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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Bottom of the Box

It is Friday, and we still have a ton of food left from our CSA this week. We ate take-out on Tuesday and I made a pizza last night, which does not use up very many vegetables. Going into the weekend, we had 9 radishes, 3 acorn squash, spinach, cauliflower, carrots, apples, and rainbow chard. As it is getting cooler outside, there is less to do on the farm, so us interns have been moved to a 4 day a week schedule. Today, the only thing I have going on is an interview for a lab tech position at UNM (I really want this job, cross your fingers!) and the first session of a 3 day yoga workshop starting this evening. My interview was 30 minutes long via skype, and so the rest of the day has been left to cook up veggies from my CSA box. I decided to make a radish/tofu cream cheese dip and acorn squash soup.  Both recipes ended up being very easy and quick, and have been some of the tastiest things I have made in a long time; I think the soup got the most enthusiastic response from Jamie my food has ever received. Jamie declared the soup as the best squash soup he ever tried and even suggested I give the recipe to his mom.

I started with the radish and tofu cream cheese spread for an early afternoon snack. I put 7 cloves of garlic in the food processor with a splash of olive oil and minced the garlic. I threw in 5 of the gorgeous easter-egg radishes we are growing at the farm, and minced those, too. Lastly, I dumped in a whole container of Trader Joe's "not cream cheese" and pulsed the processor until it was blended and creamy. The spread is actually as pretty as it is delicious. It has a light lavender color and specks of red and purple. The flavor is strong, savory, and zingy. I toasted two pieces of rye bread from Sage bakery, a local bakery that supplies bread for the CSA, and generously applied the radish spread on the toast. Jamie and I each had a slice. And then I toasted two more pieces of bread and we each had another slice. I almost wish I had a party or a potluck to go to so I could show off how simple and delicious this recipe is, but I'm also a little glad I get to keep it at home.

Next, I started work on the acorn squash soup. I based the recipe on the one showcased here:, but as always, I made some changes based on what I had available and how spicy I like my food.

My ingredient list:
3 small acorn squash
salt, pepper
olive oil
2 red gala apples, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice
2 vegetable bullion cubes
4 cups water

I used larger quantities of all the spices than in the original recipe because I really like food with bold flavors. I used the two red apples because that is what I had. I eliminated the shallot and red onion because I did not have them. Otherwise, I essentially followed the original recipe.

First, I cut the acorn squash in half, scooped out all the seeds and stringiness, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. I put foil over the baking sheet because it was suggested and I assumed the squash must leak a fair bit when they are baking, making the sheet difficult to clean (this was not actually the case, the foil could have been saved). I baked the squash for 50 min. at 400F. In the meantime, I chopped the carrots, apples, and onion and put them in a large soup pot with olive oil. When the acorn squash was done, I scraped the squash from the skin with a spoon and put it to the side. It was time for my interview at that point, so I had to take a break. Skype interviews are really hard! Even harder than I thought they would be. I was nervous and excited and feeling a little crazy after the interview, but I got back to the soup. I cooked the carrots, onion, and apples over medium heat until they started to soften and then added 4 cups of water, 2 veggie bullion cubes, all the spices, and the squash. I brought the mixture to a boil and then lowered to a simmer and held it there for about twenty minutes. I, unfortunately, do not have a sweet immersion blender, so I put the soup in my food processor in two batches. We ate the first batch for a late lunch and put the second batch in the fridge. This recipe was surprisingly quick and easy and results were really amazing. If you are wondering what to do with winter squash in your CSA box, I highly recommend this soup recipe!

I met these sweet goats at the Los Poblanos North Valley farm this week. It made me want goats of my own even more! I keep daydreaming about homemade goat feta.

Monday, October 22, 2012

First Freefall

Yesterday was a milestone in my skydiving career; when I let go of the airplane, my instructor did not have my pilot chute. Instead, when I let go of the plane, I presented a nice arch with my hips forward and my legs extended with pointed toes, but I was falling faster than I usually do because my parachute was not opening, yet. It was up to me to reach down to the handle behind my right hip and toss it underhand out and to my right. Once I did this, I returned to my arch with both arms extended out in front of me. I heard the pilot chute catch air and start to pull out the main parachute. Now everything began feeling the same as my jumps usually feel. My parachute began opening over head and my body shifted from falling belly down to hanging vertically from the parachute. I watched the chute fill up with air rather slowly and then pulled down my brakes several times to aid the end cells in opening and inflating. I took a deep breath, and thought, "I threw my own pilot chute, I fell through the air unassisted in free fall and pulled my own pilot chute. I really, actually, truly skydived."

The difference between this jump and my last was small, and huge. On my last three jumps, my instructor removed my pilot chute and then inserted a "dummy" handle where the real handle usually lives. After I let go of the airplane, I arched, then reached and pulled the dummy handle, and then returned to my arch. My chute was already opening when I started falling from the airplane, but there is a short (app. 3 sec.) free fall. Everything happened really fast and it was important for my to do my practice pull really quickly or my chute would open before I pulled and I would not pass the skill. On this most recent jump, everything went a little slower. I had more time to enjoy the falling sensation and the wind in my face; I was able to focus on my body position and pull the handle deliberately. I was nervous all over again, like it was my first jump ever, and when that chute opened I was breathing deeply with a huge smile spread across my face, enjoying the adrenaline rush. The extra seconds of free fall felt like an eternity, but an eternity that I actually wanted to last forever.

On my next two jumps I will be waiting a full ten seconds before I throw the pilot chute. These jumps will be jumps two and three in category C, and are considered "free fall jumps." I seriously cannot wait for that opportunity. Next week, I will also have my radio taken away and I will need to complete a landing pattern on my own, without help from Rudi. The thought of landing on my own scares me quite a bit, I am sure I will be full of butterflies the whole time I am at the drop zone again next week. But obviously, I am looking forward to those butterflies and hopefully succesfully completing another step towards my A-license.

In other news... I was shopping for dog food at PetSmart last week and kept being pulled towards the doggy costumes. They were on clearance and oh so tempting. I picked out a frog costume that said priced as marked, but it was not marked. It was really, really cute, but I thought that I really should not waste money on a halloween costume for my dog. I told myself that if it was less than $15, I would buy it. I brought the costume up to the register along with the huge bag of Blue Buffalo grain-free dog food, Kong Wobbler that acts as a physical puzzle and rewards the dog with treats, and a replacement green ring (one of Gnasher's favorite toys that he completely destroyed). Before having the cashier ring up the merchandise, I asked her to price check the costume. It was $12, Gnasher would be a frog. My total was $105, which made me cringe. I think I spend a little too much on that pup. When I brought home the costume, Gnash was excited to wear it and let me put it on him. As soon as it was on, his behavior changed. He kept constant physical contact with either me or Jamie, and only wanted to cuddle and nap on top of us. As soon as we took the costume off, he was running around like a maniac again. I am not sure if that means he likes it or not, but I did get some amazing pictures.

[Gnash chewed the top off of the Kong Wobbler the following day instead of figuring out how to get it to dispense treats]

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Noble Death of a Lovely Chicken

A co-worker of mine, John, used to rent an apartment from a woman that ran a herd-share. A herd-share is like a farm-share, but instead of paying a membership fee or working a couple hours a week for a box of veggies, you pay a membership or work a couple hours for fresh, local meat, milk, eggs, and cheese. The herd consisted of dairy cows, meat cow, pigs, goats, and chickens, and members get a share of some of the highest quality food products from a small scale family operation. John helped out with the animals in return for the experience and delicious food and therefore is now skilled at slaughtering and butchering as well as caring for happy farm animals. As part of my internship at the organic farm, we sometimes participate in classes on the farm and John proposed a class on chickens for us. Several of the interns (including me) are vegetarians (but for different reasons) and while we were nervous about the class, we voted that it would be a very worthwhile experience. John's friend/old landlord recently decided to downsize her herd, and donated some of the older chickens to our class. We set a date for this past Thursday, and the class was on.

I said that the interns were vegetarians for different reasons. I believe that humans are omnivores and that it is natural for us to eat meat, I just don't agree with how meat is generally produced in this country. I think that the industrial food lots and slaughter houses that supply most of the meat found in the grocery stores are disgusting and cruel. I don't eat meat from those places because I do not want to support what their operations. My abstinence from mainstream meat is something of a boycott; every dollar counts and if enough people join in they will not be able to destroy the environment with huge waste ponds full of antibiotics and hormones while being incredibly cruel to animals. Meat like that is not happy meat. But, I personally feel that meat that I or a friend obtains by hunting is happy meat and livestock that is raised properly and organically is also happy meat. It is not enough for meat to be "organic," however, and I will not eat organic meat from Whole Foods; I really need to see the animal or it needs to come from someone that I really trust and I absolutely do not trust Whole Foods. The chickens from the herd-share meet all my criteria for happy meat and to actually slaughter and clean it myself made it even more authentically aligned with my values. I was excited for this experience and excited to eat happy chicken, but also a little nervous about killing the chicken with my own hands.

On the day of the class, John brought the chickens to the farm in the same dog crate that Gnasher sleeps in. The chickens had a bed of hay and a watering contraption in their crate. They were truly beautiful chickens: two roosters and five hens. I guess I was expecting them to be the fat white chickens that you see in chicken houses being exposed  in documentaries. These chickens were all different colors and looked strong and healthy.

We set up a large pot over a propane burner and put a ladder over saw horses to hang the chickens from and allow them to bleed out. John took a big rooster from the crate by grabbing it by its legs. Once it was upside down, it calmed down quickly. He used a slip knot to hang the chicken from the ladder and let it calm down for a couple more seconds. John showed us where on the neck to cut and had each of us feel the jaw bone to make sure we understood exactly where the cut needed to be made. John killed the first bird, explaining as he went along; he was was quick, careful, and respectful, and thanked the chicken with a kiss to the cheek before making the incision. When the blood was running into the bucket, there were several full body spasms with dramatic wing flapping, and then the chicken had passed. The chicken remained hanging over the bucket to allow the rest of the blood to drain out, and it was someone else's turn to choose a chicken.

My co-worker Nick went next, followed by Jess, and then it was my turn. I chose my chicken, a smallish female with lots of personality, and took her from the crate. When I was trying to catch her feet in the crate, she kept ducking away from me and cowering in the far back corner. When I finally caught her and pulled her out, she made a crying sound that was heartbreaking. As soon as I had her upside down she calmed right down and I hung her from her foot from the ladder. John handed me the knife and I found the spot right under the jaw bone where I needed to cut. I was nervous mostly because I was worried I would not be fast and swift and I would cause the poor hen to suffer. I made the first incision quickly and blood began rushing out of the wound. It was a little shocking how warm the blood was and a little disconcerting to be covered in fresh, warm blood. The second cut was a little more difficult to make, but I was able to do it and then I held her as she hung over the bucket and bled out. It is important to hold the bird as it dies so that it does not come free as it spasms and land on the ground. It was sad to feel the life drain out of the sweet bird that had just been so animated, but I knew she had lived a good life. 

 After each of us had carefully and thoughtfully killed a bird, it was time to de-feather them. We dunked the birds in 150F water with a bit of detergent for about 2 minutes. It was important to have the water at this temperature to avoid scalding the skin and the detergent was equally important to allow the water to get beyond the oil secreted by the birds oil gland and reach the follicle. As soon as I lifted my chicken from the hot water I began bushing the feathers off against their natural grain. Most of the small feathers came off so easily it was a bit surprising. The larger feathers in the wings and tail took a little more effort but came out easily enough. The difficult part was removing feathers that had broken close to the follicle, and there were quite a bit of these on her back as she was a popular hen with the roosters. Once we removed as many feathers as was really feasible, it was time to remove the organs.

The first step was the cut off the heads and feet. To cut off the head we cut the flesh around the neck and then twisted the neck at that point until the head popped off. Then I found the joint between the foot and the leg and cut there so I was only cutting cartilage rather than bone. The next step was to remove the oil glad at the top of the tail. Apparently if this is left intact, it will make a roast chicken taste quite funky. Next, we removed the crop from the neck region. It was then time to cut into the body cavity; I cut a slit into the abdomen very carefully and cut layer by layer to be sure not to cut into the any organs. Once the cut was open, I used my fingers to widen the incision and then reach inside and loosen the connections between the entrails and the side of the body cavity. I accidentally burst the gall bladder, but it wasn't a big deal because I was not planning on saving the organs, although the neon green color was a bit startling. Once all the insides were out, I cut out the rectum, peeled out the lungs, pulled out the trachea, and my chicken was ready to be rinsed and refrigerated. One of the coolest things in pulling out the organs was finding several eggs growing and being prepared for laying. I found one in the oviduct that was a full size egg, only soft. It was amazing to see this "conveyor belt" of eggs and have a first-hand understanding of how eggs are produced in the hen's body.

Once the chicken was rinsed, I double bagged it and put it on ice. We cleaned up the feathers and the insides and the blood. We put away the ladders, and the the buckets, and the petroleum burner. John told us that the chickens needed to be refrigerated for a couple days to allow rigor mortis to pass and to let the meat cure. I was a little disappointed not to eat it right away, but also relieved that I did not need to cook it immediately. because I was exhausted by an emotional day. 

I decided to roast the chicken on Sunday when I would have enough time to not feel rushed. I found a recipe: Roasted Chicken and bought some potatoes, sweet potatoes, and some fresh sage, thyme, and oregano. I already had the lemon, olive oil, onions, garlic, and carrots the recipe calls for. Roasting a chicken was surprisingly easy. It took about 20 minutes to prepare, 1 hour 10 minutes to roast, and then 10 minutes to carve and serve. It was probably the most delicious thing I have ever cooked and took so little effort (at least for the cooking part). I completely understand why people do not want to eat vegetarian. My husband and I are both looking forward to when we have an opportunity like this again. 

Also, Gnasher was a VERY happy pup, having consumed lots of chicken; that lucky pup!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Battle of the Broccoli

My CSA pick-up day is Monday, so when Sunday rolls around only the least preferred veggies are left in the crisper. The best things are consumed on Monday and yesterday was a perfect example: we ate all the goat cheese and bok choy as soon as we got it. The spinach and mushrooms will get used on a pizza tomorrow. I have a feeling the eggplants are going to get left in the fridge until the end of the week this week. Not because there is anything wrong with eggplant, but we have eaten a lot of eggplant in the last couple weeks. Last week, the broccoli was the rejected one. So, on Sunday night it was time to eat the broccoli; if it got left until Monday when all the fresh food arrived, it would probably end up forgotten, and I really hate wasting food. 

When I eat out, I love broccoli in dishes, but when I make it at home it is generally lack luster, boring, and usually under or over cooked. I especially love garlic broccoli and tofu at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Fan Tang. And so, I decided to make Chinese style garlic broccoli and tofu over white rice. I found a recipe from Vegetarian Food that claimed it would only take 20 minutes and looked incredibly simple, and we had all the ingredients already. The recipe certainly looked like a winner, so I decided to try it. I did change it up some, however. I used: 

1 onion
5 large cloves garlic
enough olive oil to saute the onions, garlic, and broccoli
the florets of three heads of broccoli
1/2 of a block of extra firm organic sprouted tofu (not pressed, sprouted tofu is much denser than regular tofu)
2 Tablespoons of minced fresh ginger
a lot of cayenne pepper (I like things spicy)
3 tbsp of corn starch
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water

Broccoli and Tofu in Garlic Sauce Recipe

The recipe took longer than 20 minutes, probably because I obsessively clean my rice and am not a super fast vegetable chopper, but it turned out delicious. I almost feel silly for ordering this dish at Chinese restaurants my entire life and never even trying to make it at home before. The sauce is literally the same sauce you receive when ordering this out! There were no left overs...

This recipe used all the florets of my broccoli, but I was left with the stems, which looked like way too much edible food to chuck in the countertop compost container. So, I stuck them in the fridge and looked for recipes that used the broccoli stems. I found one that had a very similar feel to the first but used the stems instead: "spicy stir fried broccoli stems recipe". I thought it would be fun to follow in the footsteps of my battle of the beets piece and again compare the performance of the bottom and the top of a plant in a similar recipe. But, I also realized that the beet experiment left me eating so many quinoa beet patties in a week that I am downright sick of them. 

Instead of cooking the broccoli stems in a spicy stir-fry, I cooked them with some other veggies and tempeh. First, I sauteed a white onion and 4 large garlic cloves in coconut oil with a dash of sesame oil. Next, I added sliced summer squash, sliced broccoli stems and cubed tempeh and cooked over medium heat. When the squash was soft I added chile powder and cayenne pepper and chopped green peppers and stirred well. Then I laid bok choy on top of the other veggies and waited until it wilted before stirring it in, cooking for several more minutes and then serving. This turned out well, but the bok choy was the star of the show.

These two recipes were so different that I am not sure I can declare a true winner. The florets did a great job holding a lot of the delicious garlic sauce and the sliced stem added some needed crunch to its own recipe. I think it may be a draw: brocolli stems and florets are both pretty awesome.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2nd is the best

This morning, Jamie, our friend Alex, and I drove down to Belen to visit Skydive NM again. There was a special event at the drop zone and the club had hired a C47 or a DC3 (same thing) so that a large group of licensed skydivers could all jump at the same time. Alex was interested in jumping civilian style from a large plane, Jamie has a broken foot, and I was planning on performing my second IAD jump and completing category A, stepping a little closer to becoming a licensed skydiver myself. Now that I have visited the DZ a couple times,I am beginning to get a better understanding of sky diving culture; there is a lot of waiting around, but it is totally worth it! Unfortunately for Jamie, his whole day was waiting around, but I think that he enjoys chatting with all the skydivers and being a part of the club-like atmosphere that definitely pervades the hangers and office at the DZ.

Last time I jumped, my FJC (first jump course) instructor, Shamus, told me to give him a heads up when I was ready to do my next jump. I sent him a text earlier this week, asking if Sunday would work. He replied by letting me know about the big plane coming in, and advised me to come at about 8 so that there would be instructors available. Jamie, Alex, and I should up a little after 8. Alex signed up for the first jump load on the C47, everyone teased Jamie about breaking his foot playing frisbee instead of skydiving, and no one knew I was planning on doing my second jump that morning. But, that was totally ok; JC, an instructor, paired me up with an instructor named Jimmy while he prepped students that would be completing their first jump. Jimmy reviewed some of the basics with me and quizzed me on the sequence of events in the jump and some emergency procedures. We practiced climbing out of a parked plane again and I got strung up in the hanging harness to practice checking my canopy. The first time that I practiced cutting away and pulling my reserve, I fumbled for my cutaway handle and I asked to repeat the skill, making sure that I would be able to respond in an emergency. I was also a little rusty remembering all the new facts I had learned 3 weeks before, but after about an hour and a half, I was ready to jump again.

The DZ was kind of a mess with all the excitement of the special large plane. There were way more people than I had seen there before and everyone was buzzing about formations and tricks they were planning for the big group drop. There was even a 16 person formation being planned. Because of this, it took a while to get student gear together for me and for the other student and I to get into the Cessna that would be taking us to our jump altitudes. The jump would have a slightly different plan this time. Alan (who would be on the radio helping me direct to the landing area) would jump first at 4000', then I would jump at 5500', and finally Kristen (a more advanced student) and JC would jump from about 10,000'. I was a little bummed that Rudi would not be on the radio for me again, but Alan was clear and safe, as well. After Alan left the aircraft, I knew I would be next and expected to feel nervousness deep in my belly, but it did not come. Instead of being nervous and scared, I was excited and as we got closer and closer to the time to open the door for me, I just got more and more excited. Apparently I wore my emotions on my face, because JC told Jamie afterwards that my smile got bigger and bigger as it got closer to jump time.

Finally, it was time to go. JC told me to put my feet out and stop, I heard him say "I have your pilot chute," I responded "you have my pilot chute!," and he told me to "climb out." It was much easier to climb out on my second jump and sliding my hands out towards the wing and stepping off the wheel to a hanging position did not scare me numb as it had previously. Then JC said "go." I hesitated a second and then let go, looking up at JC and the plane the whole time. I held eye contact and body position, and even remembered to count out 4 seconds before checking my canopy. I remember the entire exit, unlike last time which was an adrenaline fueled blur. I think being more present and aware made the experience more fun, even though the adrenaline rush of the first jump was incredible in its own way. My canopy opened fine, I did a controllability check, and located the landing zone. Again, I had trouble determining the winds and planning my own landing pattern, but Alan talked me down, and I landed softly on my feet. I remembered to stow my brakes and daisy chain my risers and stuff the slider through the last loop of the daisy chain. I wasn't shaking uncontrollably, and I was fully able to perform these tasks and then gather up my chute and walk to the van.

I was advanced to category B after debriefing my jump and again, I cannot wait for my next jump, although for a different reason this time. Last solo jump, the rush of doing something so surreal and terrifying was overwhelming and amazing and I was looking forward to that feeling again. Now that I have gained a little more confidence and control of my physiological response, I want to perform. I want to practice, and become really skilled at skydiving. I am really looking forward to free falling with Jamie, when his foot is healed, of course.

Here I am with Alan (my landing coach) and the small Cessna we jump from.

Gnasher perching on Jamie, bringing a smile despite the big black boot.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Battle of the Beets

Last Friday, a friend gave me a bunch of beets with the greens still attached. I had been planning to make homemade veggie patties for two potlucks I was attending over the weekend, and knowing that beets are a common ingredient in veggie burgers, I searched recipes making use of the gifted beets. I found a recipe from the blog foodydoody that used the beets and recipe from The New York Times Recipes for Health that utilized the beet greens. Two different recipes with two different parts of a beet plant: I decided it would be fun to make both and compare the two.

The NYtimes recipe included: Beet Greens, Rainbow Quinoa, Carrots, Onions, Fresh Ginger, Garlic, Cumin, Lemon Juice, Chick Peas, an Egg, salt, pepper, and olive oil. 

The beet greens needed to be steamed, the onion, carrot, garlic, and ginger were sauteed, and the egg, chick peas, and lemon juice were pureed. These ingredients were mixed with the cooked quinoa, salt, pepper, and cumin, and then cooked. The mixture was rather crumbly, so rather than forming little patties, I scooped up a big spoonful and rounded the edges before dropping it into hot oil in a frying pan. When one side was fried, I flipped the patty onto a baking sheet and baked them for 12 minutes. The whole process took about 1.5 hours including cooking the quinoa. Also, the recipe sites that it yields 4-6 patties. I made 22 modest sized patties by following the recipe.

My patties did not look as good as the ones in the picture below. They were a little misshapen and crumbly even after baking, but they tasted amazing and were a huge hit at  both potlucks. We did not reheat them and ate them without bread or fixings. They were that good that they stood alone and were good at room temperature!

The foodydoody recipe included: Roasted Beets, Quinoa, Onion, Garlic, Smoked Paprika, Salt, Pepper, White, Northern Beans, an Egg, Lemon Juice. 

Roasting the beets took over an hour, but the rest of the prep was the same as the first recipe. The onions and garlic were sauteed and the white northern beans were pureed with the egg and lemon juice. The smoked paprika tasted and smelled amazing and gave the recipe a nice BBQ flavor, but the beets were very beety and really dominated the taste. The mashed roasted beets helped hold the patties together before cooking, but these patties were just as crumbly after cooking. I have been eating these patties over salad, and have been having trouble finishing all the leftovers. 

The winner of the battle of the beets: Beet Greens and Quinoa Veggie Patties! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yoga Bootcamp

Last week, I woke up at 4:15am from Tuesday to Sunday. I brushed my teeth, got dressed, packed my things for the day, and arrived at the yoga studio at 5am. I handed in my journal, which included everything I ate the day before, how much water I drank, and how much sleep I got the night before, to my teacher who closely scrutinized the data. After our journals were appraised, we all sat down on our mats for a brief discussion. The instructor asked how we were doing with the diet (no refined sugar or flour, at least one salad a day, vegetarian) and asked us to share with the whole group things she had read in our journal. We would discuss our assignment for the present day and then get down to about an hour of asana practice (yoga poses and flow). Except for Wednesday morning, when we practiced deep and sustained stretches or yin yoga, we worked on a warming vinyasa flow sequence; we practiced the same flow sequence several times in one class and the same flow each class so that we could build strength and stability in the poses in the sequence.

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am absolutely not a morning person. I truly require 8 hours of sleep to be functional and I value sleep above most other things. I love to nap, and I take long naps on weekends and short naps on weekdays. When I am tired, I am grouchy, impatient, and sometimes mean. So, why would I subject myself to something that I knew would make me miserable? Well, I didn't reaaally choose to participate. The weeklong workshop was offered to me as a gift wrapped up in a compliment. Nishtha, the owner of the studio where I teach yoga, called me and asked me to participate as a gift, citing that she had really enjoyed my company at a recent event at the studio and would like to have me participate. I had been meaning to wake up 30 minutes earlier to practice asana before work for weeks, but consistently press snooze until the very latest I can get away with. I really believe that yoga in the morning would relieve some of the low back and hip pain that I feel while farming all day, and thought that the bootcamp might be the perfect way to kickstart my morning yoga practice. So, I said yes to Nishtha's offer, quite enthusiastically in fact.

Honestly, I can barely remember last week. My alarm went off at 4:15 am and I popped out of bed, terrified of oversleeping. My dozing puppy would open one eye, look at me, and roll over in the other direction, continuing to sleep without the bathroom light interrupting his slumber. I grabbed my lunch and breakfast, made tea, and headed out the 24hour gate because the gate closest to my house was not even open that early. While practicing at the studio, my vritti (internal dialog) was all over the place and very negative. I thought mean things about myself, my practice, my teacher, and my classmates. I left in a hurry, uninterested in speaking to the other participants, and eager to get to the parking lot at the farm so that I could sleep in my backseat for 20 minutes before the work-day started. When I woke again at 6:56am, all I could think about was the next time I could nap. I stayed focused on staying awake until lunch, ate in a hurry, and slept for 30 more minutes in the backseat; I even brought a pillow with me. Tuesday and Wednesday evening I taught yoga, Thursday night I had some girlfriends over for dinner, and Friday night I went to a power vinyasa class at Grassroots Yoga before eating dinner with another girlfriend. Saturday's bootcamp was the most difficult of the week. I actually fell asleep in several poses, including standing poses, I swear! I left class at 7:10 am (2hr classes on the weekend), went home, and slept for 4 hours. After my nap, I felt much better; I went shopping and made veggie and quinoa patties for a potluck birthday party that evening and potluck breakfast after the last day of bootcamp the following morning. As I was falling asleep Saturday night, I was planning how I could skip the breakfast and sleep before I taught yoga at 10am.

On Sunday morning, I was still thinking about how I could get out of attending the breakfast pot-luck as I got dressed and headed to the last class. During class, I felt better than I expected, and after class I was hungry! I walked to breakfast with Nishtha and the event was surprisingly pleasant. Having some sleep, and completing something quite hard for me with a group of other people struggling in their own way, made reminiscing on the experience and talking about other yoga and life topics very fun and enjoyable. The coffee might have helped, too. I left the breakfast early to teach Sunday morning yoga and taught one of the best classes I have ever taught. Was it the hard work, self discipline, and abundance of yoga in my life that week, or was it just a good class? I don't know, but with boot camp having come to a close, I felt accomplished and happy and looking forward to future yoga challenges.

So now it is Tuesday, two days after the completion of yoga bootcamp. Have I continued to wake up at 4:15am and shun refined sugar and flour? Not really. I did several sun salutations before work on Monday, but I had non-dairy soy ice cream Monday night. Today, I stayed away from the frozen desert, but I didn't wake up to do any practice this morning (with the excuse that I was teaching a class this evening). Has bootcamp changed my life? Probably not. But, I do think that I will be more aware of my food choices in the next couple weeks and maybe beyond. And, I will keep working on building a morning yoga practice a little bit at a time.