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750 words, or at least enough noise to hear the trees

2011 02 03

Still feels – almost two years later – like the economic forest is being clearcut. Several people I know on long term unemployment.  A few small businesses I was proud to work with are wiped clean from Google local. My work goals are smaller.  My personal goals much larger. 

I was in the “be something important” mindset through my 20s, and I feel conflicted saying that I wouldn’t even now take fame and fortune if it rained down from the heavens, or if I sweated it out my pores.  But the cultural tug of it has been slowly untangling through the growth of some true friendships through my thirties. The flashy importance has been replaced with the more fragile  business of trying to right by those around me and try to better understand the business practices that act as a framework to be ethical and put food on the table. 

In that spirit, I’m posting a song I’ve not been able to get out of my head since listening to KEXP’s Roadhouse earlier this month. Terrific tune that dips on the chordal tightrope between beauty and sadness.  The story behind it has the same spruce smell as the nurselogs lying in piles around us.

I’m trying to write a little more this year.  I tried to use 750 words to encourage me.  It failed miserably.  You might start seeing more posts here, or on a coming soon company blog.  Any feedback would help.


tonite’s anniversary dinner

2009 05 20


Originally uploaded by jason_bennett23

It’s our 8th anniversary and we both decided that with things going sideways around work on Sunday night for both of us, we both wanted to do something creative tonite. So Lil’s out in the studio, and I’m out in the kitchen, cooking up asparagus and pork.

This is overgrown asparagus from our backyard. I’m going to oven roast with a little bit of butter. They had the texture and buttery flavor of french fries last time, but I have to do extra work trimming the skins from the asparagus trunk. Totally worth it.

Garden Progress

2009 05 04


In case you’re wondering, I’ve been busy.  Who knew joblessness could be such a job?


But what a great week it’s been!  Several starts of spinach in the ground, 6 of kale, 2 more of collards.  Sowed sage, radishes and carrots. Lettuce will go in this week, along with the dill and sowing the beets.  The summer squash should germinate late this week or early next.  With the potatoes starting in May, the garden will be fully planted for the first time since we’ve lived here.  It did literally take 4 weeks of unemployment to make it work. 


While there were ineffiencies to my process, I would definitely have to use 2 weeks vacation in April in the future.  I’ve had leftover vacation time to spend in the past, but I think everyone’s time is about to become more precious.


Some of the inefficiencies were really about how much time to spend on planning vs. actually working the yard.  What’s the right size for each of the beds, when I don’t know which vegetables are going where and the appropriate sowing size spread for each?  Not rocket science, but there were too many variables in the first year to simply discover. 


this is an edible groundcover.  definitely enjoyed it as a collard substitute.

tyfon is an edible groundcover. definitely enjoyed it as a collard substitute.

Instead, I did two runs of weeding the spring beds, when I should have had the tyfon sowed in all the unused beds last August.  I had originally done a 4×5 run of tyfon, just to understand how it germinated.  I’m definitely focusing on the habit rather than the yield in the first year.


Some of the seedlings were experiments rather than being useful things to transplant.  Who wants 6 plants of kale pushing leaves through the entire summer?  Do I change my mind and rip out half to focus more on carrots and herbs? 


And then for the future, how do I manage to ramp this pace through July and the second sowing?


Eat Local

2009 05 04

[clearspring_widget title=”Eat Local” wid=”49e42ead30c28558″ pid=”49ff0dc975406d5b” width=”182″ height=”329″ domain=””]

Garden Progress

2009 04 09

Trying to keep up with all the spring movement is impossible at this point.  Last week was a chance for expanding our knowledge – we spent the afternoon at a friend’s home in Capitol Hill.  She’s raising seedlings in her basement with the help of a cheap fluorescent light.  She also has a chicken coop with four wonderful hens for fresh eggs, and ~20×20 space with raised beds. 

I had resisted buying lights up to this point, thinking that having the greenhouse would be sufficient.  Having waited three days since planting spinach, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, kale, and herbs with no germination, I was relieved to hear about her success raising from seed in the cavelike confines of her basement.  Classic word of mouth example – I drove to Lowe’s the next day, and picked up a two-bulb 4- foot combo for about $35 all told.  There’s probably a better-informed choice, but this did the job.  1 day later, I had two spinach sprouts.  By Sunday we had 20 or more, with the brussel sprouts, kale and dill peeking out as well.


In addition to the great advice, we also took away from fresh eggs from her chicken coop.  I used a couple for some poached eggs, my favorite style of cooking them, and Lil hard-boiled the rest.  Tasty!


I’d like to plant the potatoes today, and harvest the tyfon and the last of the tah tsoi, before it completely goes to seed.  The longer evening hours are a help and a hindrance – I’m always confused about how much time I have before bed.

Weddings and Partnerships

2009 04 08

Lil & I spent the weekend at an old friend’s wedding in Chehalis about 3 weeks ago.  The groom was my super-senior year roommate and stayed with L & I for a month or so as he transitioned from Portland, Maine to Portland Oregon, 6 or 7 years ago.  He’s an entrepreneurial financial planner and has spent the last 5+ years developing a network of friends, creatives, outdoor types, and movers/shakers.


I was a little nervous about the trip – I’m a one-on-one rather than large group kind of person, and had very little connection to his circle outside of college.  We were invited to the rehearsal dinner, and after 3 hours of sitting on the I-5 slog from Seattle to Olympia, we arrived late. Ahhhhh, road rage.


We sat with some of Matt’s family, a nice cross-section of Midwesterners.  I immediately struck up a conversation with Matt’s brother, a music teacher and sax player from Ohio. Despite a lack of shared experience, we were immediately neck deep in it, and sharing ideas in a way I don’t get enough of in my day-to-day worklife.


What impressed me most about the weekend was the commitment that Matt and Robyn had to connecting and  deepening their network of friends, grounding it in the sacred space created by the Chehalis community.  Their ceremony was performed at Red Barn Studios, a property in rural Chehalis.  Space owner Jason Dix guided us into our parking space behind the apple tree, and we spent a few minutes chatting with Jason about some of the wonderful ideas that they are trying to implement with their business and with the space.


Red Barn is a hyper-local positioned establishment – 90% of all the food served at the wedding was grown/harvested from within 40 miles of Chehalis (they had to go to Portland for the Salmon).  The salads themselves were harvested in the backyard, in the 400 square foot greenhouse.  They plan to extend their growing space by plowing several plots on their 25 acre property.  For the rest, they’ve partnered with local farms, dairies and ranches to source the freshest beef and vegetables year round.   And they have their own photography service for the space – who better to know the best nooks and crannies for capturing the moment on film?  This end-to-end service transformed the Red Barn from an alternative to the local church/VFW facility to a “destination” business that also embodied the regionality of place.


As I spoke with several other friends, I realized that locavore commitment was something Matt had been nurturing himself for a while.  We spoke with an old friend in New England who was homesteading and committed to the voluntary simplicity lifestyle.  Another who has been running a greenhouse supply business out of Cleveland for the last five years.  The caterer  who sourced all of the food and is opening the second liquor distillery in Washington State. We live in different neighborhoods, cities, states, but I felt a kinship and an opportunity to build bridges upon this sea change that is happening within our local communities.  Email addresses were exchanged, and I hope to include a deepening of that conversation in this space in the future.

Green Festival, Seattle

2009 04 07

A couple of weekends ago, we spent our Sunday at the first stop of the Green Festival, hosted at the Convention Center downtown.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect – we attended the Seattle Flower and Garden in the same space in February, and were really disappointed by the lack of content/products “for” us. The F&G show has been an institution in the area for years, but this will be its last year, unless someone steps up to fund it next year. Why?  Unprofitable.


I think the green wagon train we’re riding has a very different bent than someone who’s been gardening for years.  The practicality of the Flower and Garden Festival was low – it was more like a parade float for fancy design firms.  And it was $20 to get in!  That pricing probably reflected all the marketing we saw around town – the neighborhoods were plastered professionally with posters, and dailies, weeklies, and tv stations advertised it.


In contrast, I heard about the Green Festival online. Never saw anything posted in the various neighborhoods I frequent.  Twitter and Facebook.  Our aformentioned friend in Capitol Hill had an extra 2-for-1 coupon that she wasn’t using and gave to us.  I quickly found an online offer for FREE entry, with newsletter signup.  Cool!  Turns out the entry fee was around 10$, and there were plenty of folks that had paid.


For me, it was a chance to see Lawrence Lessig, though the focus on social media, local community development was the additional hook I needed. 


We spent the first few minutes orienting, immediately running into friends we knew.  Overall, it was well attended, but not packed.  Even the Lessig presentation was less than fully seated.  I also attended a short presentation on “new journalism,” “organizing and marketing in social networks,” and attended some how-to sessions on pruning and composting.  I was struck by the crossover of vendors from the Flower & Garden.  And by the sheer number of national appliance and construction vendors in a space that trended toward “organic,” “sustainable,” and “energy independent” with respect to consumption.  It’s cognitively dissonant to chat with a Whirlpool guy about the latest green technology, but that’s just the brand catching up on its authenticity quotient.  And it’s another possible answer to the question of whether green living is a fad or a growing reality.


Massive vendor booths, but I was overstimulated long before I could ever talk to the folks selling stuff.  I could have spent all weekend there for all the stuff there was to do.  We gathered handouts and urls to look through later. 


Instead I spent Saturday cleaning out L’s art space.  In other words, the garage. Some of our PII-sensitive junk mail had taken odd side trips into garage storage instead of the shredder, and there was an inordinate amount of garbage and disorganized tools and greenhouse materials.  The greenhouse is up next for my organizational bug.  My contentedness with disorganization has gone way down since having to spend all day in my mess.