Chicken Appreciation Post

Chickens.

(n.) Vastly underrated members of the urban, suburban, and rural food chains who deserve a more prominent place in hyperlocal (backyard) food production.

(Gabe made a “Murder Most Fowl” joke. Just gonna let the internet know forever.)

Use #1: Eggs.

Animal protein delivered in serving-sized capsules daily? No slaughter or boob squish necessary? Yes please! Plus they come in pretty colors, from pastel pink and aqua to soft brown to dark cocoa and pure white and everywhere in between (with speckles!).

Use #2: Pest control.

Chickens will eat up any insects or worms or even spiders that scuttle by when they’re hungry!

Use #3: Weed control.

Excess vegetation is just extra snacking for a chicken! As long as it hasn’t been sprayed with toxins, a chicken will happily munch down dandelion, chickweed, even certain yellow leaves in the autumn!

Use #4: Fertilizer.

Chicken poop is fantastic for your soil! It’s very high in nitrogen, an essential building block for plants to absorb and grow with.

Use #5: Soil massage.

Okay, ‘massage’ might be a weird word, but chickens love to scratch the dirt and peck at it looking for tasty bugs and wrigglers! Given a dry patch of hard dirt, a few chickens could scratch and poop and possibly even seed it to much more fertile land in a year or two by breaking the surface and depositing nutrients and moisture.

Use #6: Feathers.

Chickens are so wildly different in their coloration between breeds! Our first round of baby chicks included a Welsummer, a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, a Golden Sexlinks, and an Ameracauna, giving us black & white, soft brown, chocolate, coppery golden, blue-peacock shimmer, all kinds of different feathers to play with! You can use them for crafts like jewelry, decor, or just letting them be pretty in the roost.

 

To conclude:

If you have the space and are interested in harvesting food from your backyard, chickens are a wonderful place to start! They’ll control your pests and weeds, work fertilizer into your soil, and give you perfect little protein bundles every day.

Start with 4 chicks if you can, they’ll be fine with 3-6 in a flock but don’t just get 1-2 (they get lonely! Much better experience for everyone with more friends than that). One will usually become the alpha female of the pack, take responsibility for protecting the others, and may be more aggressive than the rest–it’s normal and just a personality quirk.

I’ll do a post about our experience raising chickens next week, but for now just take to heart that it’s easy enough to do that we did it (saying something) and it’s worth your time and effort if you have the resources and inclination! They’re a wonderful addition to a home and are minimal enough effort that most people with a reasonable fenced yard should be able to keep healthy, thriving chickens!

Update: Changes to Come

Well, we’ve had a realization. The website as it stands is pitched towards beginner gardeners, and is written for my peers, millennials.

We’ve come upon a disastrous realization.

Millennials don’t visit blogs like this.

So the blog is fully converting to my writing website. It will host my work, along with any side projects that I might do. More on that tomorrow.

Belle Catches Up

It’s been a busy few weeks! We’ve been working on getting Gabe to write daily, and he’s finally here! I’m so proud of all the work he’s been doing on his story, you guys should really check it out on Wattpad. Be prepared for a loosely high fantasy slice of life in lots of small chapters.

I’m going to jump in and focus on the diet and my progress. It’s been really hard keeping with slow carb while I work in a coffee cart surrounded by delicious sugary/milky pastries and drinks all day, especially when there’s downtime and I feel like practicing my latte art (or visiting a neighboring food cart!). For the most part, I’ve done well this week. I’ve had a few minor slips (a tablespoon of half & half here, a ginger turmeric lemon shot there) but I’m actually pretty impressed with myself for dismissing a LOT of niggling cravings. Giving up dairy isn’t easy for me, but remembering that I’m only a couple days from cheat day makes it more reasonable to expect myself to behave. I can tell that I’m building some food discipline, which is a big step for someone overcoming binge eating disorder. My weight has been floating around 171-2 lbs all week, so I’m guessing I had lost a bunch of water weight right before my last weigh-in (170 lbs). I’m looking forward to the weigh-in on Saturday though! It’s been a long time since I’ve been under 180 lbs and it’s really encouraging to watch the number stay well below that. Even if I’m not in the 160’s yet, I know I’m only a couple weeks away!

Something else I’ve been focusing on is drinking more water and reducing my caffeine intake. Again, not the easiest task for an enthusiastic barista, but I can tell when I’m dehydrated and I feel way more susceptible to a bad binge when I am. It’s been helping me feel better all-around–I think I’m getting around 200 ounces of water a day, which is really good because of how hot it is during our little temperamental heat wave out here in the PNW summer. Before I started the diet and tried to cut caffeine, I was regularly consuming 4-5 espresso shots and 8-12 ounces of drip coffee every shift I worked (4x/week). And I KNOW I wasn’t drinking enough water. It affected my digestion, my mood, my headaches, and those all balanced out as I’ve swapped for herbal teas and iced water with the tail end of a ginger turmeric lemon shot. Gabe and I have a 58 oz water bottle at home that we share and are constantly filling up and handing to each other. Having the big bottle is REALLY helpful–less trips to the sink means we’re more likely to properly hydrate ourselves.

Over the winter we had the privilege of a stellar rock climbing gym membership, and Gabe and I both built some muscle over those months. It was really hard for me to hoist 185 pounds up a wall with just my fingers and toes, but once I threw myself at it enough, I was making it up the first-level routes with a fair amount of ease. It felt great. I didn’t care about how much I weighed while we were there, I just cared about how strong I felt. I watched my arms go from very flabby to actually showing the definition of a shoulder and some muscle. My thighs probably lost about half an inch each of fat, based on how my pants fit before and after the membership. And I could feel my abdomen starting to strengthen again, my posture improved and so did my problem with back and hip aches.

While physical activity is really only believed to affect 20% of a weight loss process, I found an enormous amount of value in that 20% that made it seem much more important to my personal process. I played sports as a kid and was fairly strong and athletic, under my layers of eating disorder chub. I never saw myself as a serious athlete because I didn’t believe I looked like one, but once my physical condition started deteriorating during my deeper depressions, I started realizing that I had taken for granted how good it feels to be athletically fit. Being able to come back to my body after many years of neglect and still rev the muscular engines like that is extremely heartening, and it encouraged me to stick with a healthier eating plan for the other 80% of the process that made my body feel even better. (Also, the sauna. Oh sweet lady of love, the sauna. Pure bliss. I ended up making sauna visits before and after the climbing part of the gym. Honestly it’s what got us there sometimes–the promise of that balmy, cedar-scented heat in the middle of December was a great motivator.)

 

Anyway that’s my catch-up! Stay tuned for my next blog post on Chicken Appreciation.

-B

 

Gardening with Gabe (5/29/2017)

Past Eppies:

Y’all should probably catch up on these two previous posts if you haven’t read them yet, as they detail a good chunk of the background knowledge that sets up for this post.

  1. Gardening with Gabe (5/22/2017) The Basics or On Gardening
  2. Gardening with Gabe (5/24/2017) Digging In or On Organics

Episode 3: Practical Organics

Alright my dude! We’ve talked extensively about what organics aren’t. Today, we’re talking about what organic gardening is and how you can do it without being a radicalized vegan who injects celery shots because it’s the only way they feel anything anymore. That’s a joke, obviously. There’s nothing wrong with being vegan, Really 0.

Anyhow, here is our definition for organic gardening:

Gardening using practices that aim to promote positive soil health and beneficial biology and combatting pests and diseases without the use of any toxic additives or ~cides (pesticides, herbicides, etc.).

Let’s expand on that a little more. I’ve bolded the key phrases for you, so I won’t bother relisting them. I’ll start with “using practices“. This is significant because it places the core emphasis on what you do instead of what you buy. This means that organics don’t have to be expensive (in fact, they can be dirt cheap). We’ll get to specific practices soon, but for now it mostly means: Don’t use nutrients; spring for organic potting mix, and water with dechlorinated water if you can.

The second two go hand in hand: positive soil health and beneficial biology are key in organic gardening. If you don’t take advantage of the soil ecology and the beneficial biology that keeps it all running, then you’re not really reaping the benefits of growing in soil. Soils are not all created equally, and the best soils are the ones with a healthy soil food web established 1. Essentially, you want to do things that feed the food web instead of trying to feed the plant directly. This differs from the old scheme, where the idea is to feed the plants directly mineral based nutrients.

This also means that you have to avoid doing things that would hurt the soil biology, like adding salt-based nutrients to the soil (which is the practical reason to avoid nutrients). This is why the definition includes the no ~cides addendum. Anything toxic enough to kill a targeted thing reliably will also kill anything less resilient. This usually means that when you use toxins, you’re killing your soil buddies. Don’t kill your soil buddies.

Now that we’ve got our guidelines, let’s take you down the lowest effort route of doing organic gardening (in containers, obviously).

  1. Go to the hardware store and buy:
    1. A pot
    2. A bag of organic (OMRI listed) potting soil
    3. Seeds
  2. Put soil in pot
  3. Plant seeds as per back of package
  4. Water, but not too heavily (you should be fine as long as you’ve got drainage holes on your pot)
  5. You’re now an organic gardener.

So yeah, it really is that simple.

But as with anything, being able to do something is not the same as doing it well, and that is what we aim for at Saint Gabe’s. And really, if you can’t outdo the people who aren’t taking care of their soil, what’s the point? As far as I see it, there are two main routes for high level container gardening to go, which will be detailed in our next episode of Gardening with Gabe.


Footnotes:

0. For those still interested, please send hate mail to:

Customer Relations
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-1100

1. The article is from Fine Gardening (Written by Ann Lovejoy), and is fantastic. I recommend reading it.

Book Club:

Welcome to book club! Today I’ll actually be forgoing work on the novel to talk a little about an actual book: Tim Ferriss’ The 4 Hour Body. If you’ve made it here, it’s quite possible you’ve been seeing Belle’s posts on dieting already.

We actually found the book via a recommendation on a diet (thanks to a podcast). The diet in question, slow carb, is detailed in the book (and not to mention on the internet), and with that in mind I won’t be getting into it here.

Sad bar: Honestly guys, I’m practically dying of heat today, so this is probably gonna be a short article.

The book itself seems to be divided into a few basic sections: motivation, diet, targeted exercise, drugs/supplements, cold exposure, and the female orgasm. And yeah, you heard me: the female orgasm. Anyhow calm down, it’s not smut. Now, aside from motivation, these are all things that I’ve been looking into for other reasons. Cold exposure, in particular is quite interesting on its own. I would highly recommend looking into the Wim Hof Method. Disclaimer: Don’t buy things you don’t look into on your own.

All in all, the book has been quite a fantastic read, and I’d recommend that you look into it if you’re a fan of the genre.

Saturday Morning Weigh In with Belle

Author: Belle

Happy Saturday! I am fortunate enough to have Saturday mornings off work, so I get to sleep in and relax this morning instead of asking customers if they want cream in their coffee. And I’m choosing to spend it writing to you lovely people! (and digging into a salad. Man, do I love me some avocado.)

Today I want to dive in a little more on the weight loss story from yesterday. As per our Slow Carb Diettoday is our cheat day! That means we get to pack as many nutrients and calories into our day as we feel like.

Since this is probably when I’ll be the lightest during the week consistently, I’ve decided that Saturday Morning Weigh-In is a new weekly feature on the blog. Before eating in the morning (and after a visit to the john) I’ll hop on the scale and record my measurements. (I do have photos of my “before” body from last February, and those will go up when I have something to pair them with! We gotta fix that camera.)

May 27 2017

Whoa!! I managed to go down two whole TI from Tuesday! (Normally I’m not sure this would be a good thing, and actually it’s probably not, but I had terrible indigestion for three days from something completely unrelated to the diet so I feel inclined to enjoy my silver lining.)

We’ve been working together on creating healthy eating habits, and that’s been pretty critical to my success, at least. Gabe was the one who found the ketogenic diet last year and figured out how to get me started on it, and his rock climbing hobby is what got us to a nice gym pretty consistently for a few months over the winter. (That, and my mom’s very generous wedding gift of a membership that we could otherwise not dream of affording!) Building muscle at the rock climbing gym was really hard, since I was forcing 185 pounds or so of mostly sedentary tissue to heave itself up a wall by clinging to various plastic protrusions. My hands and feet got stronger, my arms and legs got stronger and WAY more flexible, and my back/hip problems actually started easing. After a climb, some cardio, stretching, and a shower, I got to sit in the sauna and feel my body rejuvenating, and the whole experience was enormously refreshing. I started falling in love with my body more every time I got to sit in that sauna and reflect on what I could feel. I had (and still have) discomfort where heavy sagging folds over on itself, but in recent months that problem has been reduced by a considerable amount, and it’s exciting! It’s making me more eager to eat healthier food and keep moving my body athletically.

 

Okay, I think that’s today’s weigh in! Tune in next week for updates!

-B

 

 

Diary of a Saint (5/26/2017)

Welcome back my happy little campers! We’re here for another episode of our hit new show, my diary! Also, Mikey is always stealing my thunder. Darn him for lookin’ so cool.

This week has been a bit tiring honestly. Not because of the website or anything, actually. My lovely wife, Belle, has been off her meds (generic lexapro for anxiety/depression). The reasons don’t exactly matter, but suffice it to say that we both need them. I’ve been taking mine, but I finally managed to convince Belle to come into the doctor with me and start her meds up again. So by this point, we finally have a supply of both of our meds, which will help us both level out our moods a little.

Uh, just to make it clear to everybody–I mean, this is only the second post, you guys are just getting to know me– I love my wife very much. In a relationship, your stress (and your partner’s stress) can be extremely stressful to your partner (and vice-versa). This means that being able to control your stress and be the best you, even when things are hard, is absolutely key to your own ability to be in a relationship. This means that, because I want to be my best me (for Belle, if you want), I do certain things like take my antidepressants and take my ADD meds (adderall) if I need to do work that day, purely because I know that if I don’t I’m not making a proper effort to present my best face to the world (and therefore my wife). Anyway, I’m not here to push you towards medication you don’t want to take. We found what’s worked for us, and you have to do the same, maybe meds aren’t for you.

In brighter news, we’ve kept up with the rotation stunningly! I’ve written all my articles for the week so far, and I have ideas prepped for my next Book Club and for my next Gardening with Gabe. All-in-all the website is going as well as I could have wished. I’d say where I have hang-ups is that I’m pretty deeply unsure about how we’ll start pushing the supporter side of this project. I’m not going to stop chipping away at ideas until I get something, obviously, but it isn’t going super quickly. Ideally, I want all the informational articles to be freely available, as I don’t want anyone to have to pay for knowledge that’s so easy to find. Our supporter articles or content will hopefully be based around us and our interests, that way people who support us will have extra fun and informative content, but everybody will be able to get the meat of our wealth of knowledge.

Oh! As a postscript to my main website blurb, I want to say that I am aware that our website needs more images. We’re currently getting our camera ready to start taking some pictures around Saint Johns, so hopefully we’ll have a whole bunch of tasteful shots for you to sip up while you’re chomping on our articles. Admittedly, that won’t happen immediately, so in the meantime I’ll be doing my best to keep it interesting with some stock imagery and stuff.

In other news about me, I lost my drivers license and passport (in my house, I’m only an idiot, not a buffoon) about a month ago, and I’m on a mission today to find it. To do so, I’m going to have to tear through all of the stuff I haven’t been touching because I don’t want to sort it out (think of those boxes in your house from when your family moved years ago 1). I am vaguely unhappy about that, but it has to get done, so I’ll do it.

I’ve also discovered that in Saint Johns I have allergies again. I’m not quite sure what’s causing it, but we’ve just hit spring and the pollen in the air seems to have been replaced with itching powder. If it continues this bad, I’ll probably be letting you guys know what meds I’ve been using this time next week. Look forward to that, maybe.

Okay! I’ve just been off to clean for a few hours, and the place is looking much better, so I’m back to write a bit more in my diary. Actually, before we get into that, taking breaks when you hit a block and doing something else can help you be more productive. See, when you take a break and clear your head often times you’ll come back to impossible looking problems with a new eye for previously unseen possibilities. Actually, I personally think it can help you with almost anything, especially if there’s a lot of elements to your problem. That said, it’s not a good reason to procrastinate. So in the end good judgement is key. Darn.

Anyhow, I’ve been listening to this podcast called My Dad Wrote A Porno, and it is amazing. And horrifying. I’ll be very clear, his dad isn’t exactly a paragon of the written word, so this is not sexy. It is hilarious though. Obviously, since it’s a novel, I needed to (and definitely urge you to) start at the beginning. Honestly though, it almost makes me want to write something of that sort (smut), except not bad? Maybe I’ll make the writing of part on the patreon. Maybe with the explicit bits stripped out for the patreon version? Obviously I’d have to then figure out some way of getting the excluded bits to the people that want to see them.

Honestly though, it could be a valuable experiment: figuring out how to write something that is by definition sexual in nature without making the reader feel gross. That sounds like I’m against sex, I’m not (I’m very sex positive or whatever). What I am saying though, is that smut is notoriously easy to write in a way that will upset your stomach to read 2. This article, from Digital Spy, is full of particularly good examples of bad writing. For my viewers’ protection, I will only reference one quote from the article (and thusly the book). Prepare yourselves:

“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”

Now, notice how you probably cringed. I’ll be the first to point out that in this snippet there is no smut. Somehow it still manages to be unbelievably off putting. I would advance the notion that upon the introduction of real sexuality of any nature would make it exponentially harder to not make the reader gag. I don’t actually think that people would want to read the porn, not that I would discourage them from doing so, but an exploration of the process of writing a even chapter or two could be fascinating.


Footnotes:

  1. From The Incredibles (from IMDB):

    Helen: I’m calling to celebrate a momentous occasion. We are now *officially* moved in.

    Bob: That’s great, honey. And the last three years don’t count because…

    Helen: Because I finally unpacked the last box. Now it’s official! Ha ha ha! Why do we have so much junk?

  2. I’m looking at you Rocky Flintstone. 3
  3. Dad as referenced in My Dad Wrote A Porno