Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 5)

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this multipart series.

I intended this fifth article to be the last in the series; however, I have been receiving a number of questions from readers, and I wanted to answer the most common ones before I finished. For those who are coming in late to this conversation, I will summarize my philosophy.

I will choose to spend my time pursuing work:

  1. About which I am Passionate
  2. With which I can utilize my God-given Skills and talents
  3. Which is Profitable (where I can earn a living)
  4. Which is Needed by the world (or which seeks God’s glory)
  5. Which is Sustainable (will not bore me or burn me out)
  6. Which allows me to live my life in Balance (Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual)
  7. AND I will repeat this process over and again, so that there is Diversity in my work (many simultaneous careers)

Are you saying that it is not possible to live a fulfilled life with a single career?

While this is not my ideal (I prefer multiple, simultaneous careers), I do think that a person can find contentment with a single career. It may take some time to find the right career, the right company, and/or the right location. This may take some education or additional training. This may take a little soul-searching. This may take some sacrifice and risk, especially if you are planning on working for yourself. But it is definitely possible to find a career that falls in line with criteria 1-6 (listed above). Most importantly, it takes a person willing to be proactive.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
– Jim Rohn

I also think it is important to point out that the goal is to get as close as you can to this ideal. There are a number of limiting factors, and these limitations will vary depending on each person’s personality, desires, and circumstances. For some, it may take years to get where you want to go. That is okay, just don’t give up striving.

 “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
– Bruce Lee

Working a bunch of part-time jobs sounds like a nice theory, but what do you really know about it?

I was 21 years old when I started my graphic design business. It had a fairly slow start, so I began working for a local radio station on the weekends. I also worked a few days a week for a local landscaping/lawn mowing service. I didn’t realize it then, but I now know that I was working fewer hours per week and earning more money than when I was employed full-time by a single company. My goals at that time were very different than what they are today. When thinking back to that period in my life, I used to say that it was a unique and special time. I don’t agree with that sentiment any more. I was enjoying my day to day life. I was paying all my bills. I had little stress. So, yes, it was a special time, but it should not have to be unique. I would like to do that again. In fact, I plan to.

 “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Having multiple, simultaneous careers sounds great… if you are a physician and can work part-time and still earn a lot of money!

It would be ridiculous to say that your wages shouldn’t be considered. While I would love for our salary not to be a factor, it has to be. This is why it is included in the list of criteria above (#3). Yes, it will be easier to accomplish my goals with a part-time physician’s paycheck. This is one of the reasons I went into medicine in the first place, but it was not my main reason. It was not even in the top three reasons. At the time that I decided to go back to school to become a physician, I did consider the salary. If I was going to make a drastic change, I wanted it to be in the direction that allowed me to be the sole supporter of our family so that my wife did not have to work. We knew we wanted to have children, and I knew my wife wanted to be a stay at home mom. If I had to undergo school and training for 11 years, the reward of a good salary was obviously considered. However, now I am choosing to forgo a steady, well-paid career so that I can be a healthy, whole, and fulfilled person. It is easier, but not easy, to do this as a physician, because I still have a family to care for. Most people think about all the money I could be making if I worked full-time as a physician, if I went into private practice, if I worked 60-80 hours a week… well, I don’t care to do that, regardless of what others think about it.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
– Henry David Thoreau

A recent article published on the NBC News website documents America’s “intentional poor”. It is an interesting article, and it supports the sentiment that runs through this series. While I am not necessarily recommending living in poverty, there seems to be a growing trend in the United States of people choosing to live far below their earning potential. (link to the NBC News article)

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Unfortunately, I believe money is often an excuse people use to avoid doing something seen as drastic. We would rather be “safe” and keep our song inside (as Thoreau would say), than risk that security and sing our song at the top of our lungs. That song is our passion, and we are too often too scared to share it for fear of rejection or failure. We choose a sad sort of prison where we never feel free and we don’t feel contentment and we often don’t feel happy, because the perception of safety is too strong and the threats of loss are too great. But as I have already discussed in earlier parts of this series, that safety is not really there. It is an illusion. The longer we buy into it, the longer it will take for us to find contentment in our lives.

Because I make a higher salary, I think some people don’t take me serious. They think I am either disingenuous or a little self-deceived. But salary has nothing to do with it. This last weekend, I spent about half the day helping a local church with a soup-selling fundraiser (I’ll be writing about this soon). I know it was not coincidence that I met a certain man at the same time I am writing this series. This almost 50-year-old man had spent too long searching for joy while believing in the myth of the perfect job. He was born on this island in the Azores where I currently live. He left at age 13 with his family for the promise of a better life in the United States. His abusive father died a few months later, and he drifted around with family members until he finally dropped out of high school. He spent the next 30 years working construction and finding that he had real skills working with his hands… but he was not happy. He was riddled with anxiety and depression. Four years ago, he finally gathered enough courage, and he decided to leave a well-paid job, a very nice place to live, and a dysfunctional relationship in the U.S. to move back to the Azores with an unemployment rate of over 15% (and likely higher depending on who is releasing the data). He has since been working odd jobs and living with family and friends. He told me that he has never been as happy in the last 30 years as he is now. He said he should have moved years ago, but it was hard to break from the life he was told he was supposed to have, the life he was told was supposed to give him happiness. He told me that true happiness had nothing to do with money, and it definitely had nothing to do with the false sense of security that a job provides you. He said that happiness was about being with family and friends who love him no matter what. It is about being part of a community. It was about waking up and realizing that there was no more anxiety and no more depression. It was about being able to smile, a real smile that came from inside (he said this has he pounded his chest), a smile that came out on its own, a genuine smile originating from the soul. He smiled with a look of relief as he told me that, at one time, he really thought he would never find that kind of happiness again.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
– Helen Keller

 

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 6).

 

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Photo Reference:

http://cathydlaws.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/money_happiness_1.gif

 

Permaculture Plants: Yellowhorn

Common Name: Yellowhorn, Goldenhorn, Chinese Flowering Chestnut, Wen Guan Guo
Scientific Name: Xanthoceras sorbifolium
Family: Sapindaceae (the Soapberry, Maple, and Lychee family)

Yellowhorn07

The edible seeds are about the size of a pea 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) and are high in oils.

Description:
I was asked by a reader to write an article about Yellowhorn since they were having some trouble growing this plant. I had heard of this plant before, but other than a name, I couldn’t have told you much more. I love to research plants that I don’t know much about, and Yellowhorn is just that. As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be anyone (that I can easily find) that knows a lot about Yellowhorn either. I know that there are probably some brilliant Chinese, Korean, and Russian botanists who could tell me all I ever wanted to know about this interesting plant, but they don’t seem to be the type that publish their work online. So I dug as deep as I could into my library, the botanical literature, and online gardening, forestry, permaculture, and even stock market message boards to try and develop as complete an article as I could on Xanthoceras sorbifolium, also known as Yellowhorn, or Wen Guan Guo in China.

This deciduous shrub or small tree is slow-growing, but once established it will produce edible, dark green leaves that turn bright yellow in Autumn. It has beautiful, fragrant flowers that are also edible, and seeds that are used for food and cooking oil. The oil is also being evaluated for biodiesel. This ornamental plant is also fairly drought tolerant and may also be a food source for beneficial insects. It is almost unknown outside of Asia, but this plant seems to be growing in popularity. While Yellowhorn will make an interesting and useful addition to a Forest Garden, I think there is a lot of potential for this as a major crop.

Yellowhorn11

Xanthoceras sorbifolium Bunge
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 113 [ser. 3, vol. 43]: t. 6923 (1887) [M. Smith]

History:
Native to northern and northeastern China. It has also been growing in Korea for so long, we may not know if it is a native or was imported there. Yellowhorn was cultivated in Russia since the 1920’s and was introduced to France in 1866 via a French missionary who visited China. It has only recently become more available outside of Asia, and it is being sold mainly as an ornamental. It seems that there was some work with this plant in China on the Loess Plateau (this rehabilitation story is told in the amazing documentary Hope in a Changing Climate by John Liu).

Here is one of the earliest accounts I can find of this plant:

I first saw a plant of Xanthoceras at Baden-Baden on the grounds of Herr Max Leichtlin about the year 1884. I admired it, and Herr Leichtlin spoke of it as a new plant of great promise, which he felt sure would be an acquisition to horticulture. I secured two plants, and have been cultivating them now for eight or ten years. They are six feet high, and grow in rich warm loam. They have no protection whatever, and yet they have never lost a branch in winter, and they endure our dry summers perfectly. They are not strong-growing shrubs, but they bear flowers in great profusion, and are more beautiful when in bloom than at any other season. They ripen seeds every year, and I would be glad to furnish some of them to any one who cares to test the plant.
– Paul Dana, Dosoris Park, Long Island (1893)

Trivia:

  • The genus name, “Xanthoceras” means “yellow horn”. This is in reference to the orange-yellow, horn/claw-like appendages between the petals.
  • Yellowhorn fruit is green, round to pear-shaped, and up to 2.5 (6 cm) long.
  • The fruit splits into three sections to release the seeds.
  • There are 6-18 seeds per fruit, and each seed is about the size of a pea 0.6 inches (1.5 cm). The seeds are brown to purplish in color.
  • The flowers are white, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, and the yellow center will change to red/maroon when older (once source states that the color change occurs after pollination).
  • One source stated that the fruit is 40% oil, and the seed alone is 72% oil (60% of which is Omega 6).
The young leaves are edible and the fruit can be round or pear-shaped.

The young leaves are edible and the fruit can be round or pear-shaped.

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Nut (Seed) – reports on flavor vary from a Sweet Chestnut to a Brazil nut or a Macadamia nut. Can be roasted, boiled, or dried and ground into a flour. One soure states that the nuts taste fine raw.
  • Edible Leaves – young leaves can be cooked, traditionally boiled. Leaves quickly become fibrous.
  • Edible Flowers – cooked, traditionally boiled
  • Flour – dried nut can be ground into a flour and then cooked
  • Oil – edible oil can be pressed from the seeds (one source stated it was being evaluated for biodiesel).

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant – this statement was only made by one source
  • Ornamental Plant – long lasting, deep green leaves; large masses of pretty, fragrant flowers
  • Drought Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established

Yield: A single source stated that fruit (nut?) yield can reach 8 tons (7260 kg) per acre, and oil yield can be 850 gallons (3200 liters) per acre.
Harvesting: Early to Mid-Autumn (September-October). Harvest when the fruits dry out, but before the fruit splits.
Storage: Seeds need to be dried for storage.

The beautiful flowers can cover the plant.

The beautiful flowers can cover the plant.

The flowers are fragrant.

And the flowers' center starts off yellow and will fade to red.

The center of the flower starts off yellow and will fade to red.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-7
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information is available, although it does seem to like long, hot Summers.
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available.

Plant Type: Large Shrub or Small Tree
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Yes… however, there is very little information on them.

Pollination: Some sources state that Yellowhorn is self-fertile and some say that it requires cross-pollination. Likely, it is partially self-pollinating but will produce significantly more fruit if allowed to cross-pollinate. It is reported that there are both male flowers and bisexual (hermaphroditic) flowers found on the same plant, but not the same inflorescence.
Flowering: Mid-Late Spring to Early Summer (April-June)

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: No reliable information can be found, but a few sources stated that Yellowhorn will bloom at an early age. A single source stated that flowering will begin during the second year, most sources say year three.
  • Years to Maximum Height: 10-20 years
  • Years to Maximum Fruiting: A single source stated that maximum yield will start at around 5 years of age.
  • Years of Useful Life: No reliable information can be found, but one source stated that Yellowhorn can live for over 200 years of age.
The fruit will dry on the tree and release its seed if allowed.

The fruit will dry on the tree and release its seed if allowed.

The fruit can be harvested while the fruit is still green.

The fruit can be harvested while the fruit is still green.

But it seems that most will wait until the fruit starts to turn brown to begin harvest.

Most growers will wait until the fruit starts to turn brown to begin harvest.

The seeds are edible and are used to make a cooking oil.

The seeds are edible and are also pressed to make a cooking oil.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 6-24 feet (2-7.3 meters) tall and wide
Roots: No reliable information is available, but one source states that Yellowhorn puts down a “very large root”… this could mean that Yellowhorn has a taproot. Another sources states Yellowhorn has “long, fleshy roots with fibrous developments mostly at the end.” I think we can assume that this plant has deep growing roots, either single or few in number.
Growth Rate: Slow

Yellowhorn will turn a brilliant yellow in Autumn.

Yellowhorn will turn a brilliant yellow in Autumn.

Yellowhorn (right) is edible and closely related to the Horse Chestnut (left) which is poisonous.

Yellowhorn (right) is edible and closely related to the Horse Chestnut (left) which is toxic to humans and many animals.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Prefers medium moisture soils, but tolerates dry soils once established
pH: 5.5-8.5

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Yellowhorn does best in climates that have hot and dry Summers, and should be protected from cold winds.
  • If this plant does have a taproot (information on root structure is scarce), then it should be planted in place as soon as possible. The numerous reports of growers having little growth with this plant and then it took off after it was planted in its permanent location, and plants doing poorly when kept in pots, supports the idea of it having a taproot(s).

Propagation:
Various sources give different information… some say that seeds are not dormant and germinate well without any special treatment and others state that they need at least 3 months of cold stratification. Likely, both are accurate, and this plant can grow without stratification, but germination rates are probably higher with some exposure to cold for a few months as would occur in its natural setting. Can also be propagated via root cuttings and division of suckers when dormant. Yellowhorn can take quite a while to become established.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Removal of suckers if desired.

Concerns:
None.

 

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Photo References:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/trees/msg1212170322566.html

http://www.arthurleej.com/p-o-m-Oct09.html

http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2000-60-3-new-or-little-known-plants-xanthoceras-sorbifolia-1893.pdf

http://ideas.repec.org/a/ags/asagre/133111.html

 

 

  • http://www.visoflora.com/images/original/xanthoceras-sorbifolium-visoflora-52217.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_OJ8Kdji1q94/Sh81soXhXhI/AAAAAAAACCc/kdclGAFbALI/s1600-h/Yellowhorn.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Xanthoceras_sorbifolium_02.JPG
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/8/816/144816_eef20092.jpg
  • http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5149/5661758317_04b33b816b_o.jpg
  • http://www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at/Bilder/Lumix_6/P1550017.JPG
  • http://www.perennialsolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/IMG_9647.jpg
  • http://www.plantarium.ru/dat/plants/3/385/100385_4be30813.jpg
  • http://www.botanische-spaziergaenge.at/Bilder/Lumix_7/P1610547.JPG
  • http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v624/starterdude/seeds-1.jpg
  • http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v624/starterdude/seeds-2.jpg
  • http://www.plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=4465
  • http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/potd/aesculus_xanthoceras.jpg
  • http://www.arthurleej.com/images/Xanthoceras.jpg

 

 

Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Five: 41-50)

As I discussed in my recent article, Fighting Fungophobia (or Mycophobia) …the fear of mushrooms, here is a list of 70 Distinctive Mushrooms:

Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part One: 1-10)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Two: 11-20)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Three: 21-30)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Four: 31-40 )
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Five: 41-50)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Six: 51-60)
Seventy Distinctive Mushrooms (Part Seven: 61-70)

This list of mushrooms comes from David Arora, mycologist extraordinaire and author of Mushrooms Demystified and All That the Rain Promises and More. I’ve added photos and a brief paragraph about reported edibility, characteristics, distribution, and habitat. Remember, this is not meant to be an identification guide but rather an introduction to some pretty amazing and representative mushrooms. The mushrooms on this list are all found in the United States (my home), but the majority are also found outside of North America.

A quick note on edibility: I am listing whether the mushroom is considered Edible or Poisonous or Deadly Poisonous. Understand that all mushrooms should be cooked before being eaten. Even edible mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal upset (nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and/or diarrhea) if the mushrooms are not cooked. Yes, some people can handle raw mushrooms in small amounts (mainly just the common, grocery store “button mushrooms”), but most will succumb to symptoms if they eat enough raw mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms. Also, note that some edible mushrooms may cause gastrointestinal symptoms for some individuals and none for other individuals. One species may cause some symptoms for one person but not for another. It is variable. If it is your first time consuming a new type of mushrooms, go slow. Eat a little bit one day, and if you do well, then consume a bit more the next day. If you still have no problems, then you can likely eat that type of mushroom with no issues. Finally, note that most anyone has a good chance of getting gastrointestinal symptoms if they eat an excessively large amount of mushrooms of any type. Just like if a person eats a whole pot of bean-laden chili… watch out! Keep it in moderation, but have fun!

Seventy mushroom listings and photographs will take a lot of space, so I am going to break the list up into ten species segments. I recommend reading David Arora’s books as well as some local field guides. Then go outside and get to know the fungus among us… er, you, I mean.

Here are the next ten:

41. King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis)
42. Queen Bolete (Boletus aereus, B. regineus)
43. Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae)
44. Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne and close relatives)
45. Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus a.k.a. S. strobilaceus)
46. Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)
47. Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
48. Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)
49. Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum group)
50. Varnished Conk, Reishi, (Ganoderma lucidum, G. tsugae, G. oregonense)

Here is the list again with photos and accompanying paragraph of additional information:

King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis)

King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis)

King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis)

King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis)

41. King Bolete, Porcini (Boletus edulis): Edible (choice!) This is one of the most prized mushrooms in Europe (a.k.a. Porcini or Porcino, Cep, or Penny Bun), and it is one of my favorite mushrooms. It has a large cap that can be brownish to red, has a reticulate stalk, white pores, olive-brown spore print, and flesh that does not bruise. Cap size: 3.1-11.8 inches (8-30 cm) or more. Common in cool-temperate to subtropical regions around the Northern Hemisphere, and they have been introduced in Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Solitary, scattered, or in groups under conifers (pine, spruce, hemlock, fir), but also with hardwoods (oak, birch, chestnut). The King Bolete forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of its host plant.
Queen Bolete (Boletus aereus)

Queen Bolete (Boletus aereus)

Queen Bolete (Boletus regineus)

Queen Bolete (Boletus regineus)

42. Queen Bolete (Boletus aereus, B. regineus): Edible (choice!)  Boletus aereus is another prized mushrooms in Europe (a.k.a. Porcino Nero), and it was thought to be the same species as Boletus regineus found in California. Another closely related species is Boletus variipes found in eastern North America. The cap is dark brown to black when young, but then fades to reddish-brown often with white blotches. Cap size: 2.0-5.9 inches (5-15 cm), but can get to7.9 inches (20 cm). Found growing solitary or scattered and in groups under mixed woods, but especially with oaks.

 

Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae)

Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae)

Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae)

Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae)

43. Manzanita Bolete (Leccinum manzanitae): Edible. This large mushroom is a dark red to brown with small dark “scabers” on a light stalk. Cap size: 2.8-7.9 inches (7-20 cm), but can get to 11.8 inches (30 cm). Found only in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada in association with Manzanita or Madrone trees.

 

Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne)

Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne)

Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne)

Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne)

44. Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne and close relatives): Edible. As with the Manzanita Bolete above, all Leccinum species are Boletes with “scabers” – small, rigid projections on the stalk.  All the closely related species are very similar in appearance and are all edible. Bright orange to reddish or brownish cap with a light stalk covered in dark scabers. Cap size: 2.4-6.7 inches (6-17 cm). Common and widely distributed in North America, primarily with Aspen trees.

 

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus)

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus)

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus)

Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus)

45. Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus a.k.a. S. strobilaceus): Edible (taste is bland but better in young specimens). This unique mushroom is difficult to mistake. The characteristic cap is covered on top with shaggy scales and the pores are large. Flesh is light, turning to red/orange and then dark when bruised. Cap size: 1.6-5.9 inches (4-15 cm). Found in hardwood (espicially oak) and coniferous forests in Europe and North America.

 

Beefsteak Fungus, Ox Tongue (Fistulina hepatica)

Beefsteak Fungus, Ox Tongue (Fistulina hepatica)

Beefsteak Fungus, Ox Tongue (Fistulina hepatica)

Beefsteak Fungus, Ox Tongue (Fistulina hepatica)

46. Beefsteak Fungus, Ox Tongue (Fistulina hepatica). Edible. This is a orange-red to dark red shelf, or bracket, fungus with pores that was used as a meat substitute in the past. The name refers to that history as well as its appearance. Interestingly, it has a taste that some say is citrus-like and others just say is sour. Fruiting Body: 2.8-11.8 inches (7-30 cm) broad and 0.8-2.4 inches (2-6 cm) thick. It is found at the base of hardwood trees and stumps, commonly oak and chestnut.

 

Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

47. Hen of the Woods, Maitake (Grifola frondosa): Edible (choice!). Here is another of my favorite culinary mushrooms. This is another shelf fungus that is gray to brown and wavy that resemble a fluffed-up hen. The whole fruiting body of overlapping, fan or spoon-shapped caps can grow up to 40 inches (100 cm) across, but each cap is 0.8-2.8 inches (2-7 cm) wide. This fungus also has noticable pores. Only the young and tender caps are worth eating. Found in North America and Asia, but is most common in eastern North America and Japan, at the base of hardwoods (especially oaks).

 

Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus)

48. Sulfur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus): Edible (but some may have allergic reactions, so eat it in small amounts at first). This almost unmistakable mushroom is a large, fleshy, velvety, shelflike fungus. This species is also called “Chicken of the Woods”, and it is said to have a chicken-like texture and mild flavour. As with most shelf mushrooms, the younger and more tender specimens are best. One specimen attained the weight of 100 lbs (over 45 kg)! Fruiting Body: 2.0-27.5 inches (5-70 cm) wide and up to 1.6 inches (4 cm ) thick . Commonly found in overlapping clusters on stumps and logs, but occasionally on living trees, of conifers and hardwoods. Widely distributed across Europe and North America.

 

Artist's Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

Artist's Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum)

49. Artist’s Conk (Ganoderma applanatum group): Not Edible. This large shelf fungus has a white pore surface that will turn dark or shaded when rubbed or scratched with a sharp instrument, and has become known as an artist’s drawing medium. Fruiting Body: 2.0-29.5 inches (5-75 cm) or more wide and 0.8-7.9 inches (2-20 cm) thick and is usually fan-shaped. Found on almost every hardwood in North America, it can also be found on conifers and hardwoods around the world.

 

Varnished Conk, Reishi, Ling Chih (Ganoderma lucidum)

Varnished Conk, Reishi, Ling Chih (Ganoderma lucidum)

Varnished Conk, Reishi, Ling Chih (Ganoderma tsugae)

Varnished Conk, Reishi, Ling Chih (Ganoderma tsugae)

50. Varnished Conk, Reishi, Ling Chih (Ganoderma lucidum, G. tsugae, G. oregonense): Not Edible. This shelf-fungus has a shiny (varnished) appearance, and it has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years! Fruiting Body: 0.8-13.8 inches (2-35 cm) wide and 1.6-3.1 inches (4-8 cm) thick and is usually fan or kidney-shaped. Found in tropical and temperate climates around the world on a large variety of trees, but prefers deciduous trees (especially maple). It is actually rare in the wild and is commonly cultivated on logs or woodchips.

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 Photo References:

  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/Steinpilz_2006_08_3.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Boletus_edulis_EtgHollande_041031_091.jpg
  •  http://www.mykoweb.com/photos/large/Boletus_aereus(mgw-03).jpg
  • http://www.mykoweb.com/photos/large/Boletus_regius(mgw-01).jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Leccinum_manzanitae_29496_crop.jpg
  • http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5285/5236391145_43837cf946_o.jpg
  • http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~antoy/private/mushrooms/00058.jpg
  • http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1391/1164663432_9f3482ff93_o.jpg
  • http://www.funghiitaliani.it/uploads/monthly_10_2008/post-3472-1222976138.jpg
  • http://www.ohoubach.cz/obrazky/galerie/1215_1.JPG
  • http://www.funghiitaliani.it/uploads/monthly_10_2008/post-3472-1222976138.jpg
  • http://mushroomhobby.com/Gallery/Boletus_allies/Strobilomyces%20floccopus%20(1).jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/Fistulina_hepatica.JPG
  • http://www.stridvall.se/fungi/albums/album51/AAAA2525.jpg
  • http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/gallery/files/4/3/8/3/IMG_0437.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/8/8b/Grifola_frondosa_cross-section.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Laetiporus_sulphureus_JPG01.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/Laetiporus_sulphureus_big.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/98/Ganoderma_applanatum_G2.jpg
  • http://www.mykoweb.com/photos/large/Ganoderma_applanatum(mgw-QC-01).jpg
  • http://ganodermax.info/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Ganoderma.jpg
  • http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2011/mestelle_zach/ganoderma%20tsugae.JPG

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 4)

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this multipart series on the Myth of the Perfect Job.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau

I titled this series “The Myth of the Perfect Job” for a reason. It is because I don’t think a perfect job exists. As I have explained in earlier segments, I spent a lot of time pursuing a career only to find myself frustrated and burned out. I stated that I believe there is another path. I will outline my philosophy today.

To begin, we must differentiate two related concepts, labor and a job. In this life, we must work. Unless we are one of the few people who do not have to worry about money, who are so wealthy from inheritance or from winning the lottery, we need to work. We must spend our time doing something for which we are paid. This may be in money. This may be in goods or services, as in a barter economy. This may even be in a harvest of food for those few individuals who are really living off the land.

Webster defines labor as physical or mental effort, work for which someone is paid. I will add that labor can be thought of work that we enjoy. Of course, we may not enjoy all parts of the labor. Those areas or tasks that we do not enjoy are something that we can easily tolerate because we see it as part of the bigger whole (i.e. part of something we enjoy). In gardening, I may not enjoy weeding an annual bed, but I see it as an important part of vegetable production. In light of the bigger picture, it is easily tolerated. In Permaculture, I may not enjoy digging a long swale entirely by hand (an excavator would be faster and easier on my back), but I can appreciate what this work will accomplish in time, so it can be completed with a smile. For me in my career in medicine, I don’t really enjoy performing rectal exams, at all; however, I see it as part of the bigger picture. I can tolerate doing this when needed, because it allows me to care for the whole person.

In contrast, our work can be seen as a job. Webster defines a job as work that a person does regularly in order to earn money, something that requires great effort. I will add that a job is a means to a paycheck, and in that job we find little to no joy. We may like some aspects of the work we do, we may like the people with whom we work, but once the scale tips in the direction of boredom, monotony, displeasure, frustration, and/or discontent, then our work is now a job.

To summarize this first point, we all must work, but it important to find work that we do not see as a job. I can already hear you saying, “That sounds nice, but how do we do that?”

There are many career coaches who have spent their lives performing research to answer this question. The foundation of my answer lies in these professionals’ work, but I have some significant additions which I will explain as well. It is quite possible that one of these career coaches have already developed a plan identical to mine (there is nothing new under the sun); however, I have not seen it yet. This is why I am writing these articles.

First, we need to identify our passions. How do we do identify our passions? A business partner of mine, Jack Spirko, often asks people, and I am paraphrasing, “If you won the lottery, what would you do after you did all the initial travel and spending you wanted to do? Let’s look at your life two or three years after you won the lottery, and you still had millions of dollars left… how would you spend your time? What would you do every day if money was no object?”

I think this is a really good way to consider what your passions are in life. Spirko’s intent is to spur us to get in touch with the things we love to do. His belief is that you can create a career for yourself in this modern age of worldwide connectivity and social media, doing what you are passionate about if you are dedicated enough to work your butt off. I generally agree with this, but it can take some time to do it, and it is more difficult if you are not the entrepreneur type.

Next, we need to identify the things we are good at. What are our skills? What is it that we do easily, which others find difficult to do? What is it that our friends and family come to us for, asking for advice or help? Do we have specialized skills or training or education or experiences that others are lacking? As author Max Lucado would say, “What are the gifts that God has given to you?”

The next step is to identify where our Passions and Skills overlap, and then identify ways we could get paid in those areas. For example (not a real one!), I may love basketball (a Passion). I love to play it and to watch it and to talk about it. Unfortunately, I may have no athletic ability, so becoming a professional basketball player is not an option for me. I may have poor teaching skills, so becoming a coach is not an option either. However, because I can watch games and recall stats and details about players and coaches and team history like few other people (a Skill), I can then outline possible careers for myself… basketball writer, basketball blogger, basketball podcaster, basketball autobiographer, basketball newscaster/commentator, or any other sports media related career, and there are a lot.

This is where the majority of career coaches stop. They have us identify our Passions, our Skills, and careers where these Passions and Skills overlap. If we can get paid to do something here, then we should be happy according to their research and professional opinions. Unfortunately, they are not always right. For some people, this is does lead to a pretty happy life. I know that this has failed to work, twice now, for me. So there must be something more.

I have found a few career coaches and researcher/writer-types who have added another factor: “What does the world need?” The goal in adding this factor is to try and give us meaning to our work. I don’t say this lightly. If we can work in a career where we are making the world a better place, we often feel a lot better about what we are doing (or less bad about what we are missing). Max Lucado, a Christian author, has three factors (and I am paraphrasing again): Passions (things we love), Gifts (skills God has blessed us with), and God’s Glory (things we can do for the Kingdom of God). He leaves out identifying careers where we can get paid, not as an oversight, but to make a point that money does not provide us happiness. Money is needed, but should be a significantly lower factor in determining a career. I don’t really disagree. If you are a Christian or a religious person, then this approach may be great for you. I find this last factor, either “What does the world need?” or “God’s Glory”, lacking. I think there are more things to consider, and I will discuss them next. But I think if we stop here, we are setting ourselves up for even greater frustration. Imagine that we do find something we love, something we are good at, something we can get paid for, and something that the world needs, yet we are still unhappy or frustrated. Then what? We can find ourselves feeling like there is no other choice but to suck it up and try to push through, because if we can’t find happiness with this “ideal” combination, then maybe we just won’t find happiness. For me, when I was a graphic designer, I was able to combine my Passion, my Skills, and an income into one job, but I was still not content. I became a physician; this combined the first three factors and added the fourth. I was doing something the world needed, yet I still ended up frustrated. I was helping, and continue to help (since I am still practicing medicine at the current time), my patients who are sick or hurting. I should be content. But I am not.

So what else is missing? What are the other factors? I have identified two additional factors.

I discussed the next factor at the beginning of this series of articles when I explained that when my hobby of art became a career, I had lost a hobby. What I meant was that once I started to do something I loved (a Passion) every day, it became a job. It became something that I stopped enjoying. Maybe another way of looking at it is that some passions fade when we do it all the time. So the next factor we must consider is this: Is this Sustainable? Can I do this every day and is there enough variety and meaning in what I do to avoid getting bored? When it came to graphic design, I ended up asking myself, “At the end of 20 years, how satisfied will I be with my life to say that I designed 500 brochures, 200 magazines, and 100 websites?” My answer was, “I would not be very satisfied.” I thought that with medicine, because of the vast amount of information known and information that continues to be discovered, there would be no way I would get bored. That is correct. But I didn’t consider all the other factors pertaining to the practice of medicine, the paperwork, administration, lawsuits, bureaucracy, lack of time for my patients, my family, or myself. I didn’t consider burnout. If we look at a career, and see a high rate of burnout, then we need to strongly reconsider that career. As it stands now, up to two-thirds of physicians experience symptoms of burnout, and female physicians have a suicide rate twice as high as the average population. This doesn’t sound very sustainable to me.

The last factor I have added to the list is Balance. I reviewed this topic at length in my previous article. We must consider ourselves from a Biological, Psychological, Social, and Spiritual perspective. We should only consider careers which allow us to keep these components in balance. Sadly, a career in medicine is actually not very good for our health in any of these areas!

I do not think there is any way we can live a fulfilled life, let alone a meaningful career, unless we consider all these factors I described above. Here is a diagram which outlines my philosophy on living a fulfilled life:

Fulfilled_Life_TCP

This ancient symbol is the Celtic symbol of the Christian Trinity. I chose to use it because it reminds me of my need to keep my faith in the center of my life. For those of you who are not Christian, I also created the following diagram, but please do not get too hung up on a design or a pattern. These are used merely to express ideas. Create your own that has some meaning to you!

Fulfilled_Life_TCP_2

There is another factor that is not in this diagram, yet I feel it is vital for me and anyone like me. It is possibly vital to every person in general, but I think it is such a revolutionary (some may say unrealistic) concept, that I don’t know how many people will adopt it. This factor is a primary part of Permaculture, and I never really considered it pertaining to a career until recently when I was taking a Permaculture Design Course by Geoff Lawton. That factor is Diversity. Permaculture Principle Ten is “Use and Value Diversity”. Geoff Lawton stated (and, once again, I am paraphrasing) that every person should have one or two primary careers and another two, three, or four secondary careers. He didn’t dwell on this very much, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was that “eureka moment” for me that provided the last piece of the puzzle. Diversity in careers is where we can truly find stability in building a fulfilled life. Let me be clear that this is not one career after the other, but it is multiple part-time careers running at the same time.

Diversity in careers offers many benefits. It provides variety. It reduces boredom. I am certain it will decrease burnout. It provides resiliency – if one career doesn’t pan out or suddenly stops, we have others to fall back on. It is that classic Permaculture example of a fishing pole verses a net. If the single line of a fishing pole is cut, the fishing pole ceases to catch fish. But a net continues to function, nearly at peak performance, even with many lines cut. In fact, we have to cut a tremendous amount of lines before the net’s efficiency is significantly dropped. The same is true with work. If we have income from many sources, then we can handle the loss of one or two sources. We may have to tighten our budget a bit more for a while, but this is drastically different than if we lost our one, single source of income.

I am not really into symbology, but I find patterns quite interesting. The repeating pattern that occurred when I added diversity to this diagram was intriguing.

Fulfilled_Life_TCP_3

We start with the 6 components. By adding a line to each, we get a hexagon.

Honeycomb01

Let’s shrink it down a bit…

Honeycomb01b

Let’s add some more careers…
they can support and strengthen each other.

Honeycomb02

Then we keep adding more and more…
this design is now very resilient.

Honeycomb03

Interestingly, if we repeat the color pattern, and let it spread out…
we end up with the same spiral pattern with which we originally started.

Honeycomb04

It is a pattern within a pattern within a pattern, etc.
This is proof of the inherent stability of this design, remarkably similar to the stability of a life built with intention and in balance.

Honeycomb06

I couldn’t resist comparing my design to the obvious pattern similarities in nature
…such as a honeycomb.

...or a snowflake.

…or a snowflake.

 

In summary, there is not a perfect job. Not for me. There may be a number of very good careers which I would enjoy, but I don’t think I would be living a fulfilled life if I tried to do just one. Here is my overall philosophy. I will choose to spend my time pursuing work:

  • About which I am Passionate
  • With which I can utilize my God-given Skills and talents
  • Which is Profitable (where I can earn a living)
  • Which is Needed by the world (or which seeks God’s glory)
  • Which is Sustainable (will not bore me or burn me out)
  • Which allows me to live my life in Balance (Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual)
  • AND I will repeat this process over and again, so that there is Diversity in my work (many simultaneous careers)

Next, I will explain how I actually plan to implement this in my own life.

“I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods.”
– Wendell Berry

 

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 5).

 

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Permaculture Plants: Mayhaw

Common Name: Mayhaw, May Hawthorn, Apple Hawthorn,
Scientific Name: Crataegus aestivalis and Crataegus opaca
Family: Rosaceae (the Rose, Apple, Peach, and Plum family)
Common Species:

  • Eastern Mayhaw (Crataegus aestivalis)
  • Western Mayhaw (Crataegus opaca)
Mayhaw harvest!

Mayhaw harvest!

Description:
The Mayhaw is a large shrub or small tree that is native to the lowlands and wetlands of the Deep South of the U.S. It is most well known for the coral-colored jelly made from the small red berries. It can also be used as a windbreak, an erosion control and pollution-tolerant plant, and it is drought and flood-tolerant. While it prefers full sun, it can grow in the shade as an understory plant. On top of that, it is a rather beautiful tree. Now, it does have a narrow natural range, but considering its tolerance, adaptability, and its ease of hybridization with other Hawthorn species, this is a tree that is just waiting for development into other growing areas. If you live close to its natural range, then this is an ideal plant for you. If you are within its USDA Zone, this may be a great plant with which to experiment.

Crataegus aestivalis

Crataegus aestivalis

History:
Native to the Deep South of the United States, Mayhaw has not been the most popular fruit. Native Americans did use this plant on occasion, but likely due to their thorns and propensity to grow on the water’s edge or wetlands in swamps (hard locations to harvest small fruit), the Mayhaw never gained the notoriety as other native fruiting trees and shrubs. However, once settlers began to populate these bayous and swamps, they developed many uses for the wild fruit. Almost 40 years ago James Sherwood Akin, a retired Louisiana merchant who was an avid gardener and amateur botanist,  transplanted a single Mayhaw seedling from the wild and developed an orchard of over 1,000 trees. He continued his work until he died in 2007, at the age of 89. His work attracted the attention of Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. Because of Sherwood and the knowledge he gained and shared, there are a number of commercial operations and a growing hobby market for the Mayhaw. He is known as the man who brought the Mayhaw out of the swamp and into the orchard.

Trivia:

  • Older flowers can smell a bit like rotten fish.
  • There are over 800 species of Hawthorn in North America. Only the early ripening species in the southern U.S. (placed in the Aestivales series) are called Mayhaws. It is unknown how many Mayhaw species there are, because Hawthorns can easily hybridize.
The classic way to use the fruit... Mayhaw Jelly!

The classic way to use the fruit… Mayhaw Jelly!

Harvesting Mayhaws.

Harvesting Mayhaws.

Here is an article about the Robertson Family (from Duck Dynasty) and their love of Mayhaw Jelly!

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Edible Fruit – I have seen Mayhaw Jelly for sale when I was living in Panhandle of Florida. I passed on it because, at the time, I thought it was too expensive. Now that I understand the rarity of this Southern specialty, I wish I would have bought a jar or three! I’ll get the chance again soon enough. My advice, and my mindset now, is to try anything at least once. Then I will never regret never having missed the opportunity to taste something unique.
    • Raw – while edible, it is rather bland. Most people don’t eat it as a fresh fruit. However, there are some newer varieties that have been developed for fresh eating
    • Preserved – By far, this is the most common use. The coral-colored Jams or Jelly is a specialty in the South (U.S.). Mayhaw Butter (like apple butter) is also fairly popular.
    • Cooked – used in sauces and savory meals
    • Baked – used in pastries, tarts, pies, etc.
    • Fruit Leather
    • Primary or Secondary flavoring for Beers, Wines, Liquors, Cordials, etc. Mayhaw Wine and Brandy are becoming more popular in the South.

Secondary Uses:

  • Ornamental Plant – Mayhaw has attractive foliage, showy blossoms, and clusters of bright fruit
  • Beneficial Insect and Butterfly Plant – this plant has foliage that attracts butterflies and is said to be of benefit to native bee populations, but I can find no specifics on the species of butterfly or bees that use this tree.
  • Wildlife Food Plant for birds and mammals – Birds and small mammals eat the fruit. White-tailed Deer browse on this tree.
  • Shelter Plant for birds – the thorny nature makes this a great shelter
  • Coppice Plant – While it is listed as a plant that can be coppiced, although I can find no good information on this subject.
  • Wood – very strong and heavy. Used for tool handles and mallets.
  • Erosion Control Plant – root system helps stabilize soils prone to erosion, especially for stream bank or water’s edge stabilization projects
  • Windbreak Species – While not fast growing, this plant can withstand high winds
  • Pollution-Tolerant Plant – often grown in areas with high pollution; can be used to help filter the air
  • Drought-Tolerant Plant – this species can tolerate prolonged dry conditions once established
  • Flood-Tolerant Plant – this species can tolerate very wet conditions

Yield: Extremely variable based on wild-type, variety, age, and size
Harvesting: Late April-May. Fruit should be allowed to ripen on the tree. It will fall on its own or when the tree is shaken. If the tree is entirely on land, then harvesting is typically done with sheets or canvas laid out; then the tree is shaken, and the fruit is easily harvested. If the tree overhangs the water, then the tree can be shaken, and the floating fruit is easily harvested with nets downstream.
Storage: Rarely used fresh. Processed soon after harvest.

Mayhaw is one of the first bloomers in the Spring.

Mayhaw is one of the first bloomers in the Spring.

Beautiful Mayhaw flowers.

Beautiful Mayhaw flowers.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information, but the natural distribution of Mayhaw places it in AHS Heat Zone 9-8
Chill Requirement: Likely considering where this plant originates, but no reliable information is available. One report places it “south of the 1,000 hour chill line”.

Plant Type: Small-Sized Tree or Large Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Sub-Canopy Layer, Shrub Layer, Wetland Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of improved varieties (these are actually wild-found trees that have been propagated).

Pollination: Requires cross-pollination; pollinated by midges and flies.
Flowering: Early Spring (March-April)

Life Span:

  • Years to Begin Fruiting: 5-8 years
  • Years of Useful Life: Trees can live for over 50 years.
Mayhaw leaves

Mayhaw leaves

Mayhaw fruit is almost ripe and ready to harvest.

Mayhaw fruit is almost ripe and ready to harvest.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: 25-30 feet (7.6-9.1 meters) tall and wide
Roots: No reliable information other than multiple sources state “surface roots are usually not a problem”. Since there is no specific mention of it having a taproot (taprooted plants are usually noted), then it likely has a broad or heart-shaped fibrous root pattern. Considering that these plants can be moderately drought-tolerant, then the roots are likely not all at the surface.
Growth Rate: Slow to Medium

Watch for the thorns on this plant - Herbarium specimen from University of North Carolina

Watch for the thorns on this plant – Herbarium specimen from University of North Carolina

Mayhaw is a beautiful and useful plant!

Mayhaw is a beautiful and useful plant!

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates moderate shade, but more shade usually means less fruit
Moisture: Dry to wet soils. Can tolerate very wet soils if they will drain, and it is moderately drought-tolerant once established.
pH: 5.1-7.0

Special Considerations for Growing:
This is a relatively worry-free plant as it is considered to have “superior disease resistance”. All Hawthorn species tolerate juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives) as it is often seen growing in close proximity.  Consider using this tree as a buffer between your walnuts and other plantings.

Propagation:
I found one source that stated most Mayhaws seed will grow true to type almost all the time… this means that a seed from one plant will grow a plant which will produce fruit just like its mother. This is not true with a number of fruit trees like apples, pears, cherries, etc. This is great news for us as it simplifies propagation. Mayhaw can be propagated from seed – needs 12 weeks cold stratification for germination (the natural overwintering), but germination can take up to 18 months. This is a seed that is best to plant in Autumn immediately from ripe fruit as this will recreate the ideal conditions for germination. Softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, and root cuttings are also possible.

Maintenance:
Minimal. Annual pruning in Winter to open the canopy can increase fruit production.

Concerns:

  • Thorns!
  • Poisonous – Considering its Family, there is a good chance that the leaves and seeds contain a precursor to cyanide (large amounts need to be eaten for this to be toxic), but I can find no good information on this.

 

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Photo References:

  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/03e95f83b297bd5069bc42f6abcc9e85_4zi7.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/9bdfc409280d19245e9e727c84e4b343.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/images/d86db54ebc0cfe36ec0ef0c237b15da7.jpg
  • http://www.mayhaw.org/LMA_Photo_Galleries.php
  • http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_hbAUn-lQ-qM/TMTVpvyZEoI/AAAAAAAAAEA/kgiu-tNWo9I/s1600/IMG_0460.JPG
  • http://texasjellymaking.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/dsc_0070.jpg
  • http://bayou-diversity.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/Mayhaw-1edited.jpg
  • http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_hja4NT5DtE4/S-xn35Ic5nI/AAAAAAAAABc/9f1Acz5wYdU/s1600/Maddie,+Mason,+Mayhaw+017.JPG
  • http://plantillustrations.org/illustration.php?id_illustration=48337
  • http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/mastergardener/outreach/plant_id/images/fruits/mayhaw_foliage.jpg
  • http://www.ibiblio.org/botnet/flora/images/Crataegus_aestivalis_512703.jpg

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 3)

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this multipart series on the Myth of the Perfect Job.

This segment of the series may at first seem like a bit of a tangent to the central theme, but I assure you that it is directly related.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
– Thomas Merton

When I was in medical school at the Mayo Clinic, I had some amazing mentors who taught me to treat patients with the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual model of healthcare. They would tell me that I needed to consider a person as more than just a biological creature, but one that had a psychological component, a social component, and a soul. Only then could I ever truly help someone with their health. I have tried to run my practice with this as my guiding principle. What I have realized over the years is that this applies to much more than medicine. We must live our lives with these four components in balance.

Unfortunately, I have also realized that most people put the majority of their energy into one or two of these components, and the other components get minimal consideration or no consideration at all. This is where dissatisfaction and frustration with our jobs begin. Not coincidentally, it is also here that satisfaction and contentment with our job, and our lives in general, begin as well.

Most of us typically focus on the biologic component first, and this make sense. We need food and water and shelter to stay alive. We would like regular rest and occasional (or more than occasional) sex. Once these basic needs and desires are met, we tend to focus on our social component next. We want to go out and do things and met with friends and family. Unfortunately, this is where the vast majority of people stop. They may go a bit deeper on occasion, and only when it is really needed, to the realms of the mind and the soul.

Our psychological health is usually only discussed when we “break”… when events in life, or our perception of these events, take us to the edge of what our mind can handle. Sadly there is still a very large stigma with seeking psychological help, so people will put on a veneer and pretend everything is just fine. The damage underneath the mask gets worse and worse. It is only when our psychological health is shaken to the very foundation that we finally stop caring what everyone else thinks, or we are unable to even consider what other people think because we are just trying to survive. Tragically, this is where some people turn to suicide. For others, it is the point where they finally reach out for help. The person, their friends, and maybe a counselor or a mental health expert, will try to repair the damage. But it has become so much worse than it ever needed to be. Instead of waiting until our foundation is crumbling, we should be performing regular maintenance. We need to prevent damage, if possible, in the first place. We need to be proactive about our psychological health. We need to see our psychological health as a key component of what makes us a healthy human.

Now the spiritual component of our being, our soul, is even more overlooked and ignored. We are frequently told by society that we should not even discuss this topic because we may offend someone. Additionally, we are sometimes told by those in modern science that humans have no spiritual essence or component, that we have no soul, that we are just a biologic system with deeply ingrained social patterning that makes us think there is another part to us outside of our biology and psychology. I am thankful that the vast majority of people, in survey after survey, despite what science claims, believe we do indeed have a soul. We know it. We feel it deep down. We feel it in our… soul. Agreeing on what that means is a whole other story. Acknowledging that we have a soul and keeping it healthy is spirituality. Focusing that spirituality on a Creator within a system of faith and devotion is religion. I think both are important, and I consider them two sides of the same coin. Personally, I am a very spiritual person who has placed my faith in Christ Jesus as my Creator and Savior, and this is due to a wealth of information and experiences. Maybe one day we will have the opportunity to sit down over a pint and discuss this. However, my goal today is not to convert you but to point out that we must balance the needs of our soul equally with the other three components (biologic, social, psychological) if we are going to be truly healthy as human beings.

What happens when we put most of our energy into just one component? Well, I have met far too many people who put all their focus on their biology. They live at the gym. They have abandoned marriages and children to pursue a focus on a body that will look good, at best, for a few decades. What will be left when their good looks fade or their body fails? Right on the tails of this first group are those that put most of their focus on the social component of life. They live to party. They abuse their bodies and ignore the psychological pain and the spiritual void. These are the ones who often fall to addiction or wake up one day and realize they have squandered many of the best years of their life. Then there are those who focus too much on the psychological component. These people fall into one of two groups; they are either the ones who consider themselves the intellectual elites, who are so filled with self-worth that they have no true friends or connections to people, or they are the ones whose lives are overflowing with the drama they create for themselves, but which they blame on everyone else around them. Finally, there are those who put too much focus on the spiritual. If they are “right” with God or the universe, then everything is great, but they often beat people with a religious stick and wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t want to be just like them. If they step off the “right” path, their world crumbles and they fall to guilt and regret. They often abuse their bodies with drugs or alcohol or they destroy relationships.

By now, you may be wondering what this has to do with a job. As it turns out… a whole lot!

“The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.”
– Stephen Covey

How are we ever going to find satisfaction in how we spend our day working if we cannot find satisfaction within ourselves? I don’t want to get too Zen or sound too esoteric, because this is a very real issue that affects us all. Most of us are living lives completely out of balance while hoping to walk through life without stumbling. I struggle with this myself, and it makes no sense.

Over these last three segments or articles, I wanted to give a reason why I am where I am. I know many people in our modern society find themselves in the same place. I wanted to detail the sad reality that there is no chance we are going to find satisfaction in our lives, let alone our job, unless we make some drastic changes to our assumptions and our actions.

I have painted a bleak picture so far, but hang in there. There is hope. I believe that there is a way for us to get back in balance and to live a life of contentment. As I said in the first article, it is not easy. It is against conventional wisdom. I know there are some that will call me foolish or naive. Again, I will say that I do not care. No one else but me is going to live my life and take care of my family in the way that I will or with the passion that I have. Until I am ready to say that, and mean it, and back it up with action, then I will continue to be discontent in my work and my life.

But I don’t plan to stay here.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau

 

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 4).

 

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Permaculture Planning and Planting for Climate Change

Climate Change exists. We all know it, and we pretty much agree that the weather is not like it used to be. The climate is changing. This is obvious to anyone who is paying attention to the weather locally or globally. Why this is happening, how to stop it, and how to reverse it (if that is even possible) is an issue on which people do not agree. There are a lot of theories, and many from both sides of the argument will provide proof, but there is still a lot of disagreement. The two opposing views are:
(1) It’s human-induced climate change based on excess carbon release into the environment.
(2) It’s the natural, normal cycles of heating and cooling of the Earth.

I think it is much more complicated than one side or the other would claim, and the cause likely consists of normal Earth cycles combined with massive deforestation and significant pollution of our land, water, and air. With that said, in relation to this article, I don’t really care what is causing it.

Let’s pretend we are doing everything we can to stop climate change, and move on from there for a few minutes.

The Changes in the Arbor Day Foundation Hardiness Zones.

The Changes in the Arbor Day Foundation Hardiness Zones.
http://www.arborday.org/media/map_change.cfm

We can look at maps showing the shift of hardiness zones across the United States over the past decades. We can do the same for many other countries as well. We see two things: Winters are getting warmer, and Winters are getting shorter.

What does this mean for Permaculturist and Permaculture Designers? In Permaculture, we must answer the following questions for each project, and if we can’t give a good answer, maybe we shouldn’t do it:

  • What is our motivation for doing this? (Permaculture Ethics)
  • What things are we going to use? (Design Elements)
  • How are we going to use it or install it? (Technique)
  • Where are we going to use it? (Design)
  • When are we going to do it? (Strategy)
  • How is this going to change over time? (Succession)

It is succession that I am talking about today. We need to be forward thinking when it comes to climate change. We need to be proactive in how we choose plants for our land. We need to design for the future, both short and long-term. What do we have planned for next year? What about 5 years from now? 20 year? 50 years? 100 years? 500 years?

If we are not considering this in our Permaculture Designs, then we are not taking to heart Permaculture’s Prime Directive: The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for own existence and that of our children.

Forecasted changes in Hardiness Zones.

Forecasted changes in Hardiness Zones.
http://www.publicgardens.org/files/images/noaa-apga-image.jpg

Okay, so what does this have to do with climate change? Well, when a person typically plants a tree, they choose a tree species that will grow well in their area… an apple tree, for instance. Then most people go to the local big-box hardware store’s nursery department and choose from the one or two varieties of apple tree there. If a person is a bit more horticulturally minded, they will go to a local nursery and choose from a greater variety of likely healthier trees. If a person is very horticulturally minded, and this is what the big-box stores and local nurseries are trying to do for us, they will find a variety of apple tree that is well-suited to the local growing conditions.

A big part of selecting a variety of apple tree “well-suited to the local growing conditions” is determining the USDA Hardiness Zone (or equivalent Hardiness Zone for the other parts of the world) and the Chilling Hours in a location. Briefly, the USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides the U.S. into Zones 1 through 10 based on minimum temperatures (1 being the coldest and 10 being the warmest). The Chilling Hours or Units are the number of hours below freezing temperatures (32F or 0C), or sometimes below 45F or 7C, which a plant needs to be dormant in order to produce a large number of flowers, and therefore fruit, during the next growing season. If you click on the links, I have full articles on each of these topics.

Most people, and nurseries, select varieties of apple trees (or any fruiting tree) that will withstand the Winter and will be cold enough, for long enough, to produce a good crop. Herein lies the problem. They are selecting varieties that are suited to climactic conditions as they are right now. In reality, the temperature data used to determine the best variety selection of a specific plant for a certain region is likely five to ten years old, maybe more. It takes an average of 3-8 years for an apple tree to start fruiting, and it will take 5-10 years for it to reach maximum production. An apple tree can live 15-100 years depending on the rootstock. Most nut trees are still considered young at 100 years, and oaks can still be called young at 200 years of age!

When we select our trees based on current temperature data, we are not considering Succession. We are not considering what the climate will be like in 10 or 20 years, let alone 100 or 200 years from now. But this is what we need to consider if we want to be visionary designers.

So let’s get down to it. What do we actually do with this knowledge?

First, we assume that the climate will change, and monitor the climate yourself. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just be aware of global, regional, and local climate trends. Monitor the conditions on your own land, and maybe consider keeping some records. Be aware.

Second, we assume that scientists will be wrong. We can’t invest all our energy and the huge investment of time that a tree’s life represents on what the current weather geeks are telling us. We need to be wise. We heed their advice, but we hedge our bets. As a physician, I have seen the pendulum swing back and forth in the science of medicine… Eggs are good. Eggs are bad. Fat is bad. Margarine is good. Margarine is bad. Fat is good. Good fat is good. Avoid the bad fats. Eat fish oil. Avoid fish because of mercury. Avoid alcohol. Drink in moderation … and on and on it goes. Think about it. For the most part, people listen to “current” medical advice, often to their own peril. I don’t just say this because I am a physician, but most people trust that doctors have their best interest in mind. Now let’s consider the weatherman or woman. Hardly a trustworthy lot! They try to give us the 24-hour forecast, and they barely get it right half the time. I know, I know, the weatherpeople are not climate scientists. But who do you think creates the forecast systems those beautiful talking heads in front of the weather map on television use to give us the forecast? It is the climate and weather scientists. If they can’t give us a reliable forecast for a week, why should we trust them to tell us the weather a year from now, or a decade, or a century from now? As I said, we need to heed their advice, but we also need to hedge our bets.

Third, we choose our short-lived shrub and tree varieties based on the most current temperature data we have. Climate does not change very fast, so we want to have good yields of fruit and nuts as soon as possible. As the years pass, these short-lived plants will age and die. The average temperatures will likely have shifted during this time, and we can select replacements plants that are better suited to the new climate.

Fourth, the majority of our longer-lived trees should have a wide tolerance of temperature and moisture variations. We need to assume the weather is going to change. Likely it is going to continue to get warmer, but it could get cooler. Also, if things don’t change, there will be more and more droughts. We need to choose plants that are hardy in a variety of situations.

Fifth, we should include a percentage of our trees that are more heat tolerant. I am not saying that you should plant banana trees if you live in Minnesota, but start planting a few trees that do better in warmer climates yet will still live in your current coldest temperatures. We need to accept that these trees may not be very productive for quite some time, but if the weather continues to warm, they may become the most productive trees you have. Consider these trees an emergency fund, one you hope you never have to cash in, but you have it if you need it.

Sixth, if we have the space for it, we should include a smaller percentage of trees that are more cold tolerant. These are trees that can grow in warm temperatures, but may never fruit unless they have long, cold Winters. These are here just in case the majority of climate scientists have it wrong and the Earth is going to cycle down to cooler temperatures. The 1970’s had many people thinking that another Ice Age was on its way. Maybe the current scientists have it wrong. Consider these trees your lottery ticket. You don’t expect it to win, but if you have the extra couple of bucks… why not?

Seventh, every time you are ready to place a new plant, consider what the future holds for this plant during its entire life. We have to consider the end while at only the beginning if we are truly going to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.

 

 

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Photo References:

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The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 2)

Read Part 1 of this multipart series on the Myth of the Perfect Job.

“A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”
– Marilyn Monroe

So, I have established that I am burned out. I stated that a lot of other people feel the same. According to recent surveys, it appears my perception was correct. The Consumer Research Center of the Conference Board reported in 1987 that 61% of Americans were satisfied with their job. In 2009, that number dropped to 45%.  Last year, a report completed by Right Management showed that only 19% of Americans were satisfied with their job; 21% stated they were “somewhat unsatisfied” and 44% stated they were “unsatisfied”. That means 65% of Americans are not happy with their job. I knew I was not alone, but it is encouraging to see some hard evidence to support it.

Of course, these are not very uplifting reports.

The question remains, why are so many people, myself included, unhappy with their job? I think there are multiple reasons for this. I know there are more reasons than I will discuss today, but here are a few explanations, in no particular order:

First – With the way that the government has been running, or not running, there are a lot of people that are losing faith in the system. Americans are realizing that debt is destroying not only individuals’ lives, but our country’s economy as well. They are starting to see, thank goodness, that this false dichotomy of the two party system is a ruse. It’s marketing. It is a means for politicians to keep their jobs, but it doesn’t change the course of our country’s financial mess. I talk to young people (late teens and early 20’s) on a frequent basis, and they tell me that they are planning on Social Security not being there for them when they are ready to retire. They don’t really see a way out of the system, but they don’t think the system will help them at all. Which leads to my next reason…

Second – People feel stuck. They have bought into the lie that having stuff will make you happy. They have bought into the lie of instant gratification. They have bought into the lie of debt. These same young people have the latest gadget, a car with lease payments more than their rent payments, and take trips each year that their grandparents used to save months to pay for, and they are funding this life with credit cards. On top of that, they still have to pay for food and utilities and gas and everything else. Older adults have all this and more. They are paying mortgages and property taxes, and maybe paying for their kids’ college tuition, and all the while working later in life than they ever expected to. Retirement is become less attainable every year. When people are just thankful they have a job to pay for all this stuff, they have no freedom to consider career options. This job, which they probably don’t like, allows them to fund a life which is suffocating them. This frustration is temporarily relieved by buying another new thing to distract them, which puts them deeper in debt, and this feeds the frustration when the distraction wears off or wears out, and then the cycle repeats itself growing bigger and bigger until something breaks. The break is often the decision to file bankruptcy. And, as it turns out, the average age of those filing bankruptcy has been steadily increasing over the last few decades, with those 55 years or older accounting for over 20% of cases now. This again, goes right back to my first reason above… when the younger generation sees the older generation filing bankruptcy, the younger generation loses even more faith in the system.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Third – There is a growing realization that there are more important things in life than a job. This is actually a good thing. Of course, there has always been a segment of the population who knows there is more to life, but I don’t think it has been as widespread as it currently is now. I think the days of finding our identity in how we make money is slowly fading away. The problem is that people don’t know what to replace it with. We are missing something, but we don’t know what it is. It is hard to break out of a paradigm when we have no alternative. And so our eyes have been opened to see the world outside, but now we also see the chains that keep us in place.

Unfortunately, this “one of the most important things in our life is our job” mindset is deeply ingrained. We have been indoctrinated since childhood that our profession is what defines us as a person. How many times have we asked a child, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” As if that was the one most important thing that mattered in life… the choice of a job! On the surface, it seems like an innocent, fun question, but what kind of stress are we placing on our children? Our kids are not stupid. They see us leave for work and come home tired. They see that the job takes us away from them every day. They may not understand it, but they know that you have to work to earn money to pay for things in life. They are busy fighting dragons and sailing with pirates and racing cars or pretending to be a princess, and then we come along and ask them a question that WE can’t answer ourselves!  “When you grow up, when you have to stop playing and you need to pay for things, what do you want to spend the rest of your life doing that will make you happy?” I hated that question as a child. I always wanted to give the “right” answer, but I never knew what it was. I would say something, and watch for the response… a smile and affirmative nod? Good answer!  …a chuckle and slight shake of the head? Cute, but not realistic.

In addition, this mindset has almost no place for stay at home parents. What has been part of humanity since humans first set foot on Earth, that one or both parents would raise the children and be with them every day until they were adults, is now seen as… well, just not enough. For some, due in part to the reasons outlined above, both parents “have” to work. For others, the stay at home parent feels that they should be doing something more important with their lives, as if raising a child into adulthood was not the most sacred thing we could spend our time doing. If this offends some… well, I was going to say I am sorry, but I am not… so if this offends some, then maybe you need to reevaluate your life, but why in the world do you bring a child into this world if you have no desire to raise them? Are they just another gadget to you to relieve the frustration for a time? Are they another shiny thing to hang on your shelf or a bullet on your resume? We need to praise and honor those parents who are raising their children themselves instead of just paying someone else to do if for them. But, alas, I am getting a little off topic.

I don’t want to come across as claiming to have life all figured out, but I do know that my job is not what is going to define me. Of course, it is part of who I am. But I know, indeed, that there are more important things in life than a job, like my family and my health and my mental and spiritual well-being… and it is time I started acting like it.

“We cannot know the whole truth, which belongs to God alone, but our task nevertheless is to seek to know what is true. And if we offend gravely enough against what we know to be true, as by failing badly enough to deal affectionately and responsibly with our land and our neighbors, truth will retaliate with ugliness, poverty, and disease.”
– Wendell Berry

 

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 3).

 

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The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a multipart series I am writing on the Myth of the Perfect Job

I was the child who never stopped coloring. I loved to draw. It was my hobby. I would spend hours and hours after school and on weekends working on a project. I can’t remember, but I think I may have only taken one or two formal art classes in school as a child. It didn’t matter. I loved it.

I got a scholarship to go to art school. I spent two years studying art and earing a degree in graphic design. I worked for a year at a marketing firm which went out of business. The next month, I started my own business. I was pretty successful doing this. I ran this business for five years. I loved the freedom of working for myself. But I lost something along the way. I had lost any desire to create art for myself. I spent all my creative energy in my job, getting paid to create for other people, but never for myself.

I had a job, but I lost a hobby.

Other than art, I had always been fascinated with science. When my wife developed a skin issue, and we had some rather arrogant, dismissive dermatologists caring (or, rather, not caring) for her, I did a little research and figured out what was wrong with her skin. Something that she was “going to have to learn to live with” hasn’t been much of an issue for well over a decade.

I became passionate about health. I went back to school, earned a biology degree, and then I went to medical school. Now, after six years of being a physician, I am tired. My passion has been slowly sucked away by all the things that have little to do with health and everything to do with lawsuits and budgets… not my own lawsuits or budgets, but the system that works in fear of lawsuits and is dictated to by budgets and not patients.

I have a job, a very good one at that; but frankly, I am burned out.

Why? Why has this happened… again? Do I just have a pattern of being unhappy in my work? Am I just a malcontent?

I don’t think so. I know I am not alone. I literally speak to people everyday about their jobs. Many people don’t really enjoy their work. Some do, but most would rather be doing something else. They are glad they have a job. They are glad they have the paycheck. But if you asked them if they could change jobs and do something else, a large number would say yes.

Of course there are exceptions to this. There are many people who are extremely happy in their jobs. I am very glad there are people out there who truly enjoy their work every day. But this is an exception.

So what you do if you had the choice? Most would state that if they could get paid for their hobby, they would be happy. This is what we are told so often by career counselors and our mentors. But is it true? I have often quoted Confucius who stated, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Well, I have done this twice now. I had careers in something I was passionate about. I loved art. I loved to draw. I loved to create something that had never existed before. But once it was a job, it became, well, a job. The love, the passion, slowly faded. The same has become true for me with my career as a physician. I still love caring for and helping my patients. But all the other stuff that goes along with it, the non-medicine things, has made this passion of mine a job. And jobs are not all that enjoyable.

Think of anything you love to do. Now imagine doing it all day long, every day, five to seven days a week, every week after week, month after month, year after year. You end up looking forward to the end of the day, because you are exhausted. You end up looking forward to the weekend, if you get one, because you just need a break. You may end up loathing Monday mornings. You may end up looking forward to your short, two-week vacation and not enjoying your day to day life… always looking forward to the next break, the next holiday, the next vacation, the next space of time where you can just breathe. You may end up getting burned out.

I don’t want that… not any more. I’m tired of it. But what am I to do? What are WE to do? We still need a job. We still need money. We have to pay for our house and property and property taxes and food and utilities and all the things that are truly needed to raise a family. So, are we stuck? Are we destined to feel like a hamster in a wheel. Are we supposed to go through life thinking that there may be perfect jobs for some people, just not us?

I certainly hope not.

I think there is an alternative. In fact, I am pretty darn sure there is another way to live. I am so sure of it, I am going to do it myself. In fact, I just gave my notice last week. I am quitting my job.

I am in the military right now, so this is not a quick process. It will actually take almost a year before my job is officially done, before I hang up the uniform, before I can step off the hamster wheel.

I know that some will say I lack the ability to buckle down and work hard. When things get a little tough or boring, I bail out and jump to the next shiny thing that catches my eye. Well, I say bull. I know how to work hard. When I first started my graphic design business and I was building my client base, I worked part-time as an early morning radio DJ and with a local landscaper to pay the bills. When I decided I wanted to be a physician, I ran my own business full-time while going back to school full-time taking pre-med classes (Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Histology, Comparative Anatomy, etc.) and never took a school loan. So I will cut that argument off before it gets started.

Others will say that I lack the ability to wait for my reward. We have been taught to work hard, save our money, and then if we played the game the right way, we will be able to retire with our spouse and walk barefoot on the beach wearing white cotton pants partially rolled up our legs. Again, I say bull! It would be very possible for me to retire from the military. I just have to work another 14 years, and then I would receive a pretty good pension. But you know what? By the time I retire and I am finally able to raise my family in the environment that I desire, my children will all be about ready to move out. My oldest son is 5 years old; he would be 19 by then. My youngest daughter is just a month old. She will be almost fifteen by the time I could retire. I will have spent two decades, some of the most productive and healthiest decades of my life, working for something that I would barely be able to share with those who mean the most to me. I would have given them my spare time and given them no roots. No thanks!

There is another way, but it is not easy. It is against conventional wisdom. I know there are some that will call be foolish. I don’t care.

I want something more out of this life. I do not think it is a fantasy, but then again… maybe it is. Well, then, I aim to live my fantasy. I aim to make my fantasy a reality.

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
– Thoreau

The Myth of the Perfect Job (Part 2).

 

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Permaculture Plants: European Pear

Common Name: European Pear
Scientific Name: Pyrus communis
Family: Rosaceae (the Rose family)

European Pears are one of the most well known fruits in the world.

European Pears are one of the most well known fruits in the world.

Description:
The European Pear needs almost no description. It is one of the most well known, and loved, tree fruits in the world. While most people are familiar with the two or three (maybe four) varieties the local grocer stocks, there are over 3,000 other varieties in the world which few of us have ever tasted. And few have ever tasted Perry, the pear equivalent of apple cider. Pear trees also attract and feed beneficial insects and have wood that can be used for a variety of purposes. A Forest Garden would be missing something without a few pear trees.

 

Pears10

Pyrus communis
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885

History:
Pears are native to western Europe, across into Asia, and into northern Africa. They were first cultivated in Asia and then in Europe thousands of years ago. Today, they are one of the most important tree fruits in temperate climates.

Trivia:

  • Pears were harvested from the wild long before cultivation.
  • There are over 3,000 known varieties of Pear currently grown around the world!
  • In a 2004 report, 95% of United States Pear production came from just four varieties: 50% were Bartlett (Williams’ Bon Chrétien), 34% were d’Anjou (Beurré d’Anjou), 10% were Bosc (Beurré Bosc), and 1% were Comice (Doyenné du Comice).
  • While most European Pears are harvested underripe, the variety known as ‘Seckel’ (and all Asian Pears) are harvested when fully ripe.

 

Perry (a.k.a. Pear Cider) is a traditional drink that is making a comeback.

Perry (a.k.a. Pear Cider) is a traditional drink that is making a comeback.

Here is a fun article on a Perry producer in Herefordshire, UK.

A Note on Perry:

  • Perry is an alcoholic “Pear Cider” made from pears, like hard cider is made from apples
  • Perry Pears are normally grown on Pear rootstock, and so these trees are quite large. Perry Pears can be grown on Quince rootstock instead, and these trees will be smaller.
  • Perry Pears are not eaten raw, because they are astringent (make your mouth dry like a very “dry” red wine).
  • Many sources claim that Perry Pears are harvested from the ground when they drop from the tree, similar to Cider Apples; however, professional Perry (and Cider) makers will say that the best Perry (and Cider) is made from fruit that is treated well, i.e. not allowed to drop.

 

Rustic Spiced Pear Pie... mmmm!

Rustic Spiced Pear Pie… mmmm!

Recipe for the Pear pie

USING THIS PLANT

Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating – The most well-known varieties are the sweet or dessert pears, and these can be some of the finest fruits in the world!
  • Cooking – While dessert pears can be cooked, there are a large number of cooking pears that are not sweet for fresh eating, but have a great flavor only appreciated after cooking, sometimes for a few hours.
  • Preserved – Preserves, Jams, Jellies, etc. Pears also dehydrate/dry very well, and the dehydrated fruit can be used in many recipes for desserts or just eaten as is.

Secondary Uses:

  • General insect (especially bees) nectar and pollen plant
  • Wildlife food
  • Wildlife shelter
  • Primary or adjunt flavor component in beer, wine, cider, perry, mead, liquor, etc. The Perry Pears have been specifically developed for producing Perry!
  • Can be Coppiced. This typically stops fruit production for a few years.
  • Wood – Poles, posts, stakes, tools, crafts, instruments, furniture, etc.
  • Wood – Firewood, charcoal
  • Wood – Smoking/Barbeque: pear wood gives a soft “fruity” smoke to meats, similar to apple wood

Yield: Standard root stock – 2-4 bushels (70-140 liters) or 77-300 lbs (35-136 kg); dwarf root stock – 1 bushel (35 liters) or 56 lbs (25 kg)

Harvesting: Late Summer to Autumn (August-October), but can vary based on variety and location. Pick when fruits slightly change color. Pears are one of the few fruits that are harvested unripe. Pears on the tree will ripen from the inside out, so if they are left on the tree, the interior would be overripe (brown mush) when the outside is ripe. But when harvested underripe, the Pears will ripen equally from the inside and outside at the same time. There is a skill (and learning curve) to knowing when is the best time to harvest Pears.

Storage: Typically, the fruit is stored in a cool, dry place and handled carefully to prevent bruising. Some sources recommend storing early-ripening Pears under refrigeration for a few weeks before allowing the fruit to ripen at cool, room temperatures. Late-ripening Pears can be ripened immediately after harvest. Pears can be stored for longer periods of time at cooler temperatures and then brought out to ripen. Once brought to room temperatures, check the fruit frequently for ripening. Use when ripe.

A Pear arbor is a unique design using this tree.

A Pear arbor is a unique design using this tree.

Placement of Pear trees is important to their health and ease of harvest.

Placement of Pear trees is important to their health and ease of harvest.

DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9; some varieties into Zone 3
AHS Heat Zone: 9-3
Chill Requirement: 600-1,500 units/hours depending on the variety.

Plant Type: Small Herbaceous Plant
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Underground Layer, Herbaceous Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: There are a number of varieties available for thi

Pollination: European Pears traditionally require cross-pollination, although a few varieties are self-fruitful. This requires two different varieties of European Pear. Some Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia, P. ussuriensis, and P. x bretschneideris) will cross-pollinate European Pears. Because there is such a wide variety of pears and cross-pollination variations, it is best to get cross-pollination information from the nursery or catalog company you are purchasing your pears. Pollinated by insects.
Flowering: Late Spring to early Summer (May-June); susceptible to late frosts

Life Span:
Years to Begin Bearing:
3-10+ years depending on the variety and rootstock
Years of Useful Life: 50-75 years. Dwarfing rootstocks live shorter lives

Beautiful Pear flowers attract beneficial insects.

Beautiful Pear flowers attract beneficial insects.

The common Bradford Pear are mistakenly thought to be a European Pear which was bred to stop bearing fruit. In fact, it is a different species of Pear (Pyrus calleryana) native to China and Vietnam.

The Bradford Pear is often mistakenly thought to be a European Pear which was bred to stop bearing fruit. In fact, it is a different species of Pear (Pyrus calleryana) native to China and Vietnam, and its fruit is only about a centimeter in diameter… birds love them!

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT

Size: The size of the Pear tree is based on the rootstock used as almost all Pear trees are grafted. There are a number of rootstocks available, and these differ in various parts of the world. The sizes, in general, are as follows:

  • Minidwarf: 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8 meters) tall and wide
  • Dwarf: 8-15 feet (2.4-4.5 meters) tall and 10-15 feet (3-4.5 meters) wide
  • Semidwarf: 15-20 feet (4.5-6 meters) tall and wide
  • Standard: 25-40 feet (7.6-12 meters) tall and 25 feet (7.6 meters) wide
  • Standard Perry Pear Tree: 25-70 feet (7.6-21 meters) tall and 15-55 feet (4.5-16.7 meters) wide

Roots: Fibrous
Growth Rate: Medium

Pear orchard in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

Pear orchard in Spring located in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

...and another in Autumn.

…and another in Autumn.

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates very little shade… shade is best avoided
Moisture: Medium-moisture soils are preferred.
pH: most varieties prefer fairly neutral soil (6.0-7.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Pears to not tolerate juglone (natural growth inhibitor produced by Black Walnut and its relatives). Make sure you have other varieties of  trees and shrubs as a buffer between your walnuts and pears.
  • Pears are susceptible to Fire Blight, Pear Scab, and Canker, so try to choose varieties that are resistant to these diseases.
  • Make sure to consider flowering times when planning which varieties you choose. You need to make sure that you have compatible varieties (i.e. ones that will pollinate each other) flowering at the same time.

Propagation:
Named varieties are usually grafted because pear cultivars do not grow “true to type”, meaning that seeds will grow into trees that produce fruit that is likely to be nothing like the parent stock. If growing from seed, they will need 8-16 weeks cold stratification for germination. Less improved species and non-cultivars are often grown from seed.

Maintenance:
Typically, European Pears are pruned once a year to once every 2-3 years in late Winter or early Spring. Learn to prune your fruit trees to maximize health and production.

Concerns:
None

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Poached Pear recipe

 

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Photo References:

  • http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/10641016.jpg
  • http://www.thehoneygatherers.com/images3.1/stock/Anglais/3Honeybee-Flowers-Bee/Honeybee-Flowers-Bee24.jpg
  • http://www.croxteth.co.uk/Images/Pear%20trees%20arch_1024_tcm80-96940.JPG
  • http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2011/107/7/3/pear_tree_flower_by_bwvds-d3e6w72.jpg
  • http://akafkaesquelife.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/pear-orchard-mt-hood-orchards-of-hood-river-valley-darryl-lloyd-long-shadow-photography.jpg
  • http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-37eT-2E0cNw/Uj6lTn2yIxI/AAAAAAAAGV4/ylZ7vSn2mTg/s1600/Pear+orchard+in+Okanagan+Valley,+British+Columbia,+Canada+20130922.jpg
  • http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/pearbureau/35811/images/35811-hi-usapearcluster.jpg
  • http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2a/Illustration_Pyrus_communis0.jpg
  • http://www.jerseyplantsdirect.com/webgraphics/jersey%20plants/article%20blocks/how%20to/pruning%20apple%20and%20pear%20trees.jpg
  • http://www.wallyhood.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/PearTreeStockPhoto.jpg