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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Quest for the Holy Cold Frame - Extended Edition

This is the long, detailed version of an article that I contributed to my wife's blog (Loving Our Guts).

A while back, I was cleaning out some old lumber under our back deck and ran across a nice big sheet of 1/4 inch thick glass.  In the spirit of The Big Clean-Up  (a favorite of mine from my childhood and arguably a factor in my hoarding instinct), I decided to build a cold frame so that we could garden into early winter and start again in the very early spring (actually, I'm giving January a shot for a starting point this year).  In this post, I'll describe the process with lots of pictures and lessons learned along the way.

Since I like flashback, I'll start with the final result:

First off, I figured I should attempt a bit of research.  I procured Building & Using Cold Frames: Garden Way Publishing Bulletin A-39  (the Kindle Edition will save you 79 cents off the budget busting $3.95 list price) and skimmed an article on Mother Earth News on the topic.  I'm enough of a guy that I wanted to forge my own path, so I decided to make my own plans.  So armed with a decent recollection of my high school wood shop class, I set out to design my cold frame.  You may wonder how I arrived at my design.  I used the following design parameters:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Matthew 25, Modernized

A while back, I shared these thoughts with my church.

It is interesting that there are two sermons on mounts that bookend Jesus' ministry.  The classic sermon on the mount really launches he teaching,  But just before the cross, there is a sermon on the Mount of Olives that seems to build higher and higher as he draws his listeners in.  In chapter 24, he starts getting his listeners ready to think of ends and being prepared for judgement.  Then in chapter 25, he starts on a series of parables that each dig deeper.  The parable of the Bridesmaids is pushing them to be ready.  The parable of the talents goes deeper, saying in effect that its not enough to just don't do anything wrong.  Instead, success is found in also doing things (the work of the Father) right.  Sin avoidance isn't enough.  But then in verse 31, he raises the bar by fleshing out a bit of what the Father wants.  This seems to be the culmination of his teaching ministry.  So a couple of years ago, I worked up a rough approximation of what I think he may say today (in addition to the topic in the original teaching).

Here's a possible update of Matthew 25:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The whole world is Tekel - Peak oil has officially hit

At least the cheap, conventional stuff. From now on, it gets ugly.

Chris Martenson says it well (as usual):

From now on, we'll probably keep going through more cycles of economic decline as energy prices rise (and our mountains of debt weigh us down (see my link to Chris Martenson's site).  There will be mini-recoveries, but the long term trend will be downward.  John Michael Greer gives me some comfort in The Long Descent.  His view is that civilizations tend to take as long to decline as they took to arise, dropping a generally stair step manner.  He believes that our children's lives will be poorer and probably shorter than ours.  But it will probably be a few generations until are cities are mysterious ruins to those that remain.

My biggest concern is how bad the population declines will be.  We don't realize how dependent the most productive farmers in the world are on fossil fuels.  Some of them come in the form of natural gas (which looks better with shale gas, but there are risks there as well) and coal via electricity, but the need for diesel alone is crucial.  Add the stresses from climate change (drought, flooding, increased evaporation/heat, etc.) and those in the margins will have their life expectancies shortened first.  For instance, as food prices rise, poorer nations will be priced out of the market first.  So there will be more famines, but we won't see them for what they are.  We're used to famines.  Will we even notice?  And at what point do they realize that their children are doomed to starve?  Will wars ensue?  Terrorism increase?

I'd love to see us tackle something like Transition Towns, but I'm afraid that too few will.  We're too swamped with our daily lives.  I'd love to try starting one, but I can't with my current family situation.  I'm hoping to when the children are older, but I have to ask myself if this isn't a shot across the bow, warning me that time is out.  I felt when we moved in 2005 that we should rent instead of buy, that things were bound for a crash but I didn't follow my better discernment.  Am I repeating that pattern?  I'd love to get a few acres near my in-laws and start a farm.  I grew up on one, I know a fair amount about raising animals.  Low-input (e.g. organic) gardening is a bit more out of my realm, but I'd like to learn.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells his audience not to worry, God provides even for birds and flowers.  But with record bird populations facing threats of decline, and flowers facing droughts, how much comfort can I draw from that?  I feel that God will always be present and work with us in any situation, drought, famine, disease, homelessness or death, but just the same there will be misery.  Comfort when your child dies still leaves you with a dead child.

Cow 3.0, a climate change solution

Cow 1.0 ate mostly grass for the last few thousand years.

Then after World War 2, the U.S. inadvertently created Cow 2.0 by creating cheap grains.

As this (free registration required) great New York Times article describes, cattle methane emissions can be cut somewhere in the range of 18% just by switching them to the diet that they're adapted for - mostly grasses.  So everything old is new again.
Photo creative commons licensed by publicenergy, some rights reserved at

So what's the takeaway? Get your beef from a (preferably local) grassfed producer and if possible, your dairy as well. I think the latter is harder to find. And when someone tells you that beef should be avoided, point out that there at least less bad options. Besides, grain fed usually goes with confined feedlots which are also linked to antibiotics resistance in humans, water pollution, and poor animal health. I don't think that the God that mandated a day off for livestock per week and letting threshing animals eat their fill would care for confined feedlots.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maasai Adapt to Survive - Great example of climate change impacting people today... err yesterday

Maasai Adapt to Survive

Great article in Heifer International's magazine (great group to donate to) on how they are helping the Maasai replace their cattle herds with camels. Why? Because climate change has transformed their land to a state too dry to support cattle.

This will be coming to the American plains before too long. See Six Degrees or National Geographic's Six Degrees Could Change the World (if you don't do the whole book thing and you can stand Alex Baldwin).  Or if you're cheap, you can always head over to the Six Degrees link on my influential links list on the right or hit the library.

I thought about titling this "You killed Jesus' cow!"  I'm thinking of Matthew 25:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I think its a clear application of this passage that causing drought makes "the least of these" both hungry and thirsty.  So when we oppose Cap and Trade (out of selfish fear) or idle our SUV while waiting to pick up the kids, we're not only not feeding the hungry, but we're actively making them hungrier.

America  has become a nation of goats.  Our churches cry "Lord Lord" while wasting their money on fancy buildings and steering their members to praise services instead of living lives of righteous justice.  Reread the old testament prophets - they frequently criticize the nation for substituting praise and sacrifice for justice for the weak.  Many churches today instead focus on praise and sacrifice (giving to the church) instead of care for the weak.  We haven't become the change we want to see, we've become the Old Testament nation and the New Testament pharisees that we criticize.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Law of Love vs. The Law

God created a very boring version of "Rock, Paper, Scissors". You see, the Law of Love always trumps the Law of Condemnation. This was brought home to me tonight as I read Acts 10 to my eldest daughter and it jumped into relief against a verse that I'd quoted to my band of brothers on Friday.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Our congregation of Christ's Body has been studying Francis Chan's Crazy Love.  He raises the same question that I wanted to raise as a teen:  "Do the words addressed to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-23 apply to us today?  Are we lukewarm Christians?"  Or to use the parable of the sower, "Are we the soil choked out by weeds, by the distractions and complications of daily life?"  I always wanted to read the message to the Laodiceans to my home congregation when I was a teen, now I find that the text applies to me.  Unpleasant irony.

While its right to read those passages and ask if they apply to me individually, we must also read them and ask if they apply to our congregation or even to the worldwide body of Christ.  There is a book that I own that I've never gotten very far in, but the major premise can be found in its title: The 2nd Incarnation (Rubel Shelly, Randall Harris).  The basic thesis is that the Church is Christ's second incarnation on Earth.  We are Immanuel (God With Us) to the world today.

This brings me to an uncomfortable dilemma.  The greatest attraction to Christianity for many people is Jesus, his life, his teachings, and yes, his death and resurrection (even if the latter creates its own stumbling blocks).  But the greatest turn off to Christianity is Christians.  If we are the second incarnation, why is our impact so often diametrically opposed to the first incarnation?

In our lesson today, it came home to me.  The body of Christ, the church is unhealthy.  Its flabby, out of shape, and bedridden.  Its in adult day care - not able to fully function in the real world.  Here's a few metaphors that came to mind (after the jump):