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DIY Education – Second Year Capstone

July 21st, 2013

Two years ago I posted on here a declaration of self-education and a strategy to get me started with an autodidactic education program. The strategy didn’t last long, but I’ve been experimenting with different things to accomplish my goals. It took on a life of its own. Then, this spring, a lot of plans hit their climax all at once. I finished my Minnesota Master Naturalist class, got on payment plans to pay off back rent and a debt to the IRS, and I officially started my residential-contracting-via-utility-bicycle business. My brain was, at this point, crammed with unsorted information and experiences. I figured the next step in my personal education should be a sort of capstone project – to unpack and synthesize everything I’ve encountered in the spirit of this project since beginning it. That includes, but is not limited to:

  • Volunteer seed collection and native plant identification
  • Taking a MetroBlooms Raingarden workshop
  • Minnesota Master Naturalist training
  • Taking part in Occupy MN
  • YouTube videos or free online documentaries with Timothy Morton, Slavoy Zizek, Alice Roberts, etc.
  • Filling notebooks with half-baked essays on anthropology and human history
  • Visiting state parks by bicycle
  • Hiking
  • Conversations with naturalists, park rangers, landscape architects and environmental science students
  • Reading (but not always finishing) Small is Beautiful, The Ecology of Commerce, The Expanding Circle, Collapse, Sex at Dawn, Thoughts Without a Thinker, A Primer in Environmental Literacy and the Ecology of Freedom

My second year capstone is a two part writing project.

Part one is a sort of self-assessment where I attempt to unpack the last two years and pick out some key ideas and synthesize multiple lines of thought. This is for myself — as writing practice and as a way of taking stock. I’m going to use it sort of as a cheat sheet for the last two years, or as an external hard drive for my brain.

The second part is a paper putting Timothy Morton’s concept of “The Ecological Thought” into context in terms of ecological stewardship and political economy. I want to focus on some of the conceptual traps we fall into when we consider the intersection between human societies and the natural world, and how the Mortonian “Ecological Thought” turns those traps into new questions. The goal is twofold: to complete a finished philosophical essay and to combine my three focus areas of philosophical anthropology, landscape ecology and nonfiction writing in such a way that all three things feed off of each other.

This essay will be posted here when I’m done, maybe as a new version of my zine, “It’s a good day to face the hard things.” I’m exited to write it, but I first need to read Morton’s book entitled The Ecological Thought, and possibly also Ecology Without Nature. I’m familiar with his thinking through a series of videos and podcasts I’ve taken in. That kind of learning is adequate for forming thoughts and getting a sense of his ideas, but in order to write, I need to read the book.

As soon as this capstone is complete, I will return to the self-assessment and figure out what to do next.


Impromptu Three Day Bike Trip: A Packing List

July 9th, 2013

I’m a big fan of bicycle touring pack lists.  In the morning I leave for just three days, to volunteer for a DNR project planting native plugs by Lake Volney in Le Center, MN.  So on a whim, I threw together this pack list.  Everything is listed as it’s unpacked.

This winter I got my Trek 850 all fixed up for proper touring.  I made panniers, got a front rack and switched over to butterfly handlebars.  It’s a big leap from last year’s setup where everything was piled on top of the rear rack.  The bike was hard to mount and dismount and I couldn’t stand up to pedal uphill.  Now I can even ride no-handed and it feels like a normal bike even with 40 pounds of gear hanging on it.

Here’s a photo of my winter test pack. The configuration I’m using is pretty similar:
Image0743

This trip came together just in the last 24 hours, since I found out they were looking for volunteers for this project.  It’s only 3 days, so my list is not quite typical.

So, here’s a list of what I’m taking with me:

On the bike:

  • Two water bottles
  • Fuel canister for cooking
  • Tire pump

(I use HEET automotive gas line something-or-other as my cooking fuel, and I think it’s hilarious to go to the gas station and fill up a little tank that’s strapped to my bike — actually just an aluminum water bottle — with HEET.)

Strapped on top of the rear rack:

  • Tent poles
  • Tarp
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Gym bag containing extra water, plastic bags, all my food and some gardening tools.

Rear Pannier #1:

  • Toiletry kit with bug balm, sunscreen, Dr. Bronner’s soap, deoderant, toilet paper, first aid kit, hand lotion, pills, vaseline, a marker, alcohol wipes, toothpaste, toothbrush, nail clippers, razor handle and blades, and a comb.
  • Swim kit with sandals, swimsuit and a camp towel in a cloth drawstring backpack (which is useful for hikes as well).
  • Waterproof bag containing a blank notebook, a book on Environmental Literacy I’m reading, a bird fieldguide and a wildflower fieldguide.
  • Self-inflating Therm-a-rest mattress.
  • Flask of “nightcap.”

Rear Pannier #2:

  • Ziploc of several bandanas, socks and underwear, as well as a hat.
  • 2 spare bike tubes (one for each valve type)
  • My tent.

Front Pannier #1:

  • Rain Pants
  • Long khaki hiking pants
  • My DIY nested cook kit with an enameled steel mug, pot support, windscreen made out of duct pipe, stove made out of a beer can and a travel size french press.  There’s also a small scotchbrite pad for cleaning.
  • In one small pocket I have a ziploc containing 6 firestarters made out of cotton balls and petroleum jelly.  In the other small pocket I have a travel can opener.

Front pannier #2:

  • rain jacket
  • Fleece vest
  • Chain oil and a rag together in one ziploc
  • And one large ziploc I call the “coffee can:” miscellaneous tools and hardware–spare bolts, tire levers, a presta valve converter, batteries, matches, patch kit, caribiners, etc.
  • In the small pocket, i keep a bicycle multi-tool.

Handelbar bag:

  • Sunglasses (or glasses — whichever I’m not wearing) in a case.
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Chargers
  • Pens
  • Lighters
  • Headlamp
  • My Minnesota Master Naturalist pin
  • Spare bike key and a small folding knife on a lanyard
  • Then I have something I got from Target on clearance called a “travel wallet.”  It’s a 5×7″ zippered pouch that fits my bank card, cash, YWCA card, ID, etc.  as well as my 7″ tablet computer, which I’m using to view PDF’s of my route maps, check the weather, and read an essay by Timothy Morton called “Ecologocentrism: Unworking Animals.”

In my food collection I have the following things:

  • Coffee
  • Dehydrated pea soup with bacos and red pepper flakes. (the bacos soften up when cooked and have a ham-like flavor and texture — and they’re vegan.)
  • Apple Fritter bread for breakfast.
  • Baguettes (bought fresh when I can)
  • Baby bel cheese
  • Wheat thins
  • Nutella
  • Olives
  • Instant potatoes
  • Fruit
  • I also have my silverware in here rather than with the cookset since most of the time I won’t be cooking.