Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Caught in the headlights...

Caught in the headlights...
The author of Mark's Work, at the botanical gardens inFort Bragg...

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Brought to you in Three-Bee...

At the coast

At the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Tomatoes are what's up. Sooooo close...

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
"You put your left foot out..."

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

Bells of Ireland

Bells of Ireland
My first time growing these lovelies....

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Are Your Fish Gay?"

Katelyn's arm shot up into the air as though jet-propelled, as I sauntered past the ten gallon fish aquarium located on the side counter of my classroom, just to the left of the sink. I was reading Tom Sawyer aloud to the eighth grade one lazy afternoon, drifting around the classroom putting out fires before they had time to get started, by the simple concept of proximity. 

It’s tricky to carry on a conversation-or write a note-when the teacher is standing alongside your table. I had the ability to stockpile a couple of sentences in advance, so that by delivering the lines slowly and with inflection, I could keep my eyes off the book, and on the class, for relatively long periods at times. Long enough, anyway.

Anyone who was contemplating mischief, who looked over at me and made eye contact, while I was “reading,” thought twice before doing anything rash. I nodded to Kate (not her real name, of course).

“Are your fish gay, Mr. O?” she asked in mock seriousness, her eyes blinking several times, as though willing her face to maintain its air of deadly calm.

Nine tines out of ten, I would have responded, “Great question, Kate! See me at 3:20, once we are on your time, and we can chat. Right now, it’s my time,” and I would continue to read.
In this particular instance, however, I saw an “Ah Ha Moment” flashing off and on in my brain, so I stopped reading and addressed Katelyn, one of my five anarchists (no rules) in this particular eighth grade. Interestingly enough, this entire crop was female. 

“Gosh, Katelyn, why ever would you ask that?” knowing full-well exactly why she had asked it. That morning, shortly after arriving and putting the coffee on, I had changed the colorful paper behind the fish tank, from green to pink, for no other reason than to present a different look.

“Well, their home is decorated in pink, now, so I was just wondering if that meant they were coming out of the closet.” She kept her voice evenly modulated, her face as serious as a heart attack, and most importantly, she had the class actually up and at ‘em.

“Got it. Well, Kate, this would seem an appropriate time for me to point out to you that what you are doing here, is stereotyping. You are connecting pink to being gay, and even if you are correct some of the time, it’s dangerous to form conclusions based on faulty logic. If I wear my pink shirt and tie, tomorrow, does that make me gay?” It was exactly the question she seemed to have been waiting for.

“I don’t know, Mr. O… Does it? Hey, I’m a poet, and I know it!” The class weighed in with an appreciative chortle, while I gave Kate the benefit of a brilliant smile. She had played right into my net.

“Am I gay? Rudeness abounds! It’s not considered proper etiquette to ask personal questions like that of anyone, unless you are close friends. Besides, that would come as surprising news to my three sons and Annie, don’t you think?”

She accepted my response with aplomb, her question having been dealt with, and I resumed reading Tom Sawyer. I could have brushed the question aside, I could have even gotten annoyed, but where was I going to get the greatest mileage?

I could go toe-to-toe with eighth graders bent on disrupting my class all day, and not gain as much as I did by pausing for one moment, sharing a smile that did not hurt anyone, and then moving on. I had similar experiences with all five of my anarchists, over the course of that memorable year, and I look back on those moments with special fondness.

The first year I taught, there were five anarchists in my class: four boys and one girl. Kate's class, as I mentioned, featured five girls in this role. If eighth graders questioning authority comes as a surprise to you, then you are probably not an eighth grade teacher, nor have you ever had a 13-year-old kid living in your home. Questioning authority is their job in life and some do it better than others.

Questioning authority: it’s a game either gender can play well, especially at the eighth grade level. That way, when we really need to question authority, as grown-ups, we will already know how to do it.
Are you ready?








Sunday, July 23, 2017

45ers

I’m not stupid but I am frightfully naive. I am just now figuring out why 45ers still support their fatuous mouthpiece, after wracking my disheveled brain for six months and a few odd days, trying to work it all out. 

And why shouldn't God bless the One % of
Americans who really matter?
These individuals yearn for a return to the good old days, when ‘Merica was white, we were “one nation under [one] God,” and homosexuals were securely closeted away. The basic human rights that I have fought for all my life, are the very same ones, which 45ers would like to see tossed into the rubbish bin.

I kept asking myself, why would these otherwise perfectly pleasant folks, want to see the elderly and kids punished, for no other crime than that of being poor? 

Then I figured it out.

Why would these otherwise perfectly pleasant folks, want to support political leaders, who blatantly, immorally and illegally continue to shirk their elected responsibilities to represent all of the people?

Then I figured it out.

Why would these otherwise perfectly pleasant folks, want to continue to support political leaders, whose sole ambition in life is to line their own pockets-and those of family members-with incalculable wealth?

Then I figured it out.
Oh. Boy. For. Us.

Why would these otherwise perfectly pleasant folks, continue to spew on about some ridiculous e-mails from the opposing political party, when their own leader-and his family-are blatantly, immorally and illegally, profiting from his position of trust?

Then I figured it out.

Why would these otherwise perfectly pleasant folks, be willing accomplices to the overturning of safeguards, designed to protect our earth?

Then I figured it out.

I could go on, but it nauseates me. It sickens me because I now realize that what I have fought for all my life, means nothing to 45ers.

They are content to see debasement, debauchery, degeneracy, degradation, and depravation, replace political correctness. 

I got it.

I just wish I could get rid of it.


Friday, July 21, 2017

To Oz and Back


If you have the dubious distinction of being a friend of mine on face/book, then you are well aware of my current infatuation with bees. Originally, it was the flowers that drew my interest, but one can’t very well spend much time among the flowers, without noticing the bees.

When I was a kid, I was terrified of anything that buzzed because I got stung a lot. I have been stung inside my mouth, directly in the arm pit, and up on my inner thigh, when I had the bad luck to have a yellow jacket fly up my short pants. 

The thing is, being petrified of the little varmints upped the price of poker considerably, because they can detect the mood of human beings, and they respond accordingly. If you are traumatized by stinging insects dive-bombing you, they will pick up that vibe. If all their efforts produce nothing more than a yawn, then they will collectively yawn along with you, while they work.
Laughing? More like yawning...

I am so fascinated with bees that I am willing to stand (sit, kneel, squat, bend, stoop, dip or pause) for long periods of time, without ever reflecting on any need for alarm. There are times when a bee will spring out at me from its endeavors, as though having an object a hundred times bigger than it (camera to bee) thrust in its face, left it less than thrilled.

I don’t take it personally.

By way of explanation, though, for my current interest, aside from the obvious connection between bees and my current profession, is that every photo I take, presents me with something different than what meets the eye in real life.

I never know what I am creating until I have moved the digital images over to my computer, and brought them up on the screen. I can then crop, or zero in on only a small portion of the original pic, even if the quality of the photo diminishes as a result.

I know so abysmally little about pixels, and what constitutes the correct number to guarantee clarity, that it’s just guess and by golly most of the time. What ends up happening though, is that in cropping the pic, I get a close-up glimpse of another world.

If I take a hundred photographs of a given flower, I can only see it from so many angles, before they all blend together. That is not the case in the world of bees, because I can take a hundred pics, and none will resemble anything I have ever seen before.
Pollen-laden...

The interior of a flower, blown up thirty or forty times the original, is like a quick visit to Oz, in that I am seeing landscapes unlike any I have ever seen before. Upon these exotic landscapes are mammoth, hairy, pollen-laden, winged chariots, transporting their loads back to the hive, before heading back out for more.

If it seems as though there are more bees this year than in past years, maybe it has something to do with more hollyhocks, zinnias, cosmos, bells of Ireland, statice, daisies, snapdragons, lavender, sage, oregano, cannabis, et al.

So yeah, I get into posting pics of bees like a meditation. If it annoys you, remember I could be one of those individuals who likes to plaster graphic, colored, edited depictions of abuse, anger and frustration. Blackened eyes, frightened kids, emaciated horses, abused dogs, and beached whales.

I could be posting photos of # 45, or one of those other creeps.

Moving right along, if I had to select one critter from the animal kingdom, with which I identified, it might be the bee. Let’s take a tally: I stay busy, I’ve been known to do my share of flying, and I am community-minded to a fault. I hate to spend time by myself.

Just remember that once summer is over, the flow of bee pics will trickle down to nothing, while water in the creek beds will go from a trickle to a roar.


Then I will be back to posting white-water, action photos, until I drop another camera into the drink. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Off With Their Heads!"

We had a film crew on-farm recently, an occurrence of such frequency as to warrant nothing more profound than a yawn. Of course, when I say “we,” I am talking about HeadSodBuster and BossLady, kind of “we.” The closest I came to the film equipment, was the snapshot I took during lunch, to prove that they had been there.

Chris and Derek were lively individuals, and were obviously enjoying their work. As I sauntered up from my spot for lunch, and introductions were made, Derek greeted me with, “I was just hearing about the origins of the farm, how you came up here 35 years ago and all about the roots of all this.” I am certain there was no pun intended.

“Great success! One of those rare times in the history of the universe, when the plan worked out the way it was supposed to,” was my immediate response.

We shared conversation over a feast, a decadent display of farm food at its finest. Gluten-Free Mama had shifted into high gear and prepared for our enjoyment, a banquet concocted entirely from ingredients grown and produced on-farm, beginning with two chickens that she barbecued.

When he found out the chickens were raised on the premises, Derek asked, “How hard is it to get the feathers out of those birds?”

A quick burst of subdued laughter later, it was explained that a machine now did the chicken plucking, but just so he knew, I elaborated, “When I was a kid, my sister J.T. and I were assigned the task of plucking the feathers, after Papa had plunged them into boiling water, not long enough to start the cooking process, but long enough to soften matters up. He would wrench the bulk of the feathers out quickly, and hand the chickens over to us for fine-tuning.” I decided to limit my conversation to just that, but if I were going to continue, this is what I would have said:

We thought the feather-plucking was kind of gross, but hey, we didn’t think it was too gross to watch Papa tie the chicken up by the legs, suspend it upside down, and then with one quick flick, as the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sing, “Off with their heads!” Papa NEVER butchered just one chicken; usually it was three or four.

The just-decapitated chicken would go off like fireworks, flapping its wings spasmodically while spewing blood everywhere in the vicinity. Nah, plucking feathers was really rather tame after the main performance was over. Even easier is picking up an organic chicken at Long Valley Market.

Besides, if we are going to rehash childhood memories, we would have to include details about rabbits, that I had long since hoped were buried in my quicksand-like brain. My brain is like quick-sand because so much enters it, only to get sucked down into the void, never to be encountered again. 

Now, where was I?
Rabbits! Mind you, again I was only an observer of life, when it came to dispatching the luckless critters, although my participation at the dinner table was a guarantee. My older brothers were assigned this task, and though I found the process odious, it was not so odious that I skipped viewing it.

That was then-this is decidedly now. Because I still have a choice, I bypass rabbits as eagerly as I bypass Willits, these days, as the town has found a new way to torture its residents. Three years wasn’t enough, evidently, because once again there are long delays on the main thoroughfare, and everywhere else in town, due to construction.

Fortunately, we needed Willits like we needed thousands of acorns in our water tanks, thank you so much for asking. In addition to the home-grown chickens, GF Mama prepared zucchini fritters, sweet potato pancakes, a roasted cabbage and bacon (from hogs raised by SmallBoy) delicacy,  and a cucumber salad in a creamy white sauce, that is now our new go-to cuke dish.

Included in it were garlic, sour cream, dill, salt, pepper and probably a couple more spices, and it was to die for. OK, the sour cream and black pepper were not produced on-farm. What was produced on-farm, and what got the biggest reaction, was some of GF Mama’s Stun-Gun, Face-Punch Home-Grown Catsup, a condiment guaranteed to have you salivating for more.

The entire extravaganza was a Gluten-Free Mama Production, of astonishing proportions, but was nonetheless what we have come to take for granted. With two more hogs, Pork and Beans, being raised over at the Pepper-Pot, and two flocks of laying chickens, not to mention freezers packed with recently processed meat chickens, we have much to offer, along with an All-Star cast of fresh produce and herbs.
Some of my best friends are cucumbers...

I’d say we were lucky, but only in so far as luck and hard work go hand-in-hand. We’re lucky that we have a good water year and that Cal Fire has such an exemplary track record when it comes to quick responses to local fires.

But hard work is what produced the ingredients to the feast, and hard work is what got it to the table. And judging from their response to the feast at the banquet table, I’d say Chris and Derek had figured that out for themselves.


My personal experience is that hard work, without luck, is more likely to bring success, than luck without hard work.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Call a Putsch a Putsch

I have to hand it to the Republican Party for being able to seize control of the government, without the use of violence. Let’s call it a putsch. I would use the more familiar term coup, or coup d’├ętat, except that there is no violence involved in starving poverty-stricken citizens to death. 
It's all so blurry to me.
As the meme on face/book pointed out, the Constitution anticipated that there would be Presidents like # 45, but it did not anticipate that a treasonous Congress would go along with his circus act. The Republicans, so desperate to seize power, are allowing an emperor with no clothes on, not to mention no brain on, to openly extort every last penny from the American public.

Not content to simply pad their overseas accounts with the blood, sweat and tears of the American working class, where minimum wages are being lowered, the Republicans have gone after the weakest and most vulnerable of all citizens: the elderly and kids.

Additionally, the Republican Party is circling the wagons around every conceivable source of revenue, no matter how unique, beautiful or cherished it is by the American public, and it has renewed with a vengeance its efforts to destroy the earth.

The rest of the world remains stunned, with criticism being heaped from all corners of this round world, upon the buffoon who continues to thumb his nose at all that is decent and right. He has no concept of the meaning of integrity.

And though I am willing to concede that dismal fact, I am incensed that the men and women who back him up and who are equally responsible, are not being held accountable for their actions.

I know it’s because the American public has voted them into office. I get that. However, in the past, when elected officials refused to do their jobs, they were held accountable. Not so, anymore.

Now, men in suits and ties, with pens in hand, have seized control of our government, and are sentencing countless innocent citizens to death.


And they are getting away with it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Only Two Things That Money Can't Buy

If I thought it would hasten the process, I would plop a lawn chair out amongst the tomatoes, and watch them as they ever-so-slowly ripen. They say the only two things that money can’t buy are true love and home-grown tomatoes.
Well, I am here to say that I can’t do anything about the first item, but I can hook you up with home-grown ‘maters, just as soon as they arrive. Like the Irish, I enjoy sliced tomatoes for breakfast, not to mention lunch, dinner and snacks. 

Salt and pepper is essential, but welcome additions include a little basaltic vinegar, some drizzled olive oil and hopefully some feta cheese. Cooked tomatoes, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste, cold-packed tomatoes, marinara sauce, catsup: You name it, we create it.

I’d say the ‘maters were taking their jolly good time, but that would be ignoring the fact that I did not get them in the ground until the first week-to ten days into June.

We had an inordinately wet and cool spring, delaying the germination process, and in some instances, derailing it entirely. I do not have the 120 Heinz tomatoes that I wanted, but I have more than sixty, so that will have to do. What I am seeing out in the orchard, right now, assures me that I am ahead of the game in terms of what I was expecting.

My memory of tomatoes in the orchard in past summers, as questionable as said memory is, has me pleasantly surprised at what is developing, gophers and all. Part of it is the cleaning of the water filters every other day, to ensure maximum water flow. 

Part is the ongoing effort to keep all weeds out of the arena, again, for the simple reason that water diverted to weeds, is not water available to tomatoes. Finally, viral defense of my territory against the land-sharks, submarining beneath the surface of the soil, and attacking my plants, is high on the agenda.

With the use of the traps, I feel as though I am getting their attention. This is no go-through-the-motions exercise; I am getting sophisticated as I proceed. My earliest efforts at setting the baitless traps were primitive, at best, with me locating the tunnel and digging a hole which intercepted it. Simply placing the trap in the hole, and tying a stick to the trap to keep the gopher from escaping down the tunnel with it attached in some way, I covered it up with a small piece of plywood and hoped for the best.

Well, the best would be a trophy gopher for me to skin and hang on the gate, as a message to the legions of other land-sharks, that I ain’t fooling around.

Short of that, I am pleased to accept the next best thing, and that is a cessation of the attacks on my defenseless soldiers. Only one additional victim has joined the original four, and that is what matters most. I am more than happy to give credit to the presence of the traps, but I must also inform you that I have upped my game.

Now I am digging a smaller hole, taking a smaller trowel and clearing the dirt out of the tunnel in either of the two directions. I next insert the trap well into the tunnel tightly, so there is no way the little varmint can bypass the trap, and again attaching a wire to the trap to keep from losing it down the tunnel.

I still have not caught any gophers, but I am holding my own on losses. One revelation occurred when I realized that gopher tunnels do not go east to west, following the same route as the terraces. No, they gallivant off in any direction whatsoever.

I have a theory as to why I have not lost as many tomato plants, proportionately, as last year. My theory is that the tomatoes are better cared for, while receiving more water, and are therefore better able to sustain the relentless attacks of the hidden miscreants.

We also have three cats now, and we have adjusted their daily rations to include kibble only. If they want meat, they’re gonna have to go hunting. I shouldn’t be in this alone. 

Besides, all I want is the skin-they're welcome to the rest.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Quick Karma


I once lived in an apartment in Covina, California, for eight months, without ever exchanging words with the folks who lived in the units on either side of us. A head-nod or a casual wave was the best I could ever manage. 

However, up on our mountain, though the nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile’s distance away in any direction, I feel as close to those around me as I possibly can, considering I may not see certain individuals for months at a time.

I remember back in the mid-eighties, when friend Richard motored up from San Jose on his BMW motorcycle, and when he came into the house from our parking area, he wore a worried look on his face.

“You know, you left your keys in the ignition of your car; you might want to take care of that,” he reported when he came into the house.

“Oh, that’s OK,” I responded. “We always do, just in case one of the neighbors needs to borrow a vehicle, and we’re not around.” It was an old line we first heard from a buddy who hailed from Oklahoma, but it still applied.

“The thing is, Richard,” I went on, “Up here we are so remote that we rarely see anyone. I’m not saying slicky boys can’t rip us off; I’m saying it’s highly unlikely.” In point of fact, we have never had any sort of unsavory incident, in the 35 years we have lived on this mountain. 

Hell, until 2010, when I added on and relocated the back door to the house, I didn’t even have a door handle with a locking mechanism. I still do not lock the doors for the simple reason that if someone wanted to truly get into my house, a couple of good kicks or a rock would be all that would be needed to break the glass on one of the panes of my front door.

No thanks.

Small communities, even the ones that are spread out in rural areas, are generally tight knit, an expression that simply means we have each other’s backs. Karma is karma; what you put out will inevitably come back to you. 

Sometimes, particularly in negative situations, it seems that karma takes her jolly good time. Are you listening, Karma? Number 45 and his henchmen…

That being duly acknowledged, let’s return our focus to the immediate present. During the recent four-day Kate Wolf Festival, a scant three weeks ago, HappyDay Farms was immersed in a series of water crises. 

You know, SS-DD. (Same shit-different day.)

Almost simultaneously, as these things are apt to do, we lost a 5,000 gallon tank of water, down the side of the hill, and we had two more five thouies end up saturated with thousands of acorns, from some industrious pack ratty sort of critters.

We’re still trying to figure out how the acorns entered the sealed tanks.

The bottom line is that we were in water crisis mode for a couple of weeks, during which time neighbor Rick, graciously and generously, offered SmallBoy the use of his pond, if that could be of any help. 

The most precious commodity to a farmer, offered in time of crisis, with no strings? That there is some good stuff.

Fast-forward to yesterday, all of about twenty days later, you know? Somehow a grass-fire was ignited (perfect application of the passive voice) over at Rick’s, and before you knew it, Cal Fire was on the scene. Almost within spitting distance of Rick’s spot, is our pond. Not all ponds can be accessed by helicopter, and Rick's was not.

Whereas our pond is still more than three-fourths of the way filled, having the water located below the farm, means we have to pump it to the top of the land, which explains why we have crises. We can only pump so much per day, via our solar pump, and it takes time to recover from water spilled.

Hence, SmallBoy’s need for water at his spot at the top of the property.
However, the helicopter had no problem scooping out the H2O from our pond, allowing HappyDay Farms to repay Rick for his generosity, in a way that will not be soon forgotten.

Disclaimer: Hey, it’s not like someone could stand at the water’s edge and wave his hands around, shouting, “YOU CAN’T HAVE MY WATER!” You know?

That being said, had we not spent the loot to put in the pond, the water would not have been available, and Rick knows it better than anyone else.

Whereas the situation does not qualify as instant karma, a few weeks having elapsed, it might be thought of as “Quick Karma.” 

Unless you are Rick, of course, and watching a wildfire go ape-shit. Then, helicopter with water = instant karma.