Christ-follower, Dad, Runner, and Scientist
Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2012
I loved this time of year as a kid. I would spend time driving around the orchard on the Honda Trail 90, watch the Peterson’s harvest Christmas trees next-door and ship them to the Midwest, work at the mink ranch during pelting season and help Bomps close up the tractor. As the cold damp rainy weather set in until 4th of July it was time to make account for the field season. The ups and downs, the blessings, lessons learned, winterize the equipment, and determine what to do for the next field season if blessed to have another one.
I have come to think of life in the terms of a field or growing season. In American agriculture and climate we are always trying to lengthen the season but in the end we generally get just one. This past growing season has been filled with blessings, challenges, and adventure, however it is the next growing seasons ahead that have me striving forward. Why?
The general consensus is that roughly 870 million people in the world are still chronically undernourished and 16 million of those are from developed countries (FAO, 2012 (1)). The world population is primed for an increase of 9.1 billion by 2050, which will demand a 60% increase in agricultural production. This increase has to also take into account the good soil that remains, sustainability, economic viability, yield increases on existing land, and the ongoing debates over the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism) and total effect climate change on farmable lands (FAO, 2012 (2)).
As we roll into 2013 I am reminded that 2050 is just 37 field seasons away. If seasons remain reasonably stable when the first tractor breaks ground in 2050 I will only be 76. As I look to the next growing season as a person who deals with farmers and some of the 870 million chronically undernourished daily I am reminded of the lesson I learned growing up – every growing season is different and growing season matters.
Therefore, if I going to impact 2050, whether I am the husband, dad, scientist, farmer, preacher, or runner THIS next field season must be better than last because the last season is in the field notes and almost closed.
Preparing the Soil for Harvest
FAO (1) The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. Released October 8, 2012.
FAO(2) World Agriculture Towards 2030/2050: The 2012 Revision. ESA E Working Paper No. 12-03. Released June 2012.
Posted in Uncategorized on September 11, 2012
A Review: The Garmin 610
I have logged a few miles over the years and currently working on marathon 11 and during the runs there has been a Garmin 205 on my wrist. This unit lasted almost 7 years before finally biting the dust. There was a moment of silence followed by great trepidation over what would replace my faithful companion. The Garmin brand had gained my trust, as 7 years of Western Washington running without fail is an accomplishment, but I wondered what else what out there. I read reviews, checked pricing, and evaluated my true needs then I settled on the Garmin 610 a couple months ago. I have never once regretted my choice.
Since using the Garmin 610 I have logged runs in Haiti, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, South Dakota, and Florida without system failure, lost satellites, usability frustration on the run, or sync issues with the computer. If that is the only piece your read then I recommend this powerful little computer on the run. However here are a couple reasons why I like this unit.
1) It picks up and keeps satellites seamlessly and quickly. I used to plan extra time on the workout to make sure the acquisition was complete before starting. The new technology in the watch makes acquisition quick under almost any condition.
2) It keeps locked to the satellites. In the past I could run in the woods of Washington and lose reception creating frustration and inaccurate data. I have run the same courses with this new watch and I have yet to lose acquisition.
3) Seamless syncing with the computer and Garmin Connect is awesome. The ANT wireless technology literally picks up the watch signal as I walk into the front door of the house and downloads all the data. The ability to be wire free for download makes life simple. I can go through my regular post run routine and the computing if done for me. Then on my schedule I connect to Garmin Connect and all the data this nerd wants is available. The Garmin Connect website has really advanced over the years.
4) It is lite weight and resembles a normal watch. This might not seem like a great benefit but after 7 years of the 205 brick it was nice to wear it in the office after a bike commute.
5) It stood up in the rain! In Missouri we were in the middle of a drought making me resistant to writing a review until I had a good rain run. The opportunity came a couple weeks ago as Hurricane Isaac blew through Springfield for me to test the resolve of the unit. I completed a nice 7 mile run in a down pour without any signs of water damage which is important to this Washington native. (Note: It should not have because it is waterproof)
The Garmin 610 is the real deal. Happy Running!
Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2012
When someone goes into a community with the intention of “helping the poor” without taking the time to build relationships it can do more harm then good in the long term. The storm the beaches and impose our worldview approach has proved itself as erroneous thinking time and time again globally.
As I started trips into Haiti and working closely with a co-op of local rice farmers it became evident this was a partnership worth investing but at the correct time and place. Early on in the endeavor a man traveling with us declared these farmers need a tractor, to direct seed their rice from a plane, and understand their small fields will produce no real economic benefit. When I actually listening to the federation leadership and fi their needs with the cultural realities of Haiti no one really cared about direct seeding and yes, one field producing more rice might not affect the Haitian economy at large it would benefit that individual family. As one family saw the example more would follow their lead and ultimately the enhancement of this community food system could impact generations.
Skipping ahead almost a year we have been purchasing this federations rice while enhancing our friendships. We have been building trust, creating market by buying locally grow rice, and finding value added revenue for the rice waste products a transformation has started to take place. As the yield has increased so has the income of the farmers and in direct response ownership in the process has lead to the federation now paying for the school teachers – NOT A NGO. They are cleaning their irrigation canals – NOT A NGO. They entered into a cooperative loan to purchase an upgraded milling system – NOT A NGO. As they have started this change it was time to increase our partnership and take them to a new level of production. (Granted still small scale by American standards) But when you partner with a group of people who have ask, not for a handout but a little push, the results are amazing.
Two weeks ago we partnered with the federation by holding the note on a nice 51 horsepower Kubota tractor with a rotovator attachment. When I say hold the note I truly mean these farmers who once depended on the handouts from NGO’s for almost everything came up with the terms of 8% interest, $1000 dollars a month and over a 36 month period. We gave them the grace of 3 months (next harvest) for first payment and a reduction of 8% interest compared to the normal Haitian rate. There is nothing like being approached to partner when we are both putting skin in the game.
In a half a day of working the tractor they prepared the same amount of land it would take 10 farmers 1 week to complete – that is the power of partnership.
Brooks Pure Connect in Ozark Mud (Fine-loamy, mixed, active, mesic Typic Paleudolls) for the soils nerds among us.
Posted in Uncategorized on February 3, 2012
Overall the sole on the Pure Connect is very impressive and for a multiple surface run from road to trail it is a good option for the Ozark clay, but if you are strictly running trails in the Ozarks stay with the Cascadia.
As a runner transplanted to the south central United States from the beauty of Northwest Washington it has been an interesting adjustment to say the least. The upside of the move comes on days like today – it is currently 65 degrees and the sun is shining bright. The downside will hit in July when the temperature is 100 degrees and 90% humidity with a heat of index “don’t run you will die”.
In the attempt to find my new happy place for running that is comparable to my favorites back home like Silver Lake Park in Whatcom County, Bridle Trails in Kirkland, The Inter-Urban Trail in Bellingham, or my personal favorite “Freeman’s Trail” which is nestled in the hills of Mt. Baker and created by Hall of Fame Coach and 68 Olympic marathon hopeful Jim Freeman, I have stumbled on a 1.5 mile trail just outside of Springfield, MO. This trail is a perfect combination of hills, trees, lake views and plenty of soil. This soil when wet is full of clay that ribbons well into the 2-inch range. (Soil speak for lots of clay content)
Over the last few weeks I have ran this trail in wet conditions in the Brooks Cascadia and Brooks Pure Connect. Each of these shoes is created differently but equally impressive for all things in a quality running shoe. The Cascadia is a trail shoe with very aggressive tread while the Pure Connect is the new neutral minimalist shoe recently released by Brooks. As the Pure Connect isn’t a trail shoe I was curious how it would compare. Here is Jason’s Review
As a trail shoe the Cascadia was 9.5/10 based on traction, cushioning from roots and rocks, and mud collection. The only reason I throw in a 9.5 is because when running in wet Ozark clay the mud collection was extreme which added to shoe weight and traction issues. This however is petty because I was spoiled by the high organic matter mountain soil of the Northwest where this extreme clay build up is not an issue.
As a trail shoe the Pure Connect was 8/10 based on the same three qualities. The overall performance of the shoe was slipper like. I can say I have never felt a running shoe feel so natural – like wearing a slipper on the run. On the trail it displayed the same natural feel but because of the less aggressive tread (Brooks does have a minimalist trail shoe) it was hard to navigate up a couple hills but didn’t keep me from getting up them. The surprise was the small amounts of clay pick up on the run. The flat tread was the reason but I expected much greater clay clinging to the shoe. The cushioning was good but because of the sole design some rocks were felt but not painfully. Overall the sole on the shoe is very impressive and for a multiple surface run from road to trail it is a good option for the Ozark clay, but if you are strictly running trails in the Ozark stay with the Cascadia.
Over the next 4 days one of my hero’s will be having most of his blood drained and replenished to keep him here on earth just a little longer. In an effort to keep him busy thinking about other things thought I would post this letter so the world (the 3 people who might read this) can see why he is so special.
As your only grandson there has always been a strong bond between the two of us. The bond is unique because of the years of being in your immediate presence 24/7 on the orchard at the end of Putman Road. I believe a large part of my character and personality was foraged at the home you built from the ground up. The memories that flood my mind are vast and I am so pleased I have been able to share some of those with you over the last few months. For the sake of those who have never met you I wish I could share all the moments that made me laugh, cry, and smile but they are to numerous to share, for that would take a lifetime.
The stories from your life where priceless to this boy listening at your feet. There was being pulled over at 14 for not having a license while delivering milk for Great Grandpa McEwen, leaving for Alaska at 16 to start something new, lying about your age to get into the Navy so you could chose your branch of service or watching you try to explain why Aunt Irene had been around longer then you and Grandma Ag had been married. (I appreciate the awkwardness you felt on this one much more now than then). The fires you fought in Bellingham for your 20+ years on the department , and the story of how you and Kenny Smith got the jobs in the first place. For the record you would have not enjoyed working for the post office anyway, you were a firefighter. Your helmet hangs on my office wall today as a reminder of those days. I could go on and on….
The shared memories we have that I will one day lavish on my kids and grandkids are golden. The frozen manure pile, your personal favorite, will forever mark the beginning of my manure research. The trips to Loon Lake in the back of the truck while using the Tab cans as toilets, getting lost on the Honda Trail 90 on the hill and ending up in Canada, shooting birds for hours, watching the pea combines, learning if you roll a tire into the burn pile at the right time it won’t burn black and alert the neighbors, plus splitting wood and hauling it with Dad. I still remember watching your knee go out on the hill and watching you get so upset because Dad had to stop cutting the Alder down. I continue – watching you build cabinets, prune trees, spray, mow, garden, can veggies, run the only registered cherry orchard on the westside of the state of Washington with ease. Then there was that fateful trip to HiNotes, we travelled that way so many times it is hard to remember why that day, but you had to make a pit stop in the woods and I yelled those famous words, “Hey Bomps what you doing? I can see you bald head!” then on your return, “Hey Bomps, what happened to your hanky?”
Time and time again in my daily life I remember you. The smell of oysters or clams always takes me to the TV room for the noon news to catch the weather. The room where we would have a 5 episode marathon of All My Children on a Friday night. It was in this room I fell in love with the news, Donahue, M.A.S.H, Peoples Court, The Price Is Right and Matlock mainly because I was sitting next to you. It was there where you tried to explain the nature of the Jim Jones cult and tragedy as I stumbled over the Newsweek pictures. You taught me about stocks with Ed and how to sit and listen to family. It was some of those moments in the living room with Ed, Aunt Evie, Art, Kenny and Lorean Smith, Grandpa McEwen, Aunt Dotto, Earl, and Grandma Ag I wish I could repeat in my own live. For as high strung and patient lacking you and I are you knew how to invest in family. I am still learning this lesson a lesson I need to learn quickly before it is too late.
You loved a woman who came with an extra in a day when no one talked about such things. I don’t know if anyone will ever know how you and grandma felt during those years when Grandma Z raised Kathleen but I would have been hurt and mad. All I ever saw was love.
Don’t worry, I remember those times when you showed the less then perfect side of Vernon McEwen but it was these moments that assured me Jesus loved all our flaws and we could love Him through them as well. (Trust me I fully understand you and I are two peas in a pod and can be pretty short with those around us at times)
Bomps, you have showed me how to work hard and provide for my family. You showed me how to love a woman through for better or for worse. You showed me how to worship God while sitting at an organ or working in the yard. You showed me how to carry a gun. You showed me how to run an orchard. You showed me I have a tremendous Dad. And more importantly you showed me how to live and die.
Whether you go home tonight, next week, or as you said in 21 years know you have lived well and given you family the best examples of living life through the ups and downs that come our way. I am proud to be the only grandson of Vernon McEwen. When you do see Jesus – thank him for letting me have you as my Bomps.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2011
Three weeks ago I travelled into Haiti for my initial orientation of how Convoy of Hope operates on the ground and the role I will play in it. During the six days of travel I was immersed in the culture and truly saw a large portion of the country, especially the areas I will be focusing my efforts. On arrival I was pleased I could put my experiences from Nigeria, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Grenada together to combine what Haiti was like in smells, geography, and culture. If I had not had those previous experiences this would have been a dramatic culture shock to my system. However, with that being said, Haiti is a poor country and I saw the things one would expect.
The first couple days of travel included connecting with local rice farmers who are currently growing rice for our children’s feeding program (CFI). Convoy is one of two organizations working in Haiti that are deliberately purchasing Haiti grown rice in their program. (Convoy pays more in this approach but the goals is helping the local growers) My role is to be a resource for the growers as they try to increase their capacity. The story of Haitian rice production is a long sad one, but in short US rice coming into the country over the last 20 years has killed the local market and destroyed farmer incentive. This is a picture of me with the president of the new local rice federation during a Q and A session.
We also spent a couple days in the mountain regions where I will be connected with local farmers in an effort to help them with their food production. One of the main worries is water management during the dry season and best management practices for the more 24 crops grown in the region. When wandering through the farm areas it is evident the knowledge is there but not everyone received the information. In the mountains I will be working with 208 identified farmers connected to local feeding programs and information transfer will be one of our main focuses. As most people should know, whether in Haiti, Africa, or North Dakota you should never count a farmer as dumb. Below are some rice farmers we came across after walking up a trail for 30 minutes.
I also got to see first hand the benefit Convoy is having on the ground in Haiti. I can say without bias (for real) the investments people are making into Convoy are going to kids. One of the things that impressed me about COH was the accountability and screening involved for those partnering with Convoy. There are very strong measures being taken to assure lack of corporation and during the school year monthly health reports are required from every child being helped. Here is one of those pictures I just had to snap.
Lastly, we got to see the damage remaining from the earthquake. People ask what was it like? The damage is still widespread and the recovery is slow, however what did surprise me was the overall randomness of the damage. There were areas harder hit but still in those hardest hit areas some buildings remained untouched. The tent cities remain and still grow in some cases, which adds to the impact of storms like Irene, but some progress is being made. The lack of progress is a combination of rules, culture, and politics (my opinion). He is the palace that the locals told me was the devil’s house.
It was a fascinating trip and the next report will be on specifics related to my role in the Haitian picture.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 26, 2011
Over the course of time evaluation is necessary, although not always pleasant, always beneficial. Honest evaluation, the process of taking off the gloves and pounding loose the frayed edged and getting to the core. As the raw core is exposed one discovers true strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are then praised and refined while the weaknesses are treated, rebuilt, or eliminated. It is when we address the weak, without reservation, we move forward in long-term strength and growth.
Liebig’s Law of the Minimum states, “Growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available but by the scarcest resource (Limiting Factor)”. It is our weaknesses (limiting factors), which determine the true yield potential. The limiting factors, even when not considered a weakness, must be addressed. In an organization there’s vision, value, staffing, infrastructure or forethought, in the personal dimension skills, education, resources, and most likely character all can be considered. However, by confronting the limiting factors we prepare for the overwhelming blessing God has for us on the horizon for from the Refiner’s fire comes what He desires.
The question then becomes, when was the last time you opened up yourself for God to address the limiting factors in your life and what did you do about it?
I have come to realize the PhD process was one large refining process to bring out the imperfections of my character. It is now time to address the limiting factors for when the next blessing comes God can be honored in my marriage, family, and life. It is never easy to see your character flaws in the mirror but thankfully His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2011
It has been brought to my attention some people would like a few updates on the move to Springfield, MO and as I am working on some final edits for a paper thought this was a good lunchtime distraction.
We moved during the hottest summer on record keeping our kids inside the house, until last weekend. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the wind was blowing and it was a nice 85 degrees with low humidity. As the good Dad I forced my kids (yes forced – it was a very long ordeal) to ride their bikes for at least 20 minutes before playing the Wii. Once the debate was over they jumped on the bikes and as a Dad trying to reinvent himself after graduate school I jumped on my bike to ride with them.
Now if you know my oldest he is a good combination of both his mother and me and this ride was bringing out the best of both – the competitive spirit with a side of talking trash. As any good Dad (remember trying to learn to let loose and have fun again) I challenged him to a race and consequently smoked him. This got the juices flowing and he was not going to be outdone. He turned the bike around and started back the other way (downhill) as fast has he could go – tempting me to catch him. As I blazed by him at 20 mph (32.1 km/h for my science friends) I heard the fateful crash. As I looked back on the hill here was my son sliding along the pavement with all the flare and volume he could make go along with it….
As I ran to his aid hoping it was pure drama verses reality I saw the blood and road rash. Hoping this was the climax for the crash I picked him up and watched his left arm drop at 90 degrees 2 inches (5cm) above the wrist. Yep – Dad was taking him to the ER. We walked home with his arm in a shirt made sling and the rest would be set in history by these words uttered to the ER.
“my Dad forced me to ride my bike when I just wanted to play the Wii – it is his fault”
The transition has been what you would expect when you move across the country to a new job away from family and friends. The journey of finding a home church and “our own posse” has not been the easiest. There is a good chance Mary’s posse is going to be Roller Derby! (tell her she should at least try) It has been great to connect with Northwest Network friends Bill and Marie Hennessy who have gone out of their way to show us how to manage Springfield. It is fun to see how friendships from a trip to Nigeria in 1999 can still remain strong. In the transition Noah (19 year old exchange student from Grandview came with us) has been a delight and made this whole process doable – especially helping Mary put the house together.
Posted in Life on June 1, 2011
On May 7, 2011 an 11 year journey ended as I was presented my doctoral hood at Washington State’s commencement ceremony. The chapter of formal education in my life has final come to a close after 4 degrees. This conclusion, I have been told, has resulted in the only ordained Assemblies of God minister with a PhD in Soil Science. (If there are others please show yourself we need to talk). As the person who said they would never continue their formal education beyond a church ministries degree this truly was a divine helped and inspired journey.
One question I consistently receive is “why”? The simple answer – I believed I was placed on this earth for a purpose and that purpose is to bring hope to people, both spiritually and physically. For a more detailed response read https://streubel.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/hello-world/
As you may have assumed or my friends already know – I don’t always fit the normal standard curve. My journey has been a strange one, where at times there no place for me to fit, no model to follow. I was continually caught in a state of limbo. There is no divisional lunch at Network Council for soil scientist pastors with a heart to feed the world. My small group has been rather lonely (and Mary’s even smaller) HOWEVER my creator had a plan….His purpose was just around the corner.
In true irony two years ago when I was at my lowest – my God was orchestrating the beginnings of my new chapter by preparing a unique puzzle piece at a faith based disaster relief organization (Convoy of Hope) suited for someone who didn’t always fit the mold. http://www.convoyofhope.org
The week after graduation I was presented with two job offers – one academic (WSU tenure track faculty) and Convoy of Hope. As I sat around the table with leaders in the children’s feeding initiative everything started to come together for the first time. All the unique experiences from tilapia, chicken, goats, senior pasturing and even anaerobic digesters started to make sense and fall into place – as if my designer was saying “see I told you I could be trusted – you’re not crazy”.
So in the next three weeks Mary and I will be pulling up our roots in Washington and leaving for Springfield, Missouri to work with Convoy of Hope’s children’s feed initiative to development models for sustainability. We will be working with area farmers and children educating them on best management practices that work locally so Convoy can ultimately by their food from local suppliers plus by building the local capacity Convoy can focus on other geographical areas of need.
It will not be easy, there will be frustrations, it will take time, there are still lots of unknowns but most importantly…
I WAS MADE FOR THIS…and now the new chapter begins.
Posted in Running Free - Brooks ID on February 4, 2011
Taking a break from phosphorus dynamics between manure and biochar (Phd dissertation) to follow up on what is inside my running bag.
As a borderline scientist I tend to be a little nerdy and want to account for all the variables if necessary. Yet there are days when I just strap on the shoes and run.
Identification: Having been almost run over a few times I am a fan of RoadID. I try to wear it on my wrist whenever I am out on the road. The family calls it the “death bracelet” I call it peace of mind.
Tracking Distance and Time: I have three options in my bag depending on where I am running. During long runs and all races I grab the GPS unit.
1) Garmin Forerunner 205 – it gives me time, distance, location, elevation etc. This unit is an older model but serves its purpose very well. I have very little trouble losing signal and one charge last forever.
2) Timex Heart Rate Monitor – to look at my fitness I will strap on the chest piece and track my HR throughout my run. This gives me a good look at how hard I am working.
3) Soleus 10k Watch – I wear this 24/7 and it gives me my times with a good basic memory package for laps etc.
Weather: I like to know what is going on weather wise when I run. My current record is runs at 3oF and 104oF.
1) One thing about Washington is it has an extensive network of weather stations which save me a lot of time and effort. www.weather.wsu.edu (AgWeatherNet) gives me everything I want and more. I happen to have two stations accessible when running at work. Most states have some sort of free access agricultural weather monitoring system. WSU’s site is free to everyone thanks to farmers who provide funding.
2) I also carry a Brunton ADC-Summit hand held weather station with me when I don’t have accurate weather information available. This gives me wind, barometer, elevation, temps and wind chill. (NERD)
Recording Mileage: I have tried several logging options over the years. I have used Nike’s Plus system (yes with my Brooks shoes) but when the battery goes dead in the sensor it doesn’t work. Currently I use Sweat360.com and the Brooks Running Club site on Facebook but honestly I do a better job of keeping a hard copy with pencil and paper. Dailymile is a good site too if you are looking for easy.
Music: Deep down I tend to be a purest and have never ran a race with any sort of MP3 device. I run with music about 15% of the time, and when I do I use an iPod I used to run with a Sony Walkman (Tape edition)
Of course you don’t need all the technology to enjoy the run but for me having information is good!