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~

June 29, 2008

Life is good

Sometimes, you just have to stop and say to yourself. "Self, you lead a pretty darn good life." Yesterday was one of those times.After a long afternoon working in the garden building some long overdue trellis systems for my beans and cukes, I came in to dinner and this little bit of homemade goodness. Mom, you asked what we did with the (now over 14) pounds of strawberries? Well, of course we have frozen a good bit of them for later, but this is just one of the treats of the season, and a reason that I bother to grow food. Homemade strawberry ice cream. Fresh cream, sugar, strawberries and a touch of vanilla, whatya know, ingredients I can pronounce! All credit to A~ on this one, I didn't even know she was making it until I came in a was presented with a taste.

And as for the trellises, well I have to say I'm pretty happy with how they turned out.
This one is for beans that I have planted in the middle. I want to train to grow out slightly so that I can reach them. As always, we'll see how it works and adjust next year.
And here's the updated view of the whole raised bed section.

June 27, 2008

2008 Garden update - June 26

OK this will be a quick one. I just wanted to document the harvest from tonight because there were a couple of firsts. Of course there was more strawberries Tonight was just under 2 lbs. I seem to have underestimated their production for the year. Tonight I re-tallied them and am already over 14 1/4 lbs and still harvesting. So much for 12 lbs huh? But who's complaining? Not I! I also pulled 2 lbs of shelling peas tonight. After shelling they were just under 1 lb and oh man how sweet they are!
On the pea front I also got a few of the sugar snaps tonight. I've harvested these one other time so far this season, but really they are just now coming on. I should get a bunch more this weekend. Anyone ever freeze these? Advice? I would hate to freeze some and have them be terrible when I take them out.
And tonight's firsts... TaDa! Carrot, beet and potatoes. And the story behind them is this...
The carrots, I pulled because I noticed a slight rust forming on the leaves and didn't want it to spread, so I pulled them and was surprised at their size already. The beet was a surprise to me too. I didn't think that they were that ready to be pulled. I was pulling a weed from the patch, and sat the top of the beet peaking out and realized it was a good sized one so I of course had to pull it. Again, I need advice from you, my "master mind group", on ways to serve fresh beets. I love the greens sauteed, or in a salad, but I have little experience with cooking them. I can find some recipes I'm sure, but hey, you all are easily as well versed as anywhere I would search so I thought I'd inquire.
Now, the potatoes. I have been noticing a slowly developing blight on some of the potato plants that I have in the pots. I didn't know if the plants were healthy below ground, dry or wet, or if they were even beginning to develop potatoes at all. So... I dumped the worst looking pot and checked it out. The soil in the pot seemed to be a bit hard although seeming perfectly damp. Maybe I'll take some pics of them either tomorrow or Saturday and see if any of you potato growers have any suggestions.
Hope all your gardens are doing well, as well as yourselves and your families.
Till tomorrow.

June 25, 2008

Putting-up and making it yourself

OK folks, this is a long one so get comfortable. This weekend was a busy one around the house. We headed over to our local you-pick-it farm and picked ourselves 8 lbs of strawberries on Saturday morning. Yes I just talked about how many strawberries I've been getting from the garden, but were enjoying those fresh, or freezing them for later. These were picked at their peak of ripeness especially to be made into Jam. Below you can see that we also picked up some imported fruit as well.These two cases of Raspberries were something that we just stumbled on while at a local grocer later that afternoon. These cases contained 12 of the normal size containers and cost a mere 10.00 / case. You just can't pass up a good deal like that when your trying to stretch a dollar. First we smashed the fruit up to a pulverized consistency but not pureed. It's good to have some bits of fruit still in the finished product.
I pointed out to my son about half way through the process how much sugar is in each batch. 7 cups!!! Now maybe he'll understand why I cut him off on the jam once and a while. )He could live on it, I swear.) After adding pectin and cooking the fruit, we added the sugar and again cooked it for a little while longer. A~ and I worked together on this of course (we're such a team!) so one of us would be prepping and sterilizing jars while the other was filling some or cleaning utensils.
Here's the set up as we had it going Sunday afternoon. The Steel pot in the back was going for both sterilizing jars, and for extra water to top off the water bath after adding the filled jars. The large black pot is the water bath and other pot is cooking jam. We had a pretty good system set up I have to say, but that's not hard with a great partner. And finally, the finished products. 8pt. Strawberry, 8pt. Raspberry, 4pt. Strawberry-Raspberry. These will go a long way to keeping us in Jams for the year. There will be more, mind you, Blackberry and a little thing we named tombstone jelly, but more on that at a later date.
Here they are, from the left, Strawberry, Strawberry-Raspberry, and Raspberry.
So, now that those are done, what's a guy to do on a weekend afternoon when he already has sterilizing water going and the kitchen is already ablaze? Well he makes yogurt of course!!

I don't use a machine, I use very basic tools, but I've never had a bad batch yet, and it always comes out as the thickest almost custardy consistency. I have however read many peoples recounting of very difficult times doing this, and more often than not quiting and moving to a machine. So I figured I'd detail the way I do it and maybe help someone out.
I start with the basics,
1/2 gal whole milk (This is the first time that I actually even used store bought milk. The other times I have made this was out of milk that had been reconstituted from powdered milk. I did this as an exercise to establish the fact that it could be done if the need arose, and honestly I can't really tell a difference.)
1 cup dry powdered milk (You can use less, if you prefer a thinner consistency.)
2 tbsp Vanilla
8-12 tbsp sweetener (To taste really, I used 10 tbsp of splenda because it dissolves very well but I have heard that you could use honey or sugar too.)
Live yogurt culture. (This time I used Yogourmet cultures 2 packets. In the past I used some frozen plain yogurt that I kept from a good quality yogurt from the store. Of the yogurt I used enough to equal about a cup of starter. Note: when using a frozen culture, take it out a little while before you start to let it defrost. DO NOT microwave it to defrost, you will kill the culture.)

First I add the milk to a good stainless steel pot with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is important to keep from burning your milk. I heat it over medium high until it gets close to 180 F. When it nears this, I turn down to medium to keep from boiling it. monitor the temp, and don't let it go too much beyond 180 for a couple of minutes. (You can help keep it from burning or over-heating by stirring it while it is at max temp and watching the thermometer.)
While the milk is getting up to temperature, I fill the sink with water and ice to create an ice bath for the milk pot. After the milk has reached 180 and maintained it for a short time, I remove it from the heat and place the whole pot into the water bath to cool it quickly. This isn't necessary, but the milk needs to get down to between 125 and 130 F. If you don't cool it down enough, you will just sterilize the culture and will not get a good set on your yogurt. The other thing to do either before you start, or while the milk is heating or cooling, is to gather your additional ingredients. Once your milk cools to near the 125 to 130 mark, you want to be able to get the mixing done fairly quickly.
Take your milk out of the water bath, and ladle off around a cup to add to your yogurt culture, this is like a wake up call for it.
Next add the powdered milk to the remaining milk and whisk it in until it is as well mixed as you can get it. It's powdered milk so you won't get it all dissolved.
Pour the milk from pot through a wire mesh strainer into another bowl to filter out the chunks. To this bowl add your vanilla, sweetener, and the mixed up culture/milk and stir it up.
I like to put my yogurt into sterilized mason jars. I sterilize them because I figure I am dealing with a living organism here, I don't want it to have to compete with anything.

Here's the trick for incubating the culture. After I sterilize the jars, I pour the remaining hot water over a little cool water in a cooler like the one below. Close the lid and let it sit until your yogurt is mixed and poured into the jars. At this time, check the temp on the water to make sure that it's not to far above 130 F. Place the jars inside and cover them with a couple of tea towels. Next, close the cooler, and cover with a blanket of some kind. This insulates surprisingly well. I like to make my yogurt in the evening before I go to bed. I put it in the cooler and go to sleep. In the morning, Presto, yogurt.
There you go, this recipe made four pints of yogurt. The Yogourmet culture seemed to have a bit more tang than the other culture that I made but it's quite good. You can see the texture and quality of the yogurt that I came out with below. This is after letting it cool all day while I was at work.
It's thick, creamy and has a great tang, not at all like the bland, too sweet store bought vanilla. This morning I had some at work for breakfast with a little of the foam from the jam. Oh man, what a treat!
I hope this can either help or inspire you. It can be done. Good luck.

June 24, 2008

What would I refuse to do without?

Robbyn of “The Back Forty” has tagged me for a meme that has been bouncing around. I’ve said before that this is the place where meme’s go to die, and honestly that still stands true, but I’m going to at least answer this one because it’s gotten my wife and I talking quite a bit.
If memory serves, the actual question was “what would I REFUSE to give up to save Mother Earth?” Well prepare for the riot…

First off, again, saving the planet is not my primary concern. WHOA, don’t throw that tomato just yet. We do practice a lot of things in our home that are in line with the whole “Green” movement and I do truly believe that we need to change a lot of the things that we do as a society in order to tread lighter on the earth, but honestly, I didn’t come to this point from a save the planet perspective. In our home we began to make a lot of the changes that we did based on research that followed our oldest sons diagnosis with asthma and allergies. We found that a lot of the “normal” cleaners and home materials (i.e. carpet, paints, air fresheners, etc.) could very likely be doing more harm than good to not only him, but to the rest of our family. This was combined with a belief that we do live in a time of change. I/we believe that our typical industrial system is pending a change, if not collapse, and that yes global climate change is a reality. (Did mankind cause it, or merely exacerbate it is still out for debate for me.) I foresee a time when, like Cuba after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we need to make sweeping changes in the way that we produce food, transport ourselves and conduct business. I don’t know that our changes will be as immediate or as wide spread as Cuba’s were, but I do believe that it will happen to some degree and in our lifetime, certainly in my children’s. As a father and a husband I try to be proactive in whatever I can to prepare myself and my family for things that I see coming. I rarely use the term “Green” because I think it has really lost a lot of its bite, similar to the word “organic” for that matter. (When the USDA claims something, defines it and regulates it, you can bet more people will be certified in it, and more people will be gaming the system.) I prefer to use the term sustainable. I try to be more sustainable in everything I do. Let me rephrase that, I keep sustainability in mind with everything I do, big difference. We have a lot of things around our home that are not sustainable, and certainly wouldn’t fit into the “green” mold.  Paper towels, soda pop, and frozen pizza are couple that pop into my head. Not the healthiest or most sustainable packaged products, but their a fact of our home. We leave a light on in the bathroom all night, with no one in there and I can’t tell you how often I forget to turn off our outside garage lights; far too often I assure you. So I guess you see my point. Saving the planet, while noble and certainly of importance to us, is not an obsessive thing.
Now with that said, back to the question at hand. “What would I REFUSE to give up to save Mother Earth?”

1.       MyTruck: I could accomplish a lot without it and yeah, I could probably go without it if I had to, but it’s something that I think helps me to accomplish a lot of the things around our home that I couldn’t do, or at least very easily do, without it. Salvaging and repurposing both items and materials to accomplish the things I need while saving both money and “stuff” from entering landfills. Besides that fact alone, what would I do with it? Does it make sense for me to forego owning a low gas mileage vehicle and (assuming it is even possible) selling it to someone that may well use it much more than I do thereby increasing its impact?

2.       Meat: I love meat. I could live a mostly vegetarian lifestyle and be pretty happy, but eventually the carnivore inside kicks in and I need it. I suppose I could live without it were it absolutely necessary, but is it? I don’t think so. I’ve written many times about how I believe we need to eat less meat. It’s a fact that has been pointed out to me that I may not have qualified that statement correctly. What I mean by this is that as a populous, we need to eat less meat, not necessarily individually. Huh? What I mean is that if the “American Diet” continues to be such a meat centric diet, and as the developing countries of the world seek to embrace said “American Diet”, we are going to starve ourselves in excess. We’ll have lots of cheap meat, while our grains and bio-diverse agriculture disappear other than in how they relate to the production of meat or processed foods, both of which are tied to feed crops. By choosing to eat less meat or, where available affordably, grass fed and  heritage breed beef, I believe we maintain not only a valuable part of our food heritage but help to steer (get it…steer…meat…I slay myself sometimes.) the agricultural ship toward a more sustainable end.

3.       Movie Theater: Some of you may remember me mentioning it, others not, but we have a movie theater in our home and I would not be willing to go without it unless movies no longer existed and the power grid completely failed. Why? What’s so big about a movie theater? Well, simply put, we love movies. We enjoy the time we spend together in it either watching a movie, a good HD Nova documentary or a football game. It’s not a TV, those are what you just click on for mind numb time and I could do without those. This is an escape, a place where we can enjoy time either alone or together without disrespectful (and oft times plain rude) kids and adults alike. Again, this is also one of those things that I think generally is a net zero detriment to the world due to reduced energy use going to and coming from theaters, not to mention the huge overhead for the theater whether I am there or not. I save money, have a better experience, and heck I just love it. It stays!

Now, to take a more fatalistic view there’s nothing, really, that I would refuse to give up. I don’t feel that I am that tied to anything tangible so much that I would abjectly refuse to give it up were there a viable option to replace it. At some point many of us may have to actually look at the things that we are willing to give up, perhaps not due to global climate change as much global economic change or food supply chain change, but changes nonetheless.

I hope this frames me and my positions on this in a reasonably clear way, it’s a difficult topic to pin down, I think, without a bit of pure SWAG (scientific wild-ass guessing). So many variables and so many things that could potential become more important than others in a changed/ing world. Till that time, I guess I’ll just keep plugging away, doing the best with what I have and trying to be a good steward. We have all been entrusted with a great deal, the least we can do is make thoughtful decisions about our lifestyles rather than just run on autopilot.



June 22, 2008

2008 Garden update - strawberries and greens

I thought a little garden update was in order in case you all thought maybe I had stopped growing things and just talked about it now. As many of you have noticed this is the season of the berry, and for now that means strawberries! And what strawberries they have been!
The picture above is one that I pulled from last week. It's of the first small harvest that I brought in. It was modest to be sure, I believe it was a little over 8 oz. (I've been weighing everything that I bring in this year. Totals aren't huge, yet, but their picking up now.)
By the end of the week, I started getting bigger harvests everyday. The last couple of days I have brought in a full pound of strawberries every day. As of tonight, I have harvested almost 9.5 lbs. Pretty good I'd say for a patch that's only 10' x 3'. And it hasn't slowed yet! I should pass at least 12 lbs. Now granted, in the bigger picture 12 lbs isn't a massive haul, but I'm pretty pleased about it. We eat some, have smoothies, but freeze much of them for later. We like to have strawberries in the winter too you know.
The other biggie that's been coming in very well this year has been the greens. The picture above is a little selection of Kale and Collards that I remembered to take a picture of. This is the first year that I've grown either of them, but I've been really enjoying them. I've also had a good bit of beet greens that I planted early this year. I've never been able to get a good harvest of any of the greens (other than chard that is) but this year I seemed to be a bit more organized and got them in the ground at the right time of year. Just another bit of the learning curve coming around.
Another green that I've been really pleased with this year has been my spinach. I've tried to get it to grow for the last couple of years and although I managed to get a little, it always seemed to bolt before I really enjoyed it. This year I was able to take advantage of a bit of a cooler micro climate in our yard and have had a boom year for it. It is bolting now, but I think I'll try another planting there and see if I can get another harvest before planting for a fall crop.
So far so good I'd say. Now I'll be focusing on bringing in peas, and some onions, while my zucchini's finish growing up, those will be in before we know it.
How's things in your neck of the woods?

June 19, 2008

A great family night.

We had the best family night last Friday. After the evening chores were done, and everything cleaned up A~, the Queen of Ambiance, lit our new citronella torches and the candelabra under the gazeebo as well as some hanging candles around the yard. We turned the stereo on with a little Vivaldi Four seasons and had a great night outside until about 10:30.

After playing a little low-light horeshoes, there is actually more light than it looks like especially just after sunset, the boys started a campfire in the ring and had a couple of marshmallows for dessert. It couldn't have worked out better. It was a great time for us as a family, the type that you hope that your kids remember and try to have with their children one day. I was thinking tonight that minus the stereo and the small "Christmas lights" that are strung under the gazebo as well, this would be a great lights out event for us to enjoy some time. Maybe we'll have to do that.


June 17, 2008

Can't they just get along... Maybe.

Anyone remember these ladies?
No, maybe this will help. Yep, these are the chicks I picked up on April 4th. They've gotten big. I thought since I showed you yesterday how I've relocated the birds to the outside. I would Time Travel about three days prior to moving them and show you how I got the girls to know each other.
It's maybe not the best picture that you could ask for, but you get the picture. I tried to first introduce them to each other via the "toss and hope method." Never heard of it? It's where you just TOSS them into the coop together and HOPE for the best. It didn't work.
I learned quickly where the sayings "Hen pecked" or "Pecking order" came from. The older white hens were not friendly at all! I had to put up some temporary separations between the two flocks at least until they got to know each other. You can see the white leghorns staring through the wire at the brown ones. Oddly, the next morning the browns had flown up and squeezed through the space at the top of the wire and they were all snuggled up in the hen house. I thought great, they made peace. Nope, the next morning I had to separate them again once the feed showed up. This kept up for a couple of days.
Now that they're outside they seem to be getting along much better but the browns are still scared to death of the whites. I think they'll be alright now though. The browns will eventually realize there are 6 of them and 3 of the whites. Basically it's just another day in the life of the Urban homestead and learning to raise livestock. Learn a little, get some things right, get some things wrong. I'll get there.

The outlaws have escaped

Yep, the girls have left the garage. FINALLY. They didn't stink, (Yes mom, you could smell them a bit, but if you've ever been around a dirty hen house, you know they didn't stink.) but they did take up a good portion of the garage, and since we've gotten rid of our SUV and gotten our Ford focus we'd like to keep it nice and have it garaged especially in the heat of summer that's just around the bend. Anyway, I took the opportunity that I had with a good weather weekend with no plans (finally) to get them moved out to their new home.
They seem to like it there too. They are directly over the spot where my winter compost pile had been for the last almost 8 months and have had their heads in the dirt, presumably finding tons of worms, for the last couple of days. We're really happy with the way everything turned out. I've decided that I am going to leave the coop parked here for the next five to six months and practice the deep mulching method that I have been using so far. I hope to next year be able to use this area as a new planting bed, and begin a series of crop rotations with the birds. Does anyone have any experience with rotating chickens throughout their gardens? Anything I should take into consideration? Worse case scenario, I'll just collect the mulch and compost it at the end of the season.
Till tomorrow.

Great Fathers Day.

I had a great Fathers Day. Thanks so much to my wife and kids for making it a great day for me, and check out the sweet gifts I scored. I'm now all decked out and ready for the Bolts to take it to the Big game this year and can sport a little Fan-love every day at work. And the Big book of Country Wisdom, what can I say, do they know me or what. Thanks again guys. I love you.
And Thanks to you too Dad, for giving me a good example. Glad you had a great day too.

June 15, 2008

Beauty in the garden

It does truly abound there doesn't it? I sometimes wonder how anyone, and we all know them, can not like to spend time out in a garden? Whether that be a flower garden, vegetable garden, container or water garden. I get such pleasure and relaxation from just wondering around the yard and finding what it holds for me that day. I took these pictures last week and have been wanting to get them up online. I hope you enjoy!
This baby is my pride and joy as far as flowers are concerned. I call it snow white. It's a columbine that I picked up four years ago at one of the local stores, Wal-mart, Home Depot wherever. It has come back every year without fail and as you may be able to tell from the picture below, has grown bigger every year.
As I think about it now, I should have placed an object in the picture with it to give an idea of how big it is. The head of flowers on this plant is probably near to a foot and a half wide; quite big for a columbine. I let the heads go to seed every year and I think it's just multiplying on itself. The flowers are huge too, almost three inches across. I've been thinking of seed saving from this plant this year. Anyone interested in trying some out?
Here is a volunteer from a snapdragon that I allowed to seed last year. I've talked about this before, and I'll do it again. It is a great boon to me to be able to almost count on the "free" plants that we get every year because we let a few heads of flowers go to seed. Plus, I love finding out where they will pop up the next spring. It's like Easter egg hunting for flowers.
I thought you all might like this. We've been having a couple of Robins visit us almost daily lately. The bird bath in the corner has become a regular stop on their way through the neighborhood. Those are strawberries growing through the "urbanite". They're just turning ripe now, and every day or so I'll find one of them with a couple of nibbles in it. I've taken to calling it the "Robins Share", sort of like the "Angels Share" in whiskey making. Maybe the Robins will be nice and leave the big strawberry patch on the other side of the yard for me. (Just in case it's been netted.)
This little guy took himself an nice cool bath, and then jumped next door to our apple tree for a little grooming.
Oops, I'm caught, he saw me. Oh well, he'll be back. The lure of the bath and dine Strawberry spa is just too great!

New Additions

I got a package about a week and a half ago. When I opened it, this is what I saw.

Inside was a thin muslin bag...Interesting. What could it be?

WORMS!! About 1000 of them (give or take); I bought them from Uncle Jim's worm farm the week before and had just received them. I had been wondering why they waited nearly a week before mailing them, I ordered them on the Wednesday before, and they still weren't showing as sent on the web site so I called. Well I jumped the gun, they just hadn't updated the status' yet but the wigglers had been mailed on Monday. It seems this is the standard practice, mailing on Monday that is, so that the worms don't get held up over the weekend and dry out and die. Very considerate worm farming isn't that?

So anyway, I got out the compost crock from under the sink which had a bunch of "goodies" in it and got ready for a feeding. I've been using this crock for almost a year now. It's lid broke toward the end of summer last year, so I've been just placing a small tea plate over it. If you empty it regularly, it doesn't really even stink (too badly). I need to find a new one. It was just an old second hand cookie jar that I found at the thrift store.

Before I got the worms out of the bag I had put together a new home for them. I shredded some old cardboard that I had available, and added some peat moss that was also lying around to act as bedding. I wet the whole thing, and then squeezed it out till it was about like a damp sponge. I added this bedding material to a 15 gal. Rubbermaid tote that was one of our old book boxes before the library was finished and that I had drilled holes around the bottom and lower sides of for air flow.

So far so good. I received them not last Wednesday but the one before that and they seem to be adapting very well. Just tonight I went out to feed them and they are all densely packed around the scraps from the other night. The main reason I got them, apart from the tales of amazing nutritive properties of worm castings, was that I had a very tough time last winter with composting through the cold. This way I hope to have built a large enough colony of worms to accomplish our composting needs throughout the winter, and provide an occasional treat for the chickens.

Anyone else out there, worm farming? How's it working out for you?


Back in Time

OK, since I've been ridiculously funkilicious lately and have, nearly entirely, slacked off on all but the poor me posts, allow me to travel back in time a bit. (Duh, no I'm not really gonna go back in time, just bear with me here.) In the next few posts I'm going to try to catch up on all the positive and interesting things that have been going on here in the last couple of weeks, updates on the 100 foot diet, how the garden is coming along and some of the pics that I've been filling my cameras memory card with over the last little while. So yeah, I think I can effectively say I'm about to be traveling back in time... won't you join me?

If I go back the farthest, it would have to be this:
This was a photo of a very local meal that was somehow ignored on my camera card since the end of May, go figure?. It's the wild asparagus that I harvested locally and some baby greens from the garden. The rice dish is not local (Unless you count the Walmart that's within walking distance? No? dang!) but the bread is homemade and delicious.
Stay tuned...more to come.

June 12, 2008

I worry sometimes

I know, we all do right? Poor me. Maybe I shouldn’t even say “worry”, it’s not the right word, it’s more like I’m “concerned”. The thing is that I’m concerned about things that are, largely it seems, out of my control. Peak oil, food shortages, economic downturns and climate change (to a certain degree) are the biggies. I believe that all of these things are coming or are here (depending on your circumstances) and I “concern myself” with what it is that I as a father/we as a family should do to mitigate the impact that we feel from said changes. Do we go ahead with business as usual? Do we hunker and live spartan ascetic lives? Staying here in Northern UT has its merits; it’s a good place to live, good employment rate, we’re in a comfortable home and we like it here. On the other hand we’ve thought a lot, both in the past and from time to time even now, about relocating to a more rural location. West Virginia perhaps, that’s where A~’s family is located, the land is cheap, there’s little regulation on what you can do on your own land and the ground is fertile beyond description. Of course both possible courses have their cons as well. UT, for all its financial opportunities is a vastly spread out mass of suburbia with large homes, holding large families driving large vehicles. What does this mean to me? Well in a peak oil situation it means that there’s going to be a lot more pressure on the resources that we do have available, gas, fuel, electricity, coal and oil and that means higher costs of living. Already you can almost steal SUV’s from some of the dealerships in the area because there is so little demand and people are starting to talk about which bills they can afford to pay this month. On the other hand, Many of the rural places of the country are among the hardest hit already by the rising fuel prices, and will no doubt be some of the first parts of the country to be taken out of the delivery loop should true shortages begin to appear due to their low population numbers and low income levels per capita. It would not be unthinkable for some of these smaller communities to be less than welcoming to new residents at a time of crisis. In the words of The CLASH, “Should I stay or should I go?” (In case you’re interested in a very informative read, Sharon posted a tremendously good entry about this very issue the other day.)

I’m not at the place yet where I feel pressured to make any major changes to my day to day routine, other than the things that we are already doing to improve our sustainability; use less power, eat less meat, produce more of our own food (fruits, vegetables, chickens, bread.) and bike more often to reduce fuel use. I honestly have to say though that it does run through my mind. I used to be the type of person that sat back and let life happen around me. I was very adept at finding ways to either deny that something was coming down the line or somehow deflect the effect of it from me. I found later in life, that all this does is delay the inevitable impact and it hurts much more on the second time around than just being prepared and doing your best to deal with it to begin with. So now having learned my lessons well, I look to the future as a father, a husband, a son and a brother and wonder what it holds and what I can do about it. At what point do I need to shift gears and either make a major shift in lifestyle, or at least prepare to do so in the near future? For that matter, how much of my concern is based on environment? What I mean is if “we are what we eat” are we then also “what we read” or “what we watch”. The more we learn about some of the things that may happen, the more that we are led to other things. I worry sometimes about being seen as “Jumping the shark”, especially when I talk about my concerns for the future. Do you? I know that a lot of the people that take the time from their busy days to read my blog know about these topics, but I assume that they like I have family and friends that may not, or may not even want to. How do you broach the topic? What are your plans for the future? Am I alone in my concern? I doubt it. One of my (probably yours too) favorite blogs to read is A Homesteading Neophyte. Phelan posted today about her stress and general “funkness” lately. I’ve had a lot of the same thing going on. It’s one of the reasons that I love my second life in the blogoshpere, I get to see that yeah, I feel a little funk in my life, but I’m not alone. I couldn’t have predicted that after the death of my uncle last week that I would have been affected so much, but I was. I think I had a much harder time coming to grips with it than I ever thought I would have, but I had a lot of friends from all over the world wishing me well and sending their regards. It helps. Anyway, I digress.

My point in all of this rambling is to a certain degree just to get it out of my head but even more than that it’s to let anyone else out there who’s having the same concerns know that they’re not alone. I guess that’s the point of community right. Share and learn from each other, support each other and just listen.

Thanks for listening. Hopefully I can get a little more ‘posse’ (possibility) going on and kick this funk.

Till then.


June 8, 2008

The First Class

Well I held my first organic gardening class this Saturday. Without sounding too full of myself, I'd like to say that I thought it was a smashing success. The numbers weren't huge, there were 7 people and myself, but the ones that did come out really were the exact kind of people that I was hoping to have. I had prepared to give a pretty traditional class where I would talk and the others would listen and maybe ask a few questions. That wasn't what I was hoping for, but I prepared for it as a "just in case" measure. When the people started filing in, I felt there was an immediate connection and the questions came quickly. I decided to start at the beginning as I see it, and talked about siting, sun, soil and water. We talked a lot about how to improve our poor native soil (heavy clay and sand.) with composting and double digging and about understanding our land and it's micro climates. I brought along one of my potted potato plants to make the point that as urban farmers we really have the opportunity to think outside the [garden] box; it was a big hit and solicited quite a few questions. Everyone said they definitely will see me next week, so I'll take that as a good sign! I even had a couple of them suggest that I needed to get involved with our local farmers market committee. I will admit that it's on my radar, but one cause at a time I guess.
The greatest thing that I think I was able to take from the class was the very thing that I had hoped for. I felt a kinship with others in my community that feel that same way that I do about our need to take back ownership over our food supply. I feel like it may be the beginning of a positive network of community growers. I couldn't ask for more.
Finally, I just wanted to take a second to say thank you to my wife A~. Without her believing in me, I don't think I would have had the guts to put myself out there like I did. I love ya sweetie, Thanks!
In other news, we held the wake for my uncle Ted at our home for my extended family to get together. It went well I think and I got to re-meet a lot of second cousins and great aunts and uncles that I rarely see. We enjoyed a DVD that my father put together for the event and shared some great stories. I think the closure process has begun. Thank you to all of you, family and friends, that left comments and well wishes after his passing. It means so much to me to know our family is in your thoughts and prayers.
Hope you all had a great weekend.

June 4, 2008

Laundry go-lightly

So this weekend we reduced our projected potential power use for the summer by dramatically reducing the need for one of our big energy consumers, the dryer. A~ has set a goal for the summer to reduce our power use dramatically. She has said by 50%. I'm not completely sure about that number, but as she is home more often than I, and is the one who uses most of the big power consumers I guess I'll just have to take her word for it and keep doing my best to enable her goal by doing things like hanging double clotheslines for her. I was honestly surprised to see how quickly the clothes dried on the line. I seem to remember my mom hanging clothes when I was a kid but otherwise, I have little experience with it. One more small step toward lightening our footprint and depending less on outside power.

June 2, 2008

He will be missed!

This evening I gathered with my family who have come in from points far and wide to talk about and remember my Uncle Ted. We all received a bit of a shock on Friday when he passed suddenly of, what I understand, was a severe heart attack. We took a little while as a family to throw out adjectives and descriptions and memories in an effort to sum up our experiences with a person who's life was like few others.
I've written about Ted before on my other blog as one of my life's influences:

"My uncle Ted - The roaming uncle with the VW beetle, wrap around sunglasses, stories of rock hounding in the southwest and works of art that painted my childhood. He was the first "great artist" that I ever knew. I think a good deal of my curiosity and desire to learn how to create things were influenced by him. I wanted to paint, and draw, and learn to make silver jewelry like the octopus earrings that he made that would seem to climb up the wearers ear. If your reading Ted, Thanks."
It is no less true now.
Ted was born with cerebral palsy. I say this not in an effort to paint a portrait of him, but more as a sort of frame. It was something that was immediately apparent to some degree, but really had nothing to do with the main work. I speak in the terms of the art world, of paintings and frames for a reason, because they were a great deal of the context in which I always knew him.
My earliest memories of Uncle Ted are of a wild haired story teller in blue jeans and black glasses. He reveled me with tales of finding turquoise and geodes in the mountains of the Southwest, living in a garage near the beaches of Southern California where he painted or made jewelry, or driving across the desert in my Grandpas old '64 Ford truck. (This would later be my first vehicle.)
As I grew up and gravitated toward the arts, Ted was almost like a silent mentor. Our home had paintings and watercolors of his on the walls, and from time to time he'd "Blow in" and tell me how good my work was. In the late 80's and early 90's when I was just starting to find some of the possibilities that were becoming available in the arts through computers, he again showed up and blew me away with the work that he was doing on them that was ahead of it's time.
Through my 20's, as I served in the Army, the day to day of life kept me busy with myself and I had very little contact with him. The one time I do remember us being together he surprised me with stories of his days in the Navy, he had lied to the recruiters so that he could get in. No mere government officer was going to stop him if he had a goal!
In 2000 I had the pleasure of seeing him again and this time I was meeting the wonderfully sweet woman that after over 50 years of living life, was finally enough to fill his heart. As with everything Ted did, he loved Betty with a passion that only he could. I have no doubt that his life was richer and fuller in his last years because of her.
In the last 7 years or so he had moved back to Salt Lake City and we've been able to visit more often again. We've debated politics, talked about dreams, shared our over the top ideas and laughed. I feel so blessed that just a few weeks ago, I was able to have Ted over to the house for the day. We caught up with what we were planning, walked in the garden and I got to show him the butternut squashes that were growing from the seed he saved and sent me for Christmas. He'd become quite a gardener of his own in the last few years and shared with pride his successes with lemons and kumquats that he had had that year. (I laughed inside when we were at his house tonight and I found the refrigerator note pad with his tick marks counting the citrus as he harvested them. We really are so much alike, I have been meticulously weighing and documenting all of my harvests too.) He also wanted to pass on to me a shotgun that had been my grandfathers, my fathers and his. I will treasure it forever.
Ted accomplished so much more in his life than many people ever do and more to the point, he did it in his own way, with a smile and a story. In looking back, and talking with Betty today, she mentioned that had Ted been born with a different body, a stronger one, that he may well have been a very different person. It struck me that perhaps he was given that burden because not only could he bear it, but because he would excel despite it and in doing so would enable us to learn and see all that was possible when we believed in ourselves and accepted no less that our very best.
Ted will be missed, yes. But far more than that, he will be remembered!

I've finally done it.

Some of you may be aware that I recently began talking with the city leadership of my community to work toward a goal that I had of offering a free organic gardening class. I've talked about it for a while, and it's something that has been on my mind, but I've finally done it.
Last Saturday, our cities newsletter went out with an ad for my free organic gardening class to teach people the basics of growing food in their yard. I had estimated that it may get sent to 3-5,000 homes, I underestimated a bit. I was told that the actual mail list is somewhere around 6300 homes. As far as the number of people that I think will actually show up... I figure that if 10-20 people show I'll call it a success. Less is fine, as is more; I guess I don't really have to many expectations. If your interested in what I'll be talking about I started another blog for the purpose of outlining my goals and, hopefully in the future, communicating with attendees; you can visit it HERE. If you have any suggestions let me know, any stories about your efforts to spread the word and "Grow the Future".

Kind of Funky

Well, kind of in a funk rather. I finally got back to posting at regular pace it seems and was actually waiting until Friday to post again because I had/have some big news, but I got a call that afternoon that my uncle had passed away. He was very special to me and his passing was a surprise and honestly I just haven’t had a lot to say through the weekend. I was going to put something up last night but I just didn’t. I’ll be meeting with my family this afternoon, and hopefully have time to post a few things this evening. Hope you are all well.