Lean Gardening

The photo above was from my first roll of home-processed color film last year, and I’m looking forward to the summer this year.  Even though this was a mild winter, I am realizing as the first good weekends of spring roll around that once again i struggled with some version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – the Winter Blues.   I have got to find a way to combat the feelings of “Blah!” during the winter.

As i wrote about last June, this happens to me every year.   Common themes:  I take less photos, I’m less active, I drink too much and watch soccer, movies, and listen to music instead of being active.   But after a couple weekends of being outside and working in the yard and playing golf, I’m feeling refreshed and motivated.   Ironic that it happened right around Easter, the season of renewal and rebirth.

One of the things that has me outside this spring is another attempt at gardening.  The first couple years we lived in this house, we planted tomatoes and peppers, but the chipmunks and deer enjoyed them more than we did.  The deer also devoured most of our ornamental flowers as well, including deer-resistant plants like rhododendron.

Last year, I was finally able to deter the deer in the yard, and I made progress on the chipmunks and will continue that battle, so I decided to give gardening another attempt.  A deciding factor was the price of certain greens last year.  For example, I really like rapini, or broccoli rabe.  It was selling for $7 a bunch last year, and the quality of the flavor was disappointing.  So why not try to grow my own?

I didn’t want to put in a garden plot, I don’t have a roto-tiller, and I don’t like pulling weeds.  So I started applying my Lean process-improvement mindset to having a vegetable garden.  I remembered having a book years ago called Square Foot Gardening, so I tracked down a new copy.  After reading through the book, I believe that Square Foot Gardening, or SFG, could accurately be described as Lean Gardening.

SFG uses 80% less space, has little to no weeds, and allows you to grow a lot more types of plants in that smaller space.    As Mrs. Outspoken and I started discussing what plants we’d want to grow, I had a very long list of candidates.  So we ranked them from 1 to 5 in priority, and planted all of the top priority plants, either hers or mine (otherwise, beets and radishes wouldn’t have made the cut), and then planted the top scoring remaining plants.

When all was said and done, there were 31 seed packets on the dining room table.   “You’re never going to have room for all those” was the Mrs.’ response.  But that’s the amazing thing about SFG – not only do we have the space, I already had it planned out, and we probably have 2-3 years worth of seeds.

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My dining room – in garden planting mode

We installed one  3’x6’x14″ and two 2’x12’x7″ raised beds.  Those beds provide us the opportunity to plant 66 squares, with each square possible of providing three harvests per year.  So after laying out our plants, I had room for eight additional plants, which will be comprised of tomatoes and herbs.   Here’s what our garden layout looks like on paper:

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I planted 14 squares in a little over an hour last Sunday morning, and five more on Monday night.  Of those 14, I think 11 have a second square to be planted, but I want to stagger those so the crops ripen in a staggered fashion.  For example, there are 16 carrots in a square, and I plan to plant 3 varieties of carrots, 2 squares each.   If I planted all of them this weekend, they would likely all be ready around the same time.   I wouldn’t need 96 carrots at one time!

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Our Raised beds for Square Foot Gardening

This is also very Lean in it’s concept: produce only what is needed when it is needed.  So I planted three squares to start with, but then will plant one square per week of carrots for the next three weeks.  Even that may be too much, but I’m just in my first “do” phase of this round of gardening.  I’ll check the results and make adjustments as needed.

Likewise, I’ll be staggering the beets.  I’m the only one who eats them, so having 4 squares of beets, each producing 9 beets, becoming ready for harvest simultaneously makes no sense.  But this is how we’ve traditionally planted gardens.   Part of that is probably because way back in the old days, people canned all the excess.   So having waves of crops ripen actually smoothed out the canning process, because you needed some volume of veggies to can, and also, everything was getting canned, so it probably made sense to just keep the harvest flowing to maximize the canning process.

An interesting part of this was that it seems like the hardest and most time consuming aspect so far – other than perhaps deciding what to plant and where to buy my seeds (the whole “Plan” part of Lean and PDCA), was the actual process of preparing the soil.   I also find this interesting, because in real life we often don’t spend enough time preparing the soil – preparing for change and growth.  In Lean, this is often referred to as “nemawashi” – which literally translates to “going around the roots”, as in placing new soil around the roots of a plant to prepare it for transplanting.  Mixing up 42 cubic feet of peat moss, vermiculite, and 5 different compost blends took me all of three hours, and a lot of sweat.  That’s after probably 5-6 hours of rounding up all the ingredients.

The soil mixture I was using – which is defined in the SFG book as “Mel’s Mix” – is apparently so uncommon in my area, that I had to special order the vermiculite.  Anywhere I asked for it, when the asked me what i was doing, tried to steer me to “something that will work great” – but they didn’t stock what i wanted.  Lack of demand or too large of a minimum buy (which translates back to lack of demand) was the primary reason.

So I’ve spent weeks planning and thinking about how to do this project.  Probably a couple days  actually building the foundations of the garden – the raised beds and the soil.  I’ll spend what appears to be hours planting seeds.  Then I’ll spend probably an equal amount of hours building trellises to support the plants once they’re growing.  All to reap a semi-continuous harvest of organic vegetables well into fall – if all goes well.

Five days later: We had our first sprouts!  Radishes, Rapini, Mizuna, and Arugula all started pushing through!  It may sound silly, but I was really excited to see my first “crops” start growing!

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And the great thing is – most of the hard work done to lay the foundation this year makes next spring’s garden even easier.  I see applying Lean in my workplace, and in my life, in much the same light.  Do the hard work up front, do it right, and there’s a steady stream of rewards.  Prepare the soil, then as the work progresses, build a support system to continue the growth.  After all the hard work, you just need to keep up with the harvest and sustain, at least until it’s time to make another improvement.

So do the right thing early in the process; do the hard work, and prepare the soil.  Have the tough discussions, and don’t settle for the easier, more readily available alternatives.  Be different, and dare to be great.

In work, life, and love, getting your hands dirty and preparing the soil will usually yield a bountiful harvest.

 

 

Married Nine times…

Thinking about someone who’s been married nine times brings up a handful of mental images for me.   The first are famous people like Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor, each married eight times.  There’s King Henry VIII; but he only had six wives – and had two of theme executed. Then there’s my parents – both of them.

But while they may share a seemingly dubious distinction with numerous memorable names, my parents are different in from the others in one very key way: they’ve married each other nine times.  Every five years since they were first wed, they have renewed their vows as part of marking the milestone anniversaries.  This weekend we celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary.

This one was a small gathering of family and close family friends and was all about fun and memories.  The “she’s been married nine times!” joke was my Dad’s joke when we ran into friends at the local auction house where my Mom helps out most Saturday nights.  We joked about taking a joyride and being late for the wedding – just like they were for their first marriage in 1976.

I was asked to give the blessing before dinner, which caught me unprepared but was a bit of a personal blessing as well.  It seems I’ve done similar actions many times over my adult life, and I feel like what i say probably seems slow and measured, but it’s because I like to consider what it is we’re exactly experiencing, and how should we thank God in the process of asking for his continued Grace.  I feel like I’m waiting for the words – almost like I’m asking for words to speak.

While I don’t remember the exact things I said, it was something along these lines:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to gather today to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Sandy and Steve.   Through them you have given us an example of how we should love one another.  We thank you for this food tonight, and ask that it might nourish us the way Steve and Sandy have nourished each other.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I might have said an extra sentence or so, but honestly I was so filled with emotion that the (hopefully) brief pauses during the blessing were as much to contain emotion as it was to listen for Divine Inspiration.  After the blessing, Mrs. Outspoken joked about me practicing it on the drive down in response to others approval of what was said (completely untrue!).  It truly was a blessing to pray about such a wonderful family event, and consider the positive example they have set in today’s instant gratification society, where marriage is often thought of as something more of convenience (or inconvenience, I suppose), and probably rarely as something intended to be eternal.

I vaguely remember the 25th Anniversary of my Dad’s parents, which I think would have been in 1977.  Ultimately, they were married for 56 years before my grandfather’s death.  I was only five, and I don’t recall ever seeing any pictures, but I do remember the celebration.    It’s odd to think that I’m experiencing the same milestone next year that I remember my grandparents celebrating; I must be getting old!  While we didn’t have any young children present Saturday evening, I hope the teenagers remember this moment when things get a little rocky in their eventual marriages.  Marriage isn’t easy, but it truly is and should be a gift from God.  It takes some work, but the rewards can be great. And often a good marriage will even bless others.

Thank you Mom and Dad for being such a great example of Love and of God’s power in our lives.

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The Big Picture

I’ve been a little cranky today.  Summer’s winding down, my wife heads back to work this coming week, and it has been rainy and humid for several weeks.  One of my newest and most beloved cameras is apparently all but dead.  I had limited vacation time due to changing jobs last year.  Most of my church interactions this week were talking about religious politics.  All that has lead me to a point where I haven’t been in my best mood today.

The last week was a very busy week.  Mostly due to work-related things, but busy nonetheless.  On the vinyl front, after very few albums that skipped in the previous several months, I’ve had three this week. Two Eagles albums, and one of the Jackson 5 albums.  A bit of a disappointment.

On a positive note, I shot and developed a roll of film through the 700si.  It was a bit of a flat day light-wise, so nothing too interesting.  But the camera works great and I’m working on finding a new owner.

I also rescued a Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1 from a warehouse.  After a quick clean and a pack of Impossible Project SX-70 film, it fired right up.  I’m not a Polaroid fan, so it’s on it’s way to a new home, complete with an original accessory kit.

I’m about caught up on my C-41 and black & white developing.   In fact, the three C-41 rolls I have to develop were all shot this weekend.  Unfortunately, roll #3 started a frustrating Sunday afternoon.  Once I loaded the roll of expired Kodak Max 400, I all of a sudden started having error messages on one of my Maxxum 7’s.   It is a known issue with the model, so maybe my affair with Maxxum 7 #2 will be short lived.  The search begins for a new #2, and I’m curious how the roll of film turned out, mostly because I have no idea how it was stored all these years.

 

I also developed a roll of Tri-X 400 that I shot with the Canon FTb QL that I remember thinking “why am I shooting a sunrise with black and white film?”  Well, I’m glad I did, because the results were very nice over the course of a couple days.

Even on a bad day, when i think about the big picture, I’m still having fun.  I feel like I’m getting close to making Portra 400 my go-to film for most occasions because I’ve been shooting enough to really figure out what I like.  I’ll still have plenty of Velvia 50, but I just love the results I get from Portra 400.

Speaking of “the big picture”: In the end, no matter what happens, it’s just stuff.  The cameras, the photos, the film; whether they work out as planned or fail it’s nothing that really matters.  More importantly, it’s old stuff, which is exactly why I have more than one of my favorite cameras.  If this Maxxum 7  hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have a great excuse to keep buying them occasionally.  Plus, it’s the one that was basically free after buying the other lenses, flash, and bag.

The bottom line is we’re here to glorify God.  Bad summer weather and an electronic gadget that malfunctions are not worth the worry.   I’ll keep shooting and praise God good or bad.  I’ve had a lot of great shots this summer, and I probably need to focus on getting a few of them printed to enjoy them more.  A new camera will show up when the time is right.  Until then I’ll keep shooting with my other Maxxum 7 and maybe the Maxxum 5’s that haven’t found new homes.

To wrap up, here’s some miscellaneous photos from a few rolls of film and a few different cameras this summer- a little dog heavy, but they’re my best models when testing things out!

 

 

 

 

 

So where the flip have I been for the last year???

Good Question.  When I look at my last blog posts from 2015, I see it coincided with when I was on vacation.  Immediately before that trip, my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer.   During that trip, my wife became very ill, and those two illnesses sort of consumed our summer.  After that trip an aunt dies unexpectedly.  Then I changed jobs.  Then my wife’s grandfather died.  Then  another aunt was called home to The Lord.  After all that I was out of the habit of posting on either of my blogs.

I lost some joy in my life for a while.  I haven’t been taking many pictures.  My world travel ceased with the job change (which other than that has been an excellent move).  I took down my Lean Leadership blog.  It took my wife a while to get fully healthy again, so we hadn’t played golf for several months.  The Presbyterian church is really struggling with it’s identity and what it believes in, so I feel like I have no church right now because my wife has a long family history there.  I haven’t played guitar much at all since filling in with a local blues band last August.  I probably drank too much this winter (my wine cellar is literally void of “daily drinkers” right now) as I just sat in my man cave watching soccer and movies or listening to music.

On a positive side, we’ve made great progress on our debts via Dave Ramsey’s plan and Financial Peace University with only the mortgage left, and we’re aggressively attacking it.  We’ve led two FPU sessions, so hopefully helped a couple handfuls of families change their financial future too.  I’ve listened to a ton of vinyl, and still have a bunch more to listen to.  I got a lot of film developed from trips in early 2015 but have yet to catalog and process them.  The job is working out great, my wife is healthy, and I’m getting out of my personal funk.  I’m working on launching a new publishing line in my side hustle, so we’ll see how that goes over the next year.   I think it has the potential to be the income source during retirement, and maybe get us there just a little sooner.

So maybe my absence  was just a horrible case of the winter blues aggravated by the loss of my Grandmother.  We called her Nana, and I still miss her.  Travelling to my home town just feels weird, because she was usually my primary motivation to visit.  I’ve only been back twice in 8 months since she died.  So to Aunt Annie, Nana, Grandpa Don, and Aunt Noonie – I miss you all.

Maybe nobody noticed I wasn’t posting.  But you know what, this was helpful.  So if you read it, thank you.  Now let’s go have a great summer and live life Outspoken.

 

Photo Friday- “Song”

Remember taking finals in school?  Maybe you’re still in school and just wrapping up finals.  Last week I completed what is probably my second-best final ever:  Black & White Photography I.

Admittedly, I was a little intimidated when we received the assignment.  We had to shoot a series of images to try and capture the vibe of a song.  Which may or may not sound easy to you, but there’s a twist; we didn’t get to choose the song.  The song I was assigned was “Orange Sky” by Alexi Murdoch, and I’ve linked to a YouTube video above.  Try listening to the song as you look through the photos.

I intentionally didn’t watch a YouTube video until just now, and of course my images are very different.  My first thought was about the irony of capturing the vibe of a colorful song title in black & white.  But as I listened to the song, I felt heaviness and anguish coupled with peace.  Over the period of a couple hours of repeatedly listening to the song, I filled 5 note cards with concepts for images.

To capture this dark, dreamy song, I recruited the band members to do a night time shoot at our church and cemetery.  Stylistically, I went for slightly out of focus, blown out highlights, and multiple exposures.  For compositions, I knew I had to have scenes that somehow told a story and elicited emotion.

This was my first attempt at multiple exposures, so I did the shoot early so I had time to do a second shoot or go a different direction if the pictures didn’t turn out.  We did the shoot in about an hour, and I was very pleased with how many of the images came out like the concepts I had in my head when I developed the roll the next day.

The song goes like this:

Verse 1:

Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
Yes I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother standing by
With my brother standing by
I said, “Brother, you know you know
It’s a long road we’ve been walking on
Brother, you know it is you know it is
Such a long road we’ve been walking on.

Brothers in Christ
Brothers in Christ

Verse 2:

And I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my sister standing by
With my sister standing by
I said, “Sister, here is what I know now
Here is what I know now
Goes like this..        

Sister, Here is what I know...
Sister, Here is what I know…

In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love.”

My Salvation
My Salvation

“But sister you know I’m so weary
And you know, sister
My heart’s been broken
Sometimes, sometimes
My mind is too strong to carry on
Too strong to carry on”

Weary
Weary

“When I am alone
When I’ve thrown off the weight of this crazy stone
When I’ve lost all care for the things I own
That’s when I miss you, that’s when I miss you, that’s when I miss you
You who are my home
You who are my home
And here is what I know now
Here is what I know now

Missing you
Missing you
Windows to the past
Windows to the past

Goes like this..
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, my salvation lies
In your love, in your love, in your love”

In Your Love
In Your Love

Well I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
Yes I had a dream
I stood beneath an orange sky
With my brother and my sister standing by
With my brother and my sister standing by
With my brother and my sister standing by

Standing under an Orange Sky...
Standing under an Orange Sky…

During the class critique, most people found the images to be eerie, creepy, dark, disturbing, and very emotional.  The instructor was happy I created some very good scenes and captured the feeling of heaviness in all the images.  They weren’t “pretty” photos.  He also said he didn’t think I would have been able to create these shots 2 months ago, so that made him happy.

Hope you enjoyed it.  Probably the biggest lesson from this shoot was to plan my shots in advance and write them down.  Often I’m just shooting to test a roll or to capture memories. But when I try to shoot more intentionally and slow down so I can really focus on composition, I think writing notes either beforehand or during the process will be very beneficial.

Oh – my best final ever – brewing beer in Botany class and sharing it with the class – way back in 1991.  🙂

Do you write out your concepts or visions for composition ahead of time?  Do you think you should?  I’d like to hear some other tips on how you get the most out of your photo sessions.

Thank you for Protecting our Freedom

Thank you to all who have served
Thank you to all who have served

Today is Veteran’s Day.  Over the generations, our freedom has been paid for by those brave men and women willing to give their lives for our country and the principles for which it stands.

I am free to write today, to work where and when I want, and to worship as I choose because of the sacrifices our Veterans have made.  All of us in the United States share in that Freedom; if you know or see a veteran or active military person today, thank them.  Buy them lunch or a coffee.  Be brave enough to shed a tear of gratitude.  Try to imagine your life without your personal liberties, and then realize the debt you owe to those that fought for it and who continue to fight.

Thank you to all our current, past, and future protectors of Freedom.

Recharge Your Batteries

 

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, Brussels, Belgium

Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, Brussels, Belgium

In today’s world, most people have multiple digital devices.  Almost daily, we plug them in to recharge their batteries to prepare them for use in our lives.  For frequent travelers, battery management – knowing what device to plug in when and where – can be a critical issue.  Trying to go even part of a day with a dead phone, iPad, or laptop can be very challenging.

For the Christian, going to church should be a lot like recharging your spiritual batteries.  Sometimes I get into the discussion of  why people should go to church.  Those against it often say something along the lines of “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.  I spend my time with God by myself.”  My typical response is the burning log in a fire example; The Spirit starts the fire, but if we remove a log from the fire and let it try to burn on it’s own, the light and heat from that log eventually fades, until it isn’t burning at all.

But yesterday in church, we read from the Presbyterian Book of Order.  From section W-5.1002, we read the following:

Through worship people attend to the presence of God in
their life. From a Christian’s life in the world comes the need for
worship; in worship one sees the world in light of God’s grace;
from worship come vision and power for living in the world.

It offers an interesting twist.  Because we’re in the world, we need to worship.    It is our presence among sin in the world that causes us to need worship.  And then worship in turn prepares us to to be in the world.  The previous paragraph of the Book of Order covers the importance of both communal and personal worship, while most of section W-5 details aspects of personal worship and a later section details communal worship and ministry.

We’re all travelers in this world.  Without communal worship, we can’t act on The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).    And without communal worship, we can’t fully recharge our batteries to be prepared for God’s use in the world.  Go to church; recharge your batteries.

Be Strong.  Stand Tall.  In Faith.