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!!