Friday, August 20, 2010

Lazy Friday Link

I've been on a forest gardening kick ever since seeing the video by Geoff Lawton last weekend.  I'm planning another post about forest gardening and how I plan to use it in my own homestead someday, but it isn't quite ready to post yet.  So until then, I thought I'd share another great site that I follow that is about forest gardening.

Landed - Forest Gardening is written by a gentleman named Simon living in the UK who already has an established forest garden.  I find his posts an enjoyable read, with lots of great photographs to compliment his observations.  Simon even throws in an occasional time-lapse video, which I find particularly awesome.  I read the blog section of his website mostly, but I also find the rest of his site a fantastic resource.  If you're interested in forest gardening, his is a site you must check out.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Food Forestry as Part of my Homesteading Plans

I have on occasion tried to describe food forestry to people, and I have always found myself lacking at communicating the concept.  I believe this is because it is not a field I have delved deeply into, so I don't know specific tactics that can easily transfer the knowledge from myself to another.  The knowledge that I do have has been from reading I have done in very technical form which does not easily transfer in casual conversation, as well as from videos.

I rarely embed videos in my blog because I feel like it is a cheap way of writing a post.  I want this blog to be a journal of my ideas and plans, not just a record of stuff I've found on the internet.  I want to make an exception today though, because I have found a video that I think is VERY cool, and because this video expresses a sense of food forestry that I find myself incapable of expressing through written or spoken word.  Geoff Lawton is a pioneer in the field of permaculture.  This video of him explaining and demonstrating the stages and layers of a food forest expresses in seven minutes what it would take me hours to get across to someone who has never heard of food forestry.

Food forestry is a field of study all its own.  Although most permaculturists consider it to be a part of a permaculture system, it is not a requirement.  The definitive guide to food forestry is a pair of books by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, Edible Forest Gardens, which can be found using the link to the left.  (If anyone who is reading this post is trying to figure out what to get me for Christmas, these books would be about the best gift you could give me.)

Food forestry is a large part of what I want to accomplish on my homestead.  Obviously the plants that makeup the forest on my property when I establish it in the pacific northwest will be very different from the sub-tropical plants you see in this video, but the concepts are the same.  I want to set aside a major portion of my land, perhaps 20-30%, and dedicate it food forestry production.  As the video demonstrates very well, this takes a lot of time and forethought, which is a reason that I consider my homesteading plan to be a lifelong pursuit.  If gardening, production of small livestock, and energy independence were the only concepts I planned on using to produce self-sufficiency using my homestead, then it would be ready in only a year or two after I found the land I want to live on.

However, my plan involves establishing and building sustainable, self-monitoring and self-regenerating systems which produce whether or not they are "worked" by human labor.  That sort of thing takes years, and if establishing mine takes as long as Geoff's, it would be at least 7 years.  This means that at best, if I were to magically get land tomorrow and start establishing my food forest right away, I'd be 34 before it reached that point.  In reality, I probably won't be able to buy land that I think is right for at least 5 years.  After I buy it, I'm going to want to just sit back and observe it for at least 1 year (and probably 2 or 3) so I can document what sort of ecological systems are already in place on my land as the seasons progress.  Only then will I begin to establish my food forest.  And only then will I be on what for me is the path to living on, developing, and passing on to future generations The Permie Homestead.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Finally(!) Joining the Tucson CSA

I've budgeted carefully.  I've double checked my math.  And I'm finally, FINALLY, going to join the Tucson CSA!  I have been wanting to do this ever since I learned what a CSA was in the fall of 2008, but my budget never allowed for it.

I'm buying one produce share and one goat cheese share.  The CSA recommends that if you want the food you get from your share to provide a majority of your food, you should plan on one share per person.  Since I am a big guy who eats a lot, I think buying one whole share for myself, and using the money I save to buy other staples such as eggs, bread, milk, wheat products (like pasta, etc), and maybe even some grass-fed beef or other meat, I'll be able to supply myself with PLENTY of healthy food.  And if the CSA ends up being more produce than I expect, I'll just eat more fruits and veggies and less of the other stuff, or give some to my roommate.

I'm also considering buying some meat shares from the CSA.  They offer beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey. I think I'll definitely buy a turkey share, just for the fun of having it at Thanksgiving.  I'm considering one share each of the others, though I'm not really sure if I'll be able to afford that much.  We'll see when the time comes.

I expect that the produce part of my CSA share will double to triple my fruit and veggie consumption.  This, theoretically, should reduce my consumption of other things, especially the junky food I eat like Mac and Cheese when my pantry gets low.  I hoping that this, combined with my new exercise regimens (which I'll write about in another post soon) should get me down to 200 lbs by the end of the year easily.  During my recent period of consistent exercise, I've been losing about 1 pound a week. This puts me on pace to be at 200 pounds right around Christmas time.  If eating more fruits and veggies and less empty-cupboard-junk can increase my weight loss to just 1.5 pounds a week, I'll be VERY close to 200 by the time I leave for the Grand Canyon.  Believe it or not, losing weight on a backpacking trip is all but impossible for me.  I pack food so that I can eat like a king... jerky, cheese, trail mix with every kind of nut and such delicious treats as gummy bears and M&M's.  It's one of the greatest pleasures of being out backpacking.  SO, in spite of the fact that I'll be hiking with a 50+ pound backpack on for 40-50 miles over the course of 6 days, I'll probably either maintain weight or put on a pound or two while I'm down there, which means I could be down to 200 by Thanksgiving.  And of course, who loses weight around the holidays?  This reasoning is why my goal as ever is to be at 200 by New Years.  I know I can do it!

Finally, I'm ready to write about the most exciting thing that I have to talk about today, and what prompted me to make sure I cranked out a post tonight!  I found out today that a co-worker of mine, Shannan, is also signing up for the Tucson CSA.  The coolest part of it is that she heard about CSA's from me!  As far as I know, Shannan is the first person that has taken action towards sustainable food based on information they got from me!  That makes me very exciting and honored.  I honestly consider having even a small influence on just one person towards being more conscious of their food supply, and taking steps to create more food sustainability, to be a huge victory for myself and what I set out to accomplish by writing The Permie Homestead Blog.  For giving me the gift of feeling like I've made a difference... Thanks Shannan!

And to everyone, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hiking in Pima Canyon

I went for a hike in Pima Canyon yesterday morning.  I made it to the trailhead by 630, which was a lot later than I wanted to, but it was still quite nice outside at that time.  My goal was to make it up to Pima Saddle, which is about 5.7 miles from the trailhead, but I turned around after about 4.2 miles because it was getting too hot and I was worried about how much water I would have left by the time I got back to the car.  Overall, the hike took about 6 hours and 10 minutes, and I felt pretty good.  I wore my Vibram Five Finger shoes for about 60% of the hike, and my Chaco Z/2's for the remainder.

As usual, I was pretty bad about taking photographs.  I need to practice slowing down or stopping and taking pictures on a hike, but I'm always intrigued by what's around the next corner, or over the next hill.  I did snap a few photos though, which I'll add to the bottom of this post.  I mainly took pictures of some trees with acorn-looking nuts (I dubbed this the "Canyon Walnut" until I find out what it actually is, mostly because after the initial bitterness went away it tasted like a walnut) because I wanted to figure out exactly what they are as part of my interest in becoming familiar with what plants in the Sonoran Desert are potential foraging food sources.  There were enough of these trees, with enough "Walnuts" on them, that I could've picked 2 lbs of them and still left plenty for other foragers and the wildlife.

All in all, I think it was a successful first workout hike since I got my permit for the Grand Canyon.  I feel good about the distance I hiked and my energy levels throughout, though I'm definitely going to limit my hikes in duration for the remainder of the summer so as to avoid the heat. I'm also going to try to start a little earlier for the same reason, but for the most part I was feeling good for the rest of the day.  For my hike this coming weekend, I'm debating trying to convince a friend to drive me up to the top of Mt. Lemmon and pick me up at a trailhead later that day, or maybe the next day, so I can exercise my "downhill" muscles.  Whatever I do, I'll post an update about how I felt... so until then enjoy the photos from my hike yesterday!  And if anyone knows what the mysterious "Canyon Walnut" actually is, please let me know.

This is the "acorn" that I found.  These trees were all over the place.  Until 
I find out what this is, I'm calling it the "Canyon Walnut."

The "Canyon Walnut" tree.

A very pretty Century Plant in bloom.

A blue bellied lizard hamming it up for me.

I  believe that little guy in the middle of the photo is a Coatimundi.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Finding Community within the Homesteading Movement... Right Under My Nose

I have found more homesteading community right under my nose than I ever would've guessed.  Yesterday at work turned out to be a day when I met a bunch of people who shared homesteading interests similar to my own.

I found out that a gent I work with named David is not only interested in homesteading, but has studied permaculture, rainwater harvesting, sustainability, and many of the other apsects that I have written about.  I also ran into Shannan (who is also an awesome motivator for my recent workouts) who told me that she shared this blog with her husband because he has interests that are very similar as well.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find so many people who think along the same lines that I do.

There are several other people I work with who I know are interested in homesteading, sustainability, independence, or something similar who aren't among the people who I mentioned already.  Kristin and Pix are two other girls who have deep connections with this community... Pix even majored in Permaculture in college!

With so many intelligent people that I work with having very similar interests to me, is it any wonder that I love my job?  This has my mind churning as to whether or not I should start building some community right there within my workplace, and perhaps propose a small group that could meet up once in a while and share ideas, projects, inspiration, maybe even some homegrown produce.  I know I plan on trying to sit down with everyone who has these interests at least individually so I can explore their thoughts and forage for some ideas.

If you are one of the people I mentioned and you are reading this, thanks for the inspiration!  It's awesome to know that there are a lot of other people who have similar ideas... it makes me feel like my goals are less crazy, less fringe.  If anyone is interested in meeting up and talking about this with a cup of coffee or a couple of beers, let me know!  I'll always make time to discuss this kind of thing.

And as for anyone who I didn't mention in my post, where have you found community around ideas you are interested in?  What inspires you when thinking about your goals?  Please, anyone reading leave a comment and share your thoughts!  I write this blog as a way of trying to build community too!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Quick Blog Update

Blogger recently added a feature with which you can add stand-alone pages to your blog.  I've decided that this is the kind of place that my Land Fund FAQ belonged, as well as my About Me page.  Take a look at them and leave a comment on this post to let me know what you think.

Eventually, I'm going to write a stand-alone page that outlines my philosophy behind The Permie Homestead Blog and the goals of mine that it represents, and there may be some other pages that pop up eventually, so keep an eye out for more pages hanging out up there underneath my banner!

Thanks for checking out my quick update!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grand Canyon Update!

I got my Grand Canyon permit in the mail yesterday, and I'm excited!  I hike in on November 2nd and hike out on November 7th, which means I'll be driving up anytime between October 30th and November 1st, and driving home on November 8th.  I can't wait!

I was planning on doing a lot of training hikes anyway, but now that my dates are official I'll be kicking it into full gear.  I'll make sure to post thoughts and pictures from my hikes as I train.  For my first training hike, this Saturday I think I'll fill up a decently weighted pack and hike up Pima Canyon to Pima Saddle.  It's 5.7 miles one-way, starting at an elevation of 2960 and going up to 6320.  It should be a good place to start training for the hardest part of any trip to the Grand Canyon... getting out of it!

This is also an interesting time to think about my personal health.  I think I will be in better shape for this Grand Canyon trip than for any of my previous trips.  If I keep on the pace that I have been going, I'll weigh no more than 210 lbs, which would be about 10-12 lbs lighter than I was for my last trip.  However, since I'm riding my bike, running, doing pushups, AND hiking to get in shape for the Grand Canyon, it's possible I'll be even lighter. Maybe I'll even be in such good shape that I'll have already reached my goal of 200 lbs for the year.  Since hiking the Grand Canyon for a week requires a backpack that'll weigh at least 50 lbs, every pound less that I weigh will be that much less impact on my body as I'm hiking.  If I were to lose 20 lbs between now and then, and I carried a 50 lb pack for my trip, it'd be the equivalent of carrying a 30 lb pack today, which is pretty typical for a brief overnight trip, and a weight that I feel like I could carry forever.  I'm excited by the idea that a 50 or even 60 lb pack plus my body weight could eventually be no heavier than my current body weight plus a daypack.  When I am that in shape again, backpacking will be even more amazing than it is now!

Do you have any upcoming trips that you're excited to take?  Have you spent any time in the outdoors recently that you loved?  Share your trip stories in the comments!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Heat

It is hard to get motivated to do anything in the month of July.  Temperatures easily reach into the 100's everyday, and the humidity will steadily climb until the monsoons finally decide to let loose.

I had been thinking about going for a long hike this morning and kick off my training for my Grand Canyon trip, but in order to "beat the heat" I would've had to get up really early and hit the trailhead at about 5am.  Unfortunately my body decided it needed some rest and I slept in until almost 9, by which point it was already 95 degrees or so, and starting a hike was thoroughly out of the question.

I have now spent most of my day inside, and instead have decided to work on some blog posts, plan out some aspects of my fall garden, and catch up on some podcasts.  This weekend I plan on getting outside and hiking nice and early, and once it gets too hot and I come home, I'm going to start some seeds and see if I can't get some late tomatoes, peppers, and beans to sprout and kick off "Fall," no matter how far away that feels.

What're you doing to beat the heat?  And what're you doing to get ready for Autumn?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

My Upcoming Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip

My post from yesterday about hiking made me think about my upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon.  Last Thursday, the 1st of the month, I put in a permit request for a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.  For anyone who doesn't know, the first day that you can request a backcountry permit in the Grand Canyon National Park is the 1st of the month of the 4th month before the dates you are requesting.  I want to take my trip in early November, hence I requested at the beginning of July.

The Grand Canyon is a very special place to me.  In October of 2006, my family and I suffered a loss that shook our world with the murder of my older brother Craig.  I was very much in a daze for the next couple of months.  On December 31st, 2006, my friend Chris and I took a backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon.  It was a very mentally challenging undertaking, and may be the single most physically challenging thing I have ever done.  I was not quite in the shape required of me for this trip, my knees did not do well, and from 6 hours into the trip on the 1st day until the very last step out of the canyon on January 7th, I was in tremendous pain.

I emerged, however, more clear-minded than I had been since my brother's passing.  It was as if I had ventured into the canyon as one person who ended up dying down there, and emerged as a new person who had accepted the loss of his brother and was ready to move on the way Craig would've wanted me to.  I also found after this trip that although I had been outdoorsy all of my life, I felt closer to the natural world than I ever had before.  I noticed more easily the impact that man has on nature, was more aware of the pain that the modern way of life can cause an ecosystem, and was for the first time aware of the joy that venturing out of civilization and into the wild can bring to me.  There is a distinct demarcation between the person I was when I was in college and before, and the person I am today... and that line falls on my first backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon.

Ever since that trip, and despite the intense physical and psychological pain I was feeling the entire time on it, I have tried to get back to the Grand Canyon as frequently as I can.  This has not been very much unfortunately.  I went again in October of 2008 and have not been back since.  My current job will hopefully allow me to go more frequently, since I have very good vacation time and the opportunity for plenty of unpaid leaves as well.

And at long last that brings me to what the main focus (and title) of this post is; my upcoming Grand Canyon backpacking trip.  If I get the permit dates I specifically requested, which I probably will, I will drive up to the Grand Canyon on October 31st or November 1st, whichever is easiest for me.  I will backpack into the canyon on November 2nd going down the Tanner Trail which starts at Lipan Point.  On the night of the 2nd I will camp at Tanner Rapids.  On the 3rd, I will hike via the Beamer Trail to the Little Colorado Confluence.  I plan on either staying there for 3 nights then hiking back to Tanner where I will camp another night then hike out, OR staying there for 2 nights then hiking back to Tanner where I will stay for another 2 nights then hike out.  If I spend the extra day at Tanner Rapids, I will day hike to the west briefly and use the rest of the day to recover before hiking out of the Grand Canyon, which is very challenging.  I currently have only requested the permit for myself, but I expect that two or three of my friends will eventually commit to the trip and I can add them to the permit, so it should be a fun trip.  If they don't, I will get to see what it is like to go on a solo trip into the Grand Canyon.

When writing a post for this blog, I will almost always try to ask what it has to do with my goal of homesteading.  In a small way, I think my homesteading project is my attempt to support and build around myself that wilderness I experience in the Grand Canyon and on other backpacking trips in a way that I can enjoy more frequently.  It will be a place where all I have to do to escape "civilization" is go home.  Also, I believe that in many ways my passion for backpacking started me on the path to discovering my passion for homesteading and self-sufficiency.  It certainly sparked my passion for protecting the environment and experiencing it more fully.  And to bring it full circle in a way that demonstrates the self-reinforcing strength I feel about this subject, my passion for backpacking and the outdoors are a huge part of what makes working working where I work so awesome, and working there is probably going to be what makes my homesteading dreams possible, and having a homestead is going to be what brings the wild and natural feeling I have while backpacking home to me.  In a way, backpacking is the grandfather of the Permie Homestead Blog, so I will always make room for posts about it when I have a great trip planned that I want to share.

In the future I'll make sure to give you updates on this trip and others.  I'll probably get my permit for this trip and find out my exact dates within the next couple of weeks, and I'll share those with you once I have them.  Also, planning a big backpacking trip always inspires me to take a lot of small hiking, camping, and backpacking trips to get prepared, so I'll be sharing those with you as they happen as well.  So until next time, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Hiking and Foraging

I went for a hike yesterday with my friend Jenn and our dogs.  We went to the Catalina State Park and hiked along the Romero Canyon Loop Trail.  We wanted to hike up to Romero Pools, but dogs are not allowed into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness even though there have been no bighorn sheep in the area for years, which is unfortunate.

While hiking I noticed a lot of edibles.  This is the season for Saguaro fruit, and Jenn and I knocked one down and enjoyed the somewhat bland (the fruit wasn't entirely ripe) goop inside.  I enjoy trying things like that, and it was Jenn's first time eating cactus fruit knocked right off the plant, so it was fun introducing her to something, even though her reaction to it was neutral.  We also saw some canyon grapes that were not quite ripe.  I tried one and it was rather bitter and mostly seed.  In another couple of weeks it might be worth it to go up a couple of canyons where I know there are a lot of canyon grapes and see if I can beat the birds to some ripe ones.

Seeing all of the edible stuff out there on this hike made me remember that one of the projects I would like to pursue is learning all I can about the edible plants in my area.  The book I am linking to on the left is the current authority on edible plants in the Sonoran Desert, and is something I hope to pick up as soon as I can afford to do so.

Once I pick it up, I'd like to try to learn about one or two new edible plants every week, and go out on the weekends to forage for them when their produce is in season.  It would be interesting to find out just how much food I can find out here in the desert, which is much more lush than most people would think.  I also think this "foraging training" will be helpful with developing my mindset for homesteading, and looking at how nature places and produces food in the wild so I can integrate those systems into my land design.

What are your thoughts on foraging?  Is it something you try to learn about as well, or something you even incorporate into your diet on a regular basis?  What are plants are good for foraging in your area.  Please share your thoughts in the comments, and of course, thanks for reading!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Commuting to Work

I have been riding my bike to work recently.  I started the Friday before last and rode everyday last week, so I'm currently "riding a streak" of 6 work days in a row.  It has felt really great, and I plan on trying to continue that streak as long as I can.

My ride to or from work is just about 5 miles one-way, depending on exactly what route I decide to take.  I try to leave around 630am to give myself plenty of time in case I get a flat or something else happens that might make me late.  As a part of my daily routine, I like to stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee before work, and to get to Starbucks it takes me about 20 minutes.  I usually hang out there and drink my coffee for 10 or 15 minutes, and from Starbucks to work is only about 4 or 5 more minutes.  So I usually get to work between 715 and 725, which gives me plenty of time to shower and clean up before I start work at 8.

As far as I can see it, there is no downside.  My drive to work is just under 5 miles, so I'm saving 10 miles worth of gas everyday, which in my car is most of a gallon.  Aside from saving $3/day on gas, I'm also saving the extra miles on my car, which anyone who read my post about used cars knows is part of my plan to be energy efficient and earth-friendly.  Also, even after a couple of nights when I didn't get much sleep, the morning rides have been extremely pleasant and are a fantastic way to start my day.  I haven't had a single ride yet that I've regretted doing, and I'm usually in a great mood by the time I get off of my bike.

This all also ties in with my weight loss goals for 2010.  I haven't yet started to see any accelerated results in my actual weight, because I think I'm building muscle in my legs and butt, however I have seen an almost 3% drop in body fat percentage in just the week and a half since I started riding, while my weight has stayed almost exactly the same during that same time.  Eventually, my muscles will build up to a plateau, and if my body fat loss continues the way it has been going, I'll start to shed pounds like a shingles off a roof in a tornado.  Of course, if I meet or exceed my goal of weighing 200 lbs by the end of 2010 early, I'll update my goal to something that I think is reasonable for whatever time is remaining in the end of the year.

So what does all of this have to do with homesteading?  Directly, not much.  However, in just a weeks time I've noticed myself having an uplifted mood and more energy during the day, and of course having a healthy mind and body is probably going to have a positive impact on achieving my goals.  Being healthy is a major reason I want to have a homestead, and the sooner I become healthy the more I'll be able to enjoy my healthy homestead living because I'll be in a better position to live a longer life.  Finally, during the hour or so that it takes me to ride to work each day, I have a lot of time to think, some of which I have spent daydreaming about or even planning projects, sorting out things that are on my mind, or just enjoying being outside.  When I drive to work, I have to focus on my driving and on traffic, and I'm usually more than a little stressed out by the traffic.  I think those factors probably account for most of my improved mood each day.

I'm setting a small goal for July.  I have 19 work days remaining for the month of July, and I would like to ride at least 17 of them.  I want to say all 19 of them, but I feel like it is better to set the goal a little bit low and exceed it than it is to set it as high as it can go and then fail to accomplish it.  I look forward to seeing what my mood, my body, and the scale have to say about all of my riding at the end of July.  If you are curious how my rides and other exercise is going, I keep an online journal of my workouts on the DailyMile website, and you can view my DailyMile profile here.

What are you doing to improve you health, your environment, or just your mood?  Leave a comment and let me know if you also ride to work, if you take some other alternative means to get to work or if my post has made you consider doing so, or anything else that reading might've made you think about.  And of course, thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Looking Back on the 1st Year of Permie Homestead is a year old!  I wrote my very first post last July 2nd, so this post is a day late, but it's exciting that my homesteading concept is still going strong for me!  I know it has been a roller-coaster of a year, for the blog as well as myself, but I still think the anniversary deserves some reflection over the last year.  I'd like to start with what most people might find dry (but which is interesting to me), then move on to what has changed over the course of the last year, and what it means to me.

I wrote 60 posts during the last year.  They came in fits and starts, which made for a less interesting blog, but I maintained a pace of a little over 1 post per week.  I guess that's not too bad, though I wish it had been more evenly distributed.  

I made about $75 via my AdSense ads with Google.  I am happy with this, as it covers the cost of owning my domain and buying extra space for rich content for several years to come.  I wouldn't mind if I made more money off of this blog, but I'd also be perfectly fine if I didn't make a single cent.  Permie Homestead is not only my way of connecting with people and sharing my ideas, but at it's most basic it is a personal journal, and one that I would keep even if my domain cost five times as much to maintain.

I received no donations to my Land Fund.  I am also perfectly fine with this.  My homesteading ideas certainly do not rely on the kindness of strangers, and given that I've been so inconsistent with my blog I cannot blame anyone who might've considered then thought twice about how serious I was.  I will continue to maintain donation as an option, but again, if I never receive a single cent in donations my homestead will still someday come to fruition.

Now, to get into what this reflection is really all about and talk about where the previous year has taken me.  When I first decided to start a blog, it was because I wanted to have somewhere I could document my ideas for my homestead of the future.  I was also hoping to build community with people around the world who are into permaculture and would want to read about my ideas and share theirs with me.

At the time I started Permie Homestead, I was in a somewhat downtrodden period of my life.  I had left my job as a math teacher at a charter high school and decided to pursue a different avenue that I thought would lead me to living the lifestyle of a homesteader much more quickly.  I planned on applying for an internship with the Bullock Homestead on Orcas Island in Washington, and would be in the thick of it with them now if I had been selected.  For better or worse, life doesn't always go as perfectly as we plan it, and I was not selected for the internship with the Bullocks.  Along with this disappointment, money that I was still owed by my previous employer was not finding its way to me, and I was having trouble finding another job thanks to the recession we all experienced last year.

Things started to look up during the late Fall of 2009 though.  I moved, and my roommate I share my current house with is just awesome.  I also found a job with Starbucks (also thanks to my roommate) around Thanksgiving.  It didn't pay much, and it certainly was not very fun, but I was no longer unemployed and I could definitely appreciate that.  And since the opportunity with the Bullocks did not come through, my mind cleared enough to be able to start thinking about pursuing other options.

Homesteading fell off of the table for me a little bit during the winter and early spring.  I knew it was still what I wanted to pursue with my life, but I was much more focused on getting caught up with my bills and making ends meet than with planning too far into the future.  Finally in mid-March, I was contacted by an outdoor retailer, and by early April was hired as their Shipper/Receiver.  This may turn out to be a major point of inflection in my life.  I love working here, not only because I work with awesome people and have a lot of co-workers who are interested in similar things as I am, but because the company has been taking very good care of me, and shows tremendous potential to be exactly the kind of career I am looking for.  I want to work for a company that pays me well enough and gives me enough freedom outside of work to be able to pursue my homesteading goals as well as build a career.  A major epiphany for me last year was that I would be ok with almost any career I had, as long as it allowed or encouraged me to pursue my passion outside of or alongside of it.  Not only does my job encourage me to pursue my passions, but it also syncs up with them in so many ways.

Now that I have settled in with my new job, and gotten used to my new routine and learned most of the things I need to learn for my position, I am returning to Permie Homestead in it's 2nd year reinvigorated.  I have found that my routine has settled into one that should allow me to pursue my projects and goals, and leave me time to write about them for the blog.  I will also finally have the money to do the things I'm passionate about, and write about those as well.

If you are one of my few consistent readers from my 1st year of blogging, I thank you for your encouragement over the last year and I hope I can provide interesting material for you to read about more consistently this 2nd year.  If you are new to my blog, please subscribe to my feed or bookmark my site and come back often.  And please, anyone reading this, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts about what I'm doing, or what you are doing with yourself to pursue your passions.  Something I would like even more than new readers this year is readers that comment and get involved... I really mean it when I say that I want to build community and meet people who are like-minded, so please post a comment and let me know your thoughts.

And of course, if you've made it this far, thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2010 Goal Recap

Well, once again I've dropped the ball with writing posts for this blog, and here I am trying to get inspired to write more.  I don't know why I keep feeling inspired for a brief time, then lose it again, then feel inspired again, and start the cycle all over.  I'm still very passionate about my homesteading idea, but I guess it is hard to write about it when I haven't had the time or the money to do many of the things that I feel I need to do to accomplish it someday.

A few days ago I paid my annual renewal fee to keep the domain.  Doing so was the first prompt that I needed to start writing again.  I also realized that it is about halfway through 2010, so I thought a good way to start writing again would be to revisit my Goals for 2010 and see how I'm doing.  Many of them will have to be changed or dropped altogether, but some I am well on my way to accomplishing, or I have already accomplished them.  I will put my goals as they were written at the beginning of the year in italics, and I will put my update on that goal in bold.  Goals I have already finished will have a strikethrough, and will be followed by an explanation or comment in bold.  Goals after #19 will be all bold because they are being added now.

  1. I will write 150 blog posts during 2010.  This is an average of 12.5 per month, and I think I can do it.  This goal will help me strive to do permacultury things, because I don't want to write blog posts just for the sake of writing them.  I want them to have meaningful content that is worth your while to read, and worth my while to write down.  The more I do in the interest of sustainability, the more I'll have to write about, and the easier it'll be to write 150 posts.
    • I have obviously dropped the ball on this one.  I am updating my goal to 95 posts by the end of the year.  This will maintain my 12.5 per month goal pace that I set at the beginning of the year, and add in the 17 (counting this post) that I have already written.
  2. I want to have at least $10,000 in my land fund.  I will raise this money through regular savings, ad revenue I make on this site above and beyond what hosting costs are (click those ads for me please!), donations to my land fund (that pretty yellow button on the right), selling my "static" possessions on Craigslist and putting the money into my land fund, and whatever other methods I can think of.
    • I have decided that unless ad revenue takes off on my blog once I write more often, or I come up with some other kind of money making idea, I will maintain my land fund at current levels for now.  The money I currently make is paying me well, but I have diverted funds I initially would've invested in the Land Fund into my 401(k).  This combined with money I am contributing to my emergency fund will not allow me to build my land fund quite yet.
  3. I will to pay off my vehicle.  It is possible for this to happen as early as February and no later than July, but I am so excited about having it paid off that I want to mention it here.  Not having a car payment will save me $225 a month, money that can go into my land fund!
    • Done!!  I paid my vehicle off on June 12th.  It is a great feeling to not have a car payment, and it'll feel even better on July 9th when I get a paycheck that I don't have to make a car payment out of.  Keeping true to my post about used cars and maintaining them for as long as possible, for a short while I plan on diverting some of the money I would've used on a car payment to pay for some maintenance on my vehicle, and the rest of it into my emergency fund.
  4. I would like to have 50+ regular readers of my blog.  I don't want this so much for the purpose of ad revenue or out of vanity, but because I started this blog to help me build a community within the permaculture movement.  The more people I know who I can share my thoughts, feelings, and goals with, the more I think I'll be able to accomplish what I have set out to do.  If you know someone who might enjoy this blog, please share it with them!  And as a side note about community, please share your thoughts with me often by leaving a comment!
    • I have no good metrics about regular readers because I have no regular posts.  My assumption of course is that I now have zero regular readers.  I'll see what I can do about that.
  5. I will weigh under 200 pounds (about 14.3 stone, or 90.7 kg) by the end of the year.  One of the reasons I got interested in permaculture and organics was because I wanted to be healthier.  As of last night, that means I have to lose 3.5 pounds (.25 stone, 1.6 kg) per month, which is a very reasonable goal.  My ultimate goal weight is about 185 pounds (12.2 stone, 84.1 kg) but I don't want to get discouraged if I don't make it.  I can always revise my goal if I'm doing better than I expect.
    • I currently weigh just over 220, so I am almost exactly on pace to meet this goal.  I am running somewhat regularly now and riding my bike to work and back (5 miles each way) as often as I can, so I believe my weight loss will only begin to speed up.  My new job helps as well, as I do regular lifting of some rather heavy boxes, which will help build muscle mass.
  6. I will get promoted to Shift Supervisor or possibly Assistant Store Manager.  I don't want to come off as too aggressive in this goal (especially in case my boss ever happens to read this blog, I don't want to seem arrogant), but I am motivated to excel in my job so I can better afford my homesteading goals.
    • This goal was tailored to the fact that I worked for Starbucks at the beginning of the year, and had no idea I would be getting the job I currently have.  I am revising it now.  I would like to be on my way to endorsement for management.  It can be a long process, but I think I should be close to it if not already endorsed by the end of the year.  I'll write a new post about exactly what this is at a later date.
  7. I will move to Portland, maybe.  Now that I have a job that is with a national company it will be much easier to relocate to Portland, if I can be transferred.  However, I realize that for the time being I need to put the needs of the business ahead of my own in order to excel in my job, and if I have better opportunity in Tucson than I might in Portland, I will stay here a little longer in order to better position myself to achieve my homesteading goals.
    • This is still about exactly how I feel, even though I have changed jobs.  Most likely I will not be moving to Portland this year.  However, if the needs of the business where I work present an opening to move to Portland, it will be much easier to transfer with this company than it would've been with Starbucks.  My current position Tucson is a great place to work though, and it makes me feel better about staying here for a while.  So if I don't move to Portland, I won't feel like I failed this goal.  If I do, it means it was what worked out best for me AND for my job.
  8. I will take some kind of workshop about earthships, cob, or some other kind of natural building.
    • Still not accomplished, but there is plenty of time.
  9. I will join the Tucson CSA.
    • This is definitely going to happen in August, and I'll start picking up my shares in September.
  10. I will garden like my life depends on it.  Someday, it really will!
    • This goal unfortunately has not even begun yet.  I am very close to FINALLY having a bed prepared for planting, and I will do so as soon as the daily highs start coming down out of the 100's.  I'm going to try to keep the gardening simple for now, and grow staples like tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, herbs, beans, etc.  My personal guidelines for this season are loosely "whatever will make a good chili or pasta sauce."  
  11. To be more specific about the garden, I have set a smaller goal for myself this year.  I am designing my first garden planting around chili.  I want to grow enough that I can regularly make myself homemade chili from nothing but ingredients grown in my garden (except the meat of course).  This means beans, jalapenos, serrano peppers,  habanero peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs.  I will grow other things as well, but having the dish of "chili" as a goal will help me focus I think.  Also, plants I listed above obviously can be used for many things other than making chili.
    • See my explanation for goal #10.
  12. I will get my Permaculture Design Certificate.  Even if I can't earn this through an intensive internship, I want to have my PDC soon so I can be better prepared when I am ready to select land and observe that land, before I start interacting with it.
    • I am starting to doubt that this will happen in 2010.  I'm not going to cross it off and give up on it this year, but it might be best for me to try to get my PDC through the Sonoran Permaculture Guild next February/March.
  13. I will have several small passive streams of income with which to grow my Land Fund.  I am starting many small projects, such as working with to try to get voice-actor work, or writing short articles for revenue-sharing sites like  Using these small but hopefully prolific streams of passive income, I will be able to supplement my (currently) meager income and put that money towards my homesteading goals.
    • I have found that being entrepreneurial is easier in spirit than in practice.  I definitely still have the goal of building passive income streams, but it has proven more difficult that I originally expected.  I guess if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  The amendment I will make to this goal is that I am no longer planning on pursuing passive income through  I found that they charged membership fees up front, and I am not yet confident enough to think that I would recoup these costs through money I made with that website. 
  14. I will visit Portland for a short time.  Believe it or not, I still haven't even been to Portland.  I'm just pretty sure that I'll love it because I definitely love the Pac NW and I really enjoyed Seattle when I went in April.  Portland is reputed to be "more like Tucson" than Seattle by one of my friends, so in many ways that is a good thing for me and the kind of place I want to live.  I say all of this to justify my already solid feelings that I'll like Portland once I get there.  If I don't we'll see what the new plan is, but I'm 99% sure I will love it up there.
    • I would still love to visit Portland.  I don't know when I'll go, but it's still a 2010 goal.
  15. I will make progress towards finishing the Arizona Trail before I move.  Finishing the trail once I am in Portland will probably be quite difficult, so I want to do as much as I can now.
    • I have definitely hiked some more of the AZ Trail, but I have not done a significant portion of it.  I'm not feeling as rushed since I got the new job and will probably be in Tucson longer than I was planning on when I worked for Starbucks.
  16. I will pick a skill once a month and spend at least 6-10 hours a week trying to develop a basic mastery of that skill.  These might include carpentry, primitive fire starting, a month on cooking various dishes, etc.  For this month, the skill I'm choosing is methods of fire-making, primitive and otherwise.
    • I have unfortunately not even attempted to accomplish this goal yet.  I was distracted by money concerns in the first quarter, and I've been busy working my new job this second quarter of the year.  I'm going to lighten this goal a little bit so it is attainable.  For the remainder of 2010 I will spend 3-5 hours a week working on a particular skill, and I'll pick one every two months.  I will also write updates about this skills training as I go along.
  17. If time allows, I would like to have a monthly project as well.  For Jan-Mar that project will all probably be the same, getting the garden up and running.  Once it is established and I feel comfortable enough, I might start on different monthly projects after that.  This goal may end up tying in closely with goal #13.
    • I think I am going to completely drop this goal.  With the extra exercise I'm doing my schedule is busy enough that I want to be able to accomplish the goals I've already listed above.  If I am to have a project, my garden will be the main focus.  It is possible I'll build a solar water heater at some point before the winter, but because I'll have to have my landlords permission with this one, I'm going to leave it off the list for now.
  18. I would like to attempt to develop a feed-a-family program with the Tucson CSA.  There are plenty of hungry people out there, and I know that CSA minded people are also very caring people.  If Tucson CSA would be willing to set aside one (or a few) shares, I would love to volunteer to help coordinate that program.
    • This is a possibility for the future, but things did not work out earlier this year when trying to develop the program with Phillipe from the Tucson CSA.
  19. I want to interact with more people of a homesteading and/or permaculture mindset, and build up a closer community for myself made up of those people.
    • In progress!! Working my new job is actually great for this, as there are several permaculture/homesteading enthusiasts that I'm working with.  This goal is somewhat ephemeral, so I'm going to leave it uncrossed because I can always build a bigger community than what I have today, but so far the progress is going great!
  20. I want to have $2000 in my emergency fund.  Being unemployed for 4 months last year taught me the importance of having some cash stored away for emergencies, and I'd like to eventually build up to having a 6-month emergency fund (EF).  My monthly bills average $850 including gas and groceries, so eventually I'd like to have $5100+ in my EF and continue to grow it after that point.  Once it is "fully funded" at 6 months worth of expenses, I'll divert some of the money going into my EF into things like my Land Fund and some investments, as well as start contributing more to my 401(k).  But, the $2000 into my EF by the end of the year will be a good start, and I think I'll be able to have it fully funded by this time next year.
  21. I want to run at least the Tucson Half Marathon, and maybe the full marathon.  I articulated this goal in an earlier post, and I'm "officially" adding it to my list here so it makes it easier to revisit at the end of the year.
  22. I want to have at least 60 days worth of food storage built up.  Along with my thinking about my emergency fund I have been thinking about food storage.  It is not only a way to stretch my emergency fund should I ever need to use it, but it is also an avenue with which to channel a couple of my other goals.  I can use goal #16 to learn about food preservation methods so I store any surplus I hopefully have from goal #10.  If I want to make it through the winter in Oregon someday with eating more than just dried meat and lettuce, I'm going to have to store food for the winter, so I might as well start learning good methods for that now.
  23. I want to purchase a Remington 700 center-fire rifle in .30-06 caliber.  This relates to my earlier post about hunting, as I intend for that to be a significant portion of my meat procurement once I am a "full-time" homesteader.
    Well, those are my updates for my 2010 goals.  I probably won't revisit them this thoroughly until New Years, though I expect that updates on my progress on these goals will probably make up a large portion of my posts, since almost all of them relate to homesteading.  How are your goals going?  What have you accomplished so far this year, and what would you like to accomplish in the next 6 months?

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    A Possible Composting Project at Work

    As a part of my role with my new job, I am in charge of the recycling and waste management for the store.  I make sure recyclables get to the correct bins, that "re-usables" get posted to craigslist for interested parties, etc.  One thing that we does not have in place is a composting program.

    I have decided that I want to be the one to start a composting program.  I think that having 55 healthy outdoorsy-type people will make for quite a lot of compost.  If I can get most of my fellow employees on board with it, it will make for a fun project, and who knows, maybe I'll institute something that can go company-wide.  I am going to wait until I have settled into my job and figured most of my responsibilities out before I try to go forward with this.  After that, I just have to check with my managers to make sure that there are no legal or health code reasons that I can't start a composting program, and then it's full steam ahead!  The last thing I'll have to figure out is what to do with all the compost I will make!  I'm sure there will be plenty of people I work with who will want compost, but who knows if I'll be able to give it all away.  I will keep everyone updated with how the project goes once I start it up.  Thanks for reading!

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    What Level Mountain Man Are You?

    My friend found this web comic and shared it with me tonight.  It's a fun joke about different levels of mountain men.

    A fun coincidence happened when I read it.  Without reading the "powers" in the right hand column, I decided I was a Level 3 Mountain Man, working hard on leveling up to Level 4.  Then, I read the powers in the right hand column, and a Level 4 Mountain Man has "Sustenance of the Land - Can fully live off the land.  Can supply his own food and shelter."  That is the next level I attain, and that's what I'm trying to do with homesteading!  I look forward to leveling up to Level 16 and only speaking to "mortal men" in woodland riddles.  I also look forward to being able to fully conceal a 5' chopping axe, communicate with all woodland creatures, having a medium-level animal companion (peregrine falcon is my choice), hibernate for up to 4 months, and to be able to transform into an animal for long-distance travel.  I've got some work to do!!

    I know this isn't my usual type of post, but it was just too fun not to share with you.  What level Mountain Man are you?

    A New Goal for 2010: Running a Marathon

    I have set myself a new goal for 2010.  I want to run the 2010 Tucson Marathon on Dec, 12th.  In my very first issue of my new subscription to Outside Magazine, they had an article about running a marathon that included a 30-week training program designed by a guy who has run 111 marathons himself.  It is designed for people starting from absolute scratch (that's certainly me), and culminates in running a marathon.  I read that article on Saturday, and decided I'd give it a shot.  If nothing else it gets me running, and in a best-case-scenario I run in and finish a full marathon... something that if you had asked me a week ago I would've said I'd never accomplish.  I'm still not sure I can, but there's no harm in trying.

    Starting 30 weeks before Dec 12th means my first day of his program is May 17th, but I'm starting a little pre-program routine today.  I figure it'll give me a little something to warm my body up with, get back into the rhythm of stretching, running, etc., before I start his training program in earnest.  I talked to my roommate, who is planning on joining the Air Force Reserves and needs to start running himself, and he is on board with me.  He has no idea when he'll be going to basic, and so has no idea whether or not he'll sign up for the actual marathon, but he's willing to train with me as long as he's around, which is nice.

    So, wish me luck!  I have no idea how this experiment will turn out, but it will help me reach my 2010 weight-loss goal, as well as all the other benefits from getting in the kind of shape it takes to run a marathon.  And as always, thanks for reading!

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Benefits to Staying in Tucson

    As you know if you've read my last couple of posts, I may be staying in Tucson for longer than I had been planning on thanks to some of the dynamics of my new job.  I have been planning on moving away from Tucson for a little while now, and so staying longer than I was hoping is a bit of a mental adjustment.  I think it might be therapeutic to try to write down reasons why staying will be good.  Some of them I might go in depth on, others I might just list and think about later.  They aren't listed in any particular order, just as they pop into my head as I recall what I've been thinking over the last couple of weeks:
    1. I will get to be closer to family and friends.  My parents live here, and will probably stay here at least another couple of years themselves, so I'll get to stay closer to them.  My brother is here in Tucson as well.  My sister is in Phoenix, which is a much shorter drive from Tucson than it is plane-ride from Portland.  And all but a handful of friends I have are in Tucson.  The other friends who have moved away but that I stay in touch with are in San Diego, Portland, and Seattle, but they number only a handful in Portland, a couple handfuls if you count all three cities.
    2. I will get to hike more of the Arizona Trail.  I decided in late fall last year that I wanted to try to hike as much of the AzT as possible before moving away.  I'll now have more time to do this.
    3. It may be a better way for me to get better at gardening.  I'm still rather novice with the whole gardening thing.  If I moved away to Portland, not only would I be learning about gardening, but I'd be learning about a new climate at the same time.  This might make it more difficult to learn about gardening in Portland.  By staying in Tucson and getting more experience, I might learn more about the universals about gardening here in a familiar climate, then be able to transfer that knowledge to gardening in Portland, and only have to learn about the new climate, not both at the same time.
    4. I'll be closer to the Grand Canyon.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before or not, but the Grand Canyon is easily my favorite place on earth (so far as I've explored it, of course).  By being only about 5 hours drive from it, it'll be much easier for me to get in some more epic backpacking trips.
    5. I'll get to experience one or two more of Tucson's "not-summer" seasons.  Here in Tucson there are basically two seasons.  One is when the daily highs are over 100, and the rest of the year when they're not.  While those three months of summer can be pretty miserable, the rest of the year is really awesome.
    6. I'll have more time to explore Portland and the surrounding areas of Oregon, and decide what I like where.  Since I haven't been to Portland yet, and was just planning on about one trip to test the water before diving in, I was mostly just going off of what I knew about the Pac-NW from word-of-mouth and my trip to Seattle.  By having time to take a couple of trips, I'll be able to make a better decision.
    7. I'll have time to make a more organic decision about where I move.  Since my new job has a HEAVY presence in the Pac-NW, I actually have some decent options.  Headquarters and a distribution center are near Seattle, so if my promotion path leads me that direction, it could be an entirely acceptable alternative to Portland.  Also in Washington, my company has numerous retail stores in the Seattle area, as well as several others in Washington and Oregon.  All of these would also be acceptable.  If I move to any of these for my company to fill a position that becomes available, they'll pay relocation expenses, which I heard today can be in the range of $5000 or more.  This would make my movement to the Pac-NW a much more organic experience for me.
    8. Staying in Tucson provides me to opportunity to save more money.  Cost of living here is very low, so my paycheck will go further towards growing my land fund, etc.
    9. Because of a malfunction, my truck is better suited to Tucson than Portland.  The heater core in my Durango has quite a leak, which causes steamed coolant from my radiator to leak through my vents when I run my heater or cooler.  I bypassed the coolant flow from the heater core to prevent this, and so my truck's A/C works fine, but the heater does not work at all.  Staying in Tucson will either give me the time and money to repair/replace the heater core, or to buy another vehicle (or a second vehicle) that would work better during times when I'd need the heater in the NW.
    10. Staying in Tucson is a choice, not my only option.  Of course I will always have the option to just move to Portland if I want to, and find a job there doing whatever.  Choosing to stay in Tucson and move to Portland or elsewhere in the NW when the timing feels right means I'm doing something I know is right for myself, and not something impulsive or foolish that may end up with me moving back to Tucson because all of my options elsewhere failed.  This may have been the case if I had moved to Portland much closer to when I started this blog, which was my original plan.  If I manage a more organic move like I talked about in reason #7, I'll know that I'm ready and that things will be right.
    So, there you have it.  My list so far of why staying in Tucson isn't so bad.  (It is just coincidence that there are exactly 10.  I'm not big on "Top Ten" lists, that just happens to be how many I can think of right now.)  I hope it proves to be good for me, and makes my pursuit of homesteading that much better once I jump into it headlong.  Thanks for reading!

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Garden Progress

    Tonight, I finally made a little progress, if minor, on my garden.  On the bed I have decided to fill up this season, I chopped up the dirt I got late last year from the landfill that was in there because it has become a little hard-packed and awful, and I didn't want a nice hard layer of dirt causing a bunch of erosion under my good soil on top.  I then emptied and mixed up the compost, manure, etc. that I got from Home Depot the other day, and dumped it in the bed.  I estimate that I'll need another 12-15 cubic feet of soil to fill the bed, so even if I can't get another discount on busted bags it'll only cost me another $40 at the most.

    That's really the only update I have for the night.  I had my first day of orientation for my new job today, and it went well, but it was nothing special.  All the usual stuff you'd expect from your first day at a new job: this is the company, the mission statement, the core values, what to expect day-to-day in your job, etc.  The highlight of the session was my store manager.  The more I get to know him, the more I like him.  He actually reminds me of me in a lot of ways, so I think we'll get along well, and maybe that'll even help me with my career.  I have day two of orientation tomorrow, if anything exciting happens I'll make sure to post it, but I think nothing particularly special will happen until I head up to Phoenix next Sunday for my training at an existing store.

    I hope everyone has had a great weekend!  Thanks for reading!

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    More about my New Job, Food, Finances, and... Finally, A Garden Update!

    In order for this post to entirely make sense, I will start by updating you with what is going on with my new job.  I suspect this may become a bit of a pattern, though I certainly do not intend for it to begin dominating my blog.  This site has always been intended as a way for me to keep track of my homesteading goals and ideas, as well as a motivator for them, and I plan on keeping it so.

    As part of my new position, I get to travel up to Phoenix from the 25th of April (my birthday!) until the 1st of May.  I will be training with the Shipper/Receiver at an existing store to get a jump start on what my job is going to require of me so I can hit the ground running when it comes time to get the store ready for Grand Opening.  My company is of course paying me for mileage, travel time, and putting me up in a hotel while I'm there.  They are also providing me with what I thought was a very generous per diem of $50 a day.

    Well, I received my per diem check today.  Not only did they provide me $5 a day more than I was expecting to receive, but they also included per diem to me for the Sunday I'm going up, AND the Saturday when I leave to come home.  I was astonished when I opened the envelope containing the check.

    Naturally, this per diem is intended to be used for food and incidental expenses.  Fortunately for me, my company does not want me to provide receipts for my food purchases, and they explicitly say that any money I don't spend is for me to keep.  Well, it would be unforgivably gluttonous of me to spend $385 on food for just one week.  Naturally, my plan is to go to the grocery store and purchase groceries for a week like I normally would, which if I am VERY nice to myself might amount to about $100 for the week, and that is with buying copious amounts of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, etc.  I plan on setting aside another $50 so I can go out to dinner with my sister who lives in Phoenix, and maybe another $35 so I can treat myself to a nice sushi dinner somewhere.  In total, that still only amounts to $185, and I'm sure after spending that much on food in one week, I'm going to feel very guilty about it.

    Well, this analysis leaves me with a big dilemma.  What am I going to do with the other $200?!  Naturally, it's just going to go into a savings account so that I can start rebuilding that emergency fund and land fund.  And $200 going into my savings today means that I can be slightly more loose with the paycheck I get from Starbucks tomorrow.  So, tonight I went to...

    Home Depot!  I decided I finally could afford to buy some soil.  Now I know, Home Depot isn't necessarily the permaculturist's prime choice for where to get soil, but it was open, and I know a fun little (very little) secret about Home Depot.  They actually happen to have some fairly decent organic mixes, and the price of those soils is quite reasonable.  The expensive stuff they have is the crap from Miracle Grow that's all chemical'ed [sic] out.  I also know another (not very big) secret about Home Depot.  If a bag is damaged, they will usually mark it down for you, even if it's barely ripped.

    Well, I loaded up seven ripped bags of 3 different kinds of soil, and one each of the same soils that was not ripped so I could be fair and help cover their margin a little.  I went up to the service desk, where a very cute employee named Amber was looking very bored.  I asked her if anyone from the garden department was still working, to which she said no but she could probably help me.  I asked if she could give me a discount on the ripped bags, and she offered me 50% off!  This was fortunate for me, because I had exactly $29 dollars on me, and the total came out to $28.18.  If she would not have offered as much, I would have had to put some back, which would've been embarrassing for me, especially after I flirted with her a little bit.  I paid, promised to bring her back some fresh tomatoes and peppers, and left with my prize.

    So, I'm now the proud new owner of about 17.5 cubic feet of various kinds of soil, soil amendment, compost, and manure, all certified organic.  This will get me about half way to where I want to be with one of my 32 sq ft raised beds.  Seeing as how I'm already getting a late start on the planting season for Tucson, I guess this is ok.  I'll make another trip to Home Depot this weekend to see if I can't score a few more ripped bags, ask my friend Myles for some of his leftovers from his greenhouse, and probably have one bed filled up within the week.  It looks like I'm going to get to do some intensive gardening this year after all!

    As a final thought, I know I'm playing some accounting tricks to justify buying soil with what most would consider ultimately to be my per diem money.  Well, if you don't buy it, or if you happen to be from corporate and don't like my accounting tricks, then I have this to say (really I'm just justifying it to myself)...  I was provided with that money for food.  I may have, depending on how you look at it, used some of that money to buy soil for my garden instead.  But, the soil in that garden is going to help me grow food for later in the year.  So ultimately, the money is still going toward providing me with food to eat.  It's just later in the year, and at a higher return on my initial investment.  If that doesn't justify it, I don't know what does!  :)  Thanks for reading!

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Job Updates, and Changes to my Homesteading Plans

    It never ceases to amaze me how one event, or one small series of events, can have such an impact (at least in the short-term, and possibly in the long-term) on a life.  

    I wrote my last blog post the day after my group interview for my new job. I felt like it went well, but I had no idea.  A couple of days later, I got a phone call from Sarah, one of the supervisors, asking if I might be interested in a position they hadn't really talked about at the group interview.  I went in for a second interview on Tuesday the 30th for the Shipper/Receiver position.  That interview went very well too, and I was offered the position!  While it is not a management position, it is full-time and it pays decently, especially for a starting wage with a company I am new to.  After several phone calls, emails, and a lunch meeting with the management team, I'm very excited to have been offered this position.  My store manager Eric, and Sarah (who turned out to be my immediate supervisor) have both told me that the receiving position is a very good position from which to learn about internal systems, and to eventually be in a good position to move up to management.

    So, this makes a number of changes to my life now, and into the future.  Most immediately, the new job has obviously changed my situation with Starbucks.  I'll be working your typical Monday through Friday, 9am - 5pm schedule with my new company.  And since they're going to be my main money-maker, I'm changing my availability with Starbucks.  I also informed my store manager at Starbucks that I would no longer like to be considered for the position of shift supervisor.  So, I'll be working my new job for about 40 hours a week, and at Starbucks for 15-20 hours a week, at least for a little while.  Being unemployed for those 4 months last year really killed my savings account, so I am going to work at Starbucks until I can rebuild my emergency fund back up to reasonable levels.  I consider having 6 months worth of expenses to be reasonable, so I may be working at Starbucks for 5-6 months, if I can handle 60 hours a week of work.

    The new job also may cause me to rethink my timeline for moving to Portland.  When having a lunch meeting with some of the management team I was discussing my career opportunities there.  (Some readers may remember that I was considering choosing Starbucks for the 5-10 year career I think I'll need before I can homestead full time, that focus has now shifted to my new company.)  In that discussion, Eric in a somewhat round-a-bout way suggested that I may want to stay with the Tucson store for a few years.  That if I have a number of years experience with a store that I helped open, and I'm doing a kick-ass job (yes, he really said kick-ass) that I'll be able to transfer anywhere I want if a position is available.  I know, of course, that he doesn't want to hire someone for my position only to have them leave 6 months later, and to be honest it wouldn't be entirely fair for me to do so, so for now I am willing to postpone moving to Portland sometime between 2011 and 2013.  Of course, as I've learned over the years, and especially in the months since I've started this blog... you never know what'll happen.

    Briefly, I'd also like to mention that as my plans are now, I will not be applying for the 2011 Bullock Homestead internship.  I think focusing on my career and developing a stable enough income to buy my land should be my priority.  My window of opportunity for the Bullocks really was just in 2010, which is why I took the chance I did with my teaching job when I did.  Now I will find some other way to gain that experience, but for now that option is off the table.

    So, to summarize, getting a position I did not even know about within my new company has caused me to completely change my plans with Starbucks, and to postpone my goal for moving to Portland for a briefly indefinite period of time, as well as drop my plans for applying to the Bullock Homestead internship for 2011.  And honestly, all of this change is daunting, but I can tell it's going to be for the best.  My new job pays well, they're taking quite good care of me already, they show promise to be a fantastic company to work for (FORTUNE top 100 companies to work for 13 years running) , and they have a strong presence in the city I wish to move to.  On top of all that, they are all about stewardship of the environment and enjoying the outdoors, a very exciting fact for a permie like me.

    With all of that said, I still hope to start blogging more often.  Once I actually start full-time in my new job (Apr 26th) I'll be making more money, and be able to do some of the projects I planned in my 2010 Goals post.  Once I am doing those, I'll have more to write about.  Thanks for reading!

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Seeds, Jobs, and Garbage

    First, I will share some updates with you, then I will share some thoughts I have about garbage.

    I have planted a second round of the seeds I got from my friend Myles.  The first batch got baked when I went backpacking and forgot to ask my roommate to water them.  So, I started more a few days ago, and nothing yet, but once they start sprouting, I will share photos.

    Now for a jobs update.  I am of course still working at Starbucks.  Promotion seems not TOO far off, but it still has yet to happen.  My manager tells me it is a matter of timing and not performance, which is good, but promotion and a raise would be better.  However!  I had an interview with an outdoor retailer yesterday, and I feel like it went really well.  It wouldn't pay much more than I am making at Starbucks, and initially I'll probably get less hours there than I am getting now, but I am intimately familiar with the outdoor industry, and I am excited to get back into it.  For a while I plan to try to keep both jobs, and push myself hard, hopefully getting about 30+ hours at each one.  Eventually though, if I am offered a full-time position with this new job, I will take it and probably cut back to between 20-30 hours at Starbucks, especially if the timing is still not quite right enough to promote me.  If I do get promoted at Starbucks, it will make my decision more difficult, because I definitely like the outdoor industry quite a bit, but I have no idea how quickly I might come upon opportunities for advancement with the outdoor retailer.  Obviously, I need to start thinking career-wise if I am going to save enough money to start my homestead.  And in that respect I want to keep my options open, which means that if Starbucks promotes me sooner than this new possible job shows any promise, I have to stick with them as my "first" job, and use the outdoor retailer as supplemental income.  But who knows what the future holds.

    Now I would like to share an observation I made while working at Starbucks that got me thinking about how people in American society mentally and emotionally deal with "garbage."  One of the tasks that anyone who has worked anywhere has probably done is take out the trash.  (I would first and foremost like to point out that Starbucks produces WAY too much garbage.  So much of what we throw out at Starbucks is recyclable, or compostable, but everything goes out to the dumpster.  It is sad to me on a daily basis, though I have plans for the compostables someday, if I can get enough composting space at my house.)  In order for this to make sense, let me describe what a "trash run" is like where I work.  We keep a large-ish plastic garbage can in our backroom, and put the plastic bags full of trash into it throughout the day.  Once it piles up enough in the back room, someone does a trash run, and they wheel that garbage can outside to the dumpster.  For some reason our back door to the outside world is blocked, and so we wheel our garbage can through the lobby, and directly through where people line up to order.  This space is narrow, and usually crowded.

    I have observed on my last few trash runs that people NEVER pay attention when I am coming through with the garbage bin.  I have to say excuse me to nearly every person that is standing where I need to go.  Many of them look in my direction, but pay no attention to what my presence with a garbage bin implies.  Many more of them don't even notice me.

    Now, I know people might be preoccupied with thinking about what they want, but I have a theory about the real reason people do not move out of my way without me practically bumping into them with the garbage.  First of all, people are NOT this mindless to my presence when I am not hauling out the trash.  If they see me or anyone else trying to come through, they do a pretty good job of scooting aside and letting us through the line.  I think that most American's put on the blinders when it comes to trash, or people dealing with trash.  Any of my readers reading this are probably nodding their heads and saying, "well duh Kyle, this is no great insight."  And I agree, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the "garbage man" is not well respected in our society.  And I know that when I'm doing a trash run, I'm the garbage man, hence the disrespect I have noticed when I'm performing that task.

    But I think it goes deeper than just disrespect for a dirty job.  I think I might have figured out when garbage man is such a disrespected job, instead of one appreciated by the many who do not have to do what the few are doing.  I think, somewhere deep down inside of everyone in the place that is still connected to nature, and that communicates in someway with the earth and nature and the environment, most American's are ASHAMED of the garbage we produce.  I think most people know that they are doing grievous damage to the planet with the amount of waste they are producing.  And I think that the part of us that is connected to nature is such a deeply rooted part of us, that the sub-conscious dissonance this causes the average person can only be dealt with in one way, turning a completely blind eye to the problem.  I think that in order to deal with the sadness of their wasteful nature that people know about deep down inside, they just decide to pretend that the garbage doesn't exist.  That when trash gets thrown away, it goes "away."  Where is this mythical "away?"  Is anywhere on earth really "away?"  People don't want to think about that.  And so by turning a blind eye to the trash, they turn a blind eye to the people dealing with the trash, which means they turn a blind eye to me when I'm the "garbage man."  This obviously disturbs me on multiple levels, the least of which is the disrespect I feel oozing off of people as soon as they see me dealing with the trash.

    Maybe I am reading too deeply into it.  Perhaps people are just really, really excited about their lattes or mochas.  But I don't think so.  I think they are deep down ashamed by the amount of waste their lattes and mochas produce.  And when I parade that waste right in front of them as they're standing in line, some part of them deep down inside can't handle it, and so they put on the blinders and just ignore me, ignore their waste, and ignore the bigger problems associated with everything I've been talking about.  What do you think?

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Spring Seeds

    What a naughty, awful blogger I've been!  It has been forever since I've posted any worthwhile content, and I apologize.  The problem is, the job I picked up at Starbucks is very low paying, and I really just don't have any time to do many of the things I posted as my goals for 2010.  I still haven't even found enough soil to fill up the garden beds, and I don't have the money to buy bags of it.

    Well, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  It is possible I will be getting promoted in the coming weeks, which would carry a decent though not substantial raise.  That should free up some funds for me to be able to pursue my homesteading more vigorously.

    I also got a nice seed tray and some bags of seeds from my good friend Myles.  I'll be starting beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, orange bell peppers, and (not sure which variety) cucumbers today after getting out of work.  Hopefully these plants will give me more to post about, and light a fire under me to get some soil in the garden beds.

    I look forward to working my way into being a more active blogger again.  I still want to meet my 150 post goal this year, so I'm going to have to work extra hard after such a long hiatus!

    Friday, February 26, 2010

    An Awesome Link and a Preview for Tomorrow

    I don't want my website to turn into a linkfest, but since it is also supposed to serve as a personal reference journal, I do occasionally post links to websites that I don't want to forget about when I need them.

    Hence, I am linking to Freeze/Frost Dates at  It is a pretty awesome reference for average last frost dates down to the zipcode, and I know I'll find it useful.  Hopefully anyone reading this will as well.

    Finally, my short preview for tomorrow.  I've hiked quite a bit the last couple of days, and I'm planning on going a lot more in the coming weeks.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on the Tucson spring, hiking, foraging, moving to Portland soon, and maybe something else if it comes to mind.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    A Quick Update

    I have been more than neglectful of my blog recently, and to anyone who considers themselves a regular reader, I sincerely apologize.  I have unfortunately been focusing so fully on making ends meet that I have been unable to do any permaculture or homesteading type work.  I hate to post blogs like this one too often, because then I feel like I'm just posting for the sake of it, and I don't have any substance.  I do promise to make a more concerted effort in the near future to have more posts.

    On a better note, I'd like to mention a new-ish website that is currently undergoing development.  Save Our Skills is a website about the importance of society recapturing traditional skills that have mostly been lost or forgotten about in the previous couple of generations.  The website is very new and somewhat beta, but it looks like it will prove to be a valuable resource for anyone trying to learn or relearn traditional skills that helped build self-sufficiency.  I encourage all of my readers to check it out and pass along your thoughts to the webmaster of that site.

    I will be back soon with more posts... I promise!!

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    The Eco-Friendliness of Restoring Used Vehicles

    My roommate and I had quite an adventure over the last two days.  Brian won a vehicle in a public surplus auction in Holbrook, AZ.  The vehicle had been seized by Arizona State Highway Patrol because of drugs found hidden in the engine manifold (yes, the engine!).  For about half of the Kelly Blue Book value, Brian has a "new" used vehicle that will require only about $200 in new parts to be running like new.

    We left on Wednesday night around 5pm so we could get an early start on Thursday.  The drive was long but fun, and we ended up in Snowflake, AZ for the night, which is only about a 30 minute drive south of Holbrook.  Thursday (yesterday) we woke up and hit the road about 8am so we could be ready at the Navajo County government center when they opened at 9am.  After paying for the vehicle and transferring the title, Brian and I drove around to the car lot and picked up the vehicle.  Thus started our crazy drive home.  The truck he purchased was a bit too large for the towing dolly he rented from U-Haul, so we decided to drive home on the I-40 to Flagstaff, then down the I-17 through Phoenix to the I-10 for the home stretch into Tucson.  Several times we had to stop because we were worried about the truck slipping off of the dolly, and in general it was pretty nerve-racking.  But we got home safe last night at about 5pm, and it was a success.

    So what does this have to do with eco-friendliness?  Why would my roommate need two trucks?  Well, he hasn't yet decided whether or not he's going to sell this truck after fixing it up, but if he does sell it, that is one less new car that needs to be sold.  If he keeps it, this truck will probably run better and last longer than the truck he has now, so either way it wasn't a bad purchase.  And if he spreads his driving out amongst both vehicles, both will last longer and neither will need to be serviced as often.

    I am a firm believer in buying and maintaining used cars rather than just buying a new one.  The materials in a used car have already been manufactured, mined, etc., and so the only impact a used car has from this day forward is the cost of the gasoline and fluids and the here-and-there parts that are needed to maintain it. 

    A new car, on the other hand, has a very long tail as far as environmental impact.  The metals from that car have to be mined from somewhere, and that mine has environmental impacts which the car is ultimately (at least in part) responsible for.  The other materials from that car have to be manufactured, and the factory that makes them is pumping pollutants and other toxins into the environment as well, which also add to the impact the car is having.  And don't forget the money spent on advertising... which you might not think of as an environmental impact until you remember how many car billboards you see everywhere, or car advertisments in magazines, newspapers, etc.  That paper and glue and everything else associated with advertising has to come from somewhere, and ultimately the environmental impact gets tacked onto the car because their purpose is to sell the new car every year.  Everything in and about a new car is causing some kind of NEW damage that must take place within the environment where a lot of damage has already occurred.  So it is my staunch belief that a working used car on the road potentially means one less new car on the road.  Sure, it isn't as fuel efficient as a new car might be, but burning gasoline isn't the only impact a car has during its lifetime.  In fact, the environmental impact of manufacturing a new car probably far outweighs the impact of keeping an older used car on the road.

    I believe that a thought experiment can prove my point.  Imagine a scenario where there was a 10 year long ban on the manufacturing of new vehicles, and it started today.  All of the new vehicles that rolled off of the assembly line yesterday were the last ones that would be manufactured anywhere on Earth until January 15th, 2020.  All of the environmental costs associated with the manufacturing of a car would drop to near zero (not all the way to zero, there would still have to be some manufacturing of parts for the used vehicles, but not nearly as much as with pumping out a new line of cars every year).  So now the only environmental impacts you have personally associated with your car are for gasoline and maintenance parts/fluids.  You might be thinking "well that's still a lot.  Cars pump out a lot of CO2, more so if they're older, so how does this help the environment?"  Well, ask yourself this now.  How would you treat your car if you knew it had to last 10 years?  Even if you replace it, it's going to be replaced by another car that will have to last until January 15th, 2020, no matter what.  Wouldn't you drive it a little less aggressively?  Wouldn't you drive it less in general, to save on the wear-and-tear of consistent use?  I think the answer is yes.  My vehicle turns 10 years old this year, and I drive it ever more carefully each year because I know that it has to last me because I don't have the money to buy a new car.

    I think there are other benefits to getting into a used-car mentality.  I think it encourages people to bike places, or use public transportation.  When you're worried about how long your own vehicle might last, you're more likely to want to "put the miles" on someone else's vehicle.  More people would ride the bus, or take some other form of public transportation, or even carpool, just to avoid the wear and tear on their own vehicles. 

    So the next time you're in the market for a car (especially if you have any kind of knowledge about servicing a vehicle), instead of buying the consumerist hype about how good that brand new Prius is for the environment, maybe you should take a spin around the used car lot to see what might work for you.  And no matter what you end up buying, try to go into it thinking "what would I do if this car had to last me for 10 years, and I couldn't just buy a new one in 3 or 5 years?"  Not only will you be easier on your car, you'll be easier on the environment as well.