Monthly Archives: May 2008

A Couple More Book Thoughts

While riding in a plane a few weeks back I had a lot of time to read some books. I thought I would mention them here.

In Defense of Food-Pollan’s new contribution to our food system was mostly disappointing. I think this was because he was on such a lofty pedestal after The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but I thought this book was just plain awful. It was hard to read. It rehashed a ton of information that is already in the blogosphere, and it was not really that well written. Maybe I wasn’t the target audience, but I found myself skimming through it.

Edge Cities-I read about half of this before I gave up. This book was really, really, really dated. I think if read when it was new it would be a good book, and very informative, but now, it’s too dated. Practically all the information is irrelevant.

Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging-I enjoyed these books. Emerging is a prequel to Ecotopia. I thought it was much better. It was better written, more informative and more detailed. Some characters and subject lines weren’t even discussed in Ecotopia that get great levels of attention in Ecotopia Emerging. Either way, they are both interesting reads.  You should check them out.

Band of Brothers-This is the book I most enjoyed.  I like reading true military history, well, history books in general, and this one did not disappoint.  Very informative.  Great information about what it’s like to live life in the trenches.  What real soldiers are feeling when they go to war.  I think there are a few books that any new politician should be required to read, so they can understand how soldiers feel, and Band of Brothers is on this list now.  (On this list also is The Long Gray Line, We Were Soldiers, A Soldiers Story, Death March: The Survivors of Bataan as well as numerous books about D-Day.  I update these as I read books that I think would totally change a politicians view of war.  Most are written from the soldiers viewpoint and would make any normal person think twice about war for any reasons other than self defense.)  This is a good book.

(This is off the topic, but I read 1776 earlier this year or late last year, and it was a very good book.  Ambrose does a great job writing (Band of Brothers too) and he does great research.  I was amazed reading 1776 how many times our rebellion was at the edge of failing for want of materials and men.  And the shear numbers they were talking about needing.  10K men would field a huge army and most the time they were happy with a few thousand.)

I read another book too but I can’t remember it.  Sorry.  It must not have been that eventful.


Independence Days update #2

Time for another update. I skipped a week because most of that week was spent in another state, so it’s kind of hard to do anything at your house when that’s going on.

1.) Plant something: I moved out the pepper and tomato plants, as well as planting some of the delicata squash and summer squash. I think that is all this time.

2.) Harvest something: Rhubarb is the only thing ready.

3.) Preserve something: Nope, nothing.

4.) Prep something: Nothing

5.) Cook something new: Nope

6.) Manage your reserves: I used up some of the remaining tomato puree, 3 bags of frozen strawberries and a bag of watermelon. Clearing up freezer space for more produce from the summer.

7.) Local food system: We got the planning finished for a small community garden in a low income area of town. It’s more of an educational garden for kids in this area, but I’m hoping we’ll be able to use it to introduce them to gardening and being more self sufficient for their food needs. We’ll see what develops. It’s part of the initiative though the Matthew 25 hub that a friend of mine started up. I don’t expect it will produce a ton of food, as it’s only 2 4×4 beds, but, it’s a start and over time I think we can work together to develop a larger community food program.

8.) Reduce waste: I don’t know what I’ve done out of the ordinary.

9.) Learn a new skill: I don’t think so.

10 years on and still going strong

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. It’s been an interesting 10 years.

We are both from small towns in southern Iowa, moved to Missouri to go to school, moved to the city (KC) after that, because there was no way in hell we were going back to Iowa. Bought a dog, bought a house. Got sick of the commute to work and bought a different house closer to work a year later. Bought more houses as I attempted to be a rental tycoon. Battled one bout of occular melanoma. Had a child. Decided to move back to Iowa (naturally). Sold some rental properties. Sold house, and lived apart for 4 months to get on with life in Iowa. Lived with in-laws for 10 months. Had another child. Bought more rental properties in Iowa. (Almost went bankrupt when they didn’t work out) Bought a fixer upper to live in, with a pool for the ex swimmer. Sold rental properties in Iowa. Worked opposing work shifts so that Mom could stay home with the children. Stopped that after a year. Made friends. Learned about Peak Oil. Made lots of changes really fast. Made more friends. Slowed down and started enjoying life a lot more. Became a “soccer family” as the older one started to play soccer. (much to his Uncle’s shagrin) Still talk about another child but probably won’t happen

Hmm, I think that’s about all there was. Learned a lot about life in the past 10 years. It’s been an interesting journey. Here’s looking forward to 50 more years. (no, that beer isn’t local but it was free!)

Where you at?

So busy, so busy.  The blog may be taking a bit of a hiatus this summer.  Between normal work and gardening, some online endeavors (one new one which I’ll talk about more later) and starting up some community endeavors I’m overbooked.  Rest assured I’ll come back as I can.  Most nights I don’t have any more energy to give and this falls away when it’s a choice between bed and blogging.

Have you all noticed how much talk there has been about oil prices lately?  Peak Oil is getting some mainstream press, although they try to boil it down to an 8 minute video interview, which just isn’t going to cut it.  But, some discussion is better than no discussion.

More talk about gardening too.  Seed companies are noticing huge increases in their orders for this summer.  Other companies seeing increases are bike and scooter manufacturers.  Good news for all of us.

I think the chickens are coming this weekend or next.  Pictures will be posted for sure!

Power outages

I’m in Oregon right now, with weather that is quite a bit above normal.  It was in the 90s today.

And they’ve had blackouts.  I’ve always heard about this, and how we’re going to have more and more of these, but we don’t experience these in Iowa.

But today the power has gone out many times.  I guess you’d call that a rolling blackout?  It’s a strange phenomenon.  A new experience for me.

I guess all those warnings I’ve read and heard about the vulnerabilities of our power system, and how it can’t meet demand, are more true than I thought before.

The Picture Through a Tiny Window

I’m sitting here in Portland, OR waiting for a connecting flight to Bend.  I’m taking my yearly flight to a destination in America to take some training for work.  They like us to go to different places around the country to experience different real estate markets in those cities, so I came west this year.  Last time I went to MIami, which was quite fun.

Everytime I take a trip like this I come home with a new appreciation of where I live.  The past few weeks have been a whirlwind at home as I tried to get all the gardens ready for a week long abscene during this critical planting time.  Lucky for me the moons lined up for my plantings and I won’t miss anything while I’m gone.  I was forced to plant my corn a day before it’s best time, per the moon cycle, but I can live with that.

I can’t figure out why people willing give airlines their money.  The service sucks, the airports suck, the people you travel with are rude.  All around not much of a good time.  Why do people do it?  I guess so they can go see places that they would never see otherwise.  Personally, I think there’s plenty for us to explore around our homes if we would just look a little harder.  I tried to take this class closer to home but was encouraged to go see a different area of the country.  I almost went to Greenboro, NC, but this class in Bend worked out as a better time.  I think Greensboro was in August which is a tough time to be away from the garden.  Maybe next time.

The approach over Portland was interesting.  Being in corn country I’m accustom to monster spreads of farmland that are easy to distinguish.  But in Portland I noticed that a lot of the farms ringing the city appeared to be market farms with a very diverse array of plantings.  That would seem to jive with what I’ve ready about Portland’s local food scene.

I had a turbo prop out of Cedar Rapids today.  Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t think about anything else when I see one of those except the Indiana Jones movie where the Nazi guy gets his face eaten up by a turbo prop while Indy dives for cover.  That image has always stuck with me and I always think about it when I see a turbo prop.

I don’t know why I’m writing all this but I’m sitting in the airport,  enjoying wifi and I can’t really stand to read anymore.   Oh well.  I’m hoping Bend will have some interesting things to do this week.  We’ll see.

Weekly Independence Day update

I’m going to half assedly participate in Sharon’s Independence Day’s challenge. I say half assedly because I’m already two weeks behind and I’m doing this mostly because I want to keep track of how my gardening and preserving is going this year. I’m really, really, really going to try to keep a poundage total of what I produce here at the homestead and from the garden plot.

The catagories are below (as stolen from Wendy’s nice little round up)

1. Plant something
2. Harvest something
3. Preserve something
4. Prep something
5. Cook something new
6. Manage your reserves
7. Work on local food systems
8. Reduce waste
9. Learn a new skill
10. Store something

Plant Something: I planted a few things this week. 🙂 I planted 3 peach trees, 2 cherry trees and 2 rhubarb roots. Also planted green beans, dragon tongue beans, 4 kinds of dried beans, corn, all my herbs (borage, chives, cilantro, basil, bee balm, dill, parsley if you are curious), cucumbers, arugala and sunchokes. I think that’s all.

Harvest Something: Nothing ready to harvest yet.

Preserve Something: Nothing to preserve yet.

Prep Something: I prepped 15 garden beds at the garden plot (9X4) for use this year. Also the 5 tree locations. Also ate two more packages of frozen strawberries I found, although that wasn’t a chore, but did “prepare” the freezer for more additions. I also prettified and turned the compost pile to get more compost going. Made plans to buy 2 bushels of corn for the freezer instead of one. Decided never, ever to freeze green beans to eat in the winter. We hate them.

Cook Something New: Hmm, this isn’t really a good time for new recipes because my food options are rather limited. I did put some old meatloaf on a pizza to use it up, and that turned out well. Tried a new bread recipe. Results are inconclusive at this point.

Mange your reserves: Transferred my rice to new containers (only because the bag they came in broke and forced me to do it finally). Ate more food to clear up more space for this summer.

Work on local food systems: I talked to people about gardening. It seems I’ve become a bit of a resource for people at work. Also, there is a group that is starting up a Community Garden program in a lower income area of town, and I contacted them to see how I could get involved.

Reduce Waste: Nothing new. I’ve been stealing my neighbors grass clippings and leaves. That sort of reduces the waste stream, although the city composts them too. I just do it without the diesel truck.

Learn a New Skill: Um, nope.

Store Something: This isn’t on Sharon’s list but is on Wendy’s. I’ll have to figure out what’s up with this one.