Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gardening in the Rain

Falling water has been my sign for knocking off writing deadlines.  "You can't garden in the rain!"  Wrong!  A little bit of stretched plastic has shifted my paradigm.  What's a greenhouse for, if not to garden?

When I walked into my "study" this morning, yesterday's fat envelope of seeds called me on the carpet, "Plant me!"  I sat there in my running clothes, to do my early morning routine -- search the Federal Register, skim news headlines, digest a few op ed pieces, and check banking agency web sites.  "Plant me!"

What's the point?  How could I concentrate over talking seeds, especially when their future home lies within view outside the window?  Hold on, sweethearts, while I change into jeans and worn shoes.  Now, who goes first?  I sorted the embryos into a small cardboard box, carried them through the rain, raked the soil fine, and set them free.  Bibb, crisphead, leaf and romaine lettuces.  Broccolis, cabbages, Greek oregano, parsleys and peppermint.  Will they grow in this experiment?

"And your running clothes?" asks Virginia.

They called me from a pile on the bedroom floor.  A little water can't keep them inside for long.  What's the difference between sweat and rain, after 4 slow miles?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Planning A Trip to Hawaii

On our coldest day so far this season, a seed order arrived.  Exercising remarkable restraint, I quickly checked it over and returned to work on my last book update scheduled for 2010.  I'll plant seeds tomorrow.  Instead, I turned my mind to things like overdraft protection plans and Community Reinvestment Act credit for low-income education loans.

Before all that, I put on a killer blue running outfit -- long-sleeve shirt and loose-fitting tights -- and a GPS watch a neighbor loaned me for Hellgate.  I was able to join men in tights because I finally went through my closet yesterday and moved my summer clothing where my winter stuff has been hiding.  Happy Christmas in November!  In December, I'll say "Merry."

I'd been toying with the watch for several days because the instruction booklet covers many interesting features but fails to explain how to set the watch back to zero for a new running session.  Perhaps it's self-evident to everyone but me.  Looking out the den window, Karen saw me standing halfway down our lane.  Ring-a-dingy-ding.  "Would you leave the gate open when you leave?"  Sure.  "You okay, standing there?"  Yeh, just waiting to home in on a satellite.  After a minute, I jogged to the gate, fussing with button after button.  A tenth of a mile down the road I smiled, master of the GPS, which showed a running pace of 22:00 and a hundredth covered.  Before long I was cruising at 9:20 and tempted to speed up.  Whoa, I said.  Don't let the gadget mess up your training less than two weeks before Hellgate.  "Would you like one of those?" Karen asked me later.  Yes, but I'm afraid I might return to what I'm tempted to call my compulsive running past, full of watches, running logs, schedules and fretting about minutes and meters.

"So, no cross-training today?" asks Virginia.

Not unless sitting on a couch using my brain and fingers to write counts.  I did poke through my old seeds to pick out some broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and cabbage.  And, guess what?  I borrowed a chair to decorate the greenhouse.  A little table would make a nice addition.  I understand a cold winter's day, when the garden is covered with snow, is a perfect time to pretend a greenhouse is Hawaii.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cleansing Day

I started the day with what I think of as a cleansing run.  After a long run, like my 21-miler yesterday, I find it useful to stumble out the door the next morning.  I picture my blood coursing through my muscles, washing away the lactic acid and waste, and assisting the repair of yesterday's beating.  A cloudless sky greeted me, warming the twenty-five degree air, not at all windy like yesterday.  I felt so good after a couple miles, I changed my plans and turned 4 miles into 6, toying with more but deciding not to be stupid.

I lied.  I didn't start with a run.  I started by writing, working on an idea that came to me overnight.  Maybe I'll fill you in if it gels.

"What about me?" asks Virginia.  "I'm waiting, like a pubescent girl, to develop, and you keep branching off into other things."

Right.  Sorry about that, Virginia.  Tell me what you want to become and we'll go there.

As I ran, I remembered that at Aid Station 5, Jennings Creek, the Hellgate workers offer breakfast, including pancakes.  That stuck in my mind, so when I got home I mixed up a batch.  We have this awful set of measuring spoons that includes a 1 1/2 teaspoon measure.  Not for the first time, I thought it was the teaspoon measure and added too much baking powder to the brew.  I tried to remove some, but most of it had already gotten wet.  I think that's why the darn things rose too high and required flipping over and over again before the wet batter cooked.  As they turned darker and darker, I found more and more smoke in my eyes.  I'd bet this evening the house still smells like burned pancakes.  I have a notion to break off the 1 1/2 teaspoon and toss it in the trash.  Of what use is it anyway?

Next, I decided to recycle some old locust fence posts, given to us by the same folks who donated the fence rails we used for the greenhouse compost box.  I cut eight of them into edges for two beds in the center of the greenhouse, staked them in, and filled them with a mix of aged manure and topsoil.  Now I'm ready for the seeds I've ordered from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, shipped last Friday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Countdown to Hellgate

The thermometer's above-freezing reading this morning was misleading, as became abundantly clear up on the ripples of the Blue Ridge.  Fortunately, I was ready, thanks to my son's suggestion that I wear one of his Under Armour shirts.  I thought I'd be too warm with long-sleeved Under Armour under a Nike wick fit shirt.  If so, off would come Nike and on another light shirt that had been keeping my cellphone from bouncing in my bottle belt.  At times, nestled in a hollow with the sun shining, I was too warm, but as we climbed up to its ridge a howling wind made me grateful for the thicker layer.  At one point, we heard what sounded like a semi-trailer grinding down a winding double-track road and saw it smoking circles.  Then we realized it was a windstorm spinning dust and leaves.

Eleven runners showed up to experience the third and final leg of the Hellgate 100, now only two weeks away.  While we waited for someone to say, "I'm getting cold; let's go," I noticed an oval sticker on the back window of race director David Horton's car -- "Hellgate 66.6."  "Aha," I said, "so you admit it's over 100K."  Horton smiled and nodded, "in fact, if you finish the run, you'll get one of those stickers."  "I'm cold," said someone, and off we went for the day's 21 miles.

I've written this before; the best part of any race is the training runs.  Today all of us stayed together (except for the two speedsters who hurried ahead to hang yellow streamers along the course; after the first two minutes, we never saw them again).  If someone lagged behind, we waited at the next big turn.  If someone got ahead, he'd wait or regret, as happened once, just after Bobblets Gap, "whoa Scott, you missed the turn."  Because we were close, we could check each other.  Our leader kept up a running commentary.  We should have given him a microphone and hung a speaker on his back because he was hard to hear over the leaves swooshing around our feet and wind whistling through the trees.

"There's Purgatory Mountain," the leader pointed.  "What?" yelled someone near the rear.  "Purgatory Mountain," "Purgatory Mountain," passed by, as if we were playing a parlor game.  Most us fell once or twice.  "You okay?"  "You okay?"  Now and then we'd stop to clear fallen limbs off the trail.  "Better today than trip over them two weeks from now after running 50 miles."  "Look at that," and we'd slow down while we moved our eyes from the rocky trail to a stunning overlook.

"What did you think of the 'forever section?'" asks Virginia.

Which one?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Greenhouse Compost

My cross-training for Hellgate continued today with a short (6-mile) run followed by composting.  I finished building the compost box for the greenhouse yesterday, after Karen helped the day before.  Here it sits like an altar at the far end of the greenhouse.

If you were sitting in the compost, here's what you might see.
Or lying down, looking up.
Today I covered the walls with plastic and made our first deposits.
"I'd say that's enough about goat poop," says Virginia. "What ever happened to that wheat you planted?"

I thought she'd never ask about our November babies, the green tinge in this photo.
Here's a close-up.  Aren't they just the sweetest ever?
Finally, here's a photo for my mother and anyone else who's been wondering exactly where we put the new greenhouse.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Greenhouse Plastic

Today, with some assistance, we installed the plastic on our greenhouse.
As Susan drove away, she yelled, "It looks like a Conestoga wagon!"
I almost called this blog entry, "Greenhouse Construction Complete," but it's not.  At the far end (West), I'm going to build a big compost box and fill it with kitchen scraps, fresh manure and other goodies.  I'm hoping that will add heat in the winter and carbon dioxide for the plants. Around the bottom, on the outside, I plan to add planters -- to keep air from rushing under the greenhouse "crawl space." 

"So when are you going to plant something?" asks Virginia.

Maybe tomorrow -- winter greens and lettuces.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Undercover, content, here is Pooville West, then East.
Twenty truckloads have been loaded, disbursed and spread.  If I can summon up the energy, I'll gradually cover the aged manure with mulch.  First, I must squirrel away more firewood for winter and stretch plastic over the greenhouse.  Then we'll begin to discover what we can grow this time of year.

"Do you still have plans for a pile of droppings on the West side of the greenhouse?" asks Virginia.

Can't hurt, except my back.  It would have been nice to install it before the plastic. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fire in the Window

Do you see what I see?  Is it a man stretched across a diamond?
Maybe it's Senator Miles Poindexter, the ghost who used to live in our house.
"Now I see the photographer," says Virginia.  "You."
Here's what was on the other side of the window.  It's fun trying out a new camera.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Run Hellgate?

Why run Hellgate? I know some folks think it's crazy and can't imagine why someone would. One answer is the perennial "I guess you've got to be there" to understand.

I haven't done it yet, so I don't really know the answer. A previous winner of the run, Jason Schwartzbard, has written: "...those reasons that we share with acquaintances over cocktails at holiday parties only skim the edges of our reasoning....Just as the painter, dancer, mathematician or corporate executive creates, so does the runner. But while the painter, dancer, mathematician or corporate executive feel[s] both the joy of meeting the human need to create, and the pleasure of seeing some final product, the runner only has the former....So at those cocktail parties, the reasons that come out for running long distances in the woods tend toward values that are meaningful after the fact. But as I ran down that grassy road, a little more than half way through the race, a few minutes before sunrise, what drove me forward had nothing to do with pushing myself to new heights or being able to eat more pie the following week. What drove me forward was the transcendent satisfaction of creating my experience."

I touched on a similar idea in an earlier blog posting ("Ordinary People," December 26, 2009) -- the idea that artists, writers, dancers, and other creators must find satisfaction in the act of creation and not in the "final product."

"Oh, what I'd give to re-experience the event, itself," says Virginia. "Second, give me the memory, not the sterility of a recording."

Well, Virginia is a pro, one of the few who peaked in her profession, however briefly. As an amateur musician who enjoys performing, I hesitate to focus on the moment of performance. Musicians, like athletes, train for weeks, years, for their performances, and then can stumble because something takes a wrong turn -- maybe another musician's error, a broken string, a memory lapse, or an overheated room. I don't want my satisfaction to depend on the performance. The performance means little if I'm miserable practicing by myself or working with other musicians.

Likewise, Hellgate. I'd be disappointed if I didn't run the race. The moment when I cross the finish line will be a special moment. But -- race director, you may stop reading now -- I have already experienced an incredible amount of satisfaction before toeing the starting line, running alone in the forest in Fall colors and sunshine, dry leaves swishing at my feet, spying a white tail bouncing through the trees or a flock of turkeys lifting off, and being grateful my body parts are able to complain. The creative process can feel very good, good, not-so-good, not-so-bad, bad and very bad, but most of all creation feels.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let the Children Play

This morning I ran past an elementary school playground. Little bodies scurried up the ladder of a slide. No one yelled, "One at a time!" I expected them to hurry back to climb the ladder again, but as soon as they slid off the metal they raced to the nearest swingset. Memory tugged. I found myself on the playground of Bluffton Elementary, about 50 years ago. Rushing to the swing instead of the ladder felt exactly right.

We gathered in a circle to choose teams for kickball. I forget how we designated team captains. Maybe we remembered whose turn or birthday it was. Some of us knew we'd be picked first and who would be last. Selection happened fast because we wanted to play. The next day, if Jimmy remembered his bag, we might shoot marbles.

"Where are the teachers?" I wondered this morning. They were where they should be, gathered under a tree, visiting. The children, like 50 years ago, didn't need someone telling them what to do or worrying about being a few feet away in case they fell off the ladder or bumped heads running to the next attraction.

I hope this playground is not unusual, with its old-fashioned equipment and laissez faire attitude. It reminds me of our 2000 trip to New Zealand, when we showed up to sea-kayak Milford Sound. I asked, "do you want us to sign a waiver?" Our guide laughed, "no need, you'd be thrown out of court if you sued us." We need that -- a culture of knowing risk-taking, of taking responsibility for our choices. If you drink coffee, you know it's hot, so don't spill it.

"Too many rules spoil the broth," says Virginia.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sweet Carrotissimi

Almost nothing beats fresh sweet carrots direct from a home garden. I picked a few amazing samples this evening. They're very small, having been planted in August, and may need to be covered with straw as the mercury drops lower and lower -- or maybe they won't last that long if I can't resist the little twerps.

What else waits in my garden? Small plantings of many vegetables, including onions, kale, spinach, parsnips, Chinese cabbage, chives, peas, lettuces, garlic. And lots of arugula. Want some? Across the way are ducks, chickens and goats. I've been putting off calling the goat abattoir, as one of our friends insists on calling it. The very local chicken abattoir has been called into service recently, though.

"Was that you working in the garden today?" asks Virginia.

Right, as if she doesn't know. Yes, I was a triathlete again -- 10 miles running, 2 1/2 hours holding a chainsaw, and 3 hours loading and unloading aged manure. Only 2 more garden beds await their application.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today's Triathlon

A friend finished her first marathon on Saturday while we were trying out the Hellgate course. Today, according to Karen, she was struggling down stairways, full of good feelings overcoming the bad (pain). She said she loved the experience, had planned on doing only one, and now wants to do the same course next year. Meanwhile, someone reminded us that the "first marathoner" died after his run. If my facts are right, that's true, but he didn't run only 26.2 miles; he ran 153 miles from Athens to Sparta and then back again and he probably wasn't wearing fancy running shoes. Today's "Spartathlon" attempts to replicate his run, one-way only. To qualify for the race, you must first: (1) finish a 100K race in less than 10 hours, 30 minutes; (2) compete and complete a 200K race; and (3) compete in the Spartathlon and reach the Nestani 172K checkpoint in less than 24 hours, 30 minutes. You thought Hellgate was crazy?

I decided today was time for a triathlon. After running 10 miles, I cut firewood for 2 1/2 hours, then used 2 1/2 more hours to load and unload my pickup with aged manure. I'd include a picture of our garden beds, but our camera's broken so I'll wait until the other three of ten are ready for winter. I'm hoping to be able to walk out in the spring, rake over some mulch, wait a day or two for the soil to dry, and drop the seeds in.

I hear rain falling, so my timing was good. If it rains often enough, maybe I can return to my preferred schedule of working on my legal writing when it's raining and the garden, greenhouse or firewood when it's not.

"You're a slough-off," says Virginia.

Oh, and my illegal writing everyday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


In final preparation for the Hellgate 100, we've invited a few friends to help me carbo-load two nights before the event. Most of them laughed and said they've been carbo-loading for quite awhile, and for me, they'd be glad to keep it up. I'm fortunate to have friends willing to make the sacrifice.

Karen noticed something unusual about our dinner guests. We've invited three married couples. Not one of those six people has the same last name. What's the chance of that? Karen said, "I think I'll change my name."

What's in a name? Do you think these folks are likely to be Republicans or Democrats, feminists or male chauvinists, foodies or McDonald's fanatics, urban or rural dwellers, Unitarian or Catholic, readers or couch potatoes? Look at your answers. What do they say about you?

[Break time, to clip the chickens' wings. The fences I bragged about recently are useless unless the chickens can't fly. It's hard to catch them during the day, but now, after dusk, they've returned to their pens and tranced into laziness. Done.]

"So is carbo-loading a good idea?" asks Virginia.

Hey yes, as an excuse to pull some friends together. Maybe not for the running. I've read that so-called expert marathon physicians say carbo-loading has been dropped by most serious marathoners in favor of eating a balanced diet with 60-70% carbohydrates and no increase in calories the week before a race. I've also read that carbo-loading is good so long as you don't put on extra weight to carry around. Who really knows? It's probably like eating eggs -- one year they're bad for you and the next year they're good.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hellgate Official Training Run # 1

Knowing I had to be on the road by 5:45 this morning to meet other Hellgate crazies at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 80.4, I crawled into bed about 8:30 last night with 1491, a slow-going but very interesting guesstimated history that would probably destroy most readers' (certainly my) paradigms about native Americans. I read a few pages before letting the book fall onto our heavy bedspread. I suppose I lacked confidence in my cellphone's alarms -- I had set number one for 5:15 and number two for 5:16 -- because I began squinting through my curled forefinger when the digits flicked 4:00, nodding on and off until 5:00 when I slid onto the floor to do my good morning crunches. I then pulled on the running gear I had carefully selected the night before, cancelled the alarms, drank my daily apple cider vinegar tea, and ate a piece of toast with grape juice. After brushing my teeth, I hugged and kissed Karen goodbye only to hear her laughing like a hyena. I suddenly realized the fur wasn't hers. Rosie (one of our two boxers) had claimed my spot as soon as I left. This required a re-kiss. I grabbed my readied bottle belt, which contained banana goo, a peanut butter sandwich, an orange vest, a tee shirt, and two water bottles.

I had included an extra ten minutes for contingencies, so thickly frosted car windows didn't bother me. 24 degrees did. I headed South and then skyward on Petites Gap Road. The drive affected me more than usual, probably because the darkness allowed my mind's eye to vividly picture the steep cliffs a couple yards to the right of my tires. With the Blue Ridge Parkway making me even more nervous than usual, I tried to admire the beginning sunrise and what looked like city lights 3,000 feet below. The reading on the car's thermometer surprised me, showing at least 12 degrees warmer than our house.

A cluster of cars waited at Floyd's Field (mile 80.4) when I arrived at 6:25. We waited 10 minutes for possible late-comers, consolidated into two cars, and headed back down to Big Hellgate Lane, the start of our run, a little over a mile from where Karen and Rosie rested. At 7:30 we headed into the forest. I'd guessed right. I knew the beginning of the course quite well, up to aid station two, except -- I suppose I should have anticipated this from the Mountain Masochist Trail Run -- the same race director's insistence on making the course as difficult as possible. For example, ignoring a convenient footbridge that crosses Elk Creek at the Belfast trailhead, David Horton takes his course directly across the creek less than a hundred yards West and then, instead of stepping up onto the nearby paved road, he first requires us to trek a few hundred yards across rocks sometimes hidden under fallen leaves. Not a big deal? Remember, Hellgate begins at 12:01 December 11th, so we'll be running this part of the course in the dark.

After Belfast (this trail leads to the Devil's Marbleyard), Petites Gap Road took us steeply up to the Parkway. Along the way, Horton longingly eyed the Glenwood Horse Trail to the South. "I'd love to take this course up that even steeper trail," he said, "but we aren't allowed to take a group this large into that wilderness area." I guess I'll "run" that another day.

Rather than bore you with the entire first third of the Hellgate course, let me simply mention that today's pack quickly divided into two groups -- under 30 and over 49 (perhaps this suggests that the 30-49 age group is uniformly sane) -- and we older guys, after crossing the Parkway and heading down the other side of the mountain, quite promptly made a wrong turn. Here's how we discovered our mistake. "Look there," says one, "two more tractors like the first two." "Ummm, those are the very same tractors," say I. "Damn," says runner number 3. "This means, instead of finishing 45 minutes behind the faster group," says the first one, "they'll be waiting an additional hour for us." Slow to understand the implications of that comment, I tap the top of my head, "Oh, are you saying our three cars are the only ones at the end?" "Exactly," says he, "someone should have planned that a little better."

"How thoughtful and considerate," says Virginia. "What did you do?"

We pulled out a map and hunted for a solution. I believe the older group ended up running a little farther, while the younger guys ran harder. We completed two thirds of the Horton course and then gradually found our way to mile marker 76 on the Parkway and finished with an easy 4.5 mile downhill to Floyd's Field. I forgot to ask how long they'd been waiting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Little Kindness

Perhaps you read or heard about the "missile" sighting off the coast of California. It reminds me of the tendency of some people to hear bits and pieces and jump to a conclusion that bears no resemblance to reality. I'm not exempt, although I try to be. Sometimes my nosiness gets the better of me.

If inclinations had DNA, they would share DNA with worrying. At its worst in the middle of the night, when some sound has awakened me and my sluggishness isn't dull enough to return to sleep, my mind catches a random factoid and begins to spin a yarn that begins to feel more and more factual until I become almost certain disaster is about to happen or already has.

Similarly, but in a more positive sense, this sort of thing can happen on a long run. The mind takes off on a tangent, blindly darting this way and that until it lands on a brilliant solution, invention, story, or approach to the future. Perhaps this exemplifies "the runner's high." Inevitably, return to reality exposes flaws in the masterpiece.

"What on earth are you talking about?" says Virginia.

Oh, mindfulness, or mindlessness, I guess. Recognizing the way minds work, and that minds work differently, might bring a bit of tolerance to our lives -- a sympathetic reluctance to accept an utterance as a true expression of what someone else thinks. If I said, or described, every worry or runner's high thought, a person might think me crazy, demented, stupid, inconsiderate or foolish. Sometimes I do say those things, with immediate regret. When I hear others say them, I'd be much better off to ignore them or wait a while to find out if they really meant them or were just reeling out the working of their minds.

I'm often grateful I'm not famous, a politician or newscaster or reality show participant, always on camera. As hard as I'd try to bite my tongue, eventually I'd forget and say something unfortunate. Let's try harder to be kind.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plastic Fence Protection; Monster Concert Holiday Singalong

Our winter wheat and garlic are now resting comfortably under sun-drenched November soil, preparing to spread their roots in a head-start on Spring.  This slow-learner took no chance that free-range chickens or ducks would attack new wheat seedlings.  I constructed an 18-inch high yellow plastic fence, made of STO mesh left over from Karen's outdoor kitchen stucco job. 

"You're over-stating your case," says Virginia.

She's right.  I didn't take no chance.  But I think the chance is slim, based on my trial with my latest planting of green beans.  The birds didn't pester them.  I managed to land a first picking last week, just before our first hard killing frost.  I would have liked the beans to ripen sooner and yield a bountiful harvest, but I knew the risk I was taking.  It's great having a few fresh tender green beans in November, and no fault of the birds that we won't have any more until next year.

By the way, for nearby readers, or anyone who wants to risk a cold stay in Arrowhead Lodge, I'm pretty excited about an event scheduled for Wednesday, December 15.  The news release follows:

Monster Concert Holiday Singalong

Four pianos and four pianists invite the Rockbridge community to join them in holiday singing for the benefit of the Rockbridge Symphony, Wednesday, December 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the David and Linda Krantz residence.  Tim Gaylard, Kirk Luder, Betty Bond Nichols, and James Pannabecker will tickle the ivories while encouraging the audience to sing familiar tunes such as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, Blue Christmas, Frosty the Snow Man, (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays, Jingle-Bell Rock, Let It Snow, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and many more.

The idea of bringing together an “orchestra” of keyboards is centuries’ old. J.S. Bach gathered friends in the 1730s for midweek concerts of the Collegium Musicum at Zimmermann's coffeehouse in Leipzig. These were casual events, where the players and audience relaxed while playing and hearing the latest music. More recently, multiple pianos and pianists on stage became known as "monster concerts." The December 15 get-together at the Krantzes will be a relaxed affair, encouraging singing for fun by everyone. Light refreshments will be available and participants are invited to add their favorite holiday treats to the tables.

Reservations are required; email lkrantz@cfw.com or call 463-3333. A minimum $15 contribution per participant is requested, to be collected at the event. The Rockbridge Symphony is supported by Fine Arts in Rockbridge (FAIR).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cut the Budget!

It's been a whole week already and I haven't heard any announcements about how we're going to reduce the federal budget -- but then I've been out getting my garden ready for Spring.  A few legislators did say they aren't going to cut military funds.  Oh, and a couple (Boehner and McConnell) have said we have the best health system in the world -- even though we're way down the list when it comes to infant mortality (children who live to their first birthday) and 49th in life expectancy.

"I suppose some leftist think tank provided those statistics?" says Virginia.

Actually it was the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), probably not very leftist.

It's easy to understand why Boehner and McConnell think our health care is so great.  They can go to places like the Bethesda Naval Hospital, run by the government -- socialism at its finest.

I can't wait to see the hypocrites "take our country back."  To 1791, perhaps.

"Look who's calling the kettle black," says Virginia.

Yep. Or white.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Consumption Assumption

As the G-20 nations plan their get-together to gang up on China for its high savings rate and low currency policies, no one wants to face the real issues.  Almost everyone seems to think the only answer to our economic woes is spending.  If we can't spend, then get the Chinese to spend (on our much finer quality merchandise, of course).  Their savings rate is 50%, ours is 15%, which by the way is an improvement over past years when we headed toward a negative savings rate.

No, they tell us, it's not an improvement.  We must get out and buy Ninja blenders, hot tubs, greenhouses, knick-knacks at jewelry and cosmetics parties, whatever we can think of to use for a few months, then toss into our next garage/yard sale.  Better yet, buy a brand new car to gobble more mid-East petroleum.  Oh, if only we would spend, spend, spend, our troubles would end, end, end.

Ours would.  But only if we're selfish in our definition of "ours."  Only if we forget the generations to come, which don't matter much because they'll be smarter than we are and able to figure out how to make something of almost nothing, we hope, we think, well, maybe not.

"God will provide," says Virginia.

Right, or take all of us to our heavenly homes, where life is better forever.  I think we can do better.  I think we have the talents to do better.  Are we on the right track, saving more, or are we simply waiting to resume our historically high consumption?

If we put our minds together, I'm sure we can do better than spend, spend, spend.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Greenhouse Vision

Welcome to my future greenhouse.  It waits for walls.
"It's not too early to imagine," says Virgina.
I need to trim the top of this orange tree.

"Fat chance," she says.  "Be reasonable."
All right.  These shelves are loaded with flowers for Valentine's Day, maybe including a cold-loving Lady's Slipper (Cypripedioideae, thanks to Wikipedia). 
At the West end, beyond these shelves, is a big bin holding a ton of fresh manure.  It's keeping the place warm, at least above freezing.
On the shelves to the left (South), and on the ground, greens are growing for winter-long salads.
Here, hanging from heavy baskets, are ripe red tomatoes.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Our house smells as if a low of 28 is approaching.  A hint of oak wood smoke accompanies a freshly baked turkey pie.  After a day mostly occupied with sawing firewood, I'm looking forward to a healthy helping of pastry.  I could handle an apple pie for dessert, but decided to bake that another day.
Maybe the lattice top will satisfy me -- for now.

"I don't see you cooking very often," says Virginia.

My gourmet chef, the reason I generally stay away from the stove, left early this morning for her annual trek to Seagrove, North Carolina.  Within the hour she'll be opening bags to show me this year's additions to our pottery collection, or maybe nothing caught her eye.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Having met my deadlines for the moment, today was an outdoors day.  My body still feels like summer, pampered by months of tee shirts and shorts without shivering.  Three months from now, I will delight in Indian summer and shed my long sleeves and sweat pants.  For the moment, I'm one of those well-wrapped souls I found remarkable when we showed up at our first road race after moving from St. Louis to North Carolina, back when an empty golf course on a sunny, fifty-degree morning had me wondering if we were in the midst of a depression or an air raid.

First thing, I pulled on a couple shirts, a sweatshirt, warm jeans and a pair of gloves and attacked a weed-patch.  With our son heading home for the weekend anxious to earn a few bucks, I wanted to get a head-start on the agenda -- weeding, manuring, mulching, maybe planting some wheat and garlic, and gathering supplies for our nearly empty woodshed.  Weeding was so much fun lunchtime surprised me.

Lunch was part of my plan for today's run.  My training for Hellgate must include "eat and run" because it's not a good idea to run 66 miles on an empty stomach.  In turn, my run was part of a landlord's chore, having received word that the roof of our cottage had leaked during the last rain and one of the floor registers was delivering no heat from the furnace.  After running 4 miles, I changed into a dry shirt, climbed onto the roof, swept off a large collection of leaves and pine needles, then squeezed into the crawl space underneath the house to check the furnace ducts.  I welcomed the 4-mile downhill return to Elk Cliff (home).

"Nice cross-training regimen," says Virginia.  "Why didn't you mention the bear that attacked you on the way home?"

I guess it slipped my mind.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November Garden

Dahlia, dahling.

I'd better pick our green beans tomorrow or Saturday, before our first hard frost.
I doubt these Wandos will fill out any more, so we'll probably eat them like snow peas.
The Chinese cabbage doesn't worry me.  I planted cabbage in the spring but they did so poorly we snared none of them.  They seeded themselves and now we can enjoy the offspring.
Swiss chard will be just fine, too.  This is going on its fourth year.  I should pick some for Kitty Tilson.  She considers it candy.
"I think your arugula is out of control," says Virginia.  "See how it grew outside the garden bed?"

Yes, I'm told we could sell it for big bucks in a city.  There's cilantro, too.  They both volunteered like crazy this Fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Will I Run Hellgate?

"Will you run Hellgate?" Virginia asks.

I ask myself that at least every other day.  The past 3 or 4 days my legs didn't loosen up until they'd beaten out 4 miles or so.  Overtraining?  Not really, unless you count the 20 hilly miles on Thursday, followed by 8 on Friday plus a hike to Apple Orchard Falls, and then about 6 hours standing or walking on Saturday.  Oh, and distributing a load of manure on Sunday after running 4 miles, 8 miles on Monday, and 4 miles up Thunder Ridge Tuesday followed by several hours of cutting firewood and hauling a load of 6-8 foot logs a couple hundred feet to my Dodge Ram.  Maybe those log lifts helped make my feet so heavy today.

I hear your miniature violins playing.  Cut them off, conductor!  I'm not asking for sympathy.  Some of the Hellgate registrants may be plodding away their 120-mile weeks.  This dabbler refuses.  Call me a cross-trainer if you wish.  I'd rather write a poem I like, plant a few square feet of winter wheat, and prepare for the Arrowhead's January concert than run another 65 miles.

I'm putting my trust in an old friend, veteran of more than 100 ultramarathons, who insists you don't need to run more than 20 miles at once to prepare for an ultra.  So John, may I stop?  I now have three 18-milers, a 22-miler, a 20-miler and a 28-miler notched in my belt.  And seven 50+ mile weeks.

No, not quite ready.  Still almost a month of training to go.  And I've got to try out a miner's light in the dark.  December 11 is a week after the new moon.  I hope it's a very bright sliver, with no clouds in the sky.  Who will talk to me to keep me sane?  That's the big question.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Rally4Sanity

If you look closely after clicking on this photo, you might see the stage where Jon Stewart briefly kicked off his comedian's shoes. His feet didn't stink.
We discovered we'd driven from horse country to horse city.  I found myself wondering:  If these mounted policemen were called into action, what would they do?  Trample the crowd?
 Unlike these people, I didn't get around to making a sign.
"You should have," says Virginia.  "How about 'Invest in the Future' with a picture of one of your manure piles?'"

Maybe "Organiculture" or "Organic Sanitocracy."  One of my libertarian friends might have been willing to hoist these signs.