Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

November 22, 2007

“Every day is Thanksgiving.” -Joe Hehe

Don’t know the author? Yeah, me neither…until yesterday. Let me describe to you my “heroes of the week.”

Amanda and I are visiting her mom and family in Lexington, TN. We had an hour to spare before dinner time, so we went to visit their friend Joe’s hydroponic tomato farm in some tiny little town with a population of about 400 folks. Saltillo, TN. Average household income was just over $20,000 when Wikipedia last checked. Guess I wasn’t expecting to meet two true American heroes there.

Joe and his brother George have been farming for probably longer than I’ve been alive, but the last 15 years they’ve been using the hydroponic method. Greenhouses keep the temperature controlled, and after germination the plants go in little slits in a big 100 feet long PVC pipe. The roots all grow inside the PVC pipe, water soluble nutrients are pumped in in liquid form, and the plants grow beautifully. If one can afford to warm the greenhouses all year round, this system can grow crops all year long in any state. Joe and George have either 3 or 4 greenhouses, the longest 130 feet long, and grow thousands of plants at a time. They sell locally, both to grocery stores and individuals.

They built everything themselves…poured the concrete and built the greenhouses. They recover the greenhouses with plastic every few years, changed the heating/cooling system plastic when needed, and also raise goats! These two guys are hard working American farmers. I grew more appreciation for the farmer yesterday. I wondered what is happening in our country, where the majority of children grow up not knowing how (or having the strength or work ethic to) lift a finger on a farm. Even I, growing up on a small farm and doing chores daily, have probably never worked as hard as these guys do on a typical day. College degrees enable us to go through our entire life and make lots of money and never have to break a sweat.

What really made me deem them the “heroes of the week,” though, was their joyful attitude and unselfish generosity. As they gave us a tour of the greenhouses, they told us about them not being able to grow year round anymore. Reason? Fuel. With growing fuel costs, they said heating the greenhouses through the winter can run $4,000 a month. Which is just too much for a tomato farmer to overcome. When asked why they didn’t raise the prices to reflect the rising fuel prices, Joe replied “Nah, there’s just a bunch of old folks around here, they can’t afford it. Sometimes they don’t have enough as it is, so they just give us what they can.” One in our group offered “But you have to take care of yourself, too!” Joe smiled slyly, and Amanda and I noticed that he really believed it when he said “You can’t take it with you.”

$1.25 a pound. Less than that if a neighbor can’t afford it. George’s house was in complete disrepair. Shutters were broken and out of place bricks sat stranded on the front porch. His house was in huge need of about $20,000 of work including a new paint job. Or is it a need? Maybe they see the true need, and that is to love their neighbor as themselves. To refuse a new house uplift because there are those who can’t pay $1.25 a pound for tomatoes. To continue working hard through their 60s, or even 70s, because they enjoy farming and giving.

“Every day’s pleasant…some more pleasant than others, but every day’s pleasant!” Joe said. These two older gentlemen had smiles on their faces and jokes ready. You could see pure joy in their eyes. Joe and his wife go country dancing a couple of times a month at the community center. They work hard, love their neighbors, and enjoy life. There’s no need to live in big new houses or drive new cars. It’s a simple life, a beautiful life. I have no idea if they are Christ followers…but they probably exemplify his teachings more than most Christians.

When the world went to war and raised oil prices, nobody asked the farmers who need fuel for their greenhouses. Increased gas prices affect us, but not that much. As usual, it’s the poor who always pay. Especially the honest ones, who won’t raise their prices to make up for the fuel increase because their community can’t afford it.

Toward the end of our tour, someone asked Joe if he was ready for Thanksgiving. If anyone has cause to be depressed, it’s these two men who’ve worked hard their whole life only to be overlooked by our government. If anyone has reason to be angry at the corporations, industry, war, greed, and everything in this modern day where the doctors and lawyers are respected and the farmer isn’t, it’s Joe and George. But Joe just smiled again and simply said, “Every day is Thanksgiving.”

Joe and George Hehe, I salute you. Amanda and I have resolved to shop at the Farmer’s Market as much as possible from now on because of you. You deserve to be respected, to be held high, as true American heroes. And yet you remain content, not because of worldly wealth or respect, but because of a simple life of joy, hard work, and selfless giving. America may overlook you, but you are heroes in my mind.


November 20, 2007

Chef Amanda

Filed under: Just for fun — theburts @ 5:07 pm

Amanda and I like to be creative while cooking. Neither of us are accomplished chefs, neither of us plan to cook professionally or even classically, and neither of us will win any awards for our cooking skills. We do enjoy coming up with our own recipes, though, especially when they actually turn out to be delicious. Last night was one of those.

I wasn’t allowed to look into the kitchen when I arrived home, but I heard the last 20 minutes or so of dinner preparation. Most of the audio was Amanda talking to herself trying to figure out what needed to be done next…evidently, she had like 5 things going all at once. She confided in me that she wasn’t sure this was going to turn out well, and I reminded her that I will eat anything she cooks. But little did I expect what she put in front of me. It was probably the best meal I’ve had this year! Check it out…


Egg noodles with homemade alfredo sauce (her mom’s recipe, I think), fresh cooked spinach, and chicken. And then the creative part…baked stuffed tomatoes (stuffed with spinach, crumbled bacon, crushed up croutons, and parmesan cheese) on top of toasted garlic bread. mmmmmmmmm. Ask her if you want the exact ingredients, that’s just what I remember.

You’re awesome, Chef Amanda. Consider this another round of applause for the wonderful dinner.

November 19, 2007

Hiking Pics

Filed under: Just for fun — theburts @ 3:43 am

So, I’m finally getting around to posting our hiking pictures. So, here they are. Can’t remember if we said in the other post, but we were hiking at Virgin Falls.

CaveDaniel & TreesColorsFireGroup ShotDaniel in Woods

November 15, 2007

Hawaii Video

Filed under: Just for fun — theburts @ 11:06 pm

Amanda and I haven’t posted much of anything from our honeymoon…so here’s a little peek at what we got to see while snorkeling. Mostly it’s a way to not be bored at work since I’ve done nothing all day. :) Enjoy.

November 12, 2007

Top 5 Socially Responsible Hobbies

I find myself using that phrase more and more. Socially responsible. For me, most things that I find to be “socially responsible” also fit into the category of moral or christian values. Just a couple of years ago, I sincerely thought that living socially responsibly had nothing to do with being a christian, but now I see that we are in fact called (yes, by God) to live as responsible people on this earth. (We’ll eventually write a blog showing some scriptures along these lines.)

So when I say “socially responsible hobbies,” they shouldn’t conflict with the teachings of Christ. And when I talk of using little energy, riding a bike to work, or recycling as ways to live “socially responsible,” those things are also justified by things that I find in scriptures. Ok, now that the explanation of the title is over, I can start the actual blog.

Oops, one more explanation to the title…this blog is totally not a top 5. I didn’t even try to think of 5 hobbies that make the list, but I do have one. And I have another few (golf, scuba diving, snow skiing, and karate, to name a few) that probably wouldn’t make my cut, mostly because of the exorbitant costs those hobbies demand. So here’s one that, in my opinion, has to be in the top five socially responsible hobbies.

Backpacking. (Disclaimer: we just went backpacking, so there may be some bias here. Sorry.) I’m not talking about car camping, where you park, walk ten feet and set up a tent and make a fire, and go back to your ginormous SUV and turn it on to warm your lazy self up if you get chilly. :) I’m talking the kind where you carry a 30-70 lb pack (depending on how light you are and how far you’ll be out), walk several miles (a full day can get you about 10-15 miles if you’re in decent shape), set up camp, then continue hiking (even if back to the car) the next day. Here are the reasons I feel it deserves a “socially responsible” award:

  • Inexpensive. Backpacking requires an initial investment of a tent, sleeping bag, mat, backpack, flashlight, some cookware, and most of us already have warm clothes for winter, and that’s about it. No entry fees, airfares (as long as we try and hike locally), memberships, or training costs. The only thing you have to buy for each trip is food, which we have to have anyway! Ask a friend how much they spend on their golfing or scuba diving habit…it can be outlandish. I also know someone who spent over $5,000 on dance lessons/events in one year. eek!
  • Exposure to the beauty of God’s creation. Not so much directly a socially responsible reason, but it does bring us close to the wonder and majesty of the universe, and causes one to respect it more.
  • Teaches how to live simply. Being out in the wild with just the basic needs for survival (food, water, and shelter) teaches us that we don’t have to have that steak dinner at Chili’s to live…that we won’t die if we turn off our heaters and bundle up…and that pretty much everything our society tells us is “necessary” for survival just isn’t so. We could all live on so much less, and until all our neighbors have enough to survive, Christ calls us to live simply and share our excess with those folks.
  • Exercise. Ok, that’s not so much a socially responsible reason, but it’s a good one nonetheless.
  • The motto: “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Backpacking does very little damage to the earth (if you obey the rules), and is a place where you’ll find many others who care about respecting the globe.

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. I’ll ask Amanda to post the pictures of our trip this weekend. For now, let me know if you have other ideas about the topic of socially responsible hobbies.

November 10, 2007

To the woods…

Filed under: Just for fun — theburts @ 8:21 pm

Off to the woods we go we go
Into the dark where light is low
Yes it is chilly we know we know
But we shall survive it even so.

Off to the water of Virgin Falls
Hiking, spelunking, and far away from malls
“I’ve got my headlamp, where are y’all’s?”
“Wish we’d have brought a couple of shawls.”

If we are lucky we may spot a bear
Get her to pose for a picture “over there,
Stand between her and her cubs!” “OVER WHERE?”
“You’re crazy to think that I’ll take that dare!”

If we don’t get eaten, or freeze, or die
Daniel will come back a more burly guy
We’ll post some pictures, and try not to cry
Remembering the beauty of the days gone by.

-Daniel and Amanda

November 9, 2007

Dumpster night

Filed under: dumpster diving — theburts @ 8:03 am

I haven’t really posted a blog yet where I actually list the things I got. So, for my family and friends who are curious, here’s a typical night. Ok, not really. I only went to 2 places, cause it was late and I was still in my dress clothes for work. (oops) It’s typical in that there was some broccoli, squash, mystery can, this time found like 33 generic coca-colas, some canned biscuits, marshmallow creme, blah blah blah. But there a few items I thought quite unusual. In the same dumpster where I found 4 brand new pots and pans with glass lids the other night, I found a portable battery powered shoe polisher, a pair of new panties for my wife (hee), a really weird land line phone and this. Watch the video.

Here’s the rest…

November 8, 2007

I’ve had it.

Filed under: Religion and Philosophy — theburts @ 5:08 pm

“This Friday, November 9th from 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM Charge is hosting our first big concert event called “A Night at the Garage.” This is going to be an awesome opportunity for our church to open our doors for the youth of Nashville. The band The Turning will be headlining. We will also have free food, an X- box 360 give-away, and an outdoor laser tag course. Mark your calendar and show up with a crowd of friends for this free event!”

Someone else write the rest of the blog. Seriously. Just finish it in my comments…you know what I want to say. I love the people at this church. And I think they are very well-intended. But I worry about its method and effectiveness in exposing kids to the real gospel. I’m just gonna go read Ariah’s book and finish the gospel of Matthew, where some nutcase says something like “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

November 7, 2007

This Little Light

I’ve been using a lantern now for a few days. Yes, there was a storm, but no, the electricity isn’t out. I just love lanterns. They bring back memories of my family at the camphouse or of stormy nights where we (as kids) got to stay up late. We’d all sit around the table together with a lantern as our only light. We’d even play games with a lantern, if I recall correctly. There’s something nostalgic about walking through a dark room carrying a burning oil lamp (or lantern, whatever you want to call it).

It’s true that using a light like this can result in huge electricity savings. Most of the time I’ve been home this week, there have been no lights on, no heater running (I keep my sweatshirt thing on till bedtime), and I haven’t had to add oil to this lantern since I bought it in January. And this can lead to us being able to share more with those in need. Lower utility costs = more surplus = more to give away to the poor = what I believe to be an integral part of the Christian walk, especially for the rich (in which category most anyone who’s reading this falls).

The original idea that I shared with Amanda is that it would be cool to make some little tradition of lighting a candle or lantern before bedtime every night, where the last task of the night is to blow out the only flicker of light in the room. Romantic, I think. Not like sensual, but romantic like “romanticism,” the 18th / 19th century artistic movement that “aimed at asserting the validity of subjective experience as a countermovement to the often cold formulas of Neoclassicism.”

It’s not about rebellion for me, though, it’s a way of going back to simplicity. My parents and wife and I sat in our apartment the other night and just talked for a bit. The floor was concrete, cause they still hadn’t fixed our floors (tomorrow’s the day). We sat on a couch and two chairs with a lantern on the floor in the middle. And it was great! Shadows bounced around the walls and ceiling, and there was a certain comfort for me in the warm light. Lanterns and candles were the only form of indoor light until electricity was discovered, yet somehow several folks survived through that stone age. Oh wait, that was just over a hundred years ago!

How far we’ve come, though. We can walk in a room and in a matter of a second flip a switch or two that will illuminate the whole room. And brightly! We never have to use the lantern’s heat to warm our hands, because our entire house is 70 degrees! Of course there are some huge advantages to the technology we have today (I’m writing a blog on a computer). But I guess I miss the simplicity of writing a letter to my mom, cuddling up in big heavy blankets during the winter time, and blowing out the lantern before I drift off to sleep. So maybe I’ll hang on to a bit of my “romantic” side and light my way like my friends do in Haiti, where there IS no electricity in the village. You should try it…you just might like it!

November 6, 2007


Filed under: Consumption and consumerism — theburts @ 4:27 pm

I’ve been reading some on this blog recently. The last couple of posts are about being socially responsible while buying gifts…a topic we should all be considering since Christmas time is right around the corner. Check out this quote from her last post.

“…it’s still hard to find a gift that will please. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you’re off. Sometimes you’re trying to please the parent, not the child, anyway. That’s why I am gradually shifting to contributions instead of gifts. Most American children have way too much stuff to need more. Check out kiva.org where you can “give” gift cards which allow the recipient to make a microloan to a thirdworld breadwinner. Now that is a cool gift.”

I know kiva is nothing new, but this is just a reminder that you can make a difference in the world this holiday season. Whether it’s kiva, world vision, heifer intl, or your favorite other charity, take some time to consider these words this Christmas:


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