Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pulling Everything Together

Went on the weekly trip to Valentine yesterday, and dropped in on the UN Extension folk.
It was pressure canner testing week. There were at least a hundred pressure canners, all shapes and sizes, makes and models - from ceramic-coated cast iron to the squat old aluminum ones with the rust around the pouted lips, smoke and fire marks around the bottom.

Well, the guy in charge was quite to the point ( nicely, of course) he's an AI guy. What's AI? Artificial Insemination. Of course in this area, that means - cows. We talked a bit about the methods and practice of AI (one of my precious 'children' went to Clemson and learned how, and explained it all to me over a couple of drinks one night) and had a few good laughs. Then he looked up the info and the people I needed to talk to; the organic and vegetable persons.

As always, the folks in the office were inquisitive. Not a whole lot of folk move TO here; most move away. There are vacant houses and properties standing in most towns. Sometimes they are rented out to cattle hands for local ranchers. Of course they are never broken into, defaced, or used by crackheads. Private property - even unoccupied - is still private property here. So the ladies wanted to know (as does everyone) HOW we found our place (the Internet), if we had ever lived here before (no) if we had family here (no) if we understood that it got really cold and snowed a lot here (that's one of the main reasons we came). As always, I tell them that we have lived other places (TX, NM, CA, OH, IN, NC) and that we used to be avid cross-country skiers so we knew cold. Then we go on to talk about greenhouses and horticulture and what grows and what doesn't (or, as I explained, what hasn't before but can). Oddly, the lovely offce manager was surprised when I told her I had two huge majestic sugar maple trees off of my verandah; they aren't supposed to grow here either.

My talent has always been planting in unlikely places, challenging the elements and status quo of soil and water conditions, and with organic efforts, making things grow. SC was easy to make things grow - plant a stick, up comes a peach tree. While in NM's desert, I had a huge garden, and grew some pretty bodacious potatoes. So growing things where there are winter storms from October thru May will be a challenge... but with carefully prepared soil and proper maintenance, one really can grow anything. What surprises me the most, I told them, is that they have the perfect conditions for collards - lovely and cool - but no one grows them! Weird, especially since they are so high in iron. As into vegetables as folks are here, you'd think that they would be everywhere. Ah, well, exposure is everything... I figure I will have to grow them myself, have their large leafy plants breaking out next to the board fence by the road, where people can wonder what they are and why one would grow them, for about three years before I get folks to eat them.

Leafy spurge is the curse of pastures locally, and poisons the cattle when they eat it. Usually they don't when it is green, but if it's cut on a haying slope and mixed into a dry bale, they don't know it's there. It is a latex producing plant - and that latex is caustic, burns the eyes and skin if you get it on you. I have a patch on the first hill, so I am researching ways to get rid of it. So far goats or sheep eating it, flea beatles decimating it, or plowing it up then planting cover crops like buckwheat, clover, or legumes to starve its roots out are the only ways. This will take some experimentation as well. I may need to get a goat to stake out. I don't really want to - I don't care for goats since I took care of them in SC for a friend - but at least I can use goat's milk for cheese. "Stake out" because that's easier than setting up and then moving the fencing; goats will wriggle out of any and everything and won't be kept in, as cattle and horses are, by three strands of barbed wire. Sheep I don't have time to mess with for the wool, and I don't care for mutton.

Lots of things to think about - is it worth it to get 1,000 poinsettia cuttings in December, pinch them and baby them for a year, for poinsettia plants to sell the next November? Probably not yet, but getting poinsettia plants here is a bear because shipping full size ones in the cold usually kills them. Hmmmm... People who lived in this house before had a pot garden in the basement, grow-lights and all, so maybe the pointsettias would do well there. Working on getting the fruit orchard set up, preparing to move the 2-foot-high windbreak blue spruces and cypress back 15 feet out of the garden and along the fence where they NEED to be, to get them out of the way of the chicken moat and to do their job - which is to keep the blowing snow out of the garden. Also getting the house and yard sealed and prepared for winter while still encouraging blooms for fall. Gotta get the wood sized and stacked up - it is all scattered over the yard - and cut, for firewood for the winter, too. Preparing the spot for the big half-buried greenhouse, the front display/vegetable garden next to the whiteboard fence, the 'chicken moat' to go around the garden to keep out the grasshoppers, laying out where everything should go for ease of access and simplicity, is an experiment in mathematical complexities.

Yes, I've thought it all out, and the people at UN Extension were so helpful... but so amazed that someone would move here on purpose with a whole plan. There are still some variables - like the poinsettias and the leafy spurge problem - but that's the challenge of it all. When you stop planning, stop thinking, stop doing, you die. And I plan to have this on my tombstone -
Wiley Coyote
Born 1957
Died 2059
The Good Die Young.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IS the Empire Over?
From C-Span...
His presidential candidacy over, his re-election to Congress won, is he speaking the truth, about earmarks, the war, congress' expenditures, or the economy itself?

Yes I am worried about people who cannot see, will not see, about where things are heading. Not the bigwigs or the policy makers - but the little people, my friends, the people living paycheck to paycheck, counseled to save 20% of their earnings when their earnings won't even put food on the table for a whole week.

On other forums I'm on, some are calling for a revolution against high gas prices, against high food costs. There won't be one. If there was one, it would be quickly quashed, more virulent and violent than the fantasized-about Boston Tea Party, with matching vicious reprisals. And innocents would be hurt and killed, and those outside of the fray would still struggle to pay their bills.

But again, no worries there. Most people crave normalcy, status quo, a 9-to-5 job and all's-right-with-my-world regularity. So prices go up, and they grumble. Taxes go up and they lament. But they don't do anything. To do something would be to step outside their dependable world of day-in-day-out and to challenge or to fight or to do something that would tax them physically, emotionally, cost them financially. So everyone will just make little cuts here and there, and keep going, keep struggling along.

I used to be one of those people who believed that the changes everyone demanded were worth fighting for. I used to believe that the people who pleaded for help were worth fighting for, worth helping, worth protecting. I was wrong. They aren't. They will turn on you when they realize that you won't cut a special deal for THEM because of their religion, last name, color, or status in the community.

So if I seem a bit selfish, you're wrong. I'm 100% selfish now. I'm preparing things for me and my family, and I really don't give a damn about you and your family anymore. I watch the Chicken Littles running around looking for someone to save them, and I watch the platitude spouters lying to them and comforting them, and all I can think is - you get the government you deserve, the government you asked for - the government to provide you with every single thing you want - and then you get to pay the piper.

No one wants to hear the truth. No one wants to admit that what is best for all is to stop the handouts to the ones who whine the most. And no one anywhere wants to believe that they are not special, and that they don't deserve special treatment. Everyone wants to believe that someone else should pay for everything they want. And they can get that, for a while - sometimes years, sometimes even decades. But sooner or later they will face that they have to pay their bills... and they will not be able to. That goes for individuals, groups, yes, and countries, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Something in the Wind

OK, going out on a limb here.

Does anyone else get a creepy, hair-in-the-air, goosepimply feeling of dread when the TV shows pictures of Obama?

I can't help it. It isn't cause he's black. It isn't cause he is a Democrat. It isn't cause he seems like a thug (he doesn't) or dangerous in and of himself. It is the way the crowds respond to him... fanatical, with a certain light in their eyes... while he has a dead, unattached look in his. I've seen a lot of candidates and crowds that surround them, and I have never seen this before. Never. Not on TV, not in real life.

I am about as far from a religion as you can get. I am not a fanatic atheist, nor an agnostic, nor a Christian, Jewish, whatever. I simply exist. I used to be a pretty good biblical scholar, back in the day, but threw all that over - a phase in my life, gone but not forgtten. I can still participate in a good biblical argument, still protest 'new' ideas like the Rapture, gay-bashing, abortion, snake handling, and all of that folderol that depends on a few handfuls of usually viciously or cruelly interpreted scripture. But I have lots of deeply Christian friends; they - and friends who are Wiccan, friends who are agnostic, all say the same thing - they believe that Obama may be the AntiChrist. Granted, a lot of people have been accused over time as being the AntiChrist; Ronald Reagan was one, all sorts of folk, accused by all sorts of folk.

I won't go that far. But the creepy feeling prevails.

Before you ask; no, I don't like McCain, either. But I understand him - violent childish temper tantrums, self-important, loud mouthed and arrogant and self-seeking as well as self-satisfied. McCain irritated me no end with his flip flopping and talking out of both sides of his mouth, depending on which side of the wine glass, dinner table, or railroad tracks he happened to land. A bought and paid for special interest man. No mystery there. No suspicion - he is what he is, and that is - worthless, to me. He elicits disgust, disdain, yes; but no creepy feelings.

Ever smelled something, just a little whiff, of something burning? Does your head come up like a hunting dog scenting a deer, surrounded by still, still forest? As you continue to smell it, do you start looking around for the source, sniffing in different areas, trying to decide if it is in your home our out, how far away it is, looking for the smoke rising from somewhere? As it gets stronger, do you start getting concerned, start wondering if you left the stove on, if it is a ballast burning in a light, if it might be outside or at your neighbor's house?

That's how I feel as I watch the news media and John Q flock to and salivate over Obama. Something doesn't smell right. I keep watching for him to promise something solid other than the ephemeral "change" but he doesn't. I keep reading for him to be definitive about something, but he won't. I keep listening for declarative sentences that mean something - something, anything, I can agree with or disagree with vehemently - but there is nothing there. Nothing at all. Yet folks are acting as if he and he alone has the answers to their ennui and angst.

Something's burning and I don't know what it is; something doesn't smell right, feel right, like the calm befoe a violent storm - and I can't put my finger on it, can't nose it out, can't grasp it any more than I can grasp a wisp of smoke. All I know is that, when I watch him and his legions of cheering happy followers, the hair around my ears stands up, and goose bumps form on my arms... every time. I have never felt this way before about any human being. And maybe that is what bothers me the most... that I, who have met all sorts of important and self-important people, and always saw them, related to them, just as people, some with failings, some with good ideas or inspiration or selfish intent, cannot "see" Obama. At all.

I may delete this after awhile. It feels peculiar to even be talking this way... thinking this way... but I have such a feeling of dread that I had to express it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

House Work (updated)

I've been a little worried the past two weeks, as DH has come down with bronchitis. Nothing new of course - it usually happens once or twice a year. But the newer, drier air here and the blowing wind and dust appear to have affected him more than me; he can't seem to shake it. They upped his meds this week and may test him for allergies in two weeks if it still doesn't clear. He has stayed inside doing things around the house instead of getting outside. Today he took down the barbed wire fence between the two west garden plots and rolled it up; then mowed over there. This time though he wore a particulate mask, and his breathing does not appear to be affected.

I've been cleaning inside and finishing laundry, too. The house was vacant for a year and a half, and the folks who lived here before had the same attitude toward cleaning that I do - you make the beds, do the laundry, do the dishes, clean the floors, bathroom and kitchen - and a week later you have to do it all over again! But they had 5 kids... The shower was encrusted with soap scum, and I have slowly been whittling it down, but today I powed it with Simple Green. I also went after the brass faucets with Brasso and a toothbrush again. I finally got everything shining in there. I am not much of a clean freak but caked on white stuff and green stuff bother me. So now there's none. Sigh. Two loads of laundry already this morning. Sat down for a samwich and now its noon. Still a whole 10 hours left to get things done!

Since we will start having company in November, I have got to get the upstairs guest BR in order. Right now it has my desktop computer, screen, printer, accoutrements and attachments in boxes still, plus a few boxes of things I just sort of stare at and debate the best places for them to go. Argh. I won't be needing a lot of it any more, but you just never know, do you? I have a huge walkin closet for my hangups and a 'trunk room' under the eaves that is like a long, thin, low-ceilinged attic. There is even a little cubbyhole door in the guest BR that I have not investigated yet; DH says it is like a small attic, empty and warm, no air or any other access. I don't want to cram just anything into it just because I don't have anywhere else to put it. This takes thought and planning. Sigh.

I have never been this tidy before! Of course, I have never had this much room to be tidy IN, either!!! While granted I have always set up my rooms just so, with colors and wallpaper and furniture - sometimes waiting two or three YEARS to get the exact piece I wanted - I did it because I think that decorating and redecorating is such a waste. A nest is a nest, and it should be perfect and kept that way. Get what you want to begin with, and keep it that way. I don't even like to move furniture for a new look every six months, as some folks do. And that is probably why I haven't put my heart into the guest BR yet - because the walls were painted by a -um, shall we say, creative soon-to-be mother full of hormones and hope? One wall is deep sky blue, the other three are light blue pearl with pink and blue pearl sponged-on accents... I just know that, once I get started in there, I'm going to get frustrated and go down underneath the basement stairs to get the paint.

Oh, whatthehell - might as well go down and get the paint now. No sense in making two trips. Sigh.

So I went downstairs and got the leftover paint. I got the dark blue and the pink, and a can of white. I mixed a bit of the blue with the pink - pur-PLE. So I added the white - and got a lovely shade of lavender. I took it up to the room, got everything unpacked and put away at last, and started putting the lavender on the walls. With the 2-inch maple trim and doors, white ceiling angles, and the dark oak floor, the room looks bigger, lighter, and much more comforting!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Weather Channel Be Damned...

OK, the only thing the Weacha is harping on is the "tragic" hurricane - Dolly was a Cat 2, and the "terrible" damage in TX was laughable. "We only have one convenience store open on the island (San Padre), no electricty, and no water pressure," whined some big boy who hadn't missed too many meals. Wah. No WATER PRESSURE? You've an open store in which you can shop, you've got water that you can bathe in, even cook with, but there's no PRESSURE? Yer breakin my heart! Poor baby. In another shot, he'll probably be whining that he is out of propane for his grill; how in the WORLD can he heat anything to eat or water for his coffee? Then they showed the causeway - fully functional and undisturbed - as open again. But of course PrezBush declared 15 counties of his home state "major disaster areas" so they could get Federal help. I saw a little water in the streets, a few trees down, and - horrors! - a boat that was actually flung backwards on its trailer! EEEEK! One injury, no deaths reported so far; of course, some manly overweight idiot will go out and try to cut the tree that blocks his driveway and cut a power line... Wait for it.... Meanwhile, no one hears a peep anymore about the people who lost everything in the Iowa floods... their actual devastation is old news.

No, I knew when I moved here that we were in flyover country. The largest county in the US and we only have 6000 people. I didn't expect the WeaCha to pay any attention to us. All day long we have been getting some ass-kicking storms - the weather radio hasn't shut up. Tonight right after sunset the winds started slamming from the north - 60 mph according to the wind gauge, and that's constant, not gusts. Within 15 minutes we went from 81 degrees to 61 degrees; windows open, nice and cool, as thunder and lightning slammed all around us. Very little rain - but with those winds, the clouds over us were probably having their raindrops hit the ground thirty miles south! The radar on my computer shows a huge yellow and red ball of storms over and around us, and we are under a severe weather watch til 3 AM.

But the WeaCha is busy talking about the 'hurricane rainfall totals" - San Antonio, one of my old stompin grounds, was 11 inches behind average, but got so much rain today that they are now only 10 inches behind. Hunh? There's also really bad weather in the northeast; they might get an inch of rain tonight... Last week we got two inches in ONE HOUR!

I haven't liked the WeaCha since they decided that they were the authority on weather, all the while running hour-long programs during which they would not - WOULD NOT - show a real-time weather map, no matter who was under a severe weather warning, tornado warning, whatever. Then they decided that they were all about going green and climate change having such an evil impact and we all needed to go green - meanwhile Danny Lipford, their fixit guy, is sagely advising folks to double-dip their pretreated outdoor wood just to make it last. What? The pretreated wood is poisonous as hell, the chemicals they use contain things like cyanide and other metals - and he wants the "going green" viewers to use still more of this poison to make their lives easier? WTF? (I heard a rumor that the meteorologist who started the WeaCha is suing them - because he says the channel is pretending to be an authority on global-warming-as-caused-by-humans, and they are being gratuitous and unprofessional by presenting politically-motivated opinion as fact.)

Like I said, I don't mind living in a place that the WeaCha neglects; their interpretations of weather are as incompetent and condescending as are their self-congratulatory shows. But every once in awhile, I watch it - in the so-far-vain hope that Jim Cantore will be standing out on a pre-hurricane beach one more time, pontificating on "these people shouldn't be out here" while HE is - and getting himself nailed to the ground by flying debris. Sigh. Now THAT's a YouTube I'd put on MySpace. I never fail to tell everyone I meet that Jim Cantore is shorter than I am (5'3") - and although he is all about his shape and figure, he is nothing more than a banty rooster, who insists on being shot at angles that make him look taller and imposing.

Christmas in July

OK I admit it. I love to decorate for Christmas. Right now there is a two foot clay dwarf in my basement, waiting to be popped out of the mold and painted and glazed. Yesterday I wandered into the consignment shop on Main Street and asked if they had Christmas decoratons. She said they were all in the basement. I told her I come to Valentine once a week - so no rush! - but I needed outdoor lights and decorations. So next week she'll have them out for me.

I have moved from a 1000 sq foot home to a 1750 sq foot home (that admittedly includes a huge basement). I blew most of the outdoor sockets on the old house with outdoor lights over the years. Here there are 10 - count em, TEN - outdoor double plugs. Outlets everywhere you turn. Outlets put up because the face of this house is huge - and this is one of the biggest houses in town, a town designated by the governor of Nebraska as The Christmas Village. Unlike most older homes, this house has outlets everywhere - many underneath or next to windows. It has wide windowsills on the inside. Guess why.

So yes I am already plotting where my decorations will go. The four Christmas trees (two ceramic, one fiber optic) the wreaths, the garlands, the village with the train and pond and skaters. The snow family under the blowng snowstorm - a huge tabletop display. The giant cutout ceramic Christmas ornament, with the little girl inside, under the Christmas tree with her teddy, and a grandfather clock in the corner. The arbor at the end of the sidewalk needs lights. The walkway needs lights. The verandah needs lights. The roof peaks need lights. Since all of ths is likely to be covered in snow, I have to think about what goes where and how it will look...

After all, when one is a newcomer in a designated Christmas Village, one has to participate, right?
Well it is 630 AM and my neighbor down the street who drives his sand truck home every night is just leaving for work. Time for me to get up and get to work, too... but in the back of my mind, it's Christmas...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Hermit Crab than Hermit

Well, today we've scheduled what has become our once-weekly trip to Valentine. I hate these. We have to go to Hubby's Doctor's appointment, and we have to get our driver's licenses changed over. We can only do the latter two days a week, Tuesday and Wednesday, when the person from the State comes to the county. We keep missing him due to time and other pressures!

I have so much to do here and so many pressing and not-so-pressing matters. Do I REALLY want to drive 70 miles round trip to spend money and time away from all of this? Um, no. I am looking forward to the winter when I may, perhaps, be snowed in and unable to make the trek. Unlike what some of my friends thought (and definitely unlike some of them, who need constant activity) , I hate shopping, I hate excitement, I hate bustling about with other people doing things. When I have "down time" I like to wander around Amazon or other shopping places, make lists of what I see that I like and then not buy a thing. It isn't the money - it is the fact that I take my time and weigh what I like against what I need and say, "Aw, the hell with it - I don't need that!"

The local Avon lady comes tomorrow with my stuff. She seemed surprised that I called her back promptly last week after she dropped the books off and placed an order. I ordered from her for several reasons - one, I can't find anything in Valentine to combat this lack of humidity and moisture that meets my needs (nice fragrance, rich texture, reasonable price); two, I could go online to Bath and Body Works, but their prices are higher, their selection of what I need limited - and besides, if I did that, then I wouldn't meet or support people here. I might need her this winter after all, when the wind and cold get even more intense and I need something right NOW to keep my skin from blowing off!

So I'm feeling crabby this AM; don't want to go, have to go, don't want to go... My pond is perfect, now I want to get the remaining SC flowers around it and be done with that. They are growing cheerfully in the tarp, getting huge... It has been threatening rain since yesterday afternoon but hasn't rained yet, and I just KNOW it will finally rain en route to Valentine... grumble grumble grumble.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Inspiration and Perspiration

My "weekend" has been busy... Saturday we went to the Minnechaduza Day Festival on the River in Valentine, where they had turtle races (I bought five, and one came in second so I won a prize) and canoe jousting. Then I came home.. and Sunday painted the hexagonal pond out front with KoolSeal. Two coats. KoolSeal, for those who don't know, is a rubbery-texture coating used to waterproof trailers' - eek mobile homes' - roofs.

This pond had been ignored for several years, and improperly repaired when it cracked, so last week I wirebrushed all of the old repair stuff - grey KoolSeal and grey bonding cement -out of the huge cracks. The coating of bright white KoolSeal all over made the pond waterproof - thank goodness, because sure enough we had a rainstorm Sunday night. Here's a picture of the sun setting over my back hill as the storm went away...

And here's a pic of the pond today, after we lathed two full bags of white bonding cement around the whole thing on top of the KoolSeal. You can see the lines of the trowels - this bugger's shape just would not allow for a nicely troweled even surface. But at least all those cracks are gone - sealed tight as ticks and inpenetrably. So it will have to be sanded a little more to make it smooth, then tomorrow I'm going to put another coat of KoolSeal on it, just to be sure that all of those little fiberglas strips in the cement don't wear out and away.

But then, I got an inspiration... in 2003 I made tile backsplashes to go behind my sink and stove. I never got the time to put them up, and now my new house doesn't have a place for them. Sigh. So, now what do I do with them? They were both baskets of roses and other flowers, one much larger than the other, of course, and all meant to be put down just like tile, with spaces in between, to make a nice restful pic.

Yup, I cemented them right into the bottom of the pond....

There are little surprises like this all over my yard; I brought all of my cement statuary with me when we moved. An Indian bowhunts from behind the hawthorn tree, an elf sits on a mushroom in a garden patch, St Francis greets vsitors as they come up to the front porch, and the squirrel birdbath with the frog in the center is under the maple trees. The cement raccoon spilling the bucket at the pump has been waiting for the pond to get fixed so he can really spill the water, with his handy recirculating pump hidden below; and an alligator hides nearby in the grass. So why not add a little extra surprise in the bottom of the pond?

OK, I can't help it. The white board fence out front needed to be repainted, so it is now bright white - but instead of ordering 22 finials, one for each post, I stenciled a single bright red rose on each one. My neighbors have been complimenting me - and suddenly there are no less than five houses where the residents are painting too. Houses that haven't been painted in a long time, alligatored and grey and sad, are starting to burst with bright, new, clean colors.

I didn't mean to start anything here; I love this house and wanted to restore it to its former beauty, give it the potential that was buried under years of neglect and dirt and old paint. Not only that, but it will be the frontispiece for our greenhouse business, so it has to be welcoming, warm, a little off-beat and recognizable as different. Call it my advertising experience; no one wants to do business in a place that doesn't make them smile and feel happy. Plus I like to show off my ceramics skills whenever and wherever I can... With my shop in one whole room in the basement, advertising is good. Greenhouse in the spring and summer, and the firing of the kiln in the basement in the wintertime, is my plan... year round productivity.

And since we are doing the house in a dark, BingCherry Red and White (I had to wait 45 minutes while the girl at True Value in Valentine got the color to exactly match my scrap of material) it will look really good come Christmastime, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Death of a Friend

Got a little short email last night, telling me that a good friend had died just a few hours before. Sudden heart attack, they think. He was alone.


He was a great guy and a good friend; honest, loyal, funny, and fun to be around. But, more, he really made the effort to make things happen for people. When he found out that an elderly lady was about to lose her 40 acres thanks to a predatory lender scheme that put her in a balloon mortgage situation, he quietly bailed her out. As an ex-Marine, when he found out that a young man had joined the Marine Corps, he threw a going-away party for him - catered by his own restaurant friends. He always made little people - nonentities in the vast scheme - feel important, cared for, even loved.

I'd seen so many people take advantage of him over the years. It would piss him off on occasion but he would plunge right back into life, undaunted. He made millions, and lost thousands by investing in 'friends' and women who professed their undying love for him. He was openhanded and openhearted, and always wore his heart on his sleeve. In spite of the people who knifed him and took advantage of him, he always rose to the top. When a mutual friend threw a surprise birthday party for him, he was amazed at all of the people who came to thank him for what he'd done, and to show their love for him. The kindnesses he did as a matter of course; he couldn't understand how people could be so grateful, so proud to share his friendship. Black, white, rich or poor, didn't matter to Elliott - his friends were his friends, and he would fight to the death for them - even if he knew from the beginning that they wouldn't do the same for him.

The town will be a little meaner now, a little more shallow, a little less caring, because he's gone. Folks won't have him to turn to when they feel screwed or put upon. They won't have him to make fun of behind his back, while taking his money and his friendship with a smile to his face. They won't be able to tempt his weaknesses just for fun and to see him fall any more. They won't go to his lavish and open parties any more, share in his successes any more, sneer at his failures. For yes he did have failures - and his main one was that he believed in the basic goodness of people. All evidence to the contrary, all facts opposite, Elliott believed that people were salvageable.

Right now, Elliott is probably pissed at having his life cut short, and telling his jokes to whomever will listen. At least where he is now, they can't schmooze him for his money and his caring, can't take away whatever he has and laugh at him. He is where he will get his reward for his faith in people, and not get lied to, abused, or taken advantage of ever again.

Miss you, dude.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gummint Check

Well, we finally got our "refund" check in the mail. They want people to take them and splurge, buy things, help the economy. Horse hockey. I'm investing in my future survival with it.

Yeah, food is on my mind a lot these days. I guess living in a place where food is the source of income for so many people has a lot to do with it. You can't escape the daily grain reports, beef reports, rain reports, and how everything relates. That hailstorm two days ago was amazing - as long as it wasn't piercing leaves and decimating cornfields just about to produce. That lightning at night is beautiful - but if it strikes in a pasture and sets it afire, and the winds push it rapidly, the grasslands lose their ability to feed the masses of cattle here. If it strikes a hay barn, someone has just lost thousands of dollars of potential income in an hour. The late snowstorms this past May killed calves of ranchers I know. The unusual rain here (7 inches above average) has made the hay grow fast, and they will be able to pull in at least two more harvests of it before fall - but the cattle standing in hock-deep water are not happy and not fattening. Low-bottom ranchers are scrounging for pasture or hay, while others in more drained areas are sitting pretty. Everything relates.

I couldn't believe some of the prices in the store today. Oh, there were some good deals - the price of my # 10 can of Oregon blueberries hasn't gone up, so I bought another, even though most of what I got from the previous can is still in the freezer. They had the rolls of pork sausage that hubby likes for $1.00 apiece. And the vitamins were on a BOGO sale, and were pretty cheap to begin with. But some of the prices on that other stuff will put a run in your pantyhose (not that I wear pantyhose any more).

So, this evening I went online and ordered.

Nothing fancy, just some basic necessities. Dried fruit, vegetables, more heirloom seeds. All of the food is canned for a minimum of 5 years of shelf life, freezedried and/or dehydrated fruits and vegies, milk and whole wheat flour. Not your regular nasty milk in the boxes, either, but milk with real milk flavor. Yes, even things like shredded dried colby cheese, and butter powder, shredded potatoes, even beef stew and potato soup.

I have a dehydrator that does really well, but hubby has a problem with smelling things like garlic and onion drying for three days. And the 'good stuff' - well, sometimes I catch him opening the dehysrator and pulling out some fruit or vegie to munch on as a snack! I need to start it up again, though - it shouldn't take too long here, where 40% humidity is considered "high". I can even do jerked meat in it...

Bit by bit I'm building up a food supply. A little here, a little there, what's on sale. I wish I hadn't gotten here too late to do my summer garden. We'll see if I can time my fall vegie garden just right, to avoid the snow... Hubby will need his collards. Ah, well, that's what hoop houses are for. What's a hoop house? PVC pipes or wood strips with plastic stretched over them, about two feet high, put over plants to extend the growing season.

One thing that real depression-era folks have talked about was not having seeds for those much touted gardens. You see, when the crash came, there was no money to buy seeds. And then, when they got a little money, there were no seeds available to buy. So they were still dependent on the gummint handouts. I'll. Be. Damned. So I ordered the canned, non-hybrid seeds, that fill a garden the size of half of a football field. They are guaranteed - as long as the can stays sealed - to stay viable for five years too. Of course, most non-hybrid seeds stay viable for a year or two anyway, after their stamped-on expiration date has passed. That is just a ploy to make you throw out last year's leftovers and buy more. If you've ever plowed or rototilled a new spot in your yard, and three weeks later you've gotten all sorts of new plants and growth that was never there before and that you didn't plant, then you know what I'm talking about. Stuff can wait for years to germinate...

The problem with a lot of the 'food storage' places that have come into existence is that they advertise many wonderful things - most of which are out of stock. And then there's shipping. One place I tried out didn't list what was and wasn't in stock (aw, just guess!) but would bill you for it anyway, because they would 'eventually' ship it to you. Then, they wouldn't tell you how much shipping was. Then they said there was at least a 6 week waiting period for you to find out 1) what you were getting (and, not getting) and 2) how much shipping would be billed to you. So three weeks later I got an email from them requesting a phone call on my order. They STILL couldn't tell me what was available - but told me it was A DOLLAR PER POUND to ship. Good grief, not even the postal service charges that much!!! So I cancelled that order posthaste. Shopped around a little more. Desperate I am not. I have all my listings in a little bookmark file, separate, so I can compare prices, shipping, stock... quiet thoughts for a quiet evening. Something those people back in '29 didn't have.

And of course if there is no crash, if some wunderkind comes along who really saves us all from ourselves once again, instead of promising more gummint help to any and all, well, I'll still have cheap and viable food, stashed away to last, and enough seeds for a heckuva garden plot. After all, some winters here, one can get snowed in for days, even a week, at a time. Which reminds me - watch for sales on toilet paper...

Sometimes it's the little things you forget.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Everything is Relative

Know how much a cow costs, on average?
$67.00. Yup, whole cow, from horns to tail, breathing and furry, grassfed Angus beef on the hoof.
Now, few people buy one cow - out here it's small herds, from 4 to 150, that are on sale every Thursday at the auction. Then of course there are transportation costs (going up daily), feed costs (they usually go to a feed lot to prepare them for butchering), butchering costs, packaging costs, and then shipping costs of the neatly cellophane stretchwrapped, slightly bloody parcels to your favorite store.

You can buy a cow and cut out all the middlemen, take it home, butcher it yourself. Or you can pay a butcher a mere $50 to cut it into nice portions. For less than $150, you can fill your freezer with real Angus beef cuts, and even keep the horns if you want. Or you can wait until the packages show up in your grocer's handy freezer, and pay $5.95 or more a pound for Angus beef. Everything is relative.

I like turkey. Man, I will eat turkey all year long! Slow roasted, stewed, baked, broiled, smoked, covered in butter and grilled, made into sandwiches and stews and soup and even ground turkey croquettes, breaded and fried; I like turkey. It is running about $.95 a pound in the stores. But day before yesterday, the huge wild turkeymommas with their teen turkeybrats came flying back to our neighborhood. (They go down to the river 8 miles away to brood.) They are in my and my neighbor's trees. Since they don't like the taste of wild turkey, I have been given permission to go onto their property as well as my own and shoot them out of their trees before they become a real nuisance (which, apparently, they do as whole families roost in the trees).

Now I gotta admit that cleaning birds is a pain in the - um, gizzard. Steamy hot water to blanch the feathers off, after the whole field-dress thing. It's why I won't hunt doves or ducks; too danged much effort for too dang little meat. I don't care how good they taste - by the time I get done, I'd better have enough meat to not have to do it again for awhile. Cost of killing a turkey - um, less than one cent, if I only need one bullet. Time involved - about three hours all told. So while it seems that the turkey in the store is cheaper (figuring my time at minimum wage), I get to be outside, I get to shoot things, and I get the visceral satisfaction of watching a 20-30 lb turkey fall out of the tree at my feet. Whump.

You can't buy pronghorn antelope meat at any price. Pronghorns are stupid; they will stand and stare at traffic in broad daylight like cows. Daughter and I even saw a herd of them chasing a farm pickup toward a homestead! Yet I have been told they have delicious meat. So when they come back on the property this fall, BANG! More butchering time (field dressing is so messy and such a pain), but - more meat in the freezer. I'll let you know how it tastes. The huge deer out here - 150-180 lbs after field dress - I've been told is exquisite too. I'll let you know.

You see, it all depends on what you want. I'll tell you what I don't want. I don't want meat that's been passed through several hands, each one getting paid to do a job that most folk are too lazy, untrained, or grossed out to do. I don't want meat that has been tampered with by government ordinance or - yes, I'll say it - by unmedicallytreated, unsupervised, underpaid, unwashed illegal immigrants with unknown and highly communicable diseases. I don't want the hyperactive government regulation and administration of antibiotics, vitamin supplements, and overprocessed feed, in overpopulated feedlots or coops where the animals are jammed in so tightly that they can't move. As one fella from the FDA finally admitted this week, no matter what they do or whom they supervise, all of the government regulations and administrations in the world cannot bring down the average of 60,000 people a year being exposed to e. coli and other food-transmitted diseases. I want the visceral satisfaction of having a freezer full of food that I went out and sweated and hunted and shot and skinned or defeathered and cut up and put away. I want that feeling of satisfaction. And I can have that choice. And if I want beef, I can get it without all of those additives and supplements and processing, too. And I am smart enough to clean it properly and cook it to kill whatever's there.

Of course, if blood and guts and handfuls of feathers in your hair, or the occasional fat tick or fur lice disgusts you, that's up to you. Pay those prices, if it's worth it to you. Either way, an animal dies. The only question is - ultimately, which animal suffers more? The wildkill, the tortured captive, or the human who ultimately ingests all of those so-good-for-you-by-gummint-regulation additives, who pays for all of that transportation and packaging? Who is really the tortured captive here?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Organic!!!

Let me tell you about organic.

Organic is something that is grown without chemical boosts, hormones, fertilizers, or DNA additives. Organic uses natural fertilizers. Organic is less expensive, not more expensive, than using hybridized seeds and supersized fertilizers. Organic is using year old horse poop to ensure that all of the impurities and harsh nitrogen and acids inherent in that horse poop are dissolved away by exposure to the sun and atmospheres. Organic isn't pure and sweet and nice and clean in pretty packages - it is simple down to the dirt productivity.

I know. I've been growing organic for years. I use a mixture of chili powder and vegetable oil on my plants to keep deer and insects away. I spray listerine around the porch to keep away mosquitoes; lemon dish soap and lemon ammonia mixed to keep away the flies. I use old horse poop for fertilizer, sometimes chicken poop (not too much - it burns too) and next year I am going to start to use rabbit poop, because I want rabbits to populate my new bigger greenhouse to provide the Co2 needed for greening up in the wintertime. Rabbit poop doesn't burn plants, and rabbits have other benefits like meat and fur. (Did a mental picture of Bugs Bunny just pop into your head? "Hassenpfeffer"?) Heirloom seeds, collected from heirloom plants, that are not hybridized, or genetically coupled with Roundup to keep weeds away, or genetically spliced with animal DNA to keep the produce fresher in the stores. did you know that Monsanto - the proud producers of those genetically altered and Roundup-enhanced seeds, test every cow that is slaughtered in the US now (with your friendly government's wholehearted support) to check to see what animals have been fed their 'enhanced' products - and if the animal tests positive, and the producer is not on their 'feed list', Monsanto sends the producer a bill for using their enhanced product? They actually bill them for poisoning you. Ooops, sorry, it isn't poison - it is enhanced productivity. My bad.

Can't wait to put in my chickens again. Next year, the chicken coop will be right next to the garden, with a "chicken moat" - a wire run - built all the way around the garden. This will keep the bugs out of the garden - and my chickens will be free-range. Do you know what that really means? They will be sleeping in dust bowls, scratching in dirt, nesting in wooden boxes in a coop when they stroll into it. Their eggs will have chicken poop on them. They will have good solid legs to run around on - because unlike the chicken you ate this week, they won't be stuffed into metal buildings so tightly that they cannot move, shot up with hormones and antibiotics, forcefed whatever the Ag companies say is the fastest producing feed, while their eggs drop unrecognized into long tubes and are rolled away.

As prices continue to rise, as fruits and vegetables and meats are continually being grown elsewhere and shipped thousands of miles, using more and more of that expensive gasoline, I think about my friends in homes in tracts where they cannot grow their own food, where the chickens and gardens are ordinanced out, and think about what is really going to happen to them. Daily I watch the trucks going down the highway, shipping huge loads of open-range fed Angus cattle to who knows where - usually to feed lots where they fatten them up for six to eight weeks on the high hormones and vitamin supplements and massive doses of antibiotics - and I wonder what is going to happen to folks when the shipments stop. Will they still be demanding the overpriced and overemphasized 'organic' meat - or will they, as some did in the '80's, be fighting over the last three cuts of green mouldering beef in the grocer's freezer? Will they walk thru Wal Mart whining that there are no grapes from Chile or bananas from Honduras or cheap seafood (grown in filthy ponds) from China? Will Whole Foods still be in business - or will their 'grants' to and supervision of their organic suppliers slow and stop, because it just gets too expensive and people stop buying?

Scuze me. I've got a pickup truck full of last year's horse poop from the barn that has to be worked into the soil for the fall crop of cole crops and peas. Gotta get to work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Sky Is Falling!!!

Where has everyone been the last six years? Ten years? Even twenty years? With their heads buried in the sand? Couldn't you see where things were heading, with the predatory lenders, the wild expenditures, the mindless millions buying things they couldn't afford with money they didn't earn? The war that has borrowed billions of dollars on our children's future earnings, the "save the world!" expenditures of shipping our military everywhere on do-gooder missions for self-and-country-promotion, the shipping of billions of dollars of "aid" to other countries for the warlords to take and sell and enrich themselves? The enthuiastic support of NAFTA and CAFTA and the North American Union, that turned us into a mass of openmouthed and openhanded consumers with pure service jobs, while the hardcore industry strolled overseas and produced cheaply made and expensive crap for the Wal-Mart mentality, 'if-it-breaks-I'll-buy-another' endless consumerites?

My first hard clue as to where things were going to rapidly go was - the TV shows. Yup, REALITY shows, that have no basis in reality, shows for bored and boring uneducated people who sit and salivate and even call their friends, email, and blog to discuss the "winners" and "losers". Nothing with any substance, nothing with any memorable lessons, nothing with anything that matters in the vast scheme of things - mindless entertainment that depended on the voyeuristic tendencies of the unwashed masses, who believed that they were a part of something that mattered. Pure passive emotional self-justufying ululations in a crowd. Yawn.

Of course the rest was simple. The gotta-have-it demanding mentality of the idiot woman who "had to" build her family a new home, because the brand new home they were living in didn't give her daughter a view of the park. The salivating of the spoiledbrat generation who wanted more and bigger and better - shopping experiences, new and different stores that catered to their 'eclectic' (read- mainstream yuppie) tastes, the woeful lack of appreciation and support of music, art, and the fine arts. The ignoring of the criminal acvtivities going on underneath their very noses, in their very schools and restaurant parking lots, while shrieking about 'criminal' activities (like chaining up dogs outside) that simply don't matter and are none of their damned business. Minding everyone's business but their own, trashing good and decent people with innuendoes and lies while worshiping and admiring the lowest common denominator. These sorts of mindless and ignorant displays of an inability to comprehend, to draw conclusions, to weigh alternatives and even differentiate between worthy and honorable versus dishonorable and cheap, indicated long ago what was about to happen.

People like this are easily misled, misdirected, lied to, and led down the wrong paths. They believe something is "good" because someone told them so. They don't listen to contrary arguments, even proof and facts, because their minds are made up and they don't want to be confused. You can blame the yellow journalists of media, but most of them are just as ignorant as the sheep whom they are supposed to be guarding. You can blame the schools that turn out salivating morons that cannot read or comprehend, and offer letter jackets to kids who can make a barely-passing score on the SAT.

Want an answer? Look in the mirror. "We have met the enemy (of the people, the country, our way of life) and he is US." Ya'll have fun, running about with your hands over your heads, shrieking about the end of the world. Maybe they'll make a reality show about you... or maybe you'll be on the six o'clock news, as another victim of your own making. Don't worry... it won't be that bad. Believe the pundits and the leadership and the bubble-headed bleached blondes, who are cheerfully enriching themselves at your willing and enthusiastic expense. Really. It's ok. Another saviour will come along, promising you the world, and that you'll be able to keep that same lifestyle with absolutely no effort on your part - and you'll believe that, too.

Funny thing, isn't it -Darwin's Rule always comes out on top. It may take a few generations, it may take massive upheavals, it may take a long everlasting period of gibbering denial and blinded-by-emotion ignorance - but the Rule always proves out.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Little Lively-er

OK, so this morning I tried again... only I went into it backwards. I designed a a room FIRST, put in all the cool things I wanted, made it cozy and warm and then played with my avatar.

Poof, there I am. A grey haired teddy bear in a big Western hat, sitting on the S-shaped couch in front of the fire.

Now to decide whom I want to feel welcome there. There's a copy-n-paste HTML code to embed in my webpage, but some folks who view this I may not care enough about to hang out with, much less invite them to the room. It's sorta like having a private house. Not like a lot of the rooms, that are open and invite every and anyone in. Sorry, not that desperate to make friends. Sure don't want to be a "sex" hangout, like so many freely advertise in ther room names. Ick.

I never understood virtual sex anyway. For one thing, I can think of lots better things to be doing with my hands than typing. For another, for me it is about the fulfillment of the senses - the taste, the touch, the sight, the sounds, even the smells of a partner. Since I am a bear, would that mean I would only attract Furries? Euww. To me, typing words is only teasing, not fulfilling. So I didn't put my room on the general visitation list, just to keep the bores and weirdos out... or, maybe, in, if you look at it that way!

So I guess I'll just have to send email invites to the people I like to chat with most. Maybe they'll show up, and maybe not. Maybe I'll be in there when they do, or maybe not. At any rate, it was fun to build a 3-D room with all of the little things that make me happy - comfortable-looking chairs, candlelight, a fireplace, a little music, a little food, coolers full of drinks... Even a large poster of a snowscene on one wall. Nice. Quiet. Wonder if I can upload a picture/avatar of my dog to lay by the fire or on the couch like she does here...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Not as "Lively" as You'd Think

So I went over to the new Google site, Lively, today. Just thought I'd investigate the whole avatar/private chat room/create your own thing.

I've made a couple of avatars for my Photobucket and Yahoo IM pages, had some fun with accessories and backgrounds and such. It isn't that hard once you get the hang if it. I thought, new site, maybe I can learn to make my own room, have some more fun, invite my friends.

Some forums and chat groups I hang out in, we go to private rooms to have private conversations about topics that no one else in the general rooms wants to talk about - politics, conspiracy theories, etc. I've even chatted with (people who portrayed themselves as) real Indians from India, even folks from Pakistan, China, and Iran and Iraq. I add that little disclaimer (portrayed) because on the Internet you can be whomever you say you are, and one never knows for sure. But I've gotten a lot of interesting information from people from other countries; people who believe a lot of different things, who come from various lifestyles and backgrounds quite different from my own.

So I thought I'd explore this whole Lively thing. Well, I picked a room that no one was in to explore it and the possibilities. To get into this room, I had to create an avatar. I spent a half hour creating the avatar, and when I tried to enter the room, POOF! it disappeared. I played with the whole create an avatar/go into a room thing for two hours, and never even got to visit a room.

Maybe it is because the site is new, or maybe because I was new to it all. But it was damned frustrating. The instructions and helps were simplistic to say the least, and answered none of my questions, solved none of my difficulties. So the two hours I allot myself on the Internet (6 AM til 8 AM) were shot in the wazoo.

I might try again a little later. But I am pretty irritated at it right now; the whole concept, the whole premise of "new, exciting, and fun" that was such a letdown.

Not to be prejudiced, but why was their big excitement on the Google homepage all about the 'addition' of 15 Arabic sites, backgrounds, wallpapers, etc? I don't mind those of Arabic descent - all whom I have met, on the Internet and in meatspace, have been intelligent and forthcoming, even friendly - but why the big deal? Makes one ponder...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Odd and Creepy (Update)

Well, I was right...

I talked to the daughter in IM this evening, and she WAS mad this morning - mad and hurt and well, MAD. Frustrated mad. Irritated mad. Hurt mad. Just damned mad.

Oddly, Hubby and I had been discussing one of the parts that was frustrating her (without knowing it was frustrating her) last week, and had pretty much decided to make a move to lighten that load a bit. So while our daughter and I chatted, I emailed a friend to help get things started in that direction.

I have always believed in action, immediate and swift and decisive. I don't like putting things off. I am lousy at patience and no good at waiting. So I wait patiently for someone else to come to a conclusion, or to make a decision, and bite my nails, and smile and sit and wait... the whole time it drives me nuts. Whew.

Pounce. Now let's get this ball rolling and save all of us some further angst. Maybe I can sleep later tomorrow, too; without some voice waking me up.

Odd and Creepy

Know what woke me up first thing this morning?

Hearing my daughter say, loudly and clearly, "F#%k You! " in her own inimitable way.

Except she is 1600 miles away, and hopefully at work (two hour time difference).

I guess psychiatrists would say I just miss her, wanted to hear her voice, but we have always had a close relationship. When she was under pressure at college I would "feel" it and call her. Now, it doesn't feel like she is in trouble - just mad - and do I REALLY want to get in her way first thing in the morning? Maybe you can tell, she has a temper?

Well, she didn't answer the phone, so she must be working. Of course I called her, and of course I left a message telling her why I did. Honesty is the earmark of our relationship. I'd rather she think I was nuts than to lie to her.

Rarely do I get all existential, but sometimes one just gets a feeling that one cannot deny... There are only two other people with whom I have that kind of bond... it is a pain in the butt sometimes, to awaken suddenly, or to suddenly put one's head up at work or while driving, like a hunting dog catching a scent, knowing that I HAVE to contact that person, right away; phone, email, IM, to let them know I'm thinking of them, am here for them. But even though there is occasionally a false alarm, I do it, am driven to do it. My mind nags at me until I do it. Sometimes I tell them why, sometimes not. Always I tell her why, though.

The refrain "Everybody's crazy but you and me, and sometimes I'm not too sure about YOU!" hums thru my head at these times, but like an obsessive/compulsive, I HAVE to do it. I won't pace the floor til she calls me back, or call her every 15 minutes, getting hysterical - but I'll wait to hear from her all the same...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

They're Never Really Gone

Everyone else has wrtten about the death of George Carlin...
I have to say that he had the most integral impact on my life of any comedian or pundit. He boiled things down to the simple, undeniable truth-as-he-saw-it. Other folks talk about Lenny Bruce and other comedians, but he was the first one that had any real impact on me.

Part of that was because my father admired him and owned every record he ever made, even bought his book. Dad was a news director for several radio stations, and a nastier, more irascible, more opinionated man you have never met. His friends worshipped him, and his enemies feared him. He never crossed the line into yellow journalism, bt always researched his facts deathlessly. He boldly exposed people who hurt others, and refused to admire people with the public pack. His friends were his friends til death - and his enemies were the same. Dad had talk shows where he brought on famous people and either exposed them or increased folks' admiration for them. I was therefore stunned that my father, who stood foursquare wrapped in the flag of his country, who pounded home truth as beauty, admired a long-haired hippie freak like George Carlin.

Why? Because truth was truth, and George had a way of making people see it. From his parody of "Al Sleet, the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman" to his "A Place for My Stuff" - George was an ill-tempered, irascible, grouchy, critical and angry, self-assured young man - just like my Dad. But instead of using the truth as a club to slay giants of public adulation, he used it as an ice pick - sharp and sudden, unexpected jabs into the balloons of self-deceit and self-congratulation that people inflated around themselves. Even if the balloons were your own, you had to laugh.

George's use of the English language to make his points perfectly and humorously, rather than scathingly and with killing strokes, impressed my father mightily... and therefore, me. Dad may have been my life's inspiration, but George was the inspiration for my own ventures into comedy - the softer, funnier, more lovin' life side of me. Dad was intense - George was intense and yet didn't portray the cold that my father wore as a shield. His humor made the difference; made me realize that the Irish deep, dark, and angry side could have a funnier, lighter side without losing any of its incisive observations. He made my Dad laugh, which was rare. And he kept the world in perspective, which was harder still.

So yeah, I'll miss him too, but not really. George is always with me; in the recordings we have, in the quotes we share - even my children quote him and admire him still. As a fellow Irishman, he probably has no idea of the impact he had on three generations. Also as an Irishman, he would probably have made fun of that impact, had he known!