Thursday, December 1st

Metanoein—Change Your Mind

 Eventually the Church learned what sooner or later all Churches learn—there is no way to avoid dealing with the results of responsible scholarship. Scholars can be purged once or twice, but a new generation keeps coming along; and eventually the Church has to enter into dialogue with them.1


The Lost Tools of Learning

“That I, whose formal education is limited, should have the nerve to discuss reform is a matter, surely, that calls for no apology. It is a kind of behavior to which the present climate of opinion is wholly favorable. Bishops air their opinions about economics; biologists, about metaphysics; inorganic chemists, about theology; the most irrelevant people are appointed to highly technical ministries; and plain, blunt men write to the papers to say that Epstein and Picasso do not know how to draw. Up to a certain point, and provided the criticisms are made with a reasonable modesty, these activities are commendable. Too much specialization is not a good thing. There is also one excellent reason why the veriest amateur may feel entitled to have an opinion. For if we are not all followers of Christ, we have all, at some time or another, been taught about religion. Even if we learnt nothing about what is true—perhaps in particular if we learnt nothing about what is true—our contribution to the discussion may have a potential value.”2

And so I begin this blog post by echoing Dorothy Sayers whose monumental essay, The Lost Tools of Learning, received backlash from those who saw her reforms a threat to religion; and others that saw her as representing all the evils that plague the modern family. Poor Dorothy. While her reforms were directed at education in our school systems, the same could also be said about education in our churches. The lost tools that Sayers was referring to were the scholastic skills obtained through the medieval tradition of the liberal arts. They were tools that taught one how to think critically.

Historical Criticism

In his book The Critical Meaning of the Bible, Fr. Raymond Brown shares how the Roman Catholic Church responded to the growing pressure to reform itself by adapting to historical criticism. Also known as higher criticism, historical criticism investigates the meaning of a text in its historical context. At the turn of the twentieth century as new archaeological discoveries of documents and artifacts made way for further deciphering ancient languages, it also gave scholars fresh perspectives to cultures and history. For biblical scholars these new tools gave them new ways for understanding the Bible and what the biblical authors meant when they wrote. Bible scholars were not questioning God (at least not all of them), but were questioning how the biblical authors thought about God.

Such developments were hugely significant and helpful not just for scholars but for the Catholic Church. The assimilation of this information by the Catholic Church to its laity was the foremost task confronting them. The question was, how was the Church going to accomplish this. Understanding the path the Catholic Church took to reform is especially timely for the LDS Church in light of the problems with issues in its own church history and creation of its canonical books, and how it should properly teach and disseminate that information to its members. There is much we can learn from Fr. Raymond Brown and the Catholic Church.

In describing the importance of responsible scholarship and reiterating the purpose of higher criticism, Brown relates how “every reader today, no matter how professedly simple is consciously or unconsciously shaped by attitudes reflecting a critical sense by which we judge all that is communicated by modern media. Assumptions about historicity or science will be made by a reader who has any form of general education. A basic grasp of what is involved in the historical-critical reading of the Scriptures will prevent the assumptions or presuppositions from being naive.”3

Who is Raymond Brown?

Fr. Raymond E. Brown (1928-1998) was a prominent and influential biblical scholar and theological educator who wrote numerous books on the New Testament with a focus on the hypothetical Johannine community. His books The Birth of the Messiah and The Death of the Messiah have an equally large readership and are regarded as classics in the biblical field. Brown was ordained a Catholic priest in 1953 and two years later became a member of the Society of Saint Sulpice. He served as professor at Saint Mary’s University and later taught at Union Theological Seminary until retirement where he spent his remaining years in research, writing and lecturing.

1Brown was one of the first Catholic scholars in the United States to use the historical-critical method to study the Bible which, while common in Protestant scholarship, was discouraged in Catholicism until Pope Pius XII issued his Encyclical Letter, Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943. Brown was a champion of Pope Pius’ views and was passionate in his convictions that critical biblical scholarship was indeed a necessity.

Reinterpreting Scripture

This new perspective and its necessity compounded when the Catholic Church’s silence and failure to stand up for those that suffered at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi Germany lead to serious introspection and reappraisal of Catholic attitudes towards Jews. This set in motion a reevaluation of its relationships with Christians and non-Christians and its literal interpretation of scripture.4

Before the 1943 Encyclical Letter was issued, however, the first albeit hesitant step towards higher criticism, Brown reports, was taken by Pope Leo XIII fifty years earlier who “saw the dangers in the higher criticism of his era but recognized that the biblical authors had the scientific vocabulary and outlook of primitive times and so could not be easily invoked in the modern debates about science—a statement with obvious implications for the whole creation and evolution discussion.”5

Higher Criticism was a move away from a literalistic approach to interpreting scripture. This quite naturally attracted heated opposition from ultraconservative voices, many of whom viewed Brown’s scholarship (and others) unorthodox and a threat to the stability of the Catholic Church. Viewed from another angle, where a list of historical errors in the Bible were rattled off and counter arguments persistently made for in their defense, Brown judged such defense for the Bible’s inerrancy as “an unmitigated disaster, draining off energy into the creation of ingenious implausibilities and turning exegesis into apologetics.”6

This unmitigated disaster can be seen in LDS apologetics that have gone from decades-worth of bad arguments and mind-bending games to the recent method of inoculation. It’s tiring, it’s embarrassing, and it needs to stop. Brown argued that “higher criticism is not destructive to one’s faith, rather, it can be enormously helpful in challenging Christians and the Church(s), much as the prophets challenged Israel, and Jesus challenged the people of his time.”7


Second Vatican Council

In October of 1958, John XXIII was elected Pope, but nothing could prepare the world for what was to happen three months later when he announced to convoke a council which led to the creation of the Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II).8 Brown was amongst the 2800 participants that attended allowing him a front row seat to the events that unfolded. It was a monumental religious event that allowed bishops, theologians and laypersons both Catholic and Protestant to address the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. In the words of Pope John XXIII, it was time to “open up the windows and let in fresh air.”

In the Preface of his book The Critical Meaning of the Bible, Brown roughly outlines the Catholic Bible movement of the twentieth century into three periods:

  • The first period (1900-1940) was dominated by the official Catholic rejection of modern biblical criticism because of fears that it would be destructive of doctrine. Eventually the Church learned what sooner or later all Churches learn—there is no way to avoid dealing with the results of responsible scholarship. Scholars can be purged once or twice, but a new generation keeps coming along; and eventually the Church has to enter into dialogue with them.
  • Thus the second period (1940-1970) saw the introduction of biblical criticism and the gradual but reluctant acceptance of its initial results in and through Vatican Council II. More than by any other single factor, the self-reform of Roman Catholicism in that Council was influenced by the modern approach to the Bible. Catholic mastery of biblical criticism has progressed since Vatican II, and the implications have proved more wide-ranging than even the most perceptive leaders of the Council foresaw.
  • The third period of the century (1970-2000), in which we now live, therefore, has involved the painful assimilation of those implications for Catholic doctrine, theology, and practice.9

Brown passed away in 1998 so one can only imagine what more he could have contributed and what more he would say had he lived to see the biblical movement into the twenty-first century as new insights continue to develop and affect theology. Needless to say, I had no idea of the new insights being discovered by scholars outside Mormonism where there is a prevailing mood amongst members to avoid biblical and theological scholarship outside church approved manuals.

Less Preaching, More Teaching

Much like Catholicism that rejected modern biblical criticism before Vatican II, the LDS Church encourages and promotes a literal approach to learning called personal revelation or learning by the spirit. The word revelation needs clarifying but for brevity it relies on the feelings one gets from the information given them. Brown would disagree with the method of relying on feelings to interpret information, whether it be scripture, Shakespeare or the local newspaper. To interpret scripture one needs scientific, literary, and historical methods to determine what the ancient authors meant when they wrote itand that knowledge, he says, does not come from revelation.10

Which brings us to the information. The information has been modified to such an extent that much of the elements in its retelling has been suppressed or purged. Essays have been written to help inquisitive members but many feel the Church could do better. One area that needs a complete overhaul is its teaching. When I was called to the Relief Society presidency, my responsibility was to oversee the Sunday lessons which meant that I would also be teaching from time to time. I am not a teacher, and I did not feel comfortable teaching. When I asked for teacher training classes to prepare and help teachers like myself, there were always other pressing concerns and our Sunday lessons suffered for it. The point is, this is a Church wide pattern.

The Church calls unpaid laity to teach, many of whom learn on the job or by watching what others have done. We are often reminded about how brilliant this idea is but this mindset encourages members to fall prey to feelings. What is needed are teachers trained in Church history and theology and as such, teachers should be given a stipend from the Church for their services. This will allow for capable knowledgeable teachers to help motivate members learn and better understand the complexities surrounding its history because it’s going to take that much educating and self-education to get to the bottom of these issues. Many will be concerned that learning from this approach will lead to a crisis of faith. If anything it could prevent it and lead to an intelligent and thoughtful one.

Encyclical Letter followed by a General Council

An Encyclical Letter, not Essays written to inoculate inquisitive members. This is where the Church can learn from the direction taken by the Catholic Church if they are to survive as a thriving community in the years ahead. If we look at what the Catholic Church has done, what needs to transpire if greater transparency is goal, is for an Encyclical Letter similar to Divino Afflante Spiritu, published in the Ensign, and read from every pulpit explaining and outlining the difficult issues.

Behind the scenes, the Pope in 1959 promptly formed a committee to gather in opinions about issues that needed action. The original intent was to send out a Questionnaire but found this approach too prejudicial. To solve this, Pope John XXIII instead sent a Letter to “all clerics with the rank of bishop or higher and the superior-generals of the religious orders of men” that stated simply: “The Venerable Pontiff wants to know the opinions or views and to obtain the suggestions and wishes of their excellencies, the bishops and prelates who are summoned by law (Canon 223) to take part in the ecumenical council … These will be most useful in preparing the topics to be discussed at the council.”

The Encyclical Letter should be followed by a General Council, similar to Vatican II, where a selection of local leaders, experts in various fields, and lay persons gather with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to discuss issues, and like Vatican II, be televised for general viewing. No doubt the LDS Church has spent huge amounts of funds consulting with experts in various fields addressing these concerns, but what is needed is transparency where members—who contribute and sacrifice so much of their time, money and talents to the Church—are made aware of the issues in a direct and honest manner.

Metanoein—Change Your Mind

In a podcast interview between John Dehlin and Grant Palmer, Dehlin asks Palmer what changes the Church should take in its transition to being more open while at the same time retain membership. Palmer responded the only way that could happen is if the Church quietly moved towards a Christ centered experience without announcing any of its difficulties. Palmer shared that when the Community of Christ (formerly known as RLDS) announced the difficulties in its history to its congregation, membership fell from 200,000 to 75,000, and that every time the LDS Church makes changes, it loses members to fundamentalism. In the end, whatever approach is used, the Church will lose members. The question is how credible does the Church want to be.11

Produced from Vatican II were 16 documents12 described as the greatest expressions of Catholic social teaching in its history. To match the beauty of those documents, Brown asks us to reconsider the meaning of repent.13 The word comes from the Greek metanoein which means to think over. “For sinners this involves repenting or changing one’s life. For religious people not conscious of sin, the demand of metanoein might be better translated literally as change of mind”14 or change of outlook. “Jesus had little problem with sinners, his problem was with religious people—and getting religious people to change their mind is difficult because in a sense of being religious they already know what God wants. Part of trying to be religious is to live out what you think God wants—and when someone comes along and says, now if you really want to do what God wants, you’ve got to change your mind about what He wants. That’s a challenging and difficult request.”15

Images: Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse; Fr. Raymond E. Brown; and Vatican II.

Show 15 footnotes

  1. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, x.
  2. Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning, given in her address at Oxford, 1947 and published in 1948. With word changes by me for emphasis.
  3. Raymond E. Brown, Historical-Critical Exegesis, (Wipf & Stock, 1985), 11.
  4. Sonya Shetty Cronin, Raymond Brown, “The Jews,” and the Gospel of John, (Bloomsbury T&T Clark), 11
  5. Brown, Historical-Critical Exegesis, 11.
  6. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, n.18.
  7. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, viii.
  8. John W. O’Malley, What Happened at Vatican II.
  9. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, x.
  10. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, ix.
  11. Online: http://mormonstories.org/mormon-stories-030-031-032-and-033-an-insiders-view-of-mormon-origins-an-interview-with-grant-palmer/ audio 4. John Dehlin is the founder of the Mormon Stories podcast, a psychologist and social activist; Grant Palmer is the author of An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins and The Incomparable Jesus.
  12. Vatican II was opened by Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed by Pope Paul VI in 1965 who succeeded Pope John XXIII in 1963. Each document has the approval of Pope Paul VI along with dates of promulgation.
  13. Online: http://www.unitape.org/tape/74.
  14. Brown, The Critical Meaning of the Bible, n.95.
  15. Online: http://www.unitape.org/tape/74.

Tuesday, November 29th

The Busying of Leisure

The Bible is that hefty part of the canon we treat much like the unused artifacts inherited from granny that ended up in long-term storage. We hang on to it because it has a sentimental value. In this post I’m going to discuss leisure, what it is, and how we have become too busy for it.


Artwork: Detail of Woman Asleep at Table by Vermeer

In one of his lectures he gives, Bart Ehrman shares how many of his New Testament students are from the Bible Belt, the southern eastern area of the U.S. where he teaches. These are students that are socially conservative evangelical protestants with a firm commitment to the Bible. At the start of his class, in order to give him an idea of where his students are in their understanding of the scriptures, Ehrman begins by giving them a quiz. From the responses he receives, it is striking that while his students believe the Bible is the word of God and that it is inerrant, very few have actually read it.

I don’t share that to shame Ehrman’s students, and I’m sure they leave his classes learning more than they had bargained for, but I could see myself in that picture and I would not be wrong in saying that most religious adherents fall somewhere in this mindset. As a church, Mormons have always been encouraged to read the Book of Mormon, not just selected verses and chapters, but from cover to cover. President Ezra Taft Benson and President Gordon B. Hinkley were two prophets during my lifetime that challenged members to read it cover to cover. I remember getting excited about those challenges and thinking how enlightened and forward thinking we were becoming. That idealized view stemmed from reading stories about those that were illiterate, or those that could decipher but didn’t own a Bible having to rely on their parish priest to interpret the scriptures for them and how that opened a way for spiritual abuse because of their ignorance. Later I would wonder if we were not far removed from this model.

A couple years ago, after I had reread the BoM, I decided to tackle the OT beyond the assigned verses and chapters. I wanted to read with a fresh perspective like one reading it for the first time so I could see how I would respond or what I would really think. At this point I wasn’t even going through a faith crisis. I was genuinely interested in learning more than what we were getting in church. I remember every time the Sunday school teacher focused his lessons outside the correlated history, how I thought those lessons were the most enlightening lessons I had heard mentioned in church. But I also knew those lessons were not in the study guide nor lesson manual.

The Liberal Arts

Now I’m going to mention an ideal that some may have never heard before. I’m also aware of those that will argue that only entitled rich kids have the luxury to study subjects considered impractical. I was not educated in the tradition, nor am I or was I a rich kid, but I can see the value in it.

The liberal arts was espoused as an ideal that rose from the coat tails of Classical antiquity. It was an education that advocated the kind of skills considered essential to participate in civic life. While this ideal was restricted to free persons, the idea was that only those that could think well were considered truly free. When people today think of the liberal arts they think of graduates leaving college with no real prospect of a job. But the initial intent for a liberal arts degree was never about getting a job, it had everything to do with learning how to think. It is not, what fundamentalists have come to view it as, left-wing liberalism.

When our children were young and I was navigating my way through the classical education homeschool movement (that centered on the Trivium of a liberal arts education), one could not escape the religious right wing undertones and the constant bombardment of messages proclaiming that to be truly free all you needed was to believe in Christ, or if you were a Mormon, follow the prophet.

As a young mother still in her 20s who had never gone to a liberal arts college (let alone college) and newly moved to the US, this was a huge cultural shock and my first lesson on taking sides that I didn’t want to participate in. Damn it, I just want to educate my children. But they were adamant the Greeks and their philosophizing ways were the devil and that anyone questioning what God had revealed were going to hell. The homeschool movement amongst Mormon homeschoolers were equally divisive about classical education. Why the hostility towards classicism was beyond insane but if they were aware that Christianity was influenced by Greek thought, they might have thought otherwise.

Busying of Leisure

When one thinks of leisure, one thinks vacation. A vacation on an island beach drinking a cocktail, or reading a romance novel by the poolside while the kids enjoy fun activities at Club Med. Everyone deserves a vacation now and then. Leisure as we have come to think of the word, however was not what the ancients had in mind when they used it. We think of leisure as time away from work (our 9 to 5 jobs, routines of home, school), the Greeks thought of it as work, the kind that requires thinking and reading and more thinking. If you think it sounds like school, it was. The kind that could also happen in your home armed with a library card and internet access.

With that in mind, while we might think the world today has progressed since the days in which those tiresome philosophizing pagans lived two and a half thousand years ago—in that we are scientifically more advanced, more connected, more literate, more enlightened, more everything!—it is a sobering thought that we have, in amongst the overload of information and “to-do lists” veering for our attention, morphed into aliterates. We know how to read, but don’t. Someone else interprets while we get on with life.

The single mother raising four young children; the husband studying full-time while his pregnant wife works two jobs. . . there is little time for leisure. For the stay-at-home mother perceived as having time on her hands there are more callings and more opportunities to serve. With the recent emphasis on temple attendance, family history and family indexing, what was once done by the elderly, has now been challenged of young mothers and mothers with children still at home. We are a church that loves a good challenge. In the end the workload always falls on the women and one can only wonder at the pressure—and guilt of not measuring up and the depression that stems from it—experienced among the female population of the church.

Temple presidents want to do an impressive job of their callings which entails encouraging members to attend the temple more regularly. Meetings and firesides are scheduled to inspire families to do more. Youth programs and Sunday combined classes focus on getting that head start on genealogy and family indexing and all this in a climate where families are suffering with unemployment, illnesses, and a myriad of other day-to-day stresses. The busier we are, the less time we have for leisure which includes fact-checking and thinking critically about our lessons.

Reading as Leisure

There was a part of me that wished we could read the BoM like how one does in a literature class. Pick it apart, philosophize about its characters, present arguments for and against ideas, etc. Each time I would attempt to discuss the scriptures that way, I would be told that that was wrong; that there is only one way to read them. I wasn’t even going through a faith crisis at this point; I was genuinely interested in learning more about a book I loved and having fun with it like how people that love Shakespeare and Jane Austen do. Sunday church services isn’t the place to read the scriptures in a literary way but when you’re told you can’t even meet outside church to discuss them in that way, you do what any rational thinking person does—read it however the way you want to read it.

In the introduction to his book Zealot, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, Reza Aslan quotes the great Christian theologian, Rudolf Bultmann, that the quest for the historical Jesus is, ultimately, an internal quest and that scholars will see the Jesus that they want to see. Either way, whether your idea of Jesus comes from the faith accounts of your religious tradition (revelation) or from the study of the historical Jesus (sources), it’s a construction nonetheless. One of them at least requires the kind of reading the ancients meant when they spoke of leisure.

This post was written over a year ago and is being republished. While one may think this topic has nothing to do with health and well-being, I beg to differ.

Tuesday, November 8th

Sweet Bean Paste

I watched the movie Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase. A tender story that showcases Dorayaki (a Japanese confectionery) and the love that goes into making Anko, the sweet bean paste. Of course I had to try it. After scouring the internet, I came across this recipe with authors Noriko and Yuko. If you look at other recipes, you will notice that this recipe uses 1/2 cup (sometimes 1 cup) sugar more per cup of beans. Their reason for the extra sugar is that “it makes the paste thicker, shinier and tastes closer to the ones from traditional Japanese sweet shops.” Resist the urge to rinse the beans after you drain them in the last step otherwise the paste will turn an unappetizing faded purple and not the deep red-brown. If you prefer a smooth texture, mix using a stick blender or blender. Makes a delicious spread in place of Nutella or jam.







Thursday, October 27th

Chocolate Sourdough Bread

I wrote this post earlier this year, put it in the “drafts” folder and then forgot about it. I discovered it today while writing up another and so had to post it before I forgot again. These are images taken from when I first tried making chocolate sourdough bread. I’ve made it several times since then—fewer times over summer but now that the weather is turning cooler, this will be a regular. The recipe comes from The Clever Carrot and while I only used half the amount of starter and didn’t have chocolate chips, my bread turned out similarly. If anything I was very pleased with the result. I was amazed at how quickly the bread rose compared to my usual batch of sourdough bread which I think is the result of using sugar. Both crumb and crust are soft too and from reading about bread making in the past, it’s from using sugar so if you prefer a much softer crust and crumb, add sugar. The aroma of this bread while baking and afterwards is just delicious.


Overnight rise. Using a see-through container for this process allows you to view the texture of your dough; and one with measurements will allow you to measure its growth. The texture in your dough is also a good indicator of what your finished product will look like so watching the process through a transparent container makes for a very helpful tool.


Proofing. Before (left), and one hour later (right).


Note. Most sourdough bread recipes call for a dutch oven or cast iron pot, and some recipes absolutely advise that you can’t bake a bread without them. This isn’t true. A pizza stone or barbecue stone will do just as well and is something most people have access to without the added expense of purchasing an item they may not need. To create the steam required, place a dish at the bottom of the oven (the stone should be placed in the oven at this time too) while the oven is preheating. Then, when the oven is ready and the bread dough is on the stone (if there is room you can put more than one dough on the same stone), pour 1 cup of ice into the dish and close the oven door directly.

Tuesday, October 25th

Pancakes and Oedipus Rex

It’s been three months since my last post and a lot has happened during that time with the landscaping and gardening and trying new recipes and the skills that go into mastering them. Our youngest child started college this year too and in readiness encouraged him to practice his cooking skills over the summer break. It’s to his advantage that he studies his recipes before trying them out because, unlike my experiments, everything he cooks turns out as they should his first try. I could learn from this and I know I should but nature is strong and I never do.

As to recipes, I am learning to make pancakes. Shocking I know, but our family just doesn’t eat them enough to warrant making them. My husband took me out to brunch recently and there I saw a plate of pancakes each the size of a frisbee stacked high like a leaning tower of Pisa. I got indigestion just from staring at them so consumed with the thought that it would look more appealing if the pancakes were smaller, and fewer of them. So here I am, on a mission to master the ultimate frisbee. I mean pancake.

And my current read is Oedipus Rex. Another book that has been on my shelf for over a decade that I am now finally opening. However, for a book of 90 pages, I think it will take me that many days to finish. It’s not difficult to read but I find myself purging emotions I never thought I had which is not only embarrassing but makes reading it difficult and so I’m always putting it down for periods longer than usual. The challenge of course is in resuming. Hence the reason difficult books should be considered. It’s easier to face your biases vicariously through others. The truth is, it’s more satisfying to point the finger at others, but then realizing if you have any hint of foresight in you, that you were only looking at yourself.

Wednesday, July 20th

Thinking outside the clay pot


If it weren’t for the introductory pages and its esoteric jargon I might had tossed it forever. Instead, I did myself a favor and skipped it for chapter one. I’m currently reading The Double Helix by James D. Watson. Needless to say for someone that is mathematically challenged and science illiterate, I found it encouraging to learn that a scientist had an aversion toward maths but at the same time also “avoided learning mathematical equations for the sake of understanding baloney.” Clearly this was a person that wasn’t going to waste his time learning a complicated equation if the argument for its premise was questionable to start with. He also confesses how he managed to avoid taking chemistry classes (another subject he found difficult); instead compensated by outside reading and seeking out leading experts in the field. Furthermore he shares how presentations by peers often went over his head; and at the other end of the spectrum how he thought some articles and their corresponding research misguided. What I got from this book is that the author shows a high degree of resourcefulness and critical thinking and how both these characteristics involve being open-minded and honest with yourself to the point of admitting your inabilities; and aware when others don’t. I think it also takes a community of minds to find solutions and that ideas are never formed in a vacuum but are influenced by the ideas of others whether it be drawing from contemporary minds and/or those in history.

What does this have to do with what I’m trying to accomplish at home with my gardening? Nothing, only that you shouldn’t take advice from someone that doesn’t garden. Also, I think sometimes we think solutions come in the form of complicated hi-tech-like packages when they can be solved using resources in our own backyards. The idea that Watson thought of using building blocks similar to what a child plays with to begin building his DNA structure had some people think he and the notion absurd. On a random note, Curtis Stone of the Urban Farmer was asked why he doesn’t do hydroponics and while he isn’t opposed to it said that he thinks technology should be appropriate to the conditions. You don’t need to go into debt to build a business, you don’t need a lot of land to grow food, and you don’t need hi-tech to keep it sustainable.

With that said, here’s an ingenious lo-tech idea (or as Curtis would say “appropriate technology”) for dryland irrigation using clay pots going one step further to attaching rope to serve as a drip line.

Thursday, June 2nd

Uprooting, transplanting, propagating and hedging

Early spring of this year I dug out eight of our nine box plants that were lining the front of our home and transplanted them elsewhere. Four of the plants were medium size (about 22″) and four small (about 14″). The small plants recovered astonishingly well but the medium sized plants unfortunately went into shock, more than I have ever seen before on a plant. Obviously they were not happy and I felt horrible about uprooting them. It was a lot of work digging them up and I vowed I would never dig up a plant this size and type again ever. There were a few factors that accounted for their shock and lessons learned. When the leaves turned brown and started to fall I amended the soil again and cut the bad branches out. I also cleaned up the roots. The next day I felt very encouraged when I saw little green buds starting to appear on the branches already. I had seen this before so I got the cutters out again and cut back hard three of the four plants that were most affected. If you want to know what it means to hope, gardening will do it.

Below is an image of the ninth box plant I left in front of the house. I didn’t think of trying to move this plant as it measures 30″ in height and 10″ more in width. While it is not a huge plant, it is amazing how huge a plant becomes once you think of moving it. The lighter green and red tips shows new growth.

Which is also happening on the plants I transplanted. The plant below was cut back the hardest and is showing a good deal of regeneration.


Interestingly enough, the plant I did the least cut back has fewer regrowth despite it having lost fewer leaves from the transplant shock.


Which has given me ideas for making more plants for hedging our new potager (which is a whole new blog post). I wish I had given more thought to plant propagation and seed saving years ago but now that I am aware of it and have the time to do more with our garden, I’m excited to try it out. It’s like a whole new world has opened itself up to me.

Tuesday, March 29th

Damaged rush seat chairs

I hadn’t intended on another project, but a local restaurant had thrown these damaged chairs out and I just had to have them. I saw one chair and a couple weeks later another so now I check in often to see if there are any discards. The frames are intact, just the rush seats are damaged. Obviously I have no idea how to weave a rush chair, nor do I know the level of difficulty it will take to restore them, so if I end up getting frustrated, they might end up holding stacks of books. This is definitely a summer project when the rising temperatures keeps one indoors.


Sunday, March 27th

Wedding Anniversary—Backyard Wedding

Almost two years ago our oldest daughter and son-in-law were married at home. It was a beautiful day and, as the placard made by the happy couple says, was the “best wedding ever!”
























Monday, December 28th

Christmas 2015

We’ve had unusually warm weather this season that we almost thought we’d be enjoying Christmas dinner outdoors. The latanas didn’t flower much summer but did fall through winter but with the change in temperature the day after Christmas, will probably be sending them hibernating. The added color has been nice.


Last year I learned about Home Depot giving away free tree trimmings of which I made fresh garlands to decorate the home. This year I thought of making a door wreath but saw them on sale for $10 so bought one instead; the wire frame of which pretty much paid for itself seeing I can reuse it too.

Christmas day I woke early to raid the garden to make the centerpiece. Last year I used for the first time a foam block but this year decided to put the cuttings directly on the table. It should last a couple days.


Christmas day dinner was inspired by Mimi Thorisson’s Christmas dinner (actually her centerpiece too). We had chestnut soup, quail, and buche de noel (by Baguette et Chocolat).