Category Archives: Photography

The Garden – Reclaiming Our Food

Serrano Chile Flower

I've always had the urge to grow my own food. There's just something deeply rewarding in harvesting food from the back yard. For one thing it's virtually guaranteed to taste better than what you get at the store.

In this era of factory farms that focus on churning out massive quantities of food as cheaply as possible, the average bell pepper, apple or ear of corn available in the produce section of the local supermarket just doesn't have much flavor, and it's no wonder. It's probably been grown as fast as possible using artificial fertilizers and pesticides, picked well before it was ripe and artificially "ripened" using chemical gases. Some of this is the price we pay for year-round access to cheap produce.

But much of it is due to the evolution of the farming industry from what we used to have: thousands of small private farms scattered all over the country, to what we see today: a few giant multinational corporations in near complete control of our food supply. This is a big subject that I won't get too far into here, because I want to focus on the awesomeness of this year's garden.

I will recommend that everyone watch the movie Food, Inc. It is available as an instant watch on Netflix, but I'm not sure about its availability elsewhere. I did see it on both Blockbuster's and Hollywood Video's websites. It's an incredible documentary that exposes the inner workings of our current food system. It's not a pretty picture at all, but it is one that every single person in this country needs to look at. We all must eat, and we've traveled a long way down a dark road in terms of where our food comes from.

Watching Food, Inc. was further inspiration for me to get serious about gardening this year. So I pulled up a large area of bricks from my front patio to complement the small garden space I've been tending in my back yard. I've been burying all of my food waste as compost for the past year, so I had a nice supply of rich soil to get things started. I also found out about a great natural fertilizer mix from a local nursery. That along with the compost has done wonders to amend the alkaline soil we have here in the desert.

I planted corn, zucchini, acorn squash, cabbage, beets, red bell peppers, and green beans out front. The zucchini and corn are exploding, and it's fun to come back every day and see the progress.

The Front Plot

Early Zucchini

Early Corn

There was a cholla growing in a planter area on the front patio, and I decided growing some broccoli and chiles there would be a better use of the space.

Broccoli and Chiles

Broccoli and Chiles

Jalapeño

Jalapeño

Early Broccoli

The Garden Out Back

The Garden Out Back

Chia Sprouts

Chia Sprouts

I had started a garden outback a couple of seasons ago, but it doesn't get as much sun as the front. This year the focus there is herbs, the yellow pear tomato plants that survived the winter, spinach and beets. I also planted some chia seed and was surprise how quickly it sprouted.

I'm sure almost everyone (that's as old as I am) remembers the Chia Pet of the 80's. The chia seed I'm talking about is the same stuff. It turns out that chia seed is incredibly nutritious, with more omega 3's than flax seed, among many other health benefits. It is also easily digested, even when eaten whole.

It was, and continues to be, a vital food for peoples of Latin America and it's how the state of Chiapas, México got its name. I doubt I'll be able to grow enough to harvest much seed, but I figured why not? I sprinkled it along the edges of my back yard plot, where nothing else would be planted, and it came up easily.

It looks like this year we will have the best harvest yet for my home garden. I look forward to the satisfaction and great taste of home grown food.

Postcards from Italy

Waiting for good lightWell I think this is about the best way to bring this poor neglected blog out of it’s slumber and back into the world. I am sitting here tapping away on my iPod, looking out the window at a most inviting scene: a small mountain village tucked away in the green, thickly forested mountains of far northern Italy.

I’ve come here to visit friends, to get out and see the world, to have adventure. So far the trip has been nothing short of perfection. The journey, though long and tiring as only overseas travel can be, was smooth and uneventful. I’ve completely avoided any real signs of jet lag, which is, I hear, rare and fantastic. One word keeps coming back to my mind, and I’ve decided it will be the word to describe this trip, this place, this time: idyllic.

The centerpiece of this trip is a five day running tour through some of the most stunning alpine scenery on the planet: the Italian Dolomites. We will cover roughly 60 miles over the 5 days, all on foot. But before you gasp and think me a lunatic (though I am), consider: throughout the mountains here there are huts. And when you think huts, think fully stocked hotels, complete with excellent food, beer, beds, showers, all comforts one could want after a long day in the mountains. We will not only be stopping at one of these huts each night, but we will also stop at one each day for lunch!

I know what you’re thinking: you call yourself hardcore? I never made any such claim. Or maybe: don’t you get out in the wilderness to get away from civilization? Well, all I can say is, it’s a European thing. Everything here is just so much more…civilized. But at the same time people have great respect for excercise and the outdoors. It is apparently very common here to see quite elderly people happily climbing up into the high mointains, always smiling and saying hello. Perhaps some of their happiness is owed the the amazing food that is available at some of these huts.

Picture: you just got done ascending a few thousand feet over a very short distance. You’re tired, very hungry, and some threatening storm clouds have moved in quickly. The temperature is plummeting, thunder is rumbling, and a hail storm seems inevitable. Wouldn’t you like to step into a cozy shelter where you could order a plate of eggs, potatoes and speck (think bacon x 1000) along with a cappuccino and a strudel as you wait out the storm? I would. If you’d rather sit under a tree in your rain gear and munch on dried fruit and power bars, be my guest.

So. I’m back. I will be posting with more regularity, though for the next few days I will be happily out of reach of the Internet. If you’d like to follow our progress and be made extremely jealous, you can find a Twitter feed of our tour here.
Do tune in to that, and stay tuned to this blog, as I have big plans for it when I get back.

Snowboarding in Colorado

So as you may have noticed, I’ve been seriously slacking on posting here in my blog. I guess the holidays put me off whatever small amount of rhythm I had going, and the inertia of ignoring the nagging little voice telling me to “post, post post!” took over. But no more! Here is a nugget of bloggish goodness to get things going again:

I had the great fortune to take a snowboarding trip to Colorado around the first of the year. My good friend and former roommate, Shawn, lives in Denver. His parents have a place in Empire, which is up in the mountains, minutes from several great Ski areas. They also have a brand new hot tub…I had four days in Colorado, so naturally we went for it and hit 4 different mountains in those 4 days:

Day 1: Loveland, day 2: Keystone, day 3: Breckenridge, day 4: Copper Mountain. It was fantastic do get out and do one of my absolute favorite things in the entire world: ride as fast as possible down snowy slopes with a board strapped to my feet. The thrill of flying down the mountain, leaning into deep, carving turns is almost indescribable. My mind quiets, and my entire awareness focuses down to what is right on front of me, keeping my body loose and flowing with the turns and bumps, picking the perfect line to carry me quickly down the mountain, ideally without eating it. Freezing air blasts my face and I smile, laugh, hoot and holler like a little kid. On the chair lift I get a chance to catch my breath and take in the amazing alpine scenery.

Something tells me I need to go live closer to big, snowy mountains…

Here are some photos from the trip. The only day I was brave enough to bring the camera along was the last day, Copper Mountain. I need to get a little point and shoot, I think.

Time

Here’s a neato time lapse video clip that I created while in Durango over the weekend. I went up there for my job, to take pictures of horse boots and fun stuff like that. Saturday was stormy so I spent most of it inside, sipping coffee and getting work done on the computer. Ever the multi-tasker, I set up my camera at the window to record the fast moving weather. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in a larger version (you know you want it), go here.

Lightning!

For me as a photographer, good lightning shots are the holy grail. This weekend, after literally years of not getting any good lightning shots, for various reasons like being out of town during the monsoons, not having a good camera on-hand, etc, everything finally came together: a great storm in the perfect location to capture it, and a great new camera. I’ll write more about this later. Right now I just want these pictures up…enjoy.