Welcome

Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

November 29, 2007

Dutch??

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. ;-)


November 28, 2007

What's you favorite Holiday.

I've been getting this question from my kids lately. I don't know why exactly, but I have. The strangest part is that I never really thought about it. I didn't have an answer, and if you know me at all you know that is just not right. Heck even when I don't really have an answer I come up with something. But this caught me off guard.

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!

P~

November 27, 2007

Call me "David"

No, I'm not changing my name, but I am challenging Goliath in a sense.
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.

Now I have no delusions that this was not a canned response; I'm sure it was. But I hold hope that maybe I will see a change. That maybe my challenge will not go unanswered. OK, so maybe the challenge isn't a huge one, but I'd like to see if there's a way to be the trim tab on this. And I'd like to encourage you too as well. I know there are a lot of you that view Wal-Mart as the evil empire and refuse to shop there yourselves. I can appreciate that, and it's your decision, but if a company with the kind of wide spread consumer base that they have can be steered into even a moderately sustainable direction, it could have a trickle down effect of huge proportions. I invite you to join me in this.; send them a letter. I thought about including a scripted letter in this post, but you know, honestly, I think they probably react the same to scripted spamming by action groups about the same way we respond to canned auto-responses, not at all. Use your own words. If you agree with me that it would be nice to see actions by them that would encourage consumers to use reusables tell them. If you have a better suggestion than mine, by all means tell them that. I think the most important thing is to let them know it is on our radar, and we are paying attention.
If you decide to take me up on this challenge, let me know about it, and by all means pass the word along. Link here, re-write it on your own blog, or email it if you like. I'm not trying to get people to read me by this, I just want to make a change.
I'll be sure to let you know if I hear more.
P~

link to Wal-Mart corporate contact us page.

November 24, 2007

Ahhhhhh

What a great Thanksgiving! We spent out Thursday giving, and our Friday thanking and eating! We cooked a beautiful turkey, and of course all the appropriate trimmings. I'm going to pass on my secret turkey cooking technique now. Stuff under the skin. I make a slightly wetter than normal stuffing, slide my hand between the breast and the skin, and fill the resulting space with the stuffing. 8 yrs ago, when my wife and I were having our first thanksgiving dinner we decided that we wanted to come up with a recipe for turkey that we could make a tradition, this was what we came up with and we have loved it ever since. This is my one real contribution to the thanksgiving feast, I am the turkeymeister!

A~ set a beautiful table for us as you can see. She makes all the holidays special for us with her decorating and enthusiasm.





As for our actual Thanksgiving day, this is where we spent it. This is the Marshall White community center in Ogden UT. It's the nearest center of it's kind to us, and it's where we have gone for thanksgiving to help out and serve a meal every other year.

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.

I'm glad to hear that everyone had a good thanksgiving, I hope we can all try to keep the spirit of thanks in our hearts much longer than just the weekend.
P~

November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

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!

P~

November 19, 2007

Yogurt first try.

I finally tried my hand at making homemade yogurt. This has been something I've been wanting to try for a while and I finally just did it. I was going to try to make it with regular 2% milk, something that I could easily get at the store but the more I looked around and compared recipes, I noticed that there were a lot of references to making it with reconstituted milk, or even milk with dried milk added to increase the thickness. As I spoke about last week, I feel there's a need to not just store and prepare ourselves with food stores, but to learn how to effectively use them. So I decided to make the yogurt entirely from dried milk. This was, at it's core, an experiment after all.

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

Food Storage

From the standpoint of food production, storage, handling, and the Lord's counsel, wheat should have high priority. (God, Family, Country, p. 269)

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.

Another thing to think about with regard to food storage, is the type of storage that we choose to have. Wheat, beans, legumes and other dry goods will last for a very long time in our storage with a minimum of effort. These are things that have been found in the pyramids of egypt still viable and good. A cool, dry place and careful rotation are really the biggest things to be concerned with. Also, these foods with not be effected if there were widespread power outages as frozen foods would, and are much more versatile overall.

Over the upcoming winter months I'll be experimenting with some of the things that I learned and of course passing on my findings. A~ and I hope to be able to become much more skilled at incorporating these foods into our regular diet and using them to move towards a more sustainable and vegi-centric diet.
If you don't have wheat or plentiful dry goods in your storage, I encourage you to look into them and learn about them with me. If these things are an active part of your home storage and even more so your regular diet please share with me your knowledge and any tidbits that may be able to help me as I move forward.

November 16, 2007

Turn Off, Tune Out, Be Happy (Today)

Well here we are, Today. What did I learn? How has is benefited me?



Today:

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.


Namaste
P~

Thought For Today

Happiness depends upon ourselves.

~Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

 

November 15, 2007

TurnOff, Tune Out, Be Happy (Recovery)

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.



The Recovery:
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.



P~

Thought For Today

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.

~Sophocles (496 BC - 406 BC), Oedipus Rex

 

November 14, 2007

Turn Off, Tune Out, Be Happy (The Descent)

“My name is P~ and I’m a recovering pessimist”, that’s how I ought to introduce myself. I know this sounds silly on the surface, but really it’s not, it’s the truth. I was fortunate enough this year to have a number of events come together and enough clarity to make some decisions that have opened a door for me to more happiness than I even realized I was missing. I’ll start at the beginning, as I see it, of a slow and creeping descent into gloom and unhappiness. I didn’t realize it was this at first, but as I reflected on it, it became obvious to me.

The Descent:
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.
At this point I was pretty low. I felt full of fear, and discontent. I know my sweet wife worried about me and ask if everything was OK. I didn't to be like this, it just crept up on me. Tomorrow I'll tell you about The Recovery.
Till tomorrow.

P~

November 13, 2007

Compost Day

Thought I'd spend a little time on compost today, there were a couple of things that I'd cover. For one, I learned recently of a program that Starbucks Coffee has in place. It's called Grounds for your Garden and it's something they put in place to help take care of the some of there coffee grounds waste. All you need to do is go into you're local Starbucks store and ask for their old grounds for your garden and you will get one of their old bean bags filled with used grounds.

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.
video
Once you have all this in line, you'll be sure to have your pile cooking like a pro. In the little video I made, you can pretty easily see that there's steam coming up out of the pile, this is a sure sign you're on the right track. I hope to cook this pile pretty well through the rest of the fall and into the winter and then finish it off in time for spring planting. If you haven't cleaned out the garden yet, or can still get a last mowing of the lawn, I encourage you to get those greens and some good dry browns together and get cookin'!
P~

November 12, 2007

Repurposing #3

Well here we are, number three. Have you been hanging on the edge of your seats waiting for what I'll re-use next? No? Well I can't see why not, this is exciting stuff! This is money in the bank, something for nothing, a free lunch... well alright I wouldn't reuse someones lunch, but you get the point.

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:




  1. 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.


  2. 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.


  3. 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.)


  4. 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!


P~

November 11, 2007

Repurposing #2

Yesterday I talked about recyling/reuseing from sources outside the home. It's a great thing! today I thought I'd look into what I think is an even better way to repurpose an item, that when you're able to get a second life out of something that you already bought. In this case it is a table that we had in our living room for the last couple of years being used as a computer desk. To begin with this desk came from a second hand store, bought for about $15.00, so it was already on it's second life. This will be a third life remodel for it.

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.


P~

Repurposing #1

I am a huge fan of reuseing items. Whether you call it dumpster diving, recycling or the new term de jour, re-purposing, I call it good common sense. If I can make good use of something that has already seen a good life of use, or better yet, as is the case with this installment something that has not been used at all and is being discarded, I get a warm fuzzy happy feeling inside. Part of the reason for this is because I think it's a great thing to do, reusing that is, but honestly the biggest part is that it saves me a bunch of money of the course of a year. A lot of times I am able to do things around the house or the yard that I may not be able or willing to do if I had to pay for them. You can see a couple of examples of this HERE or HERE.

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











in a bit to move the truck. When I got there, I found that the "trash" was a bunch of the unused keyboards and new sets of computer speakers; they were literally still in their boxes. I couldn't allow them to go in the trash. I took the three boxes of "trash" and the 15 boxes of new speakers home and went through them. After sorting, I found in addition to the obviously useful keyboards and speakers, nearly a hundred old Cd's. After pulling the old CD out and the labels, I now have a box of good CD cases. something there's always a shortage of around our house since we usually buy them in spindles without cases. (Cheaper that way.) Amongst the Cd's were five full versions of Microsoft Word with Certificates and serial numbers. Now granted these are Word 97, they are not the most current versions. But there are a lot of people out there running older machines, or that have their kids running their old machines, that could potentially use this software; it will be donated to our local thrift store who's profits go to both local and global relief for people less fortunate. What of the keyboards and speakers you ask? Well, as with many of our children's schools, ours is always looking to be able to augment it's current computer equipment. I gave them the first chance at the equipment and they jumped at it. My kids will not be at they school for many more years, but I like knowing that classes after them may get to have some use from it.

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...

November 6, 2007

Giving

So often in the blogosphere I read about supporting local agriculture and local businesses to build stronger communities. I’ve written about it and I’ve tried to do my best to move that direction in many ways. While eating local and shopping local are both great ways to help build stronger communities and have a lot of merit on their own, what I’d like to bring up, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, is what we can do not necessarily with our dollars, but with our time.

My family and I have made a tradition over the last 6 or 8 yrs to spend every other Thanksgiving Day at a local shelter helping to distribute and SERVE meals to many of the areas less fortunate. I emphasize the word serve for a reason; not just that we are physically serving food and hot drinks, we are serving our fellow man. Most of us have had a time in our lives, either because of circumstances or bad decisions, when we hit a rough patch, sometimes it’s a very rough patch and we've been able to get by because of anothers time and help. When we first decided to begin this tradition, we were feeling particularly thankful, having just come through a particularly rough period in our early relationship, one where we certainly had received help from others.

There are a lot of things that we can do to help others. Spend time at a shelter serving food, help a widow fix things around the house, mow a lawn for an elderly couple or just make a dinner for a neighbor that has had a health problem. These are things that we've done, but there are so many other things. I'd like to hear from you about the things that you have done, or what you will be doing as this time of thanks is upon us. If you have nothing planned, then I would ask that you perhaps take a look at what you could do. Maybe spend some time at a shelter, or fix a meal for a less fortunate family, whatever.

For those of you reading who blog as well, take a minute to share your service with others as I am and help me to motivate them to get out and SERVE. Let's try to add this to our community building efforts.
P~

November 5, 2007

Commercial Rant!

I have noticed lately a disturbing pattern. For those of us that watch television, you may have noticed the following commercial; it's for Subway sandwiches. I guess it's supposed to be funny, but I don't think so.



More and more often of late I see that men; particularly husbands and fathers, are portrayed as, well, idiots on the general media. It's more common to see a man shown throwing a tantrum, being emasculated by his wife or ignored by his children than it is to see a strong man as a role model and a leader. The general theme any more in television sit-com's seems to assume a stupid underachieving man who is lucky to have a smart goal oriented woman that can keep him in line and keep him from ruining there life and arguing with their children over the last doughnut.

I like to use my kids as my sounding board without really telling them I am. Tonight we saw this commercial on TV while setting up a movie for them and they laughed at the same time as I said I hate that commercial. They said "Why? It's funny." I said, "Do you think so? It seems like the Dad is acting worse than a kid."; "No, Dad, he's just throwing a fit because he really wants something.","Oh...I see...."

I'll tell you what I see. I see a consistent message that can only serve to lessen kids respect for their parents. How are children supposed to learn not to throw tantrums when the Dads are doing it for sandwiches? How are young boys supposed to learn how to be leaders and fathers when all the images they are pelted with show them as fools? Maybe I'm taking this too seriously, maybe not serious enough. Either way, this is another reason to make sure we are on top of what are kids are watching. And another compelling reason to make sure that we, as fathers, provide them the role models that they need. Show them strength and tenderness, leadership and compromise, discipline and great love. Be their friend but not their peer. We only have one shot, and the world sometimes seems like it's against us.

I'm curious, what's you opinions of my rants? I have an strong opinion on a lot of things. Should I share them more often? Or perhaps you as the reader are really not interested.
Hope you are all well... till later.
P~

November 3, 2007

Finally got some work done






I got out into the yard again today to get working on the garden area and here it is. I pulled almost all of the plants from the garden during the week to get ready for today so that I could concentrate of getting the work done, or nearly so.

You may remember
a list that I posted a little while back with so much to do and so little time; I thought I'd update you to the progress. I know it helps me to see others posting their goals and how they go about accomplishing them, perhaps I can inspire one of you.

Pull the summer veggies that are now, thanks to an early and hard fall, dieing.
Check. I pulled all the squash, pepper, tomato and other plants that were still left in the garden beds.

Pull the annuals from the front beds.
Check. Petunias and other annuals pulled, potted plants pulled and soil sifted to remove roots. Next spring I'll add some fresh compost and vermiculite to re-energize it and get it ready for a new planting.

Dig out, split and replant the Rhubarb so we can have more next year.
Check. Look at this thing! I thought it looked like some kind of strange alien life form, I know, time to lay off the star trek huh? I dug out carefully around the outside of the crown and root ball. For those of you that are not familiar with it, the crown of a plant like rhubarb or strawberries is that area at the top of the root ball that sits generally at the soil level. It is where all the growth of the plant comes from. After I had dug out the whole plant, I used a flat shovel to split the crown into three pieces each of which a bit of rootstock still attached. I gave one to a neighbor that was interested in growing some of her own. The two I kept were added to part of the new area of garden that A~ and I cleared out last weekend, right between where my raspberries and strawberries are growing, I thing I'll call that the pie stretch of garden from now on.

Decide which large perennials we will leave where they are and which we will move and then actually move them.
Check. A~ and I got this done last weekend, and opened up a good sized area of our back planting area for future gardening. We've decided that the front is largely for show and the back is for food. Works for me.

Cut up and consolidate all of the pulled greens from the garden for composting.
Check. I also collected the bagged grass from the last lawn mowing (yeah our lawn is done for the season.) I've found that our gas lawn mower works great as a garden waste compost prep device. That's a really technical geeky way of saying that I can chop the heck out of all the greens and browns collected in the garden before adding them to the compost pile. This makes the breakdown of the compost go much faster and the finished product much finer. Speaking of compost, My wife thinks I may have become a little, well, let's just say she says I've gone a little overboard when I referred to this area of the yard as "Compost Central". You can see behind the bags of grass clippings that I've added an area for an actual pile to sit over winter. I haven't added all the clippings and greens yet, I need to get some straw to make sure I get adequate carbon to nitrogen mixture and that I have enough room for air movement. This is what keeps the pile from smelling and gets it hot, helping it to break down quicker.

Prune, thin and support the raspberries and strawberries.
Yes, check. I finally got around to doing this. This year my strawberries really went crazy. I got a decent amount of berries from the small patch (4' x 5') that I had last year. Then after harvest, they began to drop runners and new growth. Whoa, they spread like fire. I pulled a good bit of the old growth to allow the new plants to come up better and thin the patch. I also made a distinct edge to the spreading patch. final size of the patch is about 4' x 8'. Not quite twice the size, but with the thinning and some care, I hope to get nearly twice the harvest next year. As for the raspberries, I learned this year that raspberries will only fruit on the second year growth but not thereafter; I cut out the two year old growth and strung up and supported the one year old growth, hopefully I can get my two plantings on the same schedule from here on out. Last year one of them gave a lot of fruit, this year the other did; if I can get them both producing together I'll be a happy sorbet eating man!


Weed some of the bad areas of the yard to get a head start on next year.
This part is an on going project. I am trying to get a handle on weeds overall, the grass looks good, but I still have to weed and till the new garden areas before winter sets in.

I hope your garden chores are coming along. This is that time of the year when it is so easy to neglect the garden, but at the same time is one of the most important times for prepping and putting the earth to sleep before winter. I'm really pleased with my progress so far this year. I spent much of the spring this year going through the beds and getting them ready for planting. I hope to be able to get seed in the ground much earlier next year and enjoy a greater and earlier harvest. Don't throw in the trowel yet, there's work to do. (Yeah I stole that line from Mother Earth News, it was just to perfect I had too. LOL)

Namaste
P~


November 1, 2007

We're Halloweirdos

I guess my wife and I are a little weird. We actually walked around last night with our children to share in the Halloween tradition; we’re Halloweirdos. I like to justify this to my kids by saying that since I will be "stealing" half of their candy, I should at least do some walking too right? But really, it's just something that my wife and I like to do. We figure that soon enough, our kids will be of an age when they either won't be trick or treating, or that they will be old enough to not want us tagging along so we want to take advantage of this time while we can. Why do we have kids after all? I know sometimes they come before we are ready for them, or should I say before we think we are ready for them; but generally speaking, why do we have them? Are we just doing our part to propagate the species? Is it a social requirement that would make us seem to be bad people if we didn't? What is it? More and more often of late I get the impression that these are becoming the reasons more so than they should be. Of course we need to propagate the species, and yes, it is a bit of a social norm, but more than that it is a responsibility and a blessing to have the safety, happiness and development of another life entrusted to us. Last night I was noting how odd it was that there were so few parents that were out doing the walk with their kids, and of that small number of parents, we were the only ones out in force. By that I mean that we were the only family with two parents that I saw in two and a half hours of walking around the neighborhood. Add to that the fact that of the kids that my children play with regularly, three out of three sets of parents didn't go out with their kids. One boy didn't get to go at all because his parents went to Wendover, (for out-of staters, that's the first town in NV, about 1.5 hr away, with casinos.) and left him with his uncle. Another family had their two boys go with us, and yet another let their boys go alone, something I just can't see doing with the current populous of bad guys out there.

This whole issue of participation is merely part and parcel of a much larger issue that I have, one of letting our kids be kids, and caring for them as such. There was a man last night yelling at his older daughter to hold his younger daughters hand while she walked down the stairs from a house. Couldn’t he be holding her hand? Isn’t he the parent? What about all the parents letting their 8, 9, 10 yr old kids run around town alone because “They have a cell phone.” I’m sure the kidnapper will let them get a call off while he’s hauling them into his car. These are kids. Our oldest is not responsible for our youngest, we are. A cell phone is not our kids steward, we are. We’re a little paranoid I’m sure, and we’ve been called overprotective many times; I can live with it. If my children’s biggest issue with me when they are grown and on their own is that I was present too often or protected them too much then so be it. There are too many things in the world that we can’t protect them from; school bullies, peer pressure, bad decisions. We need to protect them from all the things that we can. Take time at least once a week to play a game together, watch a TV show together and talk about things or tuck them in and let them know you love them and for Pete’s sake people participate in their childhood. They’ll remember you walking around on Halloween with them long after the candy has been eaten. They’ll be grown and won’t “need” you before you know it.

 

Hope you all had a great Halloween, we did!

P~