Jerami

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Approved: Farm soils testing in Florida, maybe nation-wide

While searching online for a way to earn an income on the road last week, I found a farming related research project on a contracting site. I wrote between eight and ten proposals that day, all toward agriculture-related projects. This was aimed toward veterinary interns, but I decided to submit a proposal based on my experience in farming, and it was approved.

Starting next week, my girlfriend and I will be talking to farms, starting in Florida, to test their soils, in support of the privately funded research project. They aim to isolate mycobacteriophages targeting Johne’s Disease. If all goes well, in Florida, we will be contacting farms along a 5,000+ mile route we’re currently mapping out, to drive from Florida and Alaska.

Read more: Johne’s Disease Research, Nationwide

Using/Installing Upwork Desktop App on a Chromebook with Linux Virtual Machine

First off, you can’t do this on all Chromebooks that I know of, but there may be even more elaborate hacks for more advanced users.

I’m using a WalMart HP Chromebook I bought on sale for $169. Originally I was disappointed that I couldn’t register it as a device and therefore couldn’t download apps or programs to use it like I would a normal computer. Then the Linux (Beta) option appeared in my settings last week, and I knew that was about to change.

This happened right about the time I started to look on Upwork for contracts, since I’ve been traveling a while and need to replenish funds for more adventures. I was frustrated. I even thought about getting a normal laptop so I could run my typical design programs. Worse, it was starting to look like I couldn’t get paid for my work on Upwork because I couldn’t track time. So I installed the Linux Virtual Machine (LVM) to see if it would work.

When my first attempt to install the app in the LVM didn’t work, I looked into other methods and discovered that there are many settings in Chrome that affect your ability to use unproven (beta) apps. This article was a good resource. Keep that in mind if you get any errors while trying to do this. Otherwise, it was easy. Here’s the process:

  1. Activate Linux beta if your Chromebook supports this. You’ll know because it gives you an option when you go to Settings and scroll through the options. Turn on the switch and follow directions to install. You’ll have to read what version of Linux installs. Mine happened to be Debian 9 (stretch).
  2. I’m not sure if it’s necessary, but I activated the Crostini option in: Chrome://flags.
  3. Once in the Linux terminal, I updated Linux using the command: sudo apt update
  4. I upgraded installed components using command: sudo apt upgrade
  5. The first app I installed was Chrome
  6. Open Chrome in the LVM with the command google-chrome. As you would in a normal browser, navigate to the download page for the Upwork desktop app. If the site detects a valid version of Linux, it will show you a drop down file. Select the one that matches your version of Linux and download.
  7. Once downloaded, it will appear in your file system downloads. My computer generated a Linux downloads folder when it installed. That’s where I found it.
  8. By “two-finger” clicking to open the file and select “Install with Linux (beta), it will install within your virtual machine. If there are any errors, then there may be some additional updates you have to run. Mine didn’t work the first time, so I re-ininstalled Linux, and re-ran the updates and upgrades. After that it installed correctly.

Here’s what you should see along the way:

Chrome settings showing Linux (Beta) option.
Two-finger tap the downloaded files to install: Here Chrome and Upwork files showing.
Success installing Upwork desktop app on Chromebook Linux virtual machine.

Benefits of raising chickens

At a glance, the economics seem simple: Why raise chickens when it could cost $5 or more per dozen (or more) to build the accommodations and keep them fed while commercial eggs are $2/dz. and a quick trip to the store?

Well, it depends on your perspective, where you live, and what you value.

Just don’t stop at the value of the egg when you’re doing the math to figure out whether or not it’s worthwhile.

Depending on how you go about it, you can spend quite a bit of time and energy building a coop, fence and worrying about keeping predators out. Then there’s collecting the eggs, feeding and watering, etc.

Some chicken owners do less, and the birds simply become part of the landscape, while others invite em’ to sleep in their bed at night. That’s not recommended, but it happens.

If you have no time for such things, then for you not only is having chickens or other animals an inconvenience, it could mean rearranging your life, questioning your way of doing things in order to discover the underlying benefits. In an age of dissatisfaction with status quo, is that such a bad thing?

These benefits, once you get past the drawbacks, can be both deep and profound, whether as an urban homesteader, farmer, or hunter/gatherer.

There is yet an underlying process of awakening to the thing we call “homesteading” that must be endured in order to fully appreciate how and why it is important for you, your community, and the world.

If you start to farm, homestead or raise animals, you’re in for a multi-faceted experience, perhaps a little self-questioning, unless you approach it with a particular mind-set. Expect to set your life up around things you are cultivating, raising, developing, and expect their fruition to unfold at a pace out of your control, yet fully predictable. The rest is up to you.

Benefits of raising chickens (some which most people don’t think about):

Tangible:

  • The egg
  • The meat
  • The fertilizer/manure
  • The chicken byproducts (feather, bone, offal)
  • The reduction of scraps in the garbage/landfills
  • The aeration of soils & compost
  • The increased capacity of composting
  • The pest control

Intangible:

  • The peace of mind of having even if stores run out of eggs/meat
  • The leverage to sell/trade to neighbors for goods/cash
  • The strength/knowledge from building the coop and/or fencing
  • The sense of observation built by caring for the living
  • The responsibility that comes with commitment
  • The connection to reality – controlling life and death cycle
  • The entertainment, laughs and conversation starters
  • The endless supply of photos you could post online
  • Satisfaction knowing what’s going into your food

Here’s a good post on getting started:
https://rodaleinstitute.org/blog/how-to-establish-a-small-scale-pastured-poultry-operation/

Here’s Joel Salatin with some particulars on farming and birds.

I am home

The infinite intersections of imagination and reality charted my course. Opportunities to discover filled my sails through countless storm. The experience revealed a route through doldrums to distant conquests. With a fire branded within, the outward journey was borne. Once commenced, it could not be stopped.

The ol’ shiny boot trick, eh?

In the military, we were ordered to shine our boots and press our uniform every morning. I thought it was superficial. “Why do we need to do that if we’re just going to be rolling around in mud all day?”

It didn’t make sense so I fought the system.

Little did I know how much I suffered being the rebel. Ironically, I haven’t cut myself much slack about it either, as if the little angel on my shoulder were actually an unrelenting drill sergeant spitting in my ear.

“You need to get squared-away soldier!”

Recently, I’ve started to loathe a little less that inner voice about the importance of routine, going through the motions to “Look, act and think like a soldier.”

Despite being tired and beat up at the end of the day, making an effort to “look like a soldier,” is a small goal, but the steps taken to achieve that goal build momentum for success in the thinking and acting stages, that is, actually becoming and being a soldier.

That extra “umph” exercises muscles of self-discipline that buy us a moment, no matter what happened during day, or will happen in the next, to calm the mind, reflect, reset and prepare for the next.

When you succeed on a small task as you start your day, and over and over, it invites positive feedback, whether from receiving and appreciating praise or affirmations from self, others or our environment – a boost of can-do, if anything, on a hard day.

On a good day, when things start to go right, that boost might just be enough to turn into a can of whoop-ass. As they say “Rinse. Repeat.”

Exercised enough, the appetite for momentum grows, and our disposition changes completely. In a chaotic world of uncertainty, where things may not always make sense, the internalization of security, control and confidence ensures us that no matter how out-of-control things may seem, enables us to stay calm and drive on knowing we at least in control of ourselves, and can handle anything that might come our way.

Approaching a daily task with a positive attitude is harder for some, but many agree that one factor as minor as “getting up on the right side of the bed” can make or break your success on any given day.

Since I tossed the army boots, I’ve never really adopted any new routines, but as I catch up in life and have started to do the things I’ve always wanted to, it seems like a hard morning run followed by a dip in the pool or lake (the colder the better) gives way to some pretty amazing results.

Sometimes, it doesn’t seem realistic to do that every day. For now, a quiet stretch or cup of tea will have to do.

What does it for you?

Gratitude

The world is such a beautiful place, and people are such amazing and complex creatures.

As short as my time has been here on earth, and as tumultuous as it life can be, I’m extremely grateful to have been able to experience it the way I have, with challenges to overcome, the curiosity to ask others “Why?” and the courage to ask myself “Why not?”

I’m especially grateful to have been born able to learn, to see the many opportunities and adventures available wherever I put forth effort to make them happen.

I am thankful for the ability to face reality head on, to accept who I am, without addiction, escape or false security.

Journey through the gates… (and back again)

I had been trying to us get out on the water since I’ve been down here. Finally, last week a guy I had been helping on shore offered to take us out.

There was almost no wind. This was not so good for sailing, but it WAS a good thing considering this was the first time Rider had been out in a while, and evidently, he’s still working out some mechanical kinks: We lost a drive shaft connection, right as we were about to come back through the gate. I ran up front and threw the anchor out to starboard as he cut the motor, and we gently swung outside the channel just a hundred yards or so before we got to the pillars the bridge. The gate attendant radio’d down as we got to working on the boat. “Wish I’d have known you guys weren’t coming through.”

Luckily, we were able to fix it and still get home before dark.

“Sorry Cortez bridge. It was last minute!” We radio’d back as we passed through.

“No worries. Shit happens.” He replied.

All in all it was one of the most beautiful days, though there have been many.

A visit to Tustamena in the Harding Ice Field, Alaska.

My dad just sent me a picture I didn’t even remember existed – a picture of me, at 13, posing with a black bear up at Tustamena Lake.

It brings back memories. I had just had surgery the month before. The doctor carved out a problem with my meniscus in my left knee. Until then, I was never able to straighten my leg completely. I had walked with a limp, though I tried to hide it, I couldn’t run to save my life and as I hit puberty, my good leg was outgrowing my bad one. The back pain got worse, as well as the headaches, and I had enough. It was time to do something about it.

Fairly new at that time, the orthoscopic type knee surgery went well. Though Doc said I would be back to normal or able to run in six months. I never picked up the crutches. The swelling was gone in a few weeks, and I spent the next month in the mountains recovering, getting stronger as we hiked and hiked, learning little things about the wild, about myself, and getting to know my dad.

I think we ended up eating the entire bear while we were there. To change things up, we ate countless squirrels and spruce hen. I can’t remember exactly, but we must have been in the woods the better part of two weeks before hiking back down to the lake to catch our ride out. We didn’t know it at the time the picture was taken, but we were stuck there for a few more.

It took a day to drive down to catch a boat, a half a day in the boat to ride across the 25 miles of lake, and two days hike up. We saw between 17-25 bears per day traversing peaks in the area of a remote camp we set up, more than I had seen in my entire life. They sniffed around our tent at night, rummaged our belongings while we slept.

The friend that dropped my dad and I off thought we had made other arrangements to get out, so it was up to us to find our own way back. We didn’t see another person for about a month. That was the day we got out.

And the day we got out was an adventure all its own.


A friend and I revisit Tustamena in 2017 and 2018. The trails leading up to the old camp were too overgrown, and have to be cut again.

A study of Florida-friendly Landscape™ and gardening

A home owner near Sarasota, Florida is planning a make-over of her home. She values the natural, wants to avoid chemicals and enjoy healthy living.

She is used to living in a more contemporary house, and is looking to increase the overall appeal of her home, inside and out.

While this project has not been approved, it offers an inside look at some of the basic factors affecting a natural approach to yards, gardens and farms in Florida.

Each project offers benefits and challenges. The following narrative is our initial summary, but is not extensive or final. Except for the sketches and photographs of the client’s home, any images provided are for demonstration and examples of similar work, not necessarily our own. We give credit and provide links to sources.

Other factors that will ultimately dictate (or affect) decisions on final design and plant selection include owner goals/preferences for the property, desired yield/crop, latitude, longitude, hardiness zones, micro climates, prevailing winds, soil pH, annual rainfall, distribution of precipitation, HOA restrictions, zoning and ordinances and so forth.

Note that while natural farming and gardening methods are rooted in science, many interpretations and preferences on projects/solutions differ. The information we provided here is useful for example purposes but we reserve right of ownership and commercial use. The contained information is not guaranteed, nor are the proposed solutions and technology appropriate in all situations. We are not liable for your use or application of the concepts.

Objective:

Cultivate an attractive assortment of low-maintenance plant species, with special attention to water retention/diversion, the soil’s ecology and soil life as it pertains to nutrient production.

Summary:

After looking at the site, soil and hearing the history of plants on site, it is evident that there are enough natural resources for an appealing design – sun, water, space, oxygen, nutrients. There are a few key issues are limiting the ability of plants to grow and thrive. This could include a particular plant’s preference, needs, but most importantly, the soil looks mostly sandy, devoid of life, extremely dry and prone to overheating and draining. These issues and solutions will be discussed below.

Existing landscape:

In the front yard (south facing) there is a 3-5% grade sloping away from home with approximately 15’ from porch to curb and 30′ between driveway and corner of lot. Soil settlement test shows a soil composition of roughly 66% sand, 34% organic material from store-bought mulch, virtually no silt or clay, and very little microbial activity. After a week in a jar, there is no smell or aroma to the water/soil mixture whatsoever. The area receives a direct, full sun without obstruction.

The owner says, some hardy varieties are able to grow, as seen in the photographs. Our goal is to address the water retention and help the soil sustain microbial life. We can then look at the microclimate zones, and list out a variety of plants, based on guild, function, size, shape and color.

Our client is concerned about chemicals. In preparing the contours correctly, we hope to allow soils to regenerate over the years with minor amendments and care on a regular basis. Though we can’t prevent the wind from bringing stray contaminants, or mother nature from bringing storm events, we work to increase biodiversity, improve plant health, reduce the impact of pests. These will reduce the need for direct application of artificial fertilizer, herbicides or insecticides through good plant selection, care and integrated pest management.

Solution:

Our proposed ecological solution for this (and any site) requires a heightened level of observation, study and patience to create the greatest impact with the minimum amount of effort over the long term.

Since form follows function in designs that work with, rather than against the natural, the end aesthetic result can be estimated but is not exact. Investing extra time to understand the issues and intelligently apply concepts, chose plant species so it fulfills multiple functions, not just color or size, will ensure the ecosystem we create can fight off disease and stay healthy – a healthy plant is a beautiful plant.

Quick side view sketch of holding area and runoff to drainage area.

Direct Issues to be resolved:

  1. Rainfall diversion and retention
  2. Soil composition and characteristics
  3. Excess heat/sun
  4. Permitting/specification restrictions and standards
Photo credits

(1) Rainfall, storm events, water diversion & retention:

The area is small enough that it will only require a simple network of hand-dug microswales around two settlement areas to achieve the desired effect. As these overflow, runoff spills over to a drainage swale dressed aesthetically as a dry brook surrounded by grasses and plants that will help prevent erosion and create a look that is natural and contemporary.

Using small and large stones mimics a dry river bed and adds stability. The two “ponds,” will be approximately 18-24” deep by 60-90” wide, or as large as the area will permit. The excess (overflow) from these two ponds is diverted into the drainage area, which drains into a 50′ stone path that doubles as a dry creek bed (or french drain) which is routed to an existing storm-water collection area in the backyard.

The fringe of this path should be lined with stones of a size that prevents them from being washed away in heavy rainfall, while also protecting the soil/sand in planted areas outside the swale. The image below is a good representation, but if used as a walking path, should be topped with flat stones. If budget permits, geotextile cloth and clay could be effective in these areas as a barrier between the drainage rock and existing sand.

Note that except in extreme cases there should be no water running above ground. The path will retain its function even when water is present below the surface. The existing sand would be replaced down to the level of drainage from the front yard, filled with drainage rock and topped with larger pavers, natural or architectural, suitable for walking.

Regarding the stormwater collection area in the back. Future improvements could turn it into a functional rain garden. Raingardens are designed to increase appeal, prevent erosion and ease burden on the municipal system.

(2) Soil composition and characteristics:

Typical soils in Florida are 90% or more sand. Builders’ fill is even worse as a growing medium because it has little support and nutrients. If you limit plant selection to what will grow in these conditions naturally, it will will be almost impossible to achieve a lush and physically healthy landscape. It’s important to add organic material in large quantities. Doing so won’t guarantee they remain, as heat and sun break these down, and rain washes them quickly away. Diverting water so it doesn’t wash directly through, and that the area is at least partially protected from sun is crucial.

Once the initial storm water is diverted, remaining water which has filled the subterranean catchment pond can slowly permeate soil via capillary attraction, keep it moist, and be drawn on from by surrounding plants, fungal mycelia and microbes. The mass of moisture will provide cooling and soil temperature stability. The water should be kept below surface to prevent evaporation, algae growth and keep insect breeding to a minimum.

Image credit

Over time, plant roots and leaves that fall to the ground die and decay will become forage for the life that builds beneath the soil. Even using all of this will not be enough to start the project and replenish all that has been stripped away in the building process. We have to get creative and be proactive in bringing in material. It also takes time to mature.

A small protected area for composting will serve to pile dead leaves and kitchen scraps, so our client can make use of wastes to create mulch and nutrients. We build a containment bin as part of the project. Once set, the pile should be turned a few times a week by client. With the right mindset, this practice becomes a part of the routine, and the basis for yard care.

Illustration credit

Applying decaying organic matter and natural nutrients to the soil, then covering with a mulch will ensure that they are protected from the sun, and they continue to build during the early stages of transition for young plants. This underlying activity generates the tilth and texture that supports lifeforms that convert the organic matter to elemental levels and humus to hold nutrients and moisture which can then be absorbed by plant roots.

The capacity of the soil to support plants strengthens with age as habitat is restored and the diversity of local species increases to include single- and multi-celled organisms, larger living things such as nemetodes, worms, birds and a variety of insects that all act together to pollinate plants, spread seeds, fertilize, purify and consume decay.

(3) Excess heat/sun:

The desired visual effect is stepped, where the plants closest to the street are short, and taller toward the house. The image to the right is a similar landscape, with a small swale out front, backed by a more moist area offering greater variety of tightly spaced and alternating plant species.

Sketch outlining plant heights and depths if using a stepped effect to showcase the property. Optimally, we would plant a stand of taller trees toward front west (left) or middle side of yard to a to break up and reduce the amount of sun hitting the front yard in the afternoon.

Though stepping is possible, it’s not optimal. It’s important to create a canopy of shade to protect the understory and home from the hot summer sun, while also not blocking the prevailing south wind during the summer. There are already a few trees in the front yard which should be saved to provide shade and wind protection for the more sensitive plant growth, understory and ground cover. Smaller trees and shrubs, and a few more trees strategically planted within each existing stand will be sufficient to improve shade and reduce heat. Note, the clean yet natural look achieved with large, flat stones – a viable architectural option for your design.

Specifications, Permitting & Standards:

Per Florida Statute 373.185, any landscaping activity that follows “Florida-Friendly™” practices are protected, and will not be prohibited by any covenant, because they aim to benefit not only home-owners, but the ecology and health of Florida and the community at large.

For this design, we will support natural, chemical-free and Florida-friendly gardening practices. We combine these principles with aesthetic inspired by you (the client) and a function that improves the value and longevity of your property. The final solution, if successful, will do all of this while complementing surrounding architecture and having a positive role in preserving Florida’s natural ecology.

Since we will not be applying artificial fertilizers, no applicators’ permit will be required. No heavy machinery will be required. We will require a municipal ground locate of utilities, and by employing hand digging labor, we have the ability to work carefully to avoid any existing utilities. No changes to grade are necessary, only employment of barriers between planted areas and drainages to slow water and prevent runoff from leaching organic debris and as a result, foster a healthy root zone with observable microbial process, the foundation of life in the “soil food web.”

Other factors to consider:

  1. Insects & wildlife
  2. Time/schedule

Insects & wildlife

Increasing biodiversity will have an impact on the landscape, as insects and animals are naturally attracted to the life, shelter and food that healthy foliage brings. We can prepare but not predict all changes that will occur, and small adjustments will be needed to provide for all living things that may arrive

  • Insect hotel and artificial beehives (RIGHT: some bugs pollinate, others prey on insects that could damage plants)
  • Bird bath, feeders and houses (birds eat insects, pollinate, and fertilize)
  • Bat houses (bats eat insects, pollinate and fertilize)
  • Bee-friendly flowers
  • Florida-friendly plant species (zero tolerance for invasive species)
  • Companion plants (some attract and repel specific species, and some are poisonous to wildlife and humans)
  • Urban homesteading features, animals and plants used for fertilizer or fodder

Time/schedule

Design/Estimate with you and myself, 3-7 days

  • Price and order materials, organize labor, set budget
  • Schedule pickup for discarded materials
  • Schedule delivery of rock and materials
  • Source mulch and organics
  • Select compost area and bin style
  • Research appropriate plant varieties (I’ll provide lists. You source and purchase.)
  • Provide concept sketches

Week 2, with 3 people working

  • Contour and survey, mark out swales and irrigation channels,
  • Remove excess sand and dig up plants to be saved
  • Hand dig and trench pools, swale and drainage to backyard  
  • Tie in network of irrigation channels
  • Start collecting organics from yard – clippings and leaves
  • Lay fabric and clay, let dry/bake in sun

Timeline/schedule (continued)

Week 3,  with 3 people working

  • Lay wood and organic piles
  • Lay stones and cover
  • Mark sites for plants
  • Purchase plants

Week 4, with 2 people working

  • Plant plants
  • Route appropriate irrigation hoses
  • Cover with mulch

Week 5-10, initial client maintenance with some input

  • Regular inspections of plants
  • Adjustments to irrigation systems
  • Continue gathering and applying organics and mulch

Week 10-52, routine client maintenance with little to no external input

  • Continue collecting organics, weeds, clippings, leaves
  • Continue applying finished compost and cover with mulch
  • Turn compost 3x weekly
  • Water compost 1x weekly
  • Prune shrubs and trees annually
  • Inspect plants weekly
  • Inspect/repair irrigation as needed

Summary

Our main goals:

  • Control water and divert runoff
  • Preserve and build healthy soil
  • Provide shade plants/trees
  • Select appropriate plants for your yard, taste and Florida-friendly landscaping
  • Accommodate biodiversity
  • Provide input on plant selection and install

The client’s involvement will be heavy during first week, then taper off to just working on plant preferences. We will continue to develop a list of plants that will work well (and that are available within the budget) as we do the installation. They would be present for final completion/hand off and walk through, if any corrections are needed.

 After installation, or about 4 weeks, our input is limited to occasional discussions, updates and any follow-on estimates, proposals or contracts.

Due to unpredictability of nature, weather and environment, we can’t guarantee any specific life span of any plant, but which have the best fit for the climate, final soil type and level of care the owner is willing to provide, as the final result does improve or decline with and owner’s continued observation and inputs.

Here it goes.

SO I just wrote my posting at  Cruisers Forum. It will be interesting to see what kind of characters come out of the woodwork in response

“39 year old male taking the winter/year off. Id post under crew available but I’m traveling with my small terrier Isla, and trying to work out how feasible sailing with a pet will be.

I’m just arriving in the Sarasota area, looking to buy a 30-40′ sailboat and go sailing over the holidays.

I’ve got powerboat experience, commercial fished when I was a kid, and guided sport fishing trips in Alaska for several years on lakes and rivers, did a little kayaking, rafting, hiking, got a scuba cert, so I’m well on my way and definitely cut out for some adventure, and want to do as much as possible while I’m young. 

Specific to sailing, I have basic, bareboat and coastal navigation courses under my belt, a recent 6-pack (inland waterways), and on my way to get a captains license as well, but am looking to focus on sailing enough that it becomes natural over the next year, or lifetime maybe…

I’ll probably go it solo, but am looking for anyone interested with or without experience that wants to partner up in the process early on, help get a boat ready, exchange skills or just come along for the ride down the road. 

I’m handy and always looking to trade or work. I just remodeled a 4 bedroom house and turned it into an eco-lodge. Fixer-uppers arent out of the question, but the sooner I can get out on the water, the better. And it sounds like the time and place are offering a buyers market.

I have my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been getting more and more into farming and gardening, turning waste into energy, helping communities solve problems in creative ways. That’s fueling my drive to travel.

I can do a lot but am only one guy and having company always makes light work, safety in numbers and flexibility. I am not a mechanic or captain (yet) but I operated and maintained my own boats as a guide, and am not afraid to tackle any kind of project.

I feel sailing is the most sustainable way to travel, so it just makes sense to proceed in this direction if I want to see the rest of the world – 30 countries and counting. I’m no genius, but I’ve got a lot of determination and a pretty good head on my shoulders. I’m full of ideas, good with people, marketing and sales, and will pretty much turn anything into a business if I need to make moneyalong the way.

Let me know if any of this resonates with you. I love ideas, options, like-minded and the adventurous.”

Life is a good mix

of uncertainty and surety. Of gains and loss. Of love and sadness.

Lying here, I’m contemplating the extraordinary silence of space and a vacuum, wishing I could experience it just once.  I hear my cat. I hear an airplane off in the distance. I hear the fan filter I set up to collect the dust particles floating in the air.  My dog is snoring.

If none of these were present, I would still hear the high frequencies of my nervous system, the hissing of blood in my veins, and beating of my own heart.

I guess that’s how I know I am alive.

I hear my thoughts.

I feel the tightness in my chest that comes with thinking too much. The fear. I shut it out.

There is nothing to fear.

Not being alone. Not people. Not change. Not rejection. Not falling. Not death. Not failing.

As I rise up in the shape and form I have in my mind become, look out over waters and imagine myself walking across them.

I need to get to the other side, but I don’t know how deep, how cold, how swift the current.

There are stepping stones leading away from shore. I don’t know how far they go but they are the only way forward.

So I take them one at a time, not thinking about falling in, only about going as far as possible.

My focus narrows. It’s tempting to direct it downward or behind, but I would lose my balance,  my rhythm, my feel for the stones and my sight of the horizon.

The turbulent, shadowy unknown is all around, taking what energy it can.

I ignore it. I must conserve, so I give nothing back.

Instead I focus on my vision, my goals, my presence. In my in mind and heart, I embrace the reality.

The path is one-way.

The stones are courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When life hits hard, hit back harder

The world is out of control. Other people’s perceptions and actions are typically out of your control, and most often unpredictable. Sometimes, you may even feel out of control. You can let it overwhelm you or you can prime your mind, spirit subconscious and body to be proactive and ready for the chaos, for those moments of loss, rejection or failure. Take care of yourself. Focus within and know everything will be fine. Your mind, body and spirit will remain calm, strong, resilient, and you’ll be in a position to handle anything.

I call this my oxygen mask theory.

Without taking care of yourself above all the other problems, daily challenges will grow to the size of mountains until there seems to be little hope. Here is my defense process in a nutshell:

Sleep. Hydrate. Nourish. Exercise. Breath. Fun. Love. Learn. Repeat.

I try to incorporate these often into my daily routine. If I’m missing any, I’m putting myself at risk of entering a rut, and if I’m  missing most or all, I’m surely heading for a downward spiral.

My perspective, from all that I have read, as well as listening to what my body and the feedback I get constantly tells me:

  • Get enough sleep, until you wake up naturally – when you feel in your jaw, the jittery strength of serotonin. Consciously decide when a project, person or problem is worth sacrificing sleep for.
  • Get enough water and electrolytes. They make the difference between forgetful, ADHD-like brain fog and full focus all day long. Your body can eliminate the by-products of metabolizing food and environmental toxins much more efficiently.
  • Get the right foods. I swear by eating fermented foods, while staying away from sugar and processed foods means having a healthy digestive tract,  the ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Having the right biome in the gut produces less toxins that impair physical and mental ability.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Release the endorphines, adrenaline, speed up the metabolism. Being flexible and strong and agile allows you to go the distance, without getting hurt, while purging your system, including your digestive tract.
  • Get air. Big air. I have to consciously clear my sinuses with cold and salinated water in the morning as often as possible. This prevents me from getting headaches, but also calms me. Taking an ice cold shower in the morning shocks my body into breathing and moving blood like nothing else will. Throughout the day, if I’m faced with stress, I tend to breathe shallow or not at all. This is when air is most important.
  • Have fun. I ask myself if this is the life I want to live, and am I having fun. When I write my goals down, I should be writing first what I want to do for fun. A daily fun, weekly fun, monthly fun. Then all the work necessary to get there starts to make sense.
  • Be in love. Be in love with myself most importantly. I want to know myself and embrace my weaknesses as human and just reality. Accepting who I am allows me to accept that I can’t control everything or everyone. So when someone’s opinion of me, their feelings for me, or perception who I am changes, my self-image stays positive and constant. If I can do this, I can love and accept others for who they are as well. Being close, loving and being loved unleashes a confidence  like no other, and it is the true source of courage.
  • Learn from all mistakes and failures, as well as others’ failures. A failed relationship, a failed attempt is a step toward getting things right in the future. Everyone makes them.

 

Falling horizon

This morning’s run is dedicated to an army brother who fell a few days ago, just one day before I arrived to catch up with him.

As I approached the mountains this morning, the clouds alight with a promise of sun, I took the high road, camera in hand. All the while, I knew the colors wouldn’t last. It looked as if it might rain, but I imagined the pictures I’d get if I got there on time. 

A few years had gone by, so little did I know he was even in pain. There’s a second where I wondered if I could have done something to change the outcome. Never-the-less, the fate of people and time takes its course. Winter happens upon us all. I’m relieved it hasn’t taken me when I’ve felt its chilly breath at my own back.

When I arrived at the top, I could see all below. But to my disappointment, the clouds had consumed the sun and painted skies gray. So I sat there a moment looking off in the distance, wondering what kind of life I lived. Racing here and to, with some destination in mind. Had I been true to myself and would I look back and smile once I reached the horizon?

SO, hello.  I’m here. Now. Taking a moment to reflect and connect with what’s around me. I’m breathing. Alive. And thankful to experience another glimpse of color, though the colors keep changing and fading.

And here’s to the man whom I met when I was 18 at Fort Huachuca,  to the memories I have  of him and fellow soldiers with us in Mainz, for some time Between Bosnia and Kosovo.

I am lucky I have these to enjoy until then.

 

 

Random photos from my past

 

It couldn’t make an older brother any happier to see a younger brother start a family and rise up to the challenges of life with someone by his side. I am truly honored that he’d want me to be the one to capture the essence of his engagement, and marriage to come.

Elements of the Loussac Library garden concept

A quick sketch lays out lines, flow, elements for approach to immersive gardening at the Loussac Library.

What will the class’ design look like?

  • The right: taller trees to the north side of property form a living hedge.
  • In center: Community gardens bordered by shorter hedges, internal and concentric paths, spiraling out from center  amphitheater.
  • Top: Fruit bearing trees alternating with berms, swales and water diverted from roof to irrigate garden.
  • Left: rest areas, stone paths recycling.

 

Our song

It is gentle, powerful and radiant.

Let it light our way.

Let it move us to dance under winter’s grip.

 

 

The S’mostess

Like every good patriot, I chose to do something revolutionary for Independence day this year.

This time, I invented something that will change the world forever more.

I give you, the S’mostest.

It solves the decades-old flaws in s’mores design that has kept millions turning away in disgust.

No longer will the world have to endure rock hard hershey’s chocolate juxtaposed against the warm gooyness of the molten marshmallow.

Instead, we reach for the hazelnutty goodness of nutella.

No longer will the world be overwhelmed by sugary sweetness and diabetic shock of sugar on sugar on sugar.

We now get not one, but two or more uses out of a marshmallow. 

And we top it with a sprinkle of salty pretzel stick.

Go America!

10 acre lakefront homestead concept

Lake front concept includes many permaculture-based elements – fruit trees, bees, pond, gardens, greenhouse, barn, stable, shop, yurt and aquaponics systems.

Home design integrates  stacked shipping containers, and is scheduled to break ground next spring.

Original concept designed on paper, then transferred to Adobe Illustrator for final presentation.

Client: Private

 

Now that I’ve decided to rent my house out, I need a place to stay. I opted to build my own little space in the back yard and crawl under it during the years to come. I’ll build it on a trailer in case I ever want to move it, but I’m hesitant to even call it a tiny house at this point because it could end up more of a Frankenstein project of a travel trailer.

Because I have no disposable funding,  very little time and no one to help, I am sourcing used materials on craigslist and other salvage options. I aim to just get the outside done so I have a warm, dry place to retreat to, and work on the inside when I have time.

Starting small, I will have to pick up the skills along the way. Luckily a guy from New York with some framing skills wants to come to Alaska. I’m hooking him up with a place to stay in exchange for his help. I can’t wait to get started!

Business and directory advertising

Sample of over 500 advertisements created for businesses across several states, namely Alaska.

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