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

Belle’s Diary: Slow Carb Diet

Author: Belle

Hey guys! It’s me today. I’m gonna pop in for a quick blog post before I head to work. I’ve been working on improving my body weight and fitness over the years and I’m here to share some of my story.

I weighed 225 lbs (I’m a 5’5″ female) in February of 2016 and started the ketogenic diet. Simply, “keto” for me meant obtaining 75% of my calories from fat, 15% from protein, and 10% from carbs (basically fiber only!). The first week on the diet was ROUGH, because I made the terrible decision to jump right in instead of tapering down to it. Let me tell you something about suddenly increasing your fat intake and decreasing your fiber intake: that porcelain throne makes you feel like the queen of death.

Once acclimated, I stuck with it for about five months and got down to about 180 lbs, which is where I floated for the remainder of 2016 and into 2017. My body started changing enough that I slowly let go of my strict calorie and nutrient counting, and we’re picking up from this month, when we discovered S L O W  C A R B.

 

**I’ll do a post about keto next, it treated me quite well and I have a lot to share, including before and after pics!**

Slow Carb Basics

A typical day on slow carb (for me) includes about one cup of cooked beans/lentils/peas, roughly a head of lettuce or other leafy green, a few eggs or ounces of fish or bacon, a few seasonal veggies, and maybe combining those above items into soups or salads. (Fresh citrus juice goes into a very light vinaigrette for salads but right now heavy fat isn’t sitting great with me, so I’m sticking with leaner meals. Treats my belly better atm.) No real calorie-counting is necessary, as long as you’re not seeing your weight trend up when you’re trying to go down. Have between 3-6 smaller meals through the day. Rely on a few basic meals prepped and easy throughout the week without too much variation.

HOWEVER:

You take one cheat day a week. Every week. Same day.

Slow carb cheat days are a chance for you to pack as many nutrients and junk food into your body as possible. It keeps your body from switching to starvation mode, which is when a lot of dieters end up falling off their wagon. It’s an essential part of the diet. If you skip your cheat day you’re skipping your body’s natural re-up on all those sweet tasty nutes, which could leave you feeling drained and wanting to quit that next week.

The pros and cons of this diet seem like they fit our lifestyle well right now. We’ve planted lots of lettuce and salad mixes, snap peas, string beans, green onions and other herbs for flavor like basil and mint, and even a bell pepper. By looking at what we want to be putting in our bodies first and then planting it, we’ve invested ourselves in our diet (literally) and can feel great knowing our organic veggies are coming right from our own home garden. (I’ll do another blog post on the ethics of food production, it’s pretty close to my heart and also close to climate change.)

Our garden also hosts some cheat day goodies too! Right now there’s a sweet rosé grape seedling starting in a pot and some blue aztec corn to make funky popcorn.

That’s about all I have time for today! Hope you guys liked the lowdown on slow carb! If you’re hungry for info I’ll direct you to the Reddit discussion and Timothy Ferriss’ book that introduced the diet (and some other cool stuff! Check out his other books, they’re interesting.)

 

 

Gardening with Gabe (5/24/2017)

Episode 2: Digging In or On Organics

Last week, I defined organic gardening (as we will speak of it) as:

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.).

Today, I’ll be delving into what that actually means. To do this I’ll need to explain further what the main other styles of gardening actually are, at least as we see them, so we’ll start there. To that end, my current list of major basic home growing styles is:

  • ‘Soil’ based:
    • Potting soil and just water (Low Effort)
    • Potting soil and synthetic nutrients (Sweet Nutes + Soil)
    • Organic soil and nutrients (Organic)
    • Coco Coir / Coco-hydro (Sweet Nutes + soilless mix)
  • Non-soil based:
    • Coco Coir / Coco-hydro (Sweet Nutes + soilless mix)
    • Hydroponic (Sweet Nute-Water)
    • Aeroponic (Sweet Nute-Mist)
  • Complicated:
    • Aquaponic (Calm down scienceman)

Okay, so upon reading this list you probably have a few questions. I will also list those, so that I don’t forget to address anything.

  • Why is ‘low effort’ a style?
  • Why on earth do you keep saying ‘Nutes’? Please stop.
  • Why is coco coir on there twice? Why is it in both categories?
  • If there isn’t any soil, then what does the plant grow in? Also what does soilless mean?
  • Aren’t hydroponics and aeroponics the best? Haven’t we figured that out or something?
  • Complicated? What’s that supposed to mean?

We’ll be addressing them in order, obviously. So let’s get going.

I’m calling this first ‘style’ of growing Low Effort because it’s the easiest name for what happens when you just go buy the cheapest potting soil, put your seeds in it, and then water it with regular old tap water. For most practitioners of this age old style, no care for the quality of your soil and as little attention to the plants as possible is generally paid. Think about your friend that buys a potted plant every once in awhile, waters it every day for a week, forgets to water it for two weeks, and then is surprised it has died. Your friend is a stunning example of low effort growing. It can totally work, but consistency is absolutely key.

Nutes is simply a dumpy abbreviation of nutrients. As far as I’m aware it comes from stoner culture appropriating common garden lingo. I will not stop saying it. I will take it to my death. It’s so stupid, I love it.

A little bit more on nutrients though. Nutrients (as we’ll be talking about them) come in a few different basic varieties: powdered synthetic, bottled synthetic, and bottled organic. It is important that packaged nutrients (ones you buy in stores) are only one potential source of these nutrients. A good potting soil will include all of these nutrients on its own, so supplementing through use of nutes is a choice, not a requirement.

Coco Coir and Coco Hydro are both essentially soilless mixes with nutrients watered into them. Soilless mixes are a type of growing media that act and look like soil, 1 but have little to no nutrients in them on their own. This means they require watering with nutrients to feed the plant. This has both pros and cons, as it allows you to optimize the mix of nutrients and get them directly to the plant without too much alteration from the nutrients in the soil. Unfortunately, it also furthers the problems already extant in hydroponics. Among other things (keep watch for an article on this subject in the future, probably) potential cons that arise from this are: dependance on bottled nutes, need to manage pH of the water, need to make sure your inputs are good (bad water can mean bad plants). This doesn’t mean it’s all bad, but it isn’t what we’ll be recommending.

Hydroponics and Aeroponics can be very good ways to grow plants, but they require a whole lot of management and care, otherwise things can go bad very quickly. Along with most of the problems mentioned for soilless mixes, they can be very expensive to get started, noisy, and require temperature control of some sort (even if this is just keeping the system in a colder room) to insure that the plants can thrive. This is obviously a giant pain in the butt. Along with that, you’re kinda doing the equivalent of keeping a human being alive on pills, which just doesn’t sit with me. Honestly though, the hassle is really what keeps me from recommending it for anything less than an amazing hobby.

And finally, aquaponics is complicated because an aquaponic system is a hydroponic system that gets its nutrients organically via a tank full of fish. To elaborate, you keep a tank of fish, which you feed either by feeding them directly, or giving them access to forage plants in their tank. These fish eat, live, and poop in the water of their tank. Over time this accumulates in the water, adding nitrogen and other plant available nutrients to the water. This water is then pumped to the plant or (more likely) plants, which have an opportunity to drink up the nutrient rich water before it is fed back into the fish container. Along with being an amazing way to grow plants, this also has the positive effect of keeping the water clean enough for the fish to be happy. The downsides, however, are many. My main ones are that it is way too expensive for most people and that to do it you need a lot of space and stuff (large fish containers, pumps, fish, that sort of thing). This makes aquaponics inconvenient enough for me to not recommend it to most people.

Phew! Now, all I’ve done is explained all of what organic gardening 2  isn’t. Great. This has gotten a bit out of hand though, so I’ll be continuing to delve in on the soil based methods and what organic gardening means in a more practical sense.


Footnotes:

  1. What we mean by this is that a ‘soilless growing mix’ that you buy at the store will look, feel, and probably mostly smell like soil, but will not be soil, exactly.
  2. As we’ll be speaking of it, obviously

I didn’t pull anything specific from these articles, but they were referenced in the writing of this one:

OrganicAuthority.com “The Dirt on Fertilizer – Organic vs. Synthetics

Open Slot: Book Club

Hey! Today is the first open slot on my schedule! I didn’t want to feel like I was letting y’all down, so I figured I’d give you guys a bonus book club. I needed to do a bit more work on it anyhow, so it’s good for both of us.


Useless Sidebar: Belle’s not home yet, but she’s way better with taking photos than I am, so I’m going to have her take a picture of the map when she gets home. If we get lazy or forgetful, it’ll be updated on this post pretty quickly.


Okay, so last episode of book club covered the basic pitch for the setting as it stands now. Today I want to be delving more into some more basic worldbuilding 1 questions. To that end, I’ll be basing today’s club article on a list of questions sourced from SFWA.org. The list is wonderful, and I hope that it might be useful to you all as well. With that said, there will be no need to flip back and forth to understand, because that would be absurd.

Last week we covered the basics of nature and physics in this setting, along with how magic and magical beasts fit in. In interest of readability, I’ll be including the important bit again here:

The major metaphysical difference is that in Valdur there exists a sort of essential energy in the world, much like chi exists in the body in Chinese metaphysical models. This energy gives birth to a set of phenomena known as magic. As to magical creatures or beings, their existence is generally linked to a more magically rich environment (like how salt-water fish can’t usually live in fresh-water).

With that in mind (you’ll see why), we’ll be covering the peoples of this world. Since I love metaphysics, I’m gonna do a bit of rationalizing on how the presence of magic energy in a particular environment (think of it like a cross between air pressure, radiation, and gasses in the environment, I guess). I’m going to posit that the reason that magical creatures exist in more magical zones is that environmental magic ramps up ‘positive’ mutations fantastic four style 2. Just wave away the fact that this makes no real sense, it’s called ‘suspension of disbelief’ and it is okay.

I’m going to suggest that the intelligent people of this world are all of one root variety, with the differences between them (which can be as extreme as that between a fantasy dwarf 3 and a fantasy minotaur 4) being real and physical, but somehow not core to their beings. So a person in this world can be anything from a standard human to a full on scale-skin lizard person, given that the environment has enough magic energy to support the mutations (or required symbiosis with their magic rich environment) that would get them to that point.

The real beauty of this schema is that it opens up the possibility of a fantasy world that it both has peoples of different types and avoids the horrible cliches of elves and dwarves. Peoples in our world are differentiated by their history, descendance, looks, and actions. Two different dwarf-looking creatures could be from radically different home environments and cultures. They might be very physically similar, but past the very base anatomy they will look wildly different because of their practices, way of lives, way of dress, and any body modifications their cultures practice. An inhabitant of Valdur will be able to tell these two individuals apart, and all these things will be key in how they must interpret their lives.

I’m pretty proud of how this setup is coming together, it’s giving me a very good base from which to write about the world in a way that doesn’t feel like a disjointed sham. I want the world to feel very much like a real place that moves and functions, even without the characters and plot of any specific story I write.


Footnotes:

  1. From our friends at wikipedia:

    Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe.

  2. Marvel:

    “After being exposed to cosmic rays”

  3. Wikipedia on Dwarf:

    (in folklore or fantasy literature) a member of a mythical race of short, stocky humanlike creatures who are generally skilled in mining and metalworking.

  4. Wikipedia on Minotaur:

    In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, a being “part man and part bull”