Month: December 2014

december gardening in the dome

gardening, green living, lifestyle December 14, 2014

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It has been a long time since I have posted about the greenhouse. It is mid- December with plenty of snow on the ground and things are growing beautifully inside. Our banana tree got hit by one of the cold nights, but I think it will make it and the lemon tree looks pretty good. My perennial herbs are happy as can be. We have some gargantuan Borage, my son likes to eat the sweet flowers. Lettuce, spinach, carrots, parsley, beats and chard are all as happy as can be. The grape vine has lost its leaves for the winter. And our strawberries are on their second round of production. I have onions scattered amongst the greens and herbs as an experiment. We are looking forward to some good winter harvests.

All the perennial seedlings that I started in the spring and summer have been up potted to 1 gallon pots, and will save us a ton of money on landscaping for our home come spring. There are also a bunch of orphans in there that my husband picked up from various landscaping jobs over the summer. We will have several wild roses to plant in the spring!

We have however, been battling various pests. I am sure that equilibrium will come in time, but we did build an oasis in the middle of a desert. It was bound to attract all sorts of hungry critters. We had a cricket infestation during the summer, but the cold has taken care of them. We have been releasing lady bugs into the greenhouse the last couple of days, and they are making short work of the aphids on our greens. My son loves watching them crawl around. As do I, actually. The only problem left is to figure out how to keep mice out. I plan on planting mint in great quantities in the spring and replacing the pecan shell floor with pea gravel. For the time being we are just setting mouse traps. We have hantavirus here in New Mexico, I do not mess around with mice.

All in all, the dome is living up to its promise of providing a growing space all year long and the whole family has enjoyed it. We haven’t quite gotten it to produce enough to feed us more than a bit here and there, but I am learning a ton and we are getting closer all the time. Next year we need a bigger fan and a misting system as the height of the summer was just too hot. We will also need to install a timed drip system off of the tank in order to be able to go camping without hiring a gardener to watch our house!

car camping road tripping the mountains are calling christmas wish list

Gear, lifestyle, travel December 12, 2014

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Ok. This is my third and final car camping gear post. I promise. Maybe.

I have just realized that the last good trip I went on was three years ago, a combination of San Francisco (including running the marathon, ouch) and Alaska. It was our last hurrah before the kids came and we didn’t know it. It was a good one. Beer, friends, running, eating, travel and mountains. Some of my favorite things in no particular order. We covered a lot of ground, had zero itinerary, lots of time and were light on the luggage. Ahhh. I have been making a decent yearly trip for most of my adult life and this year as December closes in on me, I think I’m getting some major cabin fever. There was a time when I felt that 14 miles was the perfect distance for a run and that a trip didn’t count unless it lasted atleast a month. Now, I’m lucky if I can find 45 minutes to walk 1.5 miles with my double stroller up the hill by my house. My diaper bag is roughly the same size as the bag I lived out of for 6 months in Africa. The grass is growing tall under my feet. I am nursing a newborn constantly, buried in childrens’ naps and diapers, and have yet to figure out how to get my brood out the door within a reasonable time frame. I’m itching for an adventure. With this realization, my current and almost pathological obsession with camping and road trips makes some sense. At least that’s what I’m going with. In honor of those suffering from cabin fever and wander lust everywhere, here is my finalized wish list for the epic family road trip/ camping set up. Our current plan is to start with short jaunts to Colorado for beer festivals and go from there as our clan gains some finesse.IMG_3026.JPG

1. Vehicle: we just traded in the very fuel efficient station wagon for a Nissan Xterra. Not efficient. Not at all. It does however, have 4wd and we do live in the mountains where there is (hopefully for the ski season) plenty of snow. It is also very offroad capable, came with a tow package, and holds both our car seats and our legs comfortably. It also has a rubber cargo area that will contain our muddy dogs beautifully. This is our ticket to freedom. And yes, we looked at more efficient crossovers, but most of the fibers of my being resisted such a practical mom choice. I wanted a car that I can drive up the side of a mountain.
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*** update, Xterra was too small and too thirsty. Traded it in for a Toyota Siena minivan. Amazing. Never driving anything else on road or camping trips.

2. Sleeping: this has been the biggest challenge because it is the most expensive and biggest commitment. And for a lifelong insomniac like myself, the most important. I’ve got it narrowed down-ish.

Least expensive: the good old fashioned tent. Coleman has some good cheap quick set up ones. Kelty has some neat inflatable camping palaces.

Pros- affordable, roomy. Cons- more set up, more restrictive in terms of where you can sleep. (We’d love to be able to park in a friend’s driveway and sleep in our car).

Middle road: Cartop tent, ranging from $1500-$3500 (for the size we would like). Pros- comfortable, quick setup, doesn’t take up cargo room. Cons- expensive, smaller, drag on fuel efficiency, and you have to schlep small children up and down a ladder and not let them fall out.

In my dreams: a teardrop (Camp Inn, Little Guy) or other compact, lightweight camper trailer like the Cricket or Sylvan Go. Pros- easy, just hitch and go. They carry your gear. Home on wheels. Cons- expensive. We probably should not spend our children’s college fund on this. The Sylvan and the teardrops start around 8k, and you can go as high as you want from there. These also have the added benefit of including kitchens or dining areas, shaving more time off set up and take down as well as a little savings on gear.

Last post, I had settled on the behemoth Tepui Kukenam XL. I’ve since decided that it is too heavy and make our already thirsty xterra even thirstier. I have finally decided on the Cascadia Mount Hood tent out of the following:

A. James Baroud Nomad 160: 62×86, 95lbs, nice windows, looks airy on the inside, 30 seconds to set up. $2,199.95

B. Cascadia Mount Hood: 72×96, 140lbs, $1,495. A few minutes to set up.

C. James Baroud Grand XXL: 63.75x 89, weight unknown but hard shell so probably not much. Opens in 5 seconds. Fan and led lighting as well as exterior cargo bag. $3,510.95

D. Autohome Maggiolina Airland Lg:63×85, 150 lbs. Hard shell opens with crank in a few seconds. $3,199.00

E. Tepui Kukenam XL: 76×98, 205lbs, $1,925. Huge. Rugged. Would work well on a trailer if we could afford that.

The hard shells are really nice with quick set up but they are smaller and more expensive. The middle road seems to be the nomad which is also smaller with a quick set up, but $1k+ cheaper than the hard shells. This one is also the lightest at less than 100 lbs. Then, there is the large, economical and slightly more involved set up of the Cascadia mount hood.

Al we will need to complete our sleeping set up will be a couple of sleeping bags for the boys and some pillows for all of us from Sierra Designs.

3. Eating: we have a back packing set up from GSI Outdoors. I really like it, efficient and useful and stores nice and small. I think we will go with another more expansive GSI system for car camping. They also sell nice classic enamelware table settings,
Volcano three fuel grill for cooking and aeropress for coffee.

Also, you need a place to store it, so the Camp Chef Camp Sherpa comes in at $100 to store and serve as a table for the stove.

A collapsible sink or two from from Sea to Summit, coupled with a water bag for washing dishes and toiletries.

GSI macro table and helinox chairs for dining

Hydroflask insulated growler. Beer festivals.

Yeti cooler- doubles as bear vault

4. Power
Goal zero generator kit to power lights, phones/tablets, and cooler.

5. Misc.
Nemo pressurized solar shower

Small porta potty and pop up tent seems like it might be nice for late nights and showers. Never used one.

Books! Books. And more books with maps.

The gear without the tent adds up to a little over a grand, with my husband’s discount through his winter job at a ski/outdoor shop. By my estimate, we can be fully mobile with our dream gear for around $2,800. That can be shaved down considerably if we make do with things like a normal cooler, our backpacking stove and dishes, no table, no solar power etc. In any event, that is a budget I can work with. Bye bye airfare, cramped hotel rooms, and terrible road food. Hello national parks and lots of bathroom breaks for the kids. In the meantime, it looks like ski season has started:

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beauty matters

lifestyle, minimalism December 9, 2014

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When I tell my husband I have to brush my hair or change my clothes before I leave the house, he invariably responds with ‘it doesn’t matter’. When I tell him we have to tidy up the house, he usually tells me to relax and let it be, to stop worrying about such small things. For a landscaper, he has a strange disregard for aesthetics in any other area. But when a leaf or branch is out of place, a pair of clippers will appear from nowhere to dispatch with the offending object. You would think he would understand.

I don’t have time for the sub par. Time moves very fast and we live only once (at least that we are aware of). I feel good when I am reading a beautiful book to my beautiful children, while listening to good music in a clean uncluttered home whose large windows looks out onto beautiful vistas, where the air smells good, and after eating delicious food. I want the textures we touch to be pleasing. I want the clothing we wear to be simple and attractive. I want our spaces to be bright and airy and tidy. I want the sights, smells and sounds we are surrounded with to be beautiful.

This extends to movement as well. I enjoy yoga, in part because of the beauty in the forms of the poses. Dancing is an obvious example, though I doubt anyone would accuse me of being a beautiful dancer. Skiing is my favorite example. First of all, what is more glorious than snow covered peaks, expansive vistas, and clean crisp high mountain air? Nothing, except for the feeling of making beautiful turns in the snow, the feeling that comes with good form, muscle control and execution. I love skiing in general, but when I can pull off doing it beautifully, then I feel as if I truly belong on the mountain and all its glory.

It is easy to dismiss these things as lowly, materialistic, or vain and hedonistic. But I believe beauty to be very important to living a good life. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, having less makes it easier to keep a clean home. A couple quality items costs the same as many cheap ones. Keep less, but make it good. We are also blessed to live in a beautiful place, but we gave up a great deal to make that a priority. Every day I am grateful for that choice.

We perceive the world through our senses. Our experience of the world is through our senses. It stands to reason that the intangibles of thought and love will be filtered through these senses. Our mind and hearts may reflect the beauty that our senses experience. As we roll through the holidays, thinking of gratitude and giving and taking stock of the year and our choices, here’s to maintaining a simple and beautiful life.

Here’s a link to a discussion on Beauty in Western Philosophy as more fuel for the fire.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Beauty
I always forget the roll that studying philosophy had in shaping my thoughts and outlook, though I am so far separated from my studies that I can rarely point to any direct philosophic lineage.

lullaby

lifestyle, parenting, Uncategorized December 9, 2014

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I sing my boys to sleep every night. The little one lights up when he hears a song, and the older one is starting to sing along. This holiday season I’ll try to remember the real gifts we give, and this one is a love of music. Here are my favorites.

The Book of Love, Magnetic Fields
– so simple, I have long loved this song

Stewball, Perer Paul and Mary
– my late stepmother used to sing this, it makes me feel like I am giving them something of her

The Parting Glass, old Irish song
– my dad introduced me to it through the Wailing Jennys version

Turn Around, as sung by Nanci Griffith
– can’t not cry while singing this to a newborn

Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby, Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus, Gilliam Welch.
– what a round up

Where Have All the Flowers Gone, as sung by Peter, Paul and Mary
– my little one likes the high notes

Boots of Spanish Leather, Bob Dylan
– I have just always loved this song and so my kids must as well

This Land is Your Land, Woodie Guthrie
– because my dad used to sing it and all I want to do is go road trip/camping with these little guys.

500 Miles, Rosanne Cash put this on an album called The List, based off a list of songs that her dad compiled as the most important songs in American music. Who am I to argue with Johnny Cash?

Happy Holidays.