Man powered Mower and a First Year of Corn

 Today in the garden I did a little bit of maintenance and discovered my asparagus is coming up for the spring harvest.  This will be the first year I will be able to eat my own asparagus.  Trimming the grass along the garden I dumped the fresh cuttings into the straw covered walkways I have.  The spaces between my square foot gardening beds are now lined with a few inches of straw since they are too narrow to adequately cut the grass with the push mower.  

 I don’t have the traditional lawn mower that one might expect.  This is the model with the spiraling blades that rotate when the device is pushed.  There is now gasoline involved in this.  Honestly I wish I had no need for a lawnmower at all.  If I could find a way to add more beds, I would.  I would rather grow a lot of food than grass I can’t eat.  That kind of endeavor takes money and time I don’t have.  I wish it wasn’t the case.  If I was really creative I would use all kinds of things to make beds out of.  What I don’t have is the compost to amend the soil or the hours to take care of that many plants.  Granted once they start growing and producing there isn’t much to it.  I’ll have to see if there is anything I can do to increase the space I have to work with.

 Corn sprouted today.  Two shoots are sticking out of the soil.  Once they are a little taller I’ll plant the beans and squash to get the three sisters garden going.  The potatoes have bolted out of the leaves after I helped uncover them.  Green leaves appeared on a few and I have a feeling this will be a better year for potatoes with this new method.  Sadly I don’t have much more to mention.

 While walking to the post office today I notice that my calf muscle wasn’t as sore as it was but the other muscles around my shin were sore from making up for it.  Limping around the neighborhood wasn’t my idea of a good time.  I noticed today that many of the tulips around town have been blooming including one of mine.  The birds have been busy making nest since last week.  Sadly none of them are on my house this year.  

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Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Stacks of Books

 In 2004 Nick Hornby wrote a series of essays for Believer magazine.  These essays were compiled together in a book titled The Polysyllabic Spree. The purpose of the essays was to discuss the amount of books he bought versus how many he read.  Like most people who are avid readers the pile of books to be read grows over time while the books that have been read remains stagnant in comparison.  Looking over Hornby’s list I have to say his problem is not as bad as mine.  The only difference I can find between the two of us is that he might be buying his books new were as I find mine used at a greatly reduced price.  If I was forced to buy books at the new price for a place like Barnes and Noble the odds are I wouldn’t read except for the library.  I have a tendency to start reading a book, lose interest, and go onto something else.  I my mind I tell myself I am still reading the other book but I’m taking a break, for whatever reason.  This happens all the time.  I have had people make comments about the number of books I have in a negative regard.  I can think of worse things a person might spend their money on.  

 This week I bought 9 books and have read…0. That’s right none, nada, zip.  While some might consider this stupid I look at it as a investment for my entertainment in the future.  As a writer I should always be reading something.  While some minimalist love to read from their kindles and tablets I still prefer the good old fashioned book.  I don’t have to worry about the power going out.  I can easily share the book with a friend after I am done with it.  Used books still cost less than a kindle download most of the time.  There are so many advantages to books I can’t see the point of not buying them or trading them for a kindle.  That maybe weird to say since most of my book sales are as kindle downloads.  The only disadvantage I can find with physical books is the space they take up.  

 I’m not going to bother listing all the books I bought this week.  Attached at the end of this post will be a picture of the stack.  The one book I was most interested in is called Mr. Adam by Pat Frank.  The plot sounds like the origin story to Dr. Manhattan in the comic book/ movie Watchmen. Pat frank is also the author of the post apocalyptic novel Alas Babylon.  I did little research on the author after reading Alas Babylon and had no idea that there were other works out there.  Once I found Dr. Adam for a buck and recognized the author’s name I of course bought it having enjoyed his other work.  

 What I have read this month is: Infected by Scott Sigler, The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing.  That is it.  I can say that I have been writing and adjusting to my new work schedule.  The few times I have sat down to read I almost feel guilty because I’m not writing instead.  Maybe that sounds odd but it’s true.  I have a schedule and I’m trying to stick to it.  Lately I have been working a head of schedule with a fear that I will get behind.  What still sounds weird and strange to me is accepting that if I am reading I am still working.  After being at a job for 14 years that frowned upon people reading at the work place it is difficult to switch that kind of thinking and consider oneself productive during the act of reading.  Its sad that our society has come to this.  

 So part of this blog will be to write about the books that I have either bought or read during this summer. Hopefully the list of books read will increase instead of the books I buy.  I should probably start with Mr. Hornby’s book first and get a better idea of what I’m getting myself into.  

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Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Garden Hacks and Prepper Foods

The day started earlier than usual.  I had much to accomplish before my first day volunteering at the library.  With the cooler weather in the morning I decided to turn the soil and plant in a small bed that I haven’t gotten to. Cleaning out the crab grass and other weeds I used a potato fork to lift and aerate the soil.  To put lost nitrogen back into the soil I planted soy beans for the first time.  In the empty spaces between the beans I planted Radishes to prevent weeds and offer an extra crop while the beans grow.  While researching for my gardening book last night I read a piece about using radishes to help feed water into the soil.  Since gardening as an art of constantly testing theories I decided there wasn’t much to lose.  

 I checked on my potato pots and found that the leaves and soil inside had compressed towards the bottom preventing the sprouts from moving up.  I removed the extra material and helped the potatoes reach through the leaves.  I would try growing them in the soil again except that they take over the garden and are almost impossible to get rid of once planted.  If potatoes are planted in the soil do not plan on planting anything else in that spot, ever.  It will still be a month before I am pulling any quantities of food out of the garden to note on.  The small bits of greens I have taken are more for added flavor and fiber for the food I have stored.  

 I have found that traditional prepper food is not a health diet.  Sure it may help you survive for a short period of time if something bad happens.  What I am finding is that the same foods that are stored for long periods of time also contain many of the things that are causing the health problems many Americans are facing these days.  If food is stored in a box it likely contains large amounts of salt (sodium) or sugar.  The salt is a preservative and bacteria can not grow on sugar.  Took much salt in a diet can lead to water retention and high blood pressure. The sugar spikes insulin levels and promotes the production of fat in the body.  

 Most canned goods are the same way.  Soups, meats, and vegetables are canned with salt to extend shelf life and contain less nutrients than fresh food.  Canned fruit is loaded with sugar, even if the can says No Sugar Added  the sugar from the fruit is more concentrated much like it is with dried fruit.

 Odds are if a prepper is eating these foods they are hunkering down and not as active as they could be.  

 The traditional rice and beans meal is a high calorie dish that is just as guilty as boxed or canned food. If it was prepared correctly it could be more beneficial. Brown rice has the fiber needed to balance out the dumping of carbohydrates into the liver. Unfortunately brown rice has a short shelf life and spoils unless stored in the fridge.  Beans are high in fiber and have been shown in studies to extend the life span of humans.  While the two together create a complete protein, the spices and herbs added for flavor also include large amounts of salt.  The perfect meal for preppers still has some tweaking to do before it can hold that title.  

 Currently my diet consist of white rice, greens from the garden, meat from the freezer, and lots of tea.  I have some dried beans in the basement but hate cooking them preferring them from the can.  I know after everything I just said it sounds stupid.  The down side of dried beans is that they should be soaked over night before cooking and even now I haven’t learned to plan that far ahead.  As a society that has been trained well to rely on convenience I know I have to undo that training that has been put in me.  

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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The Dreaded Pull of a Calf Muscle

 Today I feel like I finally found my groove. The last two day I have woken up early and had my butt at the computer before 8am.  I worked on my upcoming gardening book and some touch ups for book four of the future collapse series.  Before lunch I decided to go for a run.  Except for the hike towards South Haven and walking to the library, I haven’t done any exercising.  So I start my run and half way through my pace is better than anything I had done before. I’m flying back to my house and already I’m planning to hit the bag in the basement for a little bit.  About a hundred yards away from my house I step off of the curb to cross the street and felt the snap in my calf muscle.  Instantly I start limping and walk back home.  At that moment my exercising for the day was done.  

 Back home I check out my garden and my neighbor invites me in to catch up on the neighborhood.  On her television the riots in Baltimore are playing.  I tried to find information on this last night and only found footage of police cars being destroyed.  After 20 minutes I finally posted on facebook and a friend told me about the guy killed in police custody.  Watching the footage ends up being research for my books and learning how people act when things start falling apart.  

 After massaging my leg for a bit I go back to the garden and start making a list of things I want to get done during the day.  I know if I sit on my butt then my leg will cramp up again.  I made a walkway and a trellis out of sticks for pole beans.  I cleaned out the soil and planted lettuce under the trellis and Swiss chard around it.  On the opposite side of the walkway I plant a bed of quinoa.  For mulch I took the Japanese grass from last year and cut it down to a few inches in size. The fibrous material works great for mulch and feeding the soil during the summer.  I line the walkway with cardboard and newspaper then cover it with the Japanese grass.  I planted more bush beans in the main garden.  

 Sitting by the Japanese maple I planted two bushes I bought last year. The wolf berry has become very popular over the years as a super fruit.  Known here as the Goji berry, due to marketing, there has been a spike in sales for the dried fruit.  One of the plants survived the winter and already has leaves growing.  

 The peach tree in the front yard already has its first flower growing on it.  I’m hoping this year I am able to enjoy some fruit instead of having the squirrels stealing them.  There are still a few spots in the garden I have to work on.  That will keep my busy during the afternoon hours I can’t sit down and write.  

 A buddy offered me a weight bench with a rack the other day for the affordable price of… free!  Thinking it over I admitted to myself I couldn’t pass it up.  It’s a nice gym and for the price why the hell not bring it home?  With my calf muscle out of commission for a bit it wouldn’t hurt to have something else to do for my upper body.  I’m hoping to pick that up in the next couple of days and put it back together in the basement.  Not bad for hunkering down equipment.  

 I started reading a book today called Wastelands.  It’s a collection of short stories about the apocalypse.  Some to the writers are very well known such as Stephen King. Also on my list is Windup Girl, it’s a thick read but a friend recommended it so I know it’s not a waste of time.

 Now it’s time to get back to work.  So to sum everything up: calf muscle is FUBAR and my garden is looking great. Plus I’m getting free stuff!  Why does the world seem better when you work at home?

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Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Building from Scratch, in more ways than one

 The interesting thing about gardening is how so many people thing you have to buy all kinds of things in order to grow plants that need simple things like dirt, sun, and moister in order to grow.  A popular phrase for gardening is “if you can’t grow out, grow up.”

 I have seen dozens of garden that had been designed to maximize all the available space possible.  Square foot gardening is no different. On the northern end of a raised bed I built my first completely hand made trellis for runner beans I bought last year.  Using bushes I cut out of the yard and vines that try to take over everything each year I tied together the cut limbs and created my first trellis.  It looks like something out of the show Lost.  The twigs and limbs are woven together and tied in place with the vines.  

 The red roots of the radishes are starting to show underneath the green leaves.  The lettuce appears to double in size by the day and soon I should have rows of fresh greens to add to my meals.  

 I watched a documentary a few weeks ago called Fed Up about the food industry.  I can’t help but think health wise I’m doing myself a favor by trying to go off grid with my food source.  Between the fish and the garden it won’t be difficult to sustain my food source.  Instead of going to the grocery store I should be able to walk outside and collect what I need for a decent meal.  

 Traveling hasn’t been difficult after switching to the mountain bike and walking.  When the weather is warmer the mountain bike is the preferred mode of transportation.  The bike also extends my range for where I would go if I needed to pick something up.  Today I walked four miles total, out to the library and back.  I uploaded Episode 6 of The Writer: Chronicling the End of the World.  While I was there I also picked up a few books and some Manga that caught my eye for reading. The entire trip took two hours.  They may appear a bit much for going to the library but honestly its more relaxing since I don’t have to worry about the limited time in parking downtown. By switching to a bike and walking I reduced the stress of worrying if I will get a $15 ticket and added much needed exercise I should be getting.  

 I find it strange these days that I have to tell myself ‘I don’t work at the hospital anymore’ when I walk by it downtown.  I am finally one of those people that won’t go to the hospital unless I need medical care. In a weeks time I have come to care less about the complaints people have about their jobs there and can only think ‘I don’t have to deal with that anymore.’  Even if this project and my writing career don’t work out I know I won’t be going back to that place for employment.  The stress that came with the job is now gone and I don’t want to invite it back into my life.  I wonder if others will feel the same way if the shit ever hit the fan for good.  Would people sit back and wish they could go back to work?  

 I remember the scene from American Splendor when Harvey Pekar wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare and comforts himself by saying “I have a job, I have a job.”  I never felt that somebody should have to judge their self worth by their employment.  What I truly didn’t care for was how people treated other because of the job title they had or the color scrubs they wore to work.  I understand the desire for people I worked with to wear blue scrubs if they could. Blue was the neutral color in the hospital that many departments wore.  If you worked in surgery you were required to wear light blue.  However the loop whole for other employees was to change into hospital provided blue scrubs if they had blood or chemicals spilled on them.  During the day even a janitor could be mistaken as an employee in surgery and receive a hell of a lot more respect then they normally would.  

 These days I honestly don’t get out much.  When I do it tends to be the isolated places that I have frequented for the last decade and people already know me.  On the rare occasions I do meet people outside of my loop and they ask me what I do the response is totally different.  When you say you are a writer they asked “what kind of books?” and “who did you get published through.”  sadly being a self published author on Amazon is almost like being a janitor.  The term ‘writer’ instantly comes with the assumption that you are wealthy, highly educated, and published through a major publishing house.  When you slowly debunk their assumptions you are suddenly shot down the totem pole.  

 Kalamazoo is an old city.  It is young compared to most of the country.  When I say old I mean that the manner of thinking the people have here is old.  They regard successful writers as being published through the traditional houses that rarely pick up the manuscript of an unknown writer.  They think face book is only for sharing pictures of their food and cat videos. Twitter has not caught on here in my city. When you mention Podcast, nobody here knows what the hell you are talking about.  The technology in this town is ancient and I’m surprised to see the few hybrid cars that are around.  Even the WIFI internet at the Library is as slow as the old dial up modems from the 1990s.  I now work in a field that relies on technology and yet the people I am surround by have no idea what is going on in the outside world except of some assholes called the Kardashians.  

 I’m finding this project to be a balancing act between ancient technology, the trellis, and modern life revolving around the internet.  The strange disconnect I have is that the people I know have no idea what I do online and the people who keep up with my work are all over the world reading my work.  I guess that is the major advantage of the internet.  While you can’t connect of force people to understand what you do you have a wide audience everywhere else that will listen.  Its so great, so strange, and truly messed up in a wonderful way.  

 

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Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Outsmarted By Fish

 

 I set out today to catch some fish for lunch and dinner.  Looking under some stones and boards in the garden I quickly found enough worms for a good day of fishing.  

 I parked at the asylum lake preserve and made my way down the trail to my usual fishing spot.  The muscles in my legs told me they were still mad from the march to Bloomingdale two days ago.  My feet are not sore, nor my calf muscles.  Instead the parts that ache are the muscles surrounding my shins.  The small thin fibers that support my feet and ankles are the most angry for the journey I took this weekend. Walking to the car I looked like a drunk person stumbling around and losing my balance at times because my muscles were fighting to work.  

 On the trail to the lake I came across a man who was busy hunting morel mushrooms.  I have had no luck in the past with this hobby of mushroom hunting.  The lack of mushrooms in his bag told me I was better off fishing.  

 I reached my spot at 10am and put the line out to water.  The last time I went fishing the temperature rose quickly and the day was finished with 19 fish in my bucket.  Today was not such a day.  The wind was blowing a cold wind across the lake.  The water was whipped around and nothing was biting on my line.  Around noon Ben showed up to try and take home a meal.   He had the same results I did.  

 A few minutes later a ghetto fabulous man showed up with two kids.  Pulling a cigar out of his mouth he asked if the fish were biting.  We replied no and he said we must not know what we are doing because he pulled fifty out the day before.  

 Ben and I rolled our eyes and watched him leave five minutes later when nothing bit on his line.  After four hours of fishing and nothing in my bucket I called it quits and went home.  The temperature barley reached 60 degrees and there was a huge difference in how the fish acted. Another lesson learned in the long road to self reliance.  

 I came home to find more of the peas had sprouted in the garden.  The air was cool but the sun was out pouring rays down all day.  The quinoa I planted is about an inch tall now.  I am still harvesting garlic greens and young kale leaves for meals.  The fish I caught last week were buried in the garden in a spot I plan to grow some runner beans.  The fish I found is a great source of fertilizer for the soil.  Last year I threw them in the compost pile.  This year I decided to put them directly into the ground.  

 Last night I made the absolutely awesome mistake of having beers with an old friend. The evening was spent discussing writing and plotting out conquest of the world.  Steve was excited to starting working on his novel again after months of devoting his time to school.  He would be free soon to work on what he really wanted to do.  We dreamed, planned, and replayed lost days in our tales to one another.  The mixture of Oberon, Camarena wine, and Lion’s beer put us in a honest place with ourselves and the world.  Nights like that we could see the world for what it was.  The lucid drunken state put us in a place where we knew where we were and where we would be going.  Nights like those set us back on our mission to conquer our lives and set us back on track for where we wanted to be and who we wanted to be.  Its difficult to describe how two men with fairly low self esteem can bond together and leave an evening feeling like they can take on the world.  The element of surprise is on our side.  In a world that doesn’t put much faith in people like us we know that between our brains, determination, and talent we are not to be underestimated. I left his house feeling on top of the world, I was on the right track for where I should be in this world.  This morning the world was fighting back with a sluggish hangover.  Four glasses of water and two multivitamins later I didn’t feel any better.

 I may not have caught anything while fishing today but I did learn a bit of when it was best to fish for smaller game like Blue Gill and Crappie. Maybe I can schedule when to fish later but for now I have to check the weather and take it one day at a time.  

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Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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