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Monthly Archives: January 2014

I am starting my tedious journey home today, along Interstate 80. The straight highway driving that should have been a cake walk was made more difficult by high winds and blowing snow. I decided to spend the night in Laramie, WY.

Since I didn’t even have cows to keep me company on this drive, I had to talk to myself. With some prompts from NPR and This American Life, I got to thinking about Adventure. The episode ends with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Adventure is all very well in its place, but there is something to be said for regular meals and freedom from pain. (Stardust)

The main consensus in most adventure stories is that the protagonist undergoes some sort of trial, and is usually uncomfortable. With my almost ravenous consumption of adventure stories in fiction, coupled with my well known desire to be the long-suffering heroine of my own story,it’s not usual to find me narrating some mundane task like laundry into a grandiose plot point, even before I left home. But when it comes time to actually get down to it, I’m not living in an adventure story. I spent a few uncomfortable nights on a soaking wet mattress, and have had to deal with some chilly walks to pit toilets, but all in all, I’ve been pretty comfy cozy, what with continuous access to a propane stove, grocery stores and a place to sleep. [I will say though that I did use the snow that would melt in the morning sun dripping onto my face as an alarm clock.  That could be considered as part of an adventure.]

My relative comfort and the total lack of a macguffin makes for some rather uncompelling narration. My adventure story is not so much Stardust as it is Thor 2, in that the plot is more than a little forced.

Not to be deterred in my delusion of grandeur, I have found a way that my trip can be considered an adventure. All I have to do is learn something, like Frodo, Link, Harriet the Spy and so many other of my fictional predecessors.

Learning lessons is hard for me, as I have a complete refusal to participate the culture expectation that I will come to some sort of  resplendent epiphany in my post-collegiate travels.  But it’s the small revelations that are often the most surprising and the most interesting. Before we get started, I would just like to remind everyone that I have killed and eaten my own dinner. Not that is a lesson exactly, but it does add a certain adventure style badassery.

So what lessons have I learned?  Well, I’ve gained confidence in my irrational and inscrutable refusal to eat soy. Even going to far as to ask wait staff if they wouldn’t mind asking the cooks to not put it in veggie pad thai and I found my spirit animal, the intelligent yet capricious goat.

I learned how much a shower is worth to me. More than the emotional value of being able to be warm and clean, there is a concrete dollar value associated with access to a shower. And it’s a lot.

You can be very functional with mittens. Not only can I type with mittens on, I can undo padlocks, tie my shoes, and even cook. You just have to want it bad enough. Oh, and seriously, don’t leave your shoes outside. They’ll either get slugs in them or snow. And that is the pits.

Hiking is really just walking. Except sometimes you end up above the clouds.

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I mean, when you’ve walked up a mountain, it’s pretty easy to pretend to yourself you’re on an adventure, even if your mom’s Audi is only a mile away. Best just to enjoy the feeling of feeling like you’re going somewhere.

Oh, and if anyone else is looking to pretend to themselves that they are on an adventure, bison make a good stand in for mythical beasts.

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So, I am awful with technology. I would not be hard to find testimonials of the extremely unlikely and peculiar problems my machines develop. I’ve had IT professionals assure me that it’s not *exactly* my fault, but I appear to be the only common denominator.

Why am I telling you this? Well, to explain what I am doing and to experiment with new methodologies.

I haven’t had a camera with me on this trip, and have been relying solely on my iPhone. Which is cool, but I almost never hook up my phone to my computer to transfer anything.

It’s just one of those things that is a result of seemingly harmless decisions and happenings that if I explained my process out loud, it would seem utterly asinine, and leave me open to ridicule. We all have these things. You’re not better than me.

But essentially, I just email myself everything, from links to articles and photos. I use draft emails to brainstorm posts. People who know how to use computers get upset when I tell them that I do this. I am not sure why. I know how to use my email client and everything is on my phone, with a convenient web based back up.

I am confessing all this to you, because I am trying a new thing. Posting to WordPress via email. Considering I use the wordpress app on my phone, why would this be a thing that is useful? Well, for one, guest posts (you know who you are!)

Secondly, photos! I took this photo outside of the Utah State House. Bees are a much better choice than lions. Way to go Utah.

So there you have it. Still emailing photos to myself, but just eliminating a few steps. FTW.

 

[UPDATE: I can also update by making a phone call.  I will try this when I am not being watched by the Utah State Patrol for loitering outside the capital. Moving it along.]

So, I bet some of you are wondering what Theresa has been up to. I know, I know, that loveable little scamp just worms her way into your heart and then quickly leaves the state. It’s one of the things I love about her, but it might be a downer to others.

So what has she been up to you wonder? Well, aside from freezing in the Mars like temperatures in the midwest, she spends most of her time arguing with me about soy. Please note, I have no idea what she actually does with her time, but I assume she just sits quietly and thinks about jokes to tell me, while enjoying some TV on an {unnamed video streaming site}. Which is what I assume everyone does when I am not around.

Since all my readers catalogue everything I have ever written, I am going to assume everyone remembers that I don’t eat soy. Up until recently, it is something that I try to be discrete about, because I hate having conversations about my eating habits with others. Which sort of makes me a jerk face because I am pretty nosey about what other people will and will not eat.

My hesitation to discuss my anti-soy stance is that intellectually I know it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I refuse to eat to soy as a symbolic stand against Monsanto, my personal metonym for Big Ag. Well, fair is fair, and since I spent a whole post putting the vegans on blast, let’s turn the tables on me.

My problems with roundup ready seeds and their implications for human and pollinator health aside, the rockafeller-style market control Monsanto has on soy bean production is truly impressive. 90% of soybean seeds in America are a Monsanto patent. With this monopoly, the company is not shy about suing farmers for replanting their seeds as patent violation, a position which the Supreme Court has upheld. In fairness to Monsanto, they are not the only seed company that does this. Purdue, Cargill, etc etc all employ these methods as well. There’s Flaw 1 in my anti-soy campaign. If I have a big enough problem to avoid Monsanto GMO soy for health reasons as well as protests over shady business practices, why not Cargill wheat? (Real talk answer: I like bread more than tofu.)

Hey speaking of protesting, how effective is withholding my dollars from Monsanto, actually? Flaw 2, not a whole lot. A company that rakes in nearly 15 billion dollars a year could honestly care less about my business, which would amount to less than a drop in the bucket. I am not above admitting my own financial insignificance. But even that assumes that I could avoid eating soy, entirely. That is pretty unlikely considering its presence in processed foods and use in the supply chain for dairy production. I might be able to avoid buying soy, but how many of my lattes are made with milk that comes from soy fed cows? Well probably a lot. So while my dollars may not go directly to Monsanto, the chance that I can stop spending money on food that doesn’t have Monsanto anywhere in the supply chain is pretty small.

There you have it, two extremely major flaws. And yes, I know everything comes in shades of grey, and that something doesn’t have to be all or nothing in order to be effective. For example, you don’t have to give up meat entirely to be have an impact. And really it’s impossible not to participate in the food system. So it’s normally at this point that Adult-Me takes over, and rationalizes and says things like “It’s fine to eat that tofu, because your cousin made Pad Thai with it, and just be polite. It’s not really a big deal, and you can still have principles and junk. It’s not like drug smuggling or giving attention to Rush Limbaugh.”

I would be able to get over myself and continue on with my quiet, secret protest, with only an internal conflict to keep me going. Except for Theresa’s constantly taunting me with her tofu consumption.

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She’s smart enough to know that I am just being a well-intentioned dumb dumb on a meaningless anti-soy crusade, which not only undermines my own intellegence and credibilty, but countermands my entire life philosophy of reminding everyone that things are so much more complicated than that. And I assume that amuses her to know end.

The more she wants to eat tofu and talks to me about it, the more I dig my heals in about NOT eating it. This is clearly a holdover from my days as a teenager. I can’t really explain why I do this, or what emotional hang ups that keep me stubbornly clinging to my believes. I mean, look, I know deep down in my heart of hearts that what I am doing is ultimately futile, with huge logical flaws. But the more other people point it out to me, the more I cling to my fantasies that my actions actually have some meaning. I want it to be true that I have some control over the world, and my fate, OK!

…..

…..I think I might have just understood religion.

 

It’s kind of a funny thing being a lady in mostly male dominated fields. From beekeeping, to rock music and project development, the majority of my professional career has been spent with older dudes telling me what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I ask these older dudes what I should do, but sometimes they come down with a pretty bad case of  Now-See-Here-Little-Lady-itis. It’s an unfortunate part of reality as a young woman spending time with older dudes.

But, in keeping with this week’s theme of “damn the man”,  the winds they are a changing. It would seem that ladies are stepping up to the plate and are leading in the transformation of the sustainable agriculture program. About 1/3 of people who identify their primary profession as farm are now women. Huzzah! Now, if we could only get the average salary about $25,000, we’d be rolling.

I’m sure there are volumes written on the relationship between women and food. In fact, I have read some commentaries that attribute the current food system to women entering the workforce. As women began entering the work place in droves around World War 2. With women out of the home, but still expected to be the primary cook, the demand for convenience and prepackaged foods skyrocketed. What lazy working moms, eh?

But either way, women and farming should have a lot to do with each other. I can’t really speak for other women and their desire to farm, but I know for me it has a lot to do with having a measure of independence and freedom, as well as control over my health.

There is value to getting women in every industry, but when women achieve a certain level of subsistence through farming, it can help alleviate much of the social, political and economic pressures that cripple women and children throughout the globe.

So let’s hop to ladies, damn the man, and grow some peppers. I hear they’re good for cramps, too.

Happy New Year, everyone! 

I am drawing to the end of my time in Salt Lake City, and I am getting into a full research and writing mode. This is a depressing way to ring in the New Year. I’ve had to take several breaks to walk in a circle around the KOA. (Which in its own way is also depressing as the weather inversion that keeps particulate pollution hovering over the city is particularly bad today. So bad in fact, I cannot see the mountains over the haze.)

The advice that is handed down again and again by health experts, environmentalists, and food scientists is “less meat, more plants”. It’s good advice, and is seemingly simple to follow. So why do people have such a hard time with it? 

There is of course the danger in turning into a godless sissy if you eat less than 2 pounds of meat a week. If you’re going to eat that way you might as well just move to France, and become a communist. But there are other, more legitimate reasons why the “more plants” portion of advice can be such a tricky needle to thread. 

One problem is that where can you go to find fruits and veggies, let alone those that are not coated in pesticides? The USDA estimates that roughly 23.5 million people live in areas that have no groceries stores with fresh produce, and are instead only serviced by fast food or convenience stores. As you can imagine this problem disproportionately affects low income areas, including the inner cities, and believe it or not, rural areas. 

It was at this point I had to walk around for a minute. Our food system has gotten so bad that even people who live on farmland can’t get access to good food. Massive farm subsidies that favor large companies that grow corn, soy and wheat mean that small farmers are financially obligated to grow these plants the way Cargill or Monsanto or Purdue demand. 

Between reading about the food deserts, animal welfare violations, environmental impacts, and international food aid policies that cripple local economic development, I am ready to start the god damn revolution. Let the streets run green with the fruits of our labor! 

But then of course, I continue reading about farm subsidies, corporate marketing, the USDA, and of course, the politicians and lobbyists, and my rebellious spirit gets a little dejected. I start to wonder if my internet connection is good enough to visit an unnamed video streaming service for the next 1,000 years. {C’mon Netflix or Hulu, I know one of you wants this sponsorship}

 I am all for revolution guys, truly, I am. It’s great to be passionate enough to want to do something to thwart a rigged system, but revolting without accomplishing anything is really just yelling at a system that already ignores you. And I really am only into wasting time with video streaming. How do you damn the man when the man is such a behemoth? 

My solution was to eat some organic spinach and wonder if a coffee based diet counts as plant based. But thankfully there are people who are better at achieving things than me. People like Ron Finley of the L.A. Green Grounds. Through his community gardening, Finley has found a solution to the food problem that is devastating his community, helping people gain affordable access to healthy foods. He’s even better at motivating both the revolutionaries and the pragmatiststhan me. In his own words, “Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.” Sign me up.