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!