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Maybe it wasn’t the Mountains

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I had an interesting experience today, and it gave me some pause for reflection.  Being from western Pennsylvania, there are hills everywhere, but you can’t tell, because you are stuck in them all of the time.  You can rarely see more than a quarter mile in front of you, and over time, it starts to close off your perception and sense of scale.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to travel frequently to other parts of the country.  Many people like the beach, but not me, I always liked the mountains.  One of my favorite places to go was to Colorado, and get to see the rocky mountains.  This of course despite being incredibly altitude sick most of the time, but I still enjoyed it.  I loved being able to see the mountains stretching up higher than I could ever reach, as well as being able to look out to the very edge of the world.  I always assumed it was the mountains that were appealing to me.

When we moved to Tucson, it seemed perfect.  There are mountains all around the city, so I got to look out from the front of my house every day and see them rising up in front of me.  I always thought that it was uplifting to look out and see them rising up in front of me, just like when I traveled as a kid.  So one of the things that I made a priority when we were moving was that I wanted to live somewhere with mountains.  That was one of the reasons the Pacific Northwest appealed to me.  Lots of mountains.

Well, this part of Kentucky has no mountains.  At all.  In fact, it is very similar to western Pennsylvania with both it’s hills and it’s sight lines.  I missed the mountains, or at least I thought I did.

Well today I had cause to travel to a slightly different part of Kentucky, that was about 45 minutes to the northwest from here.  This was far enough to take me out of the hill country, and into more of the plains type terrain.  It was quite a bit flatter, but suddenly I could see much further than I have been able to for the last few weeks.

Suddenly I felt different.  My horizons were stretching further.  Even though there were no mountains to pull my eyes up, I still liked searching out over the plains to see what I could see.  Several years ago I would have felt like a bug on a plate being that stretched out in the open, but this time I didn’t.  I enjoyed not feeling boxed in.  So perhaps it wasn’t the mountains that I really enjoyed.  Perhaps it was simply the feeling of being on the edge of an infinite horizon with no place to go but forward.  It was an interesting feeling, and one that I am glad I am able to capture here in Kentucky.

The value of giving up your stuff

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Its spring time here in Southern Arizona.  OK, we know the calender doesn’t say spring until the end of March, but its almost 80 degrees this week during the day, so it sure feels like spring.  So what comes with spring other than flowers and baby bunnies?  Why spring cleaning of course.  Especially when you are listing your house. We are also in the middle of packing up a house-worth of stuff, which is always a delightful process.

Packing happens to be a wonderful time for self evaluation and decisions to be made in regards to your STUFF.  Stuff that you were quite content to keep around as long as you were staying put, magically becomes quite a bit more easily parted once you decide to leave.  Something about having to box it up, lift it, store it, haul it, pay for fuel or cargo space for it, haul it, lift it, unbox it, and redisplay it so it can gather dust again, really makes you question the value of junk.

Having junk around the house adds mental weight.  I never would have believed this five years ago, but I have gone through too much downsizing and home organization to not think that way now.  Its amazing what you think you can’t live without, until you live without it.  I am not saying to get rid of everything, or get rid of useful things, merely take a look at you stuff, and honestly evaluate whether its helping or hindering your life.

We tend to hold onto things that we don’t need so easily, and we add to the pile so easily, but getting rid of things takes actual mental effort.  Boxing things up for a move forces you to confront how often you use a thing, what purpose does it serve and can anything else serve it, and what value does it have.  By asking yourself these questions, you might be surprised what things you can allow yourself to part with easier.  I have some examples from our recent packing, that you might be able to use to let go of some weight.

Microwave:

MIcrowave

Yes everyone, I do not own a microwave.  We got rid of it a few months ago.  We ran it through our three questions.  We rarely used it since we make tea in the kettle, and we never have leftovers.  The main purpose of a microwave could be served by either a toaster oven (which we have) and the stove.  Plus the two alternatives are better for the food than the microwave.  Lastly, it had no real value, so we donated it to Goodwill.

AR15:

AR15

I am using this one as an example because it was hard for me.  I enjoyed owning this item, but I applied the three questions, and found I was better served by not owning this anymore.  First, I the last time I used it was more than two years ago.  As much as I enjoy rifle shooting, its expensive.  It’s even more expensive when you factor in the drive to the range we liked.  Its purpose could easily be served by other weapons that I own.  It has tremendous value in the marketplace right now, so I decided I was better served by consigning it, and using the proceeds to help fund our move.  That is a much more worthy goal than something sitting in a case in the safe.

Books:

I grew up reading a LOT.  I also grew up owning a lot of books.  There may be a connection here.  That habit didn’t die as I got older.  At my high water mark a year or so ago, I would say that I owned about 500 books at least.  It may have been more, but I got rid of so many I can’t count them or anything right now.  I believe that books are one of the best ways to learn and to entertain yourself, but it does reach a point where its not practical anymore.  I also own a kindle now, so I am reading much more on there.  So I ran through the questions.  When was the last time I had read a title, if that answer was more than two years ago, it was up on the block.  Then I asked, would I read that again, if the answer is no, its gone.  I had trouble admitting that I had bought a book that I wouldn’t ever read, but once I did admit it, it felt great to get rid of them.  Lastly, do they have any value?  Well, with the advent of the kindle, more people are getting rid of books than keeping them.  So I took them to the used book store in town, and traded in as many as I could.  Any they wouldn’t take go straight to Goodwill.

PC games and CDs:

These last two aren’t really alike, but they get lumped together because the answers were the same for me.  I had probably 100 CDs, and about as many PC games in my office, that almost just got packed up again..  Then I had to ask myself, when I used them.  I realized I hadn’t listened to a CD since I moved to Arizona, and I haven’t played a PC game since Jenn stayed home.  Does anything else serve that purpose, of course, I use a Zune and an Xbox.  The last one was the toughest, do they have value?  Nope, with Ipods and broadband, no one needs physical mediums for those anymore.  So off they went to get traded in, other than a very few I kept for sentimental reasons.  No one is getting that signed Straight Line Stitch album.

I have to say, I expected to be sad after trading that all in.  I didn’t get much for it at the book store, and hundreds of items went to Goodwill, so I was basically watching thousands of dollars I spent in the past just flowing away.  Yet I didn’t.  I just enjoyed sitting in my office and not being surrounded by clutter.  I was able to evaluate my stuff, and make a rational decision on it.  By following the three questions honestly, you can remove any emotion from the equation, and once you do that, you will make the right choice.

Day 53: Recovery and Recharging

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Well, I have to say, my timing is certainly terrible.  I managed to keep my posts going all through the run up to the goat homecoming, and then I let them drop right as the goats get here.  So I wasn’t able to share in all of the fun with you guys out there.  Now the situation has changed, and I have lots of pictures.

For some reason on Thursday morning something inside my soul let loose with an almost audible snap.  I don’t think I have ever had a panic attack before in my life, but I sure as hell did that morning.  I could barely function for close to an hour.  If you have ever had someone say the walls are closing in, and you have never had a panic attack, you have no idea what they are talking about.  That is the single most humbling, embarrassing, powerful burst of emotion you can feel in your life.  I have no idea if I was just pushing myself too hard or what, but I was not in a happy place.  So I decided to slack off and take it easy for a couple of days and allow myself a chance to recover.  I am hoping to be able to dive into my blog again, as I do enjoy writing it, but I never want to be in that emotional state again, so we will see.

Pepperoncini and Verbena:

These were our two cute little Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Jenn (Hi Jenn).  The all black one standing up was the girl, Verbena, and the white frosted one laying down is Pepperoncini.  Having never had goats before, I would describe goats as cats, but with enough brains to get into real trouble.  They know how to listen, they just choose not to.  These damn goats would actually climb up into your lap to sit there and get petted.  They were absolutely adorable.

Here is little Peppers engaged in his absolute favorite activity, getting curry combed by Jenn.

This is Peppers all tired out from his second favorite activity, eating twigs off of my wood pile.  Damn goats.  Also, watching goats lay down is absolutely adorable.  They just hunker down on their front knees and its really cute.

I would say my goat feeder worked out just fine.  They both enjoyed the crud out of their alfalfa.

Here is little Peppers with my dog Sasha.  Not exactly best friends yet, but at least they accepted each other.  I don’t have one of Beans with the dogs, and thats crucial to the story.

Note all through this post I have referred to goats in the past tense.  Unfortunately, we had to take little Pepperoncini and Verbena back to the farm where we got them.  They were absolutely adorable to have around, and I loved their cuteness and their antics.  Unfortunately, sometimes you have to do whats best for all of the animals, and not you.  Our dogs have to come first, and Verbena just could not accept them.  She was unable to bond with them, and was terrible afraid.  She actually head-butted Sasha on the shoulder one night, so of course my coward was now terrified as well.  We was constantly tense and on watch with them.  Since we refused to restrict our dogs, and having a terrified goat is cruel, we took them home.

Verbena was just way too bonded to her herd, Peppers would have loved to stay with us.  Taking them back home was very sad.  Beans ran off with the other goats and didn’t look back, she was happier there.  Peppers just stayed by the fence waiting for us to come in and play with him. He was happier with us.  So its sad, but it was best for everyone.

We are not giving up on the Nigerian Dwarf Goats though.  The farm has two little baby goats for us, also a boy and a girl.  We are going to pick them up soon, after I finish goat proofing the yard.  Since they are smaller, we think they will have an easier time with the dogs.  Also, since they are young, the haven’t been part of the big herd yet, so they shouldn’t miss them when they come here.  We are pretty sure they will think my dog Maggie is their new goat mommy, which will thrill Maggie to no end.  I will post pics as soon as I have some.

Having two full size Nigerian Dwarf Goats was helpful though.  I know what I have to do to proof the yard for them.  Ask my poor little Trovita Orange Tree how good I am at building goat fences.  Lets just say version 2.o will be better.  I will outline my improvements tomorrow.

Paleo Portion:

I made the mistake of falling off my paleo wagon for a few days, and boy am I paying for it.  I think the gluten was giving me a pain in my stomach, but its hard to separate the food from my stress level.  Jenn made tasty rosemary chicken and yellow rice last night.  It was really good.  We got more awesome food from the market yesterday too.  So hopefully I will stay on track, and feel better with a reduced stress load for a few days.

Day 49: Final Preps and New Directions

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Well, after tons of work, it seemed like they would never get here, but yesterday was the final day before little goaty homecoming.  I got the house built, sans a single pallet.  I got the feeder constructed, and a nice bale of alfalfa loaded up and ready to go.  After a crap ton of prep work, we got the yard cleaned up for them.  We are almost ready to go.

The only thing I still had to do was remove the last of the damn Oleander tree.  That stupid thing actually began to grow back once I hacked off a big chunk of it.  So despite having a pile of Oleander branches that is about 4 feet tall, I now have vigorous green growth coming up in new green shoots.  Not quite sure how to kill the damn thing and keep it down.  I think tomorrow I am going to have to bury it completely and wait for it to decompose.  In theory, once its covered with dirt, it will start to break down, just like a hugel bed.  It will break down even faster if I plant something on top of it.  So maybe a rose or blackberry bush that will grow quickly just to help add some shade in that corner of the yard.  The first part will be to cover it, and we can plan from there.

Look.  Sawzall.  Good for more than just cutting down my kitchen wall.

I got to sit for about two hours in a car dealership today, watching them try to fix what Tucson Dodge swore wasn’t actually a function of the vehicle.  Its amazing how some people can just straight up lie to you.  We have a GMC Envoy, which has a tail gate that is supposed to both swing open like a normal SUV, and lay flat like a truck.  Well, we took it to Tucson Dodge, who we purchased it from, and they broke it.  Not only did it no longer lay flat, they swore up and down that it wasn’t actually supposed to even do it.  So I don’t know what my range of readership is here, but if you ever have a chance to do business with Tucson Dodge, run away as fast as you can.

On the plus side, while waiting on my vehicle, I managed to roll the dice a little bit.  I can’t really go into specifics, for a variety of reasons, but it is beginning to feel like my life is once again slotting into the perfect groove.  Here is hoping that I am right, but we will see either way.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast:

Coffee

4 eggs

Jenn was nice enough to get up and going even faster than me today, and had a tasty breakfast waiting for me.  Nice to keep on rolling and not be hungry all the time.

Lunch:

I spent this in the dealership

Dinner:

2 Country Style pork ribs

Squash and Ricotta

Homemade Custard

We made the pork ribs in the toaster oven, and they turned out really nice.  They were even more tender than the last time we made these.  We mixed the squash and ricotta together in the pan, and the ricotta almost melted into a white sauce.  It was actually really good with a little Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Weight: 233.  Looks like I might be headed for a new low.  We shall see.

Day 48: Goat Feeders and Garages

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Yesterday was every bit as exhausting and at some points frustrating as I had been afraid it would be.  I did get some forward progress on my To-Do lists, but not as much as I had hoped.  Even with a major setback, I would still say my project turned out really well.  We also got a chance to check out an awesome local business for the first time.  Its one that we have been saying we need to go see for years, and we finally did it.

So yesterday morning, eventually, we headed out to run our errands.  I dropped off two more boxes of books at goodwill, trimming my remainder pile down even further.  We picked up some puppy pads for the bottom of the chick cage, as well as some new chick food.  We also got a goat water dish for our Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Its made from recycled tired, which means it should be able to stand up to goat abuse.

Then on the way home, we stopped off at Old Town Feed and Supply.  Its a cute little feed store just off of the road on my commute every day.  They have little bunnies and chickens every spring, and we have been saying we should go for literally the entire time we have lived here in Tucson.  Yesterday, we finally did.  This place was awesome.  Anything you needed for horses, chickens, wild birds or pet dogs, they had there.  On top of that, I now get to kick myself for not stopping sooner, since their prices were amazing.  They had some little baby turkeys in a bin up front, man they are adorable.  We got some chewies for the dogs, a quail block, and a nice bail of alfalfa for the goats.

It would be at this point that the day turned south a little.  Our Envoy has a tailgate that likes to not work ever since the thumb-fingered baboons at Tucson Dodge decided that it didn’t really need to do a function it was supposed to do.  So they took it apart, “repaired it”, charged us lots of money, and it hasn’t worked right since.  So next time you need a car, trust a homeless guy with an AK before you trust these idiots.  So on the way home, with a bale of alfalfa in the back, our tailgate decides it doesn’t want to close.  So we ride the last few miles home with a swinging gate.  We finally patched it closed, and now I get to spend a large part of my day in the waiting area at a car dealership.  I look forward to that joy.  Here is a shot of the ghetto work, just for kicks.

Once I got home though, I was able to build an awesome goat feeder for our Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Now there is nothing to stop us from bringing them home on Wednesday, assuming we get the tailgate fixed.

This little guy is about 5 feet high, and holds a standard bale of alfalfa hay nicely.  I made it entirely from reclaimed wood from our old garden.  It holds the food up off the ground so it stays dry, also it healthy for the little goats to reach up for their food.  It helps keep them from getting gas, and also from wasting their hay all over the ground.  I can’t wait to see them get into feeder related shenanigans.

Paleo portion:
I really didn’t eat much yesterday, so I won’t waste time on it. I have noticed on days that I do lots of work, I just don’t feel like eating. I did have half of a killer watermelon though. It was tasty.

Day 47: Back to the Grindstone

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No rest for the wicked, I had to hoof on back to work today.  My team did a great job while I was away, so I have the stress relief of being able to no worry about my store while I am away.  The sales continued as needed, and the store looked great.  Best of all, none of them can read this, so you know its legit.

I didn’t have much chance to work on any tribal projects today with work and all.  Sunday’s feel like the worst days, since even though they are short, they never feel like I have time at home around them.  Jenn did make me a totally paleo awesome dinner while I was at work, which was awesome.  I will detail that below.

Freezing Vegetables:

I mentioned yesterday our need to store some of the 10,000 pounds of peppers that we got.  I glossed over the process, but I figured I would spell it out, as it can be very useful if you like to use seasonal produce.  All you have to do is buy lots of something when its in season, and you can store it until later.  Frozen isn’t quite as good as fresh, but its a hell of a lot better than store bought frozen.

To freeze your own veggies so that there is minimal loss in flavor, just follow along.  First prep your veggies.  Cut them into desired portion sizes, and remove all seeds.  For the peppers Jenn basically cut them in half, but you can size according to your future needs.  Blanch them quickly by dropping them in boiling water for just a moment or two, then cool them down in an ice bath to stop them form continuing to cook.  This helps to keep the flavor in.  It also coats them in water so they freeze faster.  Then lay them out in a single layer on a metal sheet, and put in the freezer until frozen.  Once frozen, just dump into a freezer bag, and viola.  Home made frozen veggies.

To Do List:

My To Do List keeps growing.  With my chickens growing so fast, I have to get their coop done soon.  We will also be bringing our goats home on Wednesday, so I have to build their feeder.  I plan on building that tomorrow, I will post some pictures when I am done.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast:

Coffee with cream and sugar and Kahlua.

We were really busy doing stuff, so I didn’t get to eat.  I do want to know though, how did it take me this long to realize Kahlua is AWESOME in coffee.

Lunch:

1 bag cashews

1 Odwalla Juice

Since I am doofus and forgot my HUGE bag of almonds at home, I had to improvise.

Dinner:

Huge portion Paleo Lasagna

Jenn made awesome Paleo Lasagna.  It was super yummy, and it was great to come home from work to.  I will put the recipe below, go make it.  Trust me.  Obviously with not being able to eat starches, pasta is forbidden, with this you don’t even miss it.

Yellow Squash

Pablano Peppers

Ricotta Cheese

Home Made Tomato sauce

Ground Beef

Colby Jack

Like any lasagna, its all about layers.  Slice up the squash, and salt it to draw out the water.  It might take awhile, but it will keep the end result from falling to pieces.  Layer the pan as follows, yellow squash on the bottom, meat and sauce next, ricotta cheese, pablano peppers then coat the top with colby jack.  It awesome, and you won’t miss the pasta.

Weight: 235.  Lost the 5 Florida pounds in 3 days.

 

Day 46: Recharging and Refilling

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Well, today was my first full day home from Florida, where I ran smack dab into the downside of your body acclimating really well to a new time zone.  Combining that with the effects of gluten toxicity purging from my body, and I just felt crappy.  It was amazing to me on one level how quickly all of my efforts were undone.  I hope that it won’t take me as long this time to purge the residue this time, but at least in the short run, its not less violent.  Also, amazing was how quickly I regained a soda addiction.  For the most part, I never really had one, certainly compared to a lot of people.  Yet when you think you don’t have one, go drink pop for a week and tell me how it works out when it comes time to stop.  I barely drank pop before, and I would love to have one now.  So yeah, its addictive.

So although I didn’t get the large number of things done that I wanted to, in fact I spent most of the day watching “Food Network Star” and playing Max Payne 3, I did get to see how far everything has come since I left.  Our little Trovita Orange Tree is coming along nicely.  I am not 100% sure he has put on any new leaves, but he for sure has stretched up to the sun.  The mesquite tree I planted has most certainly sprouted some new leaves, about 10 if we counted correct.  You think of trees taking forever to grow, and sometimes its till amazing that it doesn’t take really that long.  Lastly, my little chickens are much less little now.  They are growing like gangbusters.  I really hope I feel better on Monday, as I will have to build them a coop whether I feel well or not.

Here are the little ladies all playing around in their cage, first thing in the morning.

Here is a baby Welsummer artfully posing for us.  As you can see, they have about tripled in size in the last week or so.

Refilling the Kitchen:

The house was starting to look a little bare, so we went to Market on the Move to refill on veggies, and Sam’s Club for some dairy needs.  The haul from Market was tremendous.  Normally I list off what we got just for reference purposes, but this week I can’t, I am not sure I can count that high.  I know we got some tasty pablano peppers, some yellow banana peppers, tons of green peppers, tons of yellow squash, piles of tomatoes and 4 honeydew.  Essentially, way more product than we can use in a week.  Jenn had the awesome idea to store the peppers.  This will give us some peppers to use in the summer months when there is a market only every two weeks.  We might even end canning some of the small peppers and tomato sauce.

Went to Sam’s club as well for our dairy needs, and got some tasty stuff there.  I bring this up only because, it was the first trip where the only thing we impulsed was a watermelon.  Nuts to you brightly colored displays of useless crap.  We also might have hit on an idea for our chicken coop.  We might be able to use a big 150 gallon deck container instead of building the actual coop.  Will have to see how much the cost is versus the labor involved.

Paleo Portion:

Breakfast

Skipped due to market on the move.  Had some coffee when we got back

Lunch:

We reheated some leftover burgers from the night before.  Very good curry burgers.  If you mix some curry paste in your ground beef with some cumin, its amazing.

Dinner:

For dinner we made some super tasty veggie egg scramble with bacon.  Just cut up 4 strips of bacon and brown with onions.  Cut up 4 tomatoes and 2 pablano peppers, throw those in to cook once onions are brown.  Once those are cooked, mix in about 12 eggs.  The bacon fat keeps it from sticking, and gives it great flavor.  Was very tasty.  Honeydew for dessert.

Weight: 240

I gained 5 pounds in five days.  Damn you Florida.  Two years in a row you make me fat.  At least this year I can fix it.

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