A version of this was originally published on GreenZoneOnline.
A Father’s Day Tribute
People often ask me how I came to be green. I tell them it’s the leprechaun blood. Seriously, I owe my green roots to my dad. He is the one who has inspired many of my so-called cockamamie (as my ex claims) ideas. Now my dad is a mixture of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, the dad from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Ebenezer Scrooge. Not only does he plant trees, cut up dead wood, and build many interesting contraptions (ask him about the electric chair he built as a boy!), but he is phenomenal in his ability to squeeze every bit of value out of his pennies. Much of his environmentalism stems from the fact that he does not and will not waste money or anything else. Take for example the fact that we lived for years without running water. He claimed that that’s what rivers were created for. If we wanted a bath, we could just hike on down to the river and take one. No sense in paying for plumbing when nature provides it for us, right?
I still remember him eagerly devouring issues of Mother Earth News. Inevitably, after reading a new issue would come a new idea. One time after reading about how to identify edible wild plants in one issue, we were packed up into the truck (My brother and I were relegated to the back camper where we could scream and carry on without damaging anyone’s eardrums, but our own.) and off to our cabin deep in the mountains. There, my dad told us that we were going to be hunting for ginseng, edible wildflowers, and cattails. My brother and I thought this was a grand adventure…until he cooked up a crazy concoction of cattails and who knows what else. Our eyes watered as we rapidly gulped water in an attempt to wash away the horrible taste. We begged him, “Please, Dad, no more.” Fortunately, my mom had foreseen this possibility and had snuck alternative food supplies into the truck. She took pity on us and whipped up some mac-n-cheese (which I still swear to this day was the best I’ve ever had) so that we didn’t starve.
Another time, there were plans for houses partially built into the side of the hill. Dad poured over the issue, carefully studying the drawings. Then came the dream of finishing our basement, which was set into the side of a hill. Once again, my brother and I were recruited for work on the project. Our job was to help dig out the remainder of the dirt. However, we were not very good helpers. We got sidetracked in our digging once we discovered various Matchbox cars and marbles we had buried there and forgotten. We were like Egyptian explorers who had just uncovered a tomb of royal treasures. However, instead of worrying about deadly anthrax the only terror we had to confront was the occasional desiccated turd from when one of the cats had been quarantined in the basement while waiting to visit the vet’s in order to get “fixed.”
Solar panels were far out of reach at that time so instead, my dad opted for the good old-fashioned, wood-burning stove in order to conserve energy. This project produced heat in more ways than one. First, there was the wood cutting and then there was the wood burning, not to mention all the running back and forth between the house and the woodpile, which seemed to be at least a mile away according to breathing level of my brother. Still, it was his enthusiasm for being a steward of the land and the so-called, new-fangled ideas such as solar panels and earth-sheltered houses that started me on the path to being green or greenish.
When my kids were in high school, I was the one pouring over plans on the Internet for building an Earthship with a gray water system. I excitedly presented my ideas to them sure that they would share in my enthusiasm. They simply rolled their eyes and reminded me of the time I had tried to convince them we needed to buy a farm, raise goats, and keep bees while powering our household with a wind generator. Although my level of green has waxed and waned over the years, depending on living circumstances at least I know I’ve had an impact just like my dad. They are recycling in their own homes and using CFL light bulbs. For now, if I want to talk about plans for an Earthship or learning to keep bees, I’ll just give my dad a ring.
What have you learned from your dad?
Once upon a time, Morgan O’Donnell was a blogger for GreenZoneOnline where she wrote about environmental topics with a lighthearted approach. She very much appreciates her dad who let her swing from trees, play in the creek, and roam the mountains.