HDPE – what it is, why you should care, and how to recycle it at home

My friend Joe is something of a renaissance man (if you ask me – he makes no such claims himself). Among a bunch of other cool things that he does, he recycles HDPE (high density polyethylene plastic) at home to turn it into beautiful food-safe bowls, and he has a tutorial on how to do it. Now, he prettifies his bowls on a lathe (because in addition to being an actual scientist – like with a doctorate and everything – he’s also a woodworker. Because he’s Joe.) But even if you aren’t trying to pick up a lathe and some new chisels this weekend to make kitchen implements from your recycling bin, this blog post of his is still worth a look because it explains what HDPE is, why you should care, and how to identify it.

I haven’t yet been able to move away from plastic in my product packaging, but I’m definitely always looking for the more sustainable option when I make a choice about purchasing new packaging or packing materials. And Joe’s post made it really easy for me to get the bottom line about HDPE versus PET when it comes to ordering my next batch of bottles for my soaps, waters, and washes. A good blog to follow for easy-to-understand info about sustainability.

“Are You Down With HDPE?” at Old School Joes

Thea Summer Deer and Wisdom of the Plant Devas, chicken poop, Ghost Pipe, Emily Dickinson

I don’t really have time for a real blog post, never mind a book review [*], but I wanted to make a quick recommendation for Thea Summer Deer’s blog and book, Wisdom of the Plant Devas. This is going to sound like some woo-woo stuff to some folks, and I freely admit to being one of those who was extremely skeptical about flower essences and homeopathy and such for a very long time. And despite my work with and interest in herbs, I don’t write about herbal medicine much because I’m not qualified to and I don’t want anybody taking my advice on anything when it comes to *consuming* herbs. You need to get that information from someone with formal qualifications whom you have vetted. Herbs can heal but they can also kill.

But I’ve taken the long way round to giving some of the more woo-woo-sounding stuff a second, slower look over recent years, and I’ve backed way, way up on my tendency to scoff and think “can’t be bothered” when I encounter it. And I recently stumbled across her blog, and from there her book, when looking for information on the very rare and very weird Ghost Pipe,[**] which my mother recently called to tell me she found growing on her property.

I also don’t have time to quote or really review the book right now, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it. While I regularly bristle at Westerners co-opting concepts like karma and devas and using them shallowly and irresponsibly, what emerges from her work as she’s talking about the spirits of the plants is authenticity, a hell of a lot of knowledge and experience, and a deep, deep respect. She talks about and works with these plants like an old-school rootworker who happens to be conversant in Chinese medicine. Don’t be turned off by the occasional New-Age-seeming imagery or mentions of contemporary Wicca-esque stuff. This book is a lot deeper than its cover. She cites her sources even on the blog like an actual scholar instead of a typical lazy blogger, though both are very readable and never stuffy or dry; the blog has lots of thought-provoking and free info; and the book itself is surprisingly affordable.

Definitely worth a look if you’re into this kind of thing at all.


[*] Still scrambling to deal with twingey back, hurricane recovery, communication backlog, order backlog, injured rooster (who hates people), sick hen (whose most visible symptom is extraordinarily stinky and runny poop, and the chicken hospital is inside our house, so I’m scrubbing in there multiple times a day), a partner who’s thrown *his* back out now, the usual everyday garden/land/home maintenance, my own trainwrecks of grief (please, loved ones, stop dying), and supplier issues (when pandemics, hurricanes and such happen, the stuff I need to make the things folks order doesn’t always show up when it’s supposed to, or at all in rare cases, and this is an aspect of my shipping/handling times, too).

Sorry there’s poop in the picture, but she did that after I stabilized the camera but before the photograph was actually saved on my phone. And it startled me, and I unstabilized the camera, hence the lousy photo quality. But Hi Top the Usually Genial, Now the Seriously Grumpy Mascot of Seraphin Station lives. Not exactly in splendor at the moment, but God willing, in gradually improving health. Really, really smelly gradually improving health.

[**] Also known as ghost plant, corpse plant, or Indian pipe, it seems like kind of a wildflower and kind of a fungus. In fact it’s technically a mycotrophic wildflower, which exists only in a three-way symbiotic relationship. It has no chlorophyll but gets nutrients from tree roots, but it does so indirectly via myccorhizal fungi growing near the roots. It’s ghost white, but if you pick it, it will turn black. Basically, it’s weird as hell and extremely cool. Read more about its medicinal uses at American Herbalists Guild. Emily Dickinson even wrote about it in an unpublished poem you can see at the Morgan Library and Museum’s website. Read a bit more at the blog Emily Dickinson’s Garden. For a scientific but very readable explanation of how the nutrient situation shapes up, see Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for October 2002.

Response to an email asking me to “prove I’m for real”

Big Lucky Hoodoo

…Or why legit workers aren’t even slightly interested in doing Psychic Pet Tricks for free to convince you to be their client, and what you should do instead of playing Test the Psychic.

Q: I was wondering if there was a way you could help me to prove you are genuine by maybe stating something about me that i have not told you. I want help, but I am tired of encountering all these fake psychics when i search.

A: [Name], what you need to do is not search but *research.*

There is a lot of good advice out there to help you avoid getting scammed. There is also a lot of bad advice, given by scammers themselves on their scam websites and ads. Then there’s a lot of well-meaning advice that is inaccurate, biased, or just plain ignorant. So it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff when…

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Recent reading roundup: St. Expedite, Hindu chromos in Haiti, iconography in retablos, domestic work in the segregated South


Did you know there was a very active St. Expedite Society in Independence, Louisiana up until very recently? I didn’t. Read more at Folklife in Louisiana: “St. Expedito’s Role in South Louisiana Catholicism, in New Orleans and in the Italian-American Community near Independence, Louisiana,” by Karen Williams.


Hindu deities on vodun altars: Rush, Dana. “Eternal Potential: Chromolithographs in Vodunland,”African Arts vol. 32, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 60-75+94-96. Also helpful more broadly, imo, for any student of folklore/popular religion who’s ever encountered an argument about whether Abre Camino is “real hoodoo” or not, wondered what to think about the development of the seven-colors school of approach to Santisima Muerte, or pondered the relationships between figures like Legba vs. Ellegua.


Giffords, Gloria Fraser. The Iconography of Mexican Folk Retablos. Thesis. University of Arizona, 1969. I tend to assume everybody immediately sees why stuff like this is so interesting. I tend to be wrong. But basically the iconography had never been studied before this, so this was a big deal, this work. And if you like to understand what you’re looking at when you see a candle in a botanica or grocery store, you’ll encounter plenty of stuff that had its origins here whether you personally work with that imagery/tradition or not.


I read Telling Memories Among Southern WomenDomestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South years ago, and even then, before I’d really started *studying* this stuff in any consistent and applied way, I felt like everybody I knew ought to read it. I knew they wouldn’t – people think this stuff doesn’t have anything to do with them if their families weren’t the ones being described in these stories – but they’d be wrong, ’cause this is part of how we got here. And the impact of it doesn’t just disappear suddenly when it’s no longer fashionable or feasible or *whatever* to have domestic employees. This is part of Southern culture, y’all, and it’s part of how your role in it, as whatever sex, race, class, gender, family role stratum you occupy, got constructed and defined.

I still feel the same way in 2020. I think Southern folks should read this book — especially white folks. Especially white women.  Here’s a review with a useful summary at the Washington Post.

Recommended Reading: Reagan Griffin, Jr.

This is a fine piece of writing all on its own. It’s even more impressive when you read that the author, Reagan Griffin, Jr., is a rising sophomore at University of Southern California. That means he hasn’t even taken any sophomore classes yet.

I’ve taught thousands of freshmen writers. I’ve tutored thousands more. This voice right here? This is not your typical freshman writing.

This is something special. And his message deserves your attention.

Reagan Griffin, Jr. “A Letter to my White Friends,” The Undefeated

Some Southern Gothic Reading for Your Downtime

This is cool as hell. It doesn’t seem finished — or rather, it reads like an excerpt of something longer, and I haven’t poked enough buttons on the site it’s on to figure out if it was continued — but if you’re here for the weird and wonderful lore of the Deep South, give this one your time. ‘Cause we couldn’t make stuff like this up if we tried… but when you’re from these parts, you don’t have to.

Daddy often prophesied about the end of days and always shouted in tongues. There was also some laying-on of hands and some casting out of demons. It all fell just short of snake handling, though.

The Southern Gothic Childhood That Kickstarted a Cult, by Heather Peters Candela
From The Folklore Project: A Collection of Personal Essays from the American South at The Bitter Southerner