Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Turnaround

"That commenter, Judy, who said maybe you could write a book about the people you meet while running," says Virginia, "makes a good suggestion."

Here's something from 7+ years ago.

I run like the wind.  Four miles uphill has earned me four miles down, gradual, easy on my knees.  I glide like an eagle.  Perhaps a runner’s high feels like this.  I lean into a good pace, picture my legs cranking circles on a mountain bike.  I am Bill Rodgers and Greta Waitz, heading for victory.  The gravel road turns rocky, ridged and rutted.  Spring rains persisted into summer, then fall.  Had to make up for five years of drought, and they did.  Road crews got behind. It will take them longer to catch up.  I wish the reason:  they ran out of prisoners.  Fat chance.  The war on drugs drags on longer than the war in Iraq, so far.  I bet we could beat it with eighty billion dollars well-spent.  This diversion does not bring me down, but I slow to avoid twisting an ankle.  I spot a well-aged man standing next to a Mazda pickup.  (I used to think my Volvos were un-American, but now they are Fords.)  If he and I were grapes, we would be raisins.  He appears to be gunless, something I like to know before I become too involved.  Tell me, do folks lock their firearms to the racks in their windows? Or might that slow them down too much?  One by one, he lifts plastic milk jugs from a neat pile on the ground and sets them in his truck bed.  Water gushes from a three-inch metal pipe drilled into rock.  I have noticed it before, never touched it.  Giardia are not my friend.  He ignores me, maybe he does not notice me, until I ask, “Is it good to drink?” “Oh yes, I’ve drunk many a gallon over the years.  My daughter lives in Roanoke and hates the taste of city water.  Whenever I visit, I take this to her.”  I cup my hands and sip.  I had forgotten running makes me thirsty, left my water belt at home.  I am not nearly as smart as some people think.  The water is cool, tastes shiny, wet, not special.  “Comes from an artesian well,” he says.  “Folks at the old quarry put it in.”  He eyes me closely, “Do you live around here?”  I tell him where and he nods, “I know you. Played piano a couple times at the Methodist church.”  Fast friends, brothers I suppose, we introduce ourselves.  And he is hungry for company.  “I used to work for Mr. Burks, who owned your cabin long ago.  I was a boy, fifteen, sixteen.  Had to pay me cash, I was too young.  With six kids and a house burned down, we pitched in, taking work wherever we could find it.  He had that place fixed up real nice.  ‘Course anything looked good to me back then.  He had lots of company, Saturday nights.”  Two octogenarians had already told me about those parties.  Bring your own bottle, leave your guns at home.  Not that everyone did.  Gun control was no more popular then than now.  “Did you go?” I ask.  “Hell no,” he says, “I was too young.  I just kept the yard looking sharp. Were you in the service?”  “No,” I almost wish I could say yes, as if military service were a game, something I know I could do well, but my parents told me war is wrong and it took.  “I was, but I didn’t care for guns.  Never liked hunting, not like my brother, passed away now, who hunted all these mountains.  Traveled all over the South, I did, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina.  They never sent me overseas.  Well, I better be going.  Want a lift?”  He has finished threading a rope through the handle of each plastic bottle and ties the loose end to his tailgate.  I resume my run.  He slowly bumps behind me.  The cloud-studded blue sky turned gray while we talked.  Perhaps I should have accepted the ride.  The road smoothes and my new friend passes me, yelling out his open window, “You run faster than I drive, don’t you?”  A mile later, drops begin to fall.  I am warm and they refresh me.  I love the smell of rain.  Hard to believe it trickles down to the artesian well and becomes tasteless.  The rain stops and starts several times before it gets serious and pours.  In minutes I am sopping wet. I feel like a girl in a wet T-shirt contest.  No, I am too self-conscious, though that’s silly up here where cars seldom pass.  But a chance is enough for me.  I start to mutter.  Don’t like it when my shoes squish with every step.  Prime time for blisters.  Bill Rodgers has abandoned me.  I’m running slowly and I want to be home.  The colored leaves were beautiful when the sun was shining, but now they drip brown all over me.   I’m almost home, and I slow to a walk.  I’m glad to be done, feel the coolness of the rain. My pink legs tingle with goose bumps.  I could run naked and no one would ever know.  I step onto our deck and untie my shoes.  Lay them upside down on a bench.  Take off my socks and wring them like dishrags.  Same for my shirt, and my shorts.  Standing in the rain feels good.  No neighbors to disturb, no policemen nearby.  I am home.

            James Pannabecker
                October 30 – November 3, 2003

Friday, April 29, 2011

Butterfly Effect

Look who greeted me in the greenhouse this morning.
Here's another view.
"Is that a zebra swallowtail?" says Virginia.

I'll tell you what it is.  It's a wonderful way to start a day.

"Makes you want to run inside and work on a book deadline?" says Virginia.

Exactly.  We may be picking strawberries in a week or two.
And peas, too (Wandos).
How about some broccoli?
Cramped salad, anyone?
And later, much later, maybe some grape juice or raisins?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nice Guys Always Finish First, Not

Selling goat's milk for human consumption poses legal challenges where we live; not so if selling for use with pets and farm animals.  We've discovered that selling goat's milk for animal consumption, or selling anything else for that matter, presents other challenges -- human relations concerns.  Slow learners, are we?

When my career began, I met several women who had refused to take typing classes because they didn't want to have to answer "yes" to the question, "Can you type?"  Times have changed.  Can you imagine high school girls today who can't type?  Maybe not proper QWERTY typing, but who cares any more?  Forgive me, this blog isn't about typing, it's about the culture that prompted girls to refuse to type.  Our culture has changed quite a bit since then, but maybe not so much.

"What does this have to do with goat milk?" says Virginia.

Maybe nothing, bear with me.  Let's say you have 5 gallons of goat milk in the refrigerator, and it's homogeneous product.  Not "homogenized," but homogeneous, that is, a tablespoon from this bottle is for all practical purposes the same as a tablespoon from that bottle.  You know you could buy similar milk from another goat farm for $11 per gallon.  Now, someone wants to buy some of that milk from you.  She says she wants to feed it to lambs who have been rejected by their mothers.  Remember too, you value each gallon of that milk and have plans for it -- making cheese, for example, which will save you at least $11 the next time your family wants cheese and would otherwise have to buy it somewhere else.  How much will you charge her?

It depends, doesn't it?  If she's a good friend, you might charge her nothing.  If she has something you'd like, you might barter with her.  Okay, say you decide to barter and know she sells processed lamb for $6.50 per pound.   You also know she's doesn't have much extra cash lying around and maybe not much extra lamb either.  $11.00 divided by $6.50 equals 1.69.  Rather than offer a gallon of milk for 1.69 pounds of lamb, which you think seems pretty steep, you offer a gallon of milk for a pound of lamb, saying "X sells milk like this for $11 a gallon; how about a pound of lamb for a gallon of milk?"  Does that sound like a good deal for her?  To you it does.  In fact, you might even think you're being generous.

It depends on what her substitutes are.  Can she buy goat milk elsewhere for less than the value she places on a pound of lamb?  Can she buy something else to feed her lambs, such as a milk mix or cow's milk at Kroger?

A friendly person responds, "I'm sorry, I guess I'll buy some milk at Kroger.  That's too expensive for me and asking you to accept less isn't fair because it's obviously more valuable to you."

A mean person responds, "That's ridiculous.  The most I can give you is maybe a pound of ground beef."

To the first, you might think, "Hmmm.  It sounds as if she really cares about me.  Maybe I don't need to make as much cheese as I planned."

As for the second, what does she think I am?  A typist?  She's clueless as too how much effort it takes to get each gallon of milk into its bottles.  Get lost.

Well, whether she's inconsiderate, mean or simply clueless, she appears to value her pound of lamb more than your gallon of milk.  Could it be because deep down inside she thinks "men" (or "real farmers") raise lambs and women (or "hobbyists") milk goats?

"I think she could use some serious coaching," says Virginia. "Maybe yodeling would help."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rain Running

Two weeks ago, on the train back from Washington, a fellow passenger in the row ahead let everyone know "we've had too much rain."  In Tennessee where he's from, maybe, but not here.  Someone I know resisted the urge to interrupt his cell phone conversation.  Does he know how much rain is "too much?"  Do you?  One decent rain per week certainly isn't, nor are two.  Come August, he might choke on that.

Today's trip to the bank, a little more than a mile from home, began with a sunny sky and gray clouds to the southwest. This runner hesitated only briefly, didn't even put on a baseball cap to keep raindrops off eyelashes and contacts.  Bring it on.  I don't mind running in the rain, unless it's in the thirties or forties.

The bank brought sprinkles.  A little farther down the road Mother Nature started throwing buckets.  With zingers.  As I said, I don't mind running in the rain, but I'm no Ben Franklin.  Two men beckoned from the nearest garage.  "That opened up in a hurry, didn't it?"  "Yep, we need it."  "April showers."  "My garden loves it; saw pea blossoms this morning, won't be long." "Peas are early, aren't they?  You garden, huh?"  "Yeah."  "We used to, down along there, before that house was built, long patch between the road and the mountain.  Last week I bought a new batch of pinwheels.  Went out the next morning and those big winds had blown them all over creation.  Got some more yesterday.  See all that's left?"  "Yeah, I always enjoy your pinwheels."  "Air Force.  I guess I like to see things spinning."  "Where were you?"  "Germany, three years, then Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then California for a year, then Nam.  A year.  Came back and volunteered for gunship training in Columbus, Ohio.  Back to Nam.  We'd go out at dusk, reconnoiter, then empty our Gatling guns on the way back."  "How long were you in?"  "Twenty-and-a-half."  Turning to the other fellow, kneeling by his weedwhacker, "When it lets up, I'll take you home, let's even things up." "Thirty, does that sound fair?" "Thirty cents?"  "Yeah, sounds fair."  Laughter.  "When I was a boy, it was hard finding work.  I worked alongside a crew of men in the fields.  Fifty cents a week.  When I got older I got a raise, to one dollar."  "A week?"  "Yep."  "Things were cheaper then." "For sure."  "I think that's it."  "See you later."

"So you ran home in the sunshine?" says Virginia.

Yep.  The sky cleared up and when I got home the patio was almost dry.

Monday, April 25, 2011


A month ago, a friend asked if we could use some roosters, less than a year old.  Sure, we said, contemplating the usual destination of roosters.  When they arrived, nine of them, Karen wasn't feeling up to par, so we sentenced them to the garden shed, formerly a chicken coop.  After a few days, with no change in disposition, Karen advertised them on Craigslist.

The response was quick and enthusiastic.  Several asked if we would prepare the roosters for pick-up.  Right, we'll go to that trouble and post on Craigslist because we enjoy doing the deed for the fun of it.  Then Karen found a taker.  On his way, he informed her that he lived in a small apartment.  Could he kill them on our property?  Good grief.  I was in town at the time.  When I returned home, the man was holding a dead rooster. Karen, knife in hand, was waiting for the next to expire.  So why did we advertise on Craigslist?

Off in the distance, a rooster ran.  "He escaped," Karen said.  Lucky guy.  After the bloodletting, he gradually wandered back to our brood and food.
For most of the day, he treads carefully along the periphery of our flock.  Rooster number one keeps a sharp lookout.  The Imposter has become the only named chicken on our farm, except for Soossey, the Sussex.  He looks something like rooster number one, but he's smaller, he has a double comb, and he's a serf.  Or is he something else?  Check out his shadow in the photo.  Maybe he's a cat in disguise.  He nibbles after the others are satisfied.

At dusk, squawking to himself like me in the garden, he sets off across the lawn to a white pine tree, pecking all the way.  At the tree, he circles, catches a little more dessert, then flies to the lowest branch.  Fiddle, faddle, he jumps up a limb, another, and another.  The branch wobbles as in a stiff breeze and lets loose a final cock-a-doodle-doo.  A few more cackles and he settles down for the night.

"He's waiting," says Virginia, "like Prince Charles and his sons."


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Parade

Fifty or sixty years ago in Lima, Ohio, Easter Straker, to whom Oprah may owe a thank you, had a show on WIMA entitled "The Easter Parade."  A mid-day show, it covered issues of interest to women.  We kids didn't watch it, unless our brother had won a bicycle or something.

"Of course you didn't watch it," says Virginia.  "You didn't have a television."

Good point.  If it played at our house, it was the radio version.  To see the bicycle awarded, we had to traipse over to find Channel 35 at a neighbor's house, the same neighbor who welcomed hordes of kidlings for cartoons on Saturday mornings, and maybe on Sunday nights for Walt Disney Presents and, although it kept us up pretty late, the Ed Sullivan Show.

This blog was going to be about the names parents choose, such as April Showers, who attended our Sunday School class.  When we were sifting through child's names, we promptly discarded Peter Pannabecker and Peanut Pannabecker, both relevant enough to peanut butter, which briefly served as a nickname for one, maybe more, of the Pannabecker kids in our grade school.

Anyway, Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Living Fence and Other Things

Has anyone noticed my absence from blogville?  The thought crossed my mind that I've had nothing interesting to blog about, and then I thought, how arrogant!  Meaning -- my 400-some blogs in the last year and a half have been interesting and suddenly they aren't?  Put the blame on blogger ambivalence.  I write this blog for myself.  It's a handy reference for the future when I can't find my journals.  On the other hand, I'd like to think hundreds or thousands of readers find value in these postings.  If only a few readers check it out, well, maybe it's time to do what the local library does -- toss the book. 

"That's garbage," says Virginia and she's right, except for the fact that what you feel is true even if it's not logical.

I mentioned being ill earlier in the week.  I'm not often sick, although if you've been reading this blog since I attempted the Hellgate 100K in December you might question that statement.  This time I was clearly, objectively ill, with a fever to prove it, and recovery wasn't a 2-day trick like getting over the flu often is.  Maybe that's why I haven't been blogging.  Who cares?

Gardeners might.  Perhaps the biggest trick to gardening is doing something every day, even if it's a little something.  Generally, every morning I survey the night's developments, carrying my cup of apple cider vinegar/honey tea.  This past week, I passed on big things until Thursday.  I transplanted some seedlings into larger pots.  I carried a trowel and a bag of sunflower seeds around the yard and buried a seed here and there, randomly, so later in the summer big round sunflower heads will smile at me from unexpected places.  I stuck in another row of beets. 

On Thursday I planted a living fence, something I read about last fall in Mother Earth News, a technique that was common before posts and wire or milled wooden fences.  In October, I had gathered osage oranges from the woods near the law school, brought them home, and put them in a 5-gallon bucket of water in my smaller greenhouse.  All winter long they froze and thawed, gradually turning into a stinky black slurry.  Thursday I topped off the bucket with water and noticed a few oranges that still looked fresh and green.  Not so.  Several jabs and stirring with a spade sliced them into bits and pieces.  I dug trenches along two sides of my field garden, about a foot deep and a foot wide, and dribbled the osage orange liquid into the trenches.  I put some of the earth back in the trenches so they were about 1/3 full.  Now I wait for fall, when I hope to bend over many young trees and cover them, not all the way, with the rest of the soil.  Next spring, I hope to find "lateral" branches pointing up vertically all along the trenches, and the next fall I'll weave those branches together about 2 feet off the ground.  In a few years I'll have a fence.

Today I tackled another fairly big gardening job -- a slightly raised bed on the South side of the big greenhouse.  The bed has two main purposes: (1) to close up the underside of the greenhouse so air won't pass through so readily next winter; and (2) to give me more planting space for flowers, artichokes, tomatoes, and more (more, more, always more).  For the sides of the bed I'm using locust fenceposts Bob and Geri donated last year, thanks guys. 

Cycle, recycle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Greenhouse Ghosting

When I was closing up the greenhouse last night, I came upon this image on the back wall.  Oo, oo, oo.
"Oh, my heart!" said Virginia.  "What can it be?"

She can be as silly as an 85-year old on a skate board.  It's the back-side of the shadow of a potted pomegranate tree.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Creating a new word isn't easy.  I don't care for amortality -- living agelessly -- because of its automatic association with death and because it seems contradictory -- you're praised to be better at it the more aged you are.  It also seems too artificial, LasVegasy, soon-to-be waterless.

I moved on to alife and belife, already used as product or company names, then joylife, which a cancer support group has taken.  I like the timelessness of joylife.  To paraphrase "The Christmas Song" (a/k/a "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"), joylife could apply to anyone "from one to ninety-two."  If Mel Torme and Robert Wells were writing the song today, I bet they'd find a way to fit in a bigger number than 92.  After all, our life expectancies have increased nearly 30 years since not long before they wrote that song.  Haplife came to mind, as a combination of happiness and the idea of viewing any given day as a half point in your life, but haplife also is taken -- not just by an insurance company.

Lifestead grabbed me and has stuck for the moment. appears to be defunct and no one else is using it (are you?).  It bugs me that someone else thought of it, but that's life, isn't it?  Lifestead suggests steadiness -- through good and bad times with strength and persistence.  It offers a parallel to another word I like, homestead or homesteading -- seeking a level of self-sufficiency, higher than most, on your own piece of land.  Lifestead -- seeking a high level of existence during the life that is all you have, whether or not it be everlasting.

"Where did this come from?" says Virginia.

A bunch of places.  Rob Bell, the evangelical minister who questions the existence of hell.  Shirley MacLaine, who has been here and there again and again (I don't mean hell).  Life Line Screening.  National healthcare.  Marathoner Grete Weitz killed by cancer today at 57; the vision of Waitz finishing the 1992 NYC Marathon with 60-year-old Fred Lebow who was fighting brain cancer at the time.  Mastering a spring flu or cold or combination and taking a "brake" from running.  A summer garden soon to be planted.  Free-range eggs and raw goat's milk.  Karen walking with a friend.  Books, updates, poems, stories to write.  Music to play and be written.  Son to watch man-becoming.  Artichokes waiting to be transplanted outside.  Life to be, life to watch, smile.

Lifestead on Elk Cliff Farm.  Like.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crow and Crew

Illness has reminded me to slow down and pick the broccoli, spinach and asparagus, and to head to the greenhouse for rainforest temperatures and humidity.  Finding me there in long sleeves, Karen nodded, "yes, you must still have the fever." 

I spent the afternoon with Wendell Berry after finishing one of my least favorite chores of the year, income taxes.  Thank you, Liz, for Jayber Crow, and the salty drops sliding down my cheek on the final page.  Only two, mind you, "I'm a man, after all," which reminds me of the recent silliness about pink toenails on the 5-year-old boy in a J. Crew's ad.  I think "talking heads" is a misnomer; "talking pie-holes" would be more accurate, mouths moving without any clear connection to their brains.

"We have a black one," says Karen from the basement, "that makes ten chicks so far."  This incubator batch is proving much more successful than the first one.  I've become so accustomed to hearing chirping from the basement that yesterday when the first one popped out of its shell -- and I mean "popped," no dawdling, that one -- I kept working on our taxes without mentioning it.  I'd forgotten she'd moved the other batch outdoors to what used to be our duck house.

"You guys are quite the farmers," says Virginia.

Hardly.  To call us farmers is inconsiderate and demeaning to real farmers, who are truly Renaissance people. I balk at buying a tractor for two reasons: (1) I don't need one; and (2) I wouldn't know how to repair it, unlike a real farmer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Dinner of Worms

I've been gradually covering the field garden -- that's the 100' x 100' square in our field -- with cardboard, newspapers, magazines and topsoil, as a solution for a serious Johnsongrass (crabgrass) invasion.  My friend Rob would say only someone with too much time on his hands would attempt this project.  He might be right, although time is something I'd buy if I could.  I tend to think of it as meditation time, sort of like raking a Japanese stone garden I suppose.  Eventually I may finish.
"Don't you worry about colored ink?" says Virginia.

Not really, although I prefer cardboard (I tear off any plastic tape first) and black and white newspapers.  When we attended the 2010 annual convention of the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers, someone asked Will Allen, of Growing Power, the same question in a different context -- that is, regarding his gigantic composting operation (see  He said no, he didn't worry, the worms would handle it. 

I see many worms while I meditate in my garden, so I'm leaving it to the worms, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


"Gus is the cat at the theatre door
His name as I ought to have told you before
Is really Asparagus, but that's such a fuss
To pronounce that we usually call him
Just Gus"
     [from the musical Cats]

Here's Gus, from this morning's garden walk-around, resting on a bed of greens.
 "Remember to say you're sorry," says Virginia.

I'm sorry.  Every time I add those videos in the previous blog entries, they appear for a few hours, then disappear.   If you're lucky in your timing (or not, depending on your perspective), you'll be able to watch them.  Maybe their length (about 5 minutes) violates a blogpost rule, I don't know.  I'll talk to Karen about posting them somewhere else, on Photobucket or YouTube, then edit the postings.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Hawk's Visit, Redux

Here's another presentation of The Hawk's Visit, this time in a more intimate setting, the living room of a private home.

"Do you mean we need to suffer through another chicken's demise?" asks Virginia.

No, that's one of the beauties of blogs.  You don't have to suffer through anything.  You can hit the "X" up in the corner or arrow back where you came from.

Barnyard Suite

Picture, if you will, a peaceful farm.  Goats and donkeys graze the pasture.  Chickens cluck and wander.  Far above, a few red-tailed hawks gracefully glide.  They're magnificent, aren't they?

"No," says Virginia, "not to a farmer with chickens and baby animals."

Witness their drama -- "The Hawk's Visit," from The Barnyard Suite, by yours truly:

Friday, April 8, 2011


What's the opposite of shutdown?  Shut up?  Open up, I guess.  We like to say extra words.  Sit down.  Stand up.  Hurry up.  Slow down.  Think of all the ink and breath we could save if we cut out redundancies.

One of my pet peeves is providing the same data twice.  For example, you call a credit card company to report that you'll be traveling overseas, so the company won't reject your card when you try to use it in Rome.  "Please enter your 16-digit account number followed by the # sign," the company's computer instructs.  You do so.  When a live person finally comes on the line, what is the first question asked?  "What's your account number, please?"  Now why did I enter it and press #?

When you get a new car, you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register it and obtain license plates.  "Is that all I need to do?" you ask.  "That's it, thank you."  Not so.  You still need to notify the county, maybe even your city.  I realize these are separate governmental entities, but couldn't they get together?  As a matter of fact, where we live, they do.  When you remember and go to the county 35 days later to get a county windshield sticker, the county may inform you two things.  Number one, "you should have come in at least 5 days ago, you were supposed to let us know within 30 days."  How does it know?  Its computer tells it so.  Yet I'm supposed to remind it?  Number two, "you'll have to pay a fine because you're late."  I owe a fine because I failed to tell it what its computer already knew?

I have a feeling that closing the federal government due to political wrangling in Washington, fussing with what happens or doesn't happen as a result, and then reopening it are going to cost more than keeping it open.  A better idea might be to require each federal government employee to identify at least one thing he or she does that wouldn't have to be done if things were done efficiently -- every year. State and local governments could require the same of their employees.

"I bet that would save $40 billion," says Virginia.

Why did she pick that amount?  Oh, the Republicans want to cut $40 billion and the Democrats $38 billion.  They're fighting over chicken feed; we'll spend the $2 billion difference in Libya in no time.  Let's see -- 800,000 furloughed federal employees times $2500 = $ 2 billion.  Does this make more sense to you than it does to me?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crabbiness and Tears

Sore teeth prompt crabbiness.  Sorry folks.  Which reminds me.  Overnight, it seems, we have this:
Maybe it's more recognizable this way:
Or this:
A few months from now, I'll be gathering their tiny apples for some of the best jelly in the world.  The process is tedious, as most worthwhile endeavors tend to be.

I found a real treat this morning, our winter wheat crying happiness.  (You may need to click on the photo to see what I mean.)
"A fence isn't much good if you let the gate blow open, is it?" says Virginia.
See the goat hoofprint and the nibbled cauliflower?  Fortunately, Karen caught the intruders before they ate more than a few strawberry and cauliflower plants.

Here's the hopeful pomegranate grove, transplanted yesterday from pots that 3 years ago welcomed some seeds of a fruit donated by an Eastern Shore friend.  Thank you, Marian.
And here is today's mystery.  Does anyone know what this is?  We don't remember where it's from, but we like it.
Here's a picture of the entire plant.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who's to Blame?

This morning's online news headline -- "Who's to Blame for the High Food Prices?" -- seemed a little late.

A friend, for a few weeks, every time he saw us, asked if we wanted to buy chick feed.  "It'll never be cheaper again," he says.  He was planning a trip to the co-op to buy a truckload of 100-pound bags.  "I'll be glad to pick up a few for you," he said.  "Livestock prices are headed out of sight."

Who's to blame?  Stepping into memory of a corporate past, a former employer had a policy,  "Don't focus on blame.  Fix the problem."  Good first thought, perhaps, but don't imagine for a nanosecond that the problem causer, if identified, got away with it.

"I am to blame.  I can control my habit of driving everywhere, of wanting a hot house in the winter and a cold house in the summer, of eating vegetables and fruits out-of-season, etc.  I am to blame because I have not controlled myself."  We are the ones who create demand.  Lessen the demand and maybe prices will fall.  We underestimate ourselves.

Others may share the blame.  We always look for them first and too often never get around to ourselves.  That hot coffee burned me because the merchant set its thermostat too high, not because I wasn't paying attention.  My kid is hyperactive because the manufacturer put all those pretty colored dyes in that cereal, not because I put the box in my grocery cart.

"Finally," says Virginia, "we age, some of us get arthritis and notice that when we point, we're pointing at ourselves."

Good point.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pot Maker

When I mentioned that 70-some tomato seedlings needed to be transplanted, Karen asked if I had enough pots.  Yes, I thought, for this round, but it's time to hunt up bunches more.

Then I saw a fiddler on the greenhouse roof and heard "Pot maker, pot maker, make me a pot...."  Hand to the forehead, "I could have had a V-8."

I scurried into the living room to see if the familiar, never-used box still waited with my seeds for this season, on the lid of an old George Steck grand piano we're babysitting for our piano tuner.  It's not much fun to play, but it's great for storing gardening supplies.

"You should be ashamed of yourself," says Virginia.  "The chairman of a college music department loved that piano."

Once upon a time.  Try playing it.

The box was there.  I grabbed it and headed to the greenhouse.
Read the directions on the box, then take a newspaper and cut it into a 3 1/2" strip.  Open the box.  Nice woodworking job!
Begin wrapping the newspaper strip around the top of the pot maker.
Wrap it all the way.
Fold the newspaper over the end of the pot maker.
Press the other part of the pot maker tightly against the folded-over newspaper.
Remove the presser and admire the bottom.
Remove the newspaper.
Fill the pot with soil.
Voila!  An unlimited supply of pots.
Time to do something else.