on walking

my family is pretty big into health. lately we’ve all been reading a ton of the lovable biomechanist, katy bowman. her book, move your dna, is definitely worth the read, but she has other books, a blog, and instagram, too. her advice is pretty much what we’ve been hearing from every health advocate ever; being sedentary is really, really bad for you. moving your body in lots of different ways for lots of the day is good for you. not exactly earth shattering, but getting more movement into my day has proved harder than i thought. i had this idea that since i do a lot of my living outdoors, i’m ahead of the game on the movement front. that may be true if i’m comparing my self to other people suburban america, but not so much if we are comparing anybody else in the world. i walk from my washer to the laundry line, i dump a 5 gallon bucket of greywater a few times a day, move hoses, and randomly putter on the property. but when i got a pedometer at the beginning of january, i discovered that even a more active than average day for me is less than 7000 steps. most days i top out a little over 5000. you’ve all heard of the 10,000 steps thing, right?  i’m pretty sure that when i lived in vancouver i got a lot closer to 10,000 steps without even trying, because i enjoyed walking the half mile to work, and it was the path of least resistance to run errands by foot & public transportation. here, i walk around my property, or will go for a hike nearby, but never walk for transportation.

yesterday oliver (age 4.5) and i decided to have an “adventure” by walking to our weekly homeschooling gathering. we made snacks and filled up our camelbaks and ventured out to trek the 1.6 miles. we both enjoyed the stroll very much and now i’m just kind of embarrassed that after living here for more than 10 years, i’ve walked to town only one other time. and that walking a mile and a half felt like an adventure. it’s just weird that using our legs as transportation has gotten so novel. i think i might even prefer walking over biking here. because soft sand and steep hills are no problem when going by foot, we could take a more direct route, and didn’t see a car the whole way. oliver had no trouble walking the whole way on his own, and had plenty of energy left over to play hard with his friends for several hours. maybe we’ll get super ambitious and walk to the library one of these days, or the post office! look out world!

there’s a way that walking for transportation here feels like a radical act. i guess because NOBODY does it. there are a handful of people who bike, and we are generally seen as either impoverished or crazy. people seen walking are assumed to be even more impoverished and/or crazy. honestly, if i see somebody walking along the street here, my first thought is, i wonder what’s wrong? should i give them a ride? but there is something liberating in leaving the car keys in their basket and just walking out the door to go somewhere. plus we can feel super smug about the fossil fuels we aren’t burning and the long term health benefits of fresh air and exercise. holding hands and conversation is easier when walking than biking or driving too.

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my letter to caltrans

Dear CalTrans,

I am writing to request a widening of the shoulder to 4 feet on Sunburst Avenue in Joshua Tree. I am a mother of a preschooler. I live just off of Sunburst and the recent tragic death of Tim Kelly as he was cycling North on Sunburst happened less than 1 mile from my house. I believe biking is an excellent mode of transportation. It cuts down on traffic congestion, creates no fuel emissions, limits wear and tear on roads, and promotes an active, healthy lifestyle. I have invested in a mountain bike and bike trailer for my four-year-old son, and we often ride the 2 or 3 miles to play at Sunburst Park or attend Story Time at the Joshua Tree library. Every time we go anywhere on bike, we suit up with helmets, safety vests, and and a big orange flag. But even with all these precautions, I don’t feel safe riding in the road. There is simply not enough room for a car to safely pass a bike because there is no paved shoulder. I ride on the dirt shoulder going down the hill until we get to the paved bike path between the old elementary school and highway 62. But the dirt shoulder is soft sand and hard to ride on, it’s nearly impossible for me coming back up the hill pulling a 40lb kid trailer. A widened shoulder or extension of the bike path would make walking and biking between the community center and elementary school much safer, and I believe a lot more people would choose to walk or bike their kids to school if they could do so without fearing for their lives.

Thank you for your consideration of this topic, and thank you for all you already do to help our community stay safe.

Sincerely,

Maya Toccata

Joshua Tree, CA

rant: don’t assume your passionate health advice is helpful

recently i was gifted a body work session. lucky me. the session was great, and I’m super appreciative of the gift, but i won’t be going back or recommending this person to my friends, and here’s why: he (I’ll call him body worker, bw for short) assumed i was interested in his passionate opinions and aggressive advice about everything. when i first got there we had a chat about my life & stress levels, i was expecting this, and mentioned an old neck injury. when he asked about my work i mentioned homeschoolers. he asked me if i was planning to homeschool, and i said “probably.” that’s when our conversation changed directions “how are you going to deal with those vaccination nazis?” at first i didn’t know who was being referred to as nazis, families who don’t vaccinate? lawmakers? drug companies? it actually doesn’t matter to me who bw thinks are nazis. just the fact that he used that analogy to make his argument was irritating to me. take note, world, when you compare people you disagree with to nazis, i just assume you don’t have a real argument. he continued to spout anti-vaccine propaganda for a while while i sat there wondering what it had to do with my bodywork session. he used the word nazi a few more times, then settled down and we got to my session. i just assumed bw had a personal soap box about vaccinations, and let it go. as i said, the actual body work was great. after the session i felt soft and open. i thanked him and told him i especially appreciate the attention during this phase of life when I’m doing a lot of caring for others. that’s when i made the mistake of mentioning my dad having alzheimer’s. “how old is he? what drugs is he on?! you’ve got to get him away from those doctors, they’ll kill him! they’ll make him pee on himself! you can reverse alzheimer’s with the right supplements. this low-fat, high carb bullshit…” i was pretty stunned. bw hadn’t asked me who my dad’s doctors are or what his diet is like or what supplements he is taking. bw just assumed that my dad’s doctors were misguided and that it had never occurred to me or my family that supplements could be useful? the negative language and images like my dad peeing on himself felt particularly jarring right after i just said i appreciated the moment focusing on myself, as in, me, the person who came for a massage, not for advice in taking care of her dad.
the whole thing reminded me of when i was trying to get pregnant and the whole world had an opinion about what i should do. i know it was well meaning, but it mostly just upset me. but actually, i’d probably be upset if bw was spouting off advice for me personally too. for this very reason i’ve grown to be very careful about what i say to a new chiropractor, massage therapist, whatever. i’ve had too many people tell me really dumb shit that was not at all helpful (to get pregnant bury a vanilla bean with an egg in the back yard. also you have problem gonads, arthritis, parasites, and you resent your mother.) if i’m going to a massage therapist. i pretty much just want a massage. if i want advice, i promise i’ll ask.
lets try to be more mindful of people on their journeys. i think it’s generally pretty safe to assume that unless someone says, “do you have any advice for dealing with___?” that our well meaning advice and opinions are not helpful.

chestnut applesauce cake (tree cake 2.0)

you may remember last year i made damian tree cake for his birthday. this year i discovered chestnut flour. have you ever had chestnut flour? it’s so yummy! so sweet and mild! it’s a gluten-free baker’s dream. i got super excited about chestnuts after reading mark shepherd’s book, restoration agriculture. chestnuts will save the world! don’t worry, mesquite will save the world too. think of mesquite as desert chestnut… i don’t hear paleo and gluten free folks raving about chestnuts, but i’m pretty sure it won’t be long until they do. we just need a celebrity chef to make a chestnut bacon doughnut or something and next thing you know it’ll be chestnut everything in all the health food stores. right now it’s still a bit hard to find. i found some chestnut flour at whole foods, and found super affordable bags of organic peeled chestnuts at the korean market. i also found acorn flour at the korean market, which was quite the thrill, let me tell you.

so, the cake. it was so good! so so good. it was very easy to assemble, it held together well, rose nicely, had a moist crumb and great flavor. and the whole double recipe was devoured in minutes. with such wholesome ingredients, i’m thinking of making another just for snacking. sorry i didn’t take any pictures. we ate outside and the sun went down so it was too dark for my crappy phone camera.

chestnut acorn applesauce cake

adapted from fanny farmer’s applesauce cake

1/4 cup melted butter of coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut or date sugar, or honey

1 cup apple sauce

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups chestnut flour

1/2 cup acorn flour (available at asian markets)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

mix it all up, pour into a greased 9in pan and bake at 350 (in the sun oven, of course) for 40 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. top with whipped cream if desired.

productivity and parenting

i recently read a great article about the importance of morning routines on productivity. it echoes and consolidates pretty much all the advice i’ve ever heard about feeling good and getting valuable work done. i’m very much a morning person and have designed my workdays to end at 2pm because my effectiveness pretty much falls off the cliff by 3. so if i was to be my own productivity guru, i’d recommend i get up at 6, exercise, “clock in” at work, then do a bunch of home projects and be officially done with everything goal oriented by 3. the afternoon and evening would be chill, and i’d go to bed early. sounds great, the only trouble is, i have a 3 year old. maybe that’s a big excuse, but i really don’t hear much helpful advice when it comes to being productive while being a full time parent. here’s my situation, tell me what you think:

i work at my job (from a home office) 2 mornings a week while damian is officially on parenting duty. damian also takes oliver for an hour a day while i exercise (in theory this happens everyday, anyway…). the rest of the week i’m full time parent. it’s not that damian doesn’t do any parenting other times, but he mostly works (he’s a permaculture designer and musician) and cleans up after us. as you may be aware, the kind of distraction free focus that productivity experts recommend we create and guard every day is not exactly possible with a 3 year old present.

oliver generally sleeps from 10pm-6:30am and naps from 2:30-5pm. in theory, i could be productive during this nice big chunk of nap time, except that is the time of day that i am the most brain dead. i need a lot of sleep, so if i got up before oliver, i’d need to go to bed before him also, which is not possible most nights because my husband is a musician. i’ve tried napping when oliver naps in hopes of getting up crazy early, but i either can’t fall asleep to nap, or if i do nap, i can’t fall asleep at night, so i’m back to square one. i’ve tried forcing oliver not to nap, but he’s just a wreck all afternoon and is so overtired and miserable that bedtime is long and painful, and he still gets up at the same time in the morning so that extra hour in the evening doesn’t really help me.

i’d love to have productive chunks of time every morning without my kid. i often have more work than will fit into my 8 hour workweek, and i usually end up doing it during nap time or evenings, even though i’m less efficient (sorry grace). and of course there are the 50 million personal projects (like writing blog posts! and designing our chicken tractor!) that i feel like go forever without any progress whatsoever.

so, what do your mornings look like? do you have any tricks to getting anything other than parenting and a couple loads of laundry (if you’re lucky) done in a day?

Rubber ducky rant

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Oliver has a collection of rubber duckies that have come from various sources; from left to right we have Quackenbush (an army themed duck inherited from Robert Spocker), Haida Duck (a first nations themed duck from Alicia on Haida Gwai), baby ducky (Santa brought this per request in 2013), DinoDuck (dinosaur themed duck given as a prize for checking out books at the library), and ninja duck (also from Robert).
So I guess themed rubber duckies are a thing. That’s fine, I guess, but here’s the problem; not one of these ducks can float in a duck-like way (see top photo). Not even classic non-themed baby ducky! What the hell? I just really don’t understand. I had a rubber duck when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure it floated. I’m pretty sure that was the point. So all these toys are being made and nobody bothers to see if they actually function before manufacturing? Perhaps they are just for decoration. pretend toys. It’s very meta. It’s not just duckies either. Ollie has received cars that won’t roll, crayons that don’t draw, bubbles that don’t sphere. I guess it’s the idea of a toy that sells, and whether or not the toy does what you would expect is secondary.

kick, and then you glide

today marked the end of a very big project; a joshua tree session of not back to school camp. planning a big event for very free people under the age of 18 involves a lot. planning this new session as well as handling all the registrations, paperwork, and bookkeeping for the 5 other weeks of nbtsc and an alumni reunion was a lot lot. doing it all while also parenting a 3 year old, running a homestead, supporting a mother-in-law post surgery, helping to care for a 96-year-old, providing long distance care for my dad, and doing a few terrifying public speaking gigs, has combined in me being way busier than i care to be since june. don’t get me wrong, i’m not complaining about this beautiful life i lead. camp was so great! so so great! i can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was to be there with everyone again, after 6 years away. many of the staff are people whom i’ve known for 18 years now, some i’ve lived with, some i’m related to, all are very, very dear to me. and those campers! they are so f’ing great! i love them so. it was a whirlwind of beautiful, glow-in-the-dark, sparkly, bright-eyed, humble, self-aware geniuses. so yeah, camp was great. totally worth it. AND, now that it’s over, i have a sensation of slowly floating back to earth. i feel my feet on the ground and am looking around for what feels like the first time in a long time. i’m so looking forward to some down time. i’m ready to ponder chicken breeds again and plan some activities for my little waldorf group.

we sang this song at camp (i can’t find credit for it, let me know if you know who wrote it), it feels very applicable:

You kick and then you glide

You kick kick and then you glide
It’s all in the rhythm, it’s all in the rhythm
It’s all in the rhythm of the heart.

Keep breathing, it’s the most important part

Keep breathing, it’s the most important part

also, i wrote a guest post on the camp blog here.