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March 27, 2011

Picture of the week (Deer watching me)

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

I hope everyone isn’t getting tired of animal pictures from my walks at the Chagrin River Park.  I am out there quite a bit, so as you would expect I get a fair amount of pictures from there.  It is always funny when I am walking Madison through the park, so many times we will walk within 10 feet of a deer and she will never notice them.  Sometimes when we are walking past one of the deer with snort and Madison will jump right to attention and try to figure out where that deer appeared from!

If you are a Facebook user and enjoyed this picture, please click the like button at the bottom of this article.  Thank You!

March 24, 2011

Importance of positive identification of wild plants

Filed under: Outdoors,Wild Edibles — Tags: — Marcus @ 2:00 am

Last weekend I spent several hours out in the local parks walking around in the woods and field edges looking for wild edibles.  One of the first plants I found I thought was a Cutleaf Toothwart, it is an early spring plant that grows in the woods in fairly dense groups, I saw a picture online that looked just like what I was looking at out in the woods.  However with closer inspection, I found it definitely not in the Toothwart family.  Take a look at the following two pictures:

Actual Toothwort Plant (Picture from the internet)

Miss Identified Toothwort Plant (Picture I took)

Looking at the picture of the Toothwort plant I see that it is growing in a dense group, in the forest.  Also from the description I see that it is one of the first things to come up in the spring.  They are both about the same height, and they both have jagged edges.  However, when I looked up Toothwart in the Peterson Field Guide for Edible Wild Plants, there was two things that they make mention of that I didn’t see in the plant that I had found:

  1. Leaves are supposed to be in groups of three (A Trifoliolate leaf pattern), on the photo on the right, the leaves seem to be in groupings, but they are definitely not groups of three, on closer inspection I see that they are opposite (2 leaves/node).
  2. In the guide I kept seeing references to the plant being peppery, or a horseradish substitute.  I cut into the roots of the plant and crushed the leaves to smell them, I should have noticed a peppery smell, but it didn’t have any hint of that.

In the end, I went through all three of my plant identification books and I didn’t find out what my mystery plant was, that most likely points to it not being edible (though not necessarily poisonous).  I am going to stop back by in a couple weeks as I noticed it looks like it is going to flower, and I will be able to tell much more by its flowers as to what it is.

When I am working to first identify a plant, I spend quite a bit of time doing it, before I will ever try to eat it, I normally will have looked it up online in multiple places, checked my books, etc.  I want to know beyond a reasonable doubt that the plant I am looking at is truly what I think it is.  It can be difficult because the plant you are looking at out in the woods rarely ever looks like the pictures in the books, and plants look so very different at their different stages in a season.  Once I have gone through the exercise of identifying a plant, when I run across it again, I typically know almost instantly what it is, and I have confidence in my identification.  When I have learned to identify a plant, I typically know its shape, its habitat, its smell, texture, etc.

This is one of the reasons I am such an advocate of actually getting out into the woods, fields, etc and actually identifying plants, I talk to people all the time that say they are interested in wild edibles, and I find out the most they have done is read about them.  Reading is the first 10%, it is an important step, but you will never be able to go out and really know what is edible until you go plant by plant and truly identify and try it in the wild.

I have mentioned a couple times my books that I have, these are invaluable when trying to identify a plant, I like to cross reference with several things, also knowing the basic leaf patterns and shapes is critical to make sure you are comparing apples to apples (the leaf patterns was one of the red flags that spawned this article).  For a quick guide to the different leaf patterns take a look at this pdf: (http://www.fairchildgarden.org/uploads/docs/Education/teacher%20training/green%20machines/Leaf%20Classification.pdf).  Also below are the books I currently have that I use for reference:

  1. Petersons Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants – This has great descriptions, and is the gold standard on plant identification books, however almost all the plants are just pen sketches, they are very helpful, but, the plant in the outdoors doesn’t tend to be done in pen.
  2. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Bradford Angier – Not as many plants as the Petersons Field Guide, but it has color sketches (still not photo’s), and it has much more information about how to use the actual plants.
  3. Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons – Not so much an identification book, but more of a cookbook I would say, however the descriptions will help you with telling if the plant you have smells correct or has the correct texture, etc.

To close with, here is a much larger picture of the plant I miss identified, see if you can pick out how the leaves are different.  Also, when I am out in the woods, I find it helpful to take lots of pictures from different angles so that when I get back home I can use them to try and identify the plant.

Update 4/3/2011:

I haven’t stopped trying to figure out what this plant is, and I finally figured it out, this is a Pipsissewa plant, it is actually a medicinal herb that the Native Americans used to cure a great many illnesses.  To read more about it, I found a really great article on the internet with a lot of information about it: http://www.squidoo.com/pipsissewa


March 21, 2011

Picture of the week (First Spring Shoots, Grape Hyacinth’s)

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

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon walking around the different parks in Mentor.  I am out scouting where I am going to take my wild edibles group that I am starting.  It is still a bit early to find much of anything, but I probably found at least a dozen edibles and I have a couple of places that I think I can use for taking the wild edibles group.

While I was out walking, this was the first spring shoot I ran across, I am not sure what it is yet, I will probably stop back by in a couple weeks to see if I can tell then.  I think things will be turning green pretty soon, just from when I was out in the woods Saturday until I went back again on Sunday to try and confirm one of the plants I found, there were several more things coming up.

Update: 4-14-2011:

I was just back to check on these shoots tonight and I can now identify these as Grape Hyacinth’s. These particular shoots have been pretty well eaten by the local wildlife, however there are plenty more in the immediate area that still had flowers, and they were pretty easy to identify from there.

Interestingly enough, the flowers on the Grape Hyacinth are edible, I picked about a dozen of the flowers and I ate a couple of them, they do not have a lot of taste, but they were pleasant enough. In reading they say it should taste a bit like sour grapes with a bitter aftertaste. I noticed the sour taste, but they were not bitter at all, and they didn’t really have much in the way of a grape taste. I would munch on them though next time I run into them.

March 19, 2011

Marathon update (Long, long miles)

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

So the mileage continues to build, this was my schedule this week:

  • Saturday (last) – 10 Miles
  • Monday – 3 Miles
  • Tuesday – 7 Miles
  • Friday – 15 Miles

So far so good, I have had some muscle soreness, but I haven’t run into any more tendon issues.  My 15 mile run was brutal, it was a huge jump up from my last highest (10 miles), because of the injury a few weeks ago, I am trying to catch back up again.  I ended up running 10 miles, then basically walking 1/4 mile, running 3/4 mile, rinse repeat.  For most of my runs I am able to run the entire thing with no walking, however as per the training guide it is perfectly fine to walk during the runs.

I am also starting to practice drinking Gatorade while I am running as well as taking power gels every 5 miles to keep my energy level up.  The marathon book I read (Marathon the Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon) said over and over to practice using everything you will use during the run, and they will be handing out Gatorade and the power gels during the race.  I am very glad I have started using them now though, as some of the flavors upset my stomach as I am running, and I could work out all those issues now rather than during the actual race.

If anyone is interested to see the training schedule I am following, you can see it at: http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/Mar00novice.htm, I am following the “Novice 1” program, I just completed week 10 in the program.  When you look at the training days, I have mine shifted backwards one day, so the Tuesday run I do on Monday, I did this because I am gone so many weekends it was hard to fit in my long runs, by shifting it a day, I run my long runs typically on Friday.

This week I really started feeling the mileage, training for a marathon is not an impossible goal, but it is quite difficult.  It also takes a LOT of time, I knew when I looked at the schedule it would, but when I see how many hours I am spending on the treadmill I really realize how tough a schedule this really is.  It is hard to get up and around in time to get my miles in and still make it to work on time in the mornings.  I am very lucky to work for a company that if I am a bit late, its not a big deal.  For example, my 15 mile run, I was on the treadmill for about 2 hours and 45 minutes, I of course hadn’t planned on walking at all, so it took about 40 minutes longer than expected which made me late to work.

It is also interesting to see how my Polyphasic sleeping schedule works with marathon training, I have had many people ask me if I am still doing Polyphasic, and I am, well sort of.  I am still taking my naps, but I have found that I have to sleep longer at night (Currently sleeping 6 hours at night).  My normal schedule where I get 4 hours total of sleep per night works fine as long as I am not dealing with injuries, that is one of the few things where your body needs raw sleep, most of the time you are asleep is optional time, but when you are sick or have an actual injury, you need the raw hours of sleep.  Seeing that I am dealing with my body constantly having to fight inflammation and muscle soreness, I need to get more hours of sleep per night.  Once I am done with the Marathon, I will switch back to my normal Polyphasic schedule.

March 17, 2011

Made a snow popsicle

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

As I was bringing in another snowdrift down to the basement for my Aquaponics (Winter water collection system/), I had this idea, more of piece of inspired genius really.  The snow looked so good, so white, and so refreshing, as I was munching on a bit of it, I though, man this would be good with some maple syrup on it!

I was right, it was good.  We used to go to a festival every year out by Warren, PA and they had the best shaved ice I have ever had anywhere, I am not a fan of snow cones for the most part, but those were always so good.  This snow Popsicle was ever bit as good, and I would dare say it was a bit better just because it didn’t have fake flavors in it, the ingredient list consisted of #1 Snow, #2 Real Maple Syrup, #3 A spoon to attach it to.  Once I made the snowball around the spoon, I just drizzled some syrup around it, and it got sucked right into the snowball.  When I ate it, it had maple syrup taste throughout the entire ball.

I know this isn’t a totally original idea, probably been done for millenniums, I just hadn’t really thought about it until today, and its unfortunate too, because I am betting this was our last real snowfall of the year.  However, you can bet one of the first things I do next year when the snow starts falling will be to make another snow Popsicle.

Oh, and by the way, if you couldn’t tell, the dogs really REALLY thought my snow Popsicle looked delicious, if you look close at Ella (The pup on my shoulder), you will see her tongue is already out and in licking position!

March 14, 2011

Picture of the week (Last real snow)

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

So last Thursday we got hit with what Cleveland would consider a major snowfall, we got around 4-5 inches.  I am betting that this was the last real snowfall we will get this year, yeah, it might snow a bit here and there, but nothing that will really stick.

As I was driving home on Friday the trees still had a fair amount of snow sticking to them, so I decided to stop by the Chagrin River Park real quick on my way home to see how high the river was (I am itching to get my kayak out!).  As I got out of my car, I saw a group of deer down the one trail, so I followed them for a bit and got this picture.  You can’t really tell by the picture, but that is a pretty young deer, didn’t have spots, but it wasn’t much bigger than a big dog, it was running along side its mother (It actually looked like Madison when she is trotting along side me).

After I parted ways, I headed down to the river, and it looks like it would be a fun ride on my kayak, not quite yet though.  I don’t have a wetsuite or any other type of cold water gear, and I don’t think it would be smart to chance falling into the water without the proper gear, so I guess I will be waiting for a bit longer yet.

March 12, 2011

Marathon update (Back to running)

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

So the limping is over, thank goodness!  The anti-inflammatory that the doctor prescribed me was fast, within about 24 hours, my foot was done hurting.  This week I have been slowly getting my mileage back up, starting with 1 mile last Friday and working up to 4 miles this Wednesday.  If you are reading this between 8am – 9:30am, then I will most likely be out running my long run for the week (10 miles this week).

I was surprised at how much I missed running, I was starting to twitch not being able to have my morning run, I was still going into the gym and spending the same amount of time I would have been running and instead working out on the elliptical machine, however that is not much of a workout for me anymore.  A couple of nice things that came out of this injury, I am now hooked up with a great physical therapy place that has a lot of experience with runners.  That may not sound that great, but now I have a place that can monitor my running and give some feedback, they are going to help me a bit with my form and such to help prevent future injuries.  Also after meeting with them, they said I was in excellent shape overall and they cleared me to get back to my normal training schedule.

So depending on weather, hopefully this next week I will be able to try running outside again, however I am going to take it a bit easier this time, I am going to do my 3 and 4 mile runs outside to get used to running on pavement before I start trying to run the long runs again out there.  My physical therapist told me that as soon as I felt comfortable with running outside I should probably start doing short runs, as I will need all the time I have to get used to it since the Marathon is coming right up.

This last week while I was browsing through some sites reading about others that have run marathons in Vibram FiveFingers I ran across a website from Harvard University where they were highlighting the difference of running barefoot VS running in shoes, it was great to see that they had studies and research to backup the fact that running basically barefoot was in fact not bad for you, and that in most cases it is better than running using regular running shoes.  It was fascinating to watch the slow motion video’s of a runner running in shoes VS barefoot and to see how much softer overall it was on their joints.  I was also very interested to see that there is no issues with running on hard surfaces barefoot.  I know that has been one of the bigger questions people ask of me, and now I have an answer, running barefoot on pavement isn’t bad for my joints, it will just take a little bit for my body to adjust to it.  Please take some time to look around their site, especially the FAQ there, they really have some great info. (http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/index.html)

Hopefully, for my update next week I can share some really successful runs, and maybe have a picture from a gorgeous morning run!

March 10, 2011

Book review: The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

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

The omnivores dilemma is a very thought provoking book, it doesn’t contain any sensationalized yelling about how everything (and everybody) is wrong. The author doesn’t even really try and sway you to his beliefs about what we should and should not eat, he does not promote a specific diet over another, he lets his research and pure facts speak for him (There are 19 pages of just his sources for his facts).

I think the best way to into what the book is about is to present a paragraph from the back of the book:

Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? … The Omnivore’s Dilemma is changing the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

I personally don’t understand the diet fads that come about every year, one year you find out you are not supposed to eat lots of meat, the next year you find out breads are going to kill us all. All told Americans spend about $250 billion per year in diet related health costs. However (and this is my opinion), diets are simple, I don’t care how scientific or complicated or simple a diet is, it comes down to one simple equation calories consumed vs calories expended. If you consume more calories than you expend, you are going to gain weight, if you consume less, you will lose weight. The next factor to consider is your health, out of the calories you consume, how many of them are healthy? Don’t reach for the diet book you carry with you to see what is healthy. Just answer a simple question, would I recognize this food in its natural environment, or, can I pronounce the ingredients? If you can say yes to both, its probably a healthy food (and thus a non or barely processed food).

So then, if the answer as to what is healthy for us is such a simple question, why then is that not what we are eating? Marketing, because of the current growth rate of the US population, if people continue to eat exactly as they have in the past, then any companies providing food should expect about 2% growth per year, and for most business plans that is unacceptable.

An example from the book of a company trying to beat the growth curb was General Mills. General Mills started out as a simple grain mill, they quickly found out there was no real money to be made in raw materials like whole wheat flour since anyone could make that, so they turned to making enriched flour, and bleached flour, etc. In time they also found that market was to close to the raw materials to make any real money, so they turned instead to making more and more processed materials and cereals. General Mills found that dealing in raw or barely processed foods was a losers game from a marketing standpoint.

It is because of this that processed foods are marketed so heavily towards us as consumers, it is hard to differentiate between two companies selling lettuce (other than the quality of the lettuce), but when something is highly processed and sold in a box, they can market their idea’s and pretty design over the actual nutritional value of the food.

In the Omnivore’s Dilemma, the author follows four meals that represent the four main ways food gets to our table and he explains the health, financial, and political components that are associated at all the levels from the farmers growing the corn used to make high fructose corn syrup and ethanol, to the feedlots mass growing sickly cattle, to the small organic farm that can barely keep in business, not because they can’t compete in the market, but because they don’t fit the government models for business that were legislated by politicians being influenced by large industrial corporations.

In high school when we used to have to give book reports, one of the components of a book report was we had to tell who we would recommend the book to, so as not to break what must be good form in a book report/review.

I would recommend this book to anyone who eats food.

March 7, 2011

Picture of the week (Aquaponic Harvest)

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

So a couple pictures today.  The lettuce in the Aquaponics has been coming along nicely, we have been getting to have a nice salad every couple weeks out of it.  The parsley has exploded, we can’t eat it, our friends can’t eat it, and I can barely pawn it off :-).  The parsley in the second picture was a batch that I gave to our friend Rebecca when she was over this weekend.  The bread was a new recipe that I tried, and it turned out quite nicely, it was a quick bread that didn’t require any type of kneading.

March 5, 2011

Marathon Update, Ouch – Peroneal Tendonitis

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

So, first major setback since I started training for my Marathon.  It turns out I hurt my foot during the very same run I posted a picture of last week (http://www.kd8itx.com/blog/2011/02/marathon-update/).  In my excitement to get to run outside for the first time, I didn’t think things through and my first time running on pavement instead of a treadmill I ran 7 miles.  The smart thing would have been to do one of my shorter 3 mile runs outside and build up to my longer runs.

Hindsight, it turns out is still 20/20.  Anyways, I have been limping around for almost two weeks now, my foot doesn’t hurt bad, it actually doesn’t hurt at all unless I try walking more than a few hundred yards.  However, it is hard to run when your tendons are burning a bit.

After the first week of icing my foot and resting, it didn’t seem to be getting much better, so I scheduled an appointment with a local Podiatrists, I wasn’t able to get in until just this last Thursday.  It took them all of 5 minutes to confirm what I thought it was (Peroneal Tendonitis), but it was funny to watch their thought processes on how to treat it.  I had worn my Vibram FiveFinger shoes in, I wanted to make sure they were aware of what they were since they are quite different than the norm.  The doctor started saying that this was a common overuse injury and that they would just get me an insert to put into my …, as he was saying that his gaze moved to my Vibrams and his voice trailed off, then he said “Huh, I don’t think an insert would do much in those shoes”.

He conferred with another doctor, and they mentioned me switching to regular shoes for awhile, but I told them part of the point of wearing the Vibrams was to strengthen my overall foot, which they agreed it would, and after talking for a few minutes they decided that any type of support would go against what I am trying to do (strengthen my overall foot).  In the end they prescribed some anti-inflammatory medicine and then referred me to a local physical therapy office where they said most of the staff there were runners as well.

So on Tuesday I will be going in there, they are probably going to have me run on a treadmill with my Vibrams on and record my running so they can look at it in slow motion and see if there is anything in my running gait that is incorrect.  They will also probably do electronic stim and such as well to help with healing my foot (I went through this a bit over a year ago with my lower back).  Either way, I am really itching to get back to running.  You can bet one of my first questions to the physical therapist will be when I can start running again.

As for my marathon, I have not been running, but I am still going into the gym and training on an elliptical machine, it is not nearly as good as running, but it is better than nothing.  I am very much hoping that this injury doesn’t prevent me from running a full marathon, however I still have over two months before the marathon, so my chances are good at recovering and getting back to my training.  At this point my worst case scenario is that I will have to drop back to running a half marathon instead of the full one.

I should probably also note, this is not the first injury I have gotten since I started running in my Vibram FiveFingers, its just the first one I have gotten since I started the “official” training program for my marathon.  I have had small issues fairly often.  However, that is by no means proof that you need shoes with lots of support, etc.  Each injury I have gotten so far is almost like a milestone for me, it is almost like I am finding my weakest point and then I have the opportunity to strengthen that point and move on.  When I first started running I had so many aches and pains in my knees, ankles, tendons in my feet, my Achilles tendon, my arches hurting, etc.  It really is enough to discourage many people, but you have to realize what is happening, all of those aches and pains were happening right along side my feet and legs getting stronger.  By wearing shoes with so much support, our feet and legs have lost so much of its own support, that if you force them to have to support you again on their own, you will go through these same types of issues.

I can feel a definite difference since I started running in my Vibrams, my arches in my feet are higher, my calves and tendons are much stronger than they ever were, and I have noticed that my overall posture while standing, walking, and running has improved.  I very much believe that the aches and pains along the way are worth the benefits I am beginning to see.

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