Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rain !!!

There were very isolated bands of T-storms yesterday. We got maybe an inch of rain here in central San Antonio, but a friend in north San Antonio said they only got a few sprinkles there.

Today there were wider bands of showers. No violent storms around here, but enough good, steady rain to saturate the ground.

I took my camera into the back garden yesterday and found a few pretty things to photograph. The rose bushes are in full bloom, which would be gorgeous if they were larger. They're still quite small, though. It's been all they can do to stay alive over the summer. They haven't had the resources to add much size. I grew most of the rose bushes from cuttings started spring before last. I bought a couple from the Antique Rose Emporium.

Friday, September 9, 2011


I came to the country today. I already knew my travel trailer and barn would be OK, because I had talked to a neighbor, but I was not sure about the sandhill woods between Delhi and McMahan. As it turned out, the fire did not reach my land. There are many dead trees and shrubs, still sitting there waiting for the next fire.

The weather has turned very hot again after a few days with highs in the low 90's F. Nothing like the hot weather of a couple of weeks ago, though. The thermometer under the shade of the barn says 35.5C. Bull nettle seeds are the only things I can find to eat here today. I'm awfully glad I can go to stores to buy food.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Healthy Diet

Our adopted stray cat, Edith, has just given birth to three lovely kittens. One has spots, like the mother. I think Edith is part Bengal or Egyptian Mau.

I'd forgotten how good I feel when I consume a berry-roots-nut-meat-fish kind of diet. I don't know why I stray from it. I guess the smell of hot grease is just too enticing. What usually happens is that I go to a restaurant and eat unhealthy stuff, assuming that one unhealthy meal isn't going to hurt me. But I can't stop at just one unhealthy meal. I go maybe two days, then I have do it again. My love for Tex-Mex food is one of my greatest weaknesses. Sounds like the tale of a drug or alcohol addict, doesn't it?

I bought grass-fed beef at the store, but one never knows for sure exactly what that means. It's quite misleading to refer to feedlot-finished beef as grass-fed, but people do it. I prefer to buy 1/4 steer at a time from someone I know, but the calf I was supposed to get this year died in an accident (got stuck in mud and broke a leg) and had to be slaughtered early.

I've personally known 2 people and heard of others who were sent home to die, because there was no known medical treatment for their conditions (one had an advanced case of Crohn's Disease). After switching to a diet that included no feed-lot finished beef, they got well. This is certainly not scientific evidence, but it gives one pause.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Tasty Snack - Peanut Butter & Broccoli


Some broccoli florets, or sliced stems
A glob of peanut butter

Put the glob of peanut butter and the raw broccoli on a plate. Dip the broccoli in the peanut butter. Eat.

Preparation time: 3 minutes or less

I know this probably sounds like a weird food combination, but it's surprisingly good.

The Paleolithic Diet Again

The first time I ever needed to lose some weight coincided with my discovery of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's  Gulag Archipelago. The author writes quite a bit on the topic of food (or lack thereof) in Soviet prison camps during the 1930's, 40's and early 50's. Prisoners were expected to do work that burned many calories each day but were fed only small amounts of bread and watery soup. Under such circumstances, a potato, even a rotten one, was worth fighting for.

I tend to become deeply emotionally involved in books I'm reading, especially if the writing is vivid. After the unsettling experience of reading Solzhenitsyn's descriptions of putting in a long day of heavy physical labor and being given watery cabbage soup and a small hunk of bread, I could sit down to a meal of broccoli and lean meat and feel very, very lucky. Now and then I might walk past a restaurant and feel deprived. I vividly remember walking past Trudy's on W. 30th in Austin one wintery afternoon, smelling the enticing fragrance of warm Tex-Mex fare with longing. I had to remind myself: "That's not for the likes of me." But most of the time, I was happy with my low-cal meals, because they were so much better than the prison camp food I was reading about.

The Gulag Archipelago consists of three rather thick volumes. I was a grad student and also working during the period when I was reading it. There was not much time for extra-curricular reading, so it took quite a while to read all three volumes, long enough to lose 20 pounds or so.

I've used the Gulag method of weight loss a few times since then. I have read about many situations in which people did not have enough to eat -- people in prisons, people who were shipwrecked, people who were lost in the woods or whose plane crashed into a remote area. Please understand, I do not mean to make light of anyone's suffering. I have been deeply moved by these books, especially the ones about innocent people being imprisoned and starved. I am inspired by these people. Their strength in surviving their ordeals gives me the strength to get through a few weeks of a healthy calorie-restricted diet, even though my body figuratively cries out for carbohydrates.

So now the time has come again when I need to lose some weight. I am reading Alexander Dolgun's Story: An American in the Gulag and listening to an audio version of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Alex Dolgun's American father went to Moscow to work as an engineer during the depression of the 1930's. Dolgun, in his early 20's, was working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow when he was arrested. He spent the following eight years in closed prisons and prison camps and was in the general amnesty after Stalin's death. 

Louis Zampirini was an Olympic runner who became a bombdier in World War II. His plane went down in the Pacific Ocean, and after spending 47 days on a raft, he was picked up by Japanese and held in various prison camps from 1943 until the war ended in 1945.

This time around, after reading Michael Rose's blog I am doing a modified Paleolithic diet. I intend to eat lots of berries and nuts and roots and meat. No refined carbohydrates. Only small amounts of whole grains. My goal is not only to lose 10 pounds, but, more importantly, to get rid of the round belly I've grown over the last several years. I hate the way it looks, and I've read that carrying around abdominal fat is unhealthy. So far, losing weight has not helped much with the belly. A year or so ago, I went from 170 pounds down to 142 and thinned down everywhere except for the belly. I've remained at 142 but would like to return to my young-adult weight of 132. 

It will be interesting to see if the modified Paleo diet helps. The reason I refer to it as modified rather than strict is that I plan to eat a little yogurt and cheese, and possibly some milk and ice cream (I like to blend berries with yogurt and a bit of ice cream), and also olive oil and condiments such as vinegar. I'm close to 100% sure I'll lose weight on the diet. Since I've already dropped 28 pounds last year, I know it can be done. If I still have the belly when I get down to my desired weight of 132, I'll try a strict Paleo diet and see if it helps. I also exercise, of course -- working in the garden, pedaling a stationary bike, and doing Pilates mat exercises.

So here's my first meal of the diet: Salmon cooked in olive oil with chopped garlic and fresh basil and parsley (from the garden) and sliced tomatoes with oil & vinegar. Lemon juice sqeezed over all. It was delicious. The basil leaves were surprisingly wonderful. I threw them into the oil in which the fish was cooking, and they came out crispy. 

I can't truthfully say I'm not a little hungry, but it's certainly not unbearable.


The satellite maps show evidence of the work of the fire fighters. There were flame icons on the map, indicating that the fire had crossed the 3000 acre pasture and was in the woods just SE of Altamira, only a couple hundred yards away. Then a long, straight cloud image showed up, and the flame icons disappeared.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wildfires in Central Texas

I am in San Antonio at the moment, watching (via satellite) the relentless advance of the wildfire that was burning in the Bastrop area yesterday. It is now less than one pasture away from my land. The pasture separating the fire from my land is 3000 acres that was planted in Bermuda grass with only a few trees. I hoped that maybe the relatively wide expanse with not very much fuel might have stopped the fire, but it doesn't look as though that's going to happen. I heard that the fire easily jumped  Colorado River in Bastrop County.

None of my domestic animals are on the land at the moment. There's furniture and stuff I'll be sad to lose, and most of my books. My cute little travel trailer, and the pole barn and the 3/4 ton Ford pickup and the pump house and pressure tanks. But I can live well without these things. I guess the old oak and hickory trees will be the saddest loss.

My losses are nothing compared to the losses of my friends who live there and who will lose their homes and livlihoods.

It's weird to think back to two days ago when I was last at my land. Sometimes, I stop for a moment as I"m about the close the door and walk away and think, "Goodbye, little house." I didn't do that when I left Saturday. I was in a hurry to get to Lockhart to take care of some work I needed to do there. It never occurred to me that it might be the last time I'd ever see my cozy little trailer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Texas Drought Continues, Despite Rain and Floods Elsewhere


"The year 2011 continues the recent trend of being much warmer than the historical precipitation-temperature relationship would indicate, although with no previous points so dry it’s hard to say exactly what history would say about a summer such as this one.  Except that this summer is way beyond the previous envelope of summer temperature and precipitation."

In the city, there are dead shrubs, and even a few large trees that have not been able to withstand the desert-like conditions. In the country, corn and even milo crops are brown and shriveled. Many farmers have plowed everything under, and the fields are just sitting there, waiting for wind to blow the soil away. It's pointless to plant winter wheat with no rain. Pastures, like many of the front yards in the cities, are bare soil with a few tufts of dead grass. Most of the cattle are gone. Ranchers with the means to move their breeding stock to other parts of the country did so. Some are importing hay from states such as Montana. But many ranchers have sent even their breeding stock to slaughter, beause they could not afford to keep them alive.

Former ponds are now dry depressions lined with cracked clay like shards of broken pottery. Creek and river beds are dry. Even large lakes have been reduced by evaporation to less than half their former volume. 
Rain will show up in the 7-day forecast from time to time, but the meteorologists have to revise the forecast later to 0 precip.

There is one very small bright spot in all this: the drought has been so severe that it even seems to be affecting the grasshopper population.  If the grasshopper population is low at the time of year when they lay eggs, the population next year will be relatively low.