Dear Cottage Eco reader,
At the end of May and into early June, I took advantage of a cloudy interval between rainstorms to head into the mountains of southern Vermont to photograph the dynamic beauty of streams. On one hike, I found that snow had fallen the night before, patches of it still unmelted at the base of wildflowers and ferns. As I headed back to my vehicle, a hermit thrush announced dusk in the woods, bringing back some of the magic of my early years, when the evening woods, dark and mysterious, were enchanted.
In my childhood, I spent much time exploring the woods and streams of my Vermont home. Now, after having lived in Portland (OR), Beijing, Honolulu, Taipei, Tokyo, Vancouver, and New York City, I am back in Vermont, photographing the scenery in which I grew up.
Founding Cottage Eco
Many years of living in cities has not changed my view of forests as profoundly beautiful and mysterious. I am convinced that urban culture undervalues rural ecology. This is a problem, because urban culture tends to dominate our societies. The more alienated we become from direct ecological relationships, the less we understand, nurture, and protect these relationships.
Earlier this year, I began work on the Cottage Eco website in order to have a platform for writing about opportunities to improve human-environment relationships. I taught myself the digital tools needed to build and maintain a WordPress site, and I chose the name “Cottage Eco” to reflect the ideal of better human integration with the natural ecology of our home environments.
I was motivated to try doing something about the gap between what we know about the environmental crises of our time, and what we actually do in our daily lives. As civilized humans with a stake in the longevity of our planet’s ability to support life, we must do better. Human lifestyles are not in line with the needs of our planet’s ecology.
What can we do to bring lifestyles into better alignment with ecological objectives? We can celebrate direct relationships with nature, whether these are economic or personal. We can hike more, forage more, garden more, and learn more names of non-human organisms. In short, my philosophy is to love where I live, know my local ecology, and care for it.
We can also stop celebrating affluence and the cultures of the affluent. We can steer money toward ecologically responsible businesses, especially local ones whose owners are members of our communities.
Recent Cottage Eco Blog Posts
Since I announced Cottage Eco just over a month ago, I have published four new posts. One is a short meditation on quality of life inspired by my reading of Daniel Mays, The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm. I am not satisfied with my writing in this post, but it did help me rediscover the excellent essays in E. F. Schumacher’s classic book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. If you are pondering what has gone wrong with human society and what might be done to improve the situation, I highly recommend reading Schumacher’s difficult but rewarding book. It remains highly relevant.
My other posts have been on seasonal topics. I went searching in the spring woods for the hepatica, a delicate little flower that blossoms from April to early May. Anticipating this year’s gardening season, I wrote about my experiences growing amaranth for its nutritious greens. Lastly, I posted a Chinese recipe for pine pollen cakes that has been in circulation for at least seven centuries.
Since writing these posts, my progress on the Cottage Eco site has slowed while I compose this newsletter and try to keep up with seasonal opportunities. In addition to photographing streams, I have been experimenting with wild plant ingredients, especially multiflora rose, an invasive species that is a problem in my area, but which has potential as a foraged flavoring.
On the Cottage-Eco Horizon
One of the key objectives of Cottage Eco is to look closely at ecologically responsible business practices. Now that adults in my area (including me) are mostly vaccinated and things are opening up again, I expect to start having discussions with local small business owners soon.
I am also developing some of my own business ideas. How to monetize my activities is an ongoing question. My instinct as a scholar is to keep my site neutral and objective, but I have to pay for the site and justify spending time on it. Offering products in the Cottage Eco Shop is one way that I could begin to earn some income from the site without compromising the integrity of my blog content.
The conifer candies that I have already blogged about do not do well in the summer humidity and heat, so I may not launch these until fall. I am currently playing with ingredients to see if I can come up with something more suitable for the summer season. I will share any developments in my next newsletter.
Building a Library of Resources
When I am not working on a blog post or experimenting with foraged plants, I am often reading up on topics connected with the Cottage Eco initiative, such as trees, lichens, fungi, foraging, soil science, and similar topics. When I find a book sufficiently useful, I add it to my annotated resource list. See my growing list of books and websites to learn what I have been reading.
Thank you so much for signing up to be a part of my Cottage Eco initiative! Cottage Eco is a work in progress, so please do share your ideas with me on what I could be doing better. I treasure your feedback.
Be well, and enjoy this verdant summer season.