On the road.

On the road.
Here goes nothing

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I love thunderstorms. Doesn't everyone?

Perhaps it was my sheer ignorance as a kid, but I don’t think thunderstorms ever really scared me. This is, assuming the fact I was safe inside the house, of course. Storms rarely ever came around Stevinson, so naturally they became an object of my fascination. Thunderstorms carry some great memories for me. Right now, a storm is brewing outside. This is why I’m sitting on my small balcony for the first time since I arrived in Wisconsin. I’m sure the folks passing by in cars think I’m crazy, but sitting inside just wasn’t doing the storm justice. Besides, the storm makes me happy and makes me miss my family a little less. Allow me to explain. 

As a kid, whenever we’d spot lightning, whoever was in the house would gather to watch the storm from the window with the best view. I can even remember waking up in the middle of the night to watch a stunning light show with Mom. But the best part of a thunderstorm was a power outage. This would typically happen a couple times a year and we’d all gather in the living room, turn on the kerosene lamps (which Mom kept on hand and ready) and spend time as a family. Granted, we always spent evenings as a family, but something about adding sensory deprivation to the mix made it much more special.

If the storm hit before dinnertime, and the call to the electric company determined the power would be out for some time, Mom or Dad would run into town and pick up food, usually Chinese. I of course, being the finicky eater I was as a kid, usually stuck to something bland, like a jelly sandwich (still not a peanut butter fan). After dinner, our options were to play cards, break out a board game or read. Since these evenings actually turned out to be fun, Kristen and I would ask Mom and Dad if we could “play” power outage on purpose from time to time.

Power outages did carry their fair share of inconveniences, of course. For instance, since our water supply ran off an electric well, we wouldn’t have water when the power went out. This meant no showers or running the tap. If power went out at the dairy in addition to the house, we’d have to go start the generator and pray that it was in proper condition to power the milk parlor, otherwise Dad would be at the dairy until it was fixed or the power came back on. This task could take all night, and did on a few occasions. Selfishly, I didn’t want him to miss family time, of course, so I always prayed the generator was in proper working order.

News outlets are calling this summer one of the driest ones on record. Farmers, and the crops they grow, are suffering all across the country. Growing up on a farm, and knowing how important the corn crop is, it’s hard not to be physically ill when driving down the road and witnessing the damage first hand. We are only feeling the beginning effects of this drought. There will eventually be a trickle through the industry and on to consumers. We certainly haven’t seen the last effects of this drought.

I know rain is in the thoughts and prayers of many people right now—it’s certainly in mine—and I can’t help but count this storm as a response, no matter how what the final measure on the rain gauge may be. I know this drought is far from over, but a little rain has a funny way of renewing hope and revitalizing us. Let’s just pray more rain comes. Not just here, but for all the farmers feeling the effects of this dry spell. I'll also be praying for a little bit of safe thunder and lightning to accompany.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Keep on keepin' on...

It’s day three of the road trip. The family is faring well and despite some light nagging and sarcasm. Ready for a recap? 

The first night we stopped in Evanston, Wyoming. I believe each life experience offers a morsel of knowledge. What did I learn in Evanston, you ask? I learned to not take the concierge's restaurant suggestion when said restaurant happens to share a parking lot with the hotel. Our first sign should have been that their half of the parking lot was inexplicably empty. The hotel was likely getting some sort of profit for directing poor, unsuspecting guests into the wrath of this “restaurant.” I should have checked Yelp before we went to dinner. I’m certain the comments would likely have included the following:

“Take off your shoe and simmer for 45 minutes. With ketchup, this will prove to be a better meal.”

“Hope you like playing hockey, the bread will serve as a nice puck.”

“Do not eat the seafood. Trust us.”

“If a dog were to consume this food, he’d quickly lick his butt to remove the taste from his mouth.”

“The only purpose this food serves is to create excrement…If it makes it that far.”

Although the neon sign above the restaurant promised steak and seafood, the seafood options were limited. Seriously limited. Your options were either fried prawns or slab of salmon. Against his better judgment, and putting faith in our waitress, Dad ordered the prawns. Doubting the integrity of the cooking, I gave him one of my dry and tasteless pork chops. Mother chose the smart choice—French Dip. It’s pretty hard to mess up French Dip. Albeit, these folks certainly made their best effort to render it inedible, but Mom was able to keep it down.

Wanting to do something about the lead balloons we just consumed, we decided to hit up the hotel gym as a family. We put in about thirty minutes of cardio, or at least enough time to watch an episode of King of Queens. Dad and Mom occupied the treadmills and I switched between the bike and elliptical. After light exercise and a cocktail, I of course had no trouble sleeping. However, the diesel motor I turn on when I fall asleep allegedly kept up Mother and Father into the wee hours of the morning.

Day two was rather uneventful. I slept a lot and prayed to stumble across a Starbucks. My prayers were answered when we pulled into York, Nebraska for the night. I was giddy and barely able to sleep, knowing I’d have a wonderful caffeinated beverage in the morning (iced coffee with two shots of espresso, two pumps of caramel and 2% milk, pah-leese!).

Getting a hotel that evening was easier said than done, however. We pulled into a nice looking hotel, which was of course full. After calling around, we found the last non-smoking room at a hotel with a wonderful aroma of mold and dog piss. At least they had HBO. We were apparently, right behind a giant storm all day, and a lot of people turned off the interstate early to snag rooms.

Dinner was served at a restaurant simply called “The Kitchen.” My annual dose of gravy was delivered on top of my roast beef dinner and the accompanying mashed potatoes. After the meal we consumed the night before, this food was a tremendous improvement. Father, however, got the short end of the stick once again, claiming his roast beef tasted like the salty armpit of Poseidon.

Day three came and went. We’re tired. We went through Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and into Wisconsin today. Just arrived in Baraboo, unloaded at the apartment, dropped off the U-Haul and checked Mom and Dad into the hotel. We’re off to have some dinner now. I’ll try to get something posted soon to update you on the Jones adventures in Baraboo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the road...

There’s really no way around it. Leaving home sucks. I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning and stumbled around the house having thoughts like, “this is the last time I’ll be in this room for a while,” and, “this is the last cup of coffee I’ll have from this pot,” or my personal favorite, “I won’t be utilizing this crapper for a while.” I then busied myself to prevent these unnecessary reflections. I’m sentimental, but it’s not like I’ll never see my home again. 

Goodbye is not a term I’m OK with. I’ve always hated goodbyes. I’ve even gone so far as to sneak out of parties to avoid the term. As far as I’m concerned, goodbye is far too final and should be reserved for family members or close friends on their deathbed. I prefer a more positive sendoff, something like, “see you soon,” or an insulting sarcastic comment. People cry when you say goodbye, and I don’t like that. If I could make people crap their pants from laughter every time I said “see you soon,” I’d be much happier about the departure. Sad memories are not good ones, so next time you don’t think you’re going to see me for a while, give me a hug and tell me a dirty joke.

I also said “see you soon” to my dogs. Yes, I talk to my dogs. If you don’t like it, you can go read someone else’s blog. But in my household, we talk to our animals. And sometimes it sounds like I’m speaking to a toddler. But my dogs are cuter and smarter than most and I’m OK with it. I gave my farewell speech to Samuel this morning (for those of you who don’t know Sam, he’s a red border collie with an insane amount of energy). We were having a moment. I was rubbing his belly, he was quiet for once, it was something special. When I finally let go of the moment, he began to lick his non-existent balls. I guess Samuel isn’t much for big sendoffs either. I need to remind my mother to set up a Skype session with just the animals.

Pulling out of the driveway, it began to hit me. All the people I won’t be seeing for quite some time, all the things I’ll miss, but then I started playing solitaire on my computer until that feeling faded. I feel better now that we’re out of town. Being sad isn’t a feeling I like, and it’s certainly counterproductive. Don’t mistake me for a cold person, I’m really going to miss everyone, I would just rather focus on positive things than dwell on the negative things associated with moving to a different state.

I’m actually excited for the adventures Wisconsin will bring. Albeit, I’m not excited for the sweat-cascading-down-your-crack humidity and the appendages-frozen-to-your-leg winters, but as a naïve Californian, I’m viewing these experiences as “fun” opportunities. Maybe I’ll get to go ice fishing.  

The good news is I won’t have much time to miss home. I’ve already got busy weeks ahead, and I’m excited to start working full-time. Thank God I have friends in Wisconsin, otherwise this move would be very scary. Oh, and plenty of wine. Mom is currently in the back seat with four cases.  

California: It’s been real. Can’t wait to see you again. I know it will be soon.
Wisconsin: I’m coming for you. Prepare. 


P.S. Isn't technology neat? Posting from the road! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A fresh perspective...

What a week it was. There were definitely some firsts for this lactose lovin' dairy kid. I learned to tolerate tofu, feast on fiber and soak up spaghetti squash. Although the smells of more traditional foods seemed more appetizing at times, I was never tempted to cheat. The audience we had along for the ride encouraged accountability, and I'm so glad to have had everyone following this adventure.

I know there will always be folks that disagree with my love of dairy products and meat, there's not much I can do to change that. What I can do is continue to share my story and at least respect the opinions I cannot change. Being an agriculturalist is more than just looking the part and following the motions. It takes true passion to rise up out of bed every morning and care for the crops and animals which comprise our livelihoods. I care so much for the animals I work with every day, and I know I'm not the only one. Agriculture always sounded to me like a term you'd see in an anthropology book. It's not that I don't like the word, but I think that this path we've chosen for ourselves is more than just culture. It's a passion. It's a love. It's a lifestyle. That's where the name of my blog comes from.

Perhaps one of the greatest things I walked away with this week is the realization that the voice which barks the loudest is not necessarily the voice of the group. It's refreshing to realize not everyone who doesn't understand you is out to get you. My humble blog posts stretched further than I imagined they could this week. To herbivores and carnivores alike. Thanks for joining, thanks for your input, thanks for your comments and thanks for your support. This is my last blog for Vegan Week, but certainly not my last blog post. Continue to follow along and share in the triumphs and tragedies of this wonderful industry and way of life.

Until Next Time,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our last video...

Thanks for sharing in our journey! Check out our last video below and stay tuned tomorrow for my last Vegan Week post.

Our last video blog

The final countdown.

I meant to post last night, but after returning from a lovely dinner with some family, I had another baby calf to take care of. I think I will nickname this one Goliath, because I just about threw out my back trying to pick him up. By my estimate, he weighed over 150 pounds and was the size of a Toyota Corolla. This monumental bundle of joy was fun to take care of, even though it was raining and cold. I didn't mind the sheeting rain so much, mostly because we've had a bit of a dry spell and any level of rain is indeed welcome.

Back to dinner with the family... I never thought I would ever visit the Natural Cafe in San Luis Obispo, and as a matter of fact, I've often scoffed at the idea. Last night, however, we decided this was the one place where we could all get something to eat. Everyone else ordered things that looked quite tasty: pesto pizza, fish, quesadillas... I ordered grilled vegetables with sauteed tofu and brown rice and a side of Moroccan Vegetable soup. While I would much rather have ordered something different, the vegetables were grilled to perfection and tasted great. The soup was the best part. I'm not sure I even took a breath while trying to shovel the entire cup into my mouth. Had I not been taught proper table etiquette as a child, I would have licked the entire bowl clean. My aunt was especially proud of my food choices, noting that as a kid I had the blandest taste buds on the face of the planet. Even cheese pizza was often too much for me. Luckily, my willingness to try new things has evolved, otherwise I would likely have perished this week.

I would by lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to a piece of meat and glass of milk. I have considered ordering a pizza at 12:01 Sunday morning, but we'll just see if a) I'm up at that hour, and b) my craving is so strong that I can't find something in my house. Stay tuned for the last remarks of this adventure. Carrie and I plan to cook dinner tonight as a last hurrah.

Vegan Week Food Diary Day 6
Vitamin water
Kettle Chips
Mike n' Ikes (the chips and candy were a gas station purchase, and my lunch)
Jelly sandwich
Grilled veggies with tofu and rice
Moroccan Vegetable Soup

By the way, crystalcattle.blogspot.com gave us a shout on her blog today, take a look!

Friday, January 20, 2012

We're in the home stretch

Today should be an interesting day in the life of a temporary vegan. Today for a dairy class, I'm going on a field trip to a dairy in the Fresno area. This means I will probably have to bring my lunch with me just in case. When I return this evening, I plan to go to dinner with some family in town and I'm positive this will be a challenging experience. I don't know where we're going, but I'm definitely not going to make them eat vegan along with me or go to a vegan restaurant. I may just have to have a green salad.

After having a wonderful Jamba Juice for dinner last night, I wasn't really in the mood for anything sweet, but Carrie had made an attempt at a vegan chocolate cake, and I felt as though I needed to taste this phenomenon. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate on chocolate anyhow, but the lack of eggs and/or butter just didn't work for me. Poor Carrie is developing a complex. Two failed cooking attempts have made her feel like she's a bad cook. She's not, but let's not tell her I said that. I want to poke fun some more.

This week hasn't been too hard. Albeit yesterday was the first day I really began craving chicken and beef. For lunch I went to retrieve some vegan chili, and the smells of campus dining made my mouth crave something with some meat in it. Don't worry folks, I don't give up that easily. I may be ordering a pizza at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning, but we're in the final stretch. There's 39 hours left. I'll live.

Thanks for coming along with the adventure, and since I didn't post last night, here's what I ate yesterday.

Vegan Food Diary Day 5
Vegan chili
Ritz crackers
Odwalla Berry GoMega
Kettle chips
Jamba Juice
Sweet potato