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Last year at this time I was writing a post about New Year’s Resolutions.  I had good intentions when I wrote that post, and I think that the goals I had last year were good for me, but it’s impossible to know what will happen throughout the year.  It wasn’t that 2009 was a bad year for me.  There were some great things that happened throughout the year:  I worked with a first grade class to integrate gardening into their science curriculum, I started my job at the CSU organic farm, Lauren and I took a trip to Seattle, I passed organic chemistry and statistics, Lauren and I got a puppy, I had the chance to cater a business’ open house.  However, in the midst of all of this good stuff that was going on I just felt “off.”

I struggled to focus when I sat down to read.  I struggled for words when I sat down to write.  I found that when I couldn’t read or write I was restless.  When I couldn’t read or write  I lost vision and purpose.  Being restless without vision and purpose does not sit well with me.

I found myself somewhat stuck between searching for contentment and longing for adventure.

This year, however, has some exciting things on the horizon.  I’m working with a friend on a project that will be working on bringing affordable, healthy, and local food to people who are ready to make the change.  We’ll be kicking things off with a blog on January 10 and we are planning an event during the month of March.  I’m heading to Milwaukee next week to visit Growing Power.  Will Allen has become a hero for me and I’m really excited to meet him and get a closer look at the great work he is doing in organic, urban ag.  Starting in February I’ll be starting back to work at the farm, but this year I’ll be working as a farm manager.  I’m really excited about being able to step into this role.  I think that it will  give me a needed push to convince me that I’ll be able to have my own farm (in whatever capacity it looks like) someday in the near future.  Lauren and I are planning a trip to Oregon in June.  It will be a vacation for the sake of taking a vacation.  It’s going to be lovely.  In the fall I’ll get the chance to do an independent study for credit.  I’m thinking about looking into extending the CSA season to look at the viability of a winter CSA or perhaps a market study of heirloom dry beans.  And by the time we’re writing 2011 I’ll be one semester away from graduation.

I’m staying away from making any formal resolutions this year.  I think my goal is to learn to live in the ways that are the most “Stephen.”  I want to find and pursue the things that capture my heart.  I want to continue to fall in love with Lauren.  I want to find peace in the unknown.  I want to be.

Etcetera Whatever
words by Over The Rhine

Don’t speak.
Words come out your eyes.
You’re wet with this nightmare.
Like thorns you hold these secrets to your breast,
your slender fingers closing into fists.

Trace your bruise
like a guilty streak.
Hold the pain.
You’re a connoisseur.
You think you have no other gift to give,
but we have so much left to live.

We don’t need a lot of money.
We’ll be sleeping on the beach,
keeping oceans within reach.
(Whatever private oceans we can conjure up for free.)
I will stumble there with you
and you’ll be laughing close with me,
trying not to make a scene
etcetera. Whatever. I guess all I really mean

is we’re gonna be alright.
Yeah, we’re gonna be alright.
You can close your eyes tonight,
’cause we’re gonna be alright.

So come on now,
I can almost see
that place
on a distant shore.
And courage is a weapon we must use
to find some life you can’t refuse.

We don’t need a lot of money.
We’ll be sleeping on the beach,
keeping oceans within reach.
(Whatever private oceans we can conjure up for free.)
I will stumble there with you
and you’ll be laughing close with me,
trying not to make a scene
etcetera. Whatever. I guess all I really mean

is we’re gonna be alright.
Yeah, we’re gonna be alright.
You can close your eyes tonight,
’cause we’re gonna be alright.
All that I can see is your eyes.
Close your eyes.
Close your eyes.

Some photos from my recent life.

I really love this time of year.  My weeks are long and filled with exhausting work, and when the weekend arrives I can rest.  I haven’t had this feeling in a while.  Throughout the school year my weeks are filled with classes and homework (and a little work), but when the weekend arrives I don’t feel as though I am really resting from anything.  Perhaps that’s because I still have home work and projects to work on, but I think it’s largely due to the fact that my body isn’t engaged in physical labor like it is now.  Winter itself is a form of rest from all the work done throughout the rest of the season, but over time I get antsy to stretch and tare muscles that generally are underused.  When winter slowly turns to spring and then summer and carries into fall my body and spirit rejoices in the work that’s needed to be done.

I’m not very good at resting, though.  For such a simple sounding thing, it can be quite elusive at times.  I feel the need to do something.  To check something off of a list.  To accomplish something.  But that is not rest.  So I force myself to sit and be still.  To listen to the sounds of the world around me and to the voice of GOD speaking in a gentle breeze.  Last weekend I felt very restless in my attempt to rest.  I decided to go for a bike ride.  I grabbed an apple, some water, and a book and took off with no purpose in mind.  I rode in the direction that the road guided me, and in spite of the 25 miles I rode I felt rest.  At times I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to push myself.  I needed to slow down and enjoy what I was doing.  The bike ride wasn’t a means of transportation; it was the purpose.

I still find myself waking up early on weekend mornings.  I might be able to sleep in until 7, but that’s usually it.  I don’t mind, though.  The mornings are peaceful and generally quite.  Songs of crickets and birds slowly crescendo as the morning moves on.  During the business of the week I stockpile articles and blog posts that show up on my Google Reader account or through recommendations given by my Twitter friends.  Saturdays are days for me to sit with a cup of coffee and read through things I didn’t have time for during the week.  I really like that.  Waiting until Saturday also allows for a type of “time filter.”  On a Tuesday I might save an article thinking that I will really want to spend time with it, but by the time I get to it over the weekend it seems much less important.

I spent a little time this morning reading an article on The Jesus Manifesto blog.  Their blog is one of a handful of Christian blogs I still follow because their voice cries out against much of the marriage between the Kingdom of GOD and the Kingdom of man.  So many “Christian” blogs seem to be trying to evangelize Christianity though the American Dream.  That doesn’t sit too well with me, and The Jesus Manifesto people live in a way that challenges that.  Here’s some links to a 3 part series:
Part 1: “Come to me, all ye who labor for a living.”
Part 2: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
Part 3: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Another exciting thing for my upcoming weekends will be cheese making.  Are you really surprise?  L and I are now participating in a form of food activism by drinking raw milk.  Raw milk you ask?  I’m working on a post to explain all of this a bit clearer but here’s the gist.  Milk that is bought in a grocery stores has all been pasteurized, which means that the milk is cooked for a period of time at about 160 F.  Like cooking any foods, nutrients are lost in the process.  A benefit to the pasteurization process is that it lasts longer because there is less living bacteria in the milk itself.  (Bacteria is not a bad word, here.  There are good bacteria and bad bacteria.  The goal is to have enough good bacteria to kill the bad.)  Food scientists have used Ultra-High Pasteurization to allow milk to last for months…on the counter.  That really creeps me out.  Because raw milk is not pasteurized it has a shelf-life of about a week.  Our lovely USDA has decided that raw milk is unsafe and therefore cant be sold.  Every state has a different law on raw milk ranging from straight-up illegal to acceptable to sell if the dairy has a permit.  In Colorado the law says that you can drink raw milk from a cow that you own.  So we now own part of a cow and are legally allowed to drink raw milk.  Now that we have a source of good, fresh milk I can start making cheeses.  A while back, when a few dear friends were up for a visit we made some ricotta cheese and then made homemade ravioli.  It was a lot of fun.  I’ll be stocking up on rennet and cheese cloths and molds so if you want to come over and make some cheese with me let me know.

It’s 8am now.  Time to make some pancakes.  But I’ll leave you with a question.  Is resting an easy thing for you?

This afternoon a big storm came through and along with it pea sized hail.  We weren’t home when it it came through, but from the looks of it it hailed for some time.  I lost my entire garden.  Tomatoes, eggplants, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, bak choi, red cabbage, broccoli, broc rabb, orach, peas, spinach, and arugula.  Not to mention daises, lavender, verbena, lobelia, and a few other flowers.  Here’s some pictures of the damage:

hail damaged beanshail damaged dasieshail damaged tomatoeshail damaged red cabbagehail damaged pak choi

I’m really sad that all the work and effort I put into starting all the plants from see was destroyed in a few minutes of hail.  Some plants I wont be able to put back in the garden.  Peas, for instance wont grow fast enough to get a harvest from before it gets too hot for the plants to set fruit.  I don’t think I’ll be able to grow tomatoes from seed starting this late in the season.  I think I’ll be able to put everything else back in, but it was frustrating because I was really close to being able to harvest some things.  It’s sad I lost my garden, but I’m worried for some of my fellow farmers whose farms are right in the path of the storm.  I hope that they didn’t see this kind of damage.  It’s sickening to think that a 30 minutes storm could wipe out months of work.

Oh well, I guess tomorrow I’ll start cleaning things up and planting again.

In an hour I begin my internship on a 3 acre organic farm.  I’m really excited about the opportunity.  I spent last summer as a landscaper, which I enjoyed (for the most part), but I was often wishing that I was pulling weeds from vegetable plants rather than lupines.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great beauty in an ornamental garden, but that isn’t why I’m studying horticulture.  I want to be apart of solutions to fixing our broken food system and economies.  I want to work with people who are growing real food for people who aren’t used to eating real food.  I want to help people see that their kitchen has more than just a freezer for frozen dinners, and a microwave for “cooking.”  I want to help people see that there are choices that they can make that are better for their families health, their communities health, as well as the earth’s health.  I’ve been trying to write more and more about all of this stuff for the past year, but have struggled to find the right words to use.  I want to be able to share my thoughts with reasons and statistics, rather than simply conviction and passion.  I think that is why I’ve struggled to write about these things before, and I’m going to make a change over the summer.  For my internship, I’ll need to be writing reports and speaking about my time on the farm, and through that I think I’ll be able to fine tune my thoughts.

Well, I got to go jump on my bike and head to the farm.
I really like being able to say that.
I hope you all are well. peace.

This morning I will start my career as a farmer… sort of.  This year I will be working with 8 other people for the Rocky Mountain Small Organic Farm Project.  The farm itself is 8 acres of certified organic land that is used by Colorado State University for different research and study projects to better understand the particular micro-climate of the inter-mountain west.  I will be involved with two aspects of the farm: the 3 acre CSU CSA, and researching effectiveness of 150 different variety trials.  Along with these two projects going on at the farm, there is also some research being done on organic hops growth and overwintering processes, perennial small fruit production, and green manure and living cover crops.  Here’s a link to the specialty crops page at CSU.  I’m really excited about having the opportunity to be a part of what the school is doing.

I’ll be working there as much as I can over the summer and through the end of the season in October, but I will be taking an Organic Chemistry class for 8 weeks throughout the summer so I wont be able to work full time.  I’m particularly excited about this because I think it will help me think about some of the routes I will be able to take when I graduate a 2 years.  I’ve struggled with the idea of studying Horticulture for a few reasons.  First, my interest is mainly in food crop production.  I don’t have an interest into running a greenhouse for a nursery, or want to do landscaping.  And second, I don’t see myself farming.  Sure, I’d be excited to work with someone for a few years on a farm, but I am most interested in cultivating connections with people and food.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to spend some “off-farm” time connecting with CSA members through newsletters, maybe a blog, and through face to face connections.  I’d love to be able to interact with the members by swapping recipes for the more unusual (re: not found in most supermarkets) vegetables.

I should probably get going.  My coffee is gone, and I should grab a little breakfast before I head out.

I’ve wanted to write a bit about the season of Lent that begins tomorrow, but I haven’t carved out the time I really need to write intentionally.  I will say a few things though.  I never grew up in a church or community that practices Lent (or any church calender, for that matter).  It wasn’t until I was in my early-mid twenties (it’s kinda weird that I can say that) that I found an interest in participating.  The first few years I gave up things that now feel like “typical evangelical” things to give up: coffee, soda, desserts.  Looking back on this initial experience of Lent, I realized that I allowed the practice of Lent to be built up with some form of legalism.  I gave up coffee for 40 days, but I found other methods to dull the caffeine headaches that followed.  I gave up soda, and found myself drinking a lot of Brisk ice tea.  I established my own Lent Laws, and quickly found ways to subvert them, like drinking a lot of caffeine-rich tea instead of coffee.  I think I completely missed the point when I did that.  It would be like giving up watching TV for Lent, when all the shows are still available on the internet.

I was thinking about writing about what I think Lent means and how I want to approach it this year, but I found some words that are much more eloquent than what I could write.  I’ve never met this guy, but by the looks of his picture I’m sure we’d get along just fine.  He looks bad ass.  Kester writes, toward the end of the post, about what it means to not just deprive yourself of something for Lent, but to make sure to fill the space back in with something good.

What happens then is that we begin to experience resurrection. Not just resurrection in our own minds and hearts, but resurrection that pours out into our families and friendships. Resurrection that pours out into our workplace. Resurrection that pours out into our neighborhoods. Our communities can be forever changed if we treat Lent as an opportunity not just to rid ourselves of something old, but to begin something new.

You should take the time to read his whole post.  It’s good.  Really good.

Another post that I want to link to pointed me to some Lenten resources that look very helpful.  If you aren’t familiar with The Jesus Manifesto, you should be.  Even if you disagree with everything that they write about, they write in such a honest, compassionate, thought-out way that cannot be dismissed easily.  Apart from the suggested resources, Mark wrote a sentence early on in his post that brought to light how so often, it’s easy to have ulterior motives when we are deciding what we will give up for Lent.  It’s good.

The last link that I want to share is to a guy named Jason.  I met him and his wife last August and a Justice Kitchen get together.  I recently found his blog and recently he had a post entitled, “What do you Believe.” You should read it.  It, too, is good.  Reading Jason’s thoughts in this post and in others gives me hope in people who call themselves followers of Jesus.  It wont take long in poking around on his blog, and you will see his heart for living out the gospel of Jesus in a physical way.

So, that’s that.  I pray that if you are participating in this Lenten season that your heart will remain focused on the reason you are giving something up.  May you find peace in the difficult moments ahead.

This morning I realized that I have one other New Years tradition that I didn’t mention in my other post.  I didn’t mention it because I didn’t realize it was a tradition for me until this morning.  Every year, during the first few days of January, I find myself standing in front of my bookshelves searching for a devotional/daily reading book.  Every year I pull a book or two off of it’s shelf and open to that day’s reading and start to read.  I bet I open more books in the month of January than I do in any other month of the year.  As I was scanning for books this morning I was struck by this tradition and started to question why I do it.

I believe that my life is a part of a spiritual process.  This process is working it’s way out whether I am doing anything or not, but I want to participate in the process as much as I can.  I read and study the Holy Book as a part of the process to understand the history of my faith.  I read more contemporary books as a part of the process to understand how the history of my faith interacts with my life today.  I look and listen to the world around me as a part of the process to see the ways that GOD is working around me.

I want to participate in this process, but I feel as though I’m limited to the ways that I’ve already experienced participating.  e.g.: I make a plan to set aside time each day to read a devotional book and the Bible each day.  I try to communicate with GOD more.  I use things that already written to assist me along.  But by some time in late January, I’ve given up.

I anticipate this year being much like the previous years.  I’ll study and pray on a regular basis for the next month.  Start to skip a few days here and there.  Eventually I will loose any desire to study and pray regularly.

What frustrates me most about my attitude in all of this is that I realize that I am the type of Christian who I despise.  This shows me that I am looking for a quick spiritual fix.  If I don’t feel as though my life is changing in a matter of a few days, then I assume I’m doing something wrong.  I flip through the Bible expecting something to jump off of a page at me and speak to me right then.  I have turned into a Christian that is simply looking at GOD as something else to consume.  And maybe worst of all, I am perpetuating a justified form of the Health and Wealth gospel.

If you pray, please pray that I can be honest with myself.

I decided not to write a post about our family reunion over Thanksgiving for two reasons:  1.  I’m really hoping to forget most of it  2. There might be some lurkers out there who were at the reunion.  If you really want to know, send me an email and I’ll give you a brief run-down.  In reality, as much as we would like to forget the whole experience, I’m sure that a year or two down the road the story will come up in conversation and we will be able to laugh about it all.

I don’t think I need to say that it was a relief to stay in Colorado and only see our immediate families for Christmas.  Lauren and I spent Christmas Eve morning together sharing small gifts with each other.  I found a box of tea called Pan Asia, that I hoped she would love.  And Lauren got me a cook book entitled “Out of the Box.”  The cook book is centered around food that would come in a CSA box.  We shared a very simple morning and it was wonderful.  We both hold to similar views when it comes to gift giving for Christmas, so we didn’t feel the need to spend a bunch of money on things for each other.  We would rather find gifts throughout the year that catch our attention and remind us of each other than wait for a certain day to come up with gifts for each other.  While it is nice to receive something that we wouldn’t normally buy for ourselves we recognize that even in our modest means we live in a place of global affluence.

Christmas Day was spent with Lauren’s parents and a small group of family.  I am very blessed to be a part of her family.  I respect her dad very much and her mom might be one of my favorite people. (but don’t tell her that, because she’ll hold it over my head.)  They are two of the most generous people I have ever met and I can only hope that as Lauren and I grow older we can become as selfless and generous as they are.  Our day consisted of sharing good conversation, wonderful food (I made a few things that turned out quite good, if I do say so myself), some reflection on Christmas, and giving and receiving a few presents.   What stood out to me was that although we participated in the gift aspect of Christmas it wasn’t the focus of the day.  There didn’t seem to be a sense of entitlement to what people were given.  Gifts that were given were not done so because they were on a person’s Amazon Wishlist and the giver needed to check someone off of a list, but instead the gifts that were given were thoughtful expressions of love.  We could all share in the joy of the gifts; we were happy over the gifts that people were given and there wasn’t a sense of jealousy over who received the “better” gift.

Yesterday we drove up to Estes Park to gather with my family.  We got up to my sisters house around mid morning with no real plan for the day.  The plan was simply to spend the day together.  My brother and his wife were there and after a short day of work my mom came over, too.  It’s been a while since all of us have been together, so it was  great time to catch up on life.  Whenever my family gets together at someone’s house it seems as if the center of all the hub-bub is the kitchen and this time was no exception.  I love it when people gather in a kitchen while preparing (and eating) food.  I think that there is something about making food for people that is an act of love. When the 3 kids went down for their naps we adults passed out gifts to each other.  We sat and shared in with each others excitement.  There were even a few giggles over gifts given.  Feel free to ask Lauren about a particular toothbrush!  When we gathered to give gifts it wasn’t the focus of the day, it was a small reason in our getting together.  I had some apprehension about giving gifts this year.  I’m not very good and finding at gift when I’m on a time schedule, so when there was a few weeks until Christmas I became anxious.  Truth be told, Lauren did a great job at picking out most of the gifts we gave.  While I was anxious about the gift giving aspect of Christmas I wasn’t taking into account the graciousness of my family.  While giving gifts have almost always been a part of our Christmases, it has never been the reason for getting together.  I saw that this year and it was a wonderful reminder.

How was your Chirsmas?  Did you celebrate in any different ways this year?  Is there anything that you wont do next year?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the push for local and sustainable food.  I realize that this isn’t the type of things that many of my friends think about, but you’ll just have to indulge me for a bit.  I’ve been reading praise and critiques of local, sustainable, slow food and while I more often then not will find myself on the side of praise, I do have a few concerns with what I see and hear.

The foundation of my critique comes from the location of the praise.  Let me put it this way.  More often then not, the examples of restaurants and homes that are pushing the local food movement come from people who are able to grow food 9-10 months of the year.  In Fort Collins, we are lucky if we can push 7 months.  It is much more realistic for people that can have a nearly year-round supply of local food to be advocating the consumption of it.  However, it is much harder for me to consume a local-only diet.   If there are going to be cookbooks that are intended to promote local foods, wouldn’t there need to be highly regional cookbooks?  I have tremendous respect for Alice Waters and what she is doing with Che Panisse, but the reality of it is, her local foods can be worlds apart from the things that are local to me.  So where are the chefs from Denver talking about a seasonal menu?  Where is there praise for root crops?  And what should we be doing about a seasonal dessert?  This is not a topic of discussion within the local food movement, but I believe it must be if it is to be more than a posh trend.

The second thought that consumes me has to do with the economics of local, sustainable, slow food.  I’m no economist, but I have a basic understanding of supply and demand curves.  So here’s my issue, if we are promoting local seasonal foods as something that we should all be using, then we should be showing people what to do with the local and seasonal foods.  Here’s an example of a common menu item praised for it’s seasonality: Lagier Ranches goose: grilled breast, leg confit, and sausage with chestnuts and wild mushrooms; with Chino Ranch savoy cabbage and other winter vegetables.  But is this the type of menu that appeals to the majority of people?  If we are going to create a demand (in reality we showing honest benefits of the local movement, rather than turning it into a consumer-driven marketing product.) for honest, local food then we should be showing people what to do with it.  I believe that the majority of people don’t have any confidence in the kitchen; if you were going to suggest for people to start using root vegetables over the winter season, they wouldn’t know what to do with them or even what they are.

So these are the things I think about.  When I think about “what I want to be when I grow up,” these are the things that I think might be involved.

What I’d like to know is, what do you think about these things?  Cuyler, I know you don’t care much for all these types of food conversations, but I’d really like your input.  Shannon, you too.  Maria, any more recent thoughts about Tomato Theology?  Josh, what about things up in your neck-of-the-woods?


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