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Entries in food (11)


Into The Wild New Yonder

Yeah, I know. There hasn't been a lot of really current stuff here of late. Then again, it's not like you people are beating my door down for new content either. Most of the stuff that defines life for me right now is pretty positive, and on some variety of fronts. In real and abstract terms, I am trying on new clothes in life. May as well start with the real terms.

Today I weighed myself and was delighted to see for the first time in what must be nearly a decade, my weight was 219.7. To see it at 220 has been a thing lost to time, certainly before the Kelli years, which earlier blog entries record as being quite sedentary due to rampant unemployment and the discovery of the computer and all the wonders that once brought. I peaked and plateaued around 240 for many years since about 2002 and it has changed little in that time. But, the biking and constant hustle of work has helped, as has a doctor-supervised attack on the food nasties I once took for granted: the stuff that yields too much cholesterol, sodium, and fat. So, with the last eight months or so on some track toward changing that, I have lost some pounds, and gotten some tone from work and biking. And now, a bunch of pants don't fit right anymore. I've hit some thrift shops to pick up some new things now and then on the cheap while I transition into whatever might come of my weight. Already, I've lost a pants size or two. Today I went to the doctor and he reported that the cholesterol was improved, and was glad to see the BP leveling off at a more favorable level, if a bit higher than ideal, but not as bad as when I went in to see him last September.

And that visit was because I had an appointment to finally get my wisdom teeth pulled, but had BP so high that the surgeon declared he could not work on me. He assured me that the BP was beyond even what one would see, given the stressful anticipation of surgery. It was about that way in December 2007 when I got my gums worked on. I barely got that done, and when it was done, it was in four treatments, not two like planned. So last September, I headed straight over to the doctor's from the oral surgeon's office, drugged and fasted as I was, and said, 'I have to get this done, so what does it take?' That began the last several months of increased activity and drug treatment and diet attention. I have had hardly any pizza, no burgers, barely a couple of my beloved breakfast burritos, no sodas, and have cut down a lot of other dietary woes. Eating veggies helps. I am not really strictly vegetarian but there has been far less meat for me, but when there is, it is far more likely to be chicken or turkey, fish. But burgers, steak, pork, and pig bacon have mostly been out, as have most shell eggs.

The good news is that I've had a chance to practice cooking more, and have whipped up some tasty dishes the girls pretend to like. (We got a new oven at Thanksgiving, and I got a new set of kitchen knives to replace the toy set that we were given for our wedding. It helps to feel like your tools are working with you instead of against you.) Working around food, chefs, kitchens and all gives me a chance to poke my head in and get ideas, and just try to take a guess at what is going on, and to emulate it. It is the intangible benefit from the work I do. I suppose if I worked for a meat wholesaler, I'd be gleaning info on how to grill and barbecue, but as such, I am placed where I need to be, among veggies.

We planted our garden for the summer. This is the fourth year I've done gardening, and the third at the same place. There is still a lot of guesswork to it but even when it is poorly done, there are things to learn and knowledge to accumulate. I wish there was space and time to do more and to do it more seriously. The economic woes of the world outside have been deepening my sense of that. For now, I labor at my job, which isn't the same as gardening for self-sufficiency, but it does relate to it, and I do feel there are good lessons to be learned about food. Maybe gardening isn't going to be my thing, but cooking has been a nice thing to pick up, untutored as I am at it.

And moving toward the abstract new clothes in life, the big thing is that I am about to join Mission Hills United Church of Christ next month. It isn't new to me anymore. Kelli did her internship there and I stayed on the sidelines during that time. Then, to greater or lesser degrees, for the two years since, I've gone mostly regularly, and taken part in some groups (bible study, spiritual development, young adults), but most of all, have found a few key folks who I trust and have been able to connect with as I navigate an odd relationship to church as a male "pastor's spouse" who fell out with his home church and who has some unusually progressive notions of what church should be in the world, economically speaking. But, after an eight month spell in 2007 to get the old church out of my system, I experimented with a couple local UCC congregations, and settled on MHUCC. It is odd to consider, but it makes more sense upon reflection. The congregation has a great openness to people of all stripes; indeed it is perhaps the most gay-inclusive of the UCC churches here, and has a range of programs and groups to participate in. All this while retaining a membership of a manageable family like size (about 175 on Sundays), while not being so small and inbred feeling like my old church got to be (with maybe 30 core people who make the service on Sundays). MHUCC has many areas of ministry that keep people in touch and feeling connected, something which I did not feel was present at the old church. A lot of people from various backgrounds like the place—those who have never done church, those who have done too much church, those who are done with their old church, etc. People find it to be a healing place where a radical inclusiveness embodies what Jesus was about in the first place. So it has been good. And biking there has been one more way to get healed—with muscle power and a bit of sweat. I find it good on a lot of levels. So after dabbling for a year and more, I've decided to join in as a member, and not sweat the business of having to leave eventually when Kelli receives an eventual call from another congregation in who-knows-where, at who-knows-when. After a lot of angst in the separation from the old church, I feel it is okay to join in on this, even though I was sure I did not want to join a congregation before Kelli was to be ordained and called to a new congregation. I now reason that that would be her deal, not mine. Not that I would not go; of course I plan to go where she goes; it's just that this is my decision to make the next move after the bitter departure from the old church.

I've been immersed in a lot of reading for understanding about Christianity and its roots, and more usefully, what it all means today. Some of my influences have been Marcus Borg and his books on Jesus, his historical context, and how there are many ways to awaken the faith from a slumber of orthodoxy so that it might be fresh and relevant today. There is also a splendid video series called A Crisis of Faith which delights me in its human portrayal of Jesus—his totally grounded humanity illustrating what we call the divinity of Jesus. The Urantia Book also puts Jesus in a cosmological framework that presents him as the model for God's knowable attributes, and the ones we would do well to emulate. Back on earth, but still nodding to the cosmological quake that was Jesus, I have been greatly interested in reading the Bible through the lens of what it says about economics. Indeed, that is the most radical way to read it because it really slams the book on everything this nation's economy stands for. I encountered this a couple years ago through Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economic Ministries, and lately I have had a resurgence of interest in this approach, reading more material in light of the economic mess that has been unfolding before us each night on the news. This approach has been the engine to lead me to bike more and drive less, eat more plant-based food, use a credit union instead of a bank, change churches, and to fight the consumer addiction the best I can in whichever way I can. It has been quite a unifying approach to life.

Of course, not everyone is ready for whatever transformation is demanded in this historical hour. Kelli and I took a stroll through a major shopping mall in town here today and the place was just painful for me—the people milling about pointlessly with plastic in hand and cell phones at ears. Call them zombies, call them consumers, but they all looked miserable there. What will they turn to when the plastic is useless, or there is nothing to buy because places don't make things like we take for granted? What life is beyond all that emptiness? Or, we cut through Nordstrom's and made mischief as we booed and hissed at labels that reflected Chinese or other exotic factories, and prices that represented exploitation of both the sweatshop laborer and the consumer alike! But that sort of fun is good only for so long with me. It just grates on me and I just want to get out of the Seven Circles of Hell. People make talk about how the ancient religions are useless and can be discarded. Well, consumerism is the new religion and is worthy of being discarded even now before it does any more damage.

Christianity is about transformation above all, out of the old and into the new. It isn't possible to do that at once; incremental change is the principle. One death leads to new life, which sparks more of the same in other aspects until eventually one is fully morphed into something new. It isn't about do's and don'ts, or any other legalistic formula. It is about moving toward something better in an action that is part magnetism and part striving: being drawn into it while wanting it too, until the line between those is blurred and the movement happens organically. Science tells us that the cells of our body are all exchanged for new ones in something like seven years, so that in that time, we are not even biologically the same as when we started. So it is with moving in the way Jesus demonstrated for us, that change is afoot toward something whole, something deeper and more grounded than what we were when we began. In that regard, nothing is disposable and even the forgettable and erroneous bits matter to in their ability to narrow the path worth taking. Indeed this is the meaning of the cross anyway; that your whole experience is yours to be carried, right or wrong as it may be, but not to let it ruin you in the process.

For the present, I feel that I am more or less on the positive phase of the waveform, getting some health matters in order, and finding a new church. And it is this that paves the way for the negative phase that invariably comes at some time. But when that next negative phase comes, I won't be the person I was when the last one was in cycle.


Jew Repellant

shrimp wrapped in prosciutto bacon, hardly kosherOne restaurant in town obviously isn't interested in attracting or retaining a Jewish clientele.

Shrimp wrapped in prosciutto bacon??? What is less kosher than that? I guess it could be worse if it was all served on the Sabbath and people were made to cook it themselves (work).


It's The (Real) Economy, Stupid

It is cold, even inside where the heater is here but does not work. The lights are on for the holidays but the cheer has to wait still. It is me and the dog, both waiting in anticipation not for Santa—it is almost a week too early for that and he isn't really what defines Christmas around here anyway. No, we are awaiting the centerpiece of our home, Kelli, who is making her final drive down from her school now upon completing her final work in seminary. Buber may not believe in Santa, but when Kelli enters, he will be as joyous and bouncy as any kid who might watch the jolly man arrive in the middle of the night in this cold season. The poor pup doesn't know what to make of her coming and going each week, but every time she comes home he is beside himself with doggy glee. As for myself, it's like getting the living part of me back.

Three and a half years ago was a lifetime ago. A nightmare of a summer preceded her beginning of school, but I was glad that she was doing it, even if it was to mean a lot of solitary time for me. It is interesting; the summer of 2005 was a time when the world outside was doing rather well—housing prices were still high (though I contend value was low), and our life was in crisis. And now, all this time later, the world outside is in shambles and we're holding our own, even better than we thought possible. As soon as she is done with school, she gets a whopping couple of days to come down and then has before her a nine month internship at a hospital, as chaplain resident. With that comes a worthwhile stipend that puts us in a rather satisfactory position while I still sling taters and onions daily. It defies logic that we're doing this well, but for this, I thank whatever power runs the universe at our local level.

But I like to think of it this way. Kelli's work will feed the souls of people, giving the medical profession some balance as it is quite clear to that profession now that a doctor alone can't simply fix people if their whole being isn't tended to. So Kelli will learn to fill that part of the healing profession. I presently actually am a link in the chain that feeds people actual caloric sustenance and gives people a reason to gather around a table. So maybe it isn't so far fetched that we are in the place we are in today. I won't go so far to say that our particular positions are recession proof, but both are more essential to human life, and reside closer to the base of the economy than do say, a bunch of Wall St. financial wizard-grifters who are now seen to be frauds who deal in greed, hype, and fear.

We didn't just wander into these positions. Kelli's path is longer and perhaps more substantial but she realized before she went to seminary that she had been doing ministry in the secular world as an advocate for youth and seniors, educator in schools and churches, poet and speaker. What she needed was to turn those efforts into something that could bring those circles of her interests into focus, and to get a degree to legitimate what has long seemed a calling for her. My interests in social dynamics, history, psychology, deep economics and political science helped lead me to a family owned business that deals in the thing that unites all humanity at a deep level—we all gotta eat. Yeah, I am a driver, but each work situation can teach something and this one has many small lessons as I drive. The actual work has a certain few things to teach, but moving through town where I see some of the richest people and the poorest people in town is instructive in its own profound way. There is something profound about contemplating the differences—and similarities—between the rich people of Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla, and the desperate people on street corners and doorways in Downtown.

In many ways Kelli and I have pursued our own types of education in these few years, with much more to do. What I cherish about all that is that we trade notes on our experiences and deepen our understanding of our own realities with what the other has to say. Reflecting on the economic crashes of late, it is sad that it will cause anguish for so many. But really, a deeper look at the world's economy shows how despicable and destructive it is. What needs to happen is for a more human sized economy to emerge, and one that is more holistic in its practices. But people fear the change, and the coming of the new. But at what real price, the success of capitalism as we know it? When all is said and done, people still need to eat, and people will need the patient pastor or chaplain to hear their hearts as a lot of pain gets expressed—the disappointments and grieving for loss of all sorts of things big and small. Having known some loss individually and together, I'd like to think either of us might have been prepared to speak meaningfully to another person, even if it was against our wills to ever have the words to do the job!

But in this season of Advent, I am just joyous for Kelli and me not just surviving her schooling, but really thriving in it. Her own schooling at seminary swept me up in all sorts of new understandings. I have said many times I am glad she wasn't just a business student, else how would one really have the chance to develop and look at the world a whole new way such as has been put before me? Some professions are rather stiff and boring, but I think we've both benefited from her seminary experience and its enlivening effect. For now though, I will be happy to just enjoy her being back safely in a few hours, and Buber the Dog will be happy to get petted all of her waking hours, at least until she is off to the hospital in another big adventure.


The Milkwagon And The Milkman

ed at the top of the driver list printoutMy work "productivity" is measured in how many invoices are counted to my credit each week. Not a lot was said about desirable numbers when I was hired, but Bob the boss mentioned that he'd like to see 70 in a week, which is about 14-15 a day. I tackled that with no problem and was routinely coming in around 85 for a few months. Then, in the early summer, something clicked and I hit a stride that was around 100 each week and sometimes more. So he gave me a raise, and then somehow, I managed to pull even more out of my hat. There are about 20 people who are "just" drivers and many other people from the shop end up doing deliveries, so a list is tallied each week and usually the numbers span from one to 150 or more. During most of the summer, I was at about the fourth position where it looked I could not rise above the so-called trio of gods upon Olympus—three guys who have fixed routes that are not too far from the shop but also very dense ones at that, and who tended to work six day weeks and overtime each day. They had a lot of favorable conditions. But, since there has been a crackdown on overtime for a couple months now, I've nudged into their space. I got the third spot once and was all smiles, but this last week, I saw that I got the top spot with numbers to spare—131 deliveries over the next guy's 116. Some recent talk from Bob and his co-owner brother was about how I am the best driver there, but more so that no "short driver" (non-route) has been at the top slot before.

people didn't get why there was a hoe in my bed until i showed them how to move potatoes without crouching and contorting.I got a hoe in my bed, and better still, it was on the company dime!The case for being a short driver—for me anyway—is that I don't have to wake up at 3 am in order to work at 4 am, and also don't have to do the same damned places every day, even though that might have its advantages. I have usually started at 9-10 am and work "straight eight" with no lunch break, and my shift is the last of the driver shifts that can be occupied doing driving only. The next later involves parking trucks and gassing them up, which is not really what they want me to do since they fancy me too worthy a guy to do that for 1/8th of a shift when I could be zipping around in the "Milkwagon" —the beat up and chronically troubled 249,000 mile old white F-150 that I drive, that even after having seized up the engine this summer, they still let me drive daily (while other guys are shifted around from one vehicle to another each day). I do anything I can to avoid having to drive a refrigerator truck, which just disrupts my flow and always feels out of scale for me. I cram that F-150 full if I need to—the bed, the Xtra cab, and the front seat if need be. It is often hard to get around in since it has a matching shell on it, so I requested a tool to help reach in and pull stuff. It is silly as fuck but they got me the hoe I asked for (resulting in many lewd jokes about how my hoe is good in bed, etc.) It turns out that it is quite a good thing to save my knees from climbing inside. Likewise, its good for my back to not be contorting within the covered bed space. Until I can grow arms like Inspector Gadget, it will have to do!

I don't really know what the milk joke is or how extensive it reaches, but the truck has been dubbed the Milkwagon, and I the Milkman. I didn't know that term till someone else got the title for a while before he left or was canned. This title goes to those who spill milk. For me it was about a gallon of heavy cream back in my first month. But for this other guy, it was totally losing some big share of a 24 gallon order as a stack of crates toppled. One day, I was in the shop as this made word and spread like wildfire, then before I know it, someone chimes in, remembering my heavy cream incident of months before, and says, "well, I guess you're not the milkman anymore!" Of all the things I've spilled repeatedly over the ten months I've been there, I wonder why the milk thing sticks like it does.



I sure hope its not true that things happen in threes. Or else I will need a few bath towels to clean up.

Last night I was fetching a large bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing from a top shelf at home—one that was a bit of a stretch for me. It was stacked on its side on top of a couple others similarly stacked. I fumbled it from that height and it crashed down on the sink counter, blowing off its plastic lid (the top cracked off entirely) and spewing its oily substance all over the counter, but it hit with such force that a lot of it became decoration for the wall across the room, the fridge, the cutting table, and the stove too. The floor was turned into an oil slick above all. But since it was right next to me, it was like a bath of the stuff while being dressed. Ick. A torrent of obscenities was all I could muster, leaving Kelli to jump up as if it had been an actual emergency because she didn't really know what happened. She dutifully left her dinner and we set about cleaning up this domestic Exxon Valdez incident. Paper towels in hand, and a bucket of soapy water helped, as did cobbling together some more nasty-dirty fabric stuff that would make a good wash.

Then, because that wasn't good enough, there was an encore today at work. I had two gallons of blue cheese dressing to take to a sports bar. The shop was short on crates and good boxes so I grabbed one that was good enough. Better to use a bad box than to try to grip two jugs of this stuff, I thought. So I got to the place, box under my arm. All was going well till the box broke open at one end and let one gallon of that goopy stuff fall to the concrete floor just as I turn toward the customer area. Exploding dressing jug aside, it sort of bruised my ego that I was only able to successfully deliver only 50% of my order to a guy who is sort of cranky and short of small talk. But it went okay. He quickly got me a fistful of towels to go clean it up on my own. For those who will need to know this stuff, it takes a lot of towels to sop up half a gallon of thick oozing dressing. (I used eight just to get it off the floor, never mind actually cleaning the residue.)

I ended up having to deliver the replacement. This one I put in a crate and protected it like a baby.

I was thinking on the way out, none of this would happen in outer space.


Mmmm, Tastes Like Chicken

Chicken is a versatile meat that lends itself to many recipes. Here are some that I like, with names that seem to capture the flair well.

  • Steamed artichokes with mayo or butter and garlic, with lemon and oil marinated chicken with herbs. It evokes a Mediterranean vibe when served with warm pita bread. I call this one "Choked Chicken."
  • Or, tonight we had a salad with some chicken that was marinated and let to simmer in a delightful parmesan and shiitake mushroom sauce. I call it "Chicken Shiit Salad."
  • In an effort to eat less meat, we have sometimes experimented with some of the soy/tofu substitutes for common meat products. Trader Joe's has a pretty adequate chicken substitute made of tofu. I thought it was a tad dry but if it were let to simmer in a sauce of some sort, it would be even better. The name "meatless chicken" is so unfortunate when you could call it by a far more succinct and memorable name using the words tofu and chicken.: "tofucken." Caution must be exercised so it isn't confused with foot fetish sex or anything else that falls under the term "toe fucking."

How Does Your Garden Grow?

ed holding the attitude adjuster, a weapon of grass destructionMe with my weapon of grass destructionWhen we got to our house in Bay Park, the yard was dingy and mostly grown over with grass and weeds. Most of it still is like that, except for our precious little garden which is now in its second season. Last year we were a bit more careful about what was planted. We picked a range of things to try out but it was all picked out to the last plant or seedling. As we went, we fed the compost bin and kept a pretty good balance and got some nice black loam from the city-supplied black igloo. Only a bit of it went back to the garden. It took a good long time to actually fill it up so I was hesitant to dig any of the decayed material out. It would cook better if it was left to fill and decay, and the summer heat would accelerate that process.

Then I got the gig as veggie monger, and have brought home a lot of veggies not only to eat but I've captured some waste product and fed it to the bin. All in all, there are a great many types of veggies and fruits which have joined the delightful decaying heap.

Usually, the idea is to keep the mix in balance between carbon and nitrogen sources, or the balance between the living and the dead, the newly picked stuff and the dried out stuff like sawdust, cardboard, and so forth. I think Kelli jumped the gun and spread some of it before it was hot enough for long enough to cook out the seeds. The stuff was certainly black, but I guess it would need to have been left to cook for a few months in order to kill the seeds. Anyhow, some of this stuff got turned into the garden soil in a few places—not uniformly because of the existing plants and their roots—and within a few days, we began seeing the um, fruits of our mistake.

That is, if you can call free plants "mistakes." What we got was a whole bunch of tomato plants that started cropping up just where the compost was prematurely mixed into the land. How many varieties of tomatoes have I brought home either to eat or to feed the bin? I have no idea, but there were some hardy seeds in there that took advantage of the extra rich soil! Now our garden has a number of tomato plants scattered about and though we've dug out many that would be far too densely clustered, there are way more tomato plants than the two we ever planted this year! We don't know which of the new ones will turn up what sort of fruit, though one is looking like it is turning up some green heirloom type. Our intended plants are Romas, and little tiny things at that. But I guess we need not worry about our tomato supply this summer. We may need to make new friends in order to give them away!

the beanstalk rose up to roof level and moreThe beanstalkIn a slightly more restrained way, there are some eager volunteer pepper plants which are cropping up in just as random a fashion. A short couple steps away there turned up a whole bunch of corn plants that had to be thinned. The earlier, intended corn was not any good so we composted that and apparently some of that wasn't cooked well either so it was more than happy to take root. Kelli has dubbed the region "chaos corner" as the new volunteers blur the lines of the old rank-and-file layout of the original planting. Tomatoes and peppers are now mingling among rosemary, basil, chard, jalapenos, green onions, strawberries, and the amazing bean plants that have scaled their poles up to the height of the crest in the roof, about 12 feet in the sky! (It takes a ladder to harvest that one.) Also volunteering is a big plant—a vine of some sort—that looks like it either has a round green squash or a watermelon on it. We don't even know what awaits us.

I went and got a truckload of the more usable topsoil compost from the landfill. Apparently that stuff is cooked for at least two months in massive heaps, and is let to break down. This is my third such truckload of black earth; the first was for the initial planting, the second one excited the garden some months later. For only $5 for a full Toyota load full (dumped in with a giant skiploader), you can't go wrong. This time we just spread the stuff out instead of trying to mix it in. The first couple applications of that much compost and other amendments was not easy using only manual labor and hand tools. This time I was hoping to apply it in a blanket fashion so that it might retain water during these hot months, and to also remain a looser soil. The existing soil, despite some amendments, had the tendency to get packed more.

kelli planting and tending the garden in the eveningKelli planting new veggies at Nashville St.I find gardening enhances my spiritual perspective both as spectator and participant. There is life and death; intention and chance; chaos and order, and other life lessons that reveal themselves to the attentive soul. I don't even do as much of this as I would like; work is quite a task that fills my days. I do fancy it an art. It is a joy to come home and see my little plot (about the size of a nicely sized bedroom—about 200 sq ft) defy logic on a daily basis. The bean pole itself was something to watch as it rocketed up the wire grid then the short bamboo then the long bamboo. While I don't end up harvesting or tending the plants as much as Kelli does, I do end up working the compost, and there is a lesson in there too. Even the compost retrains a mind to see that there is less waste out there that can't be put to good use. So it fosters an alertness and a resourcefulness that maybe can't be learned the same way in daily life around computers, plastic, and other stuff that defines our daily environment. The compost is full of worms and bugs of all sorts delighting in my detritus, and who, when spread around the garden, work more diligently than I to make it a great place that will hopefully provide quality nourishment, and the means to share and meet people, or deepen other relationships. Like I found last summer after I was fired from a job that did not appreciate me, the tomatoes spoke in opposition to that. The tomatoes from two plants were there to greet me the next day, full of life and color, and really, full of grace. Grace, I say, because there was only so much I did for them, the rest was mostly miraculous outworkings of the universe at large, all things beyond my control. The tomatoes didn't grow like they did because I earned it in any way. They just are. Tomatoes are only tomatoes. They lead lives with no complications and pretensions such as we know. And on that day a year ago, they instructed me that is was okay to just be. It is rather like what Jesus said about the birds of the sky having no worries. God will take care of things for us just like for the birds. If we let it be so.

But back in "reality" there are perfectly good economic and social reasons to hone one's green thumb. I think though that while people will understand that most readily, given the prices for the food that is provided commercially, the intangible quality of gardening will also infect people's souls too. I think it is a good thing as we realize that a lot of technological promises have been made that can't be kept. Gardening instructs us to live by our sensibilities, in consideration of nature and her rhythms and laws, in community, and with the satisfaction of knowing that even beyond the satisfaction of our own work, there is a dose of grace that touches the whole thing. If it were Forrest Gump speaking, he'd say, "you never know what you're gonna get." And contrary to the materialist view of the world with its various methods for analyzing and measuring trade-offs, that isn't all bad. (I don't know if I have technically broken even on my total investment, nor do I really care. The reward is substantial in ways that can't be measured.) The human drive to conquer nature is what is killing us, both as creatures and as human beings. The whole project of civilization involves being at war with nature, but maybe we should reflect on the ways in which we can be "civilized" and kill ourselves, or be civilized and still enjoy a world worth living in, where life can be witnessed and cherished, even in the null points of death. It might take restraint. Or maybe it will take the breakdown of The Machine. Gardening isn't anti-science or anti-technology. Rather it depends on observation and the use of various means to work toward a positive end—hopefully one that allows people dignity beyond basic survival. But what we have now is an over-reach of science-backed technology, and it is one that is killing us in so many ways we don't even realize it.

For now, I await the randomness of whatever the universe sees fit to provide in my little patch of dirt in the back yard. And, I consider myself lucky to have the dirt at all.


First Fruits

the first samples of strawberries on our new garden, just a month and a half after plantingIt has been just two weeks since we planted our new garden. This past week, we were excited to see a strawberry progress from a little green bud to an almost-edible fruit in just a week or so. The tomato plant is also showing some good growth. The peppers are coming shortly behind and look good to go. The beans, being in what could be a bit too much shade, or maybe getting too much water, are a tad yellow, but they are growing nonetheless. Lettuce, broccoli, basil, and cantaloupe are a bit slow, and I don't know what exactly to expect of them. The soil does seem to be a winner though; some onions and shallots are shooting up nicely. The onions were experiments from some uneaten ones that had gone to sprout, and I put them in a perforated 5 gallon bucket with a couple shovels full of soil. They have done the best, and I debate on whether to transplant the whole bucket's contents to the main plot.

Today I spent time extracting some of the rejuvenated shoots of bermuda grass which found happiness and bliss in the newly enriched and watered soil. I also put up some wire cages and frames for my vine plants—the beans and tomatoes. I after perilously moving the hose across the plot for the last two weeks, I finally ran it up the house wall and over the walkway and along the fence and tied it to a few points so that it would remain in place. For my trouble, I broke a bean plant or two. I hope the other ten plants hold their own and make up for the loss. I also found at a local church a ground out tree stump that provided some free mulch which might be useful to retain moisture, but I want to wait for the plants to get bigger before I dwarf them in more ground cover.

Water, soil, and some light. The rest is up to God.


Some Days...

Some days it just pays to wake up in the morning.

Today started with only a job interview planned. I went to that a little early like I tend to do for most engagements if I have enough control over such things. It was an interview for Adventure 16, an outdoors and sporting goods store. I don't have any real connection to it; I just answered an ad for truck driver and warehouse hand. The pay didn't appear to be horrible, and the shift was full time. At least it's not as bad as at the AV shop which has not had me in but for fourhours in the last three weeks and more. The interview on this morning was rather short. I met with the warehouse boss, the manager and one other. The place was sort of homely. Far from being the cold gray setting that pervades all things at AV land. The woman who I met with at A16 was motherly, about 58 or so, and didn't come off as cold and gray, so I was able to relax. The atmosphere was generally more down-home than businesslike. In the interview, I was able to be candid that I was concerned for how scheduling would work. I told them enough about the AVC predicament I was in, trying to balance personal time with work, and clashes happening on time that was technically "mine." I didn't dwell, but I did make a question to help me discern whether that would be an issue again, and it seemed that it would not be—business hours are 7-3:30, therefore, it wouldn't be an issue if I did schedule things on weekends and evenings. Amen to that. I have to give them my DMV printout, so I will return on Monday with that, and then start to cross my fingers. The pay is roughly the same as at AVC. At least it would not be too great a loss. In fact, even working a regular part time shift would be a gain at this point! Also, I don't suspect that the business of moving product would be as brutal as the things I had to move at AVC. Some of that was starting to feel dangerous.

Anyhow, that's too much about my temporal pursuits for one post!

lee van ham looking sharp in 2010Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economics MinistriesBy far the rest of the day came alive starting once I took that hat off and put on my spiritual sojourner hat. Actually, I changed shirts, not hats, and then I was off to see Lee Van Ham for the third time in about two weeks. Early on, when I originally met him, he had the probing questions that made me think, and it was clear, even about ten months ago or so that he was someone that would be good to be near. Subsequent meetings, still centered around "my" project of peak oil awareness had me deepen my mission based on things Lee said. And, maybe in another post, I will detail out some of my feelings about his birthday party this past December. These days, the recent meetings have come about because in my quasi-employed state, I was looking for ways to spend time growing in some way, and so I wrote and asked to meet with Lee, which we've done a few times now.

For today, the third meeting was at his office at the Methodist church. The original intention to chat in the first meeting is morphing into creating a guided spiritual formation effort that would probably bring benefits to both of us, but I have a feeling that with his 65 years and half a life in ministry, I would be able to learn a thing or two and be led to other levels of awareness about life in general, but particularly as a budding Christian in the age of much stress around the world. I guess I am finding it's time to finally understand the Bible as a force for change and development. With Lee's interfaith awareness and practices, I find that he's a great source of inspiration for meeting the challenge of the world today, with a spiritual underpinning that was lacking from my issues-only approach last year. With dear wife Kelli being immersed in her studies of theology, philosophy, and all the other great things in life, I have found myself drawn into her wake, and interestingly, her entry into the field has pulled me in too, but for me, there is no particular framework, even at my church, for diving in deeper. Over the months, encounters with Lee have been the ones that have challenged me or left me feeling like 'yeah, that's who's shadow I need to stand in!'

Today we discussed how this little forum might take shape and what it might seek to accomplish. Part of what I have been feeling compelled to do is to actually get out of the book so that some meaningful work might be done. I have ideas of doing things that would somehow accomplish this, but am too tentative to carry them out, or too willing to let my daily life make an excuse for not doing so. I also want to deepen my awareness of the Bible and really any other text that compels me to awe and wonder, but hopefully action. Really, I fancy myself a sponge now, but one that needs to be drawn away from material toys (computers, primarily) and into the "real world" of books, face-to-face engagements, and other real experiences. Meeting with Lee can achieve that first by ensuring that I meet and talk to a real human. And our little mission now is that we will study and reflect, and find a way to manifest this into existence. The basis of what he does is delightfully subversive. For such a soft spoken gentle man (sic), he preaches some great mind-bending sh*t! So, however it comes to me, I hope that these encounters will lead me to being more alive, more feeling, less programmed by the prevailing society. I think meetings of this sort will lead me to reckon better my relationships with my dad (or at least be less damaged by it), to deepen my marriage (which I feel is the cornerstone of one's relationship with society as a whole), or to just be a more sensitive person to the needs of others, and again, society. Having read Parker Palmer's book about vocation, Let Your Life Speak, I found that as much as anyone might like the great heroes like Gandhi, MLK, and others of their stature, none of us could be them. However, what one can strive for is the inner-groundedness that they had to have in order to meet the challenges before them. So the point is not striving to be the leader, but having the tools to lead when they are needed. And I think they will be needed. And I think meeting with Lee will be a significant step in working toward such a goal. Lee sent me away with a book that is the basis of much of the work he does now, teaching the ethical implications of the biblical sabbath-jubilee. Though I had known of his work for several months now, today was the first time I think I understood it enough to repeat it back to someone. After I left, I went and read a section of the book. On the first page, it came alive–something was said about "we read the gospel as if we are poor, but live as if there is no gospel at all." That pretty much stripped away any pretense. Reading that immediately got into me like an arrow and spoke to me in a way that underscored everything I think is important to getting out of our predicament today.

But, the day was not over. Lee reminded me of a movie showing on the subject of food, and announced it was at an "intentional community down on Hawthorn" street. Intentional community? On Hawthorn? Well, it turned out to be an old house that was shared by four parties. I got there just before 6 pm and met Jason and Brooke who lived in the front house. I spotted books or authors that I recognized: Buber, Bruggemann among the most readily visible ones; some stuff that lines the walls of Jerry's library, and more and more, Kelli's library. I felt at home rather soon. I could tell we had some progressive spiritual minds here. It was a cozy place that smacked of intelligence, compassion, and friendship. People filed in, more and more—a number of couples among them. By the time dinner was served, it was about 20-25 people, almost all between about 25-35, with Lee being the elder of the group, but absorbing it and mingling as if he was new to it all. He also proved to be the anchor of a small pack of us who were there because of him. Aside from the good group of people there was a delightful dog that seemed to like me, so I got a chance to pet her.

The movie itself was The Future of Food, which was quite in line with the stuff I would show at an EONSNOW showing, but on this evening, it was a delightful house party with fresh vegitarian food prepared on the spot by folks who obviously know about this stuff. The movie, as all these sorts of movies are, was pretty horrifying (I only watch this type of movie now, it seems) and there were times I swear I wanted to spit and curse at what I heard. Sometimes, there were collective gasps as it was revealed exactly how diabolical corporate practices can be.

But the real clincher for the whole evening was the discussion afterwards. Oh, I would have loved to have had this sort of discussion at one of my shows, but rarely did it ever reach as deep as this. Most of the people who started the evening stayed to the end, and a good thing. By the end, we had had some deep experience that was tangible and unifying. We did a round of introductions which took a while, but was always interesting. After seeing the movie and having a discussion, it was really fascinating to see how people arrived here, what they did, their sense of mission in life. It was diverse without being scattered. I think one that that was sparked was reverence. The night took on a spiritual dimension that I never could have imagined. People, crowded into a small 1920's living room, perched on chairs and sitting on the floor, all eating pure food that was carefully prepared. I had a vision of Jesus and the disciples in communion, but in this case, we were all Jesus, and all disciples just the same. It was magical in a way. The shared experience of eating together, even with total strangers as they all were to me (except for Lee, but he and I didn't end up in the same conversation for long at any time during the night) took on a holy dimension. And, to deepen the experience, we were gathered because we needed to learn about a common threat to this food supply, the most fundamental thing for each of us assembled.

People introduced themselves, each telling about some work they do in organic farming (even as new practicioners), counseling, volunteering, education, and even ministry. It was just a remarkable bunch of people who have their hands in so many interesting things, and the spirit was there it seemed that moved each to offer their knowledge and passion. I think the real victory of the evening was that everyone was saying that this group must reconvene. That was sort of the point anyway, to gather folks for a program led by the lady who presented the movie, but it went beyond that.


Better Eating Through Science

My bag of Poore Brothers® brand Salt & Vinegar potato chips has the following ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable oil (may contain one or more of the following: sunflower and/or cottonseed)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sodium diacetate
  • Dextrose
  • Salt
  • Malic acid
  • Sodium citrate

Looks like they forgot the vinegar. Well, they had me fooled. Ah, the wonders of modern chemical based food production!

I wonder how they arrived at deciding to leave out vinegar from a recipe that really sounds to me like its no more complex than taters, salt, and vinegar. Ah, the R&D department must have a great time figuring this one out!