Keeping A Food Journal

I’ve made attempts before at keeping track of what I eat and although it seems like a simple task, it always goes by the wayside a few meals later.   I’ve been fairly successful ballpark guessing my daily protein intake, but never *everything* I eat.    I’m about a week into doing it on an app that does all the adding and computing for you and I think I’ve learned a few things.

First, my ballpark figures on how much protein I tend to consume in a day is pretty accurate, usually a shade north of 200 grams a day (at about 180lbs).    This is good and I’ll try to keep it around there, if not even a little higher.

Like most people, my eating habits are pretty predictable and on the days I work very highly structured.  I pack the same snacks every day and my main meal of the day is usually pretty consistent, most often chicken with sweet potato and vegetables.    When I stick to the “regular” foods, my diet looks pretty good.

I think I fall into a trap that a lot of other people do – the “I usually eat healthy/exercise so it’s ok to slip up every now and then…” trap.    And it’s easy to tell yourself that about as many times as you want.   I do believe it is true if you *usually* keep clean, it’s ok to splurge here and there, but it got a little too frequent for me.

I’m not trying to say that I’m morbidly obese or anything – I’ve probably put on 10-20lbs that I could do without over the past year or so.   Not a huge deal.  I’ve just decided I’d like to get back down to the high 160’s while keeping as much of my muscle mass as possible.   For what it’s worth, I did put on a noticeable increase of muscle with the weight gain, which was the goal.

Keeping track of what comes in so far has been pretty valuable…and it confirms that the “extras” can be a killer.   I know there were plenty of days in the past few months where maybe I added a breakfast sausage or bacon to my normal breakfast, then maybe Mary baked banana bread or something that I had before work, then maybe when I got home from work I grabbed a handful of m&m’s from that fucking candy jar that always gets me and maybe had a beer.   So if I get just about all of my calories from the things I should be eating, I just added another 700-1000 to it.   There’s 3500 calories per pound of fat, so it doesn’t take too long to see how that adds up

I also confirmed that on the weekends when my eating isn’t as structured as it is during the weekdays, I’m high on sugar and fat and low on protein.   I made a point yesterday to try to eat more like I would on a Tuesday and kept the sugar low – I think I had two peanut butter cookies over the course of the day and several servings of fruit.

I’ve also been slacking off on vegetables lately, which usually I’m pretty good about eating a wide range of vegetables.   I started bringing some various raw veggies with me to work, whereas I was just bringing carrots to fill this void before.    I will probably try going forward to prepare a bag of mixed raw veggies on Sunday for the upcoming week.

According to the app, it says I usually fall a little short on a couple vitamins and minerals.   This kind of surprises me considering the things I eat, but I may need a multivitamin.  I’d rather not, so if I can get everything from food I’d prefer that way.   Not that there’s anything wrong with multivitamins.

I get plenty of fiber in my diet.   I start the day off with oatmeal and I usually get enough fruits and veggies.    My protein powder has fiber in it as well, as does my protein bars.   So we’re good there.

After tallying up the normal foods I should eat, there is a little bit of wiggle room where I can reasonably have something like a cookie, slice of banana bread, a few squares of chocolate, etc.   I’d like to make those things a little more sporadic though.

One thing I’m still a little shaky on is what would be my daily caloric expenditure?   I imagine I burn a lot at my job, or at least more than someone who works in a cubicle and I usually spend about an hour at the gym lifting and such.   I’ll usually get a couple walks in a week with the dogs.     Then there’s hockey – I know I burn a SHITLOAD in one game, just based on how hungry I always feel afterwards.   It would be wise to plan “cheat meals” around Sunday and hockey for this reason.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep up with this.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but even just doing it for a week has caused some changes in my diet and more importantly, let me know where I was at and where I could improve.    Now instead of saying “well, I usually eat healthy…” and having that always be a free pass, I know how things actually stack up.    Worthwhile endeavor.

 

Killing a Raccoon

This has been a rough couple of weeks for my flock.   Five dead chickens over the course of four incidents involving raccoons and possibly a possum.

I’ll admit I’ve been very lax with my chickens as far as security.   I’ll leave coop doors open and the chickens come and go as they please.  We have a privacy fence which probably provides some level of security, or at least makes it harder for predators to realize what’s behind the fence.  I also felt that the presence of my dogs and their scent kept the bad guys away just because in over a year we never had any problems or evidence of possums or raccoons.

One morning I came outside to see one of our silkies alone.   I thought this was odd because usually our two silkies were always together or at least not far away.    As I walked closer to their coop I noticed clumps of feathers…and eventually a trail of feathers leading to the corner of the yard.   Fuck.   My first chicken casualty.

We started taking some precautions like actually putting them in the coop at night.    We got a little more relaxed with it after a few days…

Then one morning I woke up at 4 to let the dogs out.   I noticed the chickens were up, which was kind of strange.   I went back to bed and then woke up a few hours later…

The yard was covered in chicken feathers again…and this time I could see that it was black feathers and red.   I tried to count the living chickens and figure out which ones were killed.    Much to my dismay, my favorite chicken Peckerhead was the one who got it…and another one that was very personable.

To be honest, I didn’t care about the first silkie much.  I felt bad that one died, but these two stung a little bit.

Then immediately after sundown two days later the raccoon came and snatched up another one of my year old layers before we could put them away.    So we’re up to four….

We asked around and borrowed a raccoon trap.    Raccoons are easy enough to trap, but what do I do with it if I catch one?

Well, I live in the city limits so shooting it is out of the question…although there’s been a rash of shootings nearby lately and there’s plausible deniability that it wasn’t me.   You can’t just let them go because they’ll come right back.   If you take them far away and let them go, it’s not always a good outcome for the raccoon.  They don’t know their way around, they can spread diseases and they’ll be competing with other raccoons that are already established…and they’ll be someone elses problem too.

So we set the trap over the course of a few nights with tuna, sardines and octopus (yeah, I had a few cans stashed away.  Don’t ask)….  No bites.

Then around 4 on Saturday morning I let my dogs out and they go apeshit – there’s something in the trap!   I pull the dogs off and get them back inside so they don’t continue to wake up the neighbors, who surely have noticed that something was awry.

There he (or she?) is…. she looked small as she cowered to the floor of the cage when I walked out to her.   I sat there and we looked at each other for about twenty seconds.   Then I went back inside…

Like most people would do these days, I googled “how to kill a raccoon”.   I figured it would be cruel to try to shoot it multiple times in the head with a bb gun (and the dreaded eye shot) to kill it.   I also thought about beating it with a shovel or an axe.  Or a bat.   Or maybe I can poison it with something and it’ll die immediately?

Then there was a time issue… we had to get up and go at 7am, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to work with.   I ended up laying in bed for another hour before the alarm went off looking at my phone and pondering this raccoons’ fate.

I finally decided on my course of action…something I read in a backyard chicken forum…

 

Death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

 

Sounds outlandish.   Sounds a little…bizarre.   But after thinking it over it sounded like the most efficient, quiet and humane way to do this.   So I got a giant hefty sack and some duct tape and went out to get the raccoon.

I drug him to the front yard, a little spooked that he could claw or bite at me through the cage.   I placed him down in front of Mary’s car’s muffler and carefully placed the trap inside a hefty bag.

I was really happy to do this before all the neighbors woke up and wondered what I was doing.  I figured this is something someone might “get alarmed” and call the police or something.

I duct taped the bag to the muffler, which is more difficult than it sounds.  It took a few tries to get it on right.  I had to start the car, mutter “shit” to myself and tape it back on a couple of times.    Finally I got it on and started the car up.

I heard a little bit of grunting and some shuffling around of the tin cans inside the trap.   After a couple minutes I heard nothing.  I went inside and ate breakfast.

Twenty minutes later I went back out and kicked the cage.   No sign of life.   I pulled it off the exhaust and drug it near the trash can.  Then we went about our day.

I’ve always considered myself something of an animal lover…and it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve killed anything.   Well, besides nuisance insects and a mouse.

I felt it was justified, although it’s hard to look at a creature with some admirable qualities that is completely at your mercy and make the decision to kill it…and carry it out.   Whenever I felt bad, I just thought of poor Peckerhead and how she was torn to shreds by this raccoon (or one of his brethren)

Unceremoniously later in the afternoon, I transferred the dead raccoon into another trash bag and threw it in the trash.   Pickup day can’t come soon enough…

Even though we though we “got ’em”, we still locked up the chickens that night…and then the next night one of them lifted open the egg box and snatched the other silkie.     Fuckers.

So we have a predator problem, and it’s either going to be my flock or these raccoons.   If you say you shouldn’t kill unless it’s for food, every day I’m more or less out three eggs from the three layers that were killed.   That adds up to something, doesn’t it?

Anyways, I will remain vigilant and should I catch another raccoon, I’ll hope that I can get to it early enough to dispatch it before the neighbors wake up and get concerned about what I’m doing.

Goodbye, Old Friend…

So I’m getting rid of my truck in favor of a new-to-me truck.   I bought it in 2005 from my dad when I got back from Iraq and paid cash.   It’s a ’97, but at the time it had somewhere in the neighborhood of 45k miles and was in great condition.     Today it’s pushing on it’s twentieth year on the road and about to fall apart.

Every year for the past five or so I tell myself “hopefully I can get another year out of her…” and faithfully she delivers.    I’ve put about 100,000 miles on it in those ten years (not bad at all, really) but the truck is really starting to fall apart.    Let me think of all the things that are wrong with it as we speak:

 

  • the brakes just started squealing.
  • the tires are bald.
  • the cupholder broke off when I had to slam on my brakes eight years ago and sent my dog flying into it because some guido asshole failed to signal to me his intentions to turn.
  • the air conditioner doesn’t work.
  • the running boards are about to rust off.
  • the handle on the gate doesn’t work.   You have to use pliers or a screwdriver to make it work.
  • Even if the gate did work, it’s so rusty that the latches don’t hold sometimes.
  • the weather strip broke so rain and snow gets in.
  • there’s electrical problems so the rear drivers side light panel always goes out.
  • there’s a lot of rust on the body.
  • A battery leaked on the inside and ate up the interior carpet.
  • the bed liner is coming unattached.
  • the heater leaks.

 

…and that’s all I can think of for now.  I’m sure there’s more.   I’m sure there’s more that I don’t know about and would have found out sometime in the near future.

To be honest, I took some pride in the fact that I had an older vehicle (although admittedly I think I crossed a threshold and it got to the point where it was kind of embarrassing in some situations).   I liked that I didn’t have a car payment and I felt that it said something about me that even though I could’ve afforded a newer, nicer vehicle I opted to shun and sneer at consumerist pressures in a world where we’re told that we need a new vehicle every three years or so.

I have travels, investments and savings to show for the first six or seven years I owned that truck payment free and well, maybe more than anything peace of mind from the past three years or so to show from it.     Well, I guess theres’s been times where the truck has given me some headaches.    It seemed like it completely went to shit right about the time my (ex) wife left me.   To be honest, I lost more sleep over the fact that my truck was falling apart than my marriage.  I knew that having a paid for vehicle was a good thing and would continue to be a good thing as long as I had it.

Tomorrow it’s going off to an auction.   Honestly, I’m glad I’m getting rid of it that way instead of having to sell it.   Even though people in the market for a truck like that expect some things wrong, but can you imagine having to look someone in the eye and rattle off that laundry list of everything that’s wrong with it???

Hopefully it spends the rest of its life in as a fulfilling and dignified manner as my old truck deserves.   In the meantime, I’m hoping that in ten years or so I’m able to look back on another old truck that I paid cash for years ago and think about how much value I got out of her.

 

 

Getting Over My Prejudices…of Cycling

I got on a bicycle for the first time in probably four years yesterday.   After lots of prodding by Mary over the past couple years to go on a bike ride with her sometime (she’s more of a serious cyclist), I finally suggested it Sunday morning.

I *used* to like to go ride the trails.   My ex-wife was in to trail riding and riding as a means of transportation in the bicycle-friendly neighborhood she lived in before we lived together.   She knew a guy that cobbled together bikes and sold them on the side, and she bought me a single speed as a gift early in our courtship and it seemed like maybe once every week or two we would hit the trails.   Honestly, it was kind of a pain in the ass because from my house you had to drive to get to the trails and the trailhead we preferred was about 15-20 minutes away.   So once you factored in getting things ready, loading up, driving and going, it turned into an all-evening affair.    I always enjoyed it though, it was nice to be surrounded by trees and able to think and a nice day.

She got really into weightlifting…like really, really into it and it seemed like she lost interest in cycling or just no longer had time for it…so I fell out of it too.   As our marriage deteriorated, our cycling jaunts became less and less frequent.   I just lost interest in it, even though it was a real casual hobby for me.

Things have changed though.   The trail system in Central Iowa has always been good, but since the last time I got on a bicycle it has improved for me.   I can now be on the trail in about five minutes of bicycling from my front door.

Now Sunday we ended up getting rained on and turning back early, but just being on that trail for the 10-15 minutes we were made me appreciate my geographic location more.   In just a minute after being on the trail I was surrounded by forest next to the river and felt like I was “in nature”.   About five minutes from there is a really good spot for bald eagle watching (sometimes you can see about a dozen, usually at least one or two).  In ten minutes I could be at a AAA Stadium and catch a ball game and about 15 minutes right into downtown, where there’s all kinds of interesting restaurants, bars, venues, “events”, the farmer’s market, etc.

People pay a lot of money to be pedestrian-level close to those kind of amenities in every other city (and Des Moines) and it’s kind of cool to realize I’m not that far off from having that.   If I wanted to go somewhere downtown, it really would only take about 10 minutes more to cycle there than to drive, find a parking spot, walk from parking spot, etc.    Not a bad trade-off for being in a spot where I have enough space for a garden, chickens, trees, etc. without paying an arm and a leg for it.

I’ve always appreciated how close I am to “nature” here too.   Across the street and behind the neighbors is a pretty good size tract of forest that goes all the way to the river.   Just the other day I saw a baby deer in my front yard and there’s always birds of prey hovering around – yeah they threaten the chickens but it is cool when they land in my yard and you can see them up close.   We also have a ton of owls and the usual suspects like raccoons and possums for what that’s worth.   There’s a few underutilized parks within a couple minutes from me that I’ve always enjoyed to be in a forest for a while, although one of them is having trails paved, which I’m not into.

Anyways…  Another personal hurdle I’ve had towards cycling is that I’ve always viewed “serious” cyclists as assholes or at least recognize that they tend to have more of that bourgeois upper middle class thing going that sometimes I’ll give a knee jerk reaction to, for whatever reason.   I guess it’s just different kinds of people and really being around “serious” cyclists and being a “not so serious” cyclist makes me at least feel like an outsider.     Mary has a ton of friends from the “cycling community” and most of them I’ve met have been agreeable people, for sure.   I have gotten a lot better with understanding that “not everyone is like me” for better or for worse over the past decade and deal with personal differences a lot better than I used to, so there’s that.

Another thing that bothers me about cycling (and marathon running, for that matter) is it seems like it takes too much damn time for exercise.   If I want to lift some weights, I go in and within an hour or so I’ve got it done.   An hour on a bike is a pleasure cruise – a nice, light workout.   I’m not sure how some of these people that are competitive in these fields actually find the time to train.

Oh, I used one of Mary’s “fancy” bikes with all the gears and had a hard time really figuring out which ones to use and switching gears was like walking and chewing gum.  I kept hearing “keep peddling!”.   I just told her I was going to find a gear and if we hit a hill (which we do to go home.   I think I’ll cancel my flood insurance after actually feeling how high up I am) I would just “hard dick” it and peddle, a term that has carried me through and beyond my Marine Corps career.

I’m glad I did it.   Although I’ve certainly been on a bike before, it was a little out of my comfort zone for the day and using the trail near me can make a lot of trips more productive and fun.    Time to get over it and get on it….