March 17, 2014

Guatemala and the Mayan Eco Homestead

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Some of you may remember that I spent some time in Guatemala last April. A couple of years ago I started to research locations for my family to go for a month or two during my slow season in the winter. I stumbled across the Dennings and their travel blog  Discover, Share, Inspire. We became online friends and subsequently I traveled to meet them and interview them for a video project I was working on. We had an incredible visit with them. The Dennings introduced us to the Jensens who were living near them in Panajachel, Guatemala at the time. We have all kept in touch and I have become increasingly interested in both Guatemala and the humanitarian efforts both the Dennings and the Jensens founded and have had success with. It is titled Mayan Eco Homestead.

At its heart the Mayan Eco Homestead is an onsite school where people can come and learn and earn various methods of agriculture to bring a wider variety of foods into their diet. Currently corn is king especially in the rural areas where malnutrition is very prevalent. Even though there are other fruits and vegetables at the market, most of it is out of reach financially for many rural people. Meat is rarely eaten. Still 40% of Guatemala is Mayan and Guatemala is the 4th most malnourished country in the world and this causes problems from infant death to stunted growth to just plain not being able to concentrate in school because of hunger. The homestead is located in the 2nd most malnourished area in Guatemala. Here is an interested article about this issue.

Mayan Eco Homestead is in its infancy but for one man so far he is now feeding his family of 7 more food than ever and has increased his income nearly seven times. His 1/5th of an acre went from corn to now having chickens for meat and laying eggs, a pig, a tilapia pond and various plants for vegetables. He is now sharing what he has learned about self sufficiency with a local orphanage. The homestead is now a place where anyone can come learn while they earn essentially a start up kit that can be used on their own property. These people are eager to learn and work hard and this is going to grow quickly with more people taking interest.

Take some time to browse their Facebook page and see it in action. My wife and I stayed there for three days last week and we could see how very few dollars can impact entire families in dramatic ways. Currently, a family of 5 who lives in a small tin house the size of half my bedroom with floors made of dirt, is building a sweet little home with donations from America. You can see the progress on the Facebook page. They are at a stand still waiting for more funding so I am putting it out there that even a few bucks can make a huge difference. For those that wish to donate you can do so here. If nothing else please take time to like their page on Facebook. Thanks!




 

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Greg and Lucy Jensen and their family operate the Mayan Eco Homestead. Josh is their oldest. I made him pose with his new machete he bought across where us boys all went and got our hair cut super short for $1. Best hair cut ever!

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Greg does running tours in the mountains of Guatemala and on old dormant volcanoes. His running business is here if you have any interest in a running tour of the area. The mountains are incredible!

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Me and Melanie down the lane. Short haircut! Love it!cmp_4140 cmp_4154

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This is Zeke. He guided us down a steep, steep mountain to a little city on the lake. He is part of the family building a new house. He is a very hard worker and strong as two or three of me.

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January 16, 2014

Could’ve kept going…

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We are back!! I had a strong urge to keep going south. I love the road. It has taken me years to discover that my life is a cycle. I get extremely busy in the Spring, Summer and Fall and when winter comes around and I have too much time on my hands, I scheme about traveling. It happens every year without fail. Today, I have a great desire to go to India. Let me explain. I am currently enrolled as a student at USU. I have been a senior for 11 years. For no particular reason, I decided to finish up my few remaining classes and graduate after what will be 19 years. I will discuss that another day. Suffice it to say, I am taking my final two classes right now, both of which I am enjoying tremendously. The first is “Religion and Play”, which essentially is a class about Hinduism. The second class is called “Living with Wildlife”.  Both interesting, but my Hindu class is mesmerizing! Hence, the desire to go to India. Not to mention Indian food is ultra fantastic!

Travel is a large part of my McFarland family culture. We are bred to explore and if an adventure is not had for a period of time we get the itch. In the winter, I never stop itching! Experiencing different cultures is one of the quickest ways to learn that really we are all the same in so many ways.  When it boils down to it though, for me food is the ultimate travel experience. I will travel across the planet to try new foods. I think I can remember just about every thing I have ever eaten while traveling. While I love traveling abroad, I have a deep appreciation for the gems we have right in our midst. There are many!

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You couldn’t find someone who embodied the image of a forest ranger better if you tried!  Jim took us on a two hour snowshoe tour across the rim of Bryce Canyon that blew our minds. It was freezing and the wind was piercing but my boy Jack didn’t flinch. He was a rock! Jim was so excited to be out and about. I always love seeing people who love getting up to go to work.
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If you go on KSl deals right now you can stay at Ruby’s Inn, one mile away from Bryce Canyon, for two nights for only $70. It was a real nice hotel and the swimming pool was piping hot! Best of all, we had the entire Bryce Canyon National Park to ourselves.

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I felt so sorry for this deer because just getting out to take the picture I almost got frost bite.

 

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We are National Park Fanatics! I love that Maddi loves her Jr. Ranger badges. If you have kids, you simply have got to do the Jr Ranger programs at any National Park. Below, Melanie is working with the kids to fulfill the requirements and when they are done a ranger swears them in as Jr. Rangers. The kids love it! If you must know, Utah has the second most National Parks in America, maybe the world. California has nine and Utah has five. They are ALL incredible and can only be experienced to be believed.
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We headed to lower elevation, down to St. George where it was almost 60 degrees. We soaked it up like lizards. HEAT!! YES!!

 

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We threw these pants away during the trip. Jack loved these pants.cmp_7377

 

Brigham Young’s winter home in St. George.

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This couple below has been volunteering for 10 months to give tours at the Brigham Young home. They were super nice and probably annoyed by my questions.cmp_7406

 

 

The oldest tree in St. George. Brigham Young ordered a ton of silk worms to make silk with so they planted Mulberry Trees for the silk worms to eat.He also brought carp to Utah! The silk didn’t last long but we know how carp ended up.cmp_7411

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We Spent two entire days exploring Snow Canyon. I am blown away with everything we have within a half a days drive of my home. cmp_7427

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The kids fed these birds for like an hour. I laid on my stomach for like an hour trying to get one to eat some bread off my back. I think I could have done it if I had another hour or so. cmp_7557

 

 

January 14, 2014

Improve your landscape photos

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I am posting from my iPhone in southern utah so this might not work.

We had a great photo class a couple weeks ago. My goal is that you change the way you approach photography so your images of your family, children and loved ones, vacations, etc.. improve and last a long time.


The way I figure, my kids only have one childhood and I forget so much so whatever I don’t capture I will likely forget.

I will be doing another begniners class in february. To be announced… Drop me a line if you are interested.

 

December 19, 2013

What to do when you live 5 months of the year in the cold.

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This video is the beginning of many video tutorials I have been working on. Please email or comment if there is something you would really like to learn about photography. The workshop is filling up but we still have a few seats for January 4 at 3:00. We will likely be going to this very spot I took these pictures at today so if you are coming, bring a coat.. Hope to see you!
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December 16, 2013

Christmas present to you

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Ok, there has been a change of plans. I will be doing my January 4 workshop for beginning photography for FREE!! Seating is limited so please contact me if you will be attending.

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My studio: 921 Orchard Dr. River Heights, Ut 84321

When: January 4    3:00-5:00 pm

Bring your camera and a coat. We will be inside most of the time but if the weather permits we will be going outside for some hands on. Yipeee!!

Seating is limited so you must RSVP by email: [email protected]

See you there!

December 12, 2013

The first step to taking incredible pictures….

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Have you wondered why your pictures don’t turn out? Your camera was expensive and your hopes were high but still, blah. Well the answer is, you lack the fundamentals. I know, it sounds boring. Keep in mind though that John Wooden, who won back to back NCAA basketball championships, focused on just that, the fundamentals. I am going to be honest with you. I am still using the same basics I learned 13 years ago when I ventured out as a photographer. I ignore the bells and whistles that all cameras seem to have now days. I want to teach you these fundamentals as well as some basic lighting, composition, posing and exposure. I really think it will change the way you think about everything you photograph for the rest of your life. So, if you have a camera that frustrates you or you are getting one for Christmas, sign up for the upcoming workshop at my studio on January 4. Dress warm because we will be going outside for 20 minutes for some hands on demonstrations.

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For those of you who sign up before Christmas I will give you a free copy of my Ebook, Stick Shift: learn to take control of your camera. It is a simple, yet powerful reference as you embark upon this new adventure. I hope to see you there!

“LOVING this Ebook!! It’s seriously magical!” -Felica

When: Saturday, January 4, 2014  3:00-5:00 pm

Winter Special: $50 or 2 people for $75

Bring your SLR camera.

Tuition for Photo Workshop



 

My studio address is 921 Orchard Dr. River Heights.

What we will cover:  This class will be geared toward people who just got a camera for Christmas or who have a camera already and have no idea how to use it.

We will cover the fundamentals of: Lighting, Composition, Posing, Exposure, and best of all you will walk away knowing exactly what to do with your camera with all the bells and whistles. We will simplify it so you can start taking pictures.

Depending on the weather we will be going outside for about 20 minutes for a dose of winter portrait photography. I love shooting in the winter and I hope this will help you love it too. Dress warm!

Email me to sign up and/or receive a gift certificate if you would like to give this as a gift for Christmas. The gift certificate will be valid for other class dates as well. Seating is limited to 15.

See you there!!

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December 10, 2013

Some people dream of white sandy beaches…..

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Ok, if you haven’t been on a photo shoot with me or don’t know me very well then this may seem a bit strange. Well, thinking about it, even if you know me it might sound a little strange. Anyway, I just went on a dream vacation, not to Hawaii, but to the DMZ which if you don’t know is the border of South and North Korea. What ??? Yup, it was on my top 5 list of things to do along with the Transiberian Railway, Mongolia, Morocco and Jerusalem.

Why in the heck would anyone want to go to the DMZ?

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Well, the answer for me is mystery and curiosity. Let me be clear in saying that I have no sympathies for North Korea. My grandfather fought against North Korea in the Korean War and used to tell me stories while we fished. I think their leaders are crazy. How can you resist looking at crazy though? I can’t. I understand people are living in extreme conditions over there and it maddens me but you have to laugh about the leadership over there a little. I mean come on. Not only did they discover a unicorn lair there last year but their leaders also invented the hamburger, got 11 holes in one their first time golfing and they chose our worst citizen (Dennis Rodman) to visit for “diplomatic” purposes. You can’t make this stuff up.

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That is North Korea in the distance. I wasn’t allowed any closer with my camera.

All laughing aside though North Korea is full of people who have little touch with the outside world. I have read so many books on this region and frankly still so little is known and that blows my mind.

The DMZ is not the only reason for going to South Korea though. Truthfully, I think South Korea has the most under appreciated Asian food in existence. That is my opinion. Seoul is home to over 15 million people and I swear there is like 1 restaurant for every 10 people. The food is everywhere and it is

OFF THE CHARTS!!!

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Forget about what you have heard about kimchi. If you can’t get past this fermented spicy cabbage then you are missing out on so much. The soups, the barbecue, the gimbap (basically sushi), the Kalbi grill, etc… are unforgettable. And honestly, to me there is nothing more interesting than open air food markets and Seoul has a bunch of them. The Gwangjang market is the oldest in Seoul and I swear 90% of the stuff I saw there I had never even heard of. It is like an open aired museum with shoulder to shoulder activity. There is a palpable energy in food markets. Food brings people together. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I could spend an entire day in one market. Pretty impressive for someone who can’t stand shopping at home, eh.

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Oh yeah, for you people who do like Kimchi, did I mention that I am a graduate of the Kimchi academy? Yup, I went to Kimchi school in Seoul. It wasn’t planned but I am so glad I did it. It was a blast!!

 

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My fellow graduates. The Heng family from Singapore. They are hoping to come visit us soon and go to Yellowstone. They were fantastic!!kimchi

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Silk worm Larvaedsc_1306 dsc_1308

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August 28, 2013

Maryn and James

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Well, its the end of an era. I have had the great pleasure of photographing three weddings for the Lee family and Maryn was the last one. I learned a lot from their family and we have become good friends. I love seeing new families created and watching them grow. To me the wedding is all about the family and that is why I love it. My best wishes to Maryn and James.

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