The unchangeable “No.”

When someone tells you, “No,”
don’t react emotionally and close control.
“No” may open up a surprising new world to you.
“No” may unexpectedly lead you to good people.
If you begin to push back against the unchangeable “No,”
you will suffer in the process and miss other opportunities.

Your boss asks you to run an errand that has little to do with your job.
Rather than getting annoyed, just do it and let it go.
Do not turn something trivial into a major source of agony
by wasting time and energy thinking about it endlessly.

*

If I had to summarize the entirety of most people’s lives in a few words,
it would be endless resistance to what is.
As we resist, we are in constant motion trying to adjust,
and yet we still remain unhappy about what is.

If I had to summarize the entirety of an enlightened person’s life in a few words,
it would be complete acceptance of what is.
As we accept what is, our minds are relaxed and composed
while the world changes rapidly around us.

Haemin Sunim 혜민스님, “The things you can see only when you slow down.”

Insightful nugget from one of the best books I’ve read (many times).

Maybe this is why I enjoy being with chickens and in nature.
Chickens are not endlessly stressing about and resisting their circumstance.
They accept and adapt. Sometimes they get pecked. But they pick themselves up and keep eating, searching for grubs, delighting in muddy puddles of rainwater to quench their thirst, roosting every night and rising the next morning, ready to start a new day without existentially wondering about ‘why’ life is an endless cycle of suffering.

There’s been frustrating challenges at work, and through the process I’ve discovered a band of great colleagues who remind me that this workplace has good, hardworking people who care. I wouldn’t have discovered this camaraderie were it not for a stress-inducing process with endless, seemingly unchangeable “No’s” coming from above. I’ve started to let it go and have been resting better.

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Discipline = Freedom

From LeBron James, “Routine and Ritual”, Train Your Mind Vol. II series on Calm.com

Ever since that time with the Walker family, I’ve always carried it with me. The desire for a routine. It’s one of the pillars of my success.

Everything in my life is planned and scheduled. I’m talking meals, meeting, workouts, naps, snacks…everything.

Two hours naps in the afternoon: planned.
Half time snack: planned.
Protein shake after the game: planned.
And I’ve got that playlist on repeat day in and day out.

It’s not what you do once or twice, it’s what you do every day.

It’s not just effort, it’s effort multiplied by consistency…year after year…that’s when I start to see my full potential.

I’ve got hectic days, flight delays…the key is to create that routine for yourself, based on what’s important to you. Based on what helps you connect and get locked in.

One of the most powerful things I can do with my time is to plan my time. Put what’s most important on my schedule and defend it. Slip into the groove of a routine and ride it. And when there’s a crisis you need to take care of, you can manage it. Or…You can say no with confidence.

Effort multiplied by consistency.

It’s discipline, not desire, that determines your destiny.

LeBron James

This is what’s keeping me going and grounded this year. 7 week streak of studying and practicing Python programming 4+ days a week, and we’re 7 full weeks into 2023. Running 2+ times a week, every week, to work my way up towards my first half marathon later this year. IT band issues be damned, I’ll do whatever physical therapy and training it takes to take care of my body and work it towards that goal. Going to bed earlier, waking up earlier so that I get my morning coding time in before anything else pulls at my attention. Saving a part of every paycheck and socking it away into retirement accounts for future, wrinkly me to live a relaxed and happy life.

Discipline and Consistency = Freedom.

Curtain Hemmer

If you asked me who am I, as in my role, title or vocation, I would tell you:

My name is Michu, Chicken Tender and a Hemmer.

I recently went to a sewing class at Cultivate South Park (an art studio above Resistencia Coffee) and the teacher, Emily, helped me remember how to use a sewing machine. I had once learned over 4 years ago. I emerged from the first class with a pair of hemmed hiking pants. After the second class I could confidently wind a bobbin and had repaired a shopping bag with button thread, now ready for another thousand grocery hauls.

There are miscellaneous projects at my home that require the precision, speed, and secure stitching of a sewing machine and not hand-sewing. One of these is a pair of curtains. They drape lightly against the floor and have visibly rough edges that were pasted with some kind of glue. My first home sewing challenge! This waited a few weeks as I didn’t have any pins. I followed the Uber Frugal Month’s recommendation to wait 72 hours before buying non-necessities…lo and behold, a few weeks later I found a mysterious tomato pin cushion deep in my sewing box. I don’t know how I have this; the pin cushion I remember from 4 years ago are at my parent’s place, and this one is different. Once I discovered this tomato I threaded up the machine, pinned the curtain hem, and pushed the foot pedal.

I’m pleased because the finished curtain hem is barely noticeable. It wouldn’t catch your eye because it looks factory-made. Which for someone with little sewing experience, is a pleasing achievement!

After that second sewing class, I felt ready to have my own machine. I scoured the used marketplace and found one from an alterations store that was closing (congrats to the owner who is retiring to a farming community on Camano Island!). I like that this Brother is mechanical and not digital (less maintenance complications) but still has a sleek and sturdy design.

It feels good to have acquired a machine for the same price I sold mine for 4 years ago.
It feels satisfying to fix things and do little improvements for my cozy home.
It feels right to buy useful, thoughtfully-planned things that are within my means (this was part of my monthly $200 ‘homestead garden’ budget).

Come on over if you have anything that needs a-hemmin’!

Recipe: Menestra a la Betty

My partner’s Peruvian mother, Betty, makes the best menestra – beans, lentils, legumes. They´re seasoned just right and she makes it consistently well. The final beans are red in color but not spicy. Here’s her recipe:

Menestra a la Betty

Para 6 porciones:
Ingredientes
Menestra – 300-340g
Cebolla
Ajos
Sal
Ají especial (ají panca molido)

Pasos en un Instapot (u olla de presión)

  1. Picar la cebolla en cuadraditos y freír en aceita por unos minutos, hasta dorar en Instapot Sautée mode.
  2. Agregar ajos picados (1-2 cucharas) y el ají especial, dorar 2 min.
  3. Agregar la menestra y cubrir con agua. Sumerge la menestra por el ancho de dos dedos.
  4. Cocinar, medium or high pressure. Frijoles 30-40 minutos, lentejas 10-15 minutos.
  5. Abre la olla, agrega sal al gusto, mezclar, y tapar de nuevo hasta la hora de servir.

Add salt AFTER the legumes have been pressure cooked. Do not add before, as it will make the beans take longer to fully cook and soften.

Poang vs Pello Ikea Chairs

For the past few years, I have placed a comfy reading chair in my favorite spot at home, usually by the window with the best light and view. This was an Ikea Pello armchair for about 2 years.

A few months ago I replaced the Pello chair with an Ikea Poang chair. Both are similar, but the Pello is about half the price of the Poang and not quite as popular. There’s not much information online comparing the two. Since I’ve had both, here are my side-by-side comparisons.

Note: I’ve removed the cushion covers on both to show the frames. The white fabric chair (left) is an adult Pello, the wood/black fabric base (right) is an adult Poang.

Differences:

  • Poang has wood horizontal bars along the back of the frame, whereas Pello does not (white canvas fabric only). This gives slightly sturdier back support on the Poang than on the Pello.
  • Poang’s base frame is slightly larger. It takes up a little more floor space.
  • Biggest visual difference: Poang’s arm rests curve up a few inches. This doesn’t seem to change any sensation when seating.
  • Poang is more customizable: It comes in several cushion colors and wood frame shades (black, dark, light wood). Currently Pello only comes with a white cushion and light birch-veneer color wood shade. Older versions can come in other shades.

Similarities:

  • Seat width/size and back angle are the same.
  • Both are compatible with the Poang footrest.
  • Both are comfortable for relaxing and reading. The back angle is sloped a little too far back for using for dining and eating.

The Poang has a more handsome look, excellent back/lumbar support, and comes in many more colors and options. It currently retails for $149 new.

Pello is simpler, great back/lumbar support but slightly less than the Pello, and limited color options for $65 new.

Both chairs are popular on used marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Search for key words like “poang” or “ikea chair”. Many sellers mistakenly post their Pello chair as a Poang. Look at the top of the armrests for Poang’s telltale upward curve or Pello’s straight edge. You can often get a used chair and footrest/ottoman for the price of a new chair alone. Fabric (non-leather) cushion covers are also fully machine washable!

Bravery is to face the foe with integrity

I learned about the 7 Grandfather teachings through the “Endaayang” workshop at the Housing First Partner’s Conference earlier this year. These teachings resonate deeply with me. They describe things I have felt since I was young but never really knew how to put them into words until now. Here they are:

  1. To cherish knowledge is to know wisdom
  2. To know peace is to know love
  3. To honor all creation is to have respect
  4. Bravery is to face the foe with integrity
  5. Honesty in facing the situation is to be brave
  6. Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of creation
  7. Truth is to know all of these things.

Remember who you are. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, but trust the process.

From The 7 Grandfather teachings as shared in The Mishomis Book by the late Edward Benton-Banai-baa.

@anishinaabemowat

The 7 Grandfather teachings as shared in The Mishomis Book by the late Edward Benton-Banai-baa. #nativetiktok #anishinaabe #indigenous #ojibwe

♬ SINGING WITH THE WOLVES – Anica

True to You

One of my favorite motivational & minimalism Youtubers, Ronald L Banks, ends each video with “And remember, stay true to you. Peace.” Learning how to be true to you is a lifelong journey, and a secret for unshakeable happiness. When we live in ways not aligned with who we are, our values, or who we want to become, it causes an internal struggle that manifests into discontentment and turmoil in career, family, relationships, and life.

I’ve seen this misalignment happen in ways such as:

  • Working a job for the prestige or pay but does not feel fulfilling
  • Attending a good or affordable school but was not the one you truly wanted
  • Being in a relationship with someone who checks all the spec boxes, but doesn’t cultivate growth, happiness and love with you

It takes some wrong turns and doing down those paths for years at a time to realize the discontentment and need for realignment. Everyone has their own values. It’s wonderful when your career, family and lifestyle are in alignment to help you cultivate these values — I’m starting to feel this is happening, and it enables to get out of bed and start each day with optimism, and wind down each evening feeling relaxed, fulfilled, and growing.

Nuggo Bum

Nuggo is my largest hen, an Ameraucana or Easter Egger queen on henopause. She is rotund. Her thick neck, hips and feet waddle from side to side when she walks. She prefers processed chicken feed over digging for live bugs and unabashedly gorges on young layer-hen mash (aka baby chick food).

Nuggo’s derriere, as of late, has been dirty. Crusty, in fact. A crusty bum with caked-on remnants of yesterday’s mash. This may be an indicator of digestive or dietary problems and is unsanitary. Something has to be done.

My helper and I hatched a plan. Catch Nuggo, hold her gently, and moisten her bum with a wet wipe. We repeated this but alas the crust did not wipe off. It was caked onto soft fruffles and wiping them vigorously could cause feathers to be plucked out.

We hatched another plan: Place her gently in a warm bath, use soap-free Summer’s Eve to rinse the affected area (soap-free is key, to avoid removing the necessary natural oils from the feathers). I used scissors to trim off a few crusty feathers for which there was no hope. We were inspired by how dog groomers begin by shaving the fur around the canine’s bum.

This multi-pronged rinse and shave procedure worked! It’s been four days and Nuggo’s bum is streak-free and squeaky clean. Her rear is like a clean clamshell of feathers. Today, she approached me and softly pecked my shoes as I watched the garden. I sense an intimacy that wasn’t there before. The bum bath brought us closer and her tush feels fresher.

“It was traumatic, but I feel better now.”

Rain Harvest

I’ve been working on a new project to collect rainwater. Call me crazy, but getting huge plastic tanks for this is a long-time dream come true. Here’s what I did:

  • Identify an appropriate spot for a 300-gallon IBC tote (a cube container with 3.5-feet long sides). It should be under a rain gutter downspout that gets good flow, and somewhat out of view to reduce the eyesore (ie do not block windows).
  • Obtain two IBC totes from Craigslist. Request delivery (these won’t fit in an SUV). Make sure they are food-grade/food-safe and did not formerly contain toxic chemicals. Water collected in these totes will be used to irrigate vegetable gardens and provide drinking water for chickens. Seller confirmed they are from a dishwashing business and are safe to use.
  • Clean the inside of an IBC tote (or ask seller to do so) with a pressure washer. Empty out the water. Make sure the spout works.
  • Obtain & use a T30 star driver bit to unscrew and remove the top two metal bars of the cage. DeWalt bits are good quality. T30 star bolts are standard on IBC totes. You can look for the letter “T” on the bolt to check.
T30 bolts on tote & T30 driver bit (largest 6-pointed star bit in most bit sets)
  • Remove plastic tote from the metal cage.
  • Set newspaper or cardboard under the plastic tote. Wear a mask to reduce inhalation of paint fumes. Paint the plastic tote so that it is opaque, which will inhibit algae growth. Look for lighter areas & thoroughly coat with paint until light doesn’t shine through. Using “Rustoleum Comfort Grip” or a similar product is optional but makes extended spray paint sessions significantly more comfortable for the hands.

    I used 3 spray paint cans of “Rustoleum 2x Satin Finish” in color Colonial Red to fully coat one tote, and the red color will make the tote blend in slightly with the red brick of the house. I also got the same spray paint in “Claret Wine” (a slightly darker, purpler tone) for the second tote. This one requires 5 cans to fully coat. Who knew some colors take more quantity to cover a surface than others.
  • Let the opaque painted tote cure and dry under a covered, sheltered area for 3-4 days. The longer the better.
  • Set up cinder blocks around the base of the IBC tote’s designated location. 6 blocks set edgewise (so holes are facing up, not the sides) sufficiently form the perimeter. The IBC tote spout is very low so raising it up on blocks will give height clearance to fill a jug and let water flow down hose by gravity better.
  • Insert plastic tote inside of tote cage. Set up tote on top of cinder blocks. Even with 2 people, the tote is heavy!
  • Cut wire mesh screen (the kind used for window screens) and place over the top opening of the tote. Cut a little bigger than needed. Secure with the ring-lid or bands. This screen is fine enough for most debris, and mosquitos cannot enter through the holes and lay eggs in the collected water. (The biggest enemy will be algae. An occasional pressure wash inside will help).
The screen would be better under the black cap, not temporarily secured with rubber bands which will get brittle from the summer sun. The black cap was too tight to unscrew for the time being.
  • Set up rain gutter downspout to flow into the tank through the screen. Pour a jug of water down the spout to test that the downspout is positioned well, secure, and water flows into the screen.
  • Set up an overflow system in case the tote fills up. For example, drill a ~1″ hole on the side, near the top, with a hose through this hole that goes out several feet away from the home and foundation.
  • The IBC spigot is very large and does not fit standard hoses. Set up a coupler and standard hose-size brass spigot.
  • Enjoy collecting and using rainwater! It’s better than city-treated water for watering plants because it has dissolved oxygen and is not treated with chemicals like chlorine and fluoride. This is better for the garden. Total cost including tools was about ~$336 and there are city rebates available. After the initial set up, it also means a free supply of water!
Rainbow after a downpour. Fort Knox Chicken Box in construction in the background.

Nuggies

Before I met my hens, I decided that one would be named Nugget. The most golden-brown one of the flock was a natural fit. I later realized she is the alpha-hen: Top of the pecking order, grunts when someone gets too close while she’s eating, and is by far the largest, fattest, and grandest of them all. She quickly teaches hens their place and hers. Her walk is a sort of waddle, perhaps due to her grandiose size. I started to feel another name arise: Big Nugget, who is now Nuggo.

The Trader Joe’s “Incredi-Sauce” sign reminds me that a more endearing version of “Nugget” exists. Nuggo…how do you feel about “Nuggies”?