Don’t Go It Alone

Sometimes in life, we think we can go it alone, or that we are better off on our own.

Give it a try and you will see, it is better to do life with community.

 

One day, Lucas the Artichoke lad, snapped. “I don’t want to help clean the house anymore!” he yelled at his mother and father. “I’m tired of being your slave and doing all your chores!” Lucas went to his room while his mother came to talk to him.

“Lucas, we must all contribute to the work of the household. Each of us helps in their own way-”

“I don’t care!” Lucas interrupted as he grabbed some of his belongings and threw them on the floor.

“What are you doing?” his mother asked with concern brewing on her face.

“I’m packing my things. I’ve ha it, and I’m moving out.” His mother watched him gather his belongings and shove them into a knapsack.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” she asked.

“Yes. I’m tired of your rules and I want to make my own.” He said as he threw the knapsack on his back.

“I understand, sweetie. We do require each of your sibling to work as well, and all of them are okay with it,” she pointed out

“Ya, well… it’s different for me. I don’t like sweeping, so I’m leaving,” Lucas walked out the front door.

His parents and siblings all came out to stand on the porch. The smallest of them waved, not understanding where Lucas was going.

“Lucas,” his father called out to him. “Remember, you are always welcome in our home. I wish you the best of luck as you embark to create your own.”

Lucas did not even turn around, say thank you, or I love you. He just went.

 

Lucas walked into the woods to start his new life. He began by gathering sticks to make a shelter. He piled them on top of each other, and soon had a small lean-to. He sat inside of it, proud of his accomplishment.

It was not long before he realized he had not brought food or water. He got up and began to search. He hiked through the woods and found nothing to eat but small brown mushrooms next to a thin creek of dirty water.

“Here we go,” he said scooping a handful of the liquid into his mouth. “Yuck!” he spat it out. “This water is not even clean!” Lucas went back to his lean-to and played with his toys. There were no rules out here but his own, and he could play with his toys as long as he liked.

Soon the sun set. He huddled himself underneath the makeshift shelter and began to feel very cold. Darkness settled and strange noises were out in the woods. The hoot of an owl, the whisper of the wind, and the crack of a small twig sent Lucas’s heart spinning. He listened, terrified that something might come into his lean-to and devour him. His heart raced as he sat there in the bitter dark.

When he thought that it could get no worse, it started to rain. Thunder cracked overhead and showers poured down on him. Rain drops falling right through his house of twigs. He was soon soaked through all of his leaves. “I miss my house,” he shivered in the cold as he finally started to realize what he had left.

Lucas stayed up all night long. He could not sleep a wink between the cold, rain, and terrors unknown. When dawn cracked the next day, Lucas packed his toys back into his knapsack and returned home, sopping wet. He knocked on the door of his house, and when his parents came to the door he said, “Can I come home please?”

His mother and father smiled, opened their arms to greet him, and lovingly said, “Oh my child, you cannot yet do life on your own, you are not yet full grown. But even then, you cannot go it alone. Life in isolation is a devastation. You need others for self-edification. Child, you are loved and welcome here. Please enter, return, stay with us my dear.”

Three Simple Ways to Live Better!

While studying agribusiness at Cal Poly, a bold statement stuck out: Children these days may have a shorter life expectancy or less quality of life than their parents (1). Hearing this news was shocking. As a society, we have strived to provide enough food for everyone. Now we are at a point where we have enough, too much sometimes, so how it is that people are less healthy than previous generations? It turns out that most of the decreases in health are due to preventable illnesses caused by dietary choices. According to the American Heart Association, 1/3 of American children and teens struggle with dietary health issues (2). This a problem that strikes us to the core, and this article is going to explore three simple ways to improve nutrition and health for everyone.

 

Let’s cut to the chase!

 

Fiber – We need more fiber! According to a report put together by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, 97% of Americans are fiber deficient (3)! Fiber is hard to find in most processed foods. Look at the labels on cereal, loaves of most bread, and ready to eat food and you will see why. Fiber, by definition, is found in plants! That is why our diets should be filled with plant based fruits and vegetables. The recommended average daily intake is 31.5 grams, and the American average intake is only 15.1 gram. Ask yourself, how much fiber do you eat a day? How can you add more fiber to your life? Some of my favorite foods are oatmeal, strawberries, and Brussels sprouts!

 

Sugar – This sweet delight makes everything better, and it is unavoidable! Yes, we are all guilty of it. Sugar is delicious, because it gives our body energy that can be stored, turned into fat, and prepare us for the next famine. The USDA recommends about an average of 10 teaspoons of added sugar per person a day, yet the average consumption is 20 teaspoons (4)! The truth is we are addicted to sugar. It is everywhere and we can hardly escape it. Again, look at the food labels to see how many grams of sugar are in the foods you are eating. Ask yourself if it is worth it, and next time you are craving something sweet, try eating a fruit.

 

Water – A fundamental dietary need that many Americans miss out on is staying hydrated! Up to 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration according to Medical Daily (5). Our bodies are composed of water! Dr. Roberta Lee was quoted in the article saying, “60 percent of our body is composed of water, 75 percent in our muscles, 85 percent in our brains, it’s like oil to a machine”. Water is what we need to make our bodies run smoothly. Without it, we may find ourselves getting headaches, muscle tension, and even constant fatigue. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that drinking water led to better focus and performance during test taking in children (6). We need to be drinking water, and if we are thirsty it’s already too late! Dehydration has begun to take affect. Ask yourself and your loved ones, what do you drink in a day, and how can you increase your water consumption?

 

These three simple ways we can make our lives and the lives of our loved ones incredibly better. It sounds so simple, but how can we actually make this happen? Recently, a Wall Street Journal article said that it actually pays to pay your children to eat vegetables. A study was conducted on 8000 children at 40 different elementary schools (7). The scientists found that once students were given a 25 cent token for eating vegetables at lunch, they were more likely to continue the trend once the incentive program ended. The findings indicate that there are ways we can influence children to eat healthy. Positive incentives!

 

As responsible caretakers for ourselves and others, we must be mindful when choosing the foods that go into our bodies and reward ourselves for being healthy. Take a look at the delicious apple above. This fruit can be a simple solution to the three problems listed above. It is high in fiber, has natural sugars, and is filled with hydrating nutrients that will refresh you no matter what season it is! Go to the store, buy  some apples, and eat one a day for a whole week and see what happens.

 

Frutopia Valley is a world that is fun, educational, and inspires others to eat more fresh produce. Join us by reading the short stories on WordPress and sharing them with your loved ones!

References

  1. Gray, Laura. “Will Today’s Children Die Earlier than Their Parents?” BBC News. N.p., 8 July 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28191865
  2. “Overweight in Children.” Overweight in Children. American Heart Association, Aug. 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.WAmLkZMrLow
  3. Greger, Dr. Michel. “Where Do You Get Your Fiber? | NutritionFacts.org.” NutritionFactsorg. N.p., 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://nutritionfacts.org/2015/09/29/where-do-you-get-your-fiber/
  4. http://www.diagnose-me.com/symptoms-of/excess-sugar-consumption.php
  5. Ericson, John. “75% of Americans May Suffer From Chronic Dehydration, According to Doctors.” Medical Daily. N.p., 03 July 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/75-americans-may-suffer-chronic-dehydration-according-doctors-247393
  6. http://www.universityherald.com/articles/3925/20130718/drinking-water-helps-boost-one-s-mental-performance-study.htm
  7. http://www.wsj.com/articles/heres-why-you-should-pay-your-children-to-eat-their-vegetables-1476670380

Pride Goes Before the Fall

Cackles of laugher pierced through the air as the three walnut friends strutted into the pumpkin and watermelon encampment. The giant’s tents dwarfed the nuts, but they boldly marched into the middle of the mammoth pavilions knowing that their owners were off on a hike. “Hulloooo? Is anybody home?” Bodin, the leader of the three nuts, cried into the cavernous mountain of burlap canvas, just to be safe. There was no response. The three nuts chuckled again and continued walking.

“I’m home.” Martin, the pumpkin lad, said as he stood to his feet from within the pavilion.

“Well hello!” Carla said in surprise as her and her friends stared up at the baby giant.

“What are you doing here?” Martin asked.

“Just strolling through, about to go out on an adventure.” Mary said, as they turned to march on their way.

“Can I come?” Martin asked with eyes wide and lips drawn.

The three walnuts paused and looked at the boy as if he were a joke.

“Please?” The lad said taking two quick steps forward.

“We are going on an adventure, and we don’t want to be slowed down.” Bodin said with a shrug.

“Oh no, I won’t slow you down. I’m quick.” Martin shuffled forward and soon was standing right in front of them. “See?”

The three walnuts craned backwards and smiled at them. Bodin then said, “Alright, I like your spirit. You can come with us, but don’t go crying home to mommy if you get hurt.”

Martin’s face lit up. “Oh, no way! I don’t cry anymore. That’s for babies. Come on let’s go!” The pumpkin lad started to run down the trail.

“Hey, Martin!” Bodin pointed in the opposite direction. “It’s this way.”

 

The four of them marched out of the encampment and began to hike. They crossed the green foothills speckled with wildflowers, the narrow creek with a small pool for lilies and frogs, and a grove of dozens of coastal live oak trees. It was when they arrived at the trees that Carla came up with a fancy idea. “Let’s climb that tree!” She pointed to a large oak with a wide trunk and thick branches.

“Yes, let’s do it!” Bodin cried.

“Yippee.” Mary said.

The three walnuts merrily skipped to the base of the tree, but before they climbed up it, Carla asked. “Martin, can you climb this tree with us?”

Martin sized it up and stuck out his chin. “Humph. I’ve climbed trees five times as big as this one. Of course I can.”

“Alright, then let’s do it.” The three nuts quickly shimmied up the side of the tree and sat down on one of the branches.

“Come on up, Martin!”

“Join us.” They shouted down to him.

Martin looked up at the three of them with an impious frown and stepped up to the trunk of the tree. The pumpkin lad leaned forward and clenched the bark of the tree with his roots. He heaved himself from the ground with a grunt, and lifted himself into the air, limb by limb. He climbed higher and higher until he reached the branch of the tree where the walnuts sat. He breathed a sigh of relief as he lifted himself onto the branch, causing the entire tree to tremble and several leaves to fall. Birds too flittered away, shocked by his force. “Haha!” Martin cracked. “I did it. See? You didn’t think I could.” He said while huffing to catch his breath.

Bodin and the other looked at each other, rolled their eyes, and chuckled. “Happy to have you aboard.” Bodin smiled and patted the boy’s massive thigh.

The three of them sat in the tree and passed the time watching a doe quietly walk through a meadow as it munched on grass. The deer approached the middle of the field. Suddenly, a flock of resting spinachflies took flight, causing the deer to spook, and the friends to gasp. “That was quite a sight to see!” Bodin said to them as he led the way back down the tree. “Come on everyone! We’re off to our next adventure.”

 

They marched through the fertile foothills as the sun travelled across the sky.  Soon, they arrived at the northern base of the Primary Mountain range. The grey, rocky slopes rose steeply before them. A narrow trail made its way up the side of the mountain. The sturdy golden poppy and yellow thistle grew along both sides of the trail It was a beautiful sight for Martin to see.

Bodin led the way as the others smiled and followed behind. The warm noon sun cast their shadows upon the mountain as they marched ahead. Soon, the trail approached a narrow ledge. There were sharp rocks fifty feet below, and there was only one way to go forward.

“Have you ever been across this trail before?” Mary asked Martin as they approached the side of a cliff.

Martin looked at the ledge and stuttered, “N-no… but I’ve been across chasms twice as big!” He assured.

“Alright. If you insist.” Mary led the way and the two friends followed close behind. Running straight forward, they sang as they crossed the chasm. Martin took a deep breath, and then he followed. He turned sideways and forced his back against the mountain side. He clung to the wall and began to creep his way cross. Beads of perspiration clung to his brow as he concentrated all of his efforts on the task at hand. Once, he lost his footing on some loose gravel and thought he was a goner, but he quickly recovered and watched the pebbles fall into the chasm below. His head grew light and his stomach turned at the sight of the sharp rocks. Slowly, he inched his way forward. Finally, he made it to the other side.

“Hurray!” The three walnuts cheered. “We’re so glad you made it! How do you feel?” They asked him.

Martin’s face was pale orange. He looked at the ground and managed to say, “I’m fine.”

“That’s good to hear! Let’s continue to the next adventure!” Bodin, turned and led the way towards their next destination.

 

The four of them marched along the rocky trail, exploring and adventuring all the while. They listened to the mountain birds sing their songs and flitter over head. They were having such a lovely time. Carla then said, “Can you believe how beautiful the wildflowers are in the mountain? Look how many there are.” Martin ran off the trail and plucked a handful of the mustard flowers and a handful of the red carnations in one swoop. The soil still clung to the roots as Martin returned to the trail and handed them to Carla. “I wanted to pick you some. Do you like them?”

“They’re beautiful!” Carla said as she held them before her face.

“Ya, I know. That’s why I got them for you. I thought it would be nice of me.”

“Yes… thank you.” Carla lowered the flowers from her face and gave a puzzled look to her friends. This rude moment was interrupted as they heard the sound of water rushing echo off the mountain walls around them.

“A river!” Martin said, racing down the trail. “Let’s go!”

As they approached the river, rainbows scattered across the mists of a giant waterfall. They hiked along the wide, raging river till they reached a small log bridge. They approached and Bodin asked, “Have you ever crossed a river like this before, Martin?”

“Of course I have! I’ve crossed rivers three times as big.”

“Okay, if you insist.” Bodin said as he led the way. The three nuts happily rushed across the log bridge, smiling and singing all the while.

Martin, eager to follow, stepped out onto the log. The poor boy’s foot slipped on the sleek surface, and he tumbled over side and into the water. His buoyant head popped above the surface before he was swept over the side of the falls. The nuts raced back to the base of the falls to see him. As Martin swam to shore, he saw the nuts laughing hysterically.

“Why are you laughing?” He asked, near to tears.

“Up the tree you go, with your huge ego. Along the chasm side, with your foolish pride. Then you trip and fall. And go over the water fall. My, oh my, it is true! Pride goes before the fall!”

What Is Not Yours

There once was a great tribe of jackrabbits that lived in the rocky crags of the Primary Mountains. Their numbers were in the hundreds, and they were a fierce force to be reckoned with for the strength of their limbs and their wit. These rabbits could hop from rock to rock, up the mountain slopes, outpacing predators and making fools of prey.

One foggy morning, Charlotte, the lead jackrabbit, told a score of her colleagues that they should go down into the foothills to find some fresh greens. “Alright, now who of you is brave enough, strong enough, jackrabbit enough to head down into the foothills to fetch some spinach from the old farmer’s field for a morning meal and to be back by noon?” she inquired.

“Aye, that would be me!” Velvet said, raising her paw.

“And me!” Christopher chimed. About twenty jackrabbits raised their paws, shouted, and agreed to join Charlotte’s party.

“Then let’s go down there and eat them leafy greens!”

“Huzzah!” The jackrabbits cried.

“Follow me!” Charlotte shouted, hopping on her way down the mountain.

“Wait!” Charlotte’s mouther, Lee Anne, called from the fringes. Her hairs were gray and all knew she was filled with wisdom. “It is not right to take what is not yours. Where do you intend to get these fresh greens?” Lee Anne asked, cautiously.

“Oh, mum. You’re no fun! We will take only a small portion from the field. The farmer shant even know anything is gone. Besides, we are quick with our wit and our paws. We won’t even be caught or found out!”

Lee Anne shook her head and said, “You are free to go. Just know that you have been warned.”

Some of Charlotte’s party shuffled on their paws. “If anyone is afraid after hearing my mum’s words, step down now…”

Ten rabbits slunk backwards away from the group, heeding Lee Anne’s words.

“We’ll follow you,” Velvet said.

“We’re up for the adventure!” Christopher added.

“Alright… onwards.” Charlotte flicked her ears toward her mother, kicked her paws backward in disdain, and hopped down the mountain.

 

The fog was still thick on the valley as they descended the rocky slopes. The twelve bold, jackrabbits sprung across the valley floor until they arrived at the fertile, brown fields of the spinach farmers.

“Alas, we are here!” Take your pleasure and eat your fill. The rabbits were ravenous. They dug their way into the fresh, leafy greens and scattered themselves throughout the irrigated rows. Charlotte dove right in, and started nibbling on the fresh spinach.

“It’s so good!” Velvet munched.

“Delicious!” Christopher shouted.

“Just what we need!” Charlotte smiled, grabbing a stalk of spinach in each hand.

As the jackrabbits ate and ate, a spinach farmer emerged from the fog, fluttering through the fields tending to his crops. The green Frutopian saw the rabbits grazing in his field and silently gasped. He quickly turned around and flew back off into the fog, and the jackrabbits continued to eat!

 

The sun was rising high in the sky, and the fog slowly began to wane away. Before the jackrabbits were finished eating their food, a trumpet sounded and a voice called out. “You are surrounded. Don’t move!”

The jackrabbits’ ears shot up and the spinach dropped from their hands. A circle of armed Frutopians marched in around them. There were massive sweet potatoes with clubs, apples with axes, broccoli with swords, and a wheat stalk with a spear. The wheat stalk stepped forward as the spinachfly fluttered at his shoulder with its stem pointing right at Charlotte and her friends.

“There she is. She’s the one in charge!” Charlotte gulped.

“You!” the wheat stalk wore a crown, and it was obvious he was the famed King Wheaton. “What do you think you are doing?”

“Having a bite to eat,” choked Charlotte.

“Don’t you know the law?” asked King Wheaton. “You cannot take what is not yours.”

Charlotte swallowed and her nose twitched as tears began to well in her eyes. “Yes…” she admitted.

“Then why do you do it?” the king asked.

“I wanted some fresh greens,” Charlotte’s whiskers quivered and shook.

“You could have just asked,” the spinach farmer said with his stems crossed.

“We’re sorry,” Charlotte’s friends said.

“Sorrow is the first step. A true pentant heart sets right what is wrong. In order to set all this right, you must aide the spinach farmer in planting a new crop. Once the crop is planted, you jackrabbits shall be banished and never allowed to enter Frutopia Valley again!”

The jackrabbits’ ears fell down, their noses twitched, and their whiskers drooped.

“We can help plant new rows of spinach for you,” Charlotte said, nodding her head and wiping her tears.

“We shall see. These good Frutopians will watch you to make sure the task is completed,” King Wheaton said as he motioned to the wide array of Frutopians around them.

The jackrabbits were handed shovels, hoes, and new seed. They shoveled and replaced rows of spinach, working all morning and late into the afternoon. Once the task was complete, the jackrabbits were escorted to the base of the Primary Mountains.

“Go ahead… better think twice before returning to Frutopia Valley!” a large sweet potato said as he waved them off into the hills. With their tails between their legs, they hopped their way up the mountain. They arrived back at their town as the sun was beginning to set.

 

“Where were you all day?” Lee Ann asked upon their arrival.

“We got caught,” Charlotte explained. “They made us replant the spinach we ate.”

“And now we are banished from returning to the valley floor,” Velvet said.

“My goodness,” Lee Ann said looking at them with understanding. “I’m sorry to hear that happened. It reminds me of a lesson my mum told me, ‘If you go about taking what is not yours, you’ll get in trouble and close lots of doors.’”

 

What is Frutopia?

For all of you wondering what Frutopia Valley is, here is a poem that helps explains it.

 

Frutopia is a kingdom set in a fertile valley,

Nestled in the mountains, hidden by the sea.

Frutopia Valley is abundantly green,

Watered by the Crystal Lake, ever pristine!

Frutopia is a home for humanoid plants that talk.

They have limbed roots and stems that let them walk.

Frutopia is a land where all plants are welcome,

No matter what plant you are or where you are from.

Frutopia is a country true to its name,

An equal society where all are treated the same.

Frutopia is a place where all plants want to be.

Frutopia is a utopia and all are happy.

Day One

A poem about the day the Frutopians arrived in the Valley

One morning, Clayton the Gull sat on a sandy bluff and looked out to sea.

He felt the cool mist brush his feathers as he looked out thoughtfully.

There were a few clouds that lingered from the storm the night before.

The sea still frothed as the waves crashed fiercely to the shore.

Little ol’ Clay was watching the waves come and go.

When he noticed a large, floating, black box of cargo.

What on earth could this be?

Perhaps this is food for me!

Clay thought silently.

Clay watched as the box rode a wave,
Astonished it did not sink to a watery grave.

Here it comes! I shall find out at last.

He puffed out his feathers and flew over fast.

The bird touched down on the sand,

Just as the box washed up on dry land.

He marched over and found a small door.

Then something happened that had never happened before.

The door opened and the contents came out.

Plants walking, talking, lifting a shout!

Colorful fruits of every variety!

Vegetables, and nuts fresh from the tree!

“We made it! We are finally free.”

A golden wheat stalk said triumphantly.

The gull squawked and thought, What a surprise.

Here comes a feast before my very eyes.

These fruits and vegetables are triple the size!

Thank goodness! He lifted his head to the skies.

 

The gull ran close and gave a quick peck.

That simple action became a complete wreck.

Every Frutopian under the sun,

United as if they were one.

They tackled the bird and took it to the ground.

Feathers flew up, and Clay quickly frowned.

“Listen to me,” the wheat stalk said.

“We are Frutopians, not your food to be fed.

Though we are new, do not fear.

It is the golden rule to which we adhere.

Love your neighbor and be kind.

Welcome others with open heart and mind.”