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~

March 31, 2008

Why we don't "wait till later"

As I stated on a previous post, my wife plays a huge part in our gardening process just by way of her ability to get me moving when I am lacking motivation. More that once, it has proven to be to our benefit. This weekend proved the point again. I get home early on Fridays most of the time, and this Friday was no different. We planned for me to run to the landfill to pick up another load of compost. I got that done with no problem, but when I got home, I was a little...well...lacking in direction. In other words I was kind of thinking three things and acting on none of them. (A common state of affairs I assure you.) Here's where A~ stepped in and we both got on task.

Above are a couple of pictures of our work at the end of the day on Friday. We were able to dig in and turn over the recycled concrete planter beds around the front of the house, add multiple wheelbarrows full of compost, and pull the weeds that germinated early in the spring. We aren't finished yet, there's still some planting to go in, we're planting edible herbs and some other edibles throughout these beds, and mulch to put down, but that will come a little later. So, why don't we "wait till later"?

Well take a look at these pictures. This is what the yard looked like this morning and for most of the weekend. In other words, the weekend would have been a total loss had we not buckled down and got on task on Friday.
This is what Spring time is like in Northern Utah and in many places in the U.S., and with climate change happening, who knows what the weather will do. The lesson is, when you have lemons, make lemonade. And by gosh when you have sunny spring days, get work done.
I learn so much from the garden. It is forgiving, yet so demanding. It rewards us for our effort and our forethought, and punishes us for our procrastination or our sloth. Is it any wonder that the Bible uses the garden and plants in so many of the parables we learn from.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Matthew 7 : 15-16

Maybe some time in the future I'll learn my lessons well and finally be able to get motivated myself. Until then, I have the garden to guide me and A~ to poke me in the butt when I need it.
Tomorrow... sprouts are popping up.

March 30, 2008

Urban Chickens Update.

The kids are getting big!

I took these pictures today. They are fully feathered now with the exception of a few "fuzzies" left around some of their necks.

I thought I'd share a few pictures of them for any of you that are curious.

As you can see I'm still using the circular feeder that I got for them when they were chicks. It works alright I guess, but they really need to get a bigger one since they eat like it's going out of style. You should see them when I bring the feeder up and out of the coop. They jump and flap and squawk like their starving. One of the Barred Rocks actually got up on the ledge of the coop one time and on another missed it and soared right down to the ground. Luckily he came to me when I called him and I got him right back in their with his sisters.

And guess what other trick they've learned? I can't remember if it was last weekend or the one prior that I added a couple of roosting bars to the "Chicken Condo" but they've finally figured it out. They get up there and fluff up their feathers and stare at each other. (Or sometimes check out the bottom of each others feathers obviously.)

This Tuesday should be the City planning commission meeting where the chicken proposal gets it's initial vote. If it passes, and it should based on the comments from the chairman, then it goes to the city council the next week. If all goes well, the kids should be leaving their outlaw status behind in a couple of weeks. (Keep your fingers crossed.) That being said, I need to really get going on the coop. They need the space, and I need to be able to hang an adult size feeder for them.


March 29, 2008

Earth Hour 2008 - Lights out.

This morning A~ informed me that Earth Hour 2008 was scheduled for tonight. We found out about it too late the last time it happened and we missed it. So this year, we planned ahead of time to spend that time in the dark. Or at least without electric light. So tonight from 8-9:00 pm Mountain time we went "Lights out". The kids weren't necessarily looking forward to it, but we plied them with cookies and games. We put a few candles out on the table, took out the scattergories game and had some of A~'s very tasty no-bake chocolate cookies. (See even the snacks saved energy!)

We all noted that it was funny how trained we were; we kept instinctively starting for the lights for this or that. Even when I went to take this picture. Even though I had taken out the tripod so that I could take a no-flash picture in low light without blur, I still went for the light. We never turned it on though, and we had a great time. After the 9:00 hour had passed, we kept the lights out for a bit and just talked. We talked about school and choices, and about what the kids thought about the Earth Hour experiment. They had a great time and are wanting to do it more often. I suggested doing it at least once a month, but they thought once a week would be better. We'll see I guess, but either way we'll certainly do it again.

We also talked about what it must've been like before electricity, and I got to thinking. Wouldn't this type of exercise get us more prepared for events like blackouts or unexpected catastrophes? It's similar to the idea of living for a week or month from food storage to get a better idea of the things you don't think about, and makes obvious the areas where you are lacking in skill.

Did any of you also participate in the Earth Hour 2008 event? If so I'd love to hear what you did, and what you thought of it.

Till tomorrow.

March 27, 2008

What the? (That didn't work)

What the heck? Are they alien Spider Legs? Are they mutant man-eating worms? What are these fuzzy pinkish spine covered beasts??
Yeah your right, Their just really funky potatoes.
In case you don't remember, or have just joined me recently, I was testing the storage potential of our basement storage area over this winter and I guess you could say it didn't work out so well. We bought these "storage" potatoes in mid to late October, and wanted to test how they would do over the winter before trying to do this at a larger scale. The things I worried about were two fold; light and temperature. We regularly need to access the cold storage, so the lights are turned on often.
Also, after placing a thermometer in there, I found that the temperature stays at the high end of the 40 to 50 Deg F range. This is a warmer than I have read that potatoes like to stay in.
You may also be able to tell from the picture that these were a type of red potato, not the typical russets that are stored for longer lengths of time, that may also have played into the sprouting.
We're thinking of building ourselves some sort of in-ground storage option for this winter; something for storing potatoes and other root crops, but that's a long way away from now. I've shared a lot of success's with you, I guess I've been overdue for a new challenge. Note: I didn't say failure, that would imply defeat and I'll have none of that.

Finally I thought I'd leave you with this particularly funky tater. What shall we call him, Mr. Potato-Pinhead? Darth Tater? Call em whatever you like, one things for sure... He won't be getting called "dinner".

March 26, 2008

2008 Garden Activity Journal

In an effort to share my progress in the garden this year, I added a new section to the right side tool bar, appropriately just below the 100 foot diet logo. The new section is called the 2008 Garden Activity Journal. I have listed the name of the edible plants that I have put in the ground so far, and the dates that they were planted. I also placed "NEW" next to the few of them that are first time additions to the garden; there will be more NEW additions to come for sure.

My wife and I also talked about taking a page from the Path to Freedom play book and keeping a record of the number of lbs of food we are able to produce at home. I'll create some sort of banner for this to also go in the toolbar. Has any one else thought about doing that for this growing season, or have you done it in the past? I thought I might call it something like "Weighing in for change" or "Weighing in for choice". Any ideas?

Have a great day all.


March 24, 2008

new seeds, birkenstocks and chickens

Oh yeah, and a wife giving me a ration of crap about turning into a hippie. I reminded her that I was born in the great north woods of Sweden, and grew up barefoot on the beaches of Southern California, so yeah, I've been a little bit hippie since birth OK?! Just because these are really the only kind of sandals that I like other than my crocs, and no they're not really Birkenstock's those damn things are way to pricey, doesn't necessarily mean that I'm a hippie. I just think my post from yesterday went to her head and she's giving me a hard time.
With Spring in full blast and cool weather plants getting put into the ground, I discovered that I didn't have a couple of the seed packets that I thought that I did; in the case of the radishes I did have the packet, just no seeds in it. Oops. I still need to get another load of compost for the beds, and should be able to get that in and add the greens to it this weekend, weather permitting of course.

The chicks are five weeks old today and are now fully feathered for the most part. It's been a while since I shared some pics of the boys and girls so I thought this would be a fitting milestone.

This was the scene tonight when I snuck up to take a picture of them all nestled together peacefully. Very cute, just laying all over each other. They're just like our boys when they were little, let em sleep together and it just turns into a mound.
This is what happens when a strange arm suddenly slips into the coup unannounced and clicks a picture of them. They all run to be the furthest back in the corner until they figure out what's happening. That big Leghorn pullet in the front is the one I call "Big Mama", I have high hopes for that one, look at them egg laying hips. :) I have to say also that I'll miss those barred rocks in the next couple of weeks after they fatten a little and get moved to the freezer. For any of you out there looking for a very friendly bird. I adamantly suggest you try out this breed. They are on the whole the most friendly birds I've seen. I secretly hope that one of them ends up accidentally being a hen so I can keep her, but as I said from the beginning, we're pretty pragmatic about them, if our ordinances don't allow us to keep cockerels then, well, you know.

Hope all of your little chicks out there are doing as well as mine have. I know a few people that ordered from McMurray hatchery had had some problems with illness. Mine were from Ideal poultry and have generally been pretty healthy apart from the two Minorca chicks that we got. Both of them got the same illness and died before two weeks. Oh well, you live you learn.


March 23, 2008

2008 Garden update

After church this afternoon, we came home and spent a pretty relaxing most of the afternoon around the house. The kids of course ran right outside to skateboard and I, of course, off to deal with some gardening. I planted a bunch of seed that had germinated into some re-used 6 pack planters that I held over from last year. If you buy perennials, don't just rip the containers apart, you can keep them for the next years plantings. They nest inside each other too so they take up very little space.

The existing garden that is being held over from last year consists of 6 raised beds and part of the back property line planter bed. Together this all totalled 282 sqFt. This year we are increasing this by prepping and using a formerly unused area next to back of the house, as well as by using the remaining piece of the back property line planter bed. The total sqFt being added is 112, bringing the total of dedicated planting beds to 394 sqFt (78.8 sqFt per person.) This is for the dedicated planting beds. In addition to these, we will be planting other edibles around the decorative beds in the front yard as well. This is a pretty big deal here in suburbia, but I think our neighbors have gotten in the habit of stopping by when they see us in the yard to see what new stuff we have going on around the house, so I hate to disappoint.(we do not have a fenced yard and we are on a corner lot so it's pretty regular to see us in the yard.) To the front yard beds we plan to add all of our edible/aromatic herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender etc. as well as some new garden items that should work well in the front such as tall flowering okra, edible flowers such as Johnny jump-ups, pansies and nasturtiums and we plan to add some "tufts" of carrots here and there to fill in the gaps with their greenery and who knows, maybe surprise a neighbor kid with a summer carrot from the front yard. (By the way, neighbor kids are a great way to break the ice about talking gardening and home food production. You'd be surprised at how excited moms get seeing their kids excited about eating veggies.)

Tonight I got a few cool season plants into the ground. I planted a 4-pack of cabbage that I picked up at the nursery late last week on a whim, I don't know if they'll make it or not based on the weather swings, but I have some seeds sprouting indoors that certainly will. I also planted a few rows of beets, some head and romaine lettuce, a single row of arugula (rocket) and sowed some mesclun under the A-framed pea trellises I talked about a couple of days ago. The idea with that is that right now while the peas are just sprouting, the weather is cool enough to let the mesclun get full sun. Later when the peas have grown up the trellising, they will leave just enough shaded area under them to keep the tender greens shaded and cool. It's another hunch, I'll keep you posted.

Finally I wanted to state something just for the record. My wife, although a excellent homemaker, chef, baker, etc, etc, is not particularly big on the outside. More particularly she just doesn't like dirt. This is of course the polar opposite to me who on any given day has some form of dirt wedged under my nails or in my shoes, or in my hair (what hair I have that is.) by the end of the day. She does her best and to her credit is always right there with me working her butt off, wearing elbow length gloves, to make our goals a reality outside. She just doesn't love it like I do. Anyway, that said, I have to say that she is one of the main reasons for us having a successful garden at all. I am a dreamer, a planner, an envisioner extraordinaire; but a "get on with it and get it done" type... not so much. This is where we compliment each other. She'll drive me nuts with her lists, and schedules and her "HONEY, you have to get this done if we're going to ____." but you know what? That's what gets the job done. If it wasn't for her ability to see the big picture, I'd never get things planted in time, I'd forget to water for a couple of days or who knows what else. I wanted to get that out there for the record. This year looks to be shaping up to be a great summer, and likely it'll be because she got me moving when I was slacking about.
(Oh man, I'm gonna hear about that admission forever.)

Happy Easter

I just wanted to take a minute to wish all of you reading, a happy Easter. I'll be going to church with my family tomorrow, and then spending time around the house, working in the yard, planting some sprouts and trying to finalize my chicken coop plans. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful day with your families and loved ones and that the spring sun shines on you all day.
Till tomorrow.

March 21, 2008

outsourced compost

Although I do actively produce compost at home, and it is of very good quality, I simply can't make enough of it to bring my very clay rich, soil to the level and quality that I want it to be at. Because of this I have, over the last couple of years, taken to buying compost from our local waste management facility. i.e. "The Dump". I did this last weekend, and wanted to share it with

you sooner but with being sick most of the week, I just hadn't gotten around to it. You can see I was kinda running against the weather clock here. Luckily I got up at a decent hour and got an early start, but even at that, the weather was coming down the mountains so I had to get going.
Now when I said I got the compost from the dump, some of you probably cringed, however, the facility and the quality of the compost that I've received from here is, I have to say, very high. Above you can see the pile of the sort of green waste that is collected. Gardeners, lawn care, tree trimmers and such dump their "waste" here under constant supervision. Anything inappropriate is removed and only compostables are allowed to be processed.
Throughout the summer and winter, long (100+ yard) piles of compost 5 feet high are lain out and mechanically turned and watered with agricultural sprinklers to maintain optimum moisture and temperature conditions. This facility also produces three different grades of mulch, from essentially chipped and shredded wood. I've used this before, also with good results. But today, compost was the order of the day. If you click on the picture for a larger image of it, you'll see that I am only paying $20.00 per yard, a VERY good price, (The mulch is only $5.00 per yard.) and a yard is a healthy amount of compost. They are figuring about 1600lbs with it as wet as it is right now. You can see the dump bucket below, it basically fills the bed of my truck.
After getting it home and waiting till the next morning, (That's weather in Utah, snowing one day, and blue skies and clear the next) my backyard neighbor let me back up into his yard to dump the compost straight out of the back and into my back garden bed (Below). I was pulling some weeds at the time, but with the help of my strapping young boys and the lure of a couple of dollars, I got the compost unloaded and the garden prepped. At least part of it.
Below is the area I've chosen to plant my peas in this year. I'm trying a new technique this year; it's trellising, but with a twist. Rather than just go straight up and have my peas in a row, I decided to try something new to optimize the planting area. You may be able to see that the steel trellising is not vertical, but A-framed.
The theory is that when the peas get to a point where they are reaching the top of an A-frame, I can either add another A-frame on top between two frames (Like a pyramid), or simply run some twine between the frames and let the peas run on them. It's a new theory, so we'll see how it works. I'll detail my thoughts on this more in a later post.

Well, that's how I outsource my compost. Do any of you have similar things available to you?

March 20, 2008

What to do when your home sick

So I've been home sick for most of the week. I'm a pansy first off. I'm alright admitting it, I am, I rarely get sick so when I do I just don't deal well with it. I broke both bones in my arm skateboarding a year and a half ago, that I could deal with just fine but being sick, not so much. So what do I do, besides mope around and complain? Well, as I mentioned previously, we have a theater in the basement. The one or two times a year that I'm actually sick, I lay around down there and just watch all the movies that I can't watch normally because my wife doesn't want too, or their "inappropriate" for our kids.

This particular bout with "The Crud" comes at a most inopportune time, planting season. So since time, tide and spring sprouting waits for no man, even a sick one, we got our seeds planted and/or sprouting. A~ basically steered the ship, since I was kinda in the Duh zone with not eating and antihistamines and all, but we got our first phase finished. I had hoped to get them planted a week ago, but things kept getting in the way. So now, sick and all, we got down to it.

It looks like I'll head into the office tomorrow, at least for a while, since I am feeling a bit more like myself, and I do have a couple of good things I wanted to post for you. So I'll try to get those out this weekend.
Thanks to everyone on their well wishes, and their patience. More tomorrow.

March 18, 2008

It finally caught up with me.

Being sick that is. It's been going around the house and I've finally gotten it. So tonight, nothing new. Sorry.
I'll be back as soon as possible.

March 17, 2008


Sorry to all of you who read this by feed. I just had to post the Cycles post about 5 times, because the #*)@%^*@#) preview is not an accurate preview and the formatting was all jacked up. I have issues with things looking all sloppy and so had to fix it. Sorry again for the rss spamming.



Spring is coming, or it's here, depending on your perspective. I guess it's kind of a glass half full / half empty kind of thing. Any way you look at it, things are changing.

To the left is a sorry looking dead bunch of sticks that was once a very full and very pretty snapdragon. Why is it still in the yard? Because those pretty flowers, when not dead headed toward the end of the year, will dry up and do their natural thing; go to seed and propagate. In fact this particular snapdragon is the second generation as it is. In fact there's another one just around the corner where we had never planted a snapdragon before.

Here's another favorite waking up for the season. Can you name it? Did you guess Honeysuckle? Before long, the kids will be sitting on the porch swing, sucking on fistfulls of these and leaving Mom and Dad to sweep em up, can't say I blame them though, (or that they're the only ones to ever do it.)

Here we have another little volunteer. This is a columbine that we planted our first summer here, three years ago. This flower has only one flush of blooms each season and after every one I let the plant go to seed. It's not the most attractive thing in the world I guess, but it's the cycle of things. It's the way it's meant to be.

And last but not least, everyone has their favorites, and here's one of mine, Daffodils. I can't help it, ever since I saw that kid having tea from a tulip and then eat it on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", I've loved em. They come up early every year, give us a big ole splash of color and, well heck they just make me smile.

It's fun to watch the cycles come around. Enjoy this time, it is fleeting and before long it'll be full blown summer, and though that brings many gifts of it's own, there's just something special about Spring.

St. Patriks Day

No, I didn't spell it wrong. That's how it goes in our house.
Notice a little something in that clover? Maybe you've been around here long enough to remember last year. Saint Patties day around our house is a kind of hybrid holiday. I personally, never wear green. Why? Well, let's just say I had a rough time today when I was growing up. Our kids of course do, and we all say Happy St Patrik's day, but honestly, it's more like Valentines day. Today's the day I met my wife. We didn't fall in love right away. Or perhaps we did, but couldn't really do anything about it. Either way, this day changed both of our lives. It was fitting really, A~'s heritage is Irish, and guess you could say my name is pretty closely associated with this day.
So now it's like our unofficial anniversary, but still official enough to not take too much effort to come up with a reason to hang out with her all day. 9 years already and still no one I'd rather spend an afternoon with.
Happy St. Patriks Day.

March 16, 2008

Michael Pollans Lecture

Thursday of last week I had the pleasure of getting to go a keynote speech by Michael Pollan in "The nature of Things 2008" lecture series that was being put on by the Utah Museum of Natural History. I read his most popular work "The Omnivores Dilemma" last year, and am currently in the midst of reading his latest work; "In Defense of Food : An eaters manifesto"
I went into the event hoping that it wouldn't be merely a rehash of the same lines from his books, and that I would get a better idea of the man, and his opinions. I was not disappointed. Of course a lot of the big points of the lecture were the same ones that he drives home in his writing, but there were a lot of details that you can really only get from having a face to face, or should I say face to capacity crowd, discussion. At the end of the lecture was a Q & A session that gave him the opportunity to expand on some of the detail points, as well as to let more of his personality come out.
As I alluded, the crowd if not sold out was very very close to it, and this was in a facility with a max capacity 2,768. As I sat there and listened, one of the common things he mentioned is that there is a real food movement going on across America. I really felt a part of it that night. In fact it was one of the first times recently that I haven't felt like the oddball in the room for making my own yogurt or raising chickens in my suburban lot.
After the lecture I had the good fortune to have brought my edition of "The Omnivores Dilemma" and to be able to get in a line right at the start to get it signed. He scribed "Vote with your fork". Mr Pollan was a very sincere person, and genuinely seems happy to be doing what he is doing. This picture was snapped just after he finished signing my book. (Please forgive the quality it was taken on a cell phone.)
This brings me to a very good point of the lecture. He kept mentioning that phrase, "Vote with your Fork." What a concept. Think about it. What if more and more people decide to opt out of the industrial food chain and produce more of their own food. What kind of sway could a thousand or a hundred thousand or even a million people have? This thing that so many of us do; this food production at home thing. It is truly the greatest act of rebellion. We are not merely complaining about a problem, we are actively actuating a solution to it. That really is living "A Posse ad Esse", or moving "From Possibility to Reality." Keep it Up!

March 14, 2008

100ft diet update

This post was a little late getting put up as I got sidetracked telling My Story of Food last week. This was one of the meals that we had last week. I loved it, and wanted to share. I think I raved enough about A~'s homemade buns last week to her that she made them again this week. They really are so good. It's no wonder shy our kids look at us funny when they get store bought once and a while. We're spoiled. Onto these she made a vegetarian Sloppy joeesque filling. I bought some TVP a little while back so that we could experiment with it and see how we liked it. She's really gotten to like making homemade meals with it much better than some of the pre-made vegetarian products out there.
Onto this I put some of my homegrown sprouts and voila, tasty meal. Now does it really qualify as a 100 ft diet meal since neither the flour nor the TVP are from my back yard? No, probably not to the purist, but I look at this as an excersise in producing as much of our own food as possible. Do we do that all the time, no. Do we a couple times a week, yes. Is it progress, definitely yes.

I hope as we share our progress and lives with each other, we keep in mind that we're all on a journey, some are further than others, but none of us is perfect. In fact what may be perfect to one would likely not be to another. I haven't heard anyone nit-picking or anything, at least with regard to "the 100ft Diet", but I think we've all seen it before with other such collaborations. To build a community, we all have to be a bit flexible with what others are willing to do, and encouraging of the things that they DO do.
I wanted to let everyone know I've been really enjoying getting to read some of your post as well. With the garden season just kicking in for many of us, and lots of people getting an early start, it looks like we'll all have lots to share in the upcoming months. Plus I'm really looking forward to the 100footdiet.org site launch on the first day of Spring next week.


My story of food - IV

Tonight was the lecture with Michael Pollan, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most recently In Defense of Food; the lecture was great, but more on that to come later. In the spirit of this I decided Monday to take a look at my own "Story of Food" throughout the week; to illustrate how I was influenced and how I have changed and grown.
So I had decided to get myself healthier, but what did that mean? I didn't want to get caught up in the diet cycle that so many people have, but if the food was what had made me gain weight then what choice did I have? Well what if it wasn't necessarily the food? What if it was me? What if my outlook on food was the problem? I had to come to terms with what my way of looking at food meant and how I could change it to affect the change that I was looking for.
For so long a period while I was on my own my diet was one of fast food or at best processed and refined foods, with few quality, healthy, home cooked meals, that when I started getting these delicious meals daily, I just stuffed myself. It was the first time since I was an adult that I had regular, complete and tasty meals and I made the best of it. That was my outlook on food, if it's good, eat as much as I can. I had not yet read Michael Pollans books, but I had accomplished the first of his three instructions to a healthy diet; "Eat Food". It was indeed food, but the next instruction is "Not too Much", that one needed a little work.
Armed with this insight to my diet, I decided to train myself to eat until I was full. But what do I mean? I thought I was going to try to eat less right? I did. I ate until I was full and not until I was satisfied, there's a big difference. I enjoyed the delicious meal, but just because there was some left, didn't mean I needed to eat it. Instruction two, learned.
Over the last few years, one of the other things that I have been working on, was learning to garden. I love to grow things, and growing a small garden for some extra veggies just seemed like a no-brainer. Well now I decided to ramp it up to true food production levels. It gave me the opportunity to begin eating more plant foods like salads, greens, zucchinis and tomatoes. Then A~ surprised me yet again. It seems that the heavy stuff like gravies and fried food wasn't all there was to her food traditions at all. As our garden matured and the harvests came in, she taught me how to put up food for the winter. Pickling and preserving, we put up beans and cucumbers and she showed me a relish-like mix called chow chow. We've also made plum and blackberry jam and baked and frozen zucchini bread to name a few others.
As the year progressed and my awareness of my diet and my connection to food grew, it seemed like for every step I made, A~ was right on pace with me as well. Somewhere along the road she began making even more of our foods right at home. She began a traditional sourdough start, made all of our breads, and has utterly spoiled us for desserts.
Today my story of food is a love story. I love to explore it and enjoy it with my kids and my wife, I love to share my passion for it with my friends and neighbors and most of all I love the connection and traditions that it brings to our home.
I have no misconceptions that my story of food is nowhere near completed, I hope you'll keep joining me as I discover it.
Happy eating
"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants"
~Michael Pollan

March 12, 2008

My story of food - III

Tomorrow Michael Pollan, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most recently In Defense of Food, will be in Salt Lake City to speak on… surprise… food. Or more to the point, what we eat and how we eat it. In that spirit I decided Monday to take a look at my own "Story of Food"; how I was influenced and how I have changed and grown.

Feast after Famine
Yesterday I told you about a couple of later influences in my food history and about how drastically that changed when I was on my own. I spent a lot of years essentially in a food purgatory. In 1999 I met my soul mate (and just for the record, I don't throw that phrase around lightly.) But the food drought wasn't over yet. There were a couple of very lean years after we first got together. My good job of the last 3 years had been jettisoned because I had had to relocate and the work that I could get, was barely above minimum wage. We lived on little, received food assistance from our church, and at one point needed to store food in the snowbank for a while because we had no refrigerator. In March 2001, just as we were getting settled into a routine, providence shined on us and I fell into the position that I am in today. My income more than doubled overnight, and before long we were eating like kings (or at least it seemed that way from where we had come).
I mentioned A~ being from West Virginia and having a strong food tradition of her own, well that tradition combined with her skills in the kitchen and desire to feed people had many upsides. Delicious brown beans and cornbread, Biscuits and gravy with fried eggs, sweet potato pie; all of which I had had at least limited exposure to at some point, but had never had made like these. One down side, I also quickly learned, was that the secret of such mouth watering delights was bacon grease, sugar, shortening and huge portions . I don't have a problem with using bacon grease for some things, and there's really no other way to make proper biscuits and gravy if you ask me, but my fathers entire side of the family has a long history of heart disease and now that I was finally happy with my life I wanted to be around to enjoy it for a while. Long story short, after nearly six years of the dietary equivalent of reckless abandon, I had grown to approx 220+ lbs from my previous all time high of 153. Mind you I worked physically a lot through the latter years, and a lot of that gain was in new muscle, but much was what one of my coworkers likes to call "table muscle". This brings me to last year.
One of my new years resolution for last year was to begin to get myself healthier. It was the first time in my life that the prospect of a diet was looming before me, and I didn't really know what to do about it.
Tomorrow is Michael Pollans lecture and I'll take that cue to wrap up this Story of Food with how a shift of perspective and some good advice lead to unforeseen changes.
~~For those of you that read this through a reader of some sort, I appologize for the duplicate post.~~

potting prep

Well folks, If I'm going to get anything from the backyard for my 100 ft diet this year I need to get my sprouts going, and first things first, it's time to get the potting soil ready. I build a pretty basic potting soil, nothing fancy or gimmicky, just good water holding materials like peat and vermiculite, and some dark rich homemade compost. This is the compost that I finished in September last year, I placed it in a 30 gallon tote with holes on the sides for air and drainage, and covered it with a wide piece of plywood to protect it from getting snowed on over the winter. It over-wintered well, and now is dark and rich and truly lives up to the moniker "Black Gold." I want to try to slowly move away from peat whenever possible since learning more about it and how unsustainable it is. For now, however, the peat that I am using this spring is what was leftover from last year, as is the vermiculite. I hope to be able to eventually find a good source for coir fibre to use in it's place, but thus far have only managed to find it in small quantities.
I mix all three parts together, using equal parts of peat and compost. For the vermiculite, I am adding slightly more that an equal third. This is because I will be primarily using this mix for starting seeds and as such want to encourage moisture retention in the short term. Our seedlings have a tendency to dry out when they start to fill in a bit, both because of the small amount of grow medium they are in, as well as because of Utah's naturally dry weather.

Whatever mix is left after I start all my plants, will get added components to bring the mix to an equal 3rd's proportion and will be used for some of our potted plants. Last year our petunias did much much better in this mix than they did the previous two years in miracle grow potting soil. And it was much cheaper!Try making your own, your plants will love it, you'll save some $$, and learn a solid gardening skill. Good luck will everyones sprouting.


March 11, 2008

My story of food - II

This week Michael Pollan, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most recently In Defense of Food, will be in Salt Lake City to speak on… surprise… food. Or more to the point, what we eat and how we eat it. In that spirit I decided yesterday to take a look at my own "Story of Food"; how I was influenced and how I have changed and grown.

On my own
I'd had the benefit at twenty years old to have had some pretty interesting exposures to food through not only my family influences, but through the jobs I had held thus far. I worked at a Jack in the Box restaurant and at more pizza joints that I care to admit and I can't say they left a positive legacy to me, but there were a few others that did.
One of the last pizza places that I worked at was Milano's Pizza, a small, family run pizza place with a pie that was sooo good. I learned that pizza, though a simple food and often rightly lumped together with fast food, can be instead a very healthy, fresh and delicious meal. I learned to form dough by hand by rolling the dough balls, (a very handy skill when baking NY Times no knead bread by the way.) and then to toss a crust and use only fresh ingredients.
After my first year in college I was invited to study abroad at the University of London for a semester, a food journey to itself, but that's another story. I was fortunate enough to have parents that were able to help me take advantage of this opportunity, and that were also grounded enough to attach the condition to it that I had to save a $1000.00 toward the trip before they would. To earn this I worked in another small family run business near my home, "The French Gourmet". The Barabas family, a Hungarian single mother and her two grown children, ran what was essentially an up scale coffee shop that was an offshoot of an established restaurant. I worked as a combination barista, cook, dishwasher, host, waiter and assistant manager and I loved every day there. I learned how to make a traditional vinaigrette from scratch, mastered the art of cooking the french omelet and baked and assembled fresh fruit tarts. This is also where I learned to cook the Ratatouille, that I shared with you last summer. I think I can pinpoint many of the roots of my love affair with food to this job.
So there I was in my early twenties with a passion and rich tradition for good food. I was married with a young child and serving in the military, how much of that food knowledge do you think mattered one iota? You guessed it, not a bunch. We pay our service members far too little, in effect to the degree that they are little more than the working poor in many cases. Food became not tradition or pleasure, it was instead a utility. We ate the basics; milk, beef, chicken and some veggies. But far too often it was taco bell, or microwave burritos with a heaping helping of processed snacks and soda. This was the norm for most of the next 10 years.
In 1999 after a long coming separation. I met my soul mate and current wife. The food drought was over, almost. She's a city girl raised in Utah, but was born in West (by God) Virginia and has deep food traditions of her own.
More tomorrow. Hope your enjoying it so far.

March 10, 2008

My story of food - I

This week Michael Pollan, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most recently In Defense of Food, will be in Salt Lake City to speak on… surprise… food. Or more to the point, what we eat and how we eat it. I bought a ticket to see him, (I have to admit that $10.00 is very reasonable I think.) and am looking forward to it very much. For any of you in Salt Lake area, he was also interviewed live on KUER this morning on the RadioWest show. I’m didn't get this post up in time for anyone to get to the interview in time to hear it, but you should be able to access the recorded show HERE, I have no doubt it will be on some interest to many of you.
I thought since I’ll no doubt be thinking quite a bit about food this week, not to mention trying to finish In Defense of Food (which I’ve been whittling away at since the beginning of the year) before the lecture, that I would spend the next couple of days focusing on the story of food in my life. It’s not a fantastic voyage mind you, and I’m no Michael Pollan, but I think it’s good to look back to gain perspective and if nothing else to define the road we’re on and where we think it’s going.

Earliest Memories
My earliest memories of food are both vague and distinct at the same time. My Mother grew up in Sweden and I was born there. Though I came to the U.S. when I was only two months old many of the foods we ate came from that tradition. My Fathers family was Spanish, French and American Indian and their foods reflected the southwest diet roots where they had come from; beans, tortillas, chiles etc. Quite a range huh? It made for some pretty interesting eating.
I remember "pit i pana"; I don't know if I'm spelling it correctly, but it's pronounced Pitt-E-Punna, and I would guess it probably means something like "whatever the heck happens to be in the refrigerator". My mom would make it once and a while and I always remember loving it. Fried, sliced potatoes with some fried ham or hotdogs, sliced beets and I'm sure some other things I'm forgetting, then add a couple of fried eggs on top for good measure. Almost like a skillet breakfast, but with beets. Of course there were the obligatory swedish meatballs and pancakes, but one of the things I remember most was her "Mexican Food". I quote that name, because that was and is what the food was known as. It was basically an enchilada in that it was a flour tortilla with the red sauce, but it had ground beef, scrambled eggs, cheese and black olives inside. I have no idea where she got the recipe, but it's still a must eat whenever moms around.
My Grandparents also left some major impressions while I grew up. I remember my Morfar (Swedish for Mothers Father.) sitting at the kitchen table eating potatoes that he grew. Every meal, breakfast lunch or dinner, seemed to include small new potatoes that he would hold on his fork and deftly peel with a knife and his thumb. He had two gardens as I remember, one at home and one at the summer house both with nothing but potatoes, or at least it seemed that way. Fish was important too. He spoke little to no english and I spoke as much Swedish, but we both spoke fish. My Grandma, on my fathers side, set the standard when I was a kid for homemade torillas, beans and chile. She also introduced me to homemade bread, and a dish called SOS or S**t on the Shingle. I was about 6 so I just called it poop on the shingle and wouldn't eat it, just to be safe. Grandpa left his mark around the same age, when he let me watch as he slaughtered a goat. It was something I've never forgotten it, and have forever had an appreciation of where our food comes from.
I guess you could say I really never had a choice when it came to having an appreciation for food, although my sister did a pretty good job of it when she was young. In addition to my family, I had friends who were Iranian, Jewish, German; all of whom shared their traditions with me as well. All of this went into making my pallete what it is. It gave me a love for food, and a cursory appreciation for what it took to produce it. From there I was on my own, I left home at 18, was married and supporting a family by 20, and food changed to a much different role. More on that path tomorrow.

March 7, 2008

DIY for dogs

I like to try to take a little extra time to make things myself when I can. Every Christmas for instance, I make some kind of wooden toy for my kids. It's just something I do because I love them and it's become a tradition. I make things for my wife and our home too. The latest such thing was the bookcases that I finished last week. I do this, of course because I love my wife, but also because it allows us to have things that we may not otherwise be able to afford, and because it increases our self reliance. Why should our pets be any different?
Look at that face; he's been going crazy because it's warming up and he's getting spring fever too. We haven't been able to let him out much because his old collar broke and if he's not on a lead and we don't watch him all the time, well, let's just say he likes to wonder. So I decided to make him a new collar. I made the last one as a prototype, and he seemed to like it. He didn't scratch at it nearly as often, I think because it didn't have the big adjustable buckle that the store bought one's have. I used a nylon string that will stay cleaner, and should wear a little better than the cotton one that I made the last one out of.
If you've never tried macrame, try picking up a book at the library and giving it a shot. I taught myself this basic little knot set when I was in high school and have used it a few times for things. This was a perfect match.
After I got halfway through the collar, I made a loop and wrapped it with some finer nylon string, (actually it's cheap fly line backing material from the fishing section at the store.) this will act as the connection point for the lead, and again, will decrease annoyance because it's softer than metal. After the whole thing was done, I attached a button with the end pieces of the center portion of the string, and made a loop out of the other end. his I wrapped too, just for durability.
Now look, isn't that better? I made this last night, and he was outside today, very much happier. It doesn't matter what it is, when you make it yourself it always means so much more. You get a sense of accomplishment and pride, even from silly little things like a dog collar. Don't be afraid to try, what's the worst that could happen? Just start small until you gain confidence.

March 6, 2008

Big Congratulations to K~

K~ won first place for his entry in the 5th grade science fair!!

I cannot tell you how proud I am. K~ came up with this project on his own, decided how he wanted to test it, and really had a passion for it all the way through.

The best I can figure, the seed for this project was planted last year when we accidently found an earth sheltered home a couple of towns over; he was fascinated with the idea of why people would build homes covered earth. He wanted to find out in this experiment which home might use less energy and would "Protect the earth better." I helped him to build two identicle homes out of hardboard and MDF, and then he covered one of them in a way similar to a typical earth sheltered home.

After the homes were built, we tested them by taking a base temperature and then putting them under a heat lamp and taking measurements at 1 and 2 hours both inside and outside the homes. We found that the earth sheltered home inside increased to 53% of what the outside temperature was, but the standard house increased to 61% of what the outside temperature was. In other words, even though the earth sheltered home's temperature had a greater gain, the inside maintained a more even temperature throughout the test. This is one of the reasons that this type of home is considered to be one of the most eneergy efficient types of homes that can be built.

Anyway, all details to the side, K~ did an awesome job, and made me very proud. I like to hope that I had a bit of influence in his interests, but I certainly had a great time helping him with the project either way. He's already thinking about improving the project for next year; one teacher that was over the fair singled K~ out to tell him that with a little bit of effort, next year he could easily take this project to the regional competition.

Happy Blogiversary. (1 year)

One year ago today I decided to convert what was basically a practice blog on myspace to a full fledged, as often as I can post, blog. I guess I didn't realize how much I would enjoy it, but I do a great deal. I look forward every day to checking in to see who came to visit and where in the world from. I get such a kick out of all of the comments and input that I am blessed to receive from all of you.

I didn't plan a specific identity for this blog, and really didn't have too much direction in mind for it other than the fact that I wanted to make a concerted effort to focus on all of the positive things in my life, and in the world around me. As I did this, it was like a sea change in myself. One thing led to another, one change compounded onto another. The journey was on, and so it goes today.

Today, I look at almost everything I do in a new perspective; a writers perspective. When I take on a new challenge, I want to share it with others; not just to document my life, but hopefully to inspire or instruct. I sometimes get an almost guilty feeling when I know I haven't posted anything for a couple of days, because I've been either busy or just have nothing to say, and I know the same people have checked in a couple of times. I feel responsible to you for some kind of relevant commentary yet at the same time it is primarily for myself that I blog in the first place. It's an odd dichotomy.

This year, I hope to bring more useful information to you. I want to continue to focus on my families progression to a more self sufficient and sustainable life, and share with you our experiences growing food and raising our backyard poultry. I'll of course document all of my DIY efforts and creative re-purposing and hope to be able to branch out into some more traditional forms of publishing. (i.e. print media.)

I hope those of you that have been with me for most of this last year will keep stopping by, and invite those of you who may have just found me to lurk around a while if you like, or better yet, drop me line with a comment or question and let's get some dialogue going. So that said, Here's to a great first year and, hopefully, many more!


March 4, 2008

Local Seeds.

Well, local company anyway. After all the catalog shopping that I've been doing, I was at our neighborhood farm supply store and found that they stock garden seeds distributed from a local company; Mountain Valley Seed Inc (MVS). I called the company to see if I could get any information about their business and their products, a nice part about having the company local, and actually got a hold of a real person!

While we talked, I found out that MVS carries primarily open pollinated seeds that can be kept for seeds storage and also goes to great effort to make sure that they identify the few seeds that are hybrids. They even carry an interesting product, Storage seeds, that are all open pollinated and packed in individual hermetically sealed packaging and then sealed in a hermetically sealed #10 can. These are estimated to last around eight yrs in storage from what I gather.

I was really excited to find a company that I could go to to not only support open pollinated, non-hybrid seeds, but also to support a local company and the jobs that go with it at the same time. A~ and I went to the farm store last night after work and stocked up on a bunch of the seeds that we are going to be needing this year. I hope to be able to get out and get some peas and early season greens (Collard, lettuce, broccoli) into the ground before the end of the weekend. My neighbors are looking at me a little odd when I tell them I've already been out prepping the beds, but like last year, they may be scratching their heads wondering why I have peas already??

Life is the cocoa...

I received the following brief story as an email from a co-worker today and thought I’d pass it on. It makes a very good point, one that I think so many people never quite get.


A group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion, and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups - porcelain, glass, crystal -some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - and telling them to help themselves.

When they all had a cup in hand, the professor said:


“Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that you're drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the cocoa. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups . . . and then you began eyeing each others cups. Now consider this, life is the cocoa; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the cocoa that has been provided for us. The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have. “                                


So, live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly. . .

and enjoy your cocoa.


I couldn’t agree more. I hope you all enjoy your day… oh yeah, and your cocoa J.


March 3, 2008

Over Winter Carrots / Chicken Condo

I told you the other day that I had been able to pull something besides old dead plants from the garden beds on Saturday, here they are; Sweet Baby Carrots. I read somewhere last year that you can store carrots right in the ground. I take pretty much everything that I learn with a grain of salt, at least that is until I can test it and learn from it myself. So that being said, last fall I sowed a couple of small rows of carrots into one of my garden beds. They grew well through the early fall, and then slowed and finally went dormant around mid November when the cold got here. I left them in the ground until this Saturday when I went through the beds to prep them for the upcoming plantings.

What I had read was that over wintering carrots in the ground helps the sugars to farm better and can actually give them better flavor that spring planted ones. I have to say YES. I AGREE! They are small mind you, the longest ones are around 6 inches long but what a flavor bang. I will definitely be doing this again, and with a little mulching and care, I should be able to get 100 ft diet carrots throughout next winter. Yeah! I love it when an experiment yields good results. (On a side note, I also tested overwintering carrots that were grown in a large round traditional planter (18"wide x 20" tall) This did not work. I think they got too cold and wet over winter because they all were soft and mushy, not at all edible.)

To your right you'll see another new addition this weekend; the "Chicken Condo". The chooks were starting to get to about triple the size that they were when we got them, and they needed some new digs. That, and I needed to find a way of raising the lamp up higher to ween them from it slowly. So into the stash of Dell boxes I go again and here you we are, two stories of duct taped, carboard, poultry luxury! Now they have plenty of space to roam around and I've bought myself a bit more time until I have to have the coop finished. This is a good thing since A~ keeps reiterating the "I want the coop to look nice. Your gonna make it look nice right?" mantra. But hey, have I let her down yet?
No need to answer that Honey;-)

March 1, 2008

Hands in the dirt / Utah Weather

I was finally able to get my hands in the ground today as it turned out to be nearly the warmest day of the year. I "stoked" the compost pile with some grass clippings that I saved from the last mowing of last year, some coffee grounds from Starbucks and some chipped up straw. I want to get it cooking again so I can have it finished by May and add it to the beds for the main planting that goes on around Mothers day. Also, I had gotten most of the plants out of the ground at the end of the growing season last year, but there were a few leftovers that were still in the ground around the beginning of December last year when everything got covered with snow and I never had a chance to get them out.

I was able to get into all 6 raised beds. I pulled the greens that were left in them and turned all of the soil over to allow it to get deep hydration and some air in there before I plant the early season stuff in them. I pulled some other stuff out too, but I'll post on that tomorrow.

I also was able to get my four dwarf and semi dwarf fruit trees (apple, pear and two cherry trees.) pruned. I usually get out to prune the trees a little earlier in the season, but this is the first chance that I've had. I didn't cut too much on the trees this year, just the basics of thinning and selecting branches. I hope to transplant the trees next year to a better location. Currently they're at the south end of our yard and regularly get in the way of the boys playing in the yard, or get messed with by the neighborhood kids since they sit right along the unfenced end of the yard near the sidewalk. I want to move them to our other unfenced area of the yard that is between ours and our neighbors yard and begin training them in the espalier method. I think it'd look nice, conserve space, and make a nice natural break between out yards; this would also reduce the ugliness of the vinyl fence that will no doubt be put up between us eventually. (Don't get me started on those.)

Last but not least. Right after I had finished in the yard, the wind began to kick up. I finished cleaning up and went in side and took the picture on the left. Not fifteen minutes later and the rain started. Here's what it looked like a half hour after that. Utah weather... Don't like it, wait a minute.