27 days

I changed my diet 27 days ago now to a low carb and sugar free diet. I just went cold turkey, from a vegetarian diet prior, which was interesting to say the least.  I am basically following the paleo diet these days, tho that’s just a label to make it easy to reference the way I am eating.  I’ve heard it called paleo, primal, caveman, and various other things, all being about the same. 

My main goal with changing the way I eat was trying to find a way of eating that 1. Made me feel healthy and 2. Made it more likely that we would eat out of the garden. 

Some things that I’ve noticed after changing my diet for 27 days:

1.  No more heartburn

Seriously.  I used to have heartburn every day no matter what I ate. It seemed like a constant thing that I was just living with.  It’s gone now, literally overnight.  I hope for good!

2.  I feel a lot less tired all the time

I don’t feel nearly as run down all the time like I used to.  Considering that its winter, which is usually a tough time for my energy levels being anything but non-existent, I think that’s pretty impressive. 

3.  I feel leaner

This isn’t about loosing pounds, which I have, but about how my body feels.  I used to be pretty substantially muscled, which I feel like I’ve lost over the last couple years.  I’ve been feeling a lot weaker, as well as just kind of generally “puffy.” Not bloated, just kind of fluffy.  I’ve lost about 10lbs according to the scale, but I swear I’ve lost many inches of fluffyness all over my body.  I’m hoping to be able to gain back all the muscle I feel I’ve lost this year.   I’m not concerned with what the scale tells me I weigh, but with how “in shape” I feel in general.  I’ve been feeling more and more out of shape the last couple years, which has seemed strange to me considering I feel I am far more physically active these days then I used to be.  I blame it on my former vegetarian diet.

4.  I don’t have a stuffy nose every morning

Not entirely sure what’s up here with this.  It used to be that I would wake up every morning and desperately need to blow my nose.  Sometimes many times throughout the day.  I’ve felt almost constantly stuffy for awhile now, but for some reason that seems to have gone away.  I’m not sure what I cut out that caused this, however, I’m happy about it! 

5.  I’m loosing that constant craving for sugar

Don’t get me wrong, I still want to nom down some chocolate hardcore.  I’ve been slowing myself a couple pieces of chocolate at night, as I feel depriving myself completely of the things I love is foolish.  It just makes me more likely to binge on an entire chocolate bar (or three!) when I don’t allow myself a small controlled amount.  It’s the taste of the chocolate I want tho, not the sugar.  There was a time where I’d crave sugar constantly, and it didn’t matter at all what kind it was.  Candy, cookies, cake, tons of sugar in my coffee in the morning, I’d even eat brown sugar straight out of the jar!  That craving is going away, slowly, but it is going away.  These days I still want the sugar, but its a lot easier to ignore. 

6.  I am shopping for food almost exclusively at the farmers market

I’ve bought almost everything in the last few weeks that we’ve been eating at the farmers market here in town.  All localy grown meats and vegetables.  This gives me great hope that this year we should be able to eat out of our garden as far as produce goes.  I am hoping to be able to have the money to join the meat csa that Parker Farms puts out. This is the farm I’ve been buying my meat from, and it is awesome. 

I know there are more things I’ve noticed in these 27 days, but those are the ones that stick out in my head.  I had said originally that I’d be trying this diet for 30 day and then re-evaluate how I felt….but I can tell you 3 days early (and, really even after the first week!) that I don’t intend to change the way I eat. 

I just feel so much healthier these days.

– Fin

The Otto Project

The tank:

The supplies:

The subjects:

The Project:

These guys are Otocinclus vestitus, or at least that’s the most commonly imported one and the one I am assuming that I have. They are one of my favorite fish and I’ve been wanting to try to breed them for awhile now. I’ve kind of played at it for the last year but I’m getting serious now. They are one of the least bred fish in the hobby, and one of the harder ones to get and keep alive.

Easy to acquire, hard to keep alive due to the fact that they are not fed right in store tanks. I’ve read that they have a bacteria in their stomach that helps them with their digestion. If they are not fed pretty much constantly that bacteria in their stomach dies off and they soon follow. It’s very common to loose these fish between two weeks and a month after you get them home for this very reason. If they stay alive that for the initial month then they seem to be extremely hardy.

Todays test results:

Tds: 389
Temp: 75.3
Kh: 35.8 @ 2 drops solution
Gh: 179 @ 10 drops solution
Ph: 6.6
Ammonia: .5ppm weird
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 0ppm

I’m going to be recording my test results on this tank here on this blog. The ammonia reading from today is either a fluke or from the fertilizer tabs I put in yesterday. I will test again tomorrow to make sure. This is a long established tank so I’m not worried about it, there is plenty of established nitrifying bacteria present.

The total disolved solids (tds) are extremely high, as is the general hardness (gh)…we basically have liquid rock for water around here. I’m using a water softener pillow in an attempt to get those values down. According to the directions it should take 48 hours to do its work. I will test values tomorrow to see where we are on that. I bought it on clearence so hopefully it does work!

In the future for water changes on this tank I will be preparing the water ahead of time in an effort to keep the values the same. I may turn up the heater a bit, I haven’t decided yet.

This is a good time to be preparing for this as catfish usually breed in the spring. I have some pygmy cories on the same tank I would like to see breed as well. I accidently bred them once back when I first got them (no clue how that happened) but not since, and none of the babies survived as far as I can tell.

The other thing I would like to see in this tank that I’ve tried and failed at twice now is crystal red shrimp. I think they are awesome looking but with the liquid rock around here they just can’t handle it. They need much softer acidic water to even stay alive.

I’ve been following a thread on one of the forums that I frequent from someone that has bred these guys repeatedly, and am hoping to have as good of results here!

– Fin

Current tank pics

Did a bit of rescaping over the last couple weeks. I’m not overly happy with the tall tank, but we will see how it grows out.

– Fin

New zones

Well, what do you know, I’m in zone 6a.  I have no idea what zone I was in before, but now I know what zone I would be considered now!

Check out this awesome interactive map with the new listings:



Dear Time Warner Cable,

Fuck you.

Yes, you read that right.

For the 3rd year now, winter has brought me flaky internet connection. I go to browse the interwebs. The modem dies. I call the support line. As directed, I unplug it and plug it back in. The support line recommends a service technician come out and take a look. The connection comes back online (sometimes minutes before the service technician arrives). The service tech comes around, looks around, and says they can’t find a problem. Occasionally, they’ll make an appointment for a line technician to come out, replace parts, or say they’ll “monitor things”. This Wednesday, I’ll have my third appointment in 3 weeks. So far this year, I’ve only lost 1/2 vacation day. I’m actually coming out ahead of last year at this point.

I could switch my business to another company and you wouldn’t even notice. Fin’s refused to switch over to DSL for a long time now, but we’ll likely have AT&T out here shortly if this continues much longer. Bad customer service and high prices? Annoying yes. Forcing me into business with the Death Star? Unforgivable.

I’m not a fan of governmental regulation, but your complete disregard of customer service makes even the most anarchist weirdo want to call up his rep and scream “there should be a law”. Even from an “evil capitalist” standpoint, your actions don’t make sense. A rough calculation would indicate that it’d take around 6 months to get back the past 3 weeks of phone calls, service appointments, and “line techs”. From a corporate perspective, you’d be better off giving me AT&T’s number directly at this point, versus having ANOTHER guy come and say he doesn’t see anything wrong.

I’m forced to assume you either have employed the most perverse sadists of all time or have an ingrained institutionalized incompetence so truly awesome as to necessitate an academic study. I’m not sure which destroys my hope in humanity more.

If I took a deep look into your company, I’d probably discover many decent technical people floating around in a cesspool of mediocrity. Sure, they might have ideas that’d save you money. Simple things, like tracking an ongoing issue to insure it stops. Perhaps skipping the 3rd technician after each one indicated there was a line issue and sending a line person out. Maybe giving front-line support the ability to start crediting bills when an on-going issue is happening. Realizing that an ongoing issue might be easiest to solve by sending someone out while the problem is actually happening! No doubt the decent people are your company have brought these ideas up. And, I’m sure you have shot each of these ideas down as “costing too much” or being “difficult to implement”.

Karma’s a bitch when companies start finding customer centric solutions “too difficult to implement”. Ask AT&T about regulation. Ask Sprint about customer attrition. Ask Blockbuster about bankruptcy.

Now, please remove your head from out of your ass, and start figuring out how to have some customer service. I don’t need you for TV service anymore – not between the great number of online services and cable alternatives in existence. AT&T will work just as well for NetFlix as your sorry ass.

Edit: While attempting to submit this post, I lost my connection. Again.

On getting a new truck and reusing stuff

I totaled my car last week, which is a major bummer to me.  I really loved that car.  It was getting old, no bones about that, and had some issues that were going to need fixing coming up sooner rather then later, but I still loved that car.  It got amazing gas mileage and I could haul a lot of stuff around.  I got an average of 40 mpg….and it cost around $20 for me to fill the tank.

Man, oh man does owning a truck after a car like that turn into major shock at the gas pump.  I got a 2004 Ford ranger xlt.  It’s a nice truck.  Super comfortable, power everything, not too big to drive around.  I get 18mpg.  18.  Bleh. It costs me $40+ to fill it up.  I can’t even go as far on a tank of gas as I could in my car! So not happy about that.  I think I’m in for a lifestyle change about the way I drive around.

I’m having trouble with the halving of my gas mileage, using twice as much gas as I was before.   I’m not even sure if I think this truck can haul any more then my car could.  Using twice as much of a non renewable resource as I was before just does not sit right with me at all.


I was able to respond to an ad on Craigslist for some weathered wood.  A lot of weathered wood.  A whole decks top of wood someone had pulled off to replace and wanted to get rid of.   Non chemically treated weathered wood as far as I can tell.

It’s not any good for a deck anymore, a lot of the ends are rotted and the screws that were left in it are rusted through.  They are mostly 2 x 6’s as far as I can tell of all various lengths mostly over 6 foot.  Most of the screws are gone and I didn’t see any nails.  The boards are solid for the most part if you’d cut off about 2-6 inches off the ends.

Absolutely perfect for my uses.

I am planning on making raised beds in my front yard to hold the dirt I dig out of my new bigger pond project.  The beds will be used to plant various garden crops this spring and in future years.  What doesn’t get used in the front yard will be used in the garden for the same purpose.

I’m got something for free that was someone else’s trash I get to put to a new purpose and it stays out of the landfill.  I got to save money by having the truck to haul it in, it would have never fit in my car at all.  I got to save new lumber from being used for this purpose, saving trees from being cut down needlessly.

Is this one thing worth the environmental hit on halving my gas mileage over all?  Not in my mind.  Not just this one thing.  I hope in the overall ownership of the truck to keep being able to do this kind of thing.  Keep offsetting my overall greater gas useage with an even bigger overall greater ability to reuse various things in my projects going forward.

Balance is an important thing in my life.  I hope to be able to achieve it with this truck.  I think so far with what I’ve done its been a net win, but I will have to be very aware of this in the future to be able to keep it that way.


Karma is a bitch

I have been struggling in my own head with something for a while now that I thought I had resolved.  I guess the law of balances decided to make it quite clear, however, just exactly how it works.

My belief system is set up around the idea that you take responsibility for yourself and your actions and you do so in such a way that you cause the least amount of impact, harm, or suffering on anything not-you involved.  No, I am not a perfect person, but I try my hardest to live by my moral and ethical beliefs.

I’ve been struggling with becoming a meat eater again due to my belief that I should be able to raise and kill my own food and my inability to kill.  I don’t even have a really good explanation as to why I felt that way.  I just feel that if you are going to take a life directly to feed yourself that you should be able to honor that life by raising it humanly and killing it mercifully.  An awesome life followed by one quick bad moment. 

I’ve been struggling with the knowledge that given the opportunity to take a life to feed myself that I could not do it.  Even with the knowledge that this vegetarian diet was killing me slowly I still knew that if it came right down to it chances were that I would probably starve rather then kill an animal to feed myself. 

I had, I thought, come to the realization in my own head that if I could provide a good or service to trade for the meat I needed to survive that that would absolve me from doing the actual killing.  It would be enough that I could be part of a community, trading my gifts for someone else’s.  I even almost believed it.  Almost. 

There was still a bit of doubt in my head.  It was something I strongly believed after all. I never could quite resolve it all neat and tidy in my mind.  I figured this growing season I would be producing enough to trade for some of my meat needs and I would be putting adequately back into my “community.”

So, a week ago, I started eating meat again.  I made sure the meat I bought for my consumption was ethically and humanly raised and slaughtered.  I made sure that all my values were being upheld in what I consumed.  I did my research!  I still had this little niggling doubt in my mind that I was trying to resolve but I felt strongly that I was doing the right thing. 

I’ve started feeling a lot better this week.  My body needs meat aparently, but that’s what I’ve thought anyway for a while now. 

I hit a deer with my car Thursday morning.  Three days after starting to eat meat again.  Three days after not quite really resolving my mind on the whole issue.   My car, which I absolutely loved more then most stuff in my life, was completely totaled.  My body was banged up, but I wasn’t seriously hurt. 

I killed the deer. 

This is probably one of the most horrible things I’ve ever done in my life.  I will feel absolutely horrible and guilty about it for the rest of my life.  I’m not talking about the fact that I killed the deer, I’m talking about the amount of time it suffered before it died. 

I carry an extremely sharp hunting knife in my purse.  Unfortunatly, I didn’t damage the deer enough to be able to get close enough to cut its throat with my knife.  I called the police to come and kill it with a gun, since I didn’t have the resources avaliable to do it myself.  The policeman took almost 30 minutes to get to the scene.  Not more then 5 minutes before he arrived the deer died, having suffered, I am sure horribly, for far too long.  I saw the damage my car inflicted after the fact.  He really did suffer horribly. 

No, this was not my fault.  Yes, this was an accident.  I lost one of my favorite things in the world and watched an animal die a horrific and pain filled death by my hand.  I learned something about myself in the process. 

I can kill.

No, I will never be able to kill without remorse.  I don’t think anyone who is not a psycopath could, or at least I’d hope not.  I can, however, make sure an animal that’s been raised ethically and humanly has a quick and as painless as possible death.  I need to feed myself and by honoring the animal completely by the way I raise it and use the entire thing with no waste, I am honoring my value system. 

That deer that I killed is currently in my back yard being eaten by my dogs.  Whatever is left over when they are done will go in the compost pile to feed the plants in my garden in the future.  Everything will be used and I have learned something about myself in the process, this is how I thank that deer for its sacrifice.

I guess karma has a way of resolving things for you when you try to take the easy way out.  

– Fin


I often find myself annoyed by the environmentalist type so caught up in what they’re “doing” that they wonder around stomping on others without realizing it.  Often, they’ll look at others doing various projects with a distinctive air of superiority reeking of smug.  There’s a word for them: assholes.

For roughly 3 years now, I’ve been vegetarian.  Fin turned to the vegetarian path not long after for her own reasons.  And now, after 3 years of towing the hippy not-quite-vegan line, I’m scarfing steak, jerky, and chicken soup.  Well, sortof, I’ll get into that later.

When making an active attempt to build/create a different lifestyle, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in your own shit.  Next thing, a long look in the mirror and it’s pretty obvious you’ve joined ranks with the asshole crowd.  I’d like to think 3 years of being vegetarian would be a net-win for the environment.  Now, it looks more like a distraction than anything meaningful.

Before jumping into the asshole camp again, let me say if that’s your thing, kudos to you.  I’ve done it long enough to know how much it can suck living in a world tailored around veggies as side-dish only.  Going out to eat is near impossible, parties tricky at best, and often meals require substantial backup planning.  A vegetarian diet isn’t easy.  Of course, you can look in the mirror and say – “I haven’t supported factory farming today.”

Well, not really.  You haven’t support factory MEAT farming.  That load of chips?  Factory.  That veggie burger patty?  Factory.  That bottle of ketchup? … The list goes on.

From a “sustainability” culture standpoint, Fin and I made some big mistakes while we were vegetarian.  Instead of meat, we ate meat substitutes grown with fairly traditional agriculture, occasionally slapped with an organic label, and then thrown into the super-market complete with easy-plastic packaging.   Making one big decision led us to cheating on hundreds of day to day decisions in food purchasing.

After some substantial discussion as to pro/con on being vegetarian and other general dietary choices, Fin decided to leave the vegetarian camp, and I decided to follow her.  We also decided at the same point to only eat meat after doing some homework to insure the farm treated its livestock with dignity.  In practice, this leaves eating out mostly vegetarian. I’ll leave it to Fin (or at least another post) to fill in the details.

When researching local farms, farmers markets, and coops though, Fin and I saw the local community in a new way.    There’s a fairly good number in the metro area dedicated to the ideas of local agriculture and sustainability.  Organic or no, a quick search finds multiple producers nearby.

Of course, we knew about the local farmers markets, but the reality of our food choices became clear.  Our vegetarian lifestyle didn’t include supporting the local markets, it just continued feeding the Walmarts of the world more profits for overpriced ‘organic’ goods.

In short, sometimes multiple small and continued gestures can do more than a concentrated grand gesture.  Something to keep in mind for our next effort.

Finding the beauty in winter

My garden is all but shut down for the winter.  There is still a few edible green things out there but they are few and far between: turnips, kale, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts.  Usually this would be cause for a serious bout with the blues for me.  Not this year, this year I wanted things to be different.

I used some cold frames to extend my season this year, but was only partially sucessful with that.  I learned a lot: cold frames need venting as much as possible or things tend to mold with all the moisture, even warm the lack of sun causes things to grow much slower, frosted tomatoes don’t ripen off the vine.  I went ahead and closed down the beds that were cold framed a couple weeks ago and planted a cover crop in them.

I’m making an effort to see the beauty in the winter garden this year. This isn’t something I’ve ever done before.  I usually just walk away from the garden when things start dying back since the dying foliage usually depresses me.  This winter I focused on cutting down the things that were frosted and composted them in my newly built pallet compost bins.  I made sure that every square inch of bare soil had something covering it.

This fall I brought in a bunch of composted horse manure and some composted cow manure to help build the soil fertility.  I planted cereal rye as a cover crop to build a deeper tith to the soil.  The cover crop came up nicely and is providing a beautiful green grassy look to the mulched beds of the garden.  I am excited to see what the soil looks like in the spring after adding all of this to the beds.

The beauty of the winter garden is hard to explain to someone, but its there.  It’s in the potential for the spring.  It’s in the green of the last veggies holding on.  It’s in the cover crop holding down and improving the soil.  It’s in the potential new pond site, just waiting to be dug out.

This winter is the first year I’ve ever been deliberate about trying to enjoy the season.  I decided to try taking a niacine supplement to hopefully help with my seasonal depression and it has helped so much.   I notice it helping in drastically upping my cold tolerence as well as my mood.  I’ve had the ability to see the joy in the season even when it gets darker every day as the cold intensifies.

Winter solstice has passed and the days are gradually getting lighter longer and longer again.  Soon the promise of winters potential for growing will be realized and my favorite seasons will be here…but until then I will try to continue seeing the beauty in winter.

Of course it helps that I should be starting seeds for spring soon too!

– Fin