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~

July 31, 2008

That time again - Local Food Challenge 2008

The folks over at Eat Local Challenge for Salt Lake City are once again sponsoring a local food challenge for 2008. Utah has abundant resources for acquiring local foods and this challenge is well worth at least a partial attempt at participation. I am not going to be "officially" announcing participation in the challenge for the same reason that I haven't ever participated in the Dark Days or One local summer challenges. It's not my place. By that I mean that I don't do our cooking or shopping so I don't feel it's anymore my place to dictate to A~ what she will make and serve than it is her place to tell me what type of joint to use on my bookshelves. I know it sounds sexist, but it's really not. We have our roles in our home and respecting them is part of what makes our home tick away so well. Besides that fact, we try to buy and serve locally produced products as often as possible throughout the year anyway. It just isn't our priority. If you are in Salt Lake City area, and are curious I encourage you to drop in over there and learn more about what it is that they're up to.

July 30, 2008

Liberate your lawn

Here is a link to a very good interview and discussion that I listened to yesterday on NPR that talks about the reasons for not being so compulsive about your lawns. There are better things to do with it, or at least better ways to deal with it. Definitely worth the listen!




July 29, 2008

A new addition

If you've read this blog for very long, you've probably read one of posts about recycling or re-purposeing things. I'm a huge advocate of it, even to the point that the guys at work are afraid to throw anything out before giving me dibs on it. But there is a down side to it; a secret, hidden, dark underbelly to it and I'm not afraid to share it with you.
And here we are. Please don't think badly of A~, it's all me. She bugged me regularly to clean up my mess but it sat there for ages. Allow me to run you through the wealth of re-purpose potential before you...
• Starting on the far right in the background there is a large black cabinet looking thing. This is a black steel computer server cabinet with a glass front that I got for free from work and intend to re-fit into a large stand up solar dehydrator.
• Just below those are some more "urbanite" (busted up old sidewalks) that we intend to use to further extend the garden beds next year the same way that we did with our other beds.
• On the far left of the picture are some salvaged pieces of 4" PVC pipe that I originally intended for some hydroponics/aquaponics ideas that I had, but at this point may just become vertical storage units for handled tools like rakes and such.
Add in some scrap lumber, leaf bags that were given to me for my compost pile (that is currently sorely lacking, but that is another post.), salvaged pallets etc. and you can see it quickly becomes a pretty solid eyesore.
But Last weekend while my oldest son was out visiting we cleaned it up and added a new and (in the future) very useful item. An almost braaand neeewww sheeeeed. (say that with that great game show voice you know you like to do...)
And there it is, gorgeous huh? And we cleaned up the side yard. neatly stacked all my "junk" and got this baby all put together. I have to take a second to thank S.H.~ a previous boss of mine that just relocated to Washington DC and decided to sell this very nearly new shed to me for next to nothing. It required a lot of sweat equity but was well worth it. A very useful item will have it's usefulness extended, and I'll be better able to hide my yard tools and such in the future. I keep saying in the future because we decided for the summer that the boys can use it as a playhouse until the big yard tools need to be put up for winter.
Here I am trying to get the first corner together and wracking my brain to remember how the heck this thing goes together. Trust me, it took a few minutes.
And of course where would I be without my great helpers. I look forward to watching them share their skills and "Dad-can-fix-anythingness" with their kids one day just like I'm sure my father enjoys it today.
Have a great day all, till tomorrow.

The Big Weigh-In 2008 7/28 (83 lbs)

OK, so the numbers aren't as impressive as 6000 lbs per 1/10 acre, but I think their pretty good considering so far we haven't yet really pulled any of the big crops such as cukes, tomatoes and zucchinis from the garden. (Yeah, I've gotten a few zukes but not too many yet.)
The grand total to date is just shy of 83 lbs of food. (82.87 or 1326-oz's to be really geeky) Most of that has come from strawberries and the heavier spring veggies like carrots and beets, but a good bit of lettuce and greens were brought in as well.

So, how about some numbers then eh? These are by no means all inclusive, but they do give a good idea of what's been producing around here.

• Strawberries.....................................................330 oz's - 20.625 lbs

• Baby Lettuce (mesclun).......................................46 oz's - 2.875 lbs

• Greens (kale, collard, spinach, chard)..............134.5 oz's - 8.406 lbs

• Kohlrabi............................................................60 oz's - 3.75 lbs

• Carrots..............................................................197 oz's - 12.31 lbs

• Peas (shelling)..................................................107 oz - 6.687 lbs

• Peas (Sugar Snap).............................................60 oz's - 3.75 lbs

Well, that gives you a good idea of what's been coming in this spring/early summer. Like I said, the numbers aren't huge but you never really notice how much baby lettuce it actually takes to make a pound of it until you keep track of the actual numbers; another benefit to keeping accurate records. Besides, we aren't vegetarians and the things that we've had come in we've able able to really enjoy on the table and have even put up a few things too.(More to come on that.) We've also had a total of 37 eggs so far since the three mature hens started laying on the 12th of July. The other girls should start around mid month next month, so that'll really help too. Every little bit goes toward our own food Independence, and is a welcome addition to the pantry. You can find my updated totals in the left column under the Big Weigh-In icon. I'll be doing my best to keep that Qty updated even if I don't have a chance to make a big update post.
I Hope all your gardens are blessing you with bounties as well.
Till next time.
P.S. Thank you to Anais at PTF for the nod today. I owe much of my inspiration to you guys!

The Times are Changin' Tuesday 7-29

This evening we found a great article on our local news station about how local commercial builders are beginning to embrace "Green" building practices. Now I have to first go into my personal point of view on the whole "Green" catchphrase; I don't like it. I agree with much of what it implies yes, but the word has lost much of it's punch due in no small part to the mainstreamification of it. Which brings up an odd dichotomy. On the one hand, it's actually quite a good thing that "Green" has become a commonly used word. It means that the general masses are beginning to wake up to the fact that we've lived unsustainably for far too long and that they may have to actually take action in order to get away from the repercussions of that lifestyle. On the other hand turning "Green" into a word that either has, at best, little or no bite or worse yet is dismissed as being one of those nutty "liberal" ideas, takes away from the ideas and actions that are associated with it. I generally choose to use the term Sustainable (or unsustainable as it applies) because I personally feel that it better sums up the problem.

Back to the article. Whether or not they use the term "Green" or not, I believe it does good to have these type of larger local businesses putting themselves out there as role models and highlighting the benefits that come along with building sustainably. The more that businesses begin to see that they can actually realize real $$'s from these type of policies, the more the LEED services will become mainstream and the more it will begin to move into other areas.

It's all about growth. Managed, sustainable, smart growth. Hopefully this is another change for the good.


July 27, 2008

About the big weigh-in 2008 (record system)

This year, inspired by the phenomenal numbers of food production generated by the Dervaes family of Path To Freedom, (who would have ever thought 6000 lbs of food could be produced on 1/10 acre?) A~ and I decided to establish for ourselves a baseline of what we are and could be producing, weight-wise, of food from our little yard. So with that in mind we decided to keep records of every bit of food that we pull from our ground this year. A blogger I admire for their record keeping prowess is Farm Mom and I hoped to be as effective with ours. Although this is our first year keeping records, and they probably aren't as thorough as some, I think they're working out well so I thought I'd go into how we're doing the tracking of production for what I'm calling the "Big Weigh-in" for 2008 before getting into the actual numbers.
What we have for our process is two parts. The messy, dirty notebook above is where we write our day to day information in as it comes out of the yard. We can amend it multiple times a day and leave notes to ourselves if we need to. After we've collected a bit of "data", I transfer the information over to a permanent record book. In this book I have a daily total calculated in oz.'s, a running total in oz's, and a running total of lbs. At the top there's a small note space where I can leave notes to myself about things like the 9lbs of apricots that we harvested that weren't from our garden so they don't go in the actual records. I'm also keeping track of the total numbers of eggs that our chickens lay in this spot.
I think this will be an important tool to us in the future, and actually has proven helpful already in some unexpected ways. For instance, one of my neighbors who had been thinking of starting a garden for himself this year, was so impressed by just the early quantities of lettuces, peas and strawberries that he actually got on it and got his garden started for the summer. It was in this that I found that keeping track and establishing these concrete numbers of production don't just help me to keep track of what we've been able to accomplish. It helps to quantify to others what is possible. Just as I was so impressed by PTF's 6000 lbs of food, so too has my meager 80+ lbs to date, impressed others. It's just an added benefit.
The other main gain from keeping these kinds of records is that we'll be able to look back at the particulars of when different crops came to production and how long they produced and to what degree. I think in the future I'd like to start keeping more information relative to environmental circumstances too, like the daily highs/lows, and precip. totals (what little we get in the summer.) It will be just another asset to help me progress toward greater productivity as well as in my outreach efforts to get others growing for the future!
If your not already, I encourage you to start keeping records for yourself. It's fun to watch and track the numbers as they grow, and who knows, maybe you'll be growing for 10,000 yourself soon.
Updated production numbers to come.

Back in town and "good neighbor" apricots

Hi again, I'm back!! Actually in the interest of full disclosure I've been back since Thursday but have been trying to get caught up with things and honestly just taking a little bit of "me time". I was getting a bit burned out toward the beginning of last week and just needed to catch up and relax a bit. A~ and I had an opportunity for a free trip out to our favorite local vacation area on Wednesday so we took advantage of it and spent some quality time together. I wanted to let everyone that took the time to comment on my last post. I had noticed a marked increase in people stopping by, and I guess I was just curious about what's bringing folks over here. I appreciate you humoring me.

Now, what's this about "good neighbor" apricots? It's a long story...here goes.
A while back I posted about a missed opportunity to meet a new neighbor. I ignored the chances that I may have had to meet her, but lucky for me I'm able to learn from my mistakes.
This Friday A~ and I were walking around the block again and as we came around the corner to where our neighbor had lived, she's moved now, and found a couple of her next door neighbors out enjoying the "fruits of her labors". The raspberries on the side of the house were ripening and they were gathering them up so I decided to not miss another opportunity and stopped by. We met a woman from next door and another from across the street. I don't know that I would have met either of them if I hadn't stopped by. We talked gardens for a while; one of the ladies desperately wants to claim a few of the raspberry canes for starts for her house but says that her husband has "issues with growing food in their back yard" and that it's "white trash". Too bad for her, hopefully she can pirate some of the canes and maybe claim they threw long shoots over there.
The other neighbor was really nice too. She grew up in farming country north of here and wishes she had a garden in her yard now. Sounds to me like I have my work cut out for me...*smile*.
After the pleasantries were passed, we noticed that the "good neighbor" (yeah Phelan I stole your term. It just seemed too good not too.) had some neglected apricots in her backyard and well, now that she had moved on, I felt duty bound to take care of them for her. So this weekend we harvested 9 lbs of apricots from her back yard. It's not the first time we've taken advantage of free fruit but that's another whole post in and of itself. You should have seen the boys though, they've really been trained well. One word about free fruit and they were into action; one ran home to grab a couple of old plastic bags and the other two just started picking. I think I only had to pick f or ten myself.
So what to do with all of those free apricots? More to come on that soon so stay tuned.
Oh yeah, and I have a really really special announcement for you all around the end of next week. This is just a teaser though, you'll have to wait a little while for more.

July 22, 2008

Don't just sit there.

Let me know about yourself. Now I know there are a lot of lurkers out there in blog land that read this blog. How do I know? because I do it too! (Oh yeah and statcounter tells me so.) The reason I decided to ask for a little shout out from you is because lately I've had a marked increase in readers. Not just that, but I've had a lot of readers from Utah, my home. Where're you coming from all of a sudden? Is it my shameless plugs with the blog address in my signature block. Is it, like some of the link-ins seem to be, by references to friends. Perhaps you found me through one of the networking groups I participate in like Freedom Gardens or Kitchen Gardens International? However you came to stop by here, I wanted to take a minute to welcome you and to invite you to join the conversation, particularly if your local. I've searched around quite a bit, and haven't had a great amount of luck finding a local network of people talking about sustainability or urban farming/homesteading or whatever you want to classify this blog as. (I've seen all of the above references and appreciate all of them.)That is after all what I am trying to do here. One of my main goals is to reach out and find neighbors and people nearby that are interested in this arena. I found as I began to spend more time online, and then again as I began earnestly putting myself out there, that this is truly a movement that is beginning to get legs. I see it in the comments on the local news station news boards I hear it at work in conversations. I hope you'll take my invitation to add your two cents here. I want to know where I stand locally, and where you are.
I've seen a good bit of talk among some of my Pacific North West blogging counterparts about staging a get together. Perhaps someday, we in the intermountain west will have a strong enough presence and community built to do something similar.
Hope this post finds you all well... I'll be out for the next day or two on holiday but I hope to return to lots of feedback... c'mon, you know you want to!

The Times are Changin' Tuesday 7-21

The first week of this series and then again last week I outlined problems that I’ve been seeing locally dealing with the rising cost of fuel and how the cost of living increases have caused people to begin stealing recyclables. As I thought about this weeks update, I was conscious that I didn’t want to give the false impression that I am hopeless or fatalistic about the changes that I see coming down the pike; this couldn’t be further from the truth. With this in mind I wanted to share an observation that I made this week that I found to be very encouraging. Through the week, for some reason that is escaping at the time of this writing, my wife and I had the discussion of whether our parents generation had been able to enjoy some of the things that ours is. A~ was commenting that she felt like ours was really the first generation that has never know a time when things like oranges and bananas were not common, but we weren't sure.

Saturday afternoon we headed into town to my Aunt and Grandmothers house to pick up my son. As we sat and visited, the conversation turned to the economy and rising costs. We talked about some of the things that I had posted here on previous Tuesdays, and about what type of changes we had seen around town. This conversation offered the perfect opportunity to open the dialogue about what things had been like when my father was growing up since four generations were represented. They did get oranges it seems, at Christmas time and they had to share. Bananas were something that was seen far less often. We discussed whether we thought that we enjoyed having access to these fruits all the time or if they were more enjoyable only getting them once and a while. To a person we all agreed that having something only in season definitely makes it taste better, but there was some debate on whether is allowed us to be healthier to have this type of access. I can't answer definitively on that, but I have my ideas.

What was special about this, was the fact that it was one of, if not the first time, that I remember having a conversation of this sort. My family is not anti-green by any means, but to have a conversation about things people are doing to lighten their footprint or to cope with the rising cost of living is not the norm. I find also that I am engaged more often in conversations about the same thing at work, and "over the fence" with neighbors. No Impact Man posted an interesting question today on his blog and it got me to thinking. The question was what thing would you tell a friend that was asking about a good first step they could take to help the environment. The big point here I think is that this is happening more and more today than it ever would have only 6 months ago. For that matter, take a look around the blog world for a second. Nearly a year and a half ago when I first began this blogging adventure of mine, there were only a handful of blogs relating to many of the lifestyle changes that we are making, or to the sustainability movement at all. Now, it seems there's a new blog popping up every hour.

So as the times are changin' so is the context of our dialogue with the people around us. People are asking questions, looking for direction or just probing around perhaps; trying to learn about this movement going on around them. I encourage you to take the opportunities, if they should arise, to share your experiences with others. Many of us are already doing this anonymously through our writing, but taking time to sit down and listen to others and discuss things is one of those things that can't be replaced.

As the times are changing around us, I hope you'll not get to preoccupied with all of the negative press out there. Mind you things may get worse, but within all those clouds there are some silver linings.
The best to you all...till next time.

July 18, 2008

Compound changes (Cars Suck II)

Well, I was a bit slow on finishing this post, life catches up to you sometimes and you just need a rest. As I read over the previous post I found something that I thought I may have misstated in that last few sentences. "...what kind of impact on the local landfills do you think it would have if they suddenly got filled with old SUV's?" well, that's just kind of stupid, since where do they discard of used vehicles into landfills?? They would of course be reclaimed and recycled but I think you get my point, and it's on that point that I'd like to pick up.


Many car owners are, or are thinking about trading in their SUV's for better mileage vehicles, oft times going from the 8-12 mpg range to the 20-30 mpg range. What's the problem with that, right? I look at it in a couple of ways.

In my situation were I to trade in my 1994 F-150 truck for a higher mpg vehicle I would likely get little trade in value for it. I'll assume $1000.00 to be generous, it is after all my truck and I want a good value for it. And let's say that I buy a pre-owned, high mpg vehicle like a Honda Civic for instance. I quoted one from a local dealers web site for $9,488.00 and assumed 6.9% APR for 48 months. The payment per month comes up to $202.00. Now I also have to remember that my insurance rate will go up because I now have to have full coverage. Luckily, it's older so it only goes up by $12.00 a month. To this point I have committed to invest $214.00/mo toward reducing my gas consumption. I did some calculations (I can provide them if you're really geeky like that) based on many of the commuters in my community that drive about 30 mi. into the city for work. This is not my situation, but it is most common among those who are really looking into making this trade in. If they were driving a 12 mpg vehicle, I figured about 16900 mi/year. or 493.00/month at a price per gallon of $4.20. The same driving in the Honda Civic would only cost them about 185.00/mo. (that is assuming that the higher mpg doesn't incentivize them to drive more.) But now we have to add in that additional $214.00 that I committed to, bringing the monthly total to $399.00. That's still a savings, but only $94.00! Hardly a budget sealer, and were I to use my actual mileage, I would actually be spending an additional $158.00/mo because I don't have to drive as far.

Now for that scenario I used my paid off 1994 truck as a trade in that netted me $1000.00 toward a new vehicle. So many people today are trading in relatively new, 2-3 year old, trucks and SUV's that initially cost them 40, 50 even up to $70,000 dollars new and are upside down in them to the tune of many thousands of dollars. I heard a program on "All things considered" a couple of weeks ago about people that stood to have up to a $30,000 deficit if they traded in. That doesn't go away, you still have to pay it one way or another and that $94.00 savings every month won't cover it very quickly. Unfortunately we've become a nation of monthly shoppers and if we can "make the payment" we think we can afford it. I'm guilty of it, God knows I've done some stupid stuff in my day.

My point in all this mathematics is this; just as I don't believe we can drill our way out of peak oil changes, I also don't believe that we can buy our way into monthly savings. It's really no different than refinancing your home to pay off your credit card debt. You didn't make the problem go away, you just moved it so it doesn't hurt as bad, effectively financing the new cell phone you had to have over the next thirty years! We need a change of mindset as a nation. My generation is one of the first in this country that feels itself "entitled" to so many things that took our parents a lifetime to acquire; in short, we're impatient.

And now that I've digressed substantially from my bitch about cars, let me try to bring that ship back into port. Yeah, cars suck. I think we'd all agree with that statement from time to time, but we're stuck with them at this point. The thing I think we need to remember is that there's not only one idea to take into consideration. It's not all about gas mileage, nor is it all about carbon emissions. There's a lot of gray area here to be reckoned with and to find a solution to all of it would be near to impossible. But, finding solutions to some of them, based on our needs is attainable, and will compound over time. I guess it's like the old riddle, "would you rather get a million dollars in one month, or a penny doubled every day for 30 days?" The quick million sounds good but compounding makes those pennies add up to over five million. Just like those pennies if we compound a few changes in our daily behavior, where we can and in a way that we feel comfortable about, with the example we can help to spread to others we can equal a very large change. We'll have to make that change sometime, I guess I just think we should start with what we can now, and compound it as we progress.


I’m having my son in town to visit this weekend so I’m taking a few days off. I’ll talk to you again early next week. Have a great weekend all!




July 16, 2008

Cars suck!! So, What can we do?

They do! They suck-up gas, they suck-up time, they suck-up resources and they suck-up space. But what the heck are we supposed to do? You’ll have to forgive me, I had an “I hate cars” day today and it’s most likely of my own doing which is the most frustrating part. A~ called me this morning from the store while she was out running some errands to inform me that our Ford Focus was dead. This wasn’t necessarily a surprised since when we got it a few months ago we were told that the battery was the original and was getting a bit weak after 8 yrs. The frustrating part is that while we have been trying to nurse it along through the summer months I thought just last night, “I need to check that battery and make sure it’s good, I’d hate A~ to get stuck somewhere.” Sure as heck I didn’t, I got caught up in something else and forgot about it. (Yep…I’m human!!) So now I get this call from A~ and I’m at work not more than a couple miles up the road. But I ride my bike to work, so what good am I? I borrow my co-workers car and run down to jump her (the car that is, not A~ ;-)) and head back to work. By then she’s gotten home and calls me to say our other car, the one I normally drive, is also dead. No doubt from lack of use, since I’ve driven it so rarely in the last month that I haven’t had to fill its 10 gal tank since June 9th and still have half a tank left. (Hey, that’s like a gallon a week. Dang that’s pretty good!) Anyway, so now I have two dysfunctional vehicles taking up space in our garage, and a generally bad attitude. I’ll get a new battery for the Focus and that’ll fix that problem, and I can charge the Toyota to fix that one but geez, what a pain. How much time and money do we spend on these “conveniences”? And what other option do we have? It’s kind of a quandary isn’t it?
A lot of the people that read this blog have expressed a desire to get “back to the land” so to speak; to get a little piece of land somewhere and work it, to have a bigger garden and raise a few animals, and live more sustainably. To a great degree I put myself in that group. But what does/will that mean in the future? Land out in the country is, by its very nature, out in the country and being “in the country” means quick bike rides to the store are out, as are most of the professions that many of us are in. So now we are in the position of having to drive everywhere we need to go. Not the best of circumstances to either increase our sustainability or our independence. The other thing, as was mentioned by Meadowlark the other day in a comment on “The Times are Changin Tuesday”, is that many of us already own the dread gas sucking SUV. What are we supposed to do with them? She states, "It is a dream world to think we're going to melt down all the SUV's and they'll disappear from the world." and you know what, she's right. They're here, many of us own them, and it's not realistic to think that their just going to go away and everyone is going to ride bikes or drive prius's Not only that, but what kind of impact on the local landfills do you think it would have if they suddenly got filled with old SUV's? That's not even mentioning the impact to our already stretched pocketbooks but I'll get to that tomorrow when I continue this post. Be well folks.

City Chickens

I thought I'd just post a quick post tonight, since I've been a bit busy and didn't have time for a longer one. I got a great comment from an Anonymous poster yesterday that gave me a pretty good warm fuzzy. It seems I provided some small bit of inspiration to this reader with some of my previous posts regarding my urban chickens and their "Chicken Condo". I hope you all will pop on over to YouTube and check out her video, It's well made and well, just fun to watch!
And to you Anonymous. I'm so glad I could be of some inspiration. I am flattered and pleased. That is really one of the best benefits I could ask for from this whole blogging experiment.
Till tomorrow.

July 14, 2008

The Times are Changin' Tuesday

Well here we are again, my little glimmer of sunshine... err, well, maybe there's a few clouds forming on the horizon.
This week we found an interesting news story from our local news that again illustrates the changing habits of my fellow Utahans. As the gas prices further reach for the stratosphere, some have been choosing to try to push their luck and see how far they can manage to go before filling up? The source for the report was one of the managers at the UDOT incident management team and what I find the most interesting is that not only does the report show that more people have been running out of gas on the freeways, but it's been happening with nearly 25% less calls. That's a big deal. According to an Allstate spokesperson, the rate of Utah drivers running out of gas is up 94% from last year. As we headed up to Logan this weekend for our outing, I actually saw someone exiting the freeway in their shiny new Ford Mustang GT at a full coast, flashers on and all. I suspect yet another "fumer". Isn't that a great name for them, the folks coasting around on fumes? Of course I can't say I haven't done it from time to time between the odd paycheck but generally we have our kids in the car so we try to keep at least a modicum of fuel in the tank.
So what do we do about it? As I said in the post that started this whole series, we change. We change our habits, we change our routines, and perhaps most importantly we change our expectations. Is it still prudent, or even for that matter logical, to expect that we can tool around endlessly in the biggest SUV that we can afford? I don't think so. Heck, just because we can make the payment no longer means that we can afford it. I don't have solutions for the issue, nor will I pretend to. I know what helps us; planning our trips, riding a bike to work, taking local "day-cations" instead of long road trips. For many, some of these things aren't possible yet. Perhaps they will be in the future, maybe not, the point is to look at what is possible and make the changes that you can. And mark my words, it'll be a lot less painful to make those changes sooner as a choice, rather than later as a mandate.
Just food for thought folks. Any thoughts from you?

July 13, 2008

An EGG-cellent Saturday

Guess what showed up this morning??? OK, OK, you twisted my arm, I'll give you a clue.
Yep, that's right.. who's your farmer now huh? ~LOL~ I half thought someone was playing a joke on me, but in the end, I guess Laura at (not so)Urban Hennery was right all along. It's just one of those things that happens when it happens. So now, I guess I just keep my eyes open and see if the others start to lay. Anyone know, do chickens lay sporadically at first or pretty regularly? I guess I'll find our when I find out.

This afternoon we spent a great day together as a family. We headed up to Logan UT to the American West Heritage Center and had a blast.

The center has a very cool 1917 era homestead set up that, unlike other similar museums, encourages you to touch and try things out. We were amazed that in the heat of the day with a wood fire place baking cookies, (which were very good by the way.) the home was surprisingly comfortable. Really it was not much different from our own homes average temperature. Later we stepped into a earthen root cellar and a dug-out earth sheltered pioneer home and found the same to be true. I am consistently amazed at how functional some of the old techniques for doing things are and how they really do work. The boys loved holding the chickens, avoiding the gigantic roosters, and petting the goats. I don't know where they get it, but they seem to have an odd rural streak in them? Perhaps one day we'll make the move that'll allow them to have some of these animals of their own. Until then, we'll just be checking our own little coop and looking for breakfast, then checking the garden and figuring out what's for lunch,

Hope you all have a great weekend too. See you on Monday!


July 12, 2008

Find your "Freedom" ...Garden.

I wanted to take a minute to encourage everyone who reads this blog, and that has even a cursory interest in growing food and gardening to pay a visit to the latest effort being put forth by the fantastic folks over at Path to Freedom. The new site is called Freedomgardens and is a really great social networking site for folks like us who are trying our best to increase our connection to growing our own foods, or raising animals for food. You can read the press release, or just stop by the site and check it out. Look me up while your there, you can find me as "Corner Gardener".
Grow on!

July 11, 2008

Take the time.

I've learned a lesson this week that I am bound and determined to not forget. So I thought that I would pass it on to you.
Early in the week my wife and I were taking a walk around our block and noticed one of the houses for sale. Apparently it had been for sale for some time and we had just missed it. Allow me a moment for a bit of background. The people who moved into this house did so at just about the same time as we did nearly 4 years ago. During that time we have slowly built our garden up little by little over the years. In fact we were one of the only visible gardeners on the block (other than, of course, the token flower beds and such) or at least on our end of the block. You see on the other end, the home in question was slowly becoming the other gardening home. Anyway, that said, we to this point had spent the years walking by this home as we went around the block and slowly watching the garden grow and evolve. Many were the times that we said we needed to introduce ourselves, we admired the grape vines in one side yard and the raspberries in the other. And so it went until we're back to where I began this story, with us noticing that the home was for sale.
So now we decide we ought to go up there and say hello before they start having offers and move. Maybe we can have the opportunity to get to know someone new before they leave. It just so happens we see someone working in the back yard strawberry patch so we make our move. As it turns out, it's a guest from Austria and she invites us up to meet one of the owners, Nadia, from Russia. We introduced ourselves, telling them where we lived. She knew the house, and commented on our gazebo. We talked about our gardens and how we kept meaning to say hi. Then the lesson. Their home had already sold and they are moving in a week. We had missed our chance to really get to know these really nice people. Why? Because we waited, we kept telling ourselves we'll do it "sometime". I tell you there's no better time than the present to take action.
I've talked a lot lately about some of the things that I've been trying to do to put myself out in the community a little more. I've started a local garden group and taught a course in organic gardening, albeit an introductory one, attended and spoken up at local planning commission meetings as an advocate for urban chicken keeping and volunteered as a guide for a local sustainable building companies "green home tour". For all of this, I missed the most important thing, extending a hand and a smile and saying "Hi!".
This evening I had an opportunity to make amends to myself. There's a home near ours that we drive by on a regular basis. An older couple lives there, and likely have for many many years. They are on one of the few large lots (acre+) and have a fine vegetable garden in the back of their home. Countless are the times we've driven by the house and I always say I need to stop and introduce myself. Tonight I did! I had promised myself after the disappointment with my neighbors that I will not let the opportunity pass again. I talked with J~ about his garden, it's so much further along than mine or anyone else I know nearby, and learned a couple of good hints. We talked about his land and why he only works less than half of it. (It's not because of age, he seems quite able, but because when the nearby subdivision moved in they cut off his irrigation supply and limited him to a 1" secondary water line.)
I look forward to talking with him again in the future. He seems like he could be a great font of local growing information. More than that though, I feel a little more tied to my community. I'm happy for putting myself out there, and will make it a point to continue in the future. Learn my lesson; don't wait. Take the time to say Hi and make yourself known. These are the people we'll be living by and possibly depending on in the future.
Have a great weekend.

July 10, 2008

The Right to Dry!

I mentioned before that this summer A~ and I added a clothesline to our backyard. We love it! I honestly have to say I don't completely understand it, as it makes very little sense, but we do. You would think that having to carry our clothes downstairs and take the time to hang them would wear out it's novelty pretty soon, but it hasn't. I have heard from a lot of people that I've talked to that they would love to have a clothesline too, but their HOA won't allow it. First of all, I don't have an HOA. If there had been one, I wouldn't have moved here. They're just un American in my view.
Well I believe we have a right to dry. A right to opt out of the normal way things are done. To take a bit of time in our day to save some energy, while not heating up our homes! And apparently someone else does too. Project Laundry List is a 501(c)(3) that is working to advocate laws in different states to guarantee people their "Right to Dry" As I looked through the site, I was a little surprised to find that one of the three States that they site as role models for this type of legislation was right here in Utah! Can you believe it? And California is one of the worst offenders. What's up with that?
Check the Project Laundry site out and see if there's anything you can do to push this in your state. It's something simple that we can all do to some degree. And if your in Utah and get told that you're not allowed to have a clothesline, or any other solar power / collection apparatus, just send 'em HERE and tell em where to go!

July 8, 2008

The Times are Changin' Tuesday

I alluded yesterday to a new series that I thought I'd work on for a while. Today I'd like to introduce "The Times are Changin' Tuesday". Catchy, right? Anyway, in my earlier writing about how we had seen the changes going on around us, I outlined a couple of the simple things that my wife and I had been noticing going on around us. It's been an ongoing conversation for us so together we thought it would be a good idea to document some of the things we see not only in our community, but in the world around us.
I don't want to get into too much analysis of the causes behind the things that I address, although some is inevitable. What I'd really like to get is some feedback from you on how you see them. Do you see these types of things in your neighborhood? What DO you see?
Well, enough intro, what did I notice this week? Something that in a slightly different version is prevalent here in my area.
It seems that, in the bay area at least, Thieves are getting to the recycle bins that are provided by the cities before the cities are. As costs rise, and the $$ return for recycling is increasing, recyclable goods are becoming more and more a hot commodity. Here in Utah, we've had a rash of robberies lately too. Not of recyclable aluminum or copper but of catalytic converters. It seems they contain a lot of VERY expensive metals and folks are stealing them and selling the metals.
Do you see more people recycling in your neighborhood? Have you ever seen anyone stealing recyclables? Do you think that recycling information programs have finally just really kicked in and everyone is concerned about the earth? Maybe, but I doubt it. The fact is, people are trying different kinds of knots to keep the ends tied. The world's changing folks. Keep up or get swept up.
More next Tuesday.

July 7, 2008

This and That

Well I don't really have anything special or tremendously witty or insightful to share with the world today so I thought a little bit of this and that would fit the bill.
I finally started getting some tomatoes late last week. I was starting to wonder. The greenies above are a heirloom breed called Hamson. It was specifically selectively bred years ago for our Utah climate so I am very optimistic for it.
Below we have the San Marzano roma-style tomato. It was the first to start fruiting this year so it's a champ in my book.
And here we have what happens when radishes go feral!! I decided to let one of my french radishes go to seed this year, oh... just because. Care to take a closer look?
As I read up on them, I learned that they are what is known as Brassicaceae or Cruciferae, also known as the crucifers for the cross shape of the flowers. They're so simple but beautiful don't you think?
And after the little pollinators do their dance what's left is, I assume, a full pod of seeds; and a pretty interesting one at that. It looks like another plant, but I can't think of what...?
Hope you're all enjoying your summer and all the bounty that comes with it.
I've had a new series that I've been thinking about lately, I think tomorrow will be the debut. Also, keep an eye on the sidebar, I plan to add a harvest counter soon to share the detailed counts I've been getting lately.
Grow on!

Weed 'n' Feed

Last year I found a new plant in the garden late in the year. It's one that I really enjoyed in the small amounts that were available in the fall, but this year I'm really looking forward to taking more advantage of it's plentiful nature. Can you see it?
It's so plentiful in fact that regardless of it's popularity in many other parts of the world, here in the US it's generally considered a weed. Here's a little closer look. Do you know it now?
OK, let's really get a good look at this versatile little plant. Purslane. I regularly pulled this plant out last year before I learned about it. As it turns out, purslane is one of the healthiest plants that we could ever eat. It contains more of the heart healthy omega 3's that we're always hearing about than any other terrestrial plant on earth and there is it, FREE in most of our gardens and we pull it out as a weed. Go figure?
Well not this year. I let mine come up where it would, and kept an eye on it. Unless you want this plant to be HIGHLY prolific you need to either pull or cut it back before the seed pods form. I went through the garden this afternoon sowing some bone/blood meal into the ground, and took the opportunity to pull all the purslane that I came across.
The plant itself is actually a succulent. The stems are firm and hardy, while the leafs are slightly fleshy and crisp. They are a great addition to any salad raw, or you can stir fry them, add them to soups or any other recipe where you might add greens. I look forward to adding these to a fresh veggie stir fry for tomorrow.
Take a look in the yard next time your out there and I'd be surprised if you don't find some of this somewhere. If you don't, you can find seeds for this great "weed" at many of the finer seed catalogues online. This year I am going to let some of mine that is in a separate container go to seed so that next year I can have a dedicated pot for them. Maybe I'll share some with some of you.
hope you all had a great weekend.

July 5, 2008

Independence Day Garden Love

It's Independence day here in the U.S. and we have, by in large, evolved to a point where we call it the 4th of July, but it is much more. The 4th of July is a date, a marker, not an event. Today is Independence day. On this day in 1776 the Second continental congress of the colonies of America adopted the document that is known as our Declaration of Independence. It was a revolutionary action. It declared to the world that the people of the colonies were prepared to "dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another". They also declared that "when a long train of abuses and usurpation's, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism" "...it is their right, it is their duty..." to throw it off.
Aren't we slowly being reduced to reliance on the "despotic" (read: single authority of either an individual or tightly knit group,) system of industrial food? Where is our declaration of Independence? Is it in the books we read? Perhaps to a degree. Is it in the things we talk about, discuss or espouse? Again, to a certain degree, but not completely. I think the greatest declaration of our Independence is one that can only come from out labors and our actions. Let us be judged by our fruits so to speak.
Beets, Kohlrabi, Carrots, Collard Greens and Potatoes from the garden.

Here is my declaration of Independence. It may not be as loud as others cry, but it grows every year. I declare that I will challenge the norm, take back my freedom and learn from my ancestors. Farmer ~D of the "Path to Freedom" has said many times to the effect that the greatest revolution we can conduct is to grow our own food. I agree.
It's work, sure, but a labor of love I would say. Every year it grows, and every year my declaration is louder. My wife is my partner, and more and more she begins to get into the dirt more with me. I think this year the garden had a little of our love rub off on it. Don't believe? check this out. If this isn't a sure sign of a little garden love, I don't know what is.

For those of you in the U.S. I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence's if you haven't recently. For that matter, I guess I would encourage any lover of Freedom to take a minute to read it. Happy Independence day folks, I hope it was a great one for you. If your not from the U.S., well, happy Independence day to you anyway.
Till tomorrow.

July 4, 2008

Plan your NY times no Knead Bread

So maybe it's just me, but every time I decide I want to make some of the NY times no-knead bread, I have to try to count ahead and figure out exactly what time I will need to turn it out to rest, and then put it in the oven to bake. So what's a hopeless geek to do?
You make yourself a one look chart to tell you what time to turn it out, and when (approx.) that it will be done baking. Click to enlarge and you'll see on the left column a listing of start times. This would of course be the time that you mix the flour water and yeast together, cover and set aside for a long period.

The next three colums are broken into two times each. The left side is the time, after either 15, 16, 17, or 18 hours (depends on temperature and preference) that you will turn it out and prepare to bake it. This means letting it rest for approx 2 hrs. Then you bake it for nearly an hour so I added the right side to show you what time it could be done cooking.
I know it's a bit anal, but I like to be able to think about when I want to have the bread and know when I need to get started, or vice versa, so Ifigured there must be others. If your inclined, feel free to copy, print or link to this post for others to use. Consider it my gift to you. Aren't I generous? LOL.
Hope you all have a great weekend.

July 2, 2008

The times they are a changin'

Come gather 'round people wherever you roam,

And admit that the waters around you have grown,

And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you is worth savin',

Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone,

For the times they are a-changin'.

~Bob Dylan


And so they are, aren't they. Haven't you noticed? Of course you have. But what; what have you noticed? I read someone’s blog last week that posed that question and I thought it was a good one. A~ and I had been talking a lot about that as it was and really started to see a lot of changes around us in our day to day as well as having made quite a few changes of our own.

As the cost of oil has increased the cost of everything related to it has increased as well. Compound that with a fairly ridiculous policy of turning one of our primary foodstuffs into an "alternative" fuel source, a plummeting housing market and higher unemployment levels to further add insult to injury and you have a recipe for some pretty tight purse strings. So, what's a family to do? They make a lot of changes, that's what. Or in other words they “start swimming” or they “sink like a stone.”

Around our house we started making changes for various reasons over the last year or so and although many of those changes were for other reasons than the rising cost of living they help nonetheless. For instance, I ride my bike to work 11 miles round trip and A~ has a trailer that she can tow behind her bike to our nearby market. We've gotten rid of our SUV (Mitsubishi Montero) that really was a gas hog even though we loved it, and have replaced it with a used Ford Focus that fits the family and still gets very good mileage. (Both were and are paid off so no further debt was incurred.) We line dry about 90% of our clothes on a clothesline to take advantage of the oppressive summer heat here in Utah and have moved to sleep in the basement over the hot months to avoid that heat without having to run our A/C all night. To combat the food prices, we practice growing as much food as we can in our “Freedom Garden” (My generation’s version of the victory garden.) and are preserving and putting up as much as we can this summer to offset our need through the winter; we, or more to the point, my wife also makes much of our meals and foods from scratch giving us more control over it and allowing us to maximize our dollar. A lot of our “changes” are really only changes in the fact that they are different from our original behaviors over the previous years but are almost more of a return to behaviors that were, for many generations prior, common and standard. In our view we are living in a changing world and regardless of the level to which that change is affected, be that mild consumer changes based on increased costs or extreme and global changes based on food and fuel shortages, we believe it to be the prudent and responsible thing for us as not only citizens but as parents and neighbors to begin to make changes to our lifestyle and to encourage similar change in others. To that end I have offered myself up to teaching the basics of organic gardening (for what it’s worth) and we regularly share what we’re working on, changes we’ve made, recipes and even excess food with neighbors and friends.

As we go about our day A~ and I have also noticed that we’re largely not alone in the fact that we have made changes to meet the demands of the world around us. In the building I work in, I can think of at least 5 others that ride to work, one of which is a direct co-worker, and I’ve seen a marked increase of pedal-commuters on the ride home. A~ as well has seen other mothers with children in tow riding to the parks, stores or just to friends homes in lieu of driving. Now Utah, being home to the majority population of LDS (Mormon) faithful, has a disproportionate number of large families and has, largely because of this, become home to what is affectionately called the MAV or Mormon Assault Vehicle, elsewhere known as the SUV; they’re everywhere. Expeditions, Excursions, Land Rovers and Suburbans and that’s not to mention the full-size trucks of ½ ton or greater for families that own neither livestock nor significant appendages (trailers, boats, RV’s etc.). But even in our area, which is largely affluent, we’ve seen the emergence of incredible numbers of small personal scooters. Now they’re like flies on the elephants; squeezing in between an F350 and  the Chevy Venture. It’s something I would have expected to see happen in SLC, but never up here in “God’s country” (read: suburbia). We also noticed while trying to find clothespins, a once plentiful object in the local stores, that they had sold out completely in not just one but three different stores. Obviously others got the idea that running a dryer costs money. As for food costs, we’ve seen it there as well. A~ has actually had strangers come up to her in the market and declare that “they just paid $1.50 for a single bell pepper…Can you believe it?”. Well that to me is explanation enough for the fact that while we were looking around our local nurseries and even Wal-Mart store’s vegetable sections recently we found a not just slim but in most cases shockingly sparse selection of seedlings. After inquiring with one of the local nursery owners whether it seemed that more people were food-gardening this year he said he KNOWS there are. Last year all season he sold around 1000 lbs of seed potatoes, this year he had sold out of 1500 lbs even before the end of June. Need more proof that the changing world and economy are making an impact here in my home state of Utah? Well yesterday we, one of the reddest states in the union, became the first state to institute a state-wide 4 day work week at the behest of first-term, get this…“Republican”, Governor John Huntsman Jr. in order to “…reduce the state's carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, improve customer service and provide workers more flexibility.” Utah like many other states has seen a rise in the numbers of commuting workers that are starting to get to the point of not being able to afford going to work.

So yeah, I guess the times they are a changing. Are you? If you are, what are you doing to try to help others to adapt. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”, that’s what Gandhi said. Well I’m certainly no Gandhi, but I agree with him heartily. Be that change. Don’t do it just to save the planet or money or even because “everyone else is doing it”. Do it because it’s just the right thing to do. Do it because, I believe, your life will be richer for the doing of it. And take the opportunities as they present themselves to share with others the things that are possible. A posse ad esse, “From possibility to reality”, isn’t just the name of this blog, it’s a way to think about the world. A way that I believe can keep us from ever being overwhelmed as the times, they are a changin’.