Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sun Spots

In empty spots I
planted sunflowers

their faces will bring

vigor to vegetables
birds to their bugs
grins to our guests

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Climate Change

some said too late
so concentrate on now

they named as fools
a few who brewed hope

and drove as fast as they could
into the sunset

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Highest Bidders

Five couples who won
battered spouse auction
gathered in the woods

to taste old bourbons
and dine on wild game

for starters they tried
turkey, dove, pigeon
poppers, grouse pate,

obstetrician stut-
stuttered g-g-girl,
o-oops, n-n-no
a b-boy, ahoy

smoked trout dip, curried
bear meatballs, sausage
bits of cured bambi

five-year old watched new
mom puke in bathroom,
hands on hips, we're not
pregnant again, eh?

coconut quail soup
hare cacciatore
marinated bear
soy deer tenderloin

in old school barracks
big college bully
swashbuckled loser
roommate testified

road asparagus
cheesy polenta
walnut sugar crisps
wineberry pastry
bye blackberry pie

then the bidding stopped
with fireworks capping
a wild night dining

Friday, May 5, 2017

Too Much at Once

so much for
gentle rain
we awoke

yard a pond
even the
onion sets
had wet feet

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sleeping on a Porch

two getting oldsters
in a trundle bed
listen to noisy
neighbors playing wings

on legs, mating calls,
cat whines, bleats of lambs,
creek running nonstop,
not quiet, though peaceful

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Road/Trail Sounds


ambulance singing
like a giant pileated
woodpecker swoops
across my running path

squirrel steps big
through last fall's leaves,
whoop, whoop, big red
bird, no bear or coyote

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Border Control

Stretched wires today
bracing for a fence

sprouts may wonder
what the posts are for

soon they may feel
         or boxed in

Monday, May 1, 2017


this morning
  something RED

drew my eye
  a strange tent

i pictured
  trash and turds

  evil thoughts

  spotted an


stashed behind
  our boat deck

hid 'em both
  and waited

think he might
  ask next time

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Watch the tip
of his baton

he sharpens it

Saturday, April 29, 2017


one place where
black and white

get along

Thursday, April 27, 2017


I've been mulching
and munching, can't stop
each one seems to
cancel out the other

except when it rains
I run and munch.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Piano Move

"Why would people want to see photos of your upcoming piano move?" says Virginia.

Well, probably they don't, but I know one person who does--the piano mover, and this seems like a convenient place to post the photos. 

The piano currently sits in Arrowhead Lodge.
It needs to go out that door, the one on the left that leads outside. Here's a picture taken from that door.
It then needs to go along the back of the cabin,
along the side of the cabin,
and across the "front yard" to the gravel road.
At the destination, it needs to go across our patio and up the steps (the steps you see are temporary but the permanent ones will be in place and will be similar)
into the new space.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Trump is going to win. Don’t get too excited, Trump fans, I don’t mean the presidential election. I still have enough faith in Americans to think that won’t happen.

I don’t suppose I should post something like this, but just in case I might offer anything that hasn’t been said before, I’ll give it a try. Besides, I haven’t blogged in ages.

He has already won. I mean, he could quit tomorrow and say he’s won. He has proven quite a few points, more than enough to support best-selling books, movies, plays, Broadway musicals, or whatever. Enough to keep most people active until they die and the big bucks rolling in beyond the grave.

He’s an actor, probably better than the last professional actor we put in the White House.

We could start with the basics. Is he a Republican? Who really knows? What has he done to prove he is? Claimed that former President Bush made the country less safe by spending trillions on a useless war? Invited a famous Democrat to his wedding, and contributed to her war chest?

I suppose he’s filed numerous statements saying he’s Republican. If he’s not, someone, the Republican Party if no one else, probably could sue him for a bunch of things. Now, wouldn’t that be fun to watch? Talk about movie rights.

Just for the sake of discussion, consider this. What if, some day, we discovered, perhaps when he won the White House (and packed his cabinet with donkeys), that he’s not a Republican?

Look, it doesn’t matter if he loses the White House. He has shown that a person with a lot of money, even one who might have earned more if he’d simply invested his inheritance in a good mutual fund (but what fun would that have been?), can go a long way along the path to the White House.  Perhaps he’s shown that an actor with a good (even, a very bad) script can win friends (well, voters, at least) and influence people. Perhaps he’s shown what can be done by a billionaire without Citizens United. Perhaps he’s shown that winning in politics takes little political experience whatsoever. Perhaps he’s shown that the system is broken.

Face it, he’s already won.

Monday, November 9, 2015

2015 Winter Garden

About this time of year, I used to say goodbye to gardening until spring. My activities in the garden have slowed down, but things continue to 'appen.

This photo focuses on one of the most active spots. In the foreground, you'll find beets, kale, and carrots. If they don't mature before the first hard frosts, I'll probably cover them with straw.

Looking beside and beyond the closest pile of manure, you'll find rows of lighter green, to the left and right of some carrots. These light green rows are hard red winter wheat (future bread). The garden bed beyond them also contains winter wheat. In the first garden bed, the thicker, taller grass is winter rye (more future bread). That garden bed also has leeks, spinach, and lettuce.
Below, a picture taken from the east side, shows the winter rye in the first garden and a few leeks on the far left.

"What are those brown leaves in the foreground?" says Virginia.

Some of our lemongrass plants, all of which, as usual, I forgot to transplant indoors before the first frost. Oh well, I have some more seeds to start in the spring.
New this year, I planted a small amount of farro wheat (emmer winter wheat), along the south side of the greenhouse. It sprouted a few days ago. See the wisps of green? 
Going inside the greenhouse, nearly full at the moment, here's a green pepper that's getting close to pickin.'
This fall, I planted many things in pots in the greenhouse, including lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy.

I've also loaded up the compost bin in the greenhouse, hoping if I pack it right it'll provide some heat.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fruit Season Begins, and More

"What's with the red fingers?" says Virginia. "Too much piano playing?"

Yeah, right. No, berry season has begun. Wild black raspberries, one of my favorites. Just in time, too, because the strawberry patch yielded its last quart for the season a couple days ago.
We have a large patch right behind our house. Here's what I picked early this morning.
The next month will bring buckets of wild black raspberries, wineberries, wild blackberries, and our domesticated Doyle's thornless blackberries and red raspberries. I think the wild blacks are the tastiest.

Later on, I hope, these grapes will ripen.
I nibbled my first tasty fallen peach this morning. Will I get the rest before the varmints?

Now nasturtiums may grace Karen's gourmet dinners.
We'll end with a "before and after."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Master-less Garden

Virginia thinks someone's neglecting this blog, "What's up in the garden?"

The beds are "full up," as some folks say, waiting for the hard red winter wheat to ripen in three remaining beds so we can harvest it for glutenous baking and plant some more summer crops. Last October, after learning about the importance of maintaining a strong connection between the underground soil structure and the air, I planted organic wheat everywhere other crops weren't growing. As the wheat grew, I began to wonder if I'd made a big mistake. How would I remove the ground cover to make way for early spring plantings?

Somewhere I read that if I mowed it down when it reached the soft dough stage (when seeds have begun to form), it wouldn't continue to grow (like grass does). So when I noticed seed heads, I began using the new scythe I bought last year.
After putting the hay in windrows, shifting it around a few days, tying it up, and sticking it in a barn, I began to plant between the rows of stubble, adding mulch here and there.
That worked okay until I realized sweet potato slips would soon arrive. How was I going to prepare the hills? I didn't want to dig up the soil and mess up the structure I'd planted the wheat to protect.

Light bulb! I'd bring topsoil from our field, down by the riverbank. Maybe that would work.
A week after the slips arrived, here's the sweet potato garden.
"What are the stakes for?" says Virginia. "And what's with the little windmill?" Oh my. Talk about frustration. Each morning after planting 175 sweet potato slips, 25 of 7 different varieties, I'd discover some were being stolen, by crows or voles I wasn't sure. Probably both. I'd replace them and the next morning, ditto. If you look closely, you might see several things: (1) sparkling CDs to scare away the birds, something that's worked well with my corn plantings; (2) mousetraps (zero caught to date, so don't fret too much, my PETA friends); (3) a fine mesh fence; and (4) a "mole-chaser" windmill I moved from another bed (supposed to make a noise when the wind blows and send vibrations that discourage certain varmints). Things have been going nicely since I installed the fence, knock on wood.

About that soft dough stage idea. Either it's not true, or I didn't wait quite long enough.
See the little grass-like stuff growing between rows? I guess I'll keep it trimmed as living mulch and see how that works.

I recently read Teaming with Microbes by Lowenfels and Lewis, and The Market Gardener by Fortier. Good reads for gardeners, but after setting them aside I decided I know nothing about gardening. All I am is an experimenter, and a not very scientific one at that.

Oh well. Here's a new raised bed in a corner of the gardens.
I hope to train three tomato plants (one at each end and one in the corner) to crawl along the fence. At the far end you might be able to see three Victoria rhubarb plants (started from seed this spring), a couple four o'clocks, and some celeriac. Along the right are 9 artichokes (might be a bust, but fun to try; ho-ho -- thanks to Mike and Laura though she probably won't last long in the elements), some lemongrass, Irish poets, and more four o'clocks.
"That looks a mess," says Virginia. Not to me. I prefer crammed diversity. On the left, you'll see this bed is still half-planted in wheat, with some horseradish. Moving right, you'll find three rows of lettuce (flame, oak leaf, and tennis ball), some potatoes (volunteers), carrots, sunflowers, beets, nasturtiums, cleomes, four o'clocks, chives, and Wando peas (the kind you shell, lots of work, but a favorite of mine).

By the way, I usually let volunteers grow. I figure they deserve a chance, since they offered. But those volunteer potatoes tend to entertain a lot more Colorado beetles than planted (rotated) potatoes, so I watch them closely and do the squish remedy (not that my fingers aren't yellow when it comes to planted spuds).
I'm really bad at grapes, but this year, so far, so good, loaded with little grapes. Partly as an attempt to cut my losses, I've kept them weeded this spring, except instead of weeds I planted greens (collards, kale), rutabaga, beets, and a couple cucumbers underneath. We'll see how that goes.

"Time to quit," says Virginia, "don't overdose after such long neglect."
All right. The last picture shows a raised bed on the south side of the greenhouse, with a chasteberry tree, spinach, romaine lettuces, basil, and lemon balm. Inside the greenhouse, in ground beds, we have carrots, lettuces, kale, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, cucumbers, and several winter squashes. On its shelves sit flowers and eggplants (need to get bigger to withstand the inevitable flea beetles), both waiting to be transplanted, orange trees, and pomegranates (to replace bushes in the outdoor grove if problems arise; they made it through last winter's one degree fahrenheit evening but lost most of their past above-ground growth).

Friday, May 8, 2015

Citizen Abuse

I should be focused on planting my summer garden. Instead, the Dodd-Frank Act, now nearly five years old, continues to pester me. 

I used to be a fan of the statute, but the complexities of implementation--matters like why an agency thinks it must take 200 words or more to put 5 words of Congress into action--have alienated me. 

Time and time again, though, what gets my goat is the misleading, incomplete information trade groups publish in their attempts to discredit this and other bills. The latest instance occurred yesterday, when the American Bankers Association touted an "analysis" released by the American Action Forum, a 501(c)(4) (tax-advantaged) organization that reportedly gives millions of dollars to conservative political candidates. The author projected that the Dodd-Frank Act would decrease U.S. Gross Domestic Product by $895 billion over the 2016 to 2025 period.

So I drafted this:

Garbage-In-Garbage-Out: Dodd-Frank DisAnalysis

The American Regeneration Institute (ARI) has released a report that seriously challenges the conclusions of recently announced analyses of the effects of the Dodd-Frank Act. According to the ARI, studies typically fail to consider benefits as well as costs, in the longstanding tradition of critics of environmental legislation, who generally ignore externalities and improvements to general welfare.

The ARI predicts that over the 2016-2025 period, Dodd-Frank changes will increase Gross Domestic Product by $895 billion, or $3,346 per person, not counting the moral and cultural benefits of increased economic stability. Curiously, this conclusion mirrors the conclusion of the American Action Forum (AAF), which predicted a decrease of $895 billion. Like the AAF, the ARI admitted its computations were subject to large uncertainties, but that the order of magnitude is instructive.

The ARI points out that estimates of the costs of the 2008 financial crisis range from $12.8 trillion (Better Markets) to more than $22 trillion (Government Accountability Office).  Using the more conservative figure, the ARI posits that the heightened regulatory standards and increased capitalization requirements imposed by Dodd-Frank have decreased the likelihood of a similar crisis during the 2016-2025 period from 25 percent to 12.5 percent, carrying an economic value of $1.6 trillion (.5 x .25 x 12.8 trillion).

Taking the AAF costs at face value, this results in net benefits of $705 billion.  The ARI added $100 billion in benefits anticipated from reduced policing expenses, litigation costs, and court administration expenses. It also included benefits of $95 billion attributable to the increase in financial institution services prompted by an improvement in consumer satisfaction with bank performance from 76 to 80 (American Customer Satisfaction Index).

Unlike many other research organizations, the ARI, based in Natural Bridge Station, Virginia, does not maintain 501(c)(4) status under the Internal Revenue Code, does not accept government subsidies and tax incentives, and does not contribute to political campaigns.

"Sounds serious," says Virginia.

Actually, it's all smoke and mirrors. The not-so-funny thing is people read this stuff and believe it. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Future Desk

"What on earth is that?" says Virginia.

"My future desk/table for my office."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Know a Good Plumber?

A month or so ago, a plumber showed up to check out a few of our old-house water issues. He looked at an outdoor frost-free hydrant that had been leaking more and more over the past year. When the leak became a constant stream, I'd hooked up a hose and run the water away so it wouldn't puddle at the spigot.

"Can't adjust that no more," said he. "Good Iowa company, but they farmed this out to China for a few years and it's a piece of junk. We'll have to replace the whole thing. I'll get you high-quality equipment this time around."

He also looked at water collecting each day in one of our basement rooms. Karen's been changing towels every day to absorb the couple gallons of water that seep up from somewhere. "You're sittin' on water here. The river's all around you. The good news is you won't be running out any time soon. May be a spring opened up right here. You need a sump pump."

A couple weeks later, he showed up pulling a ditch witch on a trailer. First task was to dig up the old spigot and replace it with a new one. Karen's cellphone quacked. A neighbor friend had texted, "Don't hire that guy."

The plumber talked and talked. I listened until his phone rang, then went inside. Karen got to enjoy his conversation for another half hour or more. He just stood there, griping about how young people don't show up, family stuff, and almost endless drivel. His phone rang again. He talked a bit, then said, "Gotta go. Good conservative Republican customer, gives me lots of work. I'll be back in a few days."

Our good conservative texter later filled Karen in on why we shouldn't hire the guy. Karen called the "plumber" and told him not to return.

Today, a different plumber arrived. He turned a few things on the hydrant and stopped the dripping. He looked at the basement and said, "Looks like you probably have a leak in the water line to the pump. Where's the water line come in?" Karen showed him and he said, "Most likely, that copper line is leaking somewhere. Wonder why they used copper." Karen said, "We replaced most of the water lines when we rehabbed, but not the outdoor line." He turned off the water and went out to the well pump to watch the gauge on the pressure tank.

Virginia said, "I don't know what the answer will be, but I have a feeling you found a bad plumber and a good plumber."

And a China-basher. The good guy said, "Iowa's the best hydrant made. I put new ones in just like this."

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saul Griffith's View of the World

Thanks to a friend, I came across a speech on energy use given in 2000 by Saul Griffith, an engineer and entrepreneur. It's available in two parts:

He began by offering a very detailed and personalized look at how much power he used per day, including his share of various governmental and infrastructure expenses.

He suggested the following approach to our energy problems. First, set realistic goals, such as 450 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Then, be realistic in engineering how we can reach the goal(s).

As long-term solutions, he identified renewable energy sources--solar, geothermal, and wind (and not including biofuels, wave power, and tidal power). The solutions all involve trade-offs, including environmental tradeoffs, such as the likely loss of certain species. For example, dedicating land to solar panels inevitably would disrupt wildlife habitats; building 250 million new green houses would by itself raise CO2 concentration by 8.9 ppm.

If we were to equally distribute the available watts per 7 billion people worldwide, that would allow each of us 2400 watts per day, which would require many of us to reduce our power consumption by 90 percent or more, making significant behavioral changes. One of his slides showed an American carrying a backpack holding the oil, coal and natural gas required to sustain his or her current daily lifestyle--67 pounds of oil, 64 pounds of coal, and 12 pounds of natural gas. Good exercise! Well, maybe not so good for the back.

He said something I didn't like, which was that he guessed buying local food probably would not be an efficient approach. I hope that since the speech he has spent some time with people knowledgeable about smart small-scale farming practices.

To sum up his major points:
  • Climate scientists have done a good job of quantifying the challenge.
  • We need an engineering response with public dialogue. 
  • We need to become more honest about the problem, thinking about how to design the best quality of life solutions in view of the enormity of the challenge.
"I wonder how right he was/is," says Virginia.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Liberal or Conservative

I just discovered I’m a conservative. I’m in denial.

A friend “liked” an article entitled, “Liberals Will Hate This Famous Hollywood Actor’s Response to the Redskins’ Name.” I don’t usually read this stuff. I care what a famous Hollywood actor thinks about as much as I care about the latest poll of Americans. I guess I was in the mood to hate, so I read it.

“I have trouble getting excited about the names of teams that mash each others’ heads into such mush they get woozy and die early,” says Virginia.

That’s pretty much my thinking, too. I say let the free market determine whether bullfighting thrives. I had no idea that made me a conservative.

I got to thinking.

If I have a rifle and a shotgun, am I a conservative even if I sneak out the nearest door when someone sits at the next table wearing an AK-47?

I can live with Roe v. Wade. It irks me when a so-called right-to-lifer ignores “collateral damage” in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. In fact, I don’t quite get how some intra-uterine being has more rights than a soldier on the other side. Does “just war” theory apply to incest or rape? Now tell me, am I conservative or liberal?

Something else that flusters me is gay marriage. I was a liberal on gay marriage 30 years ago. Now that it’s okay in more than half the States, am I a conservative?

I’ve got King James, Revised Standard, New Oxford, Good News and almost bought J.B. Phillips. Does that make me liberal?

We grow most of the food we eat. Sounds like we’re survivalists. Is that liberal or conservative?

Consider the economy. The conservative President Obama, continuing the philosophy of President Bush (don’t forget Bush’s liberal support of aid to AIDS efforts in Africa), supported the Wall Street bailout (socialism at its finest) and the Fed’s continuing low interest rates that warm the hearts of bankers everywhere. I say the Fed should have distributed several thousand dollars to each American and less to the big guys (although they’re Americans, too, says the Supreme Court).

So if Obama is conservative I must be liberal.

I’ve got a split personality. Gosh, what am I? 

Monday, October 13, 2014

U City Revisited

When we moved to St. Louis in 1988, the folks who sold us their house moved across the street and became very good friends. Here's a photo of the four of us at the Moonrise Hotel in the Loop of University City.
And here's one of my partner for 27 years and counting, ringed 26 years ago.
"Looks like a neat hotel," says Virginia.

Very cool. If we didn't have friends willing to put up with us for a few days, we'd stay there.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ps' Folly

We continue to work on the Pannabeckers' folly, a super-duper storage shed for our kayaks and tubes, mentioned in "Doofus" a few blog postings ago. Today we finished the steps.
So now Keri can come up on the "roof" of the storage shed and listen to us read books to each other. She climbed the stairs today, but stayed away from the edges.

"Maybe she's scared of heights," says Virginia.

Perhaps we should install a railing?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Beddy-Bye: Autumn

My first garden bed newly planted with organic hard red winter wheat, fenced to keep bunnies from eating sprouts (I hope), and lightly covered with straw, leaves nine beds to go.

"What fence?" says Virginia.

An almost invisible fence attaches to the lone pole you see in the middle of the picture. (The pole's siblings don't appear in the photo.) The same little fence also runs along the woven wire fence on the big fence posts. I suppose one crunch of rabbit teeth could open a door. I hope they don't figure that out.

We'll either harvest the wheat berries in June to mill flour or call the wheat a cover crop and cut it down before planting our spring and early summer crops. In the meantime, wheat roots will join celebrations underground.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mad About Food

I’m mad about food. Stay with me. I’d like to apologize for my critiques of other people’s food choices. Go ahead, take pictures of your food.  Buy baby-cut carrots. Call yourself vegetarian while eating coconut whipping cream shipped halfway across the world. Enjoy those chicken and beef products that never got a hug or a name or a chance to run. Love that low-fat ice cream and yoghurt. I’ll shut up.

I’m mad about a few things. First, the way we criticize each other’s food choices, based mostly on research financed by the people who want us to buy their products. They’ve sucked us in and we haven’t noticed. Remember when research told us to wash egg yolks down the drain, take lipid drugs to reduce our cholesterol levels, stop eating lard? A few years later, hey, um, maybe that was premature. Go ahead, gobble up the yolks. We put in our mouths the same kind of food we put in our brains. Why not? We’ve grown accustomed to crap.

[Diversion: Dad’s favorite joke. Q: Why does the ocean roar? A: You would, too, if you had that many crabs on your bottom.]

And by the way, have you ever looked at your tummy? if I didn’t already know I was climbing up and down the Ideal Weight Table. Going up, I become more and more worthless. Going down, well, maybe not quite so bad. Better post some bodies from ads on the refrigerator.

“Stop it!” says Virginia. “You’re a wonderful person. It’s the inside that counts.”

Right, what we put inside, like all the stuff we see, read and hear tells us. Give yourself a break, and all your friends, too. Enjoy the food you choose to like and let them enjoy theirs.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Yesterday, a friend who works at a greenhouse donated 93 broccoli and cauliflower plants to Elk Cliff Farm. This sent me out to dig the rest of my potatoes (3 overflowing 5-gallon buckets) and pull their neighboring weeds (2 giant wheelbarrows-ful). About time. The garden beds have gone to pot (not really, but they do look bad). Folly-fancies have been diverting my gardening skills.

I added some very dry and dusty donkey manure and hurriedly welcomed the brassicas to their new home.

"Hey, he didn't put up a fence," said a resident rabbit. "We're gonna party tonight!"

Yes, Karen and I had suspicions about the party plans. We even talked about them before turning off the bedroom lights. And I dreamed about 93 leaf-less stems.

Fortunately for me, the nocturnals decided to leave about 55 plants for their planned re-hash tonight of last night's bash.

First thing this morning, after bruising myself with a few well-aimed kicks, I installed a fence.

"Think it'll work, smarty-pants?" says Virginia.

It has in the past, not that I remembered that yesterday. Doofus.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Garden Spots

"Scrambled?" Virginia laughs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spud Time

Four months ago today Aren, Ack, Ulie and Ours Truly planted potatoes.

In honor of the youngest of our group (the Lego genius), we made a video. It's supposed to begin, "Hey -ack, put those Legos away" but due to a technical malfunction it begins "Ack, put those Legos away."

"What's this 'Ack' business?" says Virginia.

Oh, just in case the No Such Agency (NSA) is watching.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What are Friends For?

This morning a nephew (in-law) and I set off at 7 to run a 20-mile route. My belt held two water bottles, a cellphone, and some home-made trail mix. Weather prognosticators had predicted 90 degrees so I wondered if two bottles were enough and began trying to imagine where we might refill.

As usual, my twenty-years-younger partner set off at a good clip. He figured--even said--we should be back by ten, right? I laughed.

"Who was smarter," asks Virginia, "the Arizona transplant who has learned to survive without water, or the elder ninncompoop who should have followed his oft-repeated advice, 'don't start out too fast?'"

About mile eight, guess who said, "My legs are feeling pretty heavy right now." The other, appearing concerned, said, "Are you okay?" The first one answered, "I'll probably be fine once I work through this."

It didn't happen. Soon after the turn-around (on the out-and-back course), the one with the habit of running along ahead to make sure everything's safe for the other took off at a good clip. His one water bottle wasn't empty.

The other had only a drop and a good excuse to take a break. A CSX employee stood near the Alpine Farm wayside.

"Hi there. May I ask you something? I heard about someone who set a metal canoe down across the tracks. According to the story, it shut down East Coast traffic. Is that true?"

"Yes, maybe not the whole East Coast, but put anything across the track and it'll trigger a signal indicating the track's blocked. Ever since 9-11, Homeland Security's been investing a lot of money in railroad safety. Now the trains could run without engineers, although it makes sense to continue providing a job for someone to keep an eye out for things computers don't notice."

The ensuing conversation covered good effects of job layoffs. A newspaper editor took a hard labor job on the railroad. "I figured he'd fail, coming as he did from a sun-less inside job pushing pencils, but he's a good man, after a while he landed a job editing the union newspaper and writing for the railroad." We hit on raising pigs, making sausage (he leaves out the sage and other spices so the cook can spice it the way he wants), animals breaking through fences, ages (60 and 61), customizing tee shirts, and more.

The runner out front came back, having started to worry about the slowpoke. "OK, I'll get going."

Three or four miles later, I texted a friend, "RU home? I'm running in Alpine and almost out." I barely had the presence of mind to add another text, "of water."

Talk about slow. After an eternity, I pulled up to my friend's shop. He pointed, "Water? There. Take all you want."

As it turned out, his wife was leaving shortly for our place. My plans to walk the rest of the way evaporated, as had I (almost).

Eight hours later, as we finished dinner, a Prius pulled into our driveway. "I think it's David coming to check on you," Karen said.

Right, as usual.

Tell me, how many of your friends would drive 4 miles one-way because they can't reach you by phone and are worried you're not okay?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Joke Signs

"I see that no stopping sign was just a joke," says Virginia.
Yes, apparently. A couple of Currituck County's finest lined up to chat for a while this morning, then a pickup stopped by to join in, all perhaps for no reason at all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


During my morning run, I stopped for no reason, which I think was permissible.
A couple days ago, we went inside this gate to pet the horse, since the sign didn't say we couldn't: "Warning/Venomous snake area/ Enter at your own risk."
"You're crazy," says Virginia.

No, I just like to follow the rules.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pea Meditation

Peas, pease as one of our archaic acquaintances would spell them, are in.

For the last week, I've been meditating on peas. For example, I picked for more than 3 hours this morning and Karen and I shelled for 3 hours this evening.

Don't laugh. One can get a lot of work done, stories and poems written, problems solved while meditating on peas. You could sing "On the Street Where You Live" a thousand times, or allow it to wiggle as a brainworm, endlessly.

"You might invite a friend over to help," says Virginia.

Right. See what happens?
He's mesmerized and can't see you. In this case, he also thinks you can't see him because of the hat. So what kind of world has he entered?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Founding Father

Karen's grandfather, 100 years old today, is the oldest surviving founder of this fire department.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Very Nice Place to Be

"'K' for Karen?" asks Virginia.

A very nice place to be.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Papa, Don't Preach!

A few days ago a gentleman commented, "So you use wood chips on your garden?"

Yes, I believe, in mulch and aged manure. I've found that investing considerable effort in the fall, without tilling, when the year's gardening season is "over," reaps huge dividends in the spring, when the gardening itch reignites.

After all that work, now's the time to gloat, when many folks are grousing, "It's been too wet, can't get a tiller in the ground."

Some experts say a tiller destroys soil structure and brings unwanted weed seeds to the surface. They even suggest that abandoning the fall garden until spring is like leaving a naked baby in the back seat on a frigid day with the windows open.

"You've crossed the line," says Virginia. "Papa, don't preach. I've seen you out there, raking mulch to one side and the other, pulling your hoe through the soil, planting a spring garden, since early March."

Here are peas, carrots, lettuce, beets and kale planted March 10.
With the help of Jack, Julie and Karen, we sunk Kennebec and Pontiac potatoes on March 16. You'll see winter wheat planted last fall at the rear end of the foreground garden bed, perennial horseradish back on the left, and flowering chives, another perennial.
Look closely to see Glass Gem corn sprouts. You may want to click to enlarge the photo. Two-inch Silver Queens thrive in our pig-aerated garden in the field, but I was too lazy to run over to take pictures.
A week ago I thought our 1-degree winter had killed my pomegranate grove. Now I'm smiling.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thank You for the Suggestions

"It's about time to paint that roof."

"Have you thought about bottom-watering your seedlings?"

"Have you ever planted black kale?"

"You really ought to trellis those peas."

"You might want to give some thought to a tractor."

"At least, get yourself a roto-tiller."

"Did you plant all those peas by hand? You should try an automatic planter."

"We've got a seed-spreader you could use to plant grass."

"Everything looks good, except for that." He points at the fire-proof carpet underneath our wood stove.

"Have you considered buying grain in bulk for your livestock?"

"Of course, you're going to finish 'em on grain, not pasture."

"Green beans'll produce more if you plant them 8 inches apart."

"Man, those strawberries are packed. You didn't get many this year, did you?"

"You know, it's better to split that wood while it's green."

"Roundup's a lifesaver. You should use it."

"A little Sevin would take care of those Colorado potato beetles."

"When are you going to paint that barn?"

"You need a Gator or ATV."

"Leonard must be turning over in his grave."

"You ought to hire a tax-preparer."

"That geothermal heat pump'll never pay for itself."

"Does stuff really grow in all that mulch?"

"Your driveway looks like a used-car lot."

"The suggestions keep on coming, don't they?" says Virginia.

Yep, just a few samples. Gotta love 'em.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hey, Jack!

On March 16, the day before a few inches of snow fell on Elk Cliff Farm, Jack, Julie, Karen and I planted potatoes. 

Check this out, Jack -- the bigger green thing on the right, not the little lamb's quarter on the left. It popped up yesterday.
How many days did it take that piece of potato we stuck in the bottom of a vee-ditch to see sunlight?

"I understand something else on Elk Cliff Farm saw daylight for the first time today," says Virginia.