Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Friday, October 30, 2015

September 2014 part 2: stranded in the desert

It's sort of fun going back through my photos from last year to see what I took photos of, which means documenting what we were doing. We had adventures!


We've been thinking about buying a plot of land in the Nevada desert. It's super cheap if you don't mind being hours of driving from somewhere, which is fine with us. Our destination was sort of the middle part of northern Nevada but we left a bit later than we planned and ended up staying the first night on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land somewhere around Elko, Nevada. We arrived at our spot on the dark so couldn't really see what we were getting into, but somehow managed to put up our tent and get a good night's sleep in. When we woke up, this was our view:


If you've never been desert camping, I highly recommend it. It's dark, quiet, and has no mosquitoes. Also the smell of desert sage is lovely. Sure you have to watch out for snakes and scorpions at higher elevations, but that hasn't been an issue for us. On this particular morning, it was so lovely to just get up, put on some shoes, make coffee and sit in my camp chair.


Some sort of ant hill?


While I was sitting in my camping chair, drinking my excellent camp coffee, a couple of antelope pranced by and one came close enough to say hello! It was quite a magical moment.


Mr. Cupcake checked out the cactus.


Oh hey don't mind the cattle moseying by.


We put the truck in 4WD and climbed some pretty steep terrain to check out this plot but we decided it did not suit our needs. It was interesting though, there was evidence of some structure built out of rocks on the top of the hill, long since unused but you wouldn't be able to see it until you are 20 feet away from it.


Don't worry, dead snake is dead.


Well then we packed up and headed west towards Battle Mountain. There were some properties just south of the town we were going to go look at. We were about 11 miles out of the town when suddenly we realized the AC stopped working (which is a problem when it's 85 degrees in the desert) and then Dan knew we were doomed. The battery wasn't charging which meant that we were minutes away from not being able to drive the truck.

We turned around and got not very far when the truck died. It was a Sunday, 1:30pm. The only auto parts store in Battle Mountain that was open on a Sunday was Napa and they closed at 3:00 and they don't deliver. What do we do? With no truck battery we also had to conserve our cell phone batteries. We weren't there long when a grumpy old timer came by to see what we strangers were up to, gave us a boost and advised us to drive as fast as we can into town. Meanwhile, Dan called back to the unhelpful Napa guy and ordered & paid for a battery and alternator, please leave it outside, we'll find some way to get it. So we got about three miles towards down on the charge from the old guy before the truck died again. Now we were only eight miles away. Stranded. 2pm.




This was a lonely country road with not much traffic. Still, you'd think that people driving by seeing a vehicle with their hood popped and then two people walking towards town who are obviously not from the area would maybe, maybe! stop and say "hey do you need any help?". Now to be fair we didn't stick out our thumbs or anything but already Battle Mountain seemed like quite an unfriendly place. Not even the cops who drove by twice stopped to investigate.

So we walked for 5 miles on a Sunday afternoon in 85 degree weather. We had about a litre of water between us. After walking for an hour and a half on a hot gravel road, I had severe blisters on my feet so when someone finally stopped and offered us a lift into town, of course we gratefully accepted.  The guy lived outside of town, was just running in to the grocery store, and on hearing our story, gladly gave us a lift back to our truck with the 40-pound battery and alternator. He wouldn't take any money for his kindness (so there is one nice person in Battle Mountain).

Dan had the tools to get the new battery in but not the alternator. We drove to the O'Reilly in Elko (Dan knew they would be open late on a Sunday), borrowed tools and the tester, only to discover Napa had given us a faulty alternator. At this point, we were dirty, dusty, sweaty, hungry and tired, so we decided instead of camping again we'd get a motel room and finish dealing with the truck in the morning. Meanwhile, I could barely walk for the painful blisters on my feet, so I was happy to have a bath.

The next day (Monday now) we went to the Elko Napa (much more friendly) and they not only replaced the alternator and provided tools for the installation, but they also upgraded the alternator to a better quality one at no extra charge.

Then we drove home. The end. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Juicing: a thing I am doing now

Ok so sometime last month, Leilani Munter came to give a talk at the new law building at the University of Utah. The Law department at the U has a strong environmental program and I have been to several of the events. This one was part of a series called "Trailblazers of Clean Energy", and how could I not attend a lecture by a "vegan hippie chick who loves race cars"? Also: it's only six blocks from my house.

So she talked about a lot of things, solar energy and the race car industry. Toward the end of the talk she hammered home the point about a vegan diet, encouraging all the attendees to at least start with "Meat Free Mondays" (now a popular thing in the US). She is part of the team that brought out The Cove, Blackfish, and soon to be released Racing Extinction. The take home message with the latter was "start with one thing". She included watching documentaries.

I sat on her ideas for a few weeks. Then I happened to open up Netflix last week and came on a couple of titles she mentioned, including Forks Over Knives (which I watched first) and I felt the pull to move towards a plant-based, whole foods diet. Yes, for the environment and to keep livestock out of terror, but it was more about my health. I eat really well, I exercise, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, I have good skin hygiene but I still have terrible acne and I feel tired all the time. And I seem to be producing a lot of mucous. And a few other minor symptoms that, when you add them up, point to a common culprit. This was validated for me a few weeks ago when I was sick with a cold, and any time I have a cold I avoid dairy. I love cheese and enjoy yogurt, but you know, I could probably live without them. So that was the first step.

Then a few days after watching that film, I saw (also on Neflix) Hungry for Change and that really hit home for me. They have a book and things you can print and hang on your fridge. I was finally convinced about the virtues of juicing. I bought a crappy old juicer at the DI thrift store a few months ago and dusted it off. Today I made juice for the sixth day in a row.


I want clear skin. I'm going to be looking for a job soon for when I graduate in May, and I'm going to our field's biggest academic conference in three weeks (I'm presenting a poster), so I want to look my best. In the film they said we can expect a difference (in skin) after 10-15 days, and it's already happening for me on day 6. I've also lost 2.5 pounds in that time. I haven't noticed a huge change energy-wise, but there are other factors there too, I'm sure.

I look at all vegetables now in terms of their juicability in the little machine that I have. It's a centrifugal grinder so it's not awesome but hey, for $8 I can't complain. I remember a time when I was living in Victoria, everyone was giving them away after the last juicing craze. They were all over the place in second hand stores. I'm guessing they have gotten a lot better in the interim because I was lucky to find the one I have. One day, when I have a job after I graduate, I'll get a nice one.

Meanwhile, I am planning a lot of beets and carrots and leafy greens in next year's garden, wherever that may be. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

September 2014 part 1

I don't mean to brag but this is now two Fridays in a row that I am remembering to blog.



I have a list of topics to blog about and one of them just said "September 2014" so I went back to my photos from that time. Then, on seeing just how many photos I had and remembering that a lot happened, I decided to break it up.



The beginning of September last year marked the ending of Dan's employment with the job we moved here for, and he had two weeks before starting the next job. It was a good thing because we were laden with bounty from the garden and the tree fruit harvests I had been doing.



Dan was busy interviewing that time (more than three dozen interviews in two weeks) but when he wasn't doing that, he was seriously dehydrating all the things, especially tomatoes.




I did a fair amount of canning, and 2014 was a very good year for stone fruit in Salt Lake City. I have a point of comparison now because 2015 was quite poor, relatively. We had early warm and then frost and then a month of rain after a mild winter so the bugs didn't die off. At any rate, I did a lot of preserving last year that we either ate or gave away.




So meticulous was Dan with the drying of the tomatoes that he kept them separate. We still (more than a year later) have a lot left and I think it will last us until the 2016 tomato harvest.


Sugar plums!


This was the trellis that we built mostly for support. I strung up the tomatoes rather than have cages, because I had about 30 plants. I fed them once a month for four months, gave them regular hair cuts and they just kept on producing.


Oddly, I never grew any squash. Yet squash kept coming our way. It's so useful to have friends who grow stuff!


This was the biggest harvest I attended last year with Green Urban Lunch Box.





We did our best to keep up.




I haven't had the time to keep up with food preservation this year, so it's just as well that we didn't have nearly the bounty we did in 2014. It's a lot of work but very gratifying! I love looking at the jars and bags of preserves, and I love eating food we put up during the cold winter months. I hope next year is a better year for tree fruit and growing generally.

Dan's new job at eSpokes started conveniently in mid-September when the canning and drying tapered off. I was three weeks into grad school at that point so we got to be too busy for food preservation! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

time to blog

Hello readers, do I have any readers left?

When I wasn't working very much or at all, especially when I was waiting for immigration, I had all kinds of time to write. I remember the days when I had the leisure time to blog about all the different kinds of scissors I owned. Those were the days! Now I barely have time to think about blogging but it doesn't mean I have given up on it entirely. In fact, I have now set myself a weekly reminder in my work calendar to update my blog. Not that I will actually get to it every week, but this is a start.

On the whole, things are going very well for me and Dan. I am just half a year away from finishing this non-thesis Master's degree in Biomedical Informatics and then I will be let loose into the world to find some sort of job. I don't know yet what that will be, there is just so much opportunity out there that I think it will be difficult to decide. We do know we plan to stay put in the Salt Lake valley for  a while - I love it here. This is the best place I have ever lived. So my career options are: University of Utah Health Care (basically where I am now), Veteran's Affairs (I have a partial appointment there), Intermountain Health, and industry. I haven't formally started looking yet, I will do that launch next month at the AMIA Symposium and then really start hustling in 2016.

This symposium is our industry's biggest academic convention. It's in San Francisco this year. I haven't been since 2013 when I saved up my tips from bartending in North Carolina and took the Amtrak to DC, I was determined to get back into the field. I'm going this year because I had a poster accepted and then I won some travel awards to allow me to attend. The poster is about a really interesting project that we had some excellent results with, something I continue to work on with user interface design. Who know I would end up doing user interface design? I'm doing all kinds of things I never thought I would/could and I have to say it's been an excellent experience.

It is sort of funny - I received a Master's from the University of Victoria in 2009 in Health Information Science, and this is essentially the same degree - Biomedical Informatics - but in some ways this program is more robust and I am entrenched in the American health care system. I have had excellent training and mentorship, tons of opportunities and have made a great many friendships.

So 2016 will be a big year for me. On February 4, I will be eligible to apply for US Citizenship (three years!). Six weeks later I will turn 42 on the full moon lunar eclipse, so I will basically know the meaning of life by then, right? Then I will graduate and get an awesome new job and maybe we will find a way to buy a house? Next year holds a lot of promise.

Socially, we have become known as people who know our way around food and the garden. We have built up really a lot of reserves (I grew enough cucumbers so that I won't need to make mustard pickle again until at least 2017) and seeds. People know I'm a gardener and just give me seeds all the time. I can't turn them down. I have also been saving seeds so at this rate I have enough for a field of sunflowers, marigolds and calendula, among other things. I have nurtured kombucha mothers and sourdough starters and have been able to give them away and teach others how to make stuff. These things are coming second nature to me now and this kind of sharing has gone a long way to help build social capital.

I have been able to make and grow a lot of really amazing friendships in the nearly two years since we have been in SLC. A number of those friendships began early on in our time here, and they have been incredibly important for my mental health. We are all busy people but it just seems so easy to get together and do stuff, even if it's just running into the neighbor by chance and having a great conversation. We have gotten to know a lot of our neighbors and it's nice feeling that level of security - we all have each other's back.

I haven't been knitting much since I have been here - between school, work, and gardening/preserving, there really hasn't been time. I accept that it's a part of my life/identity that will always be with me but other things have to take precedence right now.

Sam is doing great. Dan has added ramps to her scratching posts so it's easier for her to get up and down. We have also added steps to the sofas and bed so she doesn't have to claw her way up. She's 13 and has sore hips, so she doesn't jump up like she used to. I took her to the vet for a check up in August and she received a clean bill of health. Not only that, but everyone at the clinic gushed at how beautiful she is. Of course they did!


I have a list of things I plan to write about (and of course I'm willing to take requests) so I won't go into too much detail right now on all our adventures. Just know I am trying, I do plan to keep writing. Someday this may come in handy...