Living Simply

We strive to live simply in our house. I say strive because sometimes living simply isn’t quite so simple nowadays, and sometimes we just don’t succeed at keeping things as simple as we’d like.

    Our house is often messy and cluttered, but we’re getting better, and with a gaggle of kids and a dog running around there’s going to be a certain amount of mess. I’m sure if we were minimalists our house would be cleaner, but with little kids comes a certain amount of “stuff” and we’re (mostly) ok with that. We’re willing to accept the mess that comes from all that “stuff” because we’re pretty anti-tech when it comes to our kids. As much as I hate that there are Legos all over my son’s room, I’ll take that over him staring at a tablet playing Minecraft for hours. 

    Recently, I found myself on a restless Friday night with a sleeping wife on the couch watching a documentary about minimalism on Netflix. (I know, I know, I better chill out on this wild lifestyle I lead!) Anyway, it’s worth a watch, but the basic gist isn’t some crazy idea that you have to sell off all your possessions and buy a tiny house, but instead to not let “things” dominate your life. 

    That’s an important message in today’s world, and one that the wife and I find ourselves trying to live by and instill in our kids. Like I said, it’s not always easy, but I think as long as we’re making the effort, we’re succeeding. 

    Right? At least a little? E for effort maybe? #notanexpert

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    Aliens!

    Although they may look otherworldly, they’re not aliens. They’re called tomato hornworms, they ARE disgusting, and they are a scourge on my tomatoes this year.

    Where did they come from? What are they? Why my tomatoes? What did I do to deserve this?!

    It turns out that they are the larval stage of the hummingbird moth. Had I known this I would have swatted those suckers when I saw them flitting around the garden earlier this year, but they were pretty cool looking, and as many people do, we initially mistook them for actual hummingbirds!

    What’s a guy to do about these little terrors? Well it turns out that unless I want to douse my tomatoes in insecticide (no thanks!) picking them off is the best I can do. Their natural predators are wasps, (unfortunately I killed all the wasps around the house earlier in the summer!) and ladybugs. Although I’d love to see a boatload of ladybugs battle it out for supremacy against the hornworm hoard, I don’t know if that’s a great option this late in the game. I’ll just have to stay vigilant and keep checking daily for more signs of these monsters.

    The only upside here is that my kids LOVE playing with them. They were so excited coming home from Costco today because they wanted to go outside to “check on their babies” that I had picked and put in their bucket this morning. They’re outside right now as I type this poking and prodding and doing who knows what to them. It’s fun to see them excited about nature and animals and exploring their curiosity about things, and as long as they’re nowhere near my tomatoes I’m happy to let them go to town!

    Dayhike Essentials and Extras

    So you’re not summiting Everest, or thru-hiking the AT, but you want to get outside for the day. There are a few basics that anyone heading into the outdoors (even if that involves city streets instead of back-country trails) should have with them, and even a few extras that I’ve found come in handy.

    Essentials

    Water: Because duh.

    Snack: Common sense applies here so keep it small. You’re (hopefully) not surviving for days here!

    A trail-map: Because you should always have an idea of where you’re going and how to get back. If you’re going to be in a more urban/suburban park then your smartphone and Google Maps might suffice, but don’t take this for granted.

    A phone: Yes, I often lament “what did we do before we all had phones?”, but we all have them now so you might as well carry yours in case of emergency. Do yourself a favor, make sure it’s charged.

    An extra layer: A spring and fall essential. Especially if you’re in a place with quick weather changes, or gaining/losing significant altitude. Writing this I’m reminded of getting caught in a quick squall atop a mountain in Hawaii that left us shivering! While we were luckily not far from the warmth of our tour van, that could easily have turned a fun day on the trail into a miserable experience if we still had soggy miles ahead of us.

    Backpack: Small, but roomy enough to throw that extra seasonal layer in and carry your water. Make sure it’s comfortable on the shoulders.

    Some Extras

    Knife/multitool: Even if all you use it for is to crack open a post-trip beer with the bottle opener it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    A camera: This can truly be considered an extra now that many of us are packing smartphones with decent cameras that are plenty capable of snapping quick pics along the trail. That being said, there are still plenty of things that you can only capture with a real standalone camera.

    Baby wipes: I didn’t discover these until I became a parent, but trust me, when you’re grimy and feeling “not so fresh” you’ll be happy you packed a small bag of them. Especially if you’re feeling hungry and want to stop for a post-trip meal that doesn’t involve a drive through!

    I know this list isn’t all encompassing, but it wasn’t intended to be. What am I missing? What would you ditch? What’s your number one essential?

    Tips for Planning an Outdoor Adventure

    I’m a planner. It’s one of the qualities my wife finds most endearing about me. She’ll have the great idea, and I’ll take over from there. That being said, below are just a few things I do before just about any trip, especially if it’s my first time going to an unfamiliar destination.

    1. Look at a Map

    There’s really no excuse for not looking at a map anymore. Gone are the day when you had to rely on picking up a trail map at the trailhead, or digging the one from your previous trek, before you could get a good idea of what lay ahead of you. There are tons of trail maps available online, and if that fails, many trails are even depicted on Google Maps.

    Get an idea of the distance you’re going to cover, what the terrain looks like, and any interesting things you want to see along the way. This doesn’t just apply to hiking, as even a quick overview of a river can at least give you an idea of the distance you’ll have to paddle. Sure your put-in and take-out points might be 10 miles apart by road, but if that river serpentines for 20 miles you’re in for a much longer day on the water!

    This tip also applies to your drive to your adventure! Don’t just rely on your GPS to guide you to the right spot, especially if you’re going through some backroads.

    2. Do a little research

    Some quick online searches should find you at least a little additional info on your destination, and a little bit of knowledge about what to expect might be the difference between an enjoyable trip and a experience you won’t want to repeat. Websites, magazines, blogs, guidebooks etc are all wonderful resources. Use them!

    3. Tell someone about it

    Don’t just wander off alone without telling someone where you’re going. Have a friend or family member who’s your designated check-in person before and after your adventure. Even if you’re going with other people it’s prudent to have someone outside the group who knows where you’re going, and when to expect you back.

    This is by no means an all encompassing list, but at least these few steps lay the groundwork. One of these days I’ll get around to writing about a particularly epic misadventure in Alaska where I’ll point out some of the various points in both planning and execution that led to a crazy day on the river.

    Cheers!