Archive for April, 2010


Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Ball o' Bees

Black and Orange

I went outside early on Monday morning and realized that we have a large bee nest in our orange tree! I only saw the nest because the bees were extremely active - flying from our flowers to the hive over and over again.

We usually don't get outside until the afternoon and they seem to get sleepier, so you can't tell they are there unless you know where to look. This morning it was raining, and that also seems to keep the activity fairly low.

I find bees fascinating. And I love them because they pollinate my vegetables. They've been doing an excellent job with the fava beans and the newly planted tomatoes. Lola chases them. This is very destructive, but it's funny to watch her spinning around in circles after a seemingly invisible foe.

Everybody is peacefully coexisting, so there is very little chance that we'll remove the nest - which means we get to watch the bees all year long!

National Parks and Google Books

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Two quick things:

1) I've been slowly working my way through Ken Burns' history of the National Parks. It really drives home the point that we have an insatiable urge for the planet's resources and that without extraordinary (and usually unpopular at the time) protection, more land and animals would go the way of the passenger pigeon. Also a cool tidbit: all of the National Monuments that you see on the map are the result of the Antiquities Act, which helped to (mostly) protect the Grand Canyon when Congress wouldn't act. I wish that the film could be compressed down to an hour so that it would be more accessible/widely watched because it really puts things into perspective.

2) I'm on Google Books!


Monday, April 19th, 2010

Around 4 or 5 weeks ago I ran into this blog mnmlist and discovered something amazing - I needed less stuff. And so began the process of removing things from my life - both physical objects and tasks that I thought I needed to do but really don't.

If you were to explore our house now some of the changes might seems strange but others you wouldn't notice at all. We no longer have a bed frame, that seems big, but it makes so much sense for us. We aren't old, so we don't need the bed to be higher up. We don't have a mice or bug infested house, so we don't need any space between the ground and us. And on the up side, I don't have to clean all that dust that ended up under the bed and was so hard to reach with the vacuum anymore! Our bedroom feels so much bigger now, because the frame isn't taking up all that space.

I've also gone through a ton of my clothes, and I no longer have a dresser. Everything I own is either hanging up or stashed in 3 bins (socks, underwear, other non hanging etc). So far this has been fantastic. The closet is much more open, I wear every single one of my clothes constantly, and it's made line drying and veganism a lot easier (but I'll save that for another post).

Other stuff is less noticeable. I got rid of the mac mini which was hooked up to the tv, making it harder - on purpose - for me to watch hulu. Bookshelves, rugs, pillows, extra extra blankets, unused kitchen gadgets, unused old hobby materials, and knickknacks have all gone. In general, I no longer lose anything in the house. There just isn't anywhere for it to go. The closets are fairly empty and everything has a place (everything had a place before too I suppose, but now it has a place with lots of space around it!) I've gotten rid of so many useless items, clutter that just builds up over time until you don't even remember why you have it.

I've also given away almost all of my books. It isn't very likely that I'm going to re-read them, and it's better for someone else to enjoy them than it is for me to hold onto them. I think that is in general my new philosophy. I wasn't using my sewing machine, and in fact, I'm probably never going to use it. By giving it away to someone who will use it, it's possible for there to be one less sewing machine in the world. And if I ever really need a sewing machine (and can't use a tailor or sew it by hand for whatever reason) then it would be better for me to try and borrow one - or even watch craigslist or freecycle for a machine and then donate it back to the free pool when I'm done.

We've been doing this with moving boxes for years - buy them for $50 off craigslist, sell them for $50 when you are done. Why can't we do it with more things? You wouldn't hold onto those moving boxes the whole time you weren't using them, so why would you hold onto that sewing machine. "Just in case" isn't a good enough reason for me anymore. I'm trying to only keep that which I use regularly. And through this process I've come to just need less. The desire for things simply fades away. What you have right now is good enough.

It isn't just the house that minimalizes though, it's things on your todo list as well. I've allowed myself to cross off items that don't really need to get done and were just causing me stress. By getting rid of so much stuff the house is also much easier to clean, and I already mentioned that I don't lose anything anymore. (In fact, I have a text document which lists every single thing we own and what room it's in - yeah, I'm a little ocd... but that isn't necessary for minimalism to work!) I also don't have a smart phone anymore. I don't check my email constantly, I don't feel a need to read the news all the time, and I don't miss it one bit. It's nice to be detached. To sit and do nothing. Especially with the dog, she's great at keeping me company.

I'm by no means done. Every week I seem to find more things that I don't need or something I no longer need to do. Or sometimes I find another way to do things which allows me to get rid of something else. This has freed up a lot of time for me to do better things - like starting a new blog, helping a friend with a website, and just kicking it.

Overall, life just seems easier, calmer, better.

Monkey shoes

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Monkey Shoes

For Christmas, Joey got me a pair of Vibram FiveFingers shoes. They are amazing. I know many people have said that, but it's true. For me, it just makes running more fun, and more difficult - both of which I enjoy.

The difficult part starts with your calves. At first, running even around the block is tough. I was sore for a week after my first run, and I didn't think my calves were that weak to start with! This is mostly because your heels don't touch the ground as much when compared to running with regular shoes. It's sort of like doing calf raises the entire time. I think of this as a bonus - in the same amount of time as my non-fivefingers runs I'm getting more of a workout. Brilliant.

My calves are fairly buff now so I'm able to run longer distances more often. This has brought on the next stage of blisters and calluses. For me, I guess my toes weren't strong enough, so my blisters are all centered there. My big toes in particular are now much thicker than they used to be. It doesn't help that these days I'm running mostly on concrete, which is pretty rough. (Note: The main reason I'm running on concrete is that the one downside of these shoes is their lack of insulation. It is still too cold outside to go on long trail hikes. It's warming up quickly though!) I suppose if you were able to run on trails all the time, you might be able to avoid blisters, but I feel like I'm just preparing my feet for real barefoot running.

Most importantly though, monkey shoes (Joey's name for them, rather fitting) make running fun again. I feel more agile, bouncy even. It's fun to feel the grass or twigs or bumps on the ground. Fun to just have more sensation. And I'm really excited to use them for backpacking. I have sandles for crossing streams, but these will be much better - easier to balance with on the rocks and I can even continue walking in them until they are dry.

I love my shoes so much that I had Joey get them too. They are just that good.