Monday, February 4, 2013

Millenials and Work Ethic

My last post was on resolutions for the new year, more specifically a new outlook instead of a traditional "resolution".

As of late I have been relentlessly pursuing my goals of personal growth and development as the last of my undergraduate college career winds down. I am currently reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I came across this statement today that struck me as particularly important:

Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most people to accept, because our [American] culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.

-Tim Farriss

This is something that has bothered me for some time now. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am often surprised when people ask me if I'm excited to get out into the work force. That in itself is not a surprising question, but my surprise comes from their apparent shock when I respond with more or less "hell no, who would be?". The idea of spending 40 years of my life working eight hours a day at a wage that is determined by the person who is stuffing their pockets by my work ethic? Who ever thought that to be a great idea?

If you realize that your most precious resource is TIME itself, why would one want to spend that resource doing something that is most often repetitive and unfulfilling? This is not the case for all, some people are able to find gainful employment doing what they love, or doing something that they find worthwhile. But isn't it interesting to think that so many people work for hourly wages that are hardly a fraction of what one would consider that time to actually be worth, if viewed as a finite resource?

It is interesting to see that as some of my generation are awakening to this reality, we are shrugged off as "lazy" because we don't see the inherent value of going through the same motions our parents did.
How did sacrificing your life, your time- time spent with your kids, time spent bettering yourself, time spent doing what you enjoy, become more important than what you produce with that time? Taking a step back, even from a business perspective, it makes sense to value productive employees than non-productive employees.

The beautiful idea behind this book and this lifestyle is the idea that no longer should one person have to give up the best years of their life, hoping that they can maybe do what they would really like to do later. Instead, you can do what you want to do AND make a living NOW. As Farris believes- relative income is more important than absolute income. This means that what you make in relation to how much time you spend working and how much money you spend is more important than the bottom line on your paycheck.  Farriss gives the example that someone who makes $50,000 a year working 10 hours a week is much wealthier than someone who makes $300,000 a year working 60 hours a week: For the amount of time you spend working, you are much more financially productive and are left with your TIME to better yourself in whatever ways you wish.

Clearly this method of looking at the world is no for everyone, but I believe that it is a valuable perspective to look at. People often seem to forget that their time on this earth is finite, and because of that they procrastinate and hold off on pursuing their dreams. We, especially in America, live in a time of great advantage and opportunity. We have the opportunity to have lots of free time, which many of my generation squander with ultimately meaningless "entertainment". I call upon my generation to not be afraid to better yourselves. To grow. To never allow yourself to overestimate your obstacles or underestimate yourself, and to treat your time as precious as it really is. You can achieve what you set out for.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Year, New Perspective

 It is at this time of the year that many people are working on their new year resolutions. Goals of health, wealth, fitness and beyond. It is also at this time that many of those people begin to fail at those goals they were so hopeful to achieve on the first of January, under the distorted view of a champagne hangover. Experts on psychology and human behavior tell us that it takes about 28 days of daily commitment to make or break a habit. I implore those of you who are working hard to reach your goals, to keep pushing. Goals such as health and fitness are truly lifelong commitments and are without a finish line. Remember that getting started is certainly the hardest part.

I decided to take a different route to making a resolution for the new year, after reading an eye opening (albeit rather disheartening) article on The article is titled 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person, and was written by David Wong. I suggest that all young folks my age read that article, but to not take all of it to heart... you will understand what I mean if you read it!
As for my resolution, I decided to take David's advice: to obtain a skill in 2013 that will be of use to other people. My main goal for 2013 will be to learn the Spanish language, a skill that I am sure will be helpful in the ever expanding global market. I am doing this through two main mediums: First, I am taking a second-level introductory Spanish course through my University and Second I will be working on an orchard in California through the summer months, presumably with many Mexican immigrants.
This opportunity in California will satisfy two educational goals of mine- to increase my agricultural knowledge (I have little to no knowledge or experience on orchards or with fruit) and to put me in a different cultural and linguistic setting. I'm sure that communication will be a challenge in the beginning, but I am looking forward to furthering my skills as a global citizen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bottling Stout and Cider Update

About a week ago, after racking my cider into another carboy for secondary fermentation, I decided to take the first real step in home brewing - actually BREWING beer. This is something that I have been trying to educate myself on for some time now, as I have been a beer fan since long before the law said I was allowed. My love of beer can even be attributed for where I am living now today in Missoula. I remember visiting here with my mother before I decided to make the move, and us sharing local craft brew at the Kettlehouse tap room over on Myrtle Street. With the music blaring, the grey early spring Missoula sky out the window, and a cold brew in hand she looked at me and said "You're going to live here". She was right.

For my first ever home-brewed beer I decided to go with a classic, the Irish Stout. I started again at my favorite local brew-shop, Summer Sun Garden & Brew. I used a British Dry Ale yeast, Munton's Hopped Malt (3 lbs), Munton's Amber Malt Extract (1 Can), and 1 lb of crushed roasted barley for steeping.

Fermentation was vigorous for the first few days, but quickly subsided. After a sample last night, I decided to move to bottling today. As the brew had not been carbonated yet, the sample was flat - but unmistakably a stout. Surprisingly, it lacked the bitterness that often drives people away from classic commercial stouts such as Guinness.

After bottling today, about 3.5 gallons, I will wait 2-3 weeks and crack one bottle to check the level of carbonation. Wish me luck!

-Cider Update-

After racking cider into secondary fermentation I decided to add more sugar (3 cups) and after two days of little activity I pitched a champagne yeast to increase alcohol content. After a tasting last night (about 1.5 weeks in secondary) I was pleasantly surprised. The cider has considerable alcohol content, seemingly comparable to that of wine, but still with the mouth-feel of apple cider. I am now trying to decide if I want to carbonate the cider or leave it flat like an apple wine. I may do some of each. I will move to bottling shortly after thanksgiving. Updates to come!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Experience Unlike any Other - P.E.A.S. 2012

    Wednesday was my last active day as a credit-receiving intern at the P.E.A.S. farm. It has been nine months since I began my work at the farm, starting in the cold month of February breaking ice and defrosting the green house. Much has changed, on the farm, in my life, and within my being. I feel as though my time spent on the farm has been a healing experience. My faith in people has been restored through the meaningful work that I have done, through the beautiful landscape we created.
Working the land is a lesson in both impermanence and cyclical nature. The onions that we labored so hard to keep weed free are now long-gone, being enjoyed by CSA members, students and shoppers at the Missoula Food bank. The unpacking of Remay, the countless hours of seeding, weeding, harvesting and moving pipes in the hot summer sun have been replaced by their opposing actions through the cold autumn days.
    Nine months I have devoted to this farm, this project. Food grown, people nourished with blood and sweat, our labor of love. I will remember my experience on this farm, in this beautiful place called Missoula, the Rattlesnake valley, for the rest of my existence. I know that it has left an impression on me, and I hope that I have in some small way left a lasting impression on it.

    Thank you to all who made my experience so amazing. Through the early July mornings pulling weeds for hours, to the 1830 pumpkins we hand picked, I had a truly remarkable time with each and every one of you. You know who you are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cider - Take One

Fall is in full swing here in Western Montana. The trees are bursting with color, the nights have grown cool and crisp and the days are quickly growing shorter. Pumpkins are beginning to appear on neighbors' doorsteps, soon to become jack-o-lanterns. With all of this standard fall activity, I decided to try something new: home-brewing cider.

At the farm that I work on we have an old manual-style apple grinder and press. It is built of heavy oak and cast iron, staples of an industrious bygone era. Sunday I made my way up to the farm with a couple of friends and we fresh pressed about 130 ounces of cider from Montana-grown honeycrisp apples. Unfortunately, because apples are so expensive- I was forced to mix our fresh cider with three gallons of store bought cider (preservative free of course!). The combined cider was mixed with about a cup and a half of raw unbleached sugar in a 5 gallon carboy that I bought at Summer Sun Brew & Garden.
I opted for using a British Ale yeast instead of the champagne yeast that was originally recommended to me. My hope is that by doing this the cider will retain more of its' natural sweetness and apple flavor. From what I have read, using champagne yeast tends to result in a very dry end product. 

Fermentation began late last night, and I expect it to continue for at least a couple of weeks. Already much of the suspended solids within the carboy have fallen and the cider has taken on a lighter yellow hue. In 2-3 weeks I will rack the cider into a second carboy for secondary fermentation, and from there, on to bottling. I only hope my first attempt is successful!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Food For Thought

I have come across several quotations in my studies recently that I found to be of particular importance. I jotted them all down in my pocket notebook, and thought I would share them here.

"The true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

      I find these statements by Roosevelt to be informative and inspiring. I agree that those who are "too needy" are inherently insecure. As the fictitious character Tyler Durden said in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club - "The things you own, own you."

"In wildness is the salvation of the world" - Henry David Thoreau

     Many who have ventured into the wild for any amount of time can probably attest to the healing ability of the natural world. This is a profound statement from a historical authority on simple living and time spent in nature. I find that time spent in wild places has a centering effect on me, helping to put the worries of life into perspective. Nothing feels more 'real' than being away from the facade of civilization.

"Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?" - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

    One of the most powerful statements in A Sand County Almanac, I have seen this ring true through the destruction of popular recreation areas and the commodification of nature through 'game ranches' and the like. While not universally true, I believe that humans often lack the ability to truly leave something alone, resulting in more damage than good.

Any thoughts? Favorite quotes you have come across recently? Please share in the comments below.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weathering The Storm

This is a short essay I wrote in response to John Muir's 'Windstorm In The Forest'

    Having little experience with the pine and juniper forests of the Western United States, previous to my relocation to Montana – I found myself looking back fondly to my memories of growing up amongst the deciduous oak and hickory forests of the Midwest. I spent many an hour perched high above an open cornfield, tree-stand tied tightly to the trunk of an oversized White Oak, or Shagbark Hickory. I relate to the sensations that Muir felt during that wind storm, the cacophony of sounds the twisting and dancing trees make as the wind tickles and caresses every branch and twig “The sounds of the storm corresponded gloriously with this wild exuberance of light and motion.” The way that Muir describes the smell of the pine forest “The fragrance of the woods was less marked than that produced during warm rain, when so many balsamic buds and leaves are steeped like tea...the gale was spiced to a very tonic degree.” Is one of my favorite aspects of the western coniferous forests. There is nothing quite like a warm breeze through the pines after a violent spring downpour. The sharp, crisp mountain air percolating through the needles has the inherent ability to comfort the mind and soul simultaneously. Reminding one that there is more to life than the errant requirements of modern civilization.
    “Winds are advertisements of all they touch, however much or little we may be able to read them”. Muir reminds us that there is a story within each breeze, however ephemeral it may be. Through this non-direct anthropomorphism of nature, we are reminded of our own mortality. We drift through life, letting each metaphorical branch leave its' mark upon us, leaving our own mark upon it as well.