Thursday, July 11, 2024

Summertime Smoothie Time

“The journey is part of the experience—an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.”
- Anthony Bourdain

Freshly made fruit smoothie, ready to be devoured on a very hot day

One of the hardest parts of trying to eliminate processed sugars from your life can be summed up by the comforting words of: Summer and Ice Cream.  Enough said.

However, I have discovered a solution to this perplexing problem that is, dare I say, more delicious than ice cream?!  I might be slightly biased here and perhaps I'm just trying to will that statement to be true.

There are a lot of smoothie options out there however this one is, by far, the most delicious and also the easiest to make.  It's a whopping 2 ingredients.  You ready for this?  I don't think you are but here we go anyways:

Sunday, July 7, 2024

What is Life?

"The world you perceive is made of consciousness; what you call matter is consciousness itself." - Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Is the poppy alive?  How about the honey bee?

Hands and knees digging into the soil, face an inch or two above the ground, staring bewildered at a bright orange pumpkin that is perfectly centered on a 1 foot by 1 foot red brick on the very corner of the garden.  The pumpkin was not placed there by any human, it appears to have found the most perfect spot for it to grow, all on its own.  My eyes trace the 20 foot vine back to the main part of the plant.  The vine appears to have, over time, walked across the garden, bumped into the brick and just so happened to grow a pumpkin in the exact spot where the brick was.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Build the Environment

Ladybugs Loving the Chamomile

When issues in the garden arise, avoid focusing on trying to solve a single problem.  Instead, step back, view it from an eagle eye view and focus on building the environment as a whole.  Provide nature with everything it needs to thrive and it will be able to take care of itself.

When you try to solve problems individually, you end up bouncing from issue to issue playing whac-a-mole as you try to contort and control the environment to your will.  If the environment has everything it needs, everything will stay in balance and issues will sort themselves out on their own.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Things Aren't Always as They Appear

Madre de Dios River - Peru - 2013

Sitting at a table on a patio at a restaurant with about 10 other people on the absolute edge of the Amazon Rainforest in Peru, the year is 2013.  Trees tower above us and I stare, mesmerized, at the slowly flowing Madre de Dios river which sits a few hundred feet in front of us.  The restaurant is empty except for us.  Hundreds of different types of birds make their presence known in the distance as the sun dwindles across the cloudless sky.

Hey James, what are you ordering?  John asks me from the other side of the table.

I think I'm going to get the fish - I respond as I glance back at the menu.

John leans in across the table and says in a quiet voice - Don't order the fish.

Why not?

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Curious Case of Total Solar Eclipses

"If you're outside the path of totality, if there's any way you can get into the path of totality for the eclipse, do it. Take the day off. Take the kids out of school. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people to see a total eclipse, and it is one of the grandest sights in all of nature. It's something you'll always remember, and you'll pass stories of it onto your grandchildren." - Fred Espenak

A strange phenomenon happens at eclipses.  It's not what happens in the sky but rather, what happens in the community.  Eclipses have a strange way of bringing together reams of random people, from all walks of life, from all over the world and uniting them together - despite their differences.

At the most recent eclipse that occurred on April 8th, 2024 I stumbled across the Los Rios campground in Camp Wood, Texas and found myself amongst the following notable characters among many others:  A retired billionaire from Australia who currently lives on a sailboat in the Bahamas.  A French lady.  A retired engineer and hobbyist deep space photographer.  A guy from Italy.  A high school astronomy teacher.  Families from all across the US.  Motorcyclist from California.  Family from Mexico.  Then there's me.

This is a very eclectic group of people from sea to shining sea whom would never ever find themselves in the same place at the same time, especially not in a very small town in Texas that currently has a population of five hundred and forty-four, except for one phenomenon:  A Total Solar Eclipse.

It's a beautiful thing, instead of letting our vast differences divide us, we all set that aside and let our excitement for the eclipse unite us.  It was the most kumbaya experience I've had in a while.  It was peaceful.  It was enjoyable.  It was fun.  It gave us all hope for humanity.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Cuba: It's Complicated

During a trip to Cuba in January of 2024 it was discovered that the picturesque photos you see of Cuba, is not the real Cuba.  The real Cuba is very different from how everything appears on the surface.  It is a country full of extremes and contrasts.  The one phrase that best sums up Cuba is:  It’s Complicated. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

10 Fantastical Things Learned from the Garden - 2024 Vibes

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."
- Confucius

Man in Hat
Pondering things learned

Apparently I'm on a two year cycle of writing a new top 10 things learned article.  The first one was in 2020 and the second in 2022 and now the third is upon us.  No intro is really needed so alas here is latest and greatest, top 10 fantastical things learned from the garden:

1. Stay on top of the weeds and they will go away with time.  Weeds are indicative of a soil health issue plus the ground does not want to be bare.  If you have bare ground, weeds will grow - this is the earth trying to heal itself.  If you plant something and weeds grow instead, you've got a soil health problem.  There are two main approaches to weed control 1) obsessively  try and pull every single weed or 2) let the weeds grow a little bit, then right when the seed heads start forming just cut the seed heads off, when your ready for the entire weed to be gone, just cut it off at the base and let the body of the weed decompose back into the soil.  This makes the weed spend all of its energy into growing then it can't reproduce so over time your weed problem goes away.  Keep an eye out for useful weeds - such as dandelions - which you can eat, make wine out of, or a hand balm, etc.  Just because it's considered a weed doesn't mean it's useless.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

2. You do not know everything despite what you think you already know.  Not even close.  Approach every day in the garden with a mindset of "I know nothing, what can the garden teach me today?"  Do that and you will learn an immense amount every single day.  The garden / nature has a infinite amount of wisdom it's willing to share with you... if you are willing to listen.

3. There is such a thing as too much compost.  Compost is jam packed with nutrients.  If you are producing a high amount of compost and you have a somewhat small growing area, it is certainly possible to add too much compost and overload the ground with nutrients that the plants then can't absorb.  Too much of a good thing... is a thing.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Bee Sting Remedy

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
- Albert Einstein

Bee on Dahlia
Bee loving the dahlia.

Stung by a bee?  This is all you need to make the pain and swelling go away, fast:

Grind up the lavender in a mortar and pestle (or in-between your palms).  Mix it in with a little bit of honey.  Apply mixture to the bee sting.  Cover with a band aid.  The pain starts going away almost instantly.  Leave the band aid on as long as possible.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Seeds 2.0

"The tiny seed knew that in order to grow it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, and struggle to reach the light." - Sandra Kring

Seed getting planted - 2024

An update to the original Seed article is in order!  It turns out that all seeds are not created equal.  As plants grow, they adapt to their local environment then when they produce seeds those seeds are better adapted to that specific climate that the parent plant grew in.

If you take these seeds across the country to a different environment, the plant may struggle, because they're in a completely new environment that has different conditions than where they came from.

Friday, February 9, 2024

A Year in the Cold

"By forcing yourself to embrace the stress of cold exposure as a meaningful self-directed challenge (i.e., stressor), you exert what is called ‘top-down control’ over deeper brain centers that regulate reflexive states. This top-down control process involves your prefrontal cortex – an area of your brain involved in planning and suppressing impulsivity. That ‘top-down’ control is the basis of what people refer to when they talk about “resilience and grit.” Importantly, it is a skill that carries over to situations outside of the deliberate cold environment, allowing you to cope better and maintain a calm, clear mind when confronted with real-world stressors. In other words, deliberate cold exposure is great training for the mind."

Favorite ice bath spot to date - July 2023 - Mountains of Colorado - 10,500 ft.  Glacier... check.  Mountains... check.  Trees... check.  Fresh mountain air... check.  Beautiful scenery... check.  Sunshine... check.  Very cold water... check.

Eyes closed, deep breathe in... deep breathe out...  I hear distant footsteps on the trail that's about 50 feet away and past a thin layer of trees.  Even 4.5 miles from the trailhead that starts way off in the middle of the mountains of Colorado, you're bound to run into at least one person.  Especially if you're sitting in a lake in your underwear.  You might not see someone all day, but if you're going to see someone... it's definitely going to be when you're almost naked... in the lake... and it'll probably be a big group...

I laugh as my mind wanders off to this random thought.  Back to my breathing...

Deep breath in... deep breathe out...

A minute later I hear laughter close by followed by, "What are you doing?"

I open my eyes and turn my head to see a group of about 8 hikers all staring at me as I sit in my underwear in the crystal clear lake with water up to the bottom of my chin and trying to be as still as I possibly can to avoid heating my body up.

"I'm hanging out in the hot tub!"  as I keep my focus on my breathing.

They shoot each other inquisitive and confused looks.  "Isn't it cold?" One of them asks  As they glance at the snow and ice that's directly next to the lake.

"Yyyuuuppp, it's pretty dang cold, but that's the whole point, gotta get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Plus it feel great on the leg muscles."

They shrug their shoulders and continue on their way.

Deep breath in... deep breath out...

Friday, February 2, 2024

Roast Squash Seeds

Squash Seeds
Squash seeds roasting

Roasting seeds is a quick, easy and enjoyable snack or topping on a soup or perhaps even a meal all by itself - if you have enough of them.

If you cut open a squash, instead of throwing the seeds out, roast them instead!

All you do is pull the seeds out with your hand or a spoon.  Clean the squash strands off of the seeds and pull the seeds apart from each other at the same time.

Set the oven to 350, drizzle some olive oil in a pan.

Add squash seeds to the pan and spread them out so they're not all clumped together.