Alright, if you happened to notice the posting time on my resolutions post from yesterday, you will have seen that I posted it up at 1:15 AM. I was snoozing I think, because there were two pretty significant goals that I omitted. I want to take a minute to get those on the record if you'll bear with me.
• I want to focus this year on changing a behavior of mine that is a nuisance from time to time, a stress in my marriage and just a plain bad habit. That is to finish all the things that I start. I have a tendency to be very eclectic in the things that inspire me from day to day. I think this is a good trait in itself, but when I zing off to the next project before I have finished the last one, I end up with a bunch of half finished stuff around the house. This needs to change.
• My second amendment is to make an effort to stay on top of my clutter. My garage is probably my greatest testament to this problem. This is something that my wife and I both want to work on. That is to say I want to work on cleaning up my clutter, and she wants me to work on cleaning up my clutter too! Kidding aside, we talked even just today, about making a conscious decision to dramatically reduce our purchasing. We will try to dramatically de-clutter and then take a serious look at whether a potential acquisition is a want or a need before getting it.
Well, there they are, the last two things (for now) that I want to work on this year. It should be a good year. I'm looking forward to it, and the challenges.
Again, be safe, and enjoy the Holiday!
Happy New Year!
December 30, 2007
Alright, if you happened to notice the posting time on my resolutions post from yesterday, you will have seen that I posted it up at 1:15 AM. I was snoozing I think, because there were two pretty significant goals that I omitted. I want to take a minute to get those on the record if you'll bear with me.
List of 2007 goals and accomplishments:
• Lose some weight. - I was fairly successful in this. I shed nearly 25 lbs, without any noticeable denial of anything. I made a conscious effort to stop eating when I was full, not satisfied and to eat more healthful and natural foods.
• Alter diet to reduce input and help with goal (1). - I did alter my diet for much of the year. Although I did slack off here lately (holidays and all that.) I made choices that were healthier such as chicken rather than beef when the option was available and focusing on home made and vegetable based dinners.
• Read more. - I did really well on this I think. I Read a number of books, some for entertainment, some for inspiration and some for guidance.
• Watch less TV - I did reduce the amount of Television that I watched for most of the year, but after the summer passed, the TV moved back into the room and the viewing went up. What else can I say. Over all, I feel good about striking a healthy medium.
• Start some exercise routine. - I feel good about this one as well. I began riding my bike to work and really got to where I enjoyed it. I look forward to spring thaw so I can begin again.
List of 2008 years goals.
• I want to start phasing out more meat in my diet. I am not planning on going fully vegetarian, I love meat too much, but I have over the last year realized that I feel more healthy and full of energy when I eat a mostly vegetable diet. I'd like to get to a point where all the meats that I do eat, either come from local producers, or that are meat or fish that I harvest myself. I think I will be much happier and healthier, eating really good meat once in a while rather than poor quality meat regularly.
• For my garden this year, I want to really get a head start on it. I want to prepare early and get a good start so that I am able to get a good early season crop. I also want to make an effort to plant things that I can over winter, such as potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, squash and onions. I made available a good bit of space in the yard this fall and I want to make sure that I use it.
• I want to begin moving my garden towards having more open pollinated and heirloom varieties and to begin a seed bank for myself to save seed from one year to the next.
• Another thing that I want to start doing is recycling. I know I know, I should be already, but it's not readily available to us, and we haven't been making the effort other than when we have a bunch of cardboard.
December 28, 2007
Well, the garden catalogs are on order, so we’ll see what we have in store for this next year. A lot of people give me a sideways kind of look when I tell them that I will start getting ready for the upcoming gardening season in January. As this will be the first year of me doing so, I don’t really have a better answer for their “why’s?” other than because every other year I end up behind schedule and miss what I think would be one of my favorite parts of the harvest because of it. I say I think it would be a favorite because 1) I love all the greens, mesclun, peas and early crops that that part of the season offers, and 2) because mentioned, I never get an earlier enough start to get a harvest of those crops. I hope to this year. My wife’s on board too, and this year we’ll be picking the things we want together so hopefully we’ll be able to really start making our homegrowns a bigger part of our diet. In years past it’s really just been me picking the things I wanted, and a lot of the time I ended up with things that, while they freeze well, don’t get eaten enough through out the year to warrant the effort. (i.e. my bumper jalapeno crop from this year.) I’ll be posting my garden plans here for future reference, for those of you also blogging, I’d love to see your plans as well; it may give me some good ideas. Otherwise, if you’ve had any really good ways of planning and charting your layouts in years past, please share them so I can get better will ya? Thanks all, and have a good weekend!
December 24, 2007
White Christmas of course! But this year we don't have to dream, only to look out the window. It's just started to snow in the last hour, and is projected to keep going all night. So tomorrow we'll open presents, put together puzzles, and watch "A Christmas Story" all with a view worthy of a Norman Rockwell cover right out the window. I just managed to finish the Christmas presents for the boys. I wasn't sure I'd make it, I was a bit ambitious and started late so I consider myself lucky. I'll post some pics of the final product, and a little jig I came up with to use for them, probably this weekend.
I hope all of you are having a great weekend and just enjoying the heck out of each others families. To my family who is scattered far and wide. I want to let you all know how much I miss you, and love you all and wish you a Merry Christmas. To my new friends around the world, Happy Christmas, Feliz Navidad, God Jul, Joyeux Noel; there are too many ways to say all of them, but I wish you all peace and happiness tonight.
I took a little video from my front porch at the same time as this picture... Thought it would be night too share.
December 21, 2007
In high school and the period shortly thereafter I allowed myself a lot of, shall we say, creative license with my writing. A lot of these scribbles are very amorphous and really make sense only to me. (And very little sense at that.) Later, while I served in the military, I made two tours in the middle east; Saudi Arabia to be exact. A lot of the writing from that time was so I could remember the things I saw, impressions I had, and the anger and frustrations that I sometimes felt. I carried a notebook in my BDU’s and pulled it out to scribble in it when I had the need. Some of these writings jar me now when I read them, others paint a picture in my head so that it is almost like I am there.
My question to you, and I need your input here, is whether or not you would even be interested in reading them. I sometimes wonder if I should even go off on some of my tangents like the “Philosophical Divergence” I went on a few days ago. Maybe this blog has evolved itself into a primarily simple living, gardening, explore the greener side of things type of blog. Perhaps I should just do as I’ve thought about and create a separate blog where I can post things of that nature. I want to get these things down in a form more stable than the notes that I currently have which are literally falling apart from age and mistreatment, I just don’t know if I should share them, and for that matter if I do, will anyone really care? My thought was to just kind of work them in here or there like I do with “Thoughts for Today”, not all at once, just a scribble once and a while, kind of like the way I collected them.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend. I suspect traffic online will be rather slow (as it should be) due to family gatherings and generally enjoying our time together, I do intend to post a little this weekend, but if I don’t I will be back to regular next week for sure. Enjoy your weekend, and in case I don’t get the chance, Merry Christmas to you all.
I leave you with this, a “scribble”, to help you decide whether your interested in more or not:
Like cattle fighting to get in their stalls first,
December 20, 2007
December 19, 2007
Oooh my sore body!! I went and played indoor soccer last night with a bunch of guys from my neighborhood. I had a great time, although I was greatly shocked by my startling loss of skills in the, what has it been now, 6 yrs since I last played. Yeah, I was thirty then and gaining on forty now and it showed. I stretched out well before the game and after, and took a hot bath and Motrin before bed, but I still hurt. So what’s my point in complaining to you about it? Sympathy of course!! No just kidding. Really it brings me to something I’ve been thinking about lately, New Year resolutions. One of mine will definitely be to get in better shape. I hate not knowing that I can go and do something active at a moments notice and not suffer for it later. Last year was the first in many years that I made resolutions that I actually followed through on the best that I could. Your reading one of them right now; this blog. I am going to be spending the next week and a half leading up to New Years day trying to really think about the things about myself and about my habits and lifestyle choices that I like and don’t like or that I want to improve on. I will try to be as realistic as I can in setting not only the resolutions (goals) for this next year, but why I want to make them and how I plan to attain them.
I think it is an important thing to do; making the goals that is. We all have things about ourselves and our lives that we would change if we could and this is a natural break in the progress of time when it is appropriate to make them. I think it is equally important to remember why we are making the change to begin with. That way, a few months into the change, we can reflect and remember our dissatisfaction with whatever it is and why we wanted to change in the first place. I feel the final part, the planning, is the most crucial part to the success of any goal. We can know where we want to be, and why we want to be there, but if we have no idea how we are going to get there, we’ll just end up lost with no map.
So my questions to you are, do you agree? What do you want to change? Why do you want to change it? How will you get there?
You don’t have to answer me, but answer yourself for sure.
December 17, 2007
I thought this would make an interesting amendment to the post I made Friday regarding curiosity and continuing to explore and learn. It may get a little philosophical and slightly confusing, but if your interested in how my head works then it may be interesting to you.
I read last night at a blog I’ve been checking into, who’s author and I seem to be very close on many things, about his struggles with the inevitable quandary that can come from questioning the things around us, and the things that we “know”. As we question things with an open mind, and analyze the things we learn, eventually we come to a point where we will be forced to question some of our beliefs. He points to religion and patriotism, and rightly so, as targets of potential conflict. Many of us, if not all, have had a time when our beliefs have been challenged. After the untimely loss or illness of a loved one; “If there were a God, why would he let this happen?”. When learning about backroom dealings, and misdirection in our governments; “Why should I hold allegiance to this Government that just wants to stick it too me?”. If you haven’t had these moments I dare say you’ve led a charmed, if not sheltered, life. I’ve had them time and time again; many times with regard to the same thing as more information has revealed itself.
Plato believed that knowledge is a subset of both Truth and Belief. That is to say that merely believing something does not make it knowledge. By contrast, if a thing is true and irrefutable, yet is not believed, neither does it count as knowledge. Let me present you with a thought I’ve had that challenges this idea. “The sky is blue.” Simple enough right? I can prove it by taking a picture of it, or dragging you out to see it. And you can believe it because it is right before your eyes. Does this make it knowledge? The Truth and Belief arguments have been met; or have they. Can something be proven one way and still not be so? I say yes. In fact the sky is not blue, merely the light waves of the blue spectrum that our eyes are able to discern are blue. The sky is clear (Essentially speaking,
Why do I bother to make this point? Because in my life I have learned that there are things that I choose to believe, regardless of their current state of provability or subjectivity. To me they exist as knowledge; at least for the moment. Things like God and good and evil, the existence of self-fulfilling thought and that soul-mates really do exist (And that I found mine by the way.). If we adhere to provable knowledge for everything it would be a dull life indeed. So while I advocate curiosity and the search for knowledge, I would add that that search be tempered by a willingness to believe that which you “know”, yet cannot prove. Search on friends.
December 14, 2007
William Wirt (1772 - 1834)
There are few statements I could agree with more. I have been referred to as scatterbrained, eclectic, or even a little geeky based on my passion for researching and experimenting with things. As a child I had an innate curiosity about things. Books that I remember fondly from being a child were a Disney series with Donald Duck and the other characters called “How it works… In the home, In the city, On the farm.” I loved them. I could look inside something and see how it worked. Later I graduated to Time-Life How-To books; yeah, I was hitting the hard stuff. I learned a little bit about a lot of things like botany, plumbing, electricity and mechanics. It hasn’t stopped either. Generally speaking I get some question in my head at least once a day that I need to answer. What are the actual names of the components of a bow? What is Hjorthornssalt and why does it make my Moms oatmeal cookies so good? What the heck makes yogurt into “Greek” yogurt? These are a few questions that I needed to know the answer to this week.
As I “grew up” I lost my curiosity. I knew what I needed to get along in the world and life had caught up with me. Family matters, work and day to day life gave me an excuse to stop examining the world around me. It’s amazing to me how easy it is to let that happen. Luckily it’s also amazing to me how easy it is for us to make a profound change in out thinking and our outlook. We all have our curiosities; it’s something that’s hardwired into us as humans. “Why” is one of our first words as children. Don’t let yourself lose that curiosity. Sometimes it’s not convenient to stop and investigate something right away, I understand that, so I keep a small notebook at my office, and one in my nightstand for those questions that come up, and for the ideas that hit me all of a sudden. That way I can look back at them later and take as much time as they require.
We are so lucky to live in a time when the information that we want is only as far away and as inaccessible as we make it. We have Google, Wikipedia, Instructables and so many more resources online. We have Public libraries that we can sometimes get up to 12 or 13 books at a time from. (Don’t ask how I know that?) And we have, through our blogs and the web in general, the ability to share and collaborate on a scale not before seen in human memory. I encourage you to embrace your inner “Why”. Your mind will thank you. Your children will thank you, and life will be a little more interesting.
It's been an interesting couple of days. We learned yesterday that our 11 yr old has a heart murmur. It was significant enough to get our generally goofy family doctor to get a solemn face and tell my wife that it was pretty serious and that we need to schedule a pediatric cardiologist appointment as soon as possible. That, as it turns out, is not until January 12. I have read a little about murmurs and it seems that, in children at least, they tend to more often than not be benign. Still it catches you off guard and makes you pause. What if the doctor hadn't caught it? What will come of the coming appointment? I have made a decision to stay of a positive mind and to truly believe that all will be well. I hope all is well with you and yours and that the Christmas spirit is creeping up on you and bringing smiles to your faces and joy to your homes.
December 11, 2007
I did get into the garage and got the start of the bows going. I was making good progress with the form of the first one. The handle was coming along and the upper limb was taking shape, when... SNAP, busted it. I was testing the flex and I guess it wasn't as flexible as I thought it was. So strike two.
While being a lazy butt Sunday afternoon and watching my Chargers come back to beat the Titans in O.T. I started working on formatting and rebuilding the laptop, and nope, strike three. The disk would boot and begin to prepare to allow me to do what I needed to, and then BSOD. (blue screen of death.) Actually it wasn't the true BSOD, but it wouldn't allow me to continue, so I'm still working on it.
In the mean time, while I'm trying to get things working I figured that I ought to at least get on here and act like a blogger for a night. Moral of the story, sometimes things just don't go the way we want them too, but you keep on trying. We picked up a packet of a special San Francisco sourdough starter this week, so we may be trying again this weekend. I changed my plans to build the bows from all oak, due to it's inflexibility, and have made some good progress toward my new design which uses 1/2 inch PVC as limbs. And as for the computer, I'll try a few more tricks and if all else fails, call Dell and see what options I have available to me.
Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.
~Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)
December 8, 2007
Well it's shaping up to be another eventful weekend. A~ and I just made a "sponge" out of our sourdough starter, so we can use it to make some no-yeast sourdough bread tomorrow. We've never tried this before so we'll see how it goes. It would be a really useful thing to know, how to bake bread without yeast that is, in case of who knows what. So we'll see how that goes, Ill let you know of course.
Another thing that'll be going on this weekend is me working feaverishly in the garage to catch up. You see over the years I've always made my boys something by hand. One year, I made shields out of plywood and carpet scraps, another I made them swords from leftover hardwood flooring and last year I made small tanto knives from some maple that I picked up in a scrap pile. See a pattern there? Wooden weapons. My boys are boys, what can I say. They've used all these things regularly and I'm proud to say they're still in one piece. Anyway, the point of the story is that I thought this year, they may be getting too old for my handmade cheapness, not to mention wooden toys. Well I was mistaken; it seems they were talking with A~ the other day about not being able to go over to my side of the garage because I might be making something for them. She said she didn't think I was and they were very unhappy with that. It seems I've started a tradition more valued than I had thought. I did it more for me, too see their surprise and to show them that I loved them. Little did I realize it would become something that they look forward too. I should have guessed it, they are suckers for tradition. So this year, with the abundant leftover hardwood flooring, and some maple or ash scraps from the cabinet makers, I will venture to make bows. They are after all getting older, and are responsible enough for them. (They won't be big powerful ones mind you.) We'll see how it goes.
Lastly, I may try to format and rebuild our computer. It's been acting up lately, and the last time I did it, I incorrectly partitioned the hard drive. So if If I'm out for a few days, don't give upon me I'll be back.
December 6, 2007
Well I just learned last night, via a very proud wife, that I have recently become the number one result on Google when a search is made for “A posse ad esse”. In other words, whenever anyone anywhere is interested in the obscure Latin phrase that I adopted for my blog, they get sent to me first. I know it’s not the greatest accomplishment in my life, but I have to say I’m pretty proud for it. I had actually noticed a recent increase in the number of first time readers popping in from around the globe, but never put the two together.
I wanted to take a second to offer a welcome to any new readers that may have stopped by, and wondered what in the heck this place is all about. Could a guy (And yes, despite all the references to gardening and cooking I am a man.) possibly be more eclectic in his interests? Well, yeah probably, but it’d be hard too. Life is a fascinating journey, and one I hope to make the very most of. I feel like for so many years I was asleep, letting the world tick away around me. I found myself focusing on what was wrong with things and what couldn’t be done; what do you know, the more I focused on that, the more that’s what I found. A posse ad esse, roughly translated, means “From possibility to reality” and sums up the way I want to focus as opposed to the way that I was. I have found that when I focus on what is possible, not probable or feasible but possible, I become like a lighting rod for ideas. I fumble my way through them, explore them, learn about them and many times diverge into something completely unrelated. If the ideas don’t manifest today, I’m not worried about it, they may just be fodder for an idea yet to come. The point is that I believe that we have the unique opportunity as humans to guide ourselves based very greatly on what it is that we focus our attentions on, and on our state of mind as we focus it. You’ve heard the phrase, “Think positive, and you’ll be positive”. Well add to it, “Think possibilities, and you’ll find possibilities”.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The change that I want to see is for more positive thinking, more sustainable living and greater enthusiasm for life. I welcome you and hope you’ll check back in again. And for those of you who make me a regular stop in your day already, let me say how humbled I am for the time you give me.
December 5, 2007
I finally got in there and went through stuff, checked dates, rotated and re stacked. I moved all the edibles in the storage up to the higher shelves, so they are harder to overlook and forget about. I also made space to stack and store the bags of wheat that we recently acquired. I'm much happier about it and with any luck I can stay on top of it and keep it this way. I'll be taking a note from Farm Mom, and trying to set up a system to keep track of our storage.
While I was down in the cold storage, I went threw the storage potatoes that we bought from our local grower at the end of the season approx. a month and a half ago. We haven't eaten any of them yet, and we don't plan to until into January. The reason for this is that we want to get a realistic idea of how long and how well they will store for future years. We don't want to make an investment in growing or buying a large number of potatoes until we know for sure we are able to keep them properly. Anyway, as I was saying, I went threw the mesh bag that they came in and picked out the few that were bad or getting that way. Then I repacked the remainder in a cardboard box with a bit of paper crunched into the bottom and a couple of sheets over the top loosely. A few of the potatoes were beginning to sprout eyes, and I have read that this is caused by too much light, I hope that the covering will keep them in the dark and prolong their dormancy. We'll see huh?
Finally, yogurt. The last thing I did this weekend was the last thing I did last weekend as well. I made a batch of yogurt. Last weekend I tried a new recipe, that I really liked. It was a vanilla yogurt and was the best I think I've ever had. Smooth, rich, almost custardy. This weekend I tweaked it a little for the vanilla batch that I made, adding just a little less dry milk at the end to see if I could lighten the texture a bit. I also tried making some just for the kids. I added a tsp of orange extract, and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla to half the batch to make a "Orange Creamsicle" type. To the other half I added root beer flavoring. I know, Root beer yogurt? I asked them what they thought would be good and that's what I got, so what to do? They said they were both alright, but needed a little bit more flavor. I'm close, next batch perhaps I'll nail it. I have really grown to love this stuff though. The vanilla yogurt topped with a spoonful of our homemade plum jam has become my breakfast of choice. The best method that I have come up with to incubate the jars is to pour the hot water from sterilizing the jars into a cooler with a little cool water, close and leave over night. It's cheap, it's available, and best of all, it works every time so far.
Well, as I said the other day. This weekend was a bit of a homesteading weekend. For those of you wondering if all we did all weekend was work the answer is no. I think we're beginning to feel like a lot of the things we're doing around the house aren't actually work, because the benefits are so good. We get to spend time together, our kids are eating better than most, and hey, I still got in a couple of hours of football to boot! (Even though my wife is clobbering me in our football pool; must be beginners luck. I wonder why I never get any of that?)
Till next time.
December 4, 2007
December 3, 2007
Today I'm talking bread. I've heard about this no knead bread recipe that was first made popular by a NY times article on it. (The recipe is on the link.) And it sounded so good we had to try it. A~ and I both love good bread, but as most home bakers have discovered, you just can't get that bakery quality crusty crust at home. Well now people you can. A~ mixed the dough Saturday afternoon, but Sunday I did the majority of the work on the bread. I say this to let you know that anyone can make this bread, I am not a baker by any means, I was entrusted once to take bread out of the mixer and form it into the pans and managed to wait too long and got airy mutant loaves. This bread was nearly idiot proof. Not only that, but besides the fact that it takes a long time to make in wait time, in actual hands on time it takes no more than maybe ten minutes! How was it? Oh man, I tell you it was good!
Another thing we did this weekend was to feed our little kitchen pet. No it's not a pet rock, it's a sourdough start. If you've not begun a sourdough start of your own, you just don't know what your missing in sourdough pancakes alone. It's easy to do, keeps essentially indefinitely in the fridge, and can be used for all sorts of goodies; although we've only used ours for bread and pancakes. I know that it's possible to make a start from wild yeast, and in fact A~ and I did manage to successfully get one going, but it was just a little too ripe for us and I would bet even a little unpredictable. When using wild sourdough one of the instructions is that if it begins to smell sour or just generally funky, toss it and try again. Now this would be absolutely acceptable to me in a survival situation, but for general day to day baking we decided we wanted a more predictable and controllable start. To get this we mixed:
1 Cup Flour
1 Tablespoon Sugar
This, we let sit in a bowl covered with a paper towel at room temperature for 1 week to 10 days until it began to smell, well, beery for a lack of a better description. Then we placed it in a 1 qt Mason Jar and refrigerated it. All we have to do is take out what we need for the recipe at the time, then feed the remaining start with 3/4 each of flour and water and let it sit covered at room temp overnight. If we don't use it for a little while, we will occasionally need to "feed" it by stirring in a tablespoon of sugar. The start in the picture is ours and it's a little over 2 months old. We've noticed that as it begins to mature, it's flavor has begun to become more full and tangy. Give it a try, I'm sure you'll love it.
And what would all this tasty homemade goodness be without a little bit of fresh homemade butter. Last week we bought a container of whipping cream for making mashed potatoes. The remaining bit of cream has been sitting in the fridge. We don't generally use a lot of cream at our house so I was afraid of it going bad. So while we're talking about the baking that we're doing A~ and I both come up with the idea of making butter with it. It's something that we've both wanted to try, and the kids were a little spazzy that day so why not harness the energy for good use right. I added the approx 1 pt of cream, to a 2 Qt canning jar that we had and started shaking it. Shake Shake Shake, Shake Shake Shake, Shake your Butter, Shake your butter... (yeah I grew up in the seventies.) All of a sudden it seemed, the butter separated from the buttermilk and we were in business. I shook it a but more to finish binding the butter fats, and then poured off the buttermilk. (Buttermilk biscuits this week??) After pouring off the butter milk I added cold water to the jar with the butter and shook again to "wash" it. Continue this, emptying the cloudy buttermilk water and refilling with fresh until it shakes and the water stays clear; this removes all the buttermilk that could cause it to go rancid over time. All told it took about 20 minutes, but we were watching You Tube music videos at the same time and dancing around the kitchen so it flew by! last step is to use a spatula or big spoon to work the butter in a bowl forcing out and discarding any water remaining in the butter and turning in a pinch of salt for flavor. That's it, fresh homemade butter. The kids loved it, have yours try it, they will too!
December 1, 2007
I wanted to share something that I found on a blog that I regularly read, Red State Green. The link is to a 5 part series of videos on You Tube. It is on how How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, and I encourage all of you to take a minute, or rather an hour, to view it if possible.
Peak oil isn't something that I talk about a lot, but I don't think any of us would have to stretch our imaginations to accept the premise that one day the wells will dry up or at least slow down dramatically. The only real debate exists around when that time will arrive, or if it already has. Ask yourself this, "What will the world look like when it begins to impact our daily life?" What challenges will we be faced with? If your like me, and you have given this any thought, then you've probably come to a point where you say, "Everything we could ever expect is really just a best guess, there's no way to know what it will really look like." Well, Cuba was essentially thrown into that situation with the fall of the former Soviet Union, and the subsequent drop off of their oil imports from 13-14 million tons of oil to approximately 4. These videos illustrate the changes, challenges and solutions that Cuba had to come up with.
When I see things like this, it reminds me of some of the reasons I do the things that I do. There are so many skills that we've lost; baking bread, using whole raw foods to make meals, preserving food, growing food and repairing things rather than replacing them. Of course a goodly part of that is also because I am cheap, but what can I say?
I hope you'll take a little time out of your day to take a look at these videos, especially any of you that are not familiar with the idea of peak oil, or that don't generally buy into such ideas. I'd love to hear your opinions if you do.
Tomorrow... Bread, Bread, Butter.
November 29, 2007
|Your Inner European is Dutch!|
Open minded and tolerant.
You're up for just about anything.
Frickin Dutch?! That's odd I'd say since I was born in Sweden. Oh well, I've had a great time in Holland both times that I've been there and that's all I have to say about that. ;-)
Posted by P~
November 28, 2007
I suppose they were looking for me to say Christmas, that's their favorite after all; and I'd probably have to say it was mine too when I was their age. I do like Christmas, don't get me wrong, I guess I've just gotten a little to pessimistic for my own good in the last few years. I enjoy the time we spend together, and I love the traditions that we've built as a family. We get a big 1000 piece puzzle every year and take turns working on it with each other while we listen to our favorite Christmas music. My wife and I construct gingerbread houses for our boys to decorate together and we snack on caramel popcorn balls and divinity candy, and every year I try to make something by hand for the kids then hide it somewhere in the tree for them to find. It's when I leave the house or listen to the radio or TV that I get so frustrated. The only things we hear about are what we want, or what we should want. We're pummeled from the end of September with specials and sales and ads to "celebrate the season right."
I watched "The grinch who stole Christmas" with the family tonight and it made me think. At the end of the show, what is it that makes his heart grow three sizes? Anyone? Anyone?
"He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"
He learned that Christmas is more than just stuff. He joined in the celebration and reveled in the giving. I guess I do like Christmas more that I let on, I just need to remember what it is about and keep my focus on the things that make it a special time. Family, friends, tradition and giving. Seeing the smiles on the kids faces, and enjoying the celebrations with friends.
A parting note:
Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.
I know it's a bit early for Christmas posts, but December is right around the corner, and I guess this is as good a time as any to get in the spirit!
November 27, 2007
The other afternoon A~ picked up a couple of reusable bags at our local Wal-Mart store. She got them for me to use. I generally reuse one of the plastic bags that we get from shopping to carry my lunch and what not to work each day. She, being ever the considerate wife thought I could use these bags instead, which I am by the way. They, the bags that is, got me to thinking though. I think that it's great the a huge retail outlet like Wal-Mart is trying to make an effort to encourage their shoppers to re-use, and are providing us the ability to purchase the tools to do it with. But if you've ever taken your own bags into a Wal-Mart and tried to fill them without both backing the whole system up, and perplexing the poor girl behind the counter then you're better than us. The problem as I've found it, it that all the Wal-Marts use the carousel style bagging islands that allow them to expeditiously fill as many plastic bags as they can as fast as they can, while you load your cart. Basically, the system is not made to encourage the use of the reusables.
So what about this challenge?
I emailed Wal-Marts corporate headquarters the other day with my issue and explained what I thought would be a potential solution, after all you shouldn't complain without coming to the table with possible solutions right?
Here is the text of my mail:
I have noticed WalMart's efforts lately to reduce their environmental impact and appreciate it. I recently purchased a couple of their reusable bags for use in my local shopping. My problem with them is that there is nowhere I can load them at my local walmart store because of the carousel style plastic bag dispensers that all the stores have. I thought a unique way of encouraging people to use these low impact bags would be to one, provide a table style checkout area similar to older grocery stores that used to have a bagger. Two, would be to perhaps limit these lanes, during the peak hours at least, to people using the reusable bags or that have brought their own. I want to use these bags at walmart, but have really had a hard time because of this. Also, at stores like Smiths and Albertsons, I get a .05 cent discount per bag used. It really doesn't amount to much but again, it encourages the use of reusables. I am glad to see Walmart making some effort on this front, I'd just like to see the effort be complete, rather than just veneer.Thank you, I hope to hear something on this from you.
Today I received this response:
Dear P~, Sam Walton built Wal-Mart on a very simple belief--the customer is the boss. That means we are always looking for better ways to serve the people who shop at Wal-Mart. Each comment, concern and suggestion is very important because it gives us the opportunity to improve our overall service. Rest assured that your message has been forwarded to the proper division where it will be reviewed and carefully considered. Thank you for your observations. It is customers like you who help us continue to offer everyday low prices and friendly service. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
link to Wal-Mart corporate contact us page.
November 24, 2007
A~ set a beautiful table for us as you can see. She makes all the holidays special for us with her decorating and enthusiasm.
We had an opportunity to experience a different perspective this year. It happened while we were off the active serving line, and were helping some of the elderly or disabled to get their meals. A~ looked up and poked me to draw my attention to someone in the line. It was our old neighbors. As I said before, We began to do this little bit of service as a sort of thanks of our own for our blessings and after having come through a particularly rough period in our life together. It was strange to see someone that had been in so similar a place as us at one point, obviously worse off. She was with her kids, and after she seemed to notice us there, she looked down and didn't seem to want to be seen. We respected this, and continued as though nothing had changed. It stuck with me though, and made my thanks the next day even greater.
November 21, 2007
It's Thanks giving here. Well, it will be tomorrow anyway. We'll be heading over first thing in the morning to help set up for the meal that we'll be serving. As I said before, it's something that we've done before and we all really enjoy it. I hope you all have a wonderful and enjoyable Thanksgiving. Enjoy your families and your time with them. If you have the opportunity while you're out and about hold a door open for someone, or maybe just a smile to a stranger. Think about the things you're thankful for and keep them in your heart all day.
I'd like to also take a moment to let you know what I am thankful for.
- I'm thankful for my family. My wife, and my kids are my greatest blessing and I am thankful for them every day.
- I'm thankful for my work. I am lucky enough to to have been able to work with a great group of people and to know my imact.
- I'm thankful for my health. I feel like I've been in the best health of my life lately.
- I'm thankful for all of the service men and women here and abroad serving during this holiday season to keep us safe and secure.
Now, get off the computer, eat some turkey and have a great day!
November 19, 2007
I mixed a gallon of milk per instructions, 3/4 cup mix to 1 quart warm water. I added one more 1/4 cup to the final mix to help with thickness of the yogurt, then refrigerated it. I won't go into the specifics of the process, there's a lot better descriptions of it easily accessible online. Basically I heated the milk to kill off the bad bacteria, cooled it to an acceptable temp to allow new bacterial growth, and inoculated it with live cultures from some plain yogurt that I had frozen to use specifically for this. After allowing the inoculated milk to sit in a warm bath overnight, the milk had solidified into a beautiful gelatinous blob of yogurt.
Tonight I tried it out after I had left it to cool through the day. The jar of preserves that you see in the picture is one that I have been saving for a while. I was born in Sweden, and as a kid we called this stuff "Swedish Gold". It was so hard to get, and so expensive when we could, that the only time we ever really got to enjoy it was either when visiting family, or when Mormor (Swedish for grandma) sent some out to us. Anyway, I've been waiting for something worth trying it on, and this just seemed right. I added a little splenda to sweeten, and a dollop of Cloud berries and Mmmm Mmmm good! Since I had made two quarts of yogurt (I kept a half gallon of the milk in the fridge to test out on some other things.) I decided to try vanilla and some sweetener in the second one. I added the flavoring, and whipped with a blender and whisk attachment. What I had after was delicious, smooth, almost and a little thinner, almost like Keefer.
I'm really proud to say that it came out well on my first try. I don't know how many of you have tried this, but I have to say it was well worth it. I haven't figured out exactly what it ended up costing me to make the two quarts, but by using strictly the dried milk, I'm sure the cost was very minimal. I'll let you know if I ever figure it out, I probably will. Next try I'd like to learn how to flavor the yogurt while I'm making it, rather than after. I'd also like to find a better way to keep it warm than the water bath, you know I love a challenge!
November 18, 2007
I agree. My wife and I have talked a lot in the last few months about wanting to store up some wheat. We have a good quantity of stored foods such as beans, rice, flour, sugar and water, but wheat is one of the great multi-purpose storage foods that we have not had in it. We don't just want to store it though, it's something that we want to begin to integrate into our regular diet. That brings me to a point I'd like to make about food storage, eating it. There are a lot of people that have begun to put up food of late and the more volatile the circumstances around the world become, more and more people will begin too. How many people eat these types of foods on a regular basis however? So many people don't really know where their foods come from anymore, let alone how to produce it themselves. If we don't take time to learn how to use these foods, we will not have the luxury of learning to use them when the time comes that we need to. Now in our home we are by no means experts, and probably still have more to learn than we have learned so far. There are a lot of things that we can do to take action towards learning though.
Last week my wife and I attended a educational opportunity surrounding the many uses of wheat that our church put on. The family that put on the presentation is one that uses wheat regularly in their diet. We learned about the benefits of sprouted wheat and watched them make a delicious whole wheat bread from freshly ground wheat. This is a bread that we have eaten before, a neighbor and friend regularly bakes it and we've been the lucky recipients of a loaf from time to time. We also got the opportunity to try what they called "wheat meat"; this was an interesting concoction that they made from hydrated wheat, ground and seasoned, then fried like a burger. The flavor was good but the texture could have used a little something; however, it was definitely something I'd like to experiment with. Towards the end of the presentation they showed us a couple of very interesting ways to cook using less fuel, and espoused the benefits of juicing wheat grass. It was a good time and I learned a lot of things that I didn't know.
November 16, 2007
Well here we are, Today. What did I learn? How has is benefited me?
Well, today I think I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life. I was never truly miserable mind you; after all I have a beautiful wife and children, a new home in a good neighborhood, and a challenging job with people I like to be around. Today however, I am focusing on those things and on the positive, possible things in my life. I feel challenged by myself to think and learn and grow. My health is better and I’ve lost nearly thirty pounds with no dieting, just a more healthy diet and active living. I have built a small but loyal group of readers and friends that I enjoy chatting and learning with. I’ve also learned that what I consume can truly have an impact on my happiness. More does not mean happier and easier does not mean better. Spending time and work to grow a garden really does make for a better salad, and the time it takes to bake really does make better bread. Of course we need things, I am realistic after all. It’s the pursuit of things as a goal in themselves that I’m talking about. There are so many people out there that are not able to have some of the basic things like shelter, clothing or regular meals; perhaps instead of throwing out that “old” coat we could donate it to someone who needs it. Few things increase our appreciation of our blessings and of the things we have, thereby increasing our happiness, like sharing with others. Slowing down and simplifying our lives can bring us so much fulfillment it’s hard to quantify it. I hope I’ve been able to shed a little light on my own journey and that perhaps it will help some of you to reflect on yours. I leave you with this…
Happiness is being where you are,
Take stock what you have and appreciate it,
Focus on the good and the possible in your world, and how you can increase it,
Slow down, participate in life and stay challenged.
November 15, 2007
Yesterday I told you about how I found my self becoming unhappy. It wasn't something that I was conscious of, it just came on me. I was lucky enough that the same fates that brought me to this point, presented me the opportunity to change my course.
When earlier this year I started to blog, one of my primary reasons, honestly, was to have a place where I could rant about all of the things that I was so angry about. I had things to say about politics, world issues and the downfall of society… you know real happy stuff. I found that it was much harder for me to make the time to actually sit down and write out my opinions when they came from anger than I had expected. I’ve always enjoyed writing and it’s also always been something that’s been able to help me organize my thoughts. When I write I have the opportunity to look back and read what I’ve said. It gives me perspective on what I’m trying to convey rather than just spitting it out. I guess reading my own words helped put in perspective how I was thinking. After realizing that there were so many wonderful blogs out there dealing with things that I was passionate and interested in like gardening, homesteading and alternative energy for example, I began to focus more on these things. I began to find my voice again and it was a positive one. I moved to Blogspot as my host in roughly April, and adopted the title “A Posse Ad Esse” or “From Possibility to Reality”, in order to remind me to focus on the possible in life. Not long after I moved the blog, my wife and I also made the decision to cancel our cable subscription for the summer since we would be gone for 3 weeks on vacation and saw no reason to pay for it. These two things, vacation and cancelling cable, combined to thrust me into a cold turkey withdrawal from the news and a strange thing happened; I was happier. I wasn’t walking around with a perma-grin on my face or anything like that, but I was certainly happier. I decided to explore this further and began to earnestly avoid the things that I found causing me unhappiness. I found that even the local news became a mental drain as nothing makes the news like death, misery and misfortune, of course they’ll always throw you that little fluff piece at the end to leave you feeling good so you’ll come back again tomorrow. I made the decision to tune-out of the talk radio and listen to music again and found that I arrived home with a smile more often, and was in a better mood overall. I decided that I may never be able to get the small hobby farm I dreamt of (the dream persists, but not at the expense of today.); but I do have a beautiful home on a ¼ of an acre that I wasn’t making the most of as it was. I began to spend my time in the yard as though I were on my farm. I planned and worked it, composting and tending. My obsession with what I didn’t have became one of gratitude for what I did. I took part in a “Low Impact Week” challenge put on by another blogger that encouraged me to try a new way of daily life. I began to ride my bike to work, consume less, and eat a more local and primarily vegetarian diet. My wife and I began to wean ourselves off of chemical cleaners and started using home made natural ones. All these things, each one small in on its own, began to move me towards a more simple way of living. I began to feel more in tune with my community, and more connected to what I was doing. I was thinking again.
As you can see, making decisions and taking action, combined with focusing on the positive things in life and a little lucky opportunity helped me to dig myself out of the mire. We can all do it, life is a choice. Tomorrow, the last installment, Today.
November 14, 2007
After September 11th I, like so many others, began to check in on the news regularly to see what was going on, if there were any developments in the investigation or any survivors found. This was the gateway event so to speak. Soon after, I found talk radio. I knew it existed of course, but had never really listened to it regularly. I started tuning in during the mornings to see if anything new was happening and to get the latest from the day and evening prior. Those morning tune-ins turned to all day listening and before I knew it I had it on during the drive to and from work, on the garage radio, while I worked outside, pretty much constantly. On top of this I would watch the different cable news outlets at night, and would actually TIVO some of the opinion shows that I didn’t have time for. I found that even though each host, whether on radio or television, had a slightly different way they would put the info across it was still really just the same information. I also found myself parroting the positions of many of the hosts, even when I didn’t fully agree, because I did agree with part of it. I substituted thinking for listening, a dangerous proposition; can you say mind control? Now that I was fully addicted to the hard stuff and binging all day long, the inevitable symptoms that follow any addiction followed. Need, paranoia, anxiety, anger, you name it. Really, I’m not exaggerating. I needed it and felt like I was going to miss some crucial event if I wasn’t tuned in. I started getting angry at the opposing side, many of whose positions I still disagree with mind you, but I took it too far I think; badmouthing different positions and not even spending the time to familiarize myself with them. Finally I found myself feeling afraid, almost paranoid, of “The things that were going to happen”. I do think that there are a lot of things to be concerned with, peak oil, food/water shortages and wars for example, but I was obsessing on them. There were other things causing me unhappiness as well. I’ve wanted to be in a place where I could have more land to work. I’ve often dreamt of “returning to the land” so to speak but reality and circumstances seem conspired against this. I would actually find myself feeling incredibly depressed at times and not wanting to do anything because I was focusing on this thing that I never felt I would ever be able to have. Things in general for that matter were a cause of despair. Why can’t I have this or that when I want it so badly? Life isn’t fair is it? I’ve written before about happiness; about “being where you are” and not focusing on where you wish you were and I believe that to be one of the best pieces of advice I could give on the subject. What I didn’t realize however, was exactly how much my consumption could be tied to it. I had become stuck in a rut of consuming dire news, disdainful views, and lofty wants that were continually letting me down. The more I focused on what would make me happy if I had it, or how things should be, the more discontent I was with what I had and how things were.
November 13, 2007
Now, what do you do with them? I'm putting mine into my compost pile, of course. With the nitrogen to carbon ration that they have, mixed with a healthy bit of carbon rich browns, in this case straw, I should be able to kick up the heat in my pile and help it to break down faster and more completely.
If any of you are new to composting, or are thinking about getting a pile started, which I heartily encourage, then one thing I have learned is that getting the pile "cooking" is one of the most important things you can do. Getting the heat turned up inside your pile cooks the seeds, sterilizing them. It also helps the organic material inside the pile break down more completely and more quickly. Getting this heat turned up comes from having a good balance of greens and browns, nitrogen rich plant material and carbon rich dr material such as dry leaves, straw, or dried grass clippings. So far I have found straw to be the most consisent material that is easily gotten in my area. When you have this mix in the right proportions you'll need to turn the pile regularly to make sure the organisms in the pile can breath and make sure it stays moist. Not wet, but moist.
November 12, 2007
Today's installment in the repurposing trilogy is something that I'll be using in the garden. Something that I've been wanting to get a hold of for a little while and have been diligently keeping an eye, or in this case an ear, out for. Old single plate wooden frame windows.
I've been wanting to find some of these windows for some time to use in the garden for building cold frames to help me harden off plants in the spring, and to extend the growing season for some of the cold weather crops that are able to be grown through into the late fall. One of the things that I hope to be able to do over the winter months in preparation for next springs sprouting is to go through at least a few of these windows and strip and refinish them to extend the life of them as well as to pass the "don't junk up the back yard" test that all of my projects must vet before being deployed. As you can see from the picture at the left, these have seen better days. The Gazing needs to be removed and the paint stripped. I'll probably mix up some of my own white wash for them, and give 'em a new coat before re-glazing, or more likely, caulking. If you've never done this before, it's not a hard process; I'll surely cover it to some degree when the time comes.
As I said, I was able to come across these by keeping my ears open. I was talking to one of the guys in my office on Thursday last week when he mentioned that his co-worker, a mutual friend of ours was changing out all of the windows in his older home. I jumped into action! After getting a hold of him and getting the all clear to take the old windows, I had my wife meet me with the truck and we headed over there to get them right away before the window man threw them away. Obviously, mission accomplished.
One that subject I thought I would leave this trilogy off with my Golden Rules for Effective Repurposing:
- Know what you want. You can't find the thing that will fill the need, or whose parts may fill the need, unless you know what the need is.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. Once you can picture the thing clearly in your mind, and how you will use it, you'll be surprised at how quickly it will randomly appear available if you are keeping a lookout on a regular basis.
- Timely Action. When it's available, get it. It may not be there later, or tomorrow. Sometimes this will get you a queer look from a friend or stranger when your putting a bunch of "Junk" in the back of your car but you'll have the last laugh. (All the way to the bank I might add.)
- Buy the best you can afford, whether new or second hand. When you decide to repurpose things you already own like the table in Repurposing #2, you will have much better luck when you already have quality that you're working with.
I hope you'll try your hand at repurposing around the house. I know a lot of you already do, I'd love to hear about your triumphs, and link if you have any. Share, motivate, and encourage!
Happy reusing all!
November 11, 2007
The wife wanted to have a runner table to go along a will in the living room. This will be a narrow table to hold seasonal decorations and display pictures and nick nacks. To accomplish this I first disassembled the table took measurements and made some marks. Careful measuring cannot be overstated as the next step is to cut the table in two.
Now, having a much narrower table top, I took more measurements and took apart the bottom leg support peices. What I needed to do was shorten the peice in between the legs on the now narrower side of the table. I cut the board and ripped new channels for the leg hardware. While the table was completely disassembled A~ took the opportunity to sand the top of the table so that we could refinish it for a new look.
After all the trimming, sanding and modifications to the table it's reassembled and moved to the living room. A~ will refinsh the top with "Tried and True" lindseed oil / wax finish. We will very easily get a few more years out of this solid peice of furniture.
A couple of considerations. When you buy furniture, even if it's second hand, buy the best quality you can when possible. Solid wood can very easily be modified, repaired, or restored whereas particle board can't. That's not to say it's no good, just something to consider. Another thing, when you feel ou may have expired the usefullness of a peice of furniture at the house, take a look at it out of context, perhaps the whole peice can't be reused, but you may be able to use a peice of it. For instance, the other half of this table may see life as a cutting butcher block cutting board, or a heavy duty shelf in the garage. Things are often more useful that we are trained to believe. Take a minute, save a dollar, and repurpose. More again tomorrow with installment #3.
Earlier last week we were moving people around the office where I work. This became a good reason for cleaning out and going through a lot of the stuff that we had been collecting around the building. Some guys from our network support team asked me if they could throw some trash into the back of my truck so that we could bring it out to a dumpster, I said yes and that I'd be out
What did all of this cost me? A little gas from work to home, and a little motivation and time. I find that when I keep my mind and my eyes open, I see so many opportunities to reuse and re-purpose so many things. Often, I find myself thinking "what could I use that for?" when I see something that I know is usable. It becomes a habit once you're able to get beyond the notion that if somebody had something or used something before you that it's no good, it's "trash". When simplifying life and trying to stretch a budget there are few things that can benefit a home or in this case a community like effective reuse.
There's been a lot of reuse opportunities around the house lately. Check in tomorrow for post #2. Till then...