Garden Diagram

This year we’ve decided to replant the family garden. The plot my mother, father, and I used to use is about 3,000 square feet and should be plenty for my father, sister, and the three of us here in MA. There’s something phenomenally exciting to me about this plan. Not only does it involve more trips to Vermont — which are never bad — it also is a start towards what I think the future will be like: a further reliance on the land for survival. Because for everything this garden is — educational, an excuse for weekend VT trips, a supply of food — it is also about survival: ours and that of the food itself.

There will be a point at which the cost of fresh food will be so hampered by the cost of delivery and logistics that unless people grow their own or purchase extremely locally, it will be unaffordable for most families. People will be forced into buying the less-nutritious, more genetically-altered veggies in the local frozen or canned goods aisle. While I don’t necessarily believe that frozen or canned food is poisonous or will be in the future, there is something to be said about eating food that hasn’t been engineered. Engineering food changes its relationship with the ecosystem, introduces unknowns into our diet, and otherwise messes with Mother Nature. Engineered food may or may not cross-pollenate with un-engineered varieties and could limit our chances of preserving seeds for the future. And even if that’s not likely, why would we take the chance?

Anybody with a small bit of grass, window space, a porch can start a garden for themselves. Even if you live in the middle of a city, there is probably a chance to start a neighborhood plot somewhere. Anytime humans can do something for ourselves that keeps us in touch with the way the earth works, we gain a little something out of life. It’s not tangible nor measureable, but I do feel it’s noticeable.

I designed the garden with not only work in mind, but also with the idea that it could be relaxing place to laze away a few hours. There’s a central circle with some benches and plenty of paths. The patches are all raised beds, and the paths are covered in straw or compost to keep the weeds down. Around the garden is a fence to keep the dogs from romping around willy-nilly. We plan on putting some pleasant chimes on the posts to hopefully kepe the deer away, too. There are animals, however, that we do want in the garden.

The grey circles are piles of stones for snakes, and the tan/sienna circles represent toad homes: clay pots on their sides. Both toads and snakes will help keep the nasty bugs to a minimum. Milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, and other wildflowers around the outside will attract butterflies, ladybugs, and bees.

All-in-all, I think we have the potential for a pretty good space, and I’m looking forward to getting a start on it. First planting should start on the 15th of May, with the second one being the week after.

Cognito!

Cognito is our 2005 Ford Escape. We call him that so that when we go somewhere, we can go there “In Cognito”. He’s an AWD V6 XLT with just over 75,000 miles on him. We got him a few weeks ago as a replacement for our 1994 Saab 900s named “Garrincha”: a great car, but we’re feeling more outdoorsy than before.

Speaking of which, we have big plans for Cognito: brush bar, some under-car armor, roof rack, and some better tires. Then, of course, we’ll need rally lights, some stronger suspension, and some welded support for the struts, sway bars, and whatnot. That kind of thing will happen much later, if at all.  Heck, I’m even thinking of installing a snorkel and CB radio!

The end goal? To tote around hiking and fishing gear, explore unknown places, and just generally tool around places we weren’t able to reach with the Saab.

Specifically, I’m looking forward to driving up to and around Vermont in a couple of weeks. There are some gravel pits in my hometown I’m dying to tool around in, and it seems that an old friend of mine is up for the adventure.

I feel like I’m getting old …

See, a week ago I was out in the park with my son and his friends. They’re all 10 and all kinds of energetic and everything. The snow had just melted and I was playing Aerobie with the three of them. A particularly accurate and — if I may say so — brilliant throw from my son sent me running after the neon green flying ring with as much speed as I could muster. It’s not much. However, since my weekend shoes are losing their tread and since the ground was mostly soggy from melting snow, my mustered speed was too much.

I slipped and fell. Flat on my ass. Tailbone. Thud and ouch. It’s hurt ever since.

Why am I writing this to my blog? Because I feel old. My hair is thinning. Falling on my ass hurts for a week. I’m only 34-years old, so I’m not griping. But it does feel like I’m kind of old.

Just sayin’.

The search for podcast software

If your looking for a good solution for recording a podcast — mac or windows — don’t go any further than audacity, an open source tool for recording and editing audio. You can export into mp3 format using the lame encoder. I tried about a million tools over the weekend, and even ended up using a trial of Adobe’s Audition. Nothing recorded better than audacity, though they all had significant more resources devoted to podcasts.

My advice? Use audacity for recording, editing, and saving. Use a sound folder structure on your PC/Mac for keeping track of your files, and keep it simple.

Alternatives to Google

As I do this little experiment, I’m making some finds and reconfirmations of things that are viable replacements for google-based technology. Here’s my list so far:

  • Jabber is a great, free, open source IM protocol. Keep all of your contacts from GTalk, too. I’m using the chrome.pl server.
  • Free office software such as openoffice.org, AbiWord, etc. should serve all your writing needs.  I’m still looking for a remote solution with collaboration, which is a really important feature.
  • Ask.com has been working very well for me: mobile, images, video, maps, etc.
  • I realize I don’t need iGoogle with Firefox’s built-in RSS feeds. Netvibes is a fair alternative, though.
  • Still looking for a Feedburner replacement, but systematic use of RSS feeds using Firefox should cover it.
  • WordPress for blogging. I can host it on my own server, and it beats blogger hands-down.
  • Still looking for photo management/hosting, though both Windows and Apple have system-based solutions for management.
  • Web-based email solution is pending, as well.

That’s my list so far. Of course, I’m not paying much attention to webmaster tools such as AdSense or Analytics because I don’t use those in my daily life, anyhow. If you’re a webmaster or just interested in analytics, what do you use instead of Google?

I guess what I’m really doing is working to wrest back control of my life. It’s not an easy path, though. My wife and I are often working to simplify our daily interactions with the world, except that in order to do so one often has to do some up front work.

While google certainly simplified my life, I began to feel as though the trade-off — not actually being in control of my own stuff — was too expensive.

I will continue to share the results of my experiment here.