Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cold Farm Music

I grew up in a farming community of 2,000 people. If you climbed the watertower and looked out in any direction there was nothing but fields as far as the eye could see. It was mostly corn and cows, and occasionally soybeans.

None of the fields ever had a rock band in it. An in January, the didn't have anything else in them, either.

I like farming in Houston much better.

Mark setting up the stage for the Last Organic Outpost's cold farm musicfest.

I'm not sure who donated the fireplace. Considering it never got above 37F on Saturday, that fireplace was the main attraction! Yes, I was the one who built the fire in it. Seriously, they need to start teaching kids proper fire-building techniques in schools or something.

Up first, Paper Windows.

Playing musical instruments outside in almost freezing weather takes dedication. Playing excellently in under such conditions moves out of skill and into virtuosososity. There was a lot of that this weekend!

Paper Windows was great band mixing up there own indie acoustic alternative folk rock songs with covers of assorted modern stuff. The fact that they did this gig for free just puts them over the top in class and coolness. Go see them!

The second act on Saturday was The Gorilla Dance Band. They describe their music as Texas Pyschadelic Funk, a mix of classic rock, country and funk stirred up with a Austin sort of flair. I love Pink Floyd. Their cover of Wish You Were Here is better than the PF version, 'nuff said!. You hear them and you'll want to keep hearing them!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (def. 2)... saturday also found a group of art students building racks on which to hang paintings for an upcoming art/fashion/lifestyle show coming up at the Outpost in the near future (date not set yet).

Can we build it? Yes we can!! Especially when someone brings a generator along because hand tools are so hard to use. Um, this still counts as being green, right? The wood is recycled...

Joe, surveying his crops.

Others also surveying his crops.

It was a cold, cold day but a lot of people came out, listened to music, tossed wood on the fire, munched on fresh greens and curry tacos, and were taught edible wild plants by your's truly. My feet were both numb and sore by day's end, but it was so worth it.

And then on Sunday we did it all again. This time four different one-person acoustic musical acts took the stage throughout the day, but I was too busy teaching classes to get their names or take I forgot my camera. The weather was about ten degrees warmer which made a big difference, though people still turned the small, sane fire I built into a raging bonfire. I guess that's just human nature, especially when they aren't the ones cutting the firewood.

Adventure! Excitement! Hippies and Survivalists Working Together!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Merriwether IRL!

Meatspace still has some advantages to a carbon-based girl.

Hey everybody, if you ever dreamed of meeting me in person you'll have a bunch of chances coming maybe you should get some help, maybe talk to a shrink or something. I mean, yeah occasionally I can be funny and on a really good week you might actually learn something from me (this week's tip, a glass beaker filled with 275 F silicone oil looks exactly the same as a beaker filled with room-temperature water, but feels COMPLETELY different), but really, would you actually drive into Houston to meet me?

Well, the Houston Arboretum hopes so, as does the Last Organic Outpost, and Sedition Bookstore! I'll be teach classes in wild edibles, urban foraging, PAW farming, and emergency preparedness at these places in the next two months.

First up is the Last Organic Outpost. I'll be at their Emile St. location teaching urban foraging on both Saturday, January 30th and Sunday, January 31st from 10am-4pm both days as part of their big community outreach event/Houston Food Security program. These classes are free but a donation to the Last Organic Outpost are greatly appreciated!

On February 7th at the same Emile St. location (Last Organic Outpost), I and my fellow Zombie Squad members will be doing some PAW (Post Apocalyptic World) farming. Yep, we are going to turn a urban wasteland of trash, burned cars, and zombies into thriving urban farmland. This will be good practice for when we are frantically throwing up barricades against the zombie hoards while trying to rebuild civilization. The work party takes place on Sunday, Feb. 7th from 10am-4pm. After that I'm going to a private Superbowl party thrown by the first girl I ever kissed. I must have been a great kisser as she followed me to Houston like twenty years later. Misseswether likes her, which is a good thing.

Have you ever wondered where anarchists hold their organizational meetings in Houston? (Get it? That's really funny if you understand the joke.) They gather at Sedition Bookstore on Richmond Ave. and on Sunday, Feb. 14th I'll be leading an urban foraging class starting there. The time hasn't been set yet (clocks are tools of the oppressive white culture?) but once a time has been set I'll put the info up on this page and my wild edibles blog. This class is free but I'll be passing around my tip-hat afterwards.

Then on Saturday, February 20th, 1-5pm I'll be teaching edible wild plants at the Houston Arboretum. Registration for this very popular Arboretum fund raiser fills up fast so sign up right away. It is the most extensive foraging class you can get in Houston, covering wild edibles available in urban, forest, wetland, and prairie environments. It also covers toxic plants that look edible, if you are into that sort of thing (only about four are deadly, the rest will just make you spend the night on the toilet).

Finally (unless I'm forgetting something), on Saturday, March 20th I'll be teaching a course in Practical Emergency Preparedness at the Houston Arboretum. Topics will include:
* Threat identification: what should you realistically worry about
* Basic preparation: food, water, first aid kit, checklists
* Evacuation: what to always have pre-packed, what not to forget
* Long power outages: lighting, cooking, hygiene, food, safety, communications
* Car kits: what you should always have in your car
* "It takes a village...": why you should help your neighbors prepare too
* Sources to get more information
Learn how to deal with hurricanes, chemical spills, house fires, zombie invasions, and other threats likely to hit the Houston area! The Arboretum does charge for this class, but it's worth it (says the teacher...)

Adventure! Excitement! Education!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quote of the day

"Eewwwh! I would never eat a tarantula! I'm okay with eating June bugs but I'd never eat a spider!"
-Miniwether, during supper tonight.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Advanced Parenting

Miniwether and Mambowether just showed up at our bedroom door hours past their bedtime. Turns out Miniwether had been playing with another loose tooth and it came out. She wanted to immediately put it in a ziploc baggy and stick it under her pillow for the tooth fairy. I explained that the tooth fairy had already logged her flight plan for the evening and couldn't change her schedule. Tomorrow night would be the soonest she can come. The girls thought that was reasonable and handed the tooth over to me. I put it in a baggy and stuck it to the fridge with a magnet.

Tomorrow morning I think Miniwether is going to find the tooth gone, 50 cents in the baggy, and a note from the tooth fairy saying how she was already in the neighborhood so she picked up this tooth, too.

Adventure! Excitement! Not Going To Get Caught Again!

Like butter...

...spread over too much bread.
-Bilbo Baggins

Current slices of bread in random order:
1. 40+ hours a week doing research chemistry
2. Fatherhood
3. Husbandhood
4. Preparing my Practical Preparedness class (Houston Arboretum on March 20th)
5. Improving my edible plant blog
6. Studying herbal medicine
7. Working out for 2 hours every other night
8. Volleyball once a week
9. Updating this blog
10. Working down at the Last Organic Outpost/Houston Food Security program every weekend
11. Creating a permaculture food forest in my 30'x70' backyard
12. Preparing for or teaching wild edible plant classes (Jan 30th, 31st; Feb 14th, 27th)
13. The usual "honey-do" list items (damn, I still haven't fixed the leaky sink!)
14. Dealing with a tough medical issues in the family

The above is stuff I'm actually doing every week. Notice I didn't include sleeping on the list? Every time I see a news article about how sleep deprivation causes health issues I think I'm working myself into an early grave. Note also that I haven't been backpacking, camping, or paddling in ages. The Houston Kayaking Meet-Up group is doing my Spring Creek this coming Saturday and I don't have time to join them.

All my life I've felt like I'm racing something big and dark...that I need to accomplish all this stuff before it catches me. So I run and I build and I write trying to get everything done. Meanwhile I hear the sound of the big, dark thing getting closer.

Unrelated, here is a picture of my friend after he dropped his daughters birthday cake on the floor. I told him I was going to post this.
Adventure! Excitement! Ukwtakun!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Joyful Sound of Cracking Ice

Growing up in Minnesota I encountered more ice than I'd even wish on most enemies. I had a paper route from age 10 (dad lied and told them I was 11) up through high school. This involved many frigid mornings walking through ice and snow to get the town up to speed on latest events every day before 6am. Lots of ice and lots of snow. Luckily, there was one thing that made it all worthwhile...cracking the thin layer of ice that formed slightly above puddles. This white film gave an amazingly satisfying crackle when stepped upon. At 4:30am on a winter's morning none of this ice had been broken yet. It was all mine stomp and crack!

Yeah, so I'm odd. Y'all should have figured that out by now.

Living down in Houston, I haven't had that simple pleasure in years and I figured my girls would never know it.

Well, temperatures here have been setting record lows for the last three days. All across the city frozen pipes are bursting and the street gutters are filled with water covered with a thin sheet of ice. If I were an unsympathetic paperboy it would be awesome! As it is, many people are facing a lot of expensive repair bills. Luckily there's a place I could take my girls where they could finally experience the wonderfulness of breaking ice.

Ice, crackling.

More ice!

Miniwether and the Shard. (We've been watching The Dark Crystal a lot lately.)

Spring Creek
Spring Creek, not frozen.

Cold sunny days are a great time to be in the woods. There's no bugs, you don't get sweaty, and often there's no one else nutty enough to be out there. Miniwether loved it but Mambo, being more of a homebody like Misseswether, wasn't too wild about the experience. We ended up having to bring her home then just me and Miniwether returned to play for hours in the cold sand and throwing rocks through the ice of frozen puddles. It was very satisfying for our inner vandals...

Adventure! Excitement! Cold!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Cow? What cow officer?

Oh...that cow.

Some people go for guerrilla gardening, but how many have ever tried guerrilla ranching? Apparently someone has because Miniwether and I found this delicious looking beast while we were secretly planting Jerusalem artichoke tubers in unused lots throughout our neighborhood.

Last spring I picked up six Jerusalem artichoke tubers at the local HEB Central Market and planted them in my backyard. Each tuber produced numerous stalks and a plethora of new tubers over the summer. They are best left in the ground until at least the first frost and really not until you are ready to use them. Well, we've already had several frosts and recent issues with food suggests now is a good time to act like a squirrel and go a little, I mean tuberish.

Tubers. They go great with squirrel.

The weather was cold and drizzly Sunday. Christmas decorations had been packed away. I had to return to work the next day after being off for nine days. In other words, it was time to go outside. Actually, I'd been planning to go out tuber-stashing earlier in my vacation, but like many other plans it didn't escape the crushing gravity of fatherhood. Oh well, I finally had a little time, plenty of tubers, and a willing partner in my dirty crime.

Miniwether strikes a blow for plantkind...which will later be eaten by humankind. You know that whole Circle of Life thing, but without the singing baboons.

We ended up planting the sunchokes throughout three empty, unused lots where hopefully they will prosper and multiply into abundant crops of life-sustaining calories! It was a good way to spend a dreary Sunday afternoon.

Adventure! Excitement! Inulin!

p.s. Yes, we did find a young cow while planting the tubers. I didn't bring it home though as Misseswether kind of freaked out the last time she saw me and a cow in the front yard. She started screaming, ran into the house and locked the door for protection. I'm not exactly sure why she thinks cows are capable of turning a doorknob, but she is a city girl and so I cut her some slack when it comes to understanding the technological capabilities of bovines.

p.p.s. To all you city-folk, cow hooves are incapable of turning doorknobs.

p.p.p.s. I suppose they could bust down a door pretty easily if they had some overwhelming desire to enter a house. I'm not sure why they would want to though.

p.p.p.p.s. Okay, one other thing. Do NOT lead a cow up several flights of stairs and into a friend's dorm room, no matter how funny you think this will be. Cows will go up stairs without much trouble but the only way to get them back down is to sedate it then carrying it down the stairs. The problem with sedating a cow is when you do so it loses control of its bowls. The result is very unpleasant, especially in a dorm room or hallway.

p.p.p.p.p.s. Unless it is your arch rival dorm, then it becomes really funny again.