Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things I've never done before

Just after coffee, I stepped down to the garden to do some weeding. I stayed on top of it early on, but got busy on several projects for the last two weeks which turned the garden into a jungle. 
I got into the Zen of garden maintenance and a while later my shirt looked as if I'd showered with my clothes on.

I went inside to hydrate and set in front of the box fan we keep in our bedroom for white noise at night.
I cooled off, but before I showered, I decided to do yoga. I've been on a roll the last several weeks and I wanted to continue the trend until it becomes habit.

I headed to the back deck, lit some incense, dialed up some meditation music on Pandora and started my postures.

About five minutes into the session, I felt a cool drop of rain hit my shoulder. Instead of fleeing inside, I put my phone in my pocket to keep it from getting soaked and moved into a warrior one. Looking into the sky, I could see sun off to the east, but overhead were clouds as thick as wood smoke.

The rain picked up, and I focused on the wind in the chimes, and rain ticking on the metal roof. 
I'd never done yoga in the rain, but it felt great. 

By the time I wound down, the clouds had moved off to the west (they usually move in the opposite direction) and the sun bore down

After twenty minutes of meditation, I picked up my mat and laid it across a banister to dry before going inside to shower.

I love doing things I've never done before. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Attack of the mutant flora

We compost. All the peach peeling, egg shells, asparagus stems, and other rot-worthy stuff, we toss in
an enamel bucket on the back deck and every few days I take it outside the back fence and dump it into the composter situated under our pear tree.
Each fall we take compost as dark as chewing tobacco and spread it over the garden. The pile usually gets warm enough during the decomposition process to kill most seeds, but every now and then seeds make it through.
We didn't think winter would ever end. Spring was slow in coming but once it arrived, growing things thrived.
We planted sunflowers, but we had one that volunteered (that's what my grandmother called it) to come up a few rows away. 
It finally bloomed this week and I snapped this photograph of my great nephew Jordan standing beside it. Jordan is almost four feet tall so you can look at this picture and do the math yourself.
I've never seen one quite this tall. The flower is as big as a dinner plate. Too bad an heirloom tomato seed didn't survive and grow a tomato as big as a beachball :)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ethics of an eye for an eye ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Life is messy. The view from the highroad is more scenic, but there are always detours, and I find myself on bumpy roads more than I’d like.

One part of doing right is being kind to Mother Nature’s critters. A good example is when I wrote recently about relocating the chicken snake caught in the nest of the henhouse instead of hacking his head off with a hoe.

Oftentimes doing the right thing isn’t cut-and-dried. This past week I caught an opossum (possum for short) in my chicken pen. It had already killed and eaten one of my new baby chicks. He came back the next night for a second course, but I caught it in my humane trap.

At first, the equation seemed simple in this case — an eye for an eye. The possum ate my baby chicks; now it must pay for that life with its own life. After all, it is my responsibility to do the right thing by my chickens and keep them safe.

While standing looking through the wire cage at the vicious critter and mustering the courage to carry out the retribution, three tiny possums no bigger than mice came from somewhere underneath. They nestled on their mother’s back as if it were a lounge chair and gazed at me curiously. The simple equation became more complicated for me.

My ethical compass swung northward, so I loaded the wire trap with the mama and three babies into my truck. The plan was to find a suitable place to relocate them.

After driving about five miles from the house, I came upon a secluded pond with lots of open space.

Steering to the side of the road, I stepped out, gravel crunching under my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, a mama duck with a dozen small ducklings the size of my baby chicks came swimming toward shore.

Behind them were gentle V-shaped waves in their wake.

Watching the tiny critters for a moment was all it took to realize letting the possums go there was not the right thing to do either. Soon they’d be having duck for dinner.

After about 15 miles of asphalt, I came upon a bridge over a large creek. There were no houses for miles, and the area had been used from time to time as an illegal dump. Before giving it too much thought, I freed the family from the cage. Tumbling from their wiry jail, they cursed as they scampered toward the river.

Only Mother Nature knows what scathing labels they hissed on me.

Driving home, the circumstances surrounding the episode wandered through the maze of my mind trying to find a path to true north.

Did I do the right thing? It’s hard to say. Environmentalists might argue that changing the habitat of the possums at such a vulnerable time in their development was cruel.

Many people think I’m goofy for giving this kind of thing a second thought. Why not just blast the whole family with a shotgun and bury the carcasses in a shallow grave?

But for me, life is indeed messy at times and doing the right thing is not always easy.

The evening sky tonight. It has nothing to do with the post, but I wanted
to end with a picture.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Part of growing older

There was a time in my life when I could stay up for days. In fact, when I was in the Army, a friend wanted to learn to play the guitar. His barracks were located on the Pacific Ocean, and mine were on the Atlantic Ocean. 
That's me in Panama 1971
He bought a new guitar and boarded a train bound for the Atlantic. A few hours later he arrived. That was much easier to do because we were both in Panama. The Isthmus of Panama is about 50 miles across by train.
It was a long holiday weekend and he arrived on Friday afternoon. We sat down and began the guitar lessons.
We stayed up until Sunday afternoon when he had to board the train to head back to the Pacific. Our heads were buzzing, his fingers were practically bleeding, and we were walking zombies, but he knew all the basic chords, and could play any song that Hank Williams ever wrote.
Fast forward to now -- we didn't get to bed until after midnight last night, and my brain has been mushy all day. I guess that's part of growing older.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Worn out

We just rolled in after playing at Berkeley Bobs Coffee House tonight. Playing's the fun part, but then we have to help our sound man load up all the equipment. Wouldn't you know, our roadies took the evening off :)

Our old maids are coming in now so I grabbed a photo this afternoon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Country living suits me

The rain moved in early this morning. I'd planned to do yoga on the deck while the coffee brewed, but as I twisted the lock on the garden door, I could see raindrops beginning to dot the deck. Leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I watched for a long while.

Opening the door to let in the scent of fresh rain seemed like a good idea.  It's been dry here, but we set record low temps this week. It's been like autumn. Even the light looked unsummerlike. 

I backed into the living room, turned on a Calm Radio station on Pandora, laid my mat on the floor, and started my practice with slow gentle breaths. 

By the time I eased through all the poses, I felt taller. 

After coffee, I stepped down to tend the chickens, and when I finished that, a trip through the garden seemed in order.

It didn't take long to find a ripe tomato as large as a softball. One look down the rows and it was obvious I'd need a container.

Stepping back inside, I fetched a straw basket that we've had for as long as I can remember, and headed back to harvest. There were tomatoes, pepper, squash, and okra.

If I'd put a pencil to paper, that first tomato would probably have cost $120 due all the time, tools and supplies needed to grow it. But the cost-per-fruit is now plummeting. 

Here's the thing: it would probably be more economical to buy the vegetables than to grow them, but there's more to a garden than economics. 

There's the exercise, the mental workout in planning, scheduling, calculating, and evaluating. There is also other factors like the feeling of oneness that comes when you have your hands in the soil. That's not to mention the Zen-like experience you feel when you get close to nature. 

The value of eating that first homegrown (your home) tomato on toasted bread, with a thin coat of mayo on both slices, has never adequately been calculated. Even supercomputers can't handle equations that complex.

I know country living isn't for everyone, but it suits me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It feels good to have my wheels back

I got my truck back today. It's been in the shop for over a week having the heads reworked. A few months back a strange sequence of events set into motion by perhaps, the harvest moon, but it culminated in burned valves on the heads of my truck.
It ran like a T-Model with oval wheels, but I could still drive it some. Then, week before last we'd taken Jilda's car in for new tires, and the truck chose that time to start REALLY acting up.
I managed to get it back to the shop. The shop owner's calculator actually smoked as he tallied up what the repair bill would cost.
My brother-in-law was kind enough to let me use one of his work cars. He's a plumber and doesn't have a lot of time to worry about keeping his work vehicles clean, but it was wheels when I needed them.
Today when I got back home with my truck, I pulled it into the back yard and cleaned it inside and out. 
It feels good to have my wheels back.

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