Posts Tagged ‘Friction Farm’

It’s a Spring Wednesday

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I’m sorry, I know it may not be spring where you are but my crocuses (croci?) are blooming. I spent some time wandering around our small yard and thought it would be a good time to chat about it.

We are on a big lawn reduction campaign. Honestly it is because we hate to mow. Its loud, it uses fuel, and mostly we’re lazy. While we are being honest I should mention that I have never mowed the lawn here. Aidan does it and when we are away our neighbor mows it. So I can’t really use that as my reason to hate the grass. I just find it useless. We don’t throw a frisbee around out there, or picnic on the ground. It is just useless green stuff that requires too much water so that it will grow and you can mow it. Seriously a nice lawn requires way more water than native plants and if you want it to look fantastic, you probably need to use some questionable weeding and feeding products. You know lots of fertilizers are petroleum based right?

I will also argue that it is not as pretty as other front yard options. We planted some azaleas, as they grow quite well here with no care. And we planted some grape vines, blueberry bushes, apple and plum trees. Talk about useful. Instead of re-seeding the front lawn this year I’m adding creeping phlox, an evergreen ground cover that blooms in summer, spreads a lot, and is drought tolerant. I’ll probably throw in some spring bulbs because the early blooms make me happy.

One of our neighbors has a vegetable garden on the front lawn. I think its great, not sure how the other neighbors feel, but he has stuff growing there almost year round. If i didn’t have big oak trees up front I might do the same thing.

So lose the lawn. Save on water. Reduce pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers, reduce fuel use and noise of mowing. Just a little lawn reduction each year goes a long way.

What’s in your yard?

make music wednesday (and save the world)

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Its 5:40 pm on Wednesday.  A little late for me to be posting and so you are probably dying to know what you can do today to save the world.  I have a good excuse for being late.  I was working on a new song… about half done at this point.

That got me to thinking that if I am going to interupt my writing to…write ? Interupt songwriting to blog, I should at least talk about music.  Big surprise, I think music will save the world.  But I really do, and not in that hippie lets-all-sing-along-and-manifest-change way.  No, in a much more scientific way.  Music has an effect on the brain.  There are lots of studies that show that introducing kids to music in schools improves their ability to learn other subjects, particularly math.   And if it works with kids, I think it must work a bit on adults although considerably less profoundly.  I also know that music is unique way of communitcating on an emotional level that helps us deal with the challenges of life.

I know these are tough financial times for school districts and municipalities.  But who need them?  We can fix this.  If you are a musician of any sort, consider performing for an underserved market.  Perhaps playing for kids in schools or after-school programs, maybe a senior center or retirement home.  My friend Laura Sue Wilanski (the Silver Nightingale)  often plays in hopices and hospitals.  Laurie from the fabulous duo Jennings and Keller does work with women’s prisons.  Its a great way to spend a free afternoon while you are on tour or a way to contribute to your local comunity.  Doesn’t have to be a long show, or a regularly scheduled thing.  Just make an offer, see what happens.

Presenters can offer a lot as well.  The Labyrith Cafe in Ft. Lauderdale FL has always included adults living with mental or physical challanges in their audience.  At our recent show at Urban H2O in Yonkers, members of a group home were in the audience.  If you can offer a few seats at no charge at your event that would have a real impact.  Sometimes its not even money that is the issue… just letting folks know that they are welcome and wanted in the community makes a difference.  We played at a State Park on our recent tour in Florida.  Lots of kids, right up front.  Some were dancing!  I’m going to make it a point to include more kid-friendly places on our schedule.  Not all venues are ideal for kids but if your venue is – let people know.

Put on some tunes, turn up the volume a little, sing along, dance around your living room.  We’re goning to save the w

Got a minute? Save the world.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Want to help me save 119 million killowatt hours of energy this year. It will only take a minute.
I was making pasta last night. About a minute before it was done I turned the burner off. I always do this. I always have. To me, it just seemed obvious that this would save energy. Not much, just a little, just doing my part. Just 119 million killowatt hours per year. Okay, that’s not the amount I save, it is the amount we can save if every household in the United States does this just once a week… and that assumes that every american uses the small burner and has an efficient stove. So really we’ll be saving more than 119 million killowatt hours each year.
Don’t worry about the pasta, it will turn out just fine. Trust me. The pot is hot, the water is boiling, all that heat will stick around for another minute.
How much easier can it get. You do nothing for a minute you save 119 million killowatt hours of energy a year. Have I said that number enough? Its huge !
We can do this. You and me. And all of our friends and family. Spread the word.

Groundhog World Changing Wednesday

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

If its Wednesday, we must be changing the world. 

First a disclaimer, there is nothing in this post about groundhogs or ground hog day.  I was reminded that it was groundhog day by a cute picture on the search engine Bing.  That made me realize it was Wednesday, and we needed to fix the planet again.  You probably thought that while we were on tour, I would forgo my Wednesday mission.  I thought so too.  Doesn’t take much for me to ditch my responsibilities, but even with a legitimate excuse I continue.

Why?  Two things.  First I saw the sun rise over the Atlantic, set in the gulf, and in between saw alligators, anhingas, cormorants, and bunnies!  That is some pretty amazing stuff and we need to preserve and protect that.  Second, I met and reconnected with some amazing people.  This small music community is smart and energetic, they know how to get things done, they’re enthusiasm is contagious.  So I became even more convinced that this group of folks – which includes you – can make small changes , influence others to do the same, and really change the world for the better.

In case you are just tuning in, we’re tackling big stuff here; environmental protection and conservation, healthcare, education, socio-economic disparity and the economy in general.  And we’re tackling it in small way but still making a big difference.

These past few weeks in Florida I have seen folks at highway off-ramps with signs that read “homeless, hungry”.  They are a lot easier to ignore while encapsulated in the car than they were in the subways of NYC.  Still I know there are homeless, hungry folks out there and I do want to help.  Contributing to a local food bank is a great way to contribute.   We do this, and I encourage you to do the same if you can.  Often there is a box right in your grocery store.  But that doesn’t address the face-to-face encounter on the street, at the off-ramp, in the subway.  I am never convinced that if I give some one a dollar it will actually help them.  So I have taken to picking up a box of granola bars when they are on sale.  I carry a couple in my pocket (just in case of a personal emergency, but that’s another story and another unrealistic fear).  If you offer a granola bar, the hungry folks will take it.  You will meet some who refuse, and some who are indignant about the offer.  Okay, you tried.  For those who accept the food, you know exactly what you are giving them and you probably spent less than a dollar.  I also believe the interaction, the kindness and civility is a good thing to put out into the world.

I bet you have a better idea than this one.  Please share it with us.

Completely unrealted to this topic, we did a show with Bill and Kate Isles on Sunday.  They are terrific, great song writers and performers.  If you are not familiar with them, find them on the web and have a listen.  It will make you happy, and that makes the world a better place.

until next week….

Its Wednesday, time to save the world again.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Another Wednesday, another chance to make a difference in the world by making small changes in our lives. 

I listened to the State of the Union address last night, as I am sure many of you did.  We should really change the name of these televised speeches, as they are more like rallying sessions and really don’t address the state of the union.  But, that’s another conversation.  So today I wanted to tie into at least one of the subjects that President Obama was trying to get us energized about… health care, budget deficit, education…. lots to choose from.  But what sparked my interest was the interest in changing businesses and focusing on new technologies.  The scientist in me wants to be a part of creating an energy efficient new world.  The folk musician in me thinks that’s too big for a Wednesday.

I care about preservation of resources, but the solutions I’m hearing about all seem to involve buying something.  I have a 60 year old furnace.  I should buy a new more efficient furnace.  But that’s not going to happen, especially since my gas bill was less than 30 dollars in December.  I don’t need a new car, and the evidence is still sketchy that electric cars are any greener than an efficient combustion engine.  I doubt my roof can support solar panels, and don’t get me started on CFL’s.

But I have a solution that actually requires buying less.  Less meat and animal products.  Don’t worry, I am not suggesting anyone become a vegetarian or a vegan.  I like a rib eye on the grill as much as the next person, and you are not taking away my cheese.  But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization did a study a couple of years ago about the impact of raising livestock.  It found that large scale operations produce the majority of meat and meat products and that production has tripled in the last three decades.  Further, they found that since livestock requires large amounts of fodder crops, the use of fertilizers and pesticides has also increased dramatically.  The processing operations are much more energy intensive than processing of grains and vegetables, and the cold storage and transport needs of meat and dairy create another drain of fossil fuels.

But we – this small group of 900 committed, engaged, active, intelligent, music lovers – can do something about that.  We can impact energy consumption by eating a little less meat.  If you eat meat at most meals, have a vegetarian dish once a week- perhaps every Wednesday.  Eat a smaller serving of meat and add more grains and veggies on your plate.  When you are bringing a dish to a house concert pot luck, consider a meat free option.  We’re eating vegetarian chili tonight and I predict a quinoa and vegetable casserole in our future.

If you need help, I have lots of recipes for really easy vegetarian and vegan dishes. I even have a few vegan desserts and breakfast bars that I make.  Happy to share, and I bet others on the list are willing to share as well.

Another Wednesday, another world to conquer.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

We’re taking on health-care.  Don’t panic, there is no political content this time, no nationwide consensus to be reached. No equations, complicated formulae.  

Forty-one economists, includind a few nobel laureates, filed an amicus brief in Florida arguing that the health-care bill is not unconstitutional.  They argue the unique characteristics justify the congressional mandate.  I am quite sure there is nothing I can do to influence a federal judge.  However, I am also quite sure it is not unconstitutional for me to tell you that if we all try to be a little healthier and help others to be healthier we can go a long way in solving the health care crisis.  And, I don’t think it is an over-reaching, over-confident assumption.

Again, don’t panic.  I am in no position to talk about your eating habits when I share a pie a week. I am not a fitness fanatic or in any way medically schooled.  Nope.  What I am is happy… and healthy.  I’ve always thought those two things were related and now I have found some support in science.

An Australian study of 9981 people found that folks who described themselves as happy and satisfied with life reported good health for the following three years and a much higher rate than folks who said they were not happy.  A Columbia University Medical Center study of 1700 people found that people who called themselves happy were 22% less likely to have heart disease.  (The study was on Canadians, but I think its still valid !)  So, if we are happier we will require less medical care, and put less strain on the health care system.  Simple.

So how do you get happy?  Less sciency studies seem to indicate that happiness is mostly a choice.  For me its always been my default state so I wasn’t sure I was qualified to tell you how to be happy.  So I hit the street.  I smiled and said hello to everyone I could.  Some people ignored me. Some nodded.  Some looked puzzled.  And some smiled and said hello. I asked that later group if they described themselves as happy and they all agreed that they were, to some extent, happy people. I followed up by asking if they ever did things to help themselves be happy.  Surprisingly, the folks that were the most sure about their happiness did modify their behavior to amplify their happy state. So from that pool of experts:  “when I am having a difficult day at work, I look at a picture of my kids”  “if I am feeling down I call a friend who tends to be upbeat”  “I take a few deep breaths when I first start to feel stressed.”

I engaged a few people in deeper conversations and found a few surprising similarities.  They had a good understanding of what mattered to them as individuals… and what didn’t.  They were focused on others, giving and sharing of themselves in service to others.  And finally they had hobbies and interests.

No one said music.  What?!? Music makes me happy.  Especially live music. When I hear other people play and sing, share that experience with a group, I feel energized, transformed and happy.  And that makes me healthy – I have the science to prove it.

Do you have ideas on promoting happiness?  Share them.  And smile, you’re fixing the health-care crisis.

World Changing Wednesdays

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

It snowed here on Monday and it is beautiful.  Today the sun sparkled of the front yard where the snow is still pristine.  Cold nights have created a little ice on the tree branches and they looked silver this afternoon.

So I thought water would be a good place to start.  We need clean water, we use a lot, and its getting harder to find.  We build dams, create reservoirs and use tons of energy purifying the stuff.  So water becomes one of the areas we address on Wednesdays.

Do you leave the water running when you brush your teeth?  If you do, that’s about 1460 gallons per year running down your drain if you brush your teeth twice a day. That’s a really easy habit to change and a great way to start the day thinking about using less, contributing more, and being conscious of  your activity.

Aidan did an informal survey a while ago.  He asked folks in a meeting if they ran the water while brushing their teeth.  40% did.  He told them the amount of water that wastes and asked them to try and change that behavior, if not for the good of the planet, then simply as a favor to him.  A year later about half of those that ran the water while brushing said they had stopped.

So instead of just doing, we can encourage other folks to do the same.  Aidan is a much nicer person than I am, so people will do favors for him, maybe not for me.  So my results may vary.  But I am asking, if you run the water while you brush, consider changing that routine, as a favor to me.  And I am asking you to share the information and ask others to change as well.

How much water can we save this year?

Thanks for tuning in.  Next week I’ll figure out how to incorporate music into this.

January Newsletter

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Happy New Year. Seven days in and its seems like a good one.
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way… the first pie of the year was an apple-cranberry-walnut tart.

Last month I carried on about the bliss of returning to New York for a few weeks. We lived there for nearly three years, met amazing folks, made good friends and felt like we were part of a great community. Going back made me realize that none of that goes away just because we moved. THANKS!

So this month we head to Florida. We lived there longer than anywhere else in our lives and still feel very tied to it. Can’t wait to see friends, visit favorite places, walk in the ocean. We’ll get to see our favorite camper John Rozett, hear how much Benny has learned on guitar, and wish our friend Mark Klein a happy birthday in person. Come out and see us – have a new CD since we were last in Florida.

About that CD… we have never really been happy with any of our previous recordings. But we actually like this one! We want to thank all the DJs who have supported us and especially Wanda Fischer from Albany for giving us a nice quote and John Platt in NYC, Lilli Kuzma in Illinois, Gaye and Randall Auxier in Ohio, Ken Connors in Jacksonville, Craig Huegel in Sarasota, Diane Crowe in Massachusetts, and Harlon Joye in Atlanta who played the heck out of the CD.

Center Stage (seriously, not stage left this time!)
Also last month, I said we’d solve all of the problems of the world this month. Its sounds a little ridiculous, even for me. But I’ve really been thinking about this. I keep hearing folks lament about the state of our environment, economy, healthcare, education. I hear people saying they don’t have confidence in the ability of government to fix things. But I remain positive, rose colored glasses firmly in place.
Who better than us to enact change. Really. I think about the individuals on this list, about nine hundred of you last time I looked, and I see a group of intelligent, educated, well-spoken, dynamic, engaged , energetic people. So really, who better than us. If we make small changes, lead by example, and communicate, we can create a sea of change.
Here’s the deal. Each week I am going to post small changes that we can make to improve our community. I invite you to share ideas on this blog as well. Individually our actions are small, but as a group we have a lot of sway. We may not fix the world, but we will improve our community. Are you in? My first post will be on Wednesday. But you don’t have to wait for me.

Have a great weekend. Hope we see you out on the road.
Christine (and Aidan)

December News

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Its the second consecutive monthly edition of the Friction Farmer’s Almanac.  This shatters my previous record of one consecutive month.  Our monthly newsletter will tell you all about what we’ve been up to, musically and otherwise, and what’s on the horizon.  This month: the November travel update, thoughts about winter and the holidays, plans for January and a plea for help.

November on the road…

We started at Nerfa.  For the unindoctrinated that stands for northeast regional folk alliance.  It is officially a business, booking, educational conference.  I call it the meeting of the tribe.  It is amazingly rewarding to get together with 750 other folk and acoustic musicians, writers, DJs, producers, venues, photographers, managers, enablers… Not just rewarding in the business sense (although it is) or the educational sense (although it is) but in the spiritual and emotional sense.  I always leave feeling physically exhausted and emotionally recharged.

A few highlights; playing in the round with Annie and Rod Capps, Buskin and Batteau and percussionist Marshall Rosenberg.  The comradery of playing is so much fun, and getting to play with that caliber of “back up band” is amazing.  Self proclaimed folk relic David Amram sat in with Buskin & Batteau – a real treat.  Speaking of Amram, one of the workshops at the conference was “Wisdom Of The Elders” with Amram, Theodore Bikel and Oscar Brand.  That’s a lot of talent and a lot of history for one room to hold.  And those guys have lived a lot of life.  It was a great session.  Finally, one of the highlights for me is discovering new music.  Here are my finds –  Round Mountain, two brothers from New Mexico on guitar, accordian, trumpet, kora (west african harp) etc.; Kath Buckell, who played at our post Nerfa gathering where we were so pressed for time we could only have her do one song, but it was great; Carolanne Solebello, okay not exactly a new discovery as we’ve  known her for years, but she was with Red Molly and now she’s playing solo and has some really great songs.  Google them, listen.

We also played at the American Folk Art Museum among a display of old quilts, then went out for an over-priced but fabulous martini in Manhattan.  An evening of contrasts.  Next night we played with Aidan’s sister Siobhan and her husband Michael at Urban H2O in Yonkers.  A fun night – google them, listen.

Spent a couple weeks in the old neighborhoods – West Village and Park Slope, ate my way through the city, did lots of fun stuff.  I miss New York.  (not moving back) Although one of the reasons for moving back south was my dislike of winter.  It was 26 degrees here this morning and 32 in NYC.  I blame global warming.

On the way back from New York we had a show in Fredericksburg VA hosted by guitar maker Bob Gramman.  We stayed at the Gramman’s.  They are wonderful hosts.  But the house is filled with guitars, which is a dangerous thing for Aidan.  I was afraid one of them would follow us home and we’d have to keep it.  But we agreed to give two musicians from Sweden a ride to Charlotte NC so the car was really full.  There’s a weird thing about being on the road, magic happens.  These guys from Sweden were planning to Greyhound their way across america, but they have been meeting people who are headed their way and getting rides instead.  Magic.  Our already overburdened Subaru managed to hold two more people plus two more guitars, suitcases and laptops.  Magic.

The Holiday Season

Its here Hannukah, Christmas, winter solstice, or as we call it around here – baking season.  I’ll be putting a cobbler in the oven before the end of the day.  I’ll also be baking a lot of cookies this season.  I have three standards. The first is the christmas miracle cookie, so named because I was able to make cookies for guests out of what was around the house.  Sort of like pecan pie filling on a shortbread.  Second are almond triangle things, we need a better name, gooey almond cookies with a corner dipped in chocolate.  Finally fruit cake cookies.  Aidan likes fruit cake.  I don’t.  The cookies are sort of a compromise.  What are your favorite holiday cookies?  Post a comment here.

We’ll be putting up lights soon.  Our neighbor Molly will be somewhat pleased.  She does a great job decorating.  We don’t. I think Aidan would decorate the place like the Griswold’s if I let him.  But I caution against too much excess.  When did he become the extravagant one and I the practical one?  I blame global warming.

So now we are at the much anticipated or dreaded socio-political section of the news.  Its mild this month.  Its about shopping.  We’ll be doing all of our shopping at locally owned stores.  It is, I believe, the economically correct thing to do.  There’s a study out of Michigan that says that 73% of the money spent in locally owned stores stays in the local economy, compared with 43% in non-locally owned businesses.  I looked at their data, and I see some flaws, mostly in areas of business spending.  Even with my unscientific adjustments, there is a nearly 50% increase in money remaining in the local economy. If you are in Brooklyn, I recommend “Green in Brooklyn” and “Scaredy Cat”.  In Greenville a gift certifcate for massage from Lucy Allen.  In Florida photography from Jeremiah Jenner or a massage from Terri Flowers.  Need contact info?  ask me.  Know of another great place, post a comment.

Oh right, music makes a great gift.  I’ll gift wrap and mail “Every Miles Is A Memory” for you.  If you need another, I suggest the new one by the YaYa’s.  Google them, listen.

Back on the road in January.. Florida

It better be warm in Florida in January.  We’ve got a great tour scheduled and I am really ecited about seeing friends.  And here is the plea for help… We could use  a few more dates in Florida.  They are surprisingly hard to come by.  I blame global warming.  We have available dates throughout the state (see calendar below) and specifically could use a show in Palm Beach County.  Ideas?  please email me.  Anyone interested in hosting a house concert?  Not sure what that is – visit Also a new idea that concerts in your home is suggesting – dinner and song – a smaller mid-week gathering details at

Wow this newsletter got long.  No I won’t blame glocal warming.  Thanks for reading.  Hope to hear from you and maybe see you in January.  Next month, we fix everything that’s wrong in the world (really!).  Happy Holidays!

Christine (and Aidan)

Novemeber News

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Welcome to the November issue of The Friction Farmers’ Almanac. (yes, finally got around to it)

This month its all about mountains!

 The Ozarks

We spent a few days in October with 100 other musicians at the Serfa Conference in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.  It was our first out there.  Beautiful country, winding roads, fall collors, friendly people.  And so much great music, sharing, commraderie.  I always find it funny that we can drive 12 hours to meet folks from around the corner.  We met new friends Julie and Todd from just up the road in North Carolina.  Saw old friends Hannah’s Whirl from Tampa, Doug Spears from Orlando.

 The Catskills

Since that was so much fun we are headed to the Catskills in November to participate in Nerfa.  Another, much larger gathering of folk musicians and enthusiasts.  Again we will see familiar Florida faces – Amy Carol Webb, Ellen Bukstel, Nick Annis.  We’ll hang out with Aidan’s sister Siobhand Quinn and her husband Michael Bowers.  We’ll reconnect with our NYC tribe.  And we will wonder at our amazing good fortune that this is our life!  Have we thanked you for that lately?  Well, thanks because without your support we’d never be able to have this incredible life.  Following Nerfa, we play three shows in NY, and one in Maryland on the way home.  And I get to celebrate my birthday and thanksgiving with family!

The Election

We’re heading stage left now.  You’ve been warned.  Okay if you know me well, you know my socio-political views are pretty far left.  But I’m rarely on a soapbox and I respect almost any informed view.  The TV ads, both sides of the aisle and the new groups out there (some really out there) are so far, left, right, left acting right, right acting left and just plain old mean!  They are also misleading and flat out incorrect.  So I thought I’d share a little info on one topic.  Economists from Princeton published a long, hard to understand, reallly boring study.  It concludes that without the passage of TARP, more than 16 million jobs would have been lost, raising unemployment to more than 16%.  It was supposed to cost $700 billion (to put that number in perspective, it is the Pentagon’s annual budget).  It ended up costing $68 billion.  The chief economist at Moody’s says the stimulus worked, The Recovery act created 2.7 million jobs and jump started a recovery.  And that guy was an advisor to John McCain.  Not telling you how to vote.  Just sharing a little information and hoping you will vote on Tuesday.

Happy Halloween.  Hope to see you on the road somewhere.  And next month’s almanac will include adventures in winter gardening and cooking!

Christine (and Aidan)