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~

December 30, 2008

2008...finished, 2009 Here we come!!

So we're nearly done with another year... how did it go?

List of 2008 years goals.
• My goal for personal health this year is to get to 190 lbs consistently. I want to get to this goal by June 1st. At this time I want to begin exercising more vigorously to increase my muscle tone.Well, this one went well to begin with but finished off pretty weak. I made a good point in the beginning of the year to get on the stationary bike and got myself in good shape to ride to work, which I did. Late in the summer, though I had a few things get in the way, and had a long cold that kept me from riding and from there it pretty well went down the tubes. I'm still lighter that I had started at, but not at my goal of 190.

• I want to start phasing out more meat in my diet. I am not planning on going fully vegetarian, I love meat too much, but I have over the last year realized that I feel more healthy and full of energy when I eat a mostly vegetable diet. I'd like to get to a point where all the meats that I do eat, either come from local producers, or that are meat or fish that I harvest myself. I think I will be much happier and healthier, eating really good meat once in a while rather than poor quality meat regularly.I think I did pretty well on this. I do still eat meat regularly, but we've really integrated a lot of different things like TVP, grains and such. Still have work to do on it, but progress has been made.

• For my garden this year, I want to really get a head start on it. I want to prepare early and get a good start so that I am able to get a good early season crop. I also want to make an effort to plant things that I can over winter, such as potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, squash and onions. I made available a good bit of space in the yard this fall and I want to make sure that I use it.Did really well on this I think! I was able to get a lot of early cool season crops of lettuces, peas and cabbages in and added a few new ones like kohlrabi

• I want to begin moving my garden towards having more open pollinated and heirloom varieties and to begin a seed bank for myself to save seed from one year to the next..Once again, I feel pretty good about this one. I managed to save seed from four tomato varieties, radishes, coriander, basil and carrots. It's a start and I'm happy with it so far.

• Another thing that I want to start doing is recycling. I know I know, I should be already, but it's not readily available to us, and we haven't been making the effort other than when we have a bunch of cardboard..This has made a huge difference in our home. We set up a small pale in the kitchen that we collected all of our recyclable materials in and I regularly dropped them off at my office. A welcome side effect of this, that should have been expected, was that our trash can was rarely full through the year. There was a noticeable difference in our waste stream; a welcome site!

Food production totals for 2008:
This year A~ and I set ourselves a goal that, although we didn't advertise it, was to reach 500 lbs of food grown in our garden. I'm very proud to say that that goal was exceeded! Our final, end of year total for homegrown produce was........drum roll please...... 521 pounds!! And that's not counting the eggs. Even though our girls didn't start producing until July 12th, they blessed us with 771 eggs through today's collection. It still amazed me how fast they add up. I forgot to mention so I'll add it now, but I did a little experiment from Nov 12 - Dec 13th. I didn't mean for it to end up as exactly one month, rather to test how long one bag of our feed would last through the winter when the chooks are eating a lot and it is primarily feed based. I wanted to see what kind of egg production I got with little to no additional lighting and during the short daylight hours. The result was 135 eggs in 31 days. That translates to 11.25dozen or approx. $33.75 (based on $3.00/doz) to a $13.00 bag of feed. Good return for a slow production period, but I digress...

So then, what to do for 2009? I have a lot of things that I want to do, some reruns from 2008 and some new goals for 2009. Let's run 'em down...

List of 2009 goals.
•I want to basically redo my personal health goal for this year. I got close and, honestly, I think I can do better.
•A~ and I have a lot of garden goals for this year. We have already added quite a few feet of new garden area in the form of the lasagna beds this fall and we want to add another whole section to the front side yard as well. All in all we're hoping to be able to triple our harvest this year and shoot for 1500 pounds.
•What to do with 1500 pounds of food? Well, we hope to also increase again the amount of food that we put up and preserve throughout the season. We're also hoping to be able to participate in our local farmers market, to at least a small degree, and met a woman from a local women's shelter that would be more than happy to take any extras that we have throughout the season. We both agree that finding ways that we can give back to our community is a goal worth making!
•Finally, as I mentioned in a previous posting, I will be participating in the Master Gardeners course this year. Besides that being the realization of a longstanding goal of mine, I want to parlay that into even more community activity. This year I want to again host a beginning gardening course, but even more than that, I want to begin laying the foundations for a community garden in my home town of Syracuse UT. There will be more to come on this so stay tuned.

Another thing, although not really a goal per se, is with regard to blogging and writing in general. I was able to realize this year that when I put my mind to it, I'm a pretty good writer. I've been honored to be invited to write for a couple of other venues and look forward to doing that this year. Perhaps I'll even have the opportunity to make a small income from it this year as well. I also have some ideas that I'm working toward for this blog. Nothing concrete yet, so again...stay tuned for more.

I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone that's stuck with me this year, and wish a very warm welcome to those who've just found me. I look forward to a great new year with all of you, building community, sharing information and finding all the possibilities in life.

Happy new year all, and God bless.

December 26, 2008

A wonderful Christmas

Hi everyone...remember me? It was a wonderful Christmas for our family, I hope all of yours was as well.

I was able to get home a little early from work on Thursday the 24th and put a few finishing touches on the boys gifts. Yeah, I said gifts, plural. I was feeling pretty ambitious this year so instead of just the rubber band guns, that came out really well I might add, I also made some glass wine bottle guitar slides for them to play on their guitars with as well as some wall mounts to hold them, and for my little "drummer boy" a practice pad for him to pound on in his room. (The walls and his bed frame need a break please!) As I mentioned previously, I also made A~'s gift this year. I couldn't give it away last week, but I can now. It was a only a picture frame, but a very special one. It's made out of a couple of pieces of wood from a beaver dam that we hiked up to last summer in the Uinta mountains here in UT.I think she was really happy with it! And speaking of our handmade gifts, she managed to surprise me too. That hat that I showed off last week, the cool knitted one with the ear flaps... that was for me and I didn't even know it. The sneaky woman had me try it on to see how it would fit our oldest son and it was really for me. I didn't see it coming.

Another great part of this particular Christmas was that it was one of the few truly "white Christmas's" in a long time. Truly, because it snowed all day and then we got a good old fashion blowing and drifting snowstorm that night. Take a peak why don't ya... I took a pretty good video of it, but blogger seems to not like letting me put up videos for some reason?

I've been managing to spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend, so although my post have been lacking severely, you're really not missing anything. I've started really formulating what my goals are going to be for next year, and am getting ready to really kick into gear for 2009. Have you been thinking about it yourself? got any big ideas? I'd love to hear em.
All the best everyone!

December 22, 2008

Checking in~

I'm off running around checking in a commenting on a lot of blogs that I enjoy reading. Sometimes I get so caught up with my goals or what I'm up to that I get off track with showing my support to the many other wonderful bloggers out there. If I don't get to yours tonight, I promise to drop in more often. I do read many of your blogs on a daily basis, it's just getting the time to get out of reader and leave comments that escapes me.

I so appreciate all the comments I get here, and honestly have been feeling a bit guilty that I haven't been reciprocating as often. Forgive me please...

Catch you all tomorrow.

December 21, 2008

This and That

Ever been so busy that you don't know if you'll have time to finish anything, and yet when you try to talk (read blog) about it, you really don't have much to say. Well that's me lately.

I spent most of this weekend in the garage working on finishing up the gifts for my boys and also managed to get one built for A~. We decided this year that we wouldn't buy anything for each other but instead would go all home made as far as the two of us. I have to say, I did really good and I think she'll be really happy Christmas morning when she opens it and finds the....well, she does read this blog everyday, I'll have to wait until the 26th to tell you about it.

While I was out checking the chickens yesterday I saw this beautifully delicate little frost-lace on a piece of glass and ran in to take a picture of it.
Life is about stopping to enjoy the miracles after all... what better way that a fleeting piece of natural beauty right?

This little guy (sorry for the blurry photo) was perched on our porch on Friday evening when I got home from work. No too sure he was getting the beauty of it all, but he's more than welcome to keep hiding out on our covered porch as long as he'd like.
A~'s been busy too, check this stuff out! The boys have been asking for that kind of hat for a while so she popped into the store, studied the way the hats were put together and came back and replicated them. I'm telling you they are sooo well made! The kids will love em. (I'm hoping for one too...Hint hint:-)I do have one really awesome piece of news though, and it has to do with the letter below.
That's a letter from out local University extension office announcing the starting date for this years Master Gardener Course. We, A~ and I that is, put our name on the list to be notified when the class was being put together and now we've sent our registration. Starting on the 21st of January we'll be taking the course together twice a week.

This is one of those things that we've both talked about wanting to do for the last five or six years but never had things line up just right. We decided that like most things that are important, if you don't MAKE it a priority, it just never happens. This is a step that we're taking in order to help us get to the next level, both in out own garden, but also in our community. It will help me to offer better information when I teach classes locally, and may lend a little more credibility to other projects that I have in mind as well. More on those to come in the future.

That's about all I've got today. With any luck I can catch up with some of my other writing obligations soon as well.
Till later then...

December 18, 2008

Solstice garden mapping

A little while back I mentioned in a post about my chickens egg laying habits and mentioned a site that could help you determine your daylight lengths. It's also great for learning your local sunrise and sunset times and angle of the sun to the earth at solar noon. (You can find the site here)

This weekend on the 21st, at least in the northern hemisphere, is the winter solstice. That means it will be the shortest day of the year for us. Take a look at this chart and you'll see what I mean: So what's the big deal? Nothing tremendous, but it does offer an opportunity to do something that I've been thinking about for some time. Begin my backyard garden solar mapping. Now solar mapping is the term that I've decided to give this process, so googling it may not return anything about it, but I think it is an apt name for what I hope to accomplish.

Being that the Winter solstice is the lowest that the sun will sit in our horizon for the entire year and that it will provide us with the least opportunity for solar gain in the garden, what I am planning to do is to take some measurements, some pictures and some notes that I can then add to my garden journal binder as a point of reference for the future. I've learned that the more information that I have about the particular micro climates that I have in my garden and when and where the sun hits the earth, the better decision I can make about what kind of plants that I can plant in that part of the yard at different parts of the year.
Another great tool that I have found was on wundergound.com where, after a little clicking and searching by zip code, I was able to find the calendar shown above. It shows the weather for a full month at a glance. You can view on one page what the actual temperature is in a particular city in the US as well as information about what the weather was like for the year before.

This is another great tool for the home gardener to have at their disposal and I'll be printing and including this calendar in my garden journal as well for quick reference throughout next year.

The weather may not be letting me plant and prepare, but after a month of no growing I'm starting to feel that itch that hits me at the beginning of the year to start thinking about next year. I guess I will manage to hold it off for another couple of weeks. Hope the holidays are coming together well for you all.

All the best!

December 15, 2008


Who doesn't love a good Holiday tradition? Somehow they just sort of grow on us don't they? I've always gotten a laugh every year as the boys decorated our Christmas tree. Every year we've been able to track their growth by the band of decorations that appeared spontaneously. Years ago, we had a very bottom heavy tree as the boys were only 3 or 4 feet tall. A couple more years and the strip of decorations moved up a little bit at a time as they grew.

Look at them now...reaching almost to the top!
And that, is another tradition. As the Dad of the house, or at least because for a couple of more years at least, (months more likely.) I am the tallest in the house and have the honor of placing this beauty on the tree. I say beauty in the most sarcastic tone available to the writen word, but truth be told...she's grown on me.
A~'s had this angel since she was a littl girl and it made it's way to our family. It's part of the tradition, the things that are constant from year to year. The things we look forward to.
And when we speak of looking forward to things, can you say Christmas cookies??? Oh yeah...I can! These are one of those special, delicate, tasty treats that I only get for the holidays. Just once a year. I mean we own the iron that makes them, and the recipe is pretty simple from what I've seen, but still only once a year. And THAT is what makes them soooo special. And of course more than anything else, time. We try to not wait until the holidays to make it a point to spend time together, but we all know how easy it can be to let life sneak up on us. What better excuse can you think of to spend time together in the cold, with hot chocolate and a camera than lights and Christmas displays.

A neighboring town has this beautiful display that, although we haven't made it there in a couple of years, we all really enjoyed it and will be coming back again for sure.
So there you go, a peek into our traditions, at least a couple of them. They do seem to sneak up and cling to us, and in doing so somehow help to define us. They are what we remember, what our kids will look back to as they define their own traditions in the future, and what we'll get to pass on to our grandkids one day. But those things are a ways down the road, for now, I think I'll just take another look at that middle heavy tree, snack on a cookie and have a great Christmas 2008. I hope you do too!

Being that it's going to be a busy season for everyone, us included, I thought I'd give you the heads up that I may be a bit sporadic through the rest of the month. I have a lot of projects and such that I need to wrap up before the new year, and there's only so many hours. All the best, till next time.

December 13, 2008

It's a wonderful life...now live it!

I've seen this entry on a couple of the blogs I read, and thought it was pretty interesting. There are a few things that i think I'd add to it, but it's a pretty good list if you ask me.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (Not really at sea, but out in the Pacific sitting on a surfboard...pretty close I'd say!)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language I taught myself a little arabic before my second deployment there.)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book - One Day!!!
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible - Working on it...
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - ugh...I put my foot in...That's close enough for me...it stinks!!
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Now, if I'm counting right, I've done 60 of these 99 things. Not too darn shabby I'd say. A lot of them I have to give credit to my parents for. They made it a point to make sure that my sister and I were able to get out and see the world.

I think that bigger point of looking at a list like this is that we really have a lot of opportunities in this life. Take every chance you can to embrace them fully.
Have a great weekend.

December 11, 2008

Seed savers 2008

Ever kept your own seeds? I haven't. Until this year that is. I'm not keeping a lot of them, certainly not from everything that I grew, but this will definitely be the first year that I have made a conscious effort to have kept some of them.

There's some concern out there that this may be the year that we start to see some shortages in seeds at least on a consumer level. Sharon Astyk wrote a good piece on it this morning that is well worth the read. Shortage possibilities have not been my catalyst in wanting to start seed saving as much as it has just been an added benefit, but I do remember this years nurseries and the shortages of starts that I was so shocked to see and honestly I wouldn't be surprised to see some shortages affecting select areas.

One of the more interesting seeds that I am saving this year are my tomatoes. The seeds aren't necessarily so interesting as is the way you get them out of that gelatinous muck that they come in. What I did, was to process some of the end of season tomatoes and just squeezed that seed gel out into a separate container. I did this for each species of seed that I wanted to keep, pictured are the brandywine, hamson and cherry and made sure to label them immediately, it's amazing how much the seeds look alike out of the tomato.

After you get them out of the tomato and into their separate containers, you just cover with some plastic wrap, poke a hole in the top and let them sit for a week. It will get a little funky, possibly even moldy, but that's OK.
What's happening now is that they are fermenting. Just like making pickles softens cucumbers, so to does fermenting the tomato seeds. It breaks down the gel around them, and it can them be removed easily. I put mine into a strainer and ran cool water over them while stirring with my finger. The gel easily washed away leaving me some clean seed.
I didn't get a picture of it, but what I did next was to place the seeds between two paper towels, spread them out, and press down to get as much water as possible away. I then scraped them onto another couple of paper towels and pressed again. I left this together to dry for a couple of days and then scraped off into small containers and am storing them in my refrigerator. It's important to get as much water off of the seeds as soon as you wash them so that they don't decide to germinate while they dry. You probably also want to dry them in a cool place rather than a warm one.

In addition to the tomatoes seen here, I am also saving seed from San Marzano's, radishes, parsley, cilantro (coriander) and carrots that I can think of. It's not big stuff, but it's a start. As with all things like this, you can't just jump right in and be an expert. It takes steps and experience and that's what I'm working toward. What kind of seeds are you saving? Any secrets to share.
All the best...

December 10, 2008

We need to talk...

I've got a question, actually a few questions, that have been stuck in my head and I just can't seem to find an answer to them so I want to hear your opinions. As far as I can tell, some people are for it, and some are against it, I tend to the former, but am wondering if I am missing something.

So what's got me so puzzled? Ad's, banners, potential revenue streams and the opposition to such. What's the deal with them as far as blogs are concerned? I know that some people that read this blog - and you know who you are - place banners and adSense links on their blogs and I have no problem with that. Others have Etsy accounts where they peddle their crafts or photos and such and I also have no problem with that either. Other blogs I've read, are seemingly adamant in having no such "corporate" advertising on their blogs; there's one campaign that even allows the author to declare such through a banner of their own.

As said, I don't have any issues either way other than when the ads are so prevalent that they take away from the content of the site or if they are "hidden links" (The kind that look like they are a link to another article or more information relevant to the blog, but are really just ads), but I do wonder why there has become such a seemingly common distaste for allowing alternate revenue streams to be gained through the blog format?

Many of you are familiar with the issues that have just faced one of our own due to the downturn in the economy and issues with the bank. I'm not going to go into it, If you know you know, if you don't you don't, she's a friend of mine and it's not my place to go posting it all over the web. My point is, this is a person that has a huge amount of knowledge and practical experience that people all over the world (presumably) have an interest in accessing. She offers this information to the world for nothing. There are no "fees" or "memberships" required to access her knowledge base, just a web address. I agree that this is how it should be, but can see no reason that she should not be able to at the very least attempt to gain some revenue through Ads that may relate to the information on her page, or though specifically chosen advertising's for companies that she believes in.

I am, as I have said many times, a free-market sort of guy. I also believe that we have an obligation to give of ourselves and of our experience freely to help others, but don't agree that that service to others precludes us from being able to also use one of our greatest assets to our benefit either. What's your opinion on it? Make me understand. I don't have ads, banners or shops on my blog, but can't say that I've never thought of it and may still, in the future, decide to include something like that. Would that devalue the information or opinions that I write? Someday I'd like to be at a place where I am able to write, not for a living necessarily, but certainly for additional income. Where's the difference between a hobby and a "side job". If I decided to charge for the gardening class that I offered for free last year would that have made me a bad guy? (BTW local readers... no plans for that OK, settle down...) Where's the line?

I want your opinions. whether your a regular reader, or someone that just popped in. If you had linked here and I had ads, banners or shops in the sidebar would it have changed your opinion of the blog? Have you ever quit a regular read because they decided to include them. Or perhaps your an author. What's your experience been with them. Why did you decide to go that way?

Thanks in advance for helping me resolve this. I've debated over an over whether to even address it or not, the logic being that it's my blog and I'll do whatever I want with it if that's something I decide to do. The thing is, the more I think about it, it's not just my blog anymore. Oh sure I'm the author, designer, photographer, etc, etc. and at the end of the day I make the decisions, but I get as much from you as I offer to you and I want your thoughts on this.
Thanks all.

Still kicking...but for how long?

Yeah the cold weather experiment is earning it's name this year. It's currently December 9th..well 10th I guess since I'm up late, and I still have stuff growing in the garden. I fabricated a pretty rudimentary hoop house a couple of weeks ago, and the kohlrabi I have under it has actually been doing fairly OK. Here's a peek "under the hood" so to speak. That's The kohlrabi in the foreground and the Swiss Chard in the back. So, as I said, you can see it's doing pretty good. I left the top off for a couple of hours the other day when I took these pictures and I do have to say that the plants did not seem to like that at all. When I went back to tuck them in for the evening, they had begun to droop just a little. They were find the next day though.

Here's a peek at one of the curious "enlarged stems" that are the best part of the kohlrabi plant. That's my hand for size comparison. They aren't getting huge, that's for sure, but I think if I had hooped them up sooner, they would have. Next year. Geez I wish I had a dollar for every time I've ever said that!
Up against the house is the other patch. I don't have it hoop housed at all, but I think that the house itself is keeping these things warm. This bed has my spinach and beets in it. These'll be coming out this week for dinner. I can't wait, we haven't had any greens since they stopped growing. Oh and take a peek at the one odd plant in the middle of the spinach...see it there, the one with the big leaves? It's a Romaine that decided to pop up, and has been doing great! I pull leaves off it once and a while for sandwiches. Tastes great!
I can't say that the winter garden has been a boon or anything, but I've learned a good bit about growing in the fall by doing it since it is just now getting to be really wintry. Tonight we're expecting some real cold to settle in. 28 deg or so, from what I understand. It's not Canadian cold or anything, but it should give these greens a bit of sweet.

That's about it for me tonight folks. A~'s got a pneumonia and has been out of commission for a couple of days, and I'm just plain tuckered. All the best to you all.
Till the morrow. (Don't you just love that kind of old timey talkin'!)

December 8, 2008

I don't know what to say???

Ever just have one of those times in life that just kind of leave you speechless? The kind of thing that you never really saw coming, but is welcomed heartily when it does? Well, obviously I'm not entirely speechless (I rarely am...), hence the post tonight, but I am flattered tremendously. A fellow blogger and Freedom Gardener, Andrew Stone, posted a write-up on my blog tonight that honestly just embarrassed me for it's complimentary nature. Thanks Andrew so much.

When I began writing this blog, just under two years ago, it was something I didn't quite understand to be honest. I mean yeah, I understood that it was a free repository for the written word, but I didn't understand the power for change in my own life that it could hold. Even more surprising to me is the influence that it could become to others. I began it as a way for me to, more than anything else, get my thoughts out of my head and to document them somewhere. I found that as I did they began to jell more clearly into not just random ideas but into much more, they started to redefine who I was. Actually not even redefine so much as to just put before me a clear picture of what I wanted, believed, enjoyed and strived for. Sometimes I think we get caught up in who we think we are and holding a virtual mirror up to myself helped me to see who I really was.

I found a voice I didn't know I had, and surprisingly to me, that there were people willing to listen to that voice. I don't know how to say it without sounding like I'm tooting my own horn, but when people email me from all over the world to ask questions or say thank you for "inspiring them", I just swell up. I enjoy it soooo much! I thought a lot about becoming a teacher in a past life, and doing this lets me live that just a little.

Well, enough of that for now. Why not drop into Andrews blog and give him a read. He's another Utahan, and has a really good site.

Till tomorrow.

December 7, 2008

A handmade tradition

When A~ and I got together, it seems everything went wrong. We were both separated from previous marriages, had three kids living with us and another in WA state. I had had to leave my job of the last three years and we lived in a home that my father owned that I moved into because the series of previous tenants had trashed the place. It was the home that my father had grown up in. I was able to get some work here and there, some handyman stuff on the side and we made ends meet but not without a lot of goodwill I assure you. When December started getting closer and we tried to scrape together what we could for our kids there just wasn't a lot to scrape. We painted white an old display shelf from a 7-11 store that had sides that were shaped like beer bottles to make into a "toy storage shelf", picked up some small stuff at a dollar store, some garage sale clothes and not much more.

The thing the boys were most into at that time was Hercules (The cartoon movie). They would make almost anything into a sword and do battle with Hades and the Titans for hours it seemed. I had some scrap pieces of plywood laying around that year as well as some carpet that we had had to tear out of a back room. I cut the plywood, fastened some strips of carpet onto the back and painted them white with their initial on the front. Now, they had shields to protect them in their quests. I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I was kind of embarrassed that year when the boys woke up to our little Christmas. There was really so little for them to open, but they didn't see it that way. In their innocence they cheered and played and loved everything! Amber and I sat on our bed - we didn't even have a usable bedroom, for our first year together we had a fold out couch from the thrift store in the living room - and watched them checking everything out and playing with it all. They loved the shields. They never even asked until much later if we had made them.

Eventually I got good work, we could afford more and our meager Christmas's grew. A couple of years ago, just after moving to our new home, A~ and I were looking through old pictures with the boys and talking about that first Christmas together. It made me think, would they still...could they still... enjoy something handmade? I decided it couldn't hurt, and decided to make them swords with the leftover oak flooring we had left from out kitchen floors.Those swords became a labor of love four years ago, that's one up above. They loved them, and still play with them very regularly (Even the thirteen year old, but don't tell anyone...) Then next year I did it again, with knives for them. I know they're all weapons but hey, these are boys after all, it is what it is. I wasn't sure after two years whether to keep it up. Our oldest was nearing 13 and I hadn't heard a word about me making anything, until about a month before Christmas that is. While we were hanging decorations, shortly after Thanksgiving, one of the boys mentioned that they needed to leave space in the tree for Dad. Let me explain, I always placed the things I had made IN the tree, here and there. Well I had my cue, it was time to get moving. I came up with the bow and again, they loved them.

So, what's a dad to do? How can I stop now? It seems that somehow along the way, I started a tradition. Some little piece of that first meager Christmas got held over. This year, it's rubber band guns. They have wanted them for years, albeit only when they see them at fairs and festivals for $10.00 a piece, but nonetheless, they've wanted them and this is the year!Enter Santa's workshop! Files and rasps, saws and vices, all the tools of a handmade tradition. I try to think of something for them that I can make with things I already have on hand. I think in some ways it helps to remind me of that first year when that was all I had at all! These will be loved, of that I have no doubt, and even if they grow out of them in a year I know they'll remember them long after Wii's or anything else they could get.
So every night I spend the evening in the workshop. I get lost in the work, imagining how they'll ambush each other on the stairs and have major battles in the backyard or maybe just some tin can target practice. I remember the embarrassment I had felt that first year and honestly I am so so thankful for it now. It has become a year that I look back to fondly every year; one of my favorites. That year I learned a lesson that I fear so many people have missed through no fault of their own, and that is the power of connection. I am connected to these toys. My love and my caring are embedded deep in them and the boys will get to have that with them forever.

This year we're all a little more stretched than we've probably been in years. Many of our friends and family are out of work and are wondering "What kind of Christmas will it be?" Take a minute if you can, maybe a few a night, and try making something this year for someone you love. It doesn't have to be elaborate, it might just be a card, but it will have that connection. That, more than anything, is what I think we all really want the most. Whether we know it or not.

Peace to you all.

December 6, 2008

Backyard Chicken readers.

Hey there! Glad you stopped by. I just noticed that a local friend of mine has been vying for the position of advertising manager and had unsolicitedly plugging my blog over on the Backyard chickens forum. Thanks Scooby!!

Just thought I'd take a quick second tonight to say hi, welcome you and invite you to search around. There's quite a bit of hennery going on around here. Perhaps more to come soon...(teasing..)

I'll be writing agin later this weekend. If you've got anything your curious about let me know.

December 4, 2008

What do you think?

I was thinking to myself yesterday, as I checked in on the news about the potential bailout...err credit availability and liquidity security measures (my words, not theirs.) that are pending approval of the Congress currently, what would happen if they didn't bail them out?

Let me first say that this is a thought process, not an opinion piece. I haven't made up my mind on this whole thing yet, whether I think it's a good idea or not that is. My first instinct tells me to say no, don't do it. I believe in the power of the free-market and that it can correct itself and fill a vacuum when it exists. If a business doesn't manage itself well or provide a product that is in demand, it goes away. But can a single industry be so integral to a nation's survival that allowing it to dissolve would surely doom the nation itself to mass economic suffering or would it's failure merely set the nation on a new and different path - one that could benefit it in the long run?

As I said, I don't have the answers, I won't even pretend that I do, but I do have some ideas that I'm trying to weigh as I come to grips with things. For instance, let's say the big 3 don't get the billions they are asking for. Now we have potentially a million people out of work, what do they do? What did people in that part of the country do before cars came along? Could they potentially fill the labor shortage we keep hearing about? You know, the one that warrants all of the undocumented laborers coming into the country because "no-one else will do these jobs." Maybe. And maybe with that kind of mass labor pool available to us, we could start to get some of our farms in that part of the world producing actual food, since one of the big arguments against sustainable agriculture is that it takes too much labor to do.

But would they be able to live in such a way? Are we headed for a deflationary spiral, that's what the Great Depression was thought of as, where the cost of goods will "reset" itself to a low enough level that a person could live respectably on less? Or perhaps the changes and challenges facing us will bring us through to a new place, where we don't think we need as much to feel like we're living respectably?

Another thought, the one that really ruffles my feathers, is that even though I, as previously mentioned, believe in the free-market I don't know how long I can continue it? Is it still free? I mean have we gotten to a point where politicians need so much money to get into position that the only way they can get it is by getting in bed with big corporations which by default makes them beholden to them later? How skewed are the rules when the bigger a corporation is, the more it is potentially able to get bailed out by the gov? Mom and pop don't get bailed out if they can't compete with Big box "X". How is that free market?

What's your opinion of these bailouts, both past and potential? I'm still agnostic on them. There's too much to take into consideration. I guess I'm just glad to have a good job, and to have a great bunch of "sounding boards" like you all out there...

I guess I've rambled on enough for one night... till next time.

December 2, 2008

EGGS - The Natural Way

A~ and I raise chickens in our backyard and, although we have had occasion to kill, process and consume a couple of our "extra" birds (Roosters that came for free with our mail order hens.), we don't raise them for that purpose. What we do raise them for, is eggs. So as we began to move into the colder winter months of the year, we had an issue confronting us and needed to make a decision. Natural or artificial?

What I'm talking about is whether or not we wanted to provide our birds with artificial light in order to ensure that they continue to pump out eggs like clock work similar to, yet on a smaller scale than, the way commercial producers do or whether we wanted to let them have a bit of an off season, time to re-coop. (Pun intended.) After we talked about it and gave it some thought, we both agreed to a sort of trial period. What we're doing is not providing any artificial light, for the time being, but we may yet do it before the end of the winter. We're not trying to just be indecisive. What we are doing, is following much the same philosophy that we do with most everything that we do around here. Take it step by step, see what happens and adjust as necessary to keep the birds healthy, and maintain our egg supply.

Here's our thought process. First off, we don't raise the chickens for pets. Yes we love them and they're fun to watch and all, but primarily they are for food production, green waste disposal and manure generation; food doesn't get purchased for them for no return after all. That said, we also try to maintain a fairly natural order of things around here; organic veggies, compost, and natural pest control for instance. Because of that we thought we owed it to them to at least give them the opportunity to "slow down" for a season, while still maintaining a minimum number of egg production. I believe that there is a reason that the birds will naturally slow down with their egg production in the winter time. It is a part of their physiology, and pushing them beyond that is likely to reduce not only their lifespans but I believe their long term productivity as well.

So far, I have to say, so good. We have 9 chickens total, and although we are no where near their regular 7 or 8 eggs a day that we got during the summer months, we are still averaging about 4 a day. Our drop dead number was exactly that, 4. What I mean is, when we decided to let them have their "down time" we set 4 as our minimum daily number of eggs that we were willing to accept before introducing artificial lighting. We've had a couple of 3 a days, but not enough to worry about in my opinion, so for now, their still on staycation.

One of the things that instigated me to make this post was a post on another blog, one of my favorites, the Tiny Farm Blog. There, the Tiny Farm Blogger, posted that he wondered what would happen with his birds if the day light hours dropped below the recommended 14 hours for even a single day? So I looked into it, just how long are our day currently? Turns out, quite a bit less that that. Today for instance was set to only be a 9h-26m-21s day. That 5 hours less! Even better news was that the shortest day of the year for us is set to hit in just 18 days, Dec 21st. So we're nearly half way through the short daylight part of the season!! We may just make it.

What do you do with your chooks if you raise them? The natural way, or artificial? Ever tried it without light? Let me know, I'm curious. I'll keep you posted on my experiment as well. Oh yeah, and in case your in UT and want to see the daylight hours and such, check here. Not to ignore my non-Utahan readers, you can find your city by searching here.
Till next time.

* * * NEWSFLASH * * *

Get this... We're in a recession ! ! !

OK, OK, I know I'm not breaking any big surprises to anyone today but yes, in case you haven't heard, Yesterday the National Bureau of Economic Research officially declared us as having been in a recession since December 2007, and as if to dot the i's and cross the proverbial t's, the Stock market tanked today to the tune of 679.95 pts (7.70%). I'm not an economist, nor am I any matter of expert on these things, but it seems to me that the times aren't necessarily getting a lot smoother.

I thought I'd share a very good read that I found today. Many of you may have already read it, but I thought it was worth the read anyway.

Why I'm not worried about inflation, at least for a good while yet
~Sharon Astyk

I have to wonder at these times what kind of different things we should be doing, we of course meaning the "powers that be", that we're not doing. during the Depression of the thirties, they encountered problems that never could have been foreseen previous to that time. What are the glitches in the current methodology that we can't see coming? Oil, energy, food security? A failure in any one of those could be catastrophic I fear. I know a lot of folks out there think people like my wife and I are a bit "extravagant" or "eccentric" in our desire to produce food, and to simplify the way we do things day to day but you know what, I'll keep trying to share my ideas with them nonetheless. I guess I'm just an idealist in that way. I believe that knowledge is power, and I'm willing to share what I know liberally.

Hmmm, this has turned out to be a bit of a rambler of a post hasn't it? I guess I can't be brilliant and witty all the time huh?
In the event that you want to read a few more coherent sentences from me, I just posted a couple of new entries on my other venues today too.
Check them out:

Grit Magazine User blogs: HERE
Simple Green Frugal Blog: HERE

Till tomorrow.