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What Do You Want To Be Made Of?

by Nick

One of my resolutions for the year is to get a small garden going outside now that I actually have a yard. There are some issues though with growing in an arid, high altitude climate. It turns out that things don’t always grow well when it’s freezing cold and extremely dry. Go figure.

Luckily, I’m not the first person to want to do this and I’ve been working my way through a really great book on gardening in high and arid climates called “The Zen of Gardening” by David Wann.

One section of the book really caught my eye and summarized not only why I think gardening is important but also why I think smart eating is important. Mr. Wann actually quotes another author Gary Nabhan from his work “Coming Home To Eat” here:

“Just what exactly is it that we want to have cross our lips, to roll off our tongues, down our throats, to fill our nostrils with hardly described fragrances, to slide to a brief halt within our bellies, to mix with our own gastric juices, to be transformed and conjured into something new by the myriad microbes in our guts, to migrate across our stomach linings, to surge into our bloodstreams, and to be carried along with insulin for one last ride, and then to be lodged within our very own bodies? What do we want to be made of?

Ok. So maybe the description is a bit much, but it really makes you think. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that literally everything you put into your body is going to do something.

After thinking about this over the weekend, I brainstormed three areas where this can apply.

You Are What You Eat Eats.

The standard statement that we’ve all heard and that we’re taught as children is that you are what you eat. If you eat a lot of junk food, you’re going to be fat. If you eat veggies and fruits, you’ll be healthy and happy!

This is, unfortunately, a bit simplistic. Michael Pollan takes it a bit further in his, “In Defense of Food” by saying that you are what you eat eats. You could eat nothing but carrots, but if those carrots are laced with arsenic then guess what. You gonna die.

The problem with this idea is that in today’s world it’s really hard to know what you eat is eating all the time.

Here’s a few things that might help you:

- If you eat meat, try to research where your meat came from, what it’s fed, and how it was raised. Sometimes packaging is a good start and that coupled with a google search or two can get you a lot of information.

- Research how food is grown. Obviously, the best way to know what’s in the food you eat is to grow it yourself, hence my gardening goal this year. But for most of us, it’s just not realistic to grow everything (or even most things) that we eat. One easy step is to find out what vegetables are important to buy organic, and if you can, support those industries.

- Read ingredient lists! This one is easy and a great way to see what companies are sneaking into the food you eat. (Check out my Guess The Food series for starters.)

You Are What You Use Uses.

Beyond what you put in your body, it’s important to know what you surround yourself with. It’s probably a good idea to clean your house, but have you ever thought about what those cleaners are made of?

The products that you have in your home are all around you every day and even if you’re super-careful, you’re going to get some of them in your body. So it’s important to know what those products use.

This area is actually my wife, Betsy’s, specialty in our house. These are a few things that I know she does regularly or is starting to do:

- When possible, make your own. More on this tomorrow, but there’s lots of ways to make really effective cleaners at home.

- Research products that you do buy. The Environmental Working Group has a ton of information on healthy products.

- Use less! I constantly find myself using way more of a product than I need to. What I’m learning is that if I just use as little as possible, it’s usually enough. Then I can add more if I need it.

You Are What You Do.

Ok. There’s no cool double phrasing for this one (You are what you do does?). This one can be taken in either a literal way or an abstract way.

Literally, you are what you do. If you exercise a lot and stay active, chances are you’ll be healthier and happier. I doubt that’s a shock to anybody.

Abstractly, you are what you do in the sense of becoming what you put your time and energy into. If you focus on being a fantastic parent, you’ll become a fantastic parent. If you write a lot, well then you’re a writer (see also: poor).

Here’s a few ideas to increasing your doing:

- Get some exercise!You don’t need to join some fancy gym to get a workout. Just go for a walk outside or find a fun new hobby that involves moving.

- Volunteer. I’m hoping to do more volunteering this year because I do think it’s important to help those in need. There are a lot of people in need these days after all.

- Read. Go to the library, grab a book that looks good to you, and learn something. It’ll be good for ya.

Somehow I got all of this out of a quote about gardening. Not really sure how that happened but it’s how my brain works I guess.

My point with all of this is that we really are the sum of many small things, from what we eat to what we do. I get overwhelmed when I think about this on a big scale so instead I try to just focus on one or two things at a time.

And that’s why I’m growing a garden this year!

What small thing are you working on that might change you?

Fresh veggies photo by Downing Street.

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19 comments on “What Do You Want To Be Made Of?

  1. Great post Nick – you got me thinking. The great thing about a veggie garden is – you always have more than enough to share with others!

  2. I have been thinking about a lot of eating more real food as well. As a single mom I find myself very short on time and cutting corners on a regular basis (insert micro- mac and cheese here, because I don't have enough time for box mac and cheese to cook on the way to gymnastics). But I have been starting to think about making snacks – dinners ahead of time- that seems to be the only way to save my day. I would love to see more things I could make a day or two in advance that a kid could/would eat. And as most kids I am sure- she doesn't like meat or anything strange. I am trying to convince her otherwise though…

    Ps. I read every single day- its how I start my morning :)

  3. About what we use…I used to go through a lot of different cleaning solutions, finally landing on an "environmental one", but still going through a lot of it (3 dogs, 2 cats) when I stumbled on microfiber cleaning cloths. What a wonder! I have them in everywhere and use them for wet work and dusting, then drop them in the laundry. Here is the link to Amazon where i got mine 18 months ago and they're still going strong. http://www.amazon.com/Zwipes-Microfiber-36-Pack-C
    All you have to remember is not to use softener in the wash or dryer (but had already stopped using those chemicals, too). Now I have fewer chemicals in the house and more $$ to buy healthy food…a win/win.

  4. Sounds like a good book; my best friend in Maine is moving home to Denver soon- maybe this can be her going away present. :(

  5. great post.

    have you read Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma? I just finished it and started reading In Defense of Food. I was buying just about everything organic before (especially making sure to buy organic meat), but after finishing it i am much less concerned about organic and much more concerned about local and cruelty free. How do you go about determining the sourcing of your meat?

  6. Nick, if you are familair with Bonner Supply there in GJ, it is my aunt and uncle's business, my aunt grew up in NE Kansas, and she grows a huuuuugggge garden and does very well with it!! Her name is Helen, and you can call and ask her anytime, and give her my name. She would love to let you know what kind of vegetables do well there!

  7. Nick – try to find seeds/plants for 'short season' varieties, especially things that love heat like tomatoes and peppers. Two good ones are Territorial Seeds in Oregon (yes, we do have cool summers in the Pacific Northwest) and Johnny's Select Seeds in Maine. Also, check with your local Master Gardeners, they are all over in both Canada and the US (American usually connected with your State university) and they will have the best local advice. The BEST way to know what you are eating is to grow it yourself!

  8. Although you probably will never see this reply because the post is so old, I wondered how your garden turned out this year with all the dry weather and forest fires in Colorado. Here in southern Illinois, the extreme drought meant that my garden never really got off the ground. We had an early spring (like January/February early), and despite the early start, the only thing I managed to harvest from the garden was squash and even that only for the month of June. Despite generous hand watering, the lack of rain and the non-existent ground water meant even the tomatoes were a loss. I’m bummed, but now a regular customer at the farmer’s market.

    1. Heya! Nah… I get all comments via email whether they are on old or new posts. :)

      In short, my garden is SUFFERING. It’s just plain too hot. :(

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