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Layering with 100% Wool/Grind Your Own Oats/Roast Your Own Coffee

Natural Fibers

I used to wear mostly natural fibers. Then along came Patagonia and other outdoor outfitters with some great artificial (usually polyester) products: fleece, Synchilla, Capilene, warm lightweight coats, polyester shirts for travel that could be rolled up in a backpack, and look wrinkle-free when worn. I've been running in cold months wearing Maxit tights and long-sleeved top, a type of polypropelene, keeps you amazingly warm - just one layer.

Last month I went into a natural fiber store in Victoria, the sparkling capitol of Vancouver Island. I'd just bought a great Patagonia jacket. Started talking to the guy running the store, he said it really feels different to wear cotton and wool (and silk and hemp) and no clothing made from oil. He looked at my new coat and said, "Yeah, that's made out of recycled bottles." When he said it I thought, cool, it's great to make spiffy stuff out of trash. Of course a little later I thought, maybe I don't want to be wearing a coat made from plastic, no matter how elegantly tailored. He got me thinking about going back to natural fibers.

The thing that clinched it was discovering clothing made of Merino wool. I started with running socks. I'd tried for years to have cotton running socks, but almost everything was Coolmax or other oil-derived fabric. These Merino socks felt good. Noticeable difference from Coolmax. Two companies have wonderful selections of Merino wool apparel:
I got Smartwool socks (they're actually 70/30 wool/nylon). I got the Smartwool Microweight 100% wool bottom tights and a long-sleeved Microweight crew for running and let me tell you, does it feel better. My body breathes, I'm more in tune with the surroundings. Wool doesn't smell bad like artificial fabrics.
Tights, $64.95
Crew shirt, $79.95
Crew shirt
Icebreaker has an elegant line of products (in spite of the very weird cover photo on their home page). They have testimonials from athletes who wear Merino wool clothing in various combos (there are 3 weights) climbing Everest, on kayak trips, wet or dry, hot or cold; 100% wool in various combos works wonders. How great, natural fibers out-performing artificial. I got one lightweight long-sleeved shirt for next-to-skin, the Skin 200 long-sleeve crew, $69.95
and as well what is the best single piece of clothing I've run across in years, the Sport 320 Wing Zip, $118.95 http://www.icebreaker.com/our-clothing/DisplayProduct.aspx?p=156

I've been wearing this whenever it's cold, over a cotton or silk t-shirt, or if colder, over the lightweight merino wool shirt. It's light, it keeps you warm, it breathes, feels good, looks great.

Grind Your Own Oats

This elegant little Italian grain grinder has three hardened steel rollers that flatten grain for making flakes or crack it for making hot cereal or granola. I'd never had fresh oats before, that is, you're taking the whole oat grain (groat), and crushing and flaking it just before cooking. Nutty, delicious oatmeal, the flavor of the whole grain just released. Bruce Atkey showed me this, just after he gave me a breakfast bowl of fresh oatmeal along with flax seeds, shredded coconut, a little hemp oil for flavor, and brown sugar. Chrome plated steel, 9"H. Clamps to any surface up to 2" thick. $79.95.


Roast Your Own Coffee

I read an article on roasting your own coffee in an old popcorn popper, one of which we had lying around ready to go to the goodwill. Bought some green coffee beans from Capulin Coffee ("Natural Hand Crafted Shade Grown Traditionally Dried Jungle Coffee"):
http://www.capulincoffee.com, roasted them and voilá, discovered the secret to good coffee: freshly roasted. If you use a popcorn popper it should be the type that has air blowing in around the bottom so the beans circulate. For instructions see: http://coffeetea.about.com/library/weekly/aa031903popcorn.htm.
Fiddle with it to get the roast you want. Like the article said, once you roast your own, you'll never buy roasted coffee beans again.

First Mushrooms This Year — Porcinis, Chantrelles

I usually wait until there's been a lot of rain before looking for mushrooms, but this year I went out early and bingo! I got both porcinis (king boletus) and chantrelles. It was a rainy afternoon, getting dark in the woods. The chantrelles were beautiful golden/orange, just pushing up through the oak leaves. When I find them I usually get on my knees and do a Buddhist-type bow to the mushrooms and the earth that produced them. Yeah, I know — flaky — but it feels right. Was soaking wet and exhilarated when I got home, been having mushroom omelettes and the other night chantrelle linguini, tonight I'm going to try a new chantrelle soup recipe. I love the fact that they're wild and free.

GIMME SHELTER — Pics from Vancouver Island, Latest Music, Blogging

I just don't seem to have time to do a third of the stuff I want to do. Especially when I'm on, as I thankfully am now after 3 weeks of the doldrums. I wish I could be more stable, but stability cards I was not dealt with. I have these wonderful high periods when the energy seems to flow and I do the creative stuff, but — ugh! — the lows.

Blog vs. Newsletter

Communicating via my blog has kind of turned things around in my communications-obsessed mind. I used to get the word out to people via the physically printed word — books mainly, but also flyers, newsletters, pamphlets, booklets. I was just getting the whole production + printing press = something-you-hold-in-hand-and-read process down, when along came computers. And then the web. Yeow! Whole new world.

Most of my contemporaries (high school class of 1952) never breached the gap. Too daunting to learn alone, too difficult to get the right teachers. They've just given up (and seem to get along fine in the non-computer world). I was (I guess) lucky. Books used to be put together in physical "flats" with strips of type pasted down with wax, then shipped off to the printers. When that entire formidable industry shifted to computer-generated electronic files, I had to start over, and hired Rick Gordon, an experienced MacIntosh wizard of book production. As the years have gone by I've watched and learned from Rick. He helps me out every day with my digital struggles, putting me way ahead of where I'd be on my own. Digital communication has become an important part of my life and thoughts. So I'm struggling these days as to how much time to spend working on my blog and on my GIMME SHELTER newsletters.

Ulp! Have I said this before? Hey, it's not that your memory turns to mush as you get older, it's that there's only so much storage room in your brain and when you get to be about 60, the filing cabinet is full. Stuff gets jettisoned. (I know there are some of you who will feel better knowing this.)

It's a beautiful day with blue skies and cotton-ey clouds after a bunch of grey wet days and I'm going to spend an hour or so getting this out.


When I was 19, I lived half the time in Santa Cruz. We were surfers before rubber suits. One of my surfer friends, Rod Lundquist, rented a shack for $10 a month and had it fitted out with a record player and big speakers. He favored Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert, and at high volume. Here was this 20-year-old surfer's shack, 10-foot (balsa) surfboards all over the yard, and — bum-bum-ba-bum, Beethoven's Fifth, would rock the neighborhood. I started listening to Beethoven symphonies, and I'd forgotten about his music until I recently got the soundtrack to Immortal Beloved. I'm not big on "excerpts," but this is wonderful. I played it in my truck driving over the mountain and cranked the volume up to max. Whew! The landscape came alive as the music filled my veins. It was like rediscovering an old guru. The Allegretto from the 7th Symphony gave me chills, I remember — 50 years ago (ulp!) — listening to it on a grey day in Santa Cruz, watching a group of nuns walk down the beach from our beachside apartment window.

Rod Lundquist at his surfer's shack

Recent CD's: Unclassified, by Robert Randolph and the Family Band; A Bothered Mind by R. L. Burnside. Also: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, a 4-CD set of Rod Stewart and the Faces, early rough and raw rock and roll, a lot of it live.

Random Pics From My Sept-Oct Trip to
Vancouver Island and Vicinity

In the interest of speed, I'm not naming all the builders or locations here.

The Wreckage, antique and what-have-you store run by Norma Baillie, built of driftwood and beach stuff in Ucluelet, west side of Vancouver island, by Bruce Atkey in the '70s

Woodshed by Peter Buckland

Left: Black bear on beach (eyeing me); Right: Does a bear shit in the woods? Yes, especially during berry season. Larger pile about 10-11" across.

Stairway in woods by Lloyd House. Triangular (in cross-section) steps split from cedar, so that the risers are at at the right angle when they're nailed to the steep rails.

Lloyd House's dog, Choo, followed me out into the woods on this split-cedar walkway. I heard this chattering noise — a squirrel up in the tree. As Choo approached he ran down the tree, tantalizingly almost within Choo's reach and tormented him. I'm sure he was saying, in squirrel-eze, you dumb mutt, give it your best shot, blah-blah. I mean it was a lot of noise. Then he jumped on the walkway right in front of Choo, who bounded off after him through the trees — unsuccessfully.

Staying In Shape, Paddleboards, E-Mail problems, The Blues

Staying In Shape

About six months ago I joined a gym. Running was fine for cardiovascular training and lower body strength, but I was surfing less and had lost upper body muscle. The gym was great. In 3 weeks I was putting on muscle. As Bill Pearl says, people are thrilled when they start weight training because results come quickly. Then I took a month-long trip and wasn't able to lift weights. I came back to the gym and went right back into my routine, and injured my shoulder doing bench presses. It was terrible. I've never had a debilitating upper body injury (although plenty of lower body running ones). My brother and a bunch of my friends have had rotator cuff surgery, and I really didn't want that. Went to a good doc, had MRI's; after several discussions I decided to treat it myself. Short happy ending: applications of arnica oil, vitamin supplements, a handheld accupressure vibrator, mild exercises, and finally paddling a surfboard in Canada, and after 4 months the shoulder is regaining strength. I decided to give up on the gym, because it takes me an hour to get there, so a 2-3 hour round trip doesn't make sense. I decided to work out at home. I have a multi-purpose weight machine, a Vasa trainer (elegant machine for swimmers and surfers), dumbbells, chin-up bars and elastic straps in the office.

Paddling at Sunset

You never miss the water 'til the shoulder gives out: last night I went for a paddle and was it fun! I have a racing paddle board (it's a big sport in Southern California). It's sleek in design, and a bit funky in finish — painted grey with dilute Bondo; it looks like a shark. I'd forgotten what a pleasure it is to paddle — totally different from a surfboard. As i headed out to sea it skimmed across the water with each double stroke. (I paddle butterfly-like, not crawl style.) It was grey and cloudy and starting to get dark and the water was glassy. Rain started to fall. I was in heaven, gliding like a water skeeter. I headed out to the reef, about a mile and by the time I turned around and came back it was dark. Good smells, upper body pumping. Great things can be so simple. Came home and had a healthy slug of brandy and hot shower. Oh yes.

Never Check Email In The Morning

(Above is title of new book by Julia Morgenstern.) An article in the NY Times yesterday


was titled Got Two Extra Hours For Your E-mail? Boy, did it "resonate." as they say. In spite of swearing off the practice, I keep getting sucked back into checking e-mail the first thing every morning. It really fucks up my day. or more precisely, it shoves a whole bunch of stuff in my face that I have to deal with then and there. Might as well dump the junk while I'm at it. Might as well answer the various inquiries and miscellany while they're open. And it's true, there goes 2 hours. This morning, I wanted to do some writing and some layout, so I'm letting my e-mail in-box sit there, simmering with messages whose perpetrators expect replies. My latest thinking is to try to back away from such frequent checking, and to start out the day working on stuff I'm generating. And you know, maybe I don't have to answer every e-mail. Shocking concept, eh? I mean, just who's in control here anyway? Check out that article, it's really good.

Music of the last 24 Hours

Buddy Guy: Buddy's Blues — The Best of the JSP Sessions 1979-82. Extraordinary live blues album. Amazing that such a master gunslinger guitar player can sing so beautifully. Then this morning I heard Howlin' Wolf doing the song 300 Pounds of Joy. "Hoy! Hoy! ah'm de boy, 300 pounds of muscle and joy…" What a powerhouse! On the strength of that I just ordered The Chess Box Set of Howlin' Wolf, a 3-disc collection.