Sunday, May 31, 2015

Post #100 - Tomato Trials

It's been hovering around 90 degrees for days now. On the high side or the low side of 90. That is to say, the mid 80s to mid 90s. The relative humidity is around 29% so the air is quite dry. You should see when I vacuum the rug. I have to hold the metal tube to ground or I get a nasty static shock.
I'm all upset because I can't grow anything but sunflowers, potatoes, and collard greens. I grew those quite successfully because I started in March while it was still cool and we got some light rain here and there. Now I've harvested all the wonderful new potatoes and collard greens that we can eat. I have so many collards I give them to the hens.

I'm still enjoying the sunflowers.... which, by the way, are all volunteers from last year's planting. Cool, huh? (Note the hill in the background. What color is it? Brown! The annual grasses which were a luscious green a month ago are now quite dormant. Crackly. Dry. Parched.)

 Maybe some of you can help me. My tomatoes have blossom end rot for the second year in a row. My research says that BER is caused by over and under watering and calcium deficiency. That is to say, letting the soil dry out between watering is not a good thing. Hey! I water every day when they start to droop in the heat!  I also amended with bone meal last winter after the garden was finished. (The dogs liked that!) Right now I have to water by hand because we can't afford another drip system. I'm gardening in containers because the soil is heavy clay, I was impatient and we had a lot of large broken animal water troughs. But they are metal troughs so they aren't porous. Moisture really can't evaporate out, right? What am I missing?

A California Lawn

Before Weeding

After Weeding
Which one do you like better? You'd better say the one without the star thistle! (top photo for you weed challenged individuals. You know who you are.) Star thistle is the most amazing plant. It pops right out after the annual grasses die off. It's tenacious and stickery. It takes over everything and can kill your horse's livers if you're not in the know and put them on it with nothing else to eat so they ingest it.
But it makes the most delicious honey! I hate it. I love it. Sigh.

We can't really water our "lawn" without feeling super guilty so we don't. We're on a well and storage pond system. This beautiful pond will be a mud hole in late August.

Waste not want not rules here. So we just tough it out and don't water our "lawn" until the next rainy season. All you people in the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. I am so jealous of your water!
Here's our new drip system for the Raywood Ash trees. They almost croaked last year and us, too, from watering in beasty heat! We took a little Honda pump and filled a 150 gallon tank that we pulled around with the Viet Nam era jeep and watered each tree by hand. That was fun because the Jeep's brakes couldn't handle the full water tank trailer and we had to leap in between watering and braking. It was a two person job! Anyway, the hand watering kept them alive but only barely. My gift was a farmer tan. Drip is da bomb! Water does not run off. Goes right to where it's needed. Very little evap. And best of all, we don't have to go out in beasty heat to keep the trees alive! (Cue the cheering crowd sound track.)

The beauty of this new system is that we can pull back the extenders to the fence line and mow or let the horses graze and they won't be stomping all over our new line.
Here's the new filter.  What? You wonder why? Because we're using pond water.  Because the durn line clogs with pond water and we're back to flobbing around in the heat trying to figure out where the blockage is. Work smarter not harder, dudes!

The filter is the blue thingy to the left of the barn door. I'm so proud of Marty and his ingenious way of circumventing the door opening where vehicles would otherwise be running over the water line time and time again smashing them into oblivion. You can't see the water line because it goes from the filter to the inside of the barn door opening and OVER the barn door to the other side. Doesn't intrude ( very much) onto the rustic barn look. So Schmart! 

Cat Rug

Now I leave you with the Cat Rug. Remember my little venture into crocheting rag rugs? Anna showed me how to make shag rag rugs. Oh, I like that. Shag Rag Rugs. Gotta trademark that. Well, guess what? The cat likes 'em, too!
My rug! Not your rug! Purrrrr!

And the Horse at the Door
My old horse Dusty 28 years young has decided he likes hanging out by our front door. I have no idea what's going on in his little horsey brain but I find it most amusing. Avon calling!

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Woman Called T

Elisabeth "T" on left, Pati and friend..... La chaim!

Dedicated to the memory of Elisabeth Dragat Hathaway
Born April, 23, 1962
Died May 22, 2015
Aged 53 years
May she rest in peace.


She was called "T". When she was little one of her siblings couldn't pronounce Elisabeth. It came out T and it stuck as her permanent nickname. I didn't know T very well but what I knew of her was fine. She was a fine lady. Kind. Beautiful smile. When she smiled her whole face smiled. I wish I had a picture of her. She was blonde and blue eyed about medium height and a little zaftig. So that gives you something with which to use your imagination. But the physical of a person is really so little of a person. It's just that we need the physical. We are rooted in physical. How could we not be?

Some people say we are perfect non-physical beings. But are we? Who knows.

I'm going to leave the eulogizing to persons who knew her best. She was a really good friend of my best friend Pati. She lived in Petaluma. She was a family counselor. She was more than that. We are all more than where we live and what we do, n'est ce-pas?

T got a very bad version of cancer a few months ago. It was the kind that comes with a death sentence. She fought bravely and without big narcotics. She and her doctors did everything in their power to keep her alive and with us. They were only buying time but it was worth it. It's always worth it to wake up and see the sky and smell the air and ponder infinity and the mysteries of life. A wise man once said life is precious, a gift, a diamond. Most people are selling the diamond for the price of spinach.

 T didn't have a belief in the afterlife. She didn't believe in heaven. She didn't believe in hell. And she was terrified at the end. I think a lot of us pretend we can handle it but T, being who she was, just didn't fake it. I admire her for that. That level of personal honesty is rare. T was real until the end.

T would want we who are left behind to savor our lives and never, ever take it for granted. A beautiful elegant woman, she.

Thank you, T, for being who you are. I am so honored that I made your acquaintance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Four Things

Self Portrait

 by David White

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
if you can know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes,
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.


Mary offered this poem. I thought it was wonderful.

I've been reading the words of other people a lot recently. I have my favorite blogs like Ben Hewitt, Andrea Hjelskov, Ron van Wiggens, Kaufarmer. I have been reading Raymond Carver and Mark Twain short stories. So different from each other. All compelling in their own ways.  

So I've been thinking about words a lot. I've decided that it's important to choose words carefully. But it's important not to get so wrapped up in it that you can't choose. Luckily life is forgiving if you have good intentions and make a loving try. If you get low, if you get mean and you forget to love when you choose your words that's what you will get. You will get the opposite of love. Unless, of course, you are talking to a crazy person. Then all bets are off. 

If you get the opposite of love you know what you did and what you have to do. You have to ask for forgiveness. If you ask from the heart you will get forgiveness. And then you have to try to do better. Why does it take so long to do better? I've heard that neural pathways in our brains are grooved by the habits that we learn over a life time. It doesn't take a long life time. Nature in her infinite wisdom designed it this way so when the cave bear was coming at us we didn't have to stop and think what we should do. If we didn't have a good escape plan already grooved in our brain...Zap! We were no more. So doing things habitually at its basis is good and based in evolutionary common sense.

Where this nature goes wrong is when we can't stop unproductive habits. Where we keep doing them over and over. We do them unconsciously because if we pause to think... we're eaten! 

It takes years to undo things that don't work for us. Another challenge is how to determine what works and what doesn't. It's almost as if one needs to look at each and every action and say does this work? Neti, neti. Not this, not this.

Mistakes happen all the time. It is not possible to say "stop doing that. I demand that you stop doing that". It will make you crazy. You will drive all your loved ones away. You will drive yourself away.

I think: (with many thanks to Don Miguel Ruiz)
Always be impeccable with your words. This means choose your words carefully without becoming frozen with fear of making a mistake. This means be most careful about what you say about yourself. Words are magic. Just ask any person living in the jungle who has never seen a written word. I once saw a movie called "Black Robe". In it the Jesuit priest meets a group of Algonquin Indians. He says tell me something nobody knows. He writes it down. He takes it to his friend nearby who can read but has not heard the transaction. Read this he says. In front of the Algonquins the man reads out loud what nobody knows. The Algonquins say he is a demon. He makes scratches on a paper that have life.

Don't take anything personally. If someone trashes you or says bad things that you don't like don't think it is about you. It is about them. Have compassion for them but don't be arrogant. You might make a mistake tomorrow and then you will have people thinking you have a problem. If everyone did not take things personally how different the world would be. War would evaporate. Conflict would be non-existent.

Don't make assumptions. This goes along with not taking anything personally. We get into trouble when we decide we know what someone else is thinking. We may just be having some big hallucination. Even if we somehow managed to know what another person was thinking and our assumption was right is it worth it then to take action on that assumption? Think about what actually needs to be acted on right away. A person falls into a lake and is drowning. A house is on fire and there are children inside. If it's life or death then let's assume that the person is thinking save me. Let's act on that assumption. Everything else is not urgent, is it?

Always do your best. What else can we do? This is a tricky one because we can get trapped into thinking that what other people think we should do is what we should do and then we start using un-impeccable words against our selves. We are bad because we didn't do our best! But what is our best? Our best is what we are doing right now in this exact moment. It may not be our best in the next moment or compared with our past but right in this exact moment we can't do any better. So let yourself off the hook. If you think you can do better, fire away! Try to do better next time. Keep trying. Groove that neural pathway.

All people can benefit from these ideas. Only people who have completely gone off their rocker cannot benefit from these ideas. People like Charles Manson will get caught and put in prison for the criminally insane. But even Charles Manson was doing the best he could. The rest of us might be able to forgive him but we're certainly not going to let the bad choices he made go without doing something about it. 

It's a way of looking at things. Please forgive me for being brief. Maybe I failed utterly in choosing my words carefully but I do know that I did my best.

Finally remember to stand far back in the corner of the galaxy and see the truth of how significant we and the things we do are.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Number Eight Number Eight

I offer, for your consideration, my latest rag rug creation. This is rug #8. The next rug will be Number Nine. I guess that one may as well be something psychedelic to go along with the song. This rug, rug #8, is a custom color blend requested by my daughter. She wanted green, purple and orange. So here it is.

 Looking at the layers - which are a bit random - (on purpose because I'm not interested in symmetrical) makes me think of the layers in the Grand Canyon. Maybe I'll try to recreate the colors of the Grand Canyon in my next rug. Stay tuned.

Golden Years

What is This Term I've Heard So Often Called "Golden Years"?

When I was younger, I could remember anything whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying . . . soon I [won't] remember anything but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it. - Mark Twain

I've been on a Mark Twain kick recently. Mark Twain was clever, a genius, really, and I wish I were more like him. Even a teeny tiny bit. Alas, it is unlikely I will ever be. So I will satisfy myself with immersing myself in his writings as best  I can. We little people have to find solace where we can.

In a couple weeks Marty and I are going up to Angels Camp for the Annual Jumping Frog Jubilee. I am going to absorb as much of the spirit of Mark Twain as I can. We'll go up to the rebuilt cabin on Jackass Hill and nose around to see if there's any feeling of the old days when he sat and wrote his famous story about the frog and Jim Smiley.

In the meantime I have been thinking about the term "Golden Years". That's what inspired me to research what Mark Twain said about aging. Marty mentioned something the other day. He said whoever called it Golden Years sure wasn't a person in their Golden Years. What is this term supposed to mean? Is old age supposed to be some kind of beautiful, peaceful place? Well, I'm old and while I can say that there is some decent peace of the mind there sure isn't a heck of a lot of physical peace. Don't get me wrong. Marty and I are in pretty damn good shape for our years. But Golden? I am somewhat speechless but I'll try to elaborate.

We can tolerate the forgetfulness. Many people younger than us are just as forgetful or even more so. We don't seem to be singled out in that regard. We can tolerate the lack of get up and go. Get up and go, which is lavished in such great amounts on the young, seems just so undignified in old age. I think old people should cultivate a kind of regal grace such as one might find in a monarch sitting on his or her throne. It's a mighty fine replacement for get up and go. 

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.  - Mark Twain in Autobiography with Letters

Where we once would have bounded down the lane like a gazelle or sprung into the saddle with one motion we're simply happy to walk with a steady vigorous stride and not wobble. If I try to do a gazelle bound it looks so ludicrous. I have to stop immediately.  The main thing left to the old person in their "Golden Years" (insert rolling of eyes here) is to speak their mind. Being crotchety and not suffer fools lightly is the domain of advanced age.  Being crotchety is as undignified for a young person as attempting to bound down the lane is for an old person.

Marty and I agree that the term "Golden Years" was probably concocted by some young person contemplating what they might receive for their inheritance.

Downton Abbey is wrecking my life

I am nearly free. We have one more season, the last and most recent, to watch and I will be free. We never watched any of the episodes while they were on. We just rented the entire series from Netflix and then we started in on a marathon of watching it. We only watch it at night but I really could be doing things that are much more productive. 

I've engaged in this obsessive behavior before. Years ago we had a marathon watching of The X-Files. Then I was free again. Years went by and I was productive. Now I'm caught again and this time it's by the Abbey and the characters that inhabit it. I'm caught like a bug in a web. Thank God it's a quality web! We're enjoying our captivity very, very much. We're so engaged with the characters and their trials and tribulations. Marty and I agree that it's a high class soap opera. Kind of like Jane Austen is a high class soap opera. All you anglophiles out there, shudder in unison! But I don't care. It's just that and we can agree to disagree. 

I'm a little bit worried about how I will get along when we're done with it and I'm in the throes of the empty nest. I'm making plans for a lot of drawings and rag rugs and pithy little essays. I'm really studying my new volume of Ray Carver short stories so I'll be ready to channel. If there's any hope that I can. Which there probably isn't. Hope, that is, but it's OK.  I was born to try, fail and try again. What's the point of life if not to try things, fail and keep trying and learning?

The Flora and Fauna of Grindstone Ranch

Then to leave you with something organic I offer a couple of creatures we have been encountering recently. The Northern Pacific rattlesnake and the scorpion. I don't have a special name for the scorpion and he doesn't have one for me either.

A mortally wounded rattlesnake
It's mortally wounded because we don't wait around to get the camera when we find a rattlesnake. We run and get the shotgun first. So after the deed was done I carefully arranged myself to get this picture so you were spared the reality. 

This is a juvenile scorpion in a detergent scoop. Ask me how it got in there. The answer is I have no idea. Now I make sure to shake out my shoes before I slip them on. It's a jungle out there. I mean, in here.

Last night as we drove in the front gate we came upon this:

No, not the dollar bill. The dollar bill is there for scale next to the wavy marks in the sand. What are the wavy marks you might ask? Why, you may be shocked to know they're the tracks of a gigantic snake. I was thinking anaconda but we live in an almost waterless place so it isn't that. We're assuming they're the tracks of a pretty big rattlesnake since gopher snakes are much thinner. We didn't see the maker and it didn't leave the dollar bill contrary to popular belief. I really hope the track was made by a beneficial king or gopher snake. If it's a rattlesnake I'm not going to like it one least little bit.

That's all for now.

With warm regard,