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December 20, 2010

Picture of the week (Bridge at Chagrin River Park)

Filed under: Outdoors,Picture of the week — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

I went out this weekend with my camera to get some pictures around the Chagrin River Park, this park is about 2 miles from our house, and it is Madison’s favorite destination for our walks, in the summer I am here at least three times a week. The park is a beautiful place to walk around since it is not all that developed, also the Chagrin River runs right through the middle of it. If you follow the outer trails for the park its about 3 miles around (That is the normal loop for Madison and I.

This picture is of the one bridge in the park that crosses over the Chagrin River. I was surprised when I showed up Saturday Morning to see all that ice, when I was there a week ago, there wasn’t even a hint of ice anywhere there. Last week I had actually been thinking how much fun it would be to get my kayak out, since the river levels were up I could go further upstream, however it would be pretty hard to get my kayak down the river now!

December 19, 2010

Bonus Post: TimeScapes Video

Filed under: Misc — Marcus @ 11:06 am

I saw this video the other day on one of my travels through the web, I was going to email it to a couple people I thought might like it, but decided to post it here since it was so good (And the people that I was going to email it to are regular readers here anyways!).

The person that put this video together is truly skilled, I would love to learn the techniques they used to create the video!

Also a note, you might want to try watching this video in fullscreen, you can click the button that looks like 4 arrows pointing out (to the left of where it says “vimeo”).

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

December 16, 2010

Vibram FiveFingers, Frequently Asked and Asked and Asked Questions

Filed under: Running — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

I do a fair amount of weird stuff, having half my office turned into an Aquaponic system is weird, spending the better part of a week cracking/grinding/boiling acorns to make flower to make bread is weird, but people don’t know about those weird things until I make some reference to it.

However go basically anywhere wearing Vibram FiveFingers and you had better allot extra time because you are most likely going to get stopped and asked what they are.  By default, I am a hands off type of guy, the most contact I will have with most people is a handshake, however I have had several people that basically demanded to touch my feet because they wanted to see what the Vibram FiveFingers felt like.

So today, I am presenting some of the common questions I get asked about my Vibram shoes, if I miss a question you have about them, feel free to ask in the comments and I will respond to them.

#1 Don’t they feel weird?  I could never stand having something between my toes:
For the first two weeks you can expect them to feel weird, but you will get desensitized to it until they feel normal.  Think about it, as a baby when you first had the ability you probably spent half your time trying to get out of your shoes or clothes in general because they felt “weird”, but I doubt you think about it much anymore.

#2 What if you step on a rock or something else sharp?
This was one of my questions before I bought my first pair of Vibram’s, and while researching I ran across a blog article where the author mentioned that you foot already has the muscle memory to deal with it, you just never use it in regular shoes.  That seemed a bit odd, but I have now experienced it first hand, I was doing some trail running in them and I landed square on a pointed rock, before I could even thing about it my foot kind of rolled around it, I not only didn’t hurt my foot, but I barely felt it.  In general the soles of the Vibrams are thick enough you don’t feel small things (like a gravel driveway) and the bigger things you foot will react and handle on its own.

#3 How much arch support do they have?  You have to have arch support you know!
There is absolutely no arch support of any kind, and for that I am glad!  I have always been slightly flat footed, and I used to have issues with turning my ankles when I ran.  I always thought I had weak ankles, and so I always wore shoes with lots of support.  I have since learned that is the exact opposite of what I should have been doing.  If you have weak ankles, don’t baby them, work them out, strengthen them.  And the best way to do it, wear shoes with no support that will force your foot and ankles to strengthen up!  I am now running at least three times a week in my Vibrams, and I am up to 5 mile runs, and my feet and ankles have never felt stronger.

#4 What are you wearing those?
I have two main reasons, first and foremost, from my reading, wearing the Vibram’s will strengthen the muscles in my feet, ankles, and my calves, which will in turn help keep my legs and ultimately my back more in line.  Since one of my main goals this year was to work to correct my back issues, the hope that these could help was enough to try them out.  The second reason is for running, I have been trying to run for over 6 months and I just keep hurting my knees.  Within two months of starting to run in my Vibrams, I have far surpassed what I was doing in my running shoes, and I haven’t even come close to hitting a wall yet.  Almost every week at this point I am either breaking my personal speed or distance records.

#5 Those are just like some aqua shoes I saw, its probably the same thing right?
It is unbelievable how many times people have asked me if they were aqua shoes I was wearing, and no matter what I tell them, you can see in their eyes that they know the truth and that they really are just aqua shoes.  No, these are not aqua shoes, yes you can wear them in the water, but you can also run a marathon in them, try that in your run of the mill aqua shoes and report back!

#6 Are they waterproof?
Looking at them, they look like they might be waterproof, however they are not even close.  The tops of the Vibrams are a very open fabric, you feet will get wet just walking across a damp parking lot, however the open design also means that even if your feet get wet, they will dry out quickly once you get back inside.

#7 Do you wear socks in them?
No, there is a company that makes socks that will work with them, but most Vibram owners would agree that defeats the purpose of having more contact with the ground underneath you.

#8 Don’t they stink after awhile?
This is another one that it doesn’t matter what I say, I can tell the person asking me isn’t listening because they have already made up their mind.  As long as you take proper care of your Vibrams, they will not stink, for me I wash them once per week, and I rotate between my two pairs so that they have plenty of time to dry out between times of wearing them.  Most of the time my Vibrams smell like our laundry soap because they get washed so often.

#9 Aren’t your feet cold?
Your feet will get cold easier in these since there isn’t as much isolation between your feet and the ground, however, it is my belief that your feet will harden themselves against the cold with time.  However, that being said, I haven’t been wearing my Vibrams into work since it started snowing because they are very cold when you try to walk through snow drifts with them.

#10 Are you still wearing them???
Its amazing that people still ask me things like this, I get the same question all the time about my Polyphasic sleeping schedule.  Let me save you from the waste of time asking this over and over.  Yes, I am still wearing these, and unless something better comes along, I will continue to wear these indefinitely.

#11 You actually wear those in public?
I will wear them basically anywhere, I wear them to work every day (except in the snow), I wear them to the grocery store.  They don’t seem to go with my dress outfits, but besides that, you will see me wearing them most times I am out and about.

December 13, 2010

Picture of the day (Aquaponic Quarantine Tank)

Filed under: Aquaponics,Picture of the week — Tags: , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had setup a quarantine tank for my Aquaponics and it seems I never posted a picture of it.  As you can see its nothing special, a very simple design.  In the picture you can see two tanks, the one on the right is my quarantine tank and I built a small grow bed out of a 5 gallon bucket where I am growing some mint.  I intend to add three more 5 gallon buckets, most likely all running out of the quarantine tank.  The tank on the left is one I store water in to refill the two regular fish tanks with.  Since I am now using rainwater to refill my tanks (and its winter here now), I don’t want to bring in freezing cold water and add it directly to the fish tanks, instead I put it in the tank to the left and let it sit at least a day to get it to the exact temperature of the regular tanks.

December 9, 2010

Making hard cider

Filed under: Food — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

I love making hard cider, ever since I was a kid whenever we would make fresh cider, I always like to leave mine out on the counter for about a week or so to let it get fizzy (Meagan calls it fuzzy!).  In the last three years I have gotten a fair bit more serious about my hard cider.

A bit of history about hard cider.  Hard cider has been around for quite a few centuries, if you had been around in the 1600’s – 1700’s in early America you certainly would have been drinking hard cider, in fact John Adams, the second president of the US was known for having a mug of hard cider for breakfast to soothe his stomach.  Also the legendary Johnny Appleseed and the trees he planted were used in hard cider production.  In the early years of the US, almost every plantation would have their own orchard that was dedicated to growing apples to be used for making hard cider.

If you are interested in more of the history of hard cider in the US, check out http://www.essortment.com/all/hardapplecider_rxvs.htm

Hard cider is a very simple drink to make, basically get some fresh cider from the kid selling along the road in the fall, put it in a container with an airlock and let it sit for a month, and enjoy!  That is how I started, but I quickly learned that it didn’t taste all that good.  I started looking up how other people make it and found there is a pretty wide range of hard cider drinks that can be made, the recipes and methods can be as simple as the one I just shared, up to complex ones that will yield drinks that are as potent as whiskey!

For my purposes I didn’t have any interest in the alcohol content and since I am into the whole wild edibles and wilderness survival thing, I really wanted to replicate a cider that would have been made in early America (and most likely the same that was made a millennium ago).  I have come to find out that making cider using the older methods is more of an art than a science.  Any commercial hard cider you will find will start out by pasteurizing their cider and using very specific strains of yeast to yield the exact taste they are looking for.  With my process, I rely on the natural yeast that is present in the skins of the apple and because of this, every batch of hard cider turns out differently (or even goes bad if the bacteria balance is incorrect).

I am coming to learn the importance of the temperature the cider is at while it is brewing, how transferring the cider from bottle to bottle during the process (to get rid of the dead yeast that sinks to the bottom) is of utmost importance, and I am now experimenting with infusing the cider with other things such as vanilla beans or Cinnamon sticks.  While my first attempts at making cider were not something that you would want to try, my more recent attempts have been quite tasty.

I don’t think I will ever have a final “This is how you do it” guide to making hard cider, as I think I will continually improve on my process, but please check out a new page I have on the main site here where I have much more details on my actual process of making hard cider.


December 6, 2010

Picture of the week (Christmas Tree)

Filed under: Dogs,Picture of the week — Tags: , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

We spent some time getting the Christmas tree and all of our other decorations up this weekend. Once again we elected to put up the smaller 4 foot because we are afraid that if we put up a full size tree (that Madison could reach) this picture would end up being the “before” picture with the after picture showing ornaments strewn all over the room and a really happy puppy sitting in the middle of the mess!

Since we are pretty well heading into the Christmas season at this point, I hope you all have a great December, and don’t let the holiday stress (or food) get you!

December 2, 2010

Running in my Vibram Fivefingers

Filed under: Running — Tags: , , — Marcus @ 2:00 am

One of the initial reasons I purchased the Vibram Fivefingers was because I wanted to try running in them.  Yes they are cool just to wear around, and I love walking through the woods and kayaking with them, but I want to be able to run with them.

I have been training to run off and on for the last probably 6-9 months, however it has been very sporadic because I have either been too sore or my knee would be hurting.  Most of the time, I would only be able to run once per week, and then I would barely be able to walk after that.

Enter my Vibram Fivefingers, I had to wait for over a month from when I purchased them before I could start running (Hurt my knee the first of September), but once I was cleared from my Chiropractor and started running, I knew immediately these shoes were going to make a difference in my running.

As per my Chiropractors advice, he wanted me to start off slow after hurting my knee and start off with much shorter distances, he didn’t want me to go more than half a mile, but I talked him into a mile for the starting amount, then he said I could add half a mile a week until I could build back up to my original distance (3 miles).  His advice turned out to be solid a couple ways, one I didn’t hurt my knee immediately again and secondly, it took a full 2 months for my legs to start getting used to running in the Vibram Fivefingers.

My normal run consists of 5 minutes walking, then running at the predetermined speed for the distance I have planned for the day, then cooling down by walking for half a mile, then I finish up by stretching out my legs.  As I started running in my Vibram’s, when I would get done running (even when I was just doing the mile), my Achilles tendon was just killing me, and my calf muscles would be twitching they were so tired, plus add in that I could barely walk because the arches on my foot hurt so bad.

It turns out I had to adjust to my Vibram’s twice, first was two weeks of my joints and such hurting just from wearing them (I discussed this in my last blog article), then my muscles really had to get up to speed to be able to run in the Vibram’s.

How about some results?  Well for starters, I just broke my 3 mile running record, well more like shattered I would say.  My previous record for running 3 miles was 24:59 and I didn’t know how I would ever beat it, however on Sunday I ran 3 miles in 23:15 shaving 1:44 off my record time.

I am still dealing with different sore muscles and my arches hurting immediately after running, but it has gotten MUCH better, the miles are coming much easier, and starting next week I am going to start pushing past 3 miles which was a barrier I could never make it past in regular running shoes it seemed.  Also, I now get to the end of my run in the morning and think to myself that I probably could have run a few more miles and not been too tired, where before, I would almost collapse at the end of my run.  I have also been able to run 3 times a week without having many issues with soreness and such.

I am training to do the Cleveland Marathon on May 15’th, though the 18 week training schedule I found online doesn’t start until the first week of January, I have already started, I want to make sure I am in good enough shape to keep up with the training schedule as I don’t want to risk hurting my knee again.

Sorry for having no pictures for the post today, I run in the gym each day, and I am not sure they would appreciate me taking pictures while in there (plus the fact I run in one of the movie theaters they have so its pretty dark to take pictures anyways.

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