Archive for July, 2011

Barefoot

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Many of us went barefoot when we were children. Some of us never grew up. I’m one of them. I consider is a good day when no shoes see my feet. As I was walking Franco this evening after supper; barefoot for over a mile on a gravel road, I got to wondering whether there were any health benefits that subconsciously attract me this practice, or if it is just a habit I never grew out of. My neighbor kidded me the other day when I walked by his house, and asked me why I don’t just hit my head against a wall while I was at it.

My neighbor, and many others, seem to think that it hurts to walk barefoot. On hot days, the asphalt can get uncomfortably hot. There are sharp stones in the road that make me pull my foot up quickly. And usually a time or two each summer I get a pretty good cut or sliver to remind me the world can be a seriously sharp place sometimes. But it really doesn’t hurt. I would rather say it feels good most of the time.

Good old Wiki had something to say about barefooting. Under the health section, they had this to say, “A 2006 study found that shoes may increase stresses on the knee and ankle, and suggested that adults with osteoarthritis may benefit from walking barefoot,[42] though more study is required to elucidate the factors that distribute loads in shod and barefoot walking. A 2007 study entitled, “Shod Versus Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?”, published in the podiatry journal The Foot, examined 180 modern humans and compared their feet with 2,000-year-old skeletons. They concluded that, prior to the invention of shoes, humans overall had healthier feet.[43] A 1991 study found that children who wore shoes were three times more likely to have flat feet than those who did not, and suggested that wearing shoes in early childhood can be detrimental to the longitudinal arch of the foot.[44] People who habitually go barefoot generally have stronger feet, with better flexibility and mobility, fewer deformities like flat feet or toes that curve inwards, and less complaints.[45][46] Walking barefoot enables a more natural gait, eliminating the hard heel strike and instead, allowing for a rocking motion of the foot from heel to toe.[43] Similarly, barefoot running usually involves an initial forefoot strike, instead of on the rear of the foot, generating smaller collision forces.[47]”

I had kind of hoped for something more like, “going barefoot allows humans to double their lifespan, eat whatever they want whenever they want, and maintain their virility well into their second century.” Maybe the definitive study is underway right now, and the article in the New England Journal of Medicine will be coming out next year.

One further comment… I usually get athlete’s foot once per year, about the time I have to start wearing my winter sorels.

Feeling The High

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

I’ve thought about my last post regarding the “high” I felt in the middle of the night. It coincided with my finishing a pretty intense book, coupled with energy rush I often get when I get over a multi-day headache. I can still remember how the “high” felt, and remember also how inadequately I felt I was describing it when I wrote about it the next day.

I’ve never tried cocaine, heroin, or any of the other heavy drugs, but I can see how the high they give you can be something you’d want to repeat until the physical addiction takes hold. I’ve always wondered about that, because there must be a space in there where you could quit if you wanted to, but you’re attracted to the high enough times until the physical addiction kicks in. And I’d imagine with the heavy drugs, you get the high whenever you want (or can afford it) rather than having to wait until the stars align the way they did for me the other night.

There has been lots to write about lately, but my head has been too tired at the end of the day to do much writing, so I’ve been putting it off. The gardens are doing great this year. Partly, I think, because I’ve done a bit better keeping them watered, and partly because it has rained more. The other projects are moving slowly. I still haven’t repaired the broken wood rack under the garage roof, so haven’t started with the firewood yet. I’m also hoping to get the trailer reworked so I can drive further in the woods with it. I’ve made progress on both those fronts today, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll make more progress. I have to learn there will always be more work to do than can possibly be done, and also to remember that I spent the first 3/4 of my life wishing I could have the time to do projects just like these.

The Glass Bead Game

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Last night I woke up around 3:30 AM, and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I went downstairs and read for a while. I happened to be near the end of the book I was reading by Hermann Hesse called “The Glass Bead Game,” or sometimes, “Magister Ludi.” This book was a bit of a slog sometimes. In fact I often looked over at the book Alice was reading as I was making my way through this book, and envied her for the light nature of her books. Of course, she reads 10 books to my one.

Anyway, my habit is to always read the preface and introduction in every book. It is tempting to skip the preface especially since they often seem to be written so poorly. It bugs me that the writer of the preface often seems to think I’ve read everything by this author already, including the book I’ve just started. They sometimes go on and on about the characters, plot, and nuances that mean nothing to me since I haven’t even gotten to page one of the darn thing yet.

This book had a preface like that, but I read through it, and in this case, I believe I got something out of it. The preface suggested that Hesse intended this book to be a parody. I doubt I would have approached the book the way I did if I hadn’t gleaned at least that much from the preface.

Last night’s sleeplessness may have had something to do with a headache going away. Sometimes when it happens, I get a gush of energy. So riding that wave of energy I finished this book around 4:30 AM, and it really affected me. I had several questions about the book once I’d finished it, so decided on a whim to reread the preface. It was as if the author of the preface was working from a list of questions I’d submitted to him. That rereading probably doubled my enjoyment of the book. I remember lying there with the ideas just spinning around in my brain.

One thing that occurred to me was the way we see the world with our senses. I remembered an incident from the other day where I was standing outside watching a grove of poplar trees across the road dancing in the wind. The motion was observed by my eyes, and I heard the rustle of the leaves with my ears. I couldn’t smell those trees, but I could imagine the smell they’d be giving off if my face were buried in their leaves. I layered that smell on. I next imagined each leave’s underside with hundreds of stomata opened, and gas exchange happening on a grand scale with each tree. As the gasses vented to the atmosphere, water was drawn up 50 or 60 feet through the circulatory system of the tree. I imagined there was plenty of water around the roots for this process to occur, since we’d had nice rains lately. I felt the minerals in the soil flowing up the tree too, and combining with the carbohydrates the tree was manufacturing from the sunlight, making the tree thicker, taller, and stronger.

Hesse helped me understand that I “see” on many levels, and that the more educated one is, the more pieces of the puzzle fall into place when common place things are observed. No wonder this man won the Nobel Prize for literature for this book.

Dirty Day

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Today I got into the greenhouse with the grub hoe and cleaned off one side of the garden. If I don’t deal with the patch that the rototiller can’t reach early in the year, I pay for it later in the year. It was hot swinging the hoe, and then I had to go down on my knees and shake the weed clods to get the dirt out. After that little chore was done I walked out of the greenhouse to start up the rototiller. I can tell you that hot weather can seem cool if you spend any amount of time inside a greenhouse! I tilled both gardens, sowed my second batch of buckwheat, ran the tiller over both of them to work the seeds in, and then watered. I had to wash off in the pond several times before I came in each time.

I also watered both gardens with buckets. Everything is looking good this year. The squash plants were wilting in the greenhouse heat, but they perked back up when I gave them their dose of pond water.

I also got the big ugly yellow trailer in the garage today and started the welding project. I’m redoing this trailer so I’ll be able to pile the logs on length wise, rather than sideways. This will, I hope, allow me to drive the Scout and trailer closer to where I’m felling the trees in the woods. I’ve bought new stake pockets for it, and am adding some additional C channel for the logs to sit on.

This trailer came from an estate sale some years ago. I paid $40 for it. It is surely worth that in just the steel. The tires were shot from sitting so long, so I had to look around online for replacements, and wound up spending over $200 for the tires. I’ve used it the way I bought it for several years, but this year decided to make some improvements before I take it back into the woods.

I Get Grumpy

Monday, July 18th, 2011

One thing Alice and I took pride in early in our marriage, was how cool it was to decide to take a trip, and “just go.” Gosh, we were cool then. Just jump in the car and go.

Last Thursday morning I came up with the idea that we could make the time to visit Mom and Dad downstate. I was the old hipster, rapping with my braided girl saying let’s take off in the morning. “Sure,” so we started making plans.

Somehow, as the decades have rolled by, it has become more complicated to pick up and leave. There is the cat, the dog, the lawn, the dishwasher, and the volunteer work. As Thursday ripened, the pace picked up. I phoned my neighbor and begged him to cut our grass while we were gone. There was no time. I processed numerous checks that were donations to the groups I volunteer for. The credit union where they needed to be deposited was already closed, and didn’t open early enough the next day for me to do the deposits, but at least I got everything collated. Alice kindly packed for me. I thanked her by barking at her if I didn’t hear every word she said. She looked at me like the pathetic grump that I was. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the nuances that look held , but I had the wherewithal to memorize the look. Have you ever gotten that look from someone that knows you well enough not to slap you when you are being a jerk? I suggest you memorize it and play it back the next time you are tempted to be a jerk. Even if some of the jerk words have slipped out, swallow the rest of them. It won’t make you look stupider than you will if you spew them out.

Next morning, everything was as done as it was possible to be. We got up at 4:30 and were on the road at 5:10. The trip went very well. Of course, the uncomplicated ones always do.

Recycle

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

It was the saddest of times, and the happiest of times. Sad because I got rid of the IBM 4019 printers I’ve been saving for 15 or more years. Happy because instead of landfilling them, I managed to get them recycled. That was the event that helped me decide to finally get rid of these printers.

A word about the 4019s. They were IBM’s first office/home laser printer. At the time, IBM was best known for monster computers, printers, tape drives, etc. The kind of stuff that runs the Ford Motor Company, for example. Then came the IBM PC, and the company had to face the fact they were now marketing their hardware to Joe on the street, in addition to the Fortune 500 Companies. IBM knew how to make printers, and they knew how to make sturdy hardware. The 4019 was a really good printer, and I really liked it. So when people began to discard them as newer technology came along, I bought quite a few of them… about 9 I think.

All but one of these were stored in the attic of my garage until recently. I needed one for a project, so I hauled them down one by one, and tried to get one to work. Eight trips, and not one working printer. I asked myself, why have I been storing these things all these years? I hatched a scheme to sell them all on eBay. Surely there is another bat-shit crazy guy like me out there that would love to stuff his attic with vintage hardware. Somehow I never got around to formulating the eBay ad. Then came July 9, 2011; the day of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department electronics recycling program.

recycle.jpgLast night I loaded up the truck with an old non-working computer, and all but one of the 4019s. This morning after a stop at our favorite breakfast restaurant, we drove to town, and unloaded all the stuff for shipment to a recycling facility in Wisconsin. Done. Still, it is a little bit sad to see them go. I’ve been hoarding, I mean saving, them for so long.

strawberry.jpgThe local strawberries are ripe now, and we’ve been taking advantage of this year’s crop. We’ve frozen about 10 quarts, and today bought 5 more. This batch was relegated to the dehydrator. We did about 5 quarts last year for some backpacker friends, and decided to do the same again this year. If you’ve never tried vine-fresh dehydrated strawberries on your morning oatmeal, you’re missing a treat. It is a fair bit of work, because they have to be very clean, and need to be sliced and spread out on the dehydrator trays. Once they’re all lined up, the dehydrator takes over and makes the house smell really nice.

Today I also had to lower the dock on the front pond. With all the rain this spring/summer, the level of the front pond has stayed pretty consistent this year. I’ve noticed I’ve been having to reach lower and lower to fill my water buckets lately, so we went ahead and made the adjustment. If I have to haul all that water, I might as well make it as easy as possible.

We’ve been having fantastic salads lately. The garden greens are at their young tender peak right now, and we’re stuffing ourselves. If you notice a green pallor to our complexion, it is probably just the salads.

Road Copper

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

I’ve found some interesting pieces of road copper in the past few days. The supply seems to be dwindling, but there is still some to be had if I keep my eyes open. I seem to do better when I walk barefooted on the road, since I have to watch where I put my feet to avoid stepping on something sharp. Every piece I find goes to Alice, who turns it round and round in her hand, and pronounces it to be a shark, or a puppy with one ear cocked, or ??? I also enjoy finding things in the copper. Here is a picture of the current haul for you to find the picture in the shape:

roadcopper.jpg

Jaw Dropper

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

I had something happen to me that was so astonishing that my jaw dropped. For one of only a few times in my life, I was speechless. Some background is necessary before this will make sense.

My Dad was a businessman in the Lansing, Michigan area for 4 or more decades. The business was originally a feed store, but it evolved into a pet supply business. As children, we often “went to the store with Dad.” The feed that was sold at the store was for farm animals, pets, and even softener and ice salt. It was not an unusual week when several semi trucks pulled up that needed to be unloaded with bags of things for the store. A typical semi load of softener salt, for example, had about 20 tons, meaning there were 500 80# bags of salt. The store had no fancy loading dock, nor pallet jacks or fork trucks. The truck simply backed up to the storage building, and we unloaded it a bag at a time.

To carry these bags, we’d flip them on our shoulder, walk to the pile, and flip the bag onto the pile, then back again for another load. It didn’t end there. When customers bought these items, they were carried from the pile in the storage building over to the trunk of their car. Sometimes we’d deliver the bags to their home, making an additional loading and unloading.

In the course of my life, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say I’ve carried tens of thousands of bags of one sort or another. And the vast majority of them involved flipping the bag up onto my shoulder and walking with it.

Today on our weekly trip to town for errands, I stopped at the pet supply store and purchased a bag of dog food for Franco. As is my habit, I carried the bag to the front counter, paid for it, and flipped it onto my shoulder to carry it out to the car. This flip, mind you, is the same flip I’ve repeated unchanged for 3/4 or more of my life.

This time, the front half of the bag (the one facing forward) did its job just as it always has. The seam holding the dog food on the back half of the bag burst, and about half the little pellets of the dog food sprayed all over the store. That was when my jaw dropped.

The employees of the store were very quick to spring into cleanup action while I stood there like a dummy. When I finally regained my speech, I asked them if I could get another bag of food. They said yes, and so I did. I did not flip this bag onto my shoulder to carry it out to the car. I wonder if I’ll ever flip another one onto my shoulder again.

Good Growing

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

We’ve had more rain this spring/summer than I can remember for many years. There is lots of new growth on the trees this year, which may mean we’ll get a better than average maple run next spring too.

blueberries.jpgAs I was walking past the blueberries this afternoon I stopped at one particular plant. It wasn’t the biggest or greenest, but it sure did have the green berries on it. My mouth started watering when I thought about the pancakes we’d be having next season. I hope the good growing conditions will continue.

Hot

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Even we get them sometimes. Way up north and extending into a large body of cold fresh water as we do, the weather can get into the 90s. Today was one of those days. We normally keep our windows open at night and close them during the warm days. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that cool last night, so the house was 72 degrees inside when the day started to heat up. That inside temperature did feel good after spending some time outside. About 8:00 pm we opened the windows again, even though it was still 80 degrees outside. At least there was a hint of air movement. It is supposed to cool off tonight.

We are in the typical summer cycle. Lots of projects are getting done, but many more march to the fore to take their place. We always seem to manage to get the important ones done. I soon hope to make some modifications to my log hauling trailer to make it handier in the woods. Then I’ll get to work making next winter’s firewood. I never mind this project too much when I get into it, but I seem to put it off every summer for some reason.