Sunday, November 11, 2012

My 500 year plan.

Life is funny. There is almost no way to know what you will want out it when you start down the path of life, sometimes you get most of the way down a path just to find a fork that takes you in a totally new direction. Even if you know the fork is ahead there is almost no way to know what it is you choose until you are looking down both paths. OK, enough soliloquy.

It's been more than two years now that I've been interested in something called Permaculture. When I fist heard about it I knew I felt right away like I had found a missing piece of my life.

Since I was little I have dreamed of self sufficiency. I have always been interested in doing things myself, how things work and how to make things better. I've been obsessed with researching "perfect solutions" and making things from "scratch" most of my life. If I had to pinpoint the first thing that awakened this for me it would be when I read The Cay at around age 9 or 10. It's a book about survival where a privileged young white kid and a black man survive a ship wreck and the kid overcomes his prejudice. Next was the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen where a boy survives on his own after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the wilderness.After these was a book my brother turned me on to called  My Side of the Mountain where a boy runs away from his life to survive in the woods on his own. Added to this list has to be a book my mother got me that I was obsessed with called Diary of an Early American Boy that highlighted the many skills required to survive in America's earliest days. My Mother was involved heavily in the "Wheat Ridge Historical Society" and I fell in love with traditional life skills. On television I loved watching the PBS show "The Woodwright's Shop" that detailed traditional woodworking skills; my favorite episode being where he builds his own log cabin from scratch. PBS sparked another love for me of BBC comedies, one of my favorites being a show called "Good Neighbors" where a suburban English couple drop out of corporate life to turn their suburban home into a self sufficient homestead.  As I got older more and more things added to this obsession such as the PBS documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" a true story of a man who builds his own log cabin in the backwoods of Alaska and lives in it with a minimum of resources. When survival programming went mainstream I idolized "Survivorman" Les Stroud and to a much less extent Bear Grylls and his show "Man vs. Wild".

Another thing that caught my imagination as a child was gardening, my dad built me a small garden plot next to my mom's rock garden in our back yard when I was about 7 or 8. My mom contributed to my project by buying me Kids Gardening: A Kid's Guide to Messing Around with Dirt, a book that came with seeds and a plastic trowel. I followed the directions and grew a very small crop of vegetables. When I was about 12 I started taking care of the lawn and gardens around the house. I went to the garden center every year and helped my mom pick out plants for the various gardens. I turned over the soil and planted annuals and tended perennials. I came home every day from school and hand watered the various plants around the house till the yard took on an amazonian quality.

So, when I came upon Permaculture and the community around it felt like I had found the culmination of many life long passions. Permaculture, for the uninitiated, is a design philosophy, that is applied to designing ecological systems. Breaking down the jargon, it's a way to plan out a garden, farm, ranch or anything that provides output for human use in a way that mimics natural ecosystems and creates something that, more than sustainable, is restorative to the environment.

This brings me to my 500 year plan. I've talked with my wife many times in our 15+ year relationship about legacy, that I've always wanted to build something for my family that lives on generation after generation. Until I found Permaculture I didn't know what that something was. Now I know what I want. My wife is finishing college, so right now it's all planning. After she finishes school we move into the saving phase, then onto the action phase. I want to create a farm that provides as diverse an output as possible with as much biodiversity as possible. I don't want rows of crops, I want to create a managed land that will output food and income for the next 500 years. Something that the word "Sustainable" doesn't ever get used to describe. I want something that every year makes the land better than the year before.

So, if anyone asks me how my plan is going, I'll simply reply, "ask me in 500 years!"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Running, the new hotness.

It's been a while since I've blogged, that is all I will say about that.

This blog post is about running, something I had convinced myself I was never going to be able to do or ever enjoy. Then, after trying it in a new way, I discovered not only can I do it, I can enjoy it.

My entire life I've had trouble running, I've never been much of an athlete, to be honest, let alone an endurance athlete. In school I struggled to finish most fitness tests but I NEVER finished a run in gym class, ever! I always got a cramp in my side, got winded and did that lonely walk of shame as more active kids lap me. I remember in junior high not even being able to complete the first lap of the run test, let alone the five that where supposed to follow. As I've gotten older and made numerous tries at getting into shape, usually the "look good naked" kind and not the "feel great" kind, I've tried running and always had problems. Usually, it was a problem of my knees hurting every time I ran. On top of that I would have the normal issues with not being able to pace myself, breathe and being super sore the next day.

So, what changed?!

Firstly, My brother brother started running, in part at the urging of his super athlete better half, using the "Couch 2 5k" running program. Since he completed that run program he's kept it up and when I was at my heaviest, seeing his transformation is what inspired me to start trying to get in shape and be more healthy, including quiting smoking. Unfortunately, I tried this run program on my treadmill at the house and it just served to confirm that I didn't like running and it didn't like me. I sold the treadmill on Craigslist and gave up

Secondly, I had a friend who planted a seed in my brain by doing a podcast on barefoot running. I looked into it and thought it was interesting but never really seriously considered trying it.

Later, the fad of the Vibram FiveFinger shoe took hold and soon many of my friends, who also had never run in their lives, where walking around in these goofy looking toe shoes. Like most things that become popular with people that have no business buying them, I laughed at all the people succumbing to the mindless consumerism of something they perceive as "cool". These shoes serve a real purpose, after all, and where not intended to be worn into public bathrooms, something I have personally witnessed.

After getting into hiking and biking again I decided to try barefoot running as a way to diversify my workouts and spend some time with my wife who was also interested. I did a minimum of research, went outside without shoes on and ran the concrete path down to the road and back and....... it was bad, I got huge blisters on my big toes, the tops of my feet hurt and could hardly walk for a week. So back to the drawing board. This time I got a little more determined to give running a solid try, so I ordered a pair of huaraches from, basically a thin piece of car tire like material that you tie off to your ankle and are specifically designed for barefoot running. These protect your feet from surfaces and debris, like broken glass, but give you the full barefoot running feel. At the same time they allow me to keep my indie street cred by not giving in to wearing those mainstream toe shoes.

Next I needed a plan to get running, I turned back to the "Couch 2 5k" but with all it's run intervals and walking intervals I need a way to keep track of when I should be running and when I should be walking without staring at a watch and trying to do math the whole time. So, being the android geek I am, I searched the Google Play store for and application to help me out. What I found was a great app called RunDouble that had the option of buying the C25k run program. This app tracks the run and tells me, using text to speech, when I need to be running or walking, let's me share my results and check out all my stats. Also, it allows me to listen to podcasts, my one true love, while I run, pausing the audio when it needs to butt-in with some info.

The results, I'm one run away from finishing the 9 week run program, I've had no knee pain and a minimum of soreness, mostly calves. I can now run 30 minutes without stopping while breathing normally. I enjoy my early mornings running around the Lake and now that it's getting cold I've overcome my hatred of the treadmill. I should add that due to the fact most people wear shoes 100% of the time the joints on the tops of their feet fuse and when you first start running barefoot it takes a bit of time for these joints to free up and that part hurts. After the joints start working properly, for me it took about 3-4 runs, I didn't have any foot pain at all.

So, if you've ever wanted to get into running but didn't know where to start or if you've tried and not been able to overcome the knee pain. I hope you will learn from my journey and find a path for yourself. It's worth it!