TT with HD: Linda Diane Feldt
[Ed. note: Linda Diane Feldt writes a blog in the context of her personal website, and maintains a website for The Ann Arbor Center for Holistic Health and Traditional Wisdom.]
HD: Welcome to the teeter totter!
LDF: Thank you!
HD: Okay, let's actually teeter totter up and down.
HD: Is that going to be okay for you?
LDF: Yeah. It's been a really long time. [laugh]
HD: For most people it has. Can you actually remember the last time? Was teeter tottering a part of your childhood?
LDF: It was! Belle Sherman Elementary School in Ithaca, New York! They were shaped--they came in, and then they came out again--where you put your butt. But the thing that people did was definitely to suddenly jump off.
HD: So that was like a standard thing?
LDF: Yes. So when I thought about it, I could feel that bone-jarring, unghhhhh, the feeling still in my body.
LDF: Because I think it happened to me a lot. [laugh]
HD: [laugh] Gee whiz.
LDF: I have never done it to somebody, ever.
HD: Are you sure about that?
LDF: I am absolutely positive.
HD: Okay, fair enough. I wanted to ask you, you know, the buzz online right now is this Google Street View. Have you seen that?
LDF: I looked at it a lot yesterday and today, yeah.
HD: So did you cruise up and down your own street?
LDF: My street is not included.
LDF: Because it's a private street, I guess. So I guess I feel both good and bad about that.
HD: Right, you have been left out, you're not part of the club.
LDF: Which I kind of like.
HD: But the privacy is kind of nice, huh?
HD: Because I don't know if you drove up and down Mulholland using Street view, ...
LDF: ... I didn't do that. I went up and down Liberty and Main Street.
HD: Yeah, Mulholland is kind of an intimate street, so when you actually pan around with the 360 degrees, you get a shot right up the driveway, all the way back to the garage. And on that day our garage door was open. You can't really tell what's inside, but that creeped me out just a little bit. I'm over it now. But when I was looking at it the first time I thought, Wow, I'm not sure how I feel about this.
LDF: It's a very strange. The satellite did that for me also, when I first looked at the satellite.
HD: Have you seen the Microsoft Birds Eye View?
HD: That actually gives you a very, very close up aerial shot from an angle, so it's not the sort of satellite dead-on vertical from miles above. I don't know what altitude it's from, but that also seems, at first glance, a little intrusive when it's your own back yard. Of course, it's all great fun when it's somebody else's backyard that you're peering into.
LDF: But you know, I guess, I figure if I put enough content out about me, that I do control, that it will somehow balance some of the content that is not in my control. So that's partly why I blog.
HD: To basically establish that this is the official Linda Diane Feldt persona?
LDF: Yeah. And there will be lots of misinformation out there, and there is.
HD: Not that I want to contribute to the misinformation, but like, for example? Is it just like people writing comments on blogs that contain misinformation about you? Or is it whole websites called Linda Diane Felt is Overrated dot com?
LDF: I was president of the Board of Directors of the [People's Food] Co-op until last month.
HD: Right, so you presided over the ...
LDF: ... the question of the Israeli boycott.
HD: Right, the Israeli boycott referendum.
LDF: I was misrepresented drastically. You know, you always get a little misrepresentation when you do interviews, and I did six or seven interviews for different press. And some of it was horrible. All perspectives did a bad job of keeping the information accurate. The Detroit Free Press did a good job. The Ann Arbor news did a pretty good job, but they didn't present the whole picture.
HD: What was like the missing part, you felt, of the Ann Arbor News picture they presented?
LDF: Well--jumping into the controversy--I really thought that they should have talked about some of the negative consequences of some of the most extreme actions. I mean that there were swastikas associated with this whole thing, too. I think that they did a disservice not to delve into that. The very last night when we announced the vote totals, the fact that there were signs out there that said, Fuck Israel, and swastikas. That was part of the climate that we were into. One of the people accused my mom of being a terrorist. Which, I mean, she has been dead for 15 years.
LDF: It was just bizarre. But I was also completely misrepresented by some of the more radical press, in that I never stated a public position on the boycott. I just said that I was in favor of a fair process. And yet I was accused of being a Zionist who had manipulated the vote.
HD: Well, hmm. It was a fairly decisive vote, right?
LDF: It was 71 percent opposed--to that particular type of boycott.
HD: [Ed. note: HD is not a member of the People's Food Co-op.] I guess from where I stood, one could have had a chance at getting a resolution passed, if it was balanced in spirit, as opposed to punitive towards Israel. So, instead of saying, We are going to boycott Israeli goods until such and such a time, what you could do is, say, create an if-then situation, If there's an Israeli good offered then the Co-op would make every reasonable effort to offer a corresponding Palestinian good, and vice versa. Or something of that nature--if the spirit of the resolution was more, The People's Co-op is committed to balance in our offerings of goods from these two areas. Now I know that the perspective of--and I don't know what he would say, because I don't speak for Henry Herskovitz, and I'm not even sure he was involved in that particular effort--but I could imagine that Henry might say that it's not a balanced situation over there, so you can't remedy an unbalanced situation by responding with balance. Or something along those lines.
LDF: You know, I'm interested in process. And I'm interested in how people change. And so taking the whole emotionality out of it--which is extreme, and I had no idea--obviously, I think the number one problem is not that we are selling Israeli goods, but that the majority of the U.S. is completely stupid around this issue.
HD: So is your sense overall that it was a benefit to the Co-op as far as acquiring some new members? I know there were some people on both sides who signed up for a membership in the Co-op just ...
LDF: ... it was very small numbers. Very small. I think it was 70 people we thought, around there, who probably joined just to vote.
HD: Just to vote either way?
LDF: And we know that there are were people in both positions who did it. Sales went up!
LDF: So, ultimately what can I say? [laugh] It's because ...
HD: ... so is that something, for the Co-op, you measure success in terms of sales mostly, or is it number of members, or?
LDF: I think neither of those are measurements I care about. What I care about would be, I think we had a dramatic increase in understanding what a co-op is. A lot of people went, Oh?!
HD: Oh that's what I'm a member of?
LDF: I am a member! I get to participate! I forgot! And so we had an unprecedented number of members become active. Basically more than ever before in the whole history of the Co-op. And I personally interacted with somewhere between 200 and 300 members. I lost track, because a lot of it was duplicate back-and-forth, back-and-forth. But that was phenomenal, that was great. So I think that level of awareness, interest, participation is what you want in a co-op. And the Board right now is going great, we want to capitalize on that, ...
HD: ... so, seize on the momentum?
LDF: Yeah, and the Board is so functional and so good right now that I think we have a chance to re-involve people.
HD: Well, you know, the reason I brought up the Google Street View in the first place was that I think you could almost do a tour of Ann Arbor based on looking for weeds using Google Street View! I mean, almost. Maybe you actually could.
LDF: The resolution is not that great.
HD: You can tell some things.
LDF: You can tell the unkept lawns. Which is great. We could actually survey and see how many lawns are actually in violation of the weed ordinance.
HD: You know, I saw a Community Standards guy out at the intersection of Platt and Packard the other day, and he had a stick out measuring weeds in one of the medians, and the scene just struck me as kind of hilarious. The guy with his Community Standards enforcement uniform on out there measuring weeds. I'm thinking, Wow, they actually measure?? Are you kidding me? They don't just eyeball it?
LDF: Oh yeah, it's a legal thing. To serve summons and say, You must cut down your weeds.
HD: So I guess if they don't have it measured, then they don't have a legal basis to do it.
LDF: Right. I guess you can apply to have sort of a wild yard and get it approved, which I have never bothered to do.
HD: So is that how do you maintain yours? You just let it go?
LDF: Oh yeah. I haven't used a lawnmower in my yard in six or seven years. When I first moved in I removed all the grass in the front yard, which is south-facing.
HD: So how did you do that? Did you just take a shovel and start digging it up?
LDF: Yep. Well, I got a sod remover. Took out all the sod and I double-dug the whole place.
HD: Now, a sod remover, what is that?
LDF: It's a sharp tool, it has kind of a kidney-shaped blade on it. And then it has, a--what would you call it, it goes up at a 90-degree angle then a 90 degree angle--so that you can go underneath the sod and you just remove about 2 inches.
HD: So you are scooping off the top layer?
LDF: Yes. And in the idea is that you can sell it or give it away or do something with it.
HD: So what did you do with yours?
LDF: It was 25 years ago, I don't remember. I think I found some people who wanted some of it. I mean, it wasn't great grass. So I took all the sod out and double dug the whole front yard. It's not a huge front yard but that's the south, and I have planted vegetables and encouraged weeds ever since. It took almost 20 years to get dandelions to grow in my yard.
HD: Oh, you are kidding me.
LDF: I am not kidding.
And I still can't get chickweed and purslane to grow.
HD: But you are doing okay with the dandelions, though?
LDF: Yeah. Enough to eat regularly. Not enough to harvest for roots--I have this other place in Chelsea and I get lots of dandelions out there.
HD: So, dandelions you can eat.
LDF: Every part.
HD: Every part, okay. But, I mean, you can't just go out and pull it up and start gnawing on it, right?
LDF: Ever since I've had a dog, I have been more aware of some of the issues. Like I don't harvest weeds in the parking anymore--you know between the sidewalk and street. Because that's where most of the dogs pee.
HD: [laugh] I'm just now making a dog connection with what you are talking about. Yeah, okay.
LDF: And you have to know who is using ChemLawn. And you never harvest near railroad tracks or high-power lines.
HD: What's the issue with high power lines?
LDF: They spray under those as well.
HD: Oh, so it's not a high-power lines themselves.
LDF: Some people think so.
HD: So it's the chemicals they use to do weed control?
LDF: The EMF's may or may not influence plants.
HD: What are EMF's?
LDF: Electro-magnetic fields. But the dandelions actually contain more beta-carotene than carrots do. And they are great for your liver. They were brought here intentionally, because they were so fabulous medicinally.
HD: Who brought them here?
LDF: European settlers.
HD: Oh, okay. I didn't realize that they were not native to North America.
LDF: They're not! They are now.
HD: But, I mean, there is some preparation required too, right?
HD: So you just take a dandelion and wash it just like lettuce? Or you would prepare it just like lettuce, like to make a big bowl of it and pour some vinaigrette on it?
LDF: In my yard when it is time to eat a salad, I just go out with a bowl and put stuff in the bowl, and then put some salad dressing on it, and eat it. Because I know who has been around my yard, I know where my dog has been peeing. You can eat dandelions just raw. You can also cook them. I have made a version of spanakopita with them. Which is fabulous. So any way you use spinach. But dandelions are particularly not bitter in the spring and fall, because the bitter constituents go back to the roots. In the middle of the summer they are going to be more bitter, but some varieties are more bitter than others. But if you start eating bitter foods in the spring, by the middle of the summer it doesn't seem as bitter, either.
HD: So dandelions are one.
LDF: So any of the dandelions around here you could eat.
HD: I'm sure we have got some, although I can't spot any right now.
LDF: I did see some.
HD: I know there are some in the driveway. So this huge patch of weeds here--and I am calling them weeds, because usually what I would do if you had not been coming over to show me which of them I can eat, I would have tidied up.
HD: I mean, if somebody is coming over for a teeter totter ride this would I would generally consider to be poor form to have not addressed the situation.
LDF: Instead, I am happy to see them!
HD: So, what are we looking at here?
LDF: Well, the most dominant one, of course, are the
yellow flowers. And that is celandine.
HD: So those are those little tiny flowers?
LDF: Actually not those. These here.
HD: Oh, not this?
HD: Not that, okay.
LDF: But the ones with the lobed leaves. So to the right of the other yellow flowers. I actually didn't notice the other yellow flowers until just now.
HD: To the right of the other yellow flowers?
LDF: Yeah, that. Yes.
HD: Let me take a quick picture of that.
LDF: You know, I'm seeing your toilet over there, I was trying to get chickweed to grow in my yard, the only place it would grow was in my toilet.
HD: Really, so you have a toilet planter like this, too, do you?
LDF: I used to. I took it out finally.
HD: Okay, and the name of this yellow flower, again, is what?
LDF: Celandine. C-E-L-A-N-D-I-N-E. And it's actually not edible!
HD: Oh! Well. It's still a useful public service to know, Don't eat this.
LDF: It's all over Ann Arbor. And the herbalist who I studied with, Susan Weed ...
HD: ... yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Did she change her name?
LDF: Kind of. She was married to a guy named Sweed. And they both lived on the same mountain even after they got divorced. And he was Sam Sweed and she was a Susan Sweed. And the post-mistress said, one of you has to change their name. Because packages shipped to S. Sweed--so she actually changed her name to Susan S. Weed.
HD: That's funny.
LDF: I don't think many people know that story.
HD: Yeah, well, that is pretty funny. I thought maybe it was just one of those happenstance things, you know like Cecil Fielder is a baseball player, or ...
LDF: ... or Linda Feldt [/felt/] who does bodywork right, ... HD : [laugh] [laugh] See when I was looking your last name I see the German for ...
LDF: ... 'field'. Which is actually, here I am with field. So, this can actually be used for healing warts. It's got this yellow sap, which is slightly caustic, and you can put it on a wart and after a couple weeks it'll go away.
HD: I'm going to try that! Because I've got this wart on my right hand ring finger for the last few months, I've just been shaving it off every once in awhile
LDF: Oooh, that won't work long term.
HD: As I am learning. So you take the sap from what, now?
LDF: From the leaves, the yellow sap, and put it on. Once a day for two weeks, it should work.
HD: Once a day, for two weeks, okay. And you just leave it on for as long as it takes to dry, or?
LDF: Yeah. Now I actually haven't done it. But I've read it.
HD: Well, I will give it a try, and report back.
LDF: It's considered a liver healer, but it is slightly poisonous. There are better liver healers, like the dandelion. But Susan's point was, she had never been to any city where there were so much celandine. And she wondered if it wasn't actually helping to heal the liver of Ann Arbor, that perhaps there were too many toxic chemicals in the ground or something like that.
HD: Hmm. So healing the liver of Ann Arbor as the metaphor of the community or something? In that sense?
LDF: Yes. She had never been to a place in all of her travels where there was so much celandine.
HD: It's a bragging point, then.
LDF: Right. [laugh]You have a fabulous
plantain here. Which is this low-growing ...
HD: ... that broad leaf stuff?
LDF: Yeah, you want to take a picture of that? There might be some by your foot. So plantain is good to eat--it's not the banana plantain, it's not related to that at all. But it is also a great wound healer. And particularly if you've got canker sores in your mouth or something, you can chew this up and put it on the canker sore or if you bite your lip. And I have also used it for somebody who had chemotherapy and radiation and their throat was all burned. They could suck on the plantain--and we had to cook it in order to be according to their guidelines--but sucking on the plantain actually helped them have a constant drizzle of something healing and pain-relieving. So it's great for those kind of therapies.
HD: So you wouldn't make a salad out of it, though?
LDF: Not exclusively, but I would add it to a salad, sure.
HD: Just as a flavorizer?
LDF: Yeah. Bee sting, mosquito bite--crush that up and put it on. You've got some wood sorrel , a lot of wood sorrel growing around, that's the other yellow flower there, and that has a slight lemony taste.
HD: So right between the post and the video camera right there?
HD: I might go back and take better shots, but right now I don't want to be hopping on and off the teeter totter.
LDF: Right, because you might traumatize me! [laugh] So that has a slight vitamin C taste, but if you take too much of that, it will
actually interfere with calcium absorption. But it's a great thing to add to a salad to give it a little lemony bite. I think I see some violet leaf over there, so you probably had violets here before.
HD: Violets, these are ...?
LDF: Yeah, they are up really early in the spring, purple violets, yellow violets, white violets. Most of them are purple around here. Those flowers are edible. And I think what's really fun is just to make a salad of lots of flowers. So I brought some comfrey flowers that you can taste. Violet flowers. And there is Dame's Rocket over here, the last of it.
HD: Dame's Rocket?
LDF: That purple flower.
HD: Between those two like really tall spindly things?
LDF: Now I got into trouble the last time I pointed out how tasty
Dame's Rocket is, because it's considered to be a very seriously invasive plant. And so the City actually wrote me a letter and said, Don't be encouraging people! And I said I'm telling them, Eat the flower, not to plant it. And if you eat the flower, of course, it will eventually die out, because it won't re-seed. So eat lots of Dame's Rocket and garlic mustard and things like that, which are invasives, and then they'll go away, and that will be good!
HD: So where is the garlic mustard? Do you see any around here?
LDF: No, no. And I would love to have some garlic mustard in my yard, but I won't plant it.
HD: If somebody were to plant it 'for you'?
LDF: I would still rip it out. It should be ripped out. It's one of the first things up in the winter, and so it takes over forests before anything else has a chance to grow. But then it actually damages the root structure of trees. So it's a nasty plant. But it tastes fabulous.
HD: So are there any places in Ann Arbor where you can go to get good garlic mustard?
LDF: Unfortunately, yes. And garlic mustard is one of the plants that you can pick in any place, and the City will completely support you. They have big garlic mustard pulls, and you should actively go out ...
HD: ... garlic mustard pools??
HD: Oh, right, with the Natural Area Preservation people.
LDF: Yes. So everybody should be out there collecting as much garlic mustard as possible. Tear it out by the roots, bring it home, ...
HD: ... and eat it?
LDF: And eat the top thirds.
HD: So the top third, you can just chop off, and use in a salad, or?
LDF: Yeah. You can use it as a salad, you can stir-fry it. I have put it into cheese that I make.
HD: You make your own cheese??
LDF: Yeah. [laugh] Butter, cheese, and yogurt.
HD: Where do you get the milk for that?
LDF: From a cow? [laugh]
HD: [laugh] Yeah, okay. So you have a cow on your property in Chelsea?
LDF: No, I'm part of one of these raw milk subversive groups.
HD: Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah. How did that turn out? Because you read it in about in the paper it was like, Raw Milk Delivery Ring Broken up with Undercover Officers. And it was a big brouhaha.
LDF: He paid some fines, and they let him go back to doing it. But he couldn't do it at ...
HD: ... Morgan and York?
LDF: Right. And he couldn't co-mingle--that was another thing. That was not my farmer.
HD: So you have a different deal?
LDF: Part of a cow herd in [PlaceName1]. And I've been doing it for about five years. And I am one of those people who can't drink milk, but I can drink this milk without getting sick.
HD: What is the health issue with the other milk?
LDF: It doesn't have anything live in it.
HD: So you need the live cultures?
LDF: Yeah. My stomach goes, Yes! But any other dairy that I consume I'm, Blecccch! And I get sick to my stomach.
HD: So do you have to go get it, or did they deliver it, or how to get it to your house?
LDF: Of course, it's always a question of how open should we be about this process.
HD: So this is a little bit undercover still?
LDF: We have somebody who brings it into town for us. But it's bottled in our bottles, and we pay a board and groom, and all of that kind of stuff.
HD: Maybe I will redact the name of the city where the herd lives.
LDF: But we are a small, loyal group. We only have three or four cow at a time. So we have met the cows, and we go out there and hang out with them.
HD: So can you get like free cow manure? So if you wanted cow manure for your garden, that's something you can grab, too?
LDF: Oh, absolutely. There is no shortage of that.
HD: Is that something you actually do?
LDF: I haven't, because I actually prefer llama manure.
HD: So you have a source of llama manure??
HD: Well, you are tapped into all of these kind of networks, huh?
LDF: If it's crazy, I probably know something about it. Yeah, and eggs, the whole chicken thing. I knew three or four people who had illegal chickens.
HD: So do you know if any of them are actually going to be able to legalize their operations? Because I know of some who still are not going to be able to legalize their operations.
LDF: Yeah. Well, I am.
HD: Are you really?
LDF: Well, I didn't keep chickens before. I kept bees, which is legal in the city. You can have two hives.
HD: Wow, I didn't realize that.
LDF: So, I had two hives on my garage roof.
HD: So you are a honey source as well!
LDF: I was. And I just got back into it. My bees didn't make it through the winter. They made it to the last two weeks and then they suddenly died.
HD: Oh, too bad.
LDF: I didn't get new bees this year, but I'm looking for swarms, and it's probably too late to get a swarm.
HD: So when you say that you are 'looking for swarms', you don't just do a Google search on 'bee swarm' and they deliver it after you order it over the internet, right?
LDF: [laugh] No. My name is out there--like Downtown Home and Garden gave my name to somebody who had a swarm, but I didn't hear from them. A couple of people are, Oh, call Linda Diane! You actually go and capture the swarm.
HD: And you capture it in a big box, or?
LDF: In a beehive.
HD: So in a beehive, and then you just take it to your place, and then you open it up, and they do their thing? They can find it again?
LDF: Yeah. So the plan is to have bees, and then my neighbor and I together will actually do the chickens.
HD: So obviously you don't have to worry about asking that neighbor for permission. Actually you do have to ask that neighbor for permission, but you know that neighbor will grant it.
LDF: She wants us to do chickens together.
HD: So how about the people on the other sides?
LDF: Is it that you just have to have 40 feet, or do you have to ask them, no matter what?
HD: You have to ask them, no matter what. And the 40 feet is like an extra on top.
LDF: Okay. So the neighbor on the other side is likely to just shrug and say, Whatever.
HD: So you're on good terms? So far?
LDF: You know, he has not objected to all the crazy stuff that happens. My neighbor Liz and I have lived on our street--I have been there 25 years and she has been there 22 or 23--we're nutty, and it is fine. And I think he rolls his eyes--I would--but I think we are unusual people to live next to, so.
HD: Now when you say, 'all the crazy stuff', just because you let your yard go over to weeds, that doesn't seem like 'all the crazy stuff'. So is there more stuff beyond that?
LDF: Well, I have a home business. And there are people coming and going with this milk stuff. And right now I'm getting my house painted, and it is a very slow process. And I would say that for Ann Arbor even, we are a little less conventional, sure. You know I'm building things, and recycling things, ...
HD: ... so, you will be building a chicken coop soon.
HD: So what is your strategy going to be? Do you have an existing structure that you are going to commandeer for the chicken coop, or?
LDF: No, I saw on Amazon.com they have a book about how to build things for the farm. And this is a book from 1906 or something. And I thought, Oh, this is a great excuse to buy this book! I also have 25 or 30 years of Mother Earth News all archived. And Liz and her kids are handy, so I'm looking at a portable chicken coop possibly, something that is up off the ground.
HD: Something that you can like wheel around to different locations?
HD: Because they make stuff like that you can buy ready-made, chicken tractors, they call'em.
LDF: I don't do ready-made. [laugh]
HD: I'm just saying, the concept is there, you could probably look at one and follow the basic idea. Because the idea is you want to give them like a new patch of lawn to peck around in.
LDF: They will have the whole backyard. The only real question right now is, What will my dog do? And if she turns out to have a huge prey drive for chickens, we might have a problem. So I'm going to actually take her to visit some chickens, and see what she does.
HD: So, could that be a deal-breaker?
LDF: It might be. Because then she would lose her backyard, so.
HD: I read--I'm trying to remember the exact title--it was like Backyard Chickens or something like that, and it discusses this guy who had a dog that was really, really friendly with the chickens for the longest time, and then finally [laugh] he just couldn't stand it anymore and he just had to eat one. His take-away was, Sorry, dogs are hardwired in the wrong way for chickens. Even though there are anecdotal stories where it works.
LDF: Well, it depends on the breed. My dog is a lion hunter. So lions, chickens are not very similar.
HD: What kind of dog is it?
LDF: Rhodesian Ridgeback. Now, she seems to think that squirrels are lions. She won't actually chase birds. I walk some other dogs that are like, Birrrrrrdddzz!, rahhhr, gotta get it!
HD: So now when you walk your dog on our street--you mentioned before that the selection of weeds location-wise is an issue, and I have written about and documented before, all the homemade signs that people have made along the street that say, Please don't let your dog pee on my bushes, or Please don't let your dog pee on my flowers. So, I'm wondering, is one of the possible reasons for the appearance of those signs the behavior of your dog on our street?
LDF: No. For one thing it's a girl. And I had a male dog for a while and I was like, This is embarrassing! They pee on everything, it's just amazing.
HD: What is really fun is the dog owners who will just let their dog pee on your lawn extension, whatever it is--I've got lettuce growing out there in the lawn extension--I mean no one has done that to the lettuce this year that I have seen, yet. But usually they've got no problem just standing there waving at you while you sit on the porch as their dog does its business. Which, you know, I guess in the grand scheme of things is not so bad.
LDF: I would put up a little fence so that it's difficult for the dog to go into, but I absolutely obey any sign that says that. And I try and train my dog to go in the parking, not on the front lawn.
HD: Now you say, in the 'parking'?
LDF: That's what I call it. The lawn extension.
HD: Wow, I had never heard that. [Ed. note: HD let the previous instance of 'parking' in this sense slip past unremarked on.] I have heard, let's see, 'lawn extension', 'verge'--I'm trying to think if I've heard anything else. The parking?? Wow, okay.
LDF: Which I know is a common use, because I Googled it, because I needed to steal a photo of weeds growing there for a talk that I gave. And I found it under that term.
HD: So have you heard other people in Ann Arbor use that term?
LDF: Yeah. Certainly my family, but ... [laugh]
HD: ... well they learned it from you! [laugh] Of course they're going to say that.
LDF: Well, see, we spent nine years in Ithaca. I was born here, went to Ithaca, and then came back. So I don't know if it's an east-coast-midwest thing.
HD: So what did you grow up calling these devices?
LDF: A teeter totter.
HD: Good for you. You're not just saying that to be polite, are you?
HD: Because a lot of people, of course, grew up with see-saws.
LDF: No, definitely not. But I didn't do it in Michigan, so. Upstate New York.
HD: In Ithaca they're 'teeter totters', okay.
LDF: Back in the 60's. [laugh]
HD: So you have any plans for the summer?
LDF: I do a lot of swimming. And gardening.
HD: And you have a chicken coop to build.
HD: By the way, I wanted to mention, before I forget, somebody sent me a pamphlet--I think it's an old, old pamphlet like a reprint of something old, but it seems to be of the era of old pamphlets of the early 1800's or something. But anyway it's called How to Goblinproof your Chicken Coop [Ed. note: Actual title: "Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop"]. And I can't really tell if it's meant as a spoof or if it's really like you know, if you believe in the occult, this is absolutely how you go about goblinproofing your chicken coop. And it's several pages long and it goes into all kind of detail.
LDF: Does it have things like, put down tobacco?
HD: I think so, yeah. It talks about ley lines, L-E-Y, ley.
LDF: Yeah, yeah.
HD: So it's pretty wild. So if I ever do get the chance--prospects are little grim--but I am absolutely going to do the stuff that this pamphlet describes for goblinproofing.
LDF: Interesting. One of the things I did recently was I took a canoe trip with my friend, who you met.
HD: Oh, you mean Gary?
HD: Yeah, he tailed me home. You know, when I'm out with my bike trailer, I do my best not to annoy auto traffic, but sometimes there's no helping it.
HD: And I sort of felt somebody following me, all the way home, and then I thought, Oh my god, is this guy going to just like beat the crap out of me, because I cut them off, or I was in his way or something? And it turned out, no it is just this mild-mannered handyman guy, Gary Hochgraf. Whose name I actually recognized from the Old Westside News--he has a display ad with his name. And I was really, really relieved that it wasn't somebody who was pissed off at me. And then we got to talking and I described this [teeter tottering] project and he says, Linda. Diane. Feldt.
LDF: [laugh] We took a canoe trip from Belleville to Lake Erie.
HD: So you can get all the way to Lake Erie?? Just in a two-person canoe? You don't have to go through like locks and dams?
LDF: Well, there's a few dams, yeah.
HD: So you just have to portage around them, or? But as far as being legally allowed to do that, you can?
LDF: Well the last portage at Flat Rock was really confusing and bizarre, and we ended up in somebody's back yard. they drove us around and everybody gave us bad information, but other than that! That concept is just amazing to me to be able to canoe the Huron River--I feel totally different about the river now. I have been telling everybody about this trip.
HD: So is this something that you organized on you own or did somebody present it as a tour package?
LDF: Gary knows what he is doing.
HD: So it was Gary who took the lead on this?
LDF: Yes. But we got to eat wild edibles along the way, lots of nettles, stinging nettles, and wild garlic, plantain.
HD: So there is a canoe race open to the public coming up, I think it's the weekend of the 20th 21st and 22nd [of June] one of those days that weekend, is that something that you would entertain doing? A mass-start public canoe race at Gallop park, it's like two laps around the pond. Does that sound like something fun for you?
LDF: Not terribly. Racing? To me, part of canoeing is just going with the river. And to do that for three days was awesome. And to end up at Lake Erie! Wow!
HD: So you just camped along the way, or?
HD: So there's places were you can just pitch a tent?
LDF: There are legal places in the Metroparks, but we couldn't find them. The maps were not so good.
HD: So you just made your own way?
LDF: Yeah. Leave no trace, and that sort of thing. But you can do that in southeast Michigan. You think it's very built up, but there is a lot of wildness out there. And I've never had the experience before of actually, like, Okay it's lunchtime, let's look and see what we can find to eat. We were in this wild place rather than, it's just my yard.
HD: Did you bring along a box of pot tarts just in case?
LDF: We had food, for sure. But not pop tarts.
HD: So not any really good food. [laugh]
LDF: So more canoeing, more exploring of the Huron, this whole watershed thing has become more ingrained in me in some way. It's a very deep experience.
HD: Yeah, there's another event coming up I can't member when it is--it's after the canoe race I think, and Liz Elling, the woman who swam down the river, I don't think she's got to swim the whole river again, but she's going to to be there to help sponsor a group swim around in the river. I don't even know which location along the Huron, but the idea is to sort of demonstrate that you really can get in the water, and your flesh will not be seared off, and it's actually okay.
LDF: We actually drank some of the water. It didn't taste good, we filtered it. But I'm a teacher--I teach all kinds of places--I naturally want to share with people that we live on this river. And most people are like, Doesn't it start somewhere north, and then just go to one of those lakes, I dunno. Most of the people I mention this to go, How did you get to Lake Erie?? The Huron goes there??
HD: Well, a lot of people don't really think about the Huron being something that goes through Ann Arbor. A lot of visitors to Ann Arbor, they might spend several days here in the city and it doesn't really dawn on them that this is a river town, there's a river that goes right through the guts of the city. Because it hasn't been developed in a way that really shows off the river, as Hey, this is one of the things that's here. I mean it's not like you can build any one thing and that will do the trick. But I think the new Broadway Bridge does go along way towards that.
LDF: It does. And I walk my dog there a lot.
HD: Oh, do you really?
LDF: Yeah, it's great to walk to the river. But see, my family originally had this place out in Chelsea, and then my dad gave it to me. It's on a lake and it wasn't until I went over it with Gary and said, Okay, how does this work? that I even realized that that lake eventually drains to the Huron River through a bunch of channels, and then through Mill Creek and Dexter.
HD: Speaking of Dexter and Mill Creek, do you know if the dam is still in place?
LDF: I don't. I haven't driven by.
HD: Because they are working towards removing the dam sometime this summer. If they haven't already.
LDF: So that's a big thing about my summer, to do another longer canoe trip and to spend as much time in the water as possible. But we've been putting up weeds and freezing things, and preparing food for the winter.
HD: You freeze the weeds?? Wow. Okay.
LDF: This plant over here that I saw, this one that is tall and gangly
for some reason.
HD: Right by that tray for the roof rack?
LDF: Yes. That is Yellow Dock. That's actually one of my favorite weeds. And you should definitely encourage that to grow. Because it will only grow where there is lots of iron in the soil. But that makes the best pesto in the world. Except that now I discovered that if you put ramps with it, which is a wild onion, it's absolutely unbelievably better.
HD: What is it called, wraps?
HD: Ramps, R-A-M-P-S?
LDF: Yes. Down South they have ramps festivals.
HD: Wow, this is a cultural gap for me. I have never heard this before. But it's a thing, though?
LDF: I didn't know where they were, Gary knew where to pick them. And so we made pesto with ramps. Oh, I have never tasted pesto that was that divine. So we froze a whole bunch of that. We just got grocery bags full of Yellow Dock and processed them into pesto. But that is really good in salads, and the root is an amazing healer as well. It just has a nice irony, chalky taste. It's pretty cool.
HD: Listen, anything you want to make sure that you mention while you're are here on the teeter totter?
LDF: I think that the one thing I'll mention is that I'm a Community High School graduate. So I definitely attribute part of my ability to live and pursue the work I love because I graduated from Community High.
HD: You know there's a waiting list for that place every year, right?
LDF: Oh, yeah.
HD: For the life of me, I can't figure out why you wouldn't want to create another one.
LDF: And then you'll have even more people for a self-motivated. [laugh]
HD: I don't know. Yeah, it's easy for me to sit here on the end of the teeter totter and say, Yeah, they shouldn't have built that new Skyline High School, they should've just built another Community High. I wasn't really paying that close attention to anything that was going on in Ann Arbor when that whole discussion happened. But with my 20-20 hindsight I can look back and judge, dammit. And I just think it was too bad that some accommodation for expanding the resources available to Community-High-type enterprises wasn't made. I mean you could imagine another similar-sized high school in a downtown location. The more students you have going downtown on a daily basis, what better way to invigorate urban settings and have another high school downtown?
LDF: The main point is that people learn different ways and that should be different learning options. Not even just Community High, but something else. Like I teach at the Steiner School, too. And what a phenomenal school, but that is an expensive school. It would be great if that was offered to the public schools.
HD: All right, thanks for coming over to ride, it's been a real pleasure.