A promise to California,
Or inland to the great pastoral Plains, and on to Puget sound and Oregon;
Sojourning east a while longer, soon I travel toward you, to remain,
to teach robust American love,
For I know very well that I and robust love belong among you,
inland, and along the Western sea;
For these States tend inland and toward the Western sea, and I will also.
Here on Our Urban Farm, we like to do a bit of occasional introspection amidst the rural landscape of our Los Angeles postage stamp-sized plot of dirt. As such, and aided by our half century of living on this planet now upon us, I personally decided to put some serious thought into what I find most valuable in life. Not to take things lightly, I asked friends, my wife, and others whom I respect for their own definitions of value and found respectable answers ranging from kids and family, relationships with God, higher learning, physical health, and even money. While I find all of these answers valid and their accompanying explanations more than adequate to justify them, none of these thoughtful elicitations (nor any combination of them) seemed to resonate with me. Continue reading →
This is a level of enlightenment we hope to reach someday…
THE FUTURE of the Toronto Blue Jays wakes up in a 1978 Volkswagen camper behind the dumpsters at a Wal-Mart and wonders if he has anything to eat. He rummages through a half-empty cooler until he finds a dozen eggs. “I’m not sure about these,” he says, removing three from the carton, studying them, smelling them and finally deciding it’s safe to eat them. While the eggs cook on a portable stove, he begins the morning ritual of cleaning his van, pulling the contents of his life into the parking lot. Out comes a surfboard. Out comes a subzero sleeping bag. Out comes his only pair of jeans and his handwritten journals. A curious shopper stops to watch. “Hiya,” Daniel Norris says, waving as the customer walks away into the store. Norris turns back to his eggs. “I’ve gotten used to people staring,” he says.
This is where Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida suburbs. There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts. There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry on his portable stove. There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.
If you’re fed up reading labels in the grocery store trying to find some real food that won’t kill you, I feel your pain. Not to worry, there is a solution and it’s awesome. The truth is, you don’t need to depend on food corporations or the government to keep you healthy. Why would you want to anyways?
Our hens with a fresh load of weeds to munch down.
I’ve often extolled the virtues of owning backyard chickens. Our three hens, who arrived in our lives in the summer of 2011, have provided hundreds of eggs, manure to fertilize our vegetable garden, and a natural waste disposal and composting system unmatched by any commercial solutions. This doesn’t take into account the intangible benefit of, well, just being. We can’t really put into words just how good it feels to hear them clucking each morning and observing them happily running around their enclosure on warm, sunny days. Continue reading →
One of our favorite aspects of living in Los Angeles is our ability to garden all year round. Although the sun dips barely above the horizon and the hours of daylight shrink from October through March, there’s still enough sunlight to grow certain vegetables all the way through to spring. In fact, you don’t even need to live in the Southwestern United States if you are fairly handy and can construct a decent greenhouse. We, however, are fortunate in that we live in an area of constant sunshine and, though the more sun-needy vegetables won’t grow (well), we still manage to keep a steady supply of fresh greens in our diets during the fall and winter months. Continue reading →
What do we get from a minimalist philosophy? Practically nothing.
And that’s the point – to evolve from overabundance to desired scarcity. The freedom from excess and shallow desires to a lifestyle which values time over everything else. Most of all, the emergence from stress to peace.
In 2011, we were served with a foreclosure notice on our home with seemingly no way out. Years of trying to finance our mother’s care as she struggled with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, coupled with a crippling recession, had finally taken its toll on our once successful business and forced us to face the fact we could sustain running in deficit no more. A year prior to the foreclosure notice we had entered Chase Bank’s mortgage modification program only to be turned down after numerous delays, lost paperwork, pointless phone calls, and endless demands for financial data. Exhausted, we prepared to walk away from our home after 15 years and rebuild our lives from square one. I’d be disingenuous if I said we weren’t to blame for our dire circumstances; the descent into financial chaos was foreseeable and preventable and yet we deluded ourselves into thinking we’d jump the chasm of debt we created and scramble over the financial hump if we could just, if we could just, if we could just… Continue reading →
In January of this year (2014), I initiated the plan to minimalize our household. This undertaking was prompted by the hideous filth I encountered while retrieving an item under our bed and subsequently inspired by two books I’d read on recommendation from a good friend (Minimalism: Live A Meaningful Life, by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, and The Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life, by Leo Babauta). In the ten months between initiation and today, I’ve emptied our property of over half its possessions, including furniture, paperwork, clothing, technology, tools, paperwork, photographs, redundant household cleaning products, and just about any other category I can’t think of off the top of my head. The results have been, as I predicted, profound. Order has emerged from chaos, organization from anarchy, workflow from confusion, prosperity from debt, and cleanliness from filth have been only a few of the most obvious benefits. Continue reading →
In furthering my mission to minimalize our home, I turned my attention once again to our bedroom and decided to part with my wooden office desk, which I don’t really use much anymore due to the portability of my technology and my desire to work in a room other than our bedroom (the only room it fits into comfortably). After trying to sell it on Craigslist without much luck, I found a friend who wanted it for his new apartment, and who showed his gratitude by bringing over a first class meal to share when he picked it up. In place of the desk setup sits a comfy chair that we can snuggle on with a view of our backyard, along with a second chair (out of view) that Kealii likes to sit on after school each day to catch us up on what’s going on in his life. The final items to go will be our dresser and wooden bed frame (pictured). We are installing shelving into our closet to hold the clothes currently in our dresser and we’ve both wanted to get rid of the bed frame for years; it’s far too bulky for the dimensions of our room and we’ve broken and/or sprained our toes smashing into it on way too many occasions. Buh-bye! Once those last pieces are gone, we will pull up the white – I use the term “white” loosely – carpet that we had installed 17 years ago and replace it with hardwood to match the rest of the house. The room will also be repainted, with the walls getting a much-needed patching from dozens of pictures being hung and moved in our decade and a half in residence. Continue reading →
John Kohler is passionate about organic gardening, and this description may be a bit lacking. In fact, John is downright obsessed with finding ways to improve his crop yields in his Las Vegas urban farm (he was actually raided by police thinking he was growing marijuana) and his zeal jumps forth from his videos with conviction normally associated with the most ardent religious preachers. That said, we find almost every topic he covers relevant, even if his videos are a bit on the lengthy side, and John will eventually win you over with his sheer earnestness and honesty. Whether you want to start your first container garden, re-mineralize your soil, eliminate pests, or learn the benefits of different types of produce and how to properly compost, this is the resource to visit. So if you have a gardening question, visit him – now!