever hold a special place in our hearts as symbols of resilience, enchantment, and the innate splendor of the environment.

They never look a the camera when you want them to

Among the shadows, we find the elusive Bobcat (Lynx rufus), a master of stealth and camouflage. These solitary felines are known for their distinctive tufted ears and short, bobbed tails. With a body length ranging from 2 to 4 feet and weighing between 15 to 30 pounds, bobcats may appear small in comparison to their larger feline relatives. However, don’t be fooled by their size, as their strength and agility make them formidable hunters.

A fascinating fact about bobcats is their exceptional hunting skills – they can leap up to 10 feet in pursuit of prey, thanks to their powerful hind legs. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice, but they are also known to prey on larger animals like deer when the opportunity arises. Despite their solitary nature, bobcats have a wide distribution across North America, including the forests and woodlands of New Hampshire. In fact, New Hampshire is home to a significant number of bobcats, to the point where many sightings of these elusive creatures have been reported. However, it’s essential to note that some individuals may mistake bobcats for mountain lions, as the latter also exist in the state, albeit in lesser numbers. The key differences lie in their size and tails, as bobcats can appear imposing until seen next to a mountain lion, an encounter that is a rarity in the wilds of New Hampshire.

Male turkey strutting his stuff on our driveway

In the heart of the wilderness, wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) captivate us with their vibrant plumage and fascinating behaviors. The males, known as toms, proudly display their extravagant feathers, transforming themselves into living works of art. Their flamboyant courtship rituals include a delicate dance, with heads held high, tail feathers fanned out, and wings slightly lowered. This display is both a declaration of dominance and an invitation for the females to admire their beauty.

Beyond their stunning appearance, wild turkeys play a crucial role in the forest ecosystem. Foraging on the forest floor, they help control insect populations by gobbling up insects, grubs, seeds, and berries. Their ability to adapt to various habitats across North America showcases their resilience in the face of challenges such as habitat loss and predation. Wild turkeys remind us of the intricate beauty of the natural world and the importance of preserving biodiversity.

Bluebird in March

The songbirds that grace these woods are a constant source of wonder. From scarlet tanagers to grosbeaks, goldfinches, and bluebirds, their vibrant colors and beautiful songs never cease to amaze me. The hummingbirds are particularly enchanting as they zip through the air, their iridescent feathers glistening in the sunlight.

Sadly, these beloved songbirds are under increasing threats like habitat loss and climate change. It’s crucial that we act now to protect them. By creating bird-friendly environments and reducing harmful chemicals, we can make a meaningful difference. Let’s cherish the beauty and melodies of these feathered wonders and ensure their presence for generations to come.

Finally, not to be forgotten, we glimpse the elusive Coyote (Canis latrans), a symbol of adaptability and survival. These clever creatures are highly resourceful and have successfully adapted to various habitats, including urban environments. Coyotes are the original “foodies” of the animal kingdom – they can eat almost anything! They’re on a never-ending culinary adventure, trying out all the latest “farm-to-forest” delicacies. Coyotes are crucial in controlling rodent populations, maintaining a delicate balance within ecosystems. I am grateful we haven’t come upon any while we are out and about with our dogs, though. I’ve seen what they can do to a fawn.

Looks like the coyote has spotted the camera

As we bid farewell to this unforgettable journey, let us embrace the wisdom of John Muir: “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” With these profound words resonating in our souls, let us embark on a new path of discovery and awe. May the wonders of the natural world continue to reveal themselves to us, enriching our lives and nurturing our spirits. Let’s wander through the enchanted landscapes, embracing the harmony and serenity that nature offers. Together, we can find solace in the wilderness and create lasting memories in the magnificence of the captivating wildlife of Marleywood.

Thank you for joining me on this captivating journey through the enchanting world of “Wild Neighbors: Antlers, Feathers & Paws Unveiled” at Marleywood. I appreciate your time and curiosity in exploring the extraordinary wildlife thriving on our doorstep. This was just a quick glimpse into the wonders of nature here on the mountain. I invite you to return for more fascinating tales and breathtaking visuals as I continue to uncover the hidden wonders of nature. Until next time, embrace the magic of the wild and let your spirits soar. Happy adventuring!

10 Ways to Protect Your Health During Wildfire Season

Hey there, pack mates! The Earthy Alchemist, here to share some valuable insights with you. Today, I want to discuss something many of us face more often – the invisible menace lurking in the air during wildfires. Wildfire smoke is no trivial matter, but there are ways to stay safe and entertained indoors when the outside world is cloaked in haze.

Wildfires have become more frequent and intense as the seasons shift and climate change looms large. With them, a host of harmful pollutants fills the air, posing a severe health hazard to our precious pack members. We all have apps on our phones to track the Air Quality Index. Here in New Hampshire today, a thick haze again obscured my view of the lake and mountains.Across the world, I read about of wildfires in Loutraki, Greece – a neighborhood near where I have family, and although they are safe – thankfully – indeed, they are dealing with poor air quality. Ironically, despite having active fires nearby, their air quality Index reads 51 US AQI PM2.5 vs. my town’s current 117 US AQI PM2.5. What’s PM2.5 – it’s good to know what this means since it can affect your health. According to my Air Quality Index app – PM2.5 particles are floating particulate matter in the air measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less. That’s so small that it can be absorbed into your bloodstream upon inhalation. So, this pollutant is something to understand since it poses the most significant health threat.

Greek City Times

Between the smoke-filled, poor-air-quality days and the torrential downpours that make it impossible to be outside, I managed to steal a moment of bliss in my garden. Despite the haze of Canadian wildfire smoke, I nestled on my very uncomfortable porcelain ornate garden stool that could use a cushion. I weeded away, savoring the melodious words of my audiobook, Here’s to Us. I highly recommend listening to audiobooks while weeding – I find time flies when I am absorbed in a good listen. I feel a deep connection to the earth in precious minutes like these, as if our roots intertwine and whisper secrets. The scent of the rosemary and tomato plants, accompanied by the tender caress of the breeze and the songs of the birds, created a harmonious symphony that soothed my spirit. It’s one of my favorite feelings. I am grateful for these moments.

With an eye on the clock, I savored the time outdoors without overextending my stay. An hour it was, no more, as I listened to the audiobook’s tales of life, love, and resilience. Then, with gratitude in my heart for that serene escape, I returned to the safety of my den, where clean air embraced me like a warm hug – despite being cold from the air conditioner filtering the air. Ah, what a delicate balance it is – enjoying the wonders of nature while safeguarding our health in these challenging times. But with mindful actions and awareness, we can still bask in the wonders of the great outdoors, even as we cherish the comforts of our indoor adventures.

When the air quality takes a nosedive, it’s time to retreat indoors. Gather ’round, pack, and huddle in the safety of your den! Keep those windows and doors closed tight to keep the smoke at bay. If you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning, crank it up – it’s like having your very own air purification system!

Now let’s delve deeper into staying healthy amidst the smoky haze. Hydration, my friends, is a magical elixir that can work wonders in flushing out those pesky pollutants from our bodies. Breathing in polluted air can irritate our airways and lungs, causing discomfort like coughing and wheezing. But fear not, for staying hydrated helps to thin the mucus in our airways, making coughing up those bothersome particles easier. Not only that, but it keeps our airways moist, providing a protective shield against further irritation. So, let’s raise our metaphorical chalices and drink up – water, clear broth, unsweetened tea, whatever tickles your fancy – and keep ourselves refreshed and ready to howl with vitality.

When the air quality is poor, it’s essential to be mindful of our physical activities. You see, my active pack members, engaging in strenuous exercises can increase our breathing rate, exposing us to even more pollutants. But fret not, for we have a cunning plan. If you must be active, why not seek refuge indoors or find a spot with pristine air quality for your escapades? By doing so, you protect yourself from unnecessary exposure while still getting your much-needed dose of fun.

So, let’s sum up our master plan for days with less than stellar air quality: Stay hydrated like a true Earthy Alchemist, and drink plenty of fluids like water, clear broth, and unsweetened tea. Remember, sugary drinks won’t do the trick, so let’s leave those behind. Fill your plates with the bounty of fruits and veggies, with their high water content, to keep you refreshed and satisfied. And when you’re out and about, exercising and exploring, take those well-deserved breaks to rest and hydrate – after all, we’re in this adventure together!

With these tips, my dear pack, we can stay hydrated and vibrant, even amidst the haze of wildfire smoke. So let’s drink up, stay wise, and be ready for whatever this unpredictable wilderness throws our way!

Now, for our brave pack members who must work outside despite the smoke, fear not; there are things that you can do to protect yourself! Equip yourself with an N95 mask or respirator – your lungs will thank you. Take breaks often, dash back indoors to breathe clean air, and recharge when you can. If you labor in areas with heavy smoke, consider seeking refuge in well-ventilated buildings or using fans to keep the air circulating. And remember, always listen to your body – if you’re feeling unwell, take a break and prioritize your health.

But when the smoke gets unbearable, it’s time to find adventure within the cozy confines of your den! As a wolf with a love for exploration, I know that staying entertained indoors is crucial. But first, let’s talk about the importance of having the proper air filtration in our cozy dens. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to keep the air we breathe pure and invigorating. With wildfire smoke and various pollutants floating about, having a reliable air purifier can be a lifesaver. These magical devices work tirelessly to filter out those pesky particles, ensuring that our den becomes a sanctuary of fresh, clean air. So, consider investing in a top-notch air filtration system – your lungs will thank you, and your pack will howl with joy at the difference it makes!

Instead of scrolling the hours away – use your time indoors productively.

There are always more than enough indoor chores that we put off – or at least I do. There are the financial things we could be more focused on – downloading and categorizing the monthly charges from the credit cards into a financial program or spreadsheet. Not so much fun to do but important. Again, I find that the time goes much faster when I am listening to a good book or podcast.

Then there are the “fun” things like going through closets and drawers to go through clothes to purge, donate, and keep. It’s always good to look around to see if there is anything that you can contribute to the local community thrift shop or church for others in need. Then you can always have the option to unleash your creativity! Embrace your inner artist and dabble in painting, drawing, writing, or crafting. The possibilities are endless, and creating something with your hands is genuinely fulfilling. Or perhaps you have a thirst for knowledge. Dive into the vast realm of online courses and tutorials, where you can learn anything from cooking delightful treats to mastering coding skills – talk about a howling good time! I take many classes online from teachers on Masterclass, BBC Maestro, and Patreon in various topics, including writing, drawing zen meditation, and cooking.

Games, anyone?

Howl excitedly as you gather your pack members for board, video, or thrilling card games. I have always loved playing games – board, dice, card, lawn games – you name it, I love playing them. The conversations, bonds, and memories formed over game sessions are unforgettable! When you have had enough bonding time and need to retreat for some private time, why not lose yourself in a captivating book? Reading is an excellent way to unwind and escape into other worlds, leaving the worries of wildfire smoke behind. And, of course, if you need help picking a book, check out my reviews on Goodreads for a selection of must-reads.

I live with a musician, so music is a part of my life. Mark is always playing his guitar, playing one tune or another. Let the soothing sounds of music fill your space as you relax and rejuvenate. Create a playlist for your commute to work or the trip you plan to take. Explore new genres – music has the power to heal our spirits. We tend to listen to the same old thing all the time – mix it up! You will be surprised at the music you might like. For instance, earlier today, Mark asked our Alexa AI to play something – I forget exactly what he wanted it to play, but what it played was a very catchy tune that made you want to dance. The song, according to our Alexa activity log, is Maahi Ve by Shankar Mahadevan, Sadhana Sargam, Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam, Madhushtree, Loy Mendonsa, Ehsaan Noorani & Javed Akhtar. I guess they couldn’t decide on a band name. It was a fun song, and we will listen to it again sometime – it was happy music that made you want to move your body to it.

Remember the importance of spending quality time with your pack. Whether it’s playing games, listening to music, watching a movie, or simply sharing stories, cherish these moments of togetherness. And when cabin fever creeps in, take a break from the pack. Embrace some downtime by taking a nap, relaxing bath, or simply sitting in silence to reconnect with your inner wolf. Remember, the key is to find indoor activities that bring joy and fulfillment. And even indoors, make it a point to venture outside for fresh air and bask in the sunshine when the smoke clears.

So there you have it. Wildfire smoke may be a formidable foe, but we can protect our health, connect, and thrive amidst any challenge that comes our way. Stay safe and curious. Let’s continue to seize these precious moments, both inside and out, finding solace in creativity, knowledge, games, and togetherness. As the wildfire smoke dances in the distance, we’ll hold on to our strong bond and navigate this journey together. Here’s to us, my dear pack, facing each day with courage and wisdom. Embrace life, literature, and everything in between as we journey through the ever-changing wilderness of life. Inch by inch, step by step. Until we howl again, let’s keep thriving and howling with joy!

Sources include:

Compost for Change – My Path to a Greener Lifestyle -How We Diverted 2,205 Metric Tons of Food Waste

Are there things you try to practice daily to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

Mark and I have been on a remarkable sustainability journey for the past decade. Every day, we diligently compost our food scraps and waste. Knowing that there’s a distinction between the two is important. Food scraps are the remnants of the meals we’ve enjoyed, while food waste represents the uneaten and discarded portions. It’s alarming to realize that a staggering 40% of all food in the United States goes to waste, generating a mind-boggling 135 million tons of emissions. This colossal problem stems from the food we never even savored but instead allowed to go to waste.

Rotten fruit and vegetables, farmers waste, unsustainable agriculture concept.

When we founded Homegrown Harvest in 2011, our mission was crystal clear: to live a more sustainable lifestyle ourselves and inspire others to do the same. We embarked on a journey of selling, installing, and nurturing raised bed gardens to encourage and educate people about the significance of growing their own food. I would often take the stage to deliver engaging lectures on gardening and composting, spreading the message of sustainability far and wide.

Composting, as we soon discovered, could be quite a challenging endeavor. It had its fair share of messiness, odors, and time-consuming aspects. If not done correctly, it could turn into a toxic mess, attracting critters from all corners of the woods. We initially followed the traditional cold process, mixing, mashing, and repeating, but it took an eternity to obtain usable compost. Winter posed another obstacle, making composting nearly impossible depending on where one lived. The barriers to ease and success were abundant, frustrating our composting ambitions.

“Composting is not only about recycling waste; it’s about creating life. It’s a way of honoring the cycle of nature and nourishing the earth that sustains us.”

-Beth Ojczyk, Composting enthusiast

While running Homegrown Harvest, I constantly sought out companies offering sustainable solutions. That’s when I stumbled upon a great Canadian company that manufactured a game-changing machine called FoodCycler. No larger than a bread machine, this compact device could sit right on your kitchen counter, transforming food scraps and waste into compost. With FoodCycler, you can instantly replenish your garden with nutrient-rich compost. Collecting your food scraps and waste in the cast iron container, starting the process in the FoodCycler, the machine would heat the food, eliminating harmful molds and bacteria, and pulverize it into compost. The beauty of it was that even meat, poultry, and fish scraps were welcome, bones included. Vitamix acquired the company a few years back, revamping the design, and while we have yet to try the new version, it’s heartening to witness companies focusing on such innovative products. I’ve heard of another company called Lume with a similar product, but I have yet to have the chance to explore it. It’s incredibly inspiring to witness these companies addressing a solvable problem, offering consumers a tangible way to live more sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint.

During our early FoodCycler days, we were still raising three kids, two in high school and one living with us. As a family of five, our garbage output was substantial. However, with two FoodCyclers running daily, we found solace in having a system that worked for us before moving to New Hampshire. Given the local wildlife, harsh winters, and subzero temperatures, outdoor composting was simply out of the question.

Our town boasts an impressive recycling and refuse center, segregating our waste into at least eight categories. We separate burnable items, including food scraps and waste, aluminum foil, batteries, plastic, glass, cans, cardboard, and newspapers/magazines. This comprehensive recycling system occupies three of my kitchen cabinets and requires a minimum of two trash cans per room, even in the bathrooms. Everything that ascends the mountain eventually makes its way back down. By subtracting food scraps and waste, we significantly reduce the amount of garbage we haul to the dump each week.

It’s vital to understand that when food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. People often overlook this fact, assuming that since food is biodegradable, there’s no harm in tossing it in the garbage—it’s not like plastic, right? Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way. The problem lies in the way landfills operate. Initially, food waste undergoes aerobic decomposition, releasing minimal methane in the first year. However, the trouble arises afterward when anaerobic conditions set in, and bacteria decompose the waste, producing copious amounts of methane as the food slowly breaks down.

Landfill with burning trash piles. Environment pollution concept. Birds flying over the trash dump

Sadly, landfills and wastewater globally contribute to a staggering 67 million metric tons of methane emissions, accounting for 20% of all methane released. The climate impact of methane is significant, as it possesses global warming potential 25 times higher than carbon dioxide and is a whopping 84 times more potent in the first two decades.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that throwing away just one pound of food results in a staggering 3.8 pounds of methane gas. Applying this calculation to our composting efforts, Mark and I conservatively estimate that we composted approximately 1.5 pounds of food scraps and waste daily, which adds up to at least 547.5 pounds of food per year. Over ten years, we prevented a jaw-dropping 5,475 pounds or 2,205 metric tons of food scraps and waste from reaching the landfill. That’s thousands of tons—tremendous amounts of sustainable impact. This equates to 20,805 pounds or 9.437 metric tons (10.4 short tons) of methane we diverted from polluting our atmosphere.

Nowadays, whenever I travel, a sense of guilt washes over me when I have to dispose of food scraps or waste into a non-compostable bin. It’s one of the simplest ways everyone can contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle and care for our planet. Our kids, too, have embraced the benefits of the FoodCycler, even using it in their apartments. They’ve discovered it’s cleaner than letting food waste sit around in the garbage can; even throwing the compost in the trash is a better alternative than filling the landfill. I hope more companies focus on creating manageable and affordable home composting solutions. Moreover, companies in the food industry should be held accountable for composting, considering the significant amount of food waste generated by restaurants and other food-related businesses. Adopting simple measures like these could result in a substantial reduction in methane emissions.

Renowned environmentalist Wangari Maathai once said, “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” Living a sustainable lifestyle is our opportunity to embrace this new level of consciousness and leave a positive mark on our planet for generations.

The Earthy Alchemist: 10 Reasons to Embrace Harmonious Alliances in Your Garden

Unlock the Potential of Your Garden with Companion Planting

Welcome to the captivating realm of the Earthy Alchemist’s garden, where plants sway and dance in perfect harmony. As I prepare to venture into my rain-soaked garden, ready to conquer the unpredictable working conditions that nature throws my way, there’s one tool I can’t overlook: the trusted companion planting chart. Before I immerse myself in the muddy trenches, let’s delve into the secrets of companion planting. Together, we’ll unlock the full potential of our gardens and discover the ten compelling reasons why this enchanting technique reigns supreme. So, grab your gardening gear, step into the Earthy Alchemist’s world, and let’s embark on a horticultural adventure like no other!

Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and marigolds

10 Reasons to Embrace Harmonious Alliances in Your Garden

  1. Natural Pest Control: Certain companion plants act as natural repellents, deterring pests and reducing the need for chemical pesticides. For instance, marigolds repel nematodes, while aromatic herbs like rosemary and sage ward off harmful insects.
  2. Improved Soil Health: Through the clever pairing of plants, companion planting enhances soil fertility and structure. Nitrogen-fixing plants like legumes (e.g., beans and peas) enrich the soil with this vital nutrient, benefiting neighboring plants.
  3. Maximizing Space: Companion planting allows you to make the most of limited garden space. Growing vertically or intercropping compatible plants can achieve a higher yield in a smaller area.
  4. Increased Biodiversity: By cultivating diverse plant communities, companion planting promotes biodiversity in your garden. This attracts beneficial insects, such as pollinators and predators of garden pests, creating a thriving ecosystem.
  5. Weed Suppression: Some companion plants act as natural weed suppressors, crowding out unwanted plants and reducing the need for manual weeding. Examples include ground-covering plants like clover or vining crops that shade the soil.
  6. Enhanced Nutrient Uptake: Certain plants have root systems that complement each other, allowing for efficient nutrient uptake. For instance, deep-rooted plants bring up nutrients from lower soil layers, benefiting shallow-rooted plants growing nearby.
  7. Extended Harvest: By strategically pairing early- and late-maturing crops, you can extend your harvest season. Utilize the space left by harvested plants to sow new seeds or transplant seedlings for continuous production.
  8. Natural Shade and Support: Taller companion plants can provide shade and support for their shorter counterparts. For example, sun-sensitive plants like lettuce can benefit from the shade provided by taller plants like corn or sunflowers.
  9. Flavor Enhancement: Companion planting can enhance the flavor of certain crops. For instance, aromatic herbs like basil or thyme planted near tomatoes can impart their fragrant essence, elevating the taste of your harvest.
  10. Aesthetically Pleasing Gardens: You can create visually appealing garden designs with companion planting. Combine plants with different heights, textures, and colors to craft stunning and harmonious arrangements that please both the eye and the soul.
Zinnias and Sunflowers

By embracing the ancient art of companion planting and tapping into the hidden powers of these ten compelling reasons, you’re about to become a gardening alchemist extraordinaire! Prepare to unleash a symphony of growth and abundance as your plants dance in perfect harmony. With the Earthy Alchemist as your guide, let your hands work their magic and embark on this enchanting journey. Watch in awe as your garden transforms into a breathtaking tapestry of flourishing companionship, where plants thrive and create a botanical masterpiece that will leave your neighbors green with envy!

Friends Benefits and InsightsFoes a.k.a.
Incompatible Pairings
Asparagus + Basil/ParsleyBasil/Parsley attracts beneficial insects that prey on pests that may affect asparagus, such as aphids or beetles.Asparagus + Garlic/ Onions/Potatoes
Basil + PeppersBasil and peppers make fantastic companions. Basil’s strong scent can help repel aphids, spider mites, and other pests that may bother pepper plants. Plus, the combination of basil and peppers in various dishes adds a delicious culinary twist.Basil + Rue/Sage
Beans + Corn Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, benefiting corn growthBeans + Onions
Beets + Swiss ChardSwiss chard and beets are close relatives and make excellent companions. They have similar growth requirements and can be planted together to create a visually appealing garden bed. Swiss chard’s vibrant leaves can also provide some shade and protection to the developing beet roots.Beets + Pole Beans
Cabbage Family + Aromatic HerbsA variety of aromatic herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, and sage, make great companions for the cabbage family. These herbs repel pests like cabbage worms and can help deter harmful insects from damaging the cabbage plants.tomatoes, strawberries, pole beans, peppers, eggplants, grapes, lettuce
Carrots + Onions Onions deter carrot flies, while carrots repel onion maggotsCarrots + Dill/Parsley
Cucumbers + RadishesRadishes repel cucumber beetles, protecting cucumber vinesCucumbers + Potatoes 
Lettuce + Chives Chives repel aphids, protecting lettuce from infestationLettuce + Parsley/Cabbage Family/Strawberries
Marigolds + CucumbersMarigolds repel pests like aphids, while cucumbers provide a climbing structure for marigolds to grow vertically. This combination maximizes space utilization and promotes a visually appealing garden.Marigolds + Cabbage Family/Potato
Onion + BeetsBeets help repel onion pests and also benefit from the onion’s pest-repellent properties. Planting beets near onions can create a mutually beneficial environment, enhancing the growth and health of both plants.Onion + Asparagus
Root Crops + MarigoldMarigolds repel nematodes, protecting root crops like carrots, parsnips, turnips…Root Veggies + Potato/Onion/Garlic/Pole Beans/Fennel
Tomatoes + MarigoldsMarigolds repel nematodes, improving tomato healthTomatoes + Potatoes

Peas + CarrotsCarrots help improve the soil structure by loosening it, making it easier for pea roots to penetrate.Peas + Garlic/Onion/Alliums
Peppers + Tomato“Salsa Companions” They have similar growing requirements, can be planted together, creating a visually appealing and productive garden bed, provide shade to each other’s lower leaves, reducing weed growth and conserving moisture.Pepper + Fennel/Cabbage Family
Spinach + StrawberriesStrawberries provide shade, keeping spinach cool and moistSpinach + Cabbage Family
Roses + Garlic Garlic deters aphids and repels black spot disease on rosesRoses + Potatoes
Sunflowers + ZinniasSunflowers attract beneficial insects that control pestsSunflowers + Pole Beans
Squash + NasturtiumsNasturtiums deter squash bugs and attract pollinatorsSquash + Potatoes
Tomato + Basil 

Basil repels pests that afflict tomatoes; both enhance flavor. Basil repels pests that afflict tomatoes; both enhance flavorTomato + Cabbage Family/Corn/Potato/Fennel

You can download a printable version by clicking the download link below.

Tomatoes and Marigolds

As we bid farewell, remember that the magic of companion planting continues to unfold in every garden. The Earthy Alchemist invites you to explore the vast possibilities of harmonious alliances and unlock the hidden potential of your own little Eden. May your plants grow strong, your harvests be bountiful, and the bond between nature and your garden flourish with every season. Until we meet again, may your hands be blessed with the touch of the Earth and your heart be filled with the joy of tending to your botanical companions. Happy gardening!

April Fool’s Day 2023

No joke – we woke to four inches of heavy wet snow up here on the mountain. Just as there were patches of grass and parts of the rock wall had started to appear the other day, nature decided — not yet! I prefer spring snow to dreary spring rain, but I am sure that will come in time too. At least I hope so. A few years ago we were in a terrible drought while ironically reading Dune during that time, Since then, I never take the rainy season for granted — I welcome it. We have plans to add a barn to our property hopefully soon and are planning on trying to collect out water runoff for our gardens and since we are on well water, we welcome the chance for the underground aquifers to replenish and fill.

April 1 2023 – Bridgewater, New Hampshire

The Importance of Soil

This past year, as part of our journey into meditation and living a more mindful life, Mark and I began listening to talks and lectures covering topics about Buddhism, Taoism, spirituality… The app Insight Timer which is our go-to app for all things mediations also has a number of courses and talks. The talks vary in length depending on topic and teachers- some as short as 4 minutes long, others over an hour.

One of the teachers we follow is Sadhguru. Sadhguru and the Isha Foundation are dedicated to raising human consciousness and fostering global harmony through individual transformation. Sadhguru (Jagadish “Jaggi” Vasudev) started teaching yoga in southern India in 1982. He established the Isha Foundation ten years later. According to their website as part of their mission, “the foundation offers a variety of programs that provide methods for anyone to attain physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Its offerings allow participants to deepen their experience of life, and reach their ultimate potential.”

Sadhguru gives great talks – he has a wonderful sense of humor which you don’t expect from an Indian yogi. “Stop Limiting Life’s Possibility”, A Crash Course to Become More Receptive”, Enjoy the Creation” and “Inner Engineering” are just a few of the wonderful talks he has on Insight Timer. It was Mark who always does the deep diving and found Sadhguru’s website which introduced us to the Isha Foundation and his other projects.

Specifically, my ears perked up when I started to hear him discuss the importance of soil. I was a research analyst who covered the agribusiness and water sectors in another lifetime. During this time, I first learned about the importance of our soil and how our global soil is in trouble. Soil degradation is not just a problem that Americans face but also a worldwide issue.  So when I heard Sadhguru talking about it, I was intrigued.

Save Soil – Conscious Planet is a global movement launched by Sadhguru to save soil from extinction, and bring the necessary policies to address the catastrophic issue facing humanity.

This movement has garnered support from global leaders including Marc Benioff, Jane Goodall, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and institutions such as United Nations – Convention to Combat Desertification, World Economic Forum, World Food Programme, Food & Agriculture Organization of United Nations.”


Yesterday was the first day of spring! A day that everybody starts to look at the ground more in anticipation of the arrival of the beautiful colorful flowers which grace our earth. Others are testing their soil and preparing their beds for planting.

Sadhguru began a quest to bring more awareness to people about the importance of our earth’s soil. Yesterday he embarked on a 100-day journey from the United Kingdom to India. 26 countries, 30,000 kilometers on his motorcycle. Sadhguru has worked for two decades to bring awareness to this soil crisis.

In 2004 he started the Project GreenHands initiative which resulted in 35 million saplings being planted over the years. They even hold the Guinness World Record for most saplings planted in a day. 6,284 trees were planted across 27 districts in Tamil Nadu, India in 2006. During the three day event, 852,587 trees were planted.

Too many people don’t fully comprehend why it is imperative to focus our attention on the global soil crisis. Sadhguru continues his mission to raise conscious awareness of the importance of our soil so that there will be nutritional soil to grow food for generations to come.

He has asked people to help him raise awareness about the soil crisis by talking about it or with your friends and family in person or on social media. I join this him in this mission – I have understood the importance of our soil for decades and have been frustrated with how our world seems to take it for granted.

When Mark and I ran our business, Homegrown Harvest, we started it to help to make it easier for people to grow some of their own food. We taught people about the quality of their soil and how commercial agriculture has decimated our farmlands with chemicals, over-fertilization, mono-cropping, and destroying the microbial organisms with heavy machinery.

I gave many talks at local libraries and clubs to help educate people about the degradation of our farmlands, encouraging people to grow some of their own food so that they will be able to increase the nutritional quality of what they eat by planting in healthy soil.

We also made it a point to teach people to be gentler with their soil and not use root-tillers that destroy the microbial organisms which are so important to good soil.

Awareness is just one step in the right direction; however, I feel that everyone can make an effort towards saving our soil each day, simply by composting their food waste. Landfills are one of the largest anthropogenic sources of the methane gas produced by this world. Food waste is about 22% of what ends up in landfills and it can not organically decompose which results in the output of methane gas. Composting food waste would keep food waste out of landfills and would nutritionally benefit the environment’s soil.

Another way that people can make a difference is by helping to plant more trees. Today is International Day of Forests, a day in which we should reflect on the importance of our global forests. Trees are a crucial ingredient in helping our lands maintain healthy soil. Their roots help maintain the soil structure, helping to reduce erosion. Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s article How Trees Make A Difference to learn more.

Looking for the Silver Lining

What is the one thing in life that you are most excited about right now? Why?

That is Fandango’s Provocative Question for the day. Interesting that I read this right question right now since I’ve been a little sad today so it’s a good time to be looking for things to get excited about.

I have much to be excited about as I look around. I have my garden which I planted alongside my daughter who I got to spend time with for ten weeks during quarantine. Sorry for the reason, but so thankful for the time with her. The garden should provide plenty of healthy, fresh produce for me and my family if we have a good season. I need it too since having my two adult children live under the same roof again depleted our rations of canned tomato sauce and salsa a little more than twice as much if it had been just Mark and I. But it made me smile each and every time they opened a jar of our homegrown goodness and raved about how good it taste.

I’m excited to work in the garden and be outside with the sun shining and even if it’s not. After a number of months being cooped up inside because the weather was too miserable to enjoy being outside for any given time, I’m not too picky about when is a good time to spend out in the garden. Just as long as there aren’t too many bugs and it’s not too hot. My garden has fantastic sunlight so I have to pick and choose my hours which tend to be early in the morning and after 5pm.

I’m excited about the new chickens we have now! Khaleesi, Gertrude, Ethel and Lucy have joined our homestead. It’s always a thrill to walk into the hen house and see the daily deposit of freshly laid eggs. Which in turn has made us excited about breakfast and any recipe that has eggs in it. I get excited now to do the weeding since the hens love the dandelions and eat them right up, it no longer feels like weeding and more like harvesting. I know human enjoy eating dandelion leaves in salads and making tea or wine but until now they were just weeds. So I’m excited about that – it goes for all weeds pretty much too. Plus the chickens are so much fun to watch they make me excited to just come out to the yard and sit and watch.

Finally I am excited about the flowers which are beginning to bloom and I know will blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. I have a short season up here on the mountain, so I am grateful for the time we are given and excited to see it all unfold.

It can be difficult to get excited about the future when we are dealing with so many unknowns. But it’s in times like these where you need to take a deep breath, take a step back and look for the good things, they don’t have to be big things, just small positives. It’s easy to see the negative, especially when you are looking for it. When you are looking for it – that it all you will see. It’s harder to look for the positives, the good things – not matter how big or small they may be. But once you start to look for the positives, I thik they become easier to see.