Saturday, June 27, 2015
Board Game with No Rules
“I saw your son on TV-he looked real good.” The words were posted on my Face/Book wall when I got up this morning at 2:35. I knew that Casey had gone down to Ukiah, Friday afternoon, for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s press conference over the Island Mountain cannabis raids, so I gathered that he had found an outlet for his message.
Wearing his “I am a farmer” tee shirt, he had set out to express his outrage at the terrorist tactics currently being employed by the state and county law enforcement personnel. Though photos indicate rampant disrespect to the environment and the number of plants is significant, the presence of armored vehicles and a para-military approach is absolutely unnecessary when confronting farmers.
Casey has gone on record as saying, “There is much work to do to build a pathway forward. Using law enforcement to try and regulate industry is like banging nails with a saw. We’re all frustrated; we need sensible regulations from the state of California.”
Casey and countless others have been diligently laboring to seek said regulation on both the state and local levels. He has been stampeding to all sectors of NorCal with the message that cannabis farmers need to gather round and gear up for the upcoming battle with Corporate America, for the right to continue to grow [medicinal] cannabis.
HappyDay Farms has a personal agenda that accompanies the public one and that is Annie’s health issues. Battling both kidney cancer and thyroid cancer, she has found that juicing cannabis has had significant positive impact, and she is has been buoyed by the thought that she can rely on the farm to provide her with this medicine.
Annie has no tolerance for THC and the juicing bypasses this component. I have no such compunctions. I tried Corporate ‘Merica’s solution for bipolarism, and it was ugly. I find that cannabis drags me out of the depressive abysses, and pulls me back down to earth when the mania sends me aloft.
I have reasonably good control over my illness because I am an extraordinarily apt pupil, and I was paying attention when I attended the thirty or so cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, but I do need the cannabis to help stabilize my mood spectrum disorder.
That the two of us should have to live in fear that our medicine will be confiscated, especially since the farm has been so politically active in the fight for legitimacy, is reprehensible. In fact it has accomplished for Annie what nothing else has been able to do: It has made her angry.
She has taken the stance that when the forces of oppression become too overwhelming, and our way of life is threatened, that civil disobedience becomes the most logical course of action. Anyone who knows Annie, knows this is pretty extreme.
When I asked her what this might look like, she talks of chaining herself to the big chipper which accompanies the task force. She has all of her paperwork laminated and clearly displayed on the front gate, which is locked for the first time in thirty-three years because she wants any law enforcement personnel to have to “break in” to our compound.
My sweetest of apple blossoms has her proverbial panties in a bunch.
The only way to compete with Big Ag is to establish the validity of connoisseur cannabis, so that just as the wine industry has been able to establish its legitimacy, so should the cannabis farmers be able to assume their rightful place at the head of the line.
In order to do so, regulation must occur. As Casey wrote, “I see a hopeless and frustrating standoff between farmers and law enforcement because we are playing a board game with no rules. Only it’s not a game. It’s people’s lives, it’s the fish in the stream, and it’s the future of our economies. One for all and all for one; together our world will stand, divided our world will fall.”
Annie and I taught our sons to question authority but to do so with respect. We are proud of Casey, Nathaniel and all who fight the tyranny of injustice, and do so for the betterment of all.
We call that being community contributors.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Jurassic Lawn-The Conclusion
If you have read the first two segments of this tawdry narrative, you know that I, obviously enveloped in a pipe dream, had knowingly planted and nurtured four lawns. Two of them were the size of king-sized mattresses, and two of them somewhat larger, but as is most often the case, size is not important.
I get it. What I saw as “WestSide Lawn,” HappyDay Farm Management saw as “Clockwork Lawn.” What confused me for the longest time was the fact that everywhere I walked on the farm, in every one of the different venues where vegetables and cannabis are grown, so are flowers. There are dozens of varieties, resplendent in all of their glory, both indigenous and planted. Many are harvested and formed into stunning bouquets each week, but most are not.
From the hundreds of volunteer sunflowers to the plethora of other ornamentals, all of which are watered through the emitter systems in place on the farm, I saw beauty around me. I admit that I struggled with differentiating between water used to grow thousands of different flowers, over two or more acres of tilled farmland, and a lawn that would have measured twenty feet by twenty-three, if the four little dudes were assimilated into one.
If there were a drought in effect that impacted the farm to the extent that I could not grow my lawns, then why were there thousands of flowers everywhere, soaking in water, when they could be pulled so that there was more of the precious nectar for that which was more important?
When the proverbial stuff hit the fan, and I staggered away from the unscheduled confab with HappyDay Farm Management, after the smoke had finally cleared, what I learned was this: Lawns were a cultural symbol of sorts to many, representing a societal level of affluence that was looked down upon by the powers that be, none of whom was me.
Lawns were verboten. "Frankenlawn?" Other than the obvious-to-everyone-but-me, it was also explained that in the past I had not responded well to being told what to do, and therefore, no one had wanted to tell me what to do-or what not to do. That included lawns.
What I wanted to know was why it never occurred to anyone to ask me, rather than telling me. I will candidly admit that I do not like being told what to do.
OK, it’s more than that; I won’t do what I am told. There, that was easy. But I will kill myself to please the powers that be, if I am asked. I don’t quite get it myself, but I do know the older I get, the less I am inclined to follow directives. Ask me anything and I’ll tolerate huge doses of physical pain to attain it, but tell me I have to do something, and watch bodies crash through the windshield as I hit the brakes. Weird.
So it wasn’t the messenger(s), it wasn’t the message itself, it was the method of delivery that caused me to sever connections that will take time to repair. They will mend because that’s the way it works in families, and hopefully some measure of learning has taken place so that we can continue to build on the knowledge that has been gained.
Meanwhile, out of chaos has come order. As life continues to weave its intricate tapestry, different events mesh and become as one. With Annie being forced to give up her spot in Willits because we simply can no longer afford the luxury, I was determined to create a space here on the mountain that best replicated her tiny backyard down in Willits.
With a little bit of help from me in the beginning, she had fashioned a colorful-though limited-flower display in her little yard. After nurturing it for more than two years, she had had to give it up. Now I wanted to recreate that spot so that Annie would feel more kinship right here at home.
After having turned the soil over in the three newest lawn additions, burying the grass forever, I proceeded to turn my attention to that original lawn, grown upon soil brought by me via wheelbarrow, back in 1992.
I dug up the grass/turf and piled it in the center of the area and formed wooden boxes around it, using materials scrounged from the back yard. I used ancient split rails, two-by-six redwood that had been formerly employed as veggie boxes, and four-by-four posts that were originally fence posts for the original stockade.
I have converted all of the outside homestead to emitters to minimize water usage, and am continuing to develop the area so that Annie has a place to sit and enjoy a glass of zin in the late afternoon, if she is of a mind.
I am deriving much more enjoyment from the creation and planting of the herbs and ornamentals, than I ever derived from the lawn, especially since it was always dried up by August anyway. As I have found repeatedly throughout my life, the most trying of times, produce the most satisfying of results.
Now, instead of “Draculawn,” we have “The Invisible Lawn,” and a great success all around.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Jurassic Lawn-Part Two
As scary movies go, “Jurassic Lawn-Part Two,” is not much to write home about, more like “Gone with the Lawn,” if you catch my drift. The whole matter was determined in a rather one-sided manner last September, with me on the losing side. At least that was my initial thought.
One of my more pronounced flaws is a certain naivete or even gullibility, if you prefer. I am often inclined to view life matters with simplistic sunglasses, or as my sainted mother used to say, “Keep it simple, Stupid.”
Though I consider myself to be politically correct to a fault when it comes to matters involving equality and equal rights, I lack the ability at times, to grasp the bigger picture on certain other issues. Obviously.
I use as an example the drought being currently experienced in California, one making earlier dry spells seem more like nuisances. This one portends a much different future for the average guy than in any other period of time. Those living within suburbia are closely monitored and those living in rural areas had best have their own source of H2O, or else forget about agriculture.
My family has fought the battle of inadequate water through three generations so far up here in Northern Mendocino County, and has now temporarily gotten a leg up on the water-war with the construction of a second pond on the property. As I wrote about in the inaugural segment of “Jurassic Lawn,” I had conceived this idea of carving out a tiny niche of civilization from the brown which is the color of summer. I wanted a splash of green.
My fantasy was one only truly achieved with the presence of a lawn, or lacking the spaciousness, a few small representations of same. I use the term “lawn” loosely because the second and third entities measured no more than seven feet by eight. There was barely enough room for two lounge chairs, side by side, on either of these mattress-sized “lawns.”
The fourth was eight by fourteen feet. Doing the math for my four lawns, (12 x 20) + (8 x 14) + (8 x 7) + (8 x 7), is easy. The four products, (240) + (112) + (56) + (56) = 464 square feet. That amounts to one lawn of twenty feet by twenty-three feet, or seven feet wider than the size of my original cabin.
That’s a pretty small bit of real estate over which to wrestle.
My SoCal upbringing entered into matters, but it was really just an effort to carve the smallest of niches from the wild, upon which to sit and drink a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of red at night. I went to great lengths in the summer of 1992 to upgrade that initial attempt at a lawn, a little odd-shaped unit about twenty feet by twelve.
We had taken out a bank loan for seventy large and bought a brand-new Trooper, our first four-wheel-drive vehicle. We had used the bulk of the loan to bring the house up to Code, much of the loot being spent for fees, and to have the septic system installed. We already had a very nicely functioning system built of a huge, buried redwood box and leach-fields, but it had to be engineered and overseen by the County, and that is where the big bucks came in.
In putting the side yard back together, I had wheel-barreled somewhere around one hundred and twenty-five or so loads of soil from the manzanita grove, a couple of hundred feet away, and mostly level or downhill all the way to the site. I must have wanted that lawn pretty badly, or maybe it was just a case of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Lawn.”
I wanted to carve out that little patch of green civilization from the brown which used to be our existence. From that point when the water tapered out in May or June, through when the rains returned in the fall, dun is the color of the land. I didn’t need “The Best Lawns of Our Lives,” so much as, “It’s a Wonderful Lawn.”
Besides, no matter how beautiful it was in April, by August it always resembled “Wuthering Lawns.”
Everyone around me watched as I meticulously prepared the soil for the second, third and fourth lawns. Conversations “may” have taken place, the drought and its impact on the farm “may” have been addressed, and I may-or may not-have been present during these alleged exchanges. One thing is certain, I should have been able to piece it all together.
This information and three dollars and fifty cents, will get me a latte at my favorite coffees shop, and nothing else.
When the hatchet fell, and it was pointed out that my use of water for lawns was frivolous, I felt like a dick. Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it before? Was I that out there?
Talk about “Silence of the Lawns.”
To be concluded...
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Humor is the salve that allows me to move forward when life conspires to puncture my ever-fragile skin, and then proceeds to grind coarse salt into the open laceration. A person who is incapable of poking fun at himself, is apt to find the going much tougher.
With that thought paramount on the reader’s mind, I present to you, “A Rebel Without a Lawn,” intended to both enlighten and entertain audiences far and near, though probably more near than far. And yes, I know the title changed, as it will do so repeatedly as we move through this saga.
Water is the nectar of life; if you have it, you enjoy the fruits thereof. We have struggled to subsist on minimal amounts of this precious commodity for much of our thirty-three years here on the ridge. Only in recent times with the construction of two ponds, one substantially larger than the other, has the specter of no-water been chased away from our land.
Coinciding with the decision to put in a second pond came the ever-increasing reverberations from the drought in California, making the move seem that much smarter. In a global sense capturing rain water to redistribute it over time, hurts no one, helps maintain the moisture levels in the soil, produces fresh produce for a grateful community year-round, and provides employment for the members of HappyDay Farm.
The ponds serve the agricultural needs of the farm primarily, but also the needs of two homesteads as well, one of them mine. When Annie and I relocated here in May of 1982, (http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2011/07/blue-rock-ridge.html) water was the main source of our anxiety: the less water-the more anxiety. Never did less produce more.
As misdirected as it may seem, the summer following Unc Rob’s miraculous development of the spring down below on my parcel (1984), which we pumped up to a tank above both of our homes, I put in a small “Despicable Lawn.” Why, you might ask, if water was so scarce, would I do that? The answer is contained somewhere deep within my upbringing.
I was fourteen the summer of 1967, down in SoCal http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2013/06/1967-or-fire-engine-red.html, and there was no shortage of water. We lived on a plot of land that had a large back yard, extending back a couple hundred feet at least from the street, before encountering our neighbors’ fence. Within our lot were towering pecan trees, unappreciated persimmons, majestic avocado trees, and many, many more varieties, creating a shady environment of an oasis in arid SoCal.
Our yard stood out because it was so different from many of my friends’ tract homes, which had postage stamp-sized back yards, with no room for anything other than the obligatory barbecue patio. Ours had originally been divided in half, with a huge play yard for the younger set in front, and the more untamed portion out back for the older generation.
I was in the middle, with three older brothers more than willing to make my life hell, but also willing to beat the bejabbers out of anyone who messed with me. It left me confused at times but that was to be expected. After all, I had three younger brothers upon whom to inflict the same set of familial expectations.
I was determined to domesticate that “untamed portion” out back in that yard down in SoCal and remove the wooden play-yard fence. I thus united the two in a sizable unit which I then proceeded to convert to St Augustine grass, transplanting little chunks from a small section in the middle yard, and redistributing it all over the whole premises.
For a fourteen-year old kid, who was also painting the family home the same summer, it was a monumental task. I was in no hurry because in SoCal there is no winter. I went forward with my task, even as I entered my sophomore year in high school and started a job at the local grocery store.
The lawn was everything I had hoped for; I kept it watered on a meticulous schedule, and reveled in its beauty. Ostentatious? For 1967/1968 SoCal, it was no more ostentatious than a family with nine children. It was how we rolled when times were good.
If that helps explain why I wanted a lawn, then fine. Call it “Alice in Wonder-Lawn.” For whatever reasons, once I moved up here and put in that little lawn, I nurtured it every year from 1985 until last September. I have mostly watched it radiate vitality and greenery in the spring, and then gradually over the summer seen it decline, so that by August it is mostly just an off shade of dull yellow, with a hint of green.
With the new pond in place, not only did I see visions of grandeur with my original lawn, which was probably about twenty feet by twelve, but I wanted to expand my palatial lawn holdings. Think of it as “Dark lawn Rises.”
“Jurassic Lawn” will continue...
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
The Time Capsule
You find the most interesting things inside time capsules, if you ever get the opportunity to check one out. I did recently, when my friend with whom I went to high school, paid me a visit up here on the mountain. John lives down in SoCal but has two adult children who have relocated to the Bay Area, one who has presented John and his wife, Brenda, with their first grand-baby
John and I graduated in 1970, so that’s a cool forty-five years ago. The first thing you think (I imagine) is, “Man, that’s old.” And that’s one point I am making. You can’t do this stuff until you are old; otherwise, it’s not much of a time capsule.
This particular time capsule contained memories, and those are the best kind. The interesting thing, though, is that John’s memories and mine would occasionally find themselves at odds with one another. For instance, he mentioned in passing that he remembered in particular, swooping me up when he was with some friends, and whisking me off to a Neil Diamond concert, one hot summer’s night.
Now I was a Neil Diamond fan, and John and I attended many concerts together, but I never saw Diamond in concert. So when John mentioned that little anecdote, I had to tell him that it was not I who went to that concert with him, since I had never seen the man perform. He was dumbfounded and even debated with me about it.
Then he got serious and googled the specific concert (“Hot August Night”) and came up with a date: August of 1972. Ah ha, I exclaimed, finally able to prove to him that I had not been along on that particular gig. Where was I in August of 1972, I inquired of him, and then he got it.
7,000 miles away, defending my country on hostile shores, in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea. (Actually, I spent sixteen months in an office where we cut orders for those lucky enough to be going home.)
I countered with a casual mention of a particular friend who I thought I remembered John mentioning had passed away. He looked at me in surprise. “Jerry?” he asked. “No way. He is still with us. You say I told you that?”
“I thought you did but maybe I was dreaming.” What I might have said if I were talking to someone here on the mountain, is “I thought you did but I may have been high on the s**t.” With John there was still that conversation to be had.
When I wrote “Scraps of Tin Foil” (http://markyswrite.blogspot.com/2015/05/scraps-of-tin-foil.html) the other day, I alluded to an earlier conversation in which I had expressed concern that my need to take my meds (a bong rip) every so often, would produce discomfort with my SoCal guests. I was going to ask him before he left how that all worked out for them, but I didn’t find the ideal opportunity, so I passed on the question.
Another huge bubble was burst when I found out he was not a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. I was flummoxed because we had attended several games together in the company of a big part of our social circle. It turns out that he had been an Angels fan since they arrived in 1962 and had gone to the Dodgers games because it was fun and that’s where the rest of us were going.
The reason why this revelation was so significant, is because it opened the door for some remarkable dialogue between the two of us, since we were fans of two different leagues. I admit I had been anticipating asking him [as a Dodger fan] how LA folks could tolerate the antics of Yasiel Puig, but when I found out he is an Angels fan, it made things sweet.
I told him that I had been impressed with Mike Trout and how he had seemed to possess all of the five necessary tools to be successful in Major League baseball. John thought that was great because he said that often fans did not seem to give Trout his due. We watched parts of a couple of Giants broadcasts and it was highly enjoyable.
The time seemed to fly past when John and Brenda were here, and Annie and I enjoyed the visit immensely. I had a thousand questions lined up, and I only got about one-tenth of them asked, so I know there will be a repeat engagement.
Down in SoCal, perhaps?
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Scraps of Tin Foil
I graduated from high school in 1970, was drafted into the US Army sixteen months later, and relocated to NorCal after I had served my two-year sentence in the Big Green Machine. In fleeing the San Gabriel Valley and eventually ending up in the northern-most section of Mendocino County, within hiking distance of Humboldt, I left a lot behind, most of it intentionally.
Mixed in there, though, were a couple of treasured possessions, if friendships can be considered as such. I have often reflected on that adage which proclaims that if a friendship lasts seven years, it will last a lifetime. I have many acquaintances but few friends in my life, but one friend I do have is John, with whom I went to high school.
We were classmates as freshmen and sophomores-acquaintances only, really-and then we became friends. The summer following my second year of high school, I expanded my social horizons, and I joined a group of acquaintances who started informally gathering to play baseball. Sometimes there were plenty of guys, sometimes as few as four or five, so we would play Over the Line.
A huge factor was that our friend Eddie had gotten his driver’s license, and could chauffeur us around in style, in his parents’ Buick Electra. Eddie had made the varsity football team as a lineman and he had his license, but it never went to his head.
And he smoked cigarettes, as his dad did. He smoked a lot. He was intelligent, witty and courteous, and now he’s gone, one of the few friendships I had that was swallowed up in that forty-five-year gap.
The single, thread-like strand that still attached me to SoCal, was the annual Christmas card that arrived each Holiday Season with a vibrant picture of John and his family and the briefest of synopses of the previous year.
Sometimes I got it together to respond and sometimes I didn’t, but the process remained intact and eventually the 21st century caught up with us and I hooked up with John’s better half, Brenda, through Face/Book.
I was baffled in my earliest attempts to reconnect with my SoCal brothers and sisters, to find that there appeared to be a complete indifference to the social medium, upon which I had come to rely so heavily. My attempts proved futile except for the most perfunctory of responses, bland and distantly polite, as though I were possibly a family member of a former spouse, with whom one had to be tolerant, but certainly not effusive.
However, once I was on f/b with Brenda, it was pretty natural that John and I would exchange emails. He tried to talk me into going down to the desert a year ago March, for spring training, so that we could talk baseball and reconnect.
I was cautious, perhaps too much so, and warned him that there was some significant gappage between the north and the south-that is-of California, more’s the pity. How much would it bug him, I asked, when I stepped out back of the motel/stadium every couple of hours, to take my meds, aka hitting the bong?
John worked with numbers his whole life, and retired three years or so ago, except during tax season, after being informed by his smiling spouse that she was fine with it, as long as he still left the house every day at seven, and returned around five.
Brenda has such the sweet smile.
Heck, I never would have figured John for numbers ever since we were sophomores in geometry and he orchestrated the great tin foil caper. Mr. O’Dea had found it necessary to leave the room for some reason and John quickly distributed little scraps of foil to all willing participants. Oh, we were so willing.
Upon the instructor’s return and given the discreet signal from John (a broad smile, slowly rotated as many of the 360 degrees that his neck would allow), we ALL smiled, revealing tin foil-covered teeth, reflecting back the glare of the banks of florescent lights in a merry sort of fashion, if you looked at it from the miscreants’ perspective.
When Mr. O’Dea fled to find the dean, there was a flurry of silver streaks as we all disposed of the evidence. Mine went into one of my shoes, and my ruler, protractor, and sharpened pencil were readily at hand, as I contemplated our pending fate.
When the door burst open and Mr. O’Dea, he of the beet-red face, came hurtling into the classroom, accompanied by Father Luke, there was nothing but the sight of bent heads to be seen. To a man, they were industriously groping with spatial relationships and shapes, hands furiously scribbling cogent notes and numbers for the sake of posterity, if not for the homework basket.
Asked to give him our undivided attention, we all complied, and when he asked about the tin foil, all we could do is shrug our shoulders collectively, and slowly shake our heads no, we knew nothing.
Oh yeah, we all smiled.
Next: “The Time Capsule”
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Failure to Comply
I have been “terminated” by the bigwigs at fansided, meaning that I will not be posting on Around the Foghorn any longer. I had a philosophical difference of opinion on a series of requests from the brass, and refused to carry out their wishes. When the bosses say jump, and you don’t ask, “How high?” then the time has come to depart.
I feel bad for the new editor who just came on board, because there are a lot of logistical questions that arise that need answers. Unfortunately he will have to contend with the issues on his own. I had promised to lend him my support, but I can no longer access the dashboard.
My conflict with fansided began last summer when the bosses sent out a demeaning email to all writers, specifying that a certain rule that was in place, was not being followed. In the future, the email warned, failure to comply (a favorite fansided phrase) would result in the piece of writing being immediately pulled from the site.
The tone of the message was pejorative and I took umbrage at being addressed as though I were some sort of subservient entity. Writers are not paid and that’s all well and good because they choose to do so. Nonetheless, being talked to condescendingly does not do anything for me.
Recently, one of the bosses informed me that he had an “interview” with Buster Posey that he was going to post on Around the Foghorn. When I checked out the article, I found it to be nothing more than a blatant ad for a sports drink, thinly veiled as an actual article. I was dismayed that this was posted on Around the Foghorn; I felt it was a slap in the face.
Then on March 27th, all editors were told to post an article on a March Madness promotion, which I refused to do. The demand came a second time; I ignored it. When the third email came out decreeing that I “comply” with this demand, I wrote back telling the bosses that I was not posting something on college hoops on a San Francisco Giants site.
I assumed they were going to terminate me, so I told the rest of the ATF staff accordingly. They responded in a surprising way. Instead of just being sympathetic to my cause, one of them suggested to my surprise, that we should branch off and start our own San Francisco Giants blog. This writer said that she was tired of all the negative emails also.
I was flummoxed. Before I could say China Basin Chatter, one of the staff had set up our new blog, twisted all sorts of knobs and dials, and gotten all of the logistical stuff in place. We launch this Saturday and it is all good in the ‘hood.
The experience at ATF has been exhilarating and I would not exchange it for anything. I love to write and am passionate about the Giants, so it’s the best of all worlds. As for the management at fansided, it’s their loss.
Besides, yesterday I received an email that demanded that all editors post an article on...”Game of Thrones.” Some sort of promotional, I assume.
I take comfort in the fact that had I not already been fired, I certainly would have been after I got done responding to their most recent ridiculous request.
That’s just the kind of guy I am.