Dozer, the bulldog

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

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...
The author of Mark's Work

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Crossing the Eel River at French's Camp

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.
Butter in the fly...

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To Each His Quiche

“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” the old adage intones. Being a SoCal kid growing up, heat doesn’t particularly bother me. It wasn’t REALLY hot until it got over 110 degrees. The day my brother Tom was born, on October 3rd, it was 114 degrees outside.

Therefore, Monday morning, long before the sun would show its pointy little head, Gluten-Free Mama and I hashed over my plan to prepare lunch for the HappyDay Farm crew. We had to have this discussion early because she and HeadSodBuster were sallying forth to Sacramento reasonably early Monday morning.
The thrust of the conversation was her educating me that a frittata was not the same as a quiche. Whereas I did not want to make a crust, I did want to make a substantial amount of grub for a hungry crew of farming personnel. So she educated me in the art of blending eggs and cream without using a beater, and she convinced me that this was all going to work out just dandy. 

I do have an infinite amount of respect for GF Mama’s kitchen-expertise.

I could have been satisfied to harvest my cherry tomatoes (forty plants) and my Aces (80 plants), and then go on to either processing tomatoes, or prepping the cannabis for the upcoming inclement weather. However, I wanted to cook because Monday is market day, and no one has time- hardly-to even eat, let alone cook.

I am not part of the market day preparations, except for the aforementioned harvesting, so I have the freedom to don my chef’s hat and whip up lunch. Because we have so many seasonal vegetables, I wanted to prepare something that centered on them.

A soup would have been just fine but I also tend the chickens, and they had been clamoring to get into the act. Willing to do anything to keep the girls quiet, I acquiesced, and had therefore settled on quiche. I still had onions from Irene, and bell peppers, zucchini (three varieties), garlic, cabbage, and green beans from the farm; I had some bacon from Lito’s pig and some organic whipping cream that I could spare; and most importantly, I had vast quantities of tomatoes.

The irony here is that the gorgeous, just-picked Ace tomatoes that I prepared and served for our lunch, were the very ones that I had culled out of this morning’s harvest, as being a tad TOO home-grown for sale at market.

There may have been some mild splitting, due to irregular watering, or there may have been a blossom-end-rot blemish. There were also a few that were sun-burned, those kids turning a bright white/yellow on the side facing the sun, due to over-exposure. The change in color is purely aesthetics; there is nothing wrong with the taste.

Once the blemishes were removed, I sliced a dozen or so for inclusion in the quiche, and for serving on-the-side. Almost every meal I consume these days includes tomatoes on-the-side.

Monday’s plan called for me to start gathering materials and preparing the workplace for action by ten o’clock, so as to have lunch on the table precisely at noon. I was especially pleased to know that BossLady herself would be gracing my table with her presence.

Imagine my surprise when, just as I was wrapping up the Ace harvest out back, I heard SmallBoy hollering from the back door, inquiring if I would like some breakfast which he was about to whip up. Instinctively, I thanked him but said I had already eaten, but didn’t really have time to say anything more.

He returned to the kitchen, and as I was getting ready to join him, I realized my plan would have to include a little room for adjustment. I am too much like Gluten-Free Mama, after watching her in action for 35 years: I like a pristine work station before I can begin to work.

Ohhhh. Kayyyyyy. That was not going to happen until after SmallBoy had first cooked, and then cleaned up the counter. I absolutely did not want to discourage him, because he is in the state of flux, rearranging his personal living space, so he has been frequenting our kitchen.

GF Mama and I are always happy to have this happen, so I decided I could amend my plan to include working down on the far left of the counter, on the far side of the dish rack and sink. Huh, working on the far left should not pose a problem for this old hippie, so I went happily to work.

I diced two onions, one for each deep-dish, ten-inch quiche, and then the bell peppers, green beans, zucchini and garlic. I had some cabbage left over from Sunday night’s roasted chicken extravaganza, so I absconded with a one-fourth chunk to be shredded and divided between the two pies.

Just about now, as it was pushing 10:30, Small Boy wrapped up operations and headed off to town, leaving the arena ready for me to blast off. Once I had finished grabbing said bong rip, and feeling sufficiently blasted, I launched into frying the bacon, sautéing all the crunchy veggies, and preparing fifteen eggs and the whipping cream.

I used a marginal amount of the bacon grease to line the pyrex dishes, as opposed to the spray that GF Mama had suggested, taking advantage of a better way to guarantee there would be no stickage. I then grated up a mound of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, the white kind.

It was past eleven by now, the original time that I had slated to put the two pies in the oven, but I was not worried. I was flying, in more ways than one, and enjoying myself immensely. I lined both dished with the sautéed veggies, placed a layer of sliced tomatoes on top, covered the ensemble with cheese and divided the eggs/cream mixture between the two.

I dusted a little more cheese on top of it all, popped both into the oven, and promptly forgot about them for 37 minutes. GF Mama had told me about 45 minutes should do the trick, but I had tweaked the original directions a bit to include a few more eggs, so I figured more like fifty minutes.

The second I had closed the oven door, I was running water in the sink to clean up my mess, before I started frying the potatoes. I had baked a dozen small-to-medium russet potatoes in the wee hours, so they would be cold by now, and I diced them and fried them in avocado oil to make them crisp. 

Since they were already thoroughly cooked from baking them, heating them on top of the stove took only minutes. I was so absorbed in cleaning and then prepping the taters, that I totally spaced the quiches for 37 minutes. 

Bounding over to the stove, I pulled out the rack and was amazed to see they looked just fine. I stuck a butter knife in the center of one, and determined I still had ten or so minutes to go, closed the door and promptly forgot about them for another fifteen minutes. 

I was frantically slicing the tomatoes to serve on the side, getting fresh water for the pitcher and making sure there were silverware, plates and napkins. Once again, just about 11:55, I cautiously opened the oven door one more time to see the most perfect quiches imaginable. 

Inserting the butter knife again, it came out perfectly clean and I knew I did not have to check the second one. 

Lunch was an unqualified great success as we made with the palaver and enjoyed the quiche and taters. Tobias asked me if I liked the San Fernando Valley Ogre Berry and I asked him if that was what we were trimming. When he said yes, I told him I liked it a lot.

“Just this morning,” I added, “I loaded up a bowl, took a rip and went about my way. A while later I took a second rip from the same bowl, and the planets must have been aligned just right, because I had to grab onto the washing machine to keep from spinning off the map.” 


Every so often I get complete lift-off and it reminds me to keep my seatbelt fastened until the ride has come to a complete standstill. As long as I am still hanging on to the washing machine, I guess I am good to go.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I Wave; Therefore I Am

With more than forty years of experience driving on Bell Springs Road, and with more than thirty years under my belt of walking it on an almost daily basis, I know The Bell well. If you have never experienced this once-upon-a-time-stagecoach-route, then you may not be aware that we are a friendly group of dirt roaders.

We wave at one another as we pass, though in maneuvering in tight quarters, one doesn’t always see the wave. Some flash the peace sign, others the thumb/pinkie ensemble while still others toss out a salute. The gesture, regardless of its form, is merely an acknowledgment that you exist, and have come into incidental contact with another.

Obviously, this also serves as a mechanism for determining whether or not the vehicle approaching you is local or not. My peace sign has been returned in countless manners; it has also been ignored a Brazilian times. What I had never experienced, until Thursday, anyway, is the brush-off wave.  

You know, the dismissive, yawn, I’m-willing-to-write-you-off kind of thing. Is nothing sacred? Ignore me, wave, flip me the bird, whatever, but don’t give me one of these, “Good. Lord. Now. I. Suppose. I. Have. To. Wave. Back. arrangements, especially if you are driving what could possibly double as a Sherman tank, except that Sherman tanks do not generally rock chrome. So much.
Like this...
No wave frequently means that the person being waved at is not a local, and therefore assumes he was taken for someone else. Why else would someone wave, right? No wave could also mean that in navigating the road, both hands were needed, but that would probably mean no wave from either party.

Or if you are some sort of curmudgeon, and you don’t wave period, then your vehicle becomes readily identifiable as exactly that: the unfriendly dude. But I can’t think of anyone like that, you know?

Maybe the guy who brushed me off is some sort of celebrity, and is accustomed to giving people the brush-off, in which case he probably would have ignored me.
Hey, I have a pair of pants just like these...
and a yellow polo shirt. 

No, this is comparable to the “constructo wave,” but with none of the personality. The constructo wave is the one where you recognize the individual coming at you, but you dread having to stop and actually make with the palaver, so you gun the engine, plaster the biggest grin you can muster up on your face, and thrust your non-driving arm forward as though saluting the Fuhrer himself.

In essence you are saying, “Hey there good buddy, great to see you, had a hard-ass day, got to get home to some ice cold beer-and my woman-and get the barbecue started!”

All in that one gesture.

But the brush-off? 

Ach tung, Chucko. Get it together if you want to call yourself a local in good standing. 

Otherwise, you’re just a loco.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Schadenfreude

“Five Videos of the Worst Intentional Hits By the Pitch” read the meme, as I scrolled along, Thursday morning. The teaser read, “Which pitch was the worst?” 

Fascinated, not by the idea of going to the link, but by the very idea itself of compiling this list of intentional mayhem, I scrolled onward, shaking my head in disbelief. “Why would I ever want to see that?” was the only thought my little cabbage head could wrap itself around.

I paused in my finger play for a moment, and it occurred to me that I might just want to voice that idea in the form of a comment. So I did. My good friend Wayne, even if he is a Dodger fan, provided some insight. In response to my query, “Why, why, why would I ever want to view this?” he wrote, “For the same reason people watch car races.”

Huh? What does baseball have to do with men in race cars, circling the track? I used to make fun of grown men going in circles, until someone pointed out to me that it was not much different from grown men trying to hit a ball with a stick.

Point well taken.

However, I still had the dilemma of figuring out the complex logic Wayne was employing. Why DO people watch car races? To see the winner cross the finish line? Nah, only a small percentage will see that. To breathe in noxious exhaust fumes, while guzzling beer? Well, sure, that’s part of it, but not enough. You can do that in your garage, with the truck idling…

Oh. Cars going really fast around curves, occasionally go out of control. On a particularly well-played disaster, a car will cart-wheel a few hundred feet, thus providing a whole section of the stadium with first-hand, graphic visuals, of someone about to go to the great pit stop in the sky.

OK, I get it; watching the five professional ballplayers get intentionally beaned, provided that vicarious entry into the world of pain-someone else’s. Better him, than me, is all they can think. I am prone to think-nothing, because I scrolled on.

I do not like to see others suffer, especially if there was intent to hurt. I can watch that every evening of my life on Channels 2, 4, 5, 7 and 11. Such the invitation but I have managed to resist it for more than 60 years so far, and see no change in that regard.

Nick then added to the conversation, “A bit of schadenfreude.” Ah ha! That certainly clarified that. Hustling to Google, a primary source of exercise for me, I discovered it meant to feel pleasure at the expense of others’ pain. Oh, the same as watching a car race in hopes of a crash.

Finally, David chimed in with, "Part of the game-since about 1750.” Managing to restrain myself from responding that Abner Doubleday was not alive in 1750, I settled for commenting that as the game is played live, yes, getting hit in the head is part of the game. 
Buster goes down.

As for viewing a replay of five different players being intentionally beaned-not part of the game. 

I am not a fan of violence. Buster Posey, at the top of my list when it comes to favorite players, was beaned on Opening Day this season, setting the stage for a disastrous season. Any reminder of that, I can do without.


Just as I can do without schadenfreude.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When de Sun Don't Shine

“The greatest thing you will ever learn is to love and be loved in return.” David Bowie *

This meme appeared on face/book early this morning, and I was immediately besotted, the words resonating within me in four-part harmony. The most appealing component of the saying is the part about learning: You don’t come stock with that ability, unless you have been raised in an extraordinary environment.

I have experienced this exchange of love and the result is that between the two of us, we have raised three fine sons. That is my ultimate accomplishment in life, right there, but one that could never have been achieved without the presence of love.
Little pirates...

Boys who are raised in an environment, in which the mom is respected, loved and treated accordingly, grow up to treat their significant others in the same manner. I know this to be the case because I have both experienced it, and provided a similar example.

Love provides the foundation for this to occur. The plethora of challenges in life can rapidly wear one down without this component present in the home. There is constant reaffirmation of this love, as two people work together to raise children.

In our home we did not believe in spanking; we believed that time-outs, chores and communication were the better route to follow. Teaching three boys, within three years, two months of each other in age, not to hit one another by hitting them, made no sense whatsoever.

Gluten-Free Mama and I complemented each other on our own skill levels: the things I could not do, she handled with seeming ease, and there were things that I handled because of my own blue-collar background, that balanced things out.

An example I have alluded to in the past, is the fact the each of the three boys worked at the Chevron Station in the ‘Ville, and at different times, each got off of work at ten o’clock. That’s ten o’clock when de sun don’t shine.

There is no way I could ever have gone off the mountain and driven to town in the past, that late, just as there is no way I could do it today. And yet, it was the way it worked.

The things that I did, along with Gluten-Free Mama, include infusing the concept that hard work never hurt anyone, and that he who learns to work hard in life, will find ultimate satisfaction with that ability. I taught them that money is superfluous to what is important in life, and that it is better to love what you do, than to work with the ultimate goal of making money.

Two farmers and a high school teacher later, I see community contributors, who work hard at what they do. This completion of the circle cements my feeling that love is the greatest power, and that to love and be loved by another, is the greatest thing I have learned.


* I quote Ann Clark: “The song “Nature Boy,” from which this lyric is taken, was written in 1947 by George Alexander Aberle, who went by [lower case] eden ahbez.” [Much thanks, Ann!]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I'm Living 'Til I Die

You know things are a tad discombobulated when I go eight days without posting. Could the recent solar flare-up have been the cause of the ungrounded feeling I have been experiencing, or was it just Markie messing with my head?
I have responsibilities clamoring for my attention from multiple directions, and the net result is paralysis. That’s what I call it when I am so overwhelmed, that I let my fingers take over, and I either trim cannabis or buck it off the stalks. Mindless, but necessary.

Granted, I tweaked my back more than two weeks ago, when that sheet of plywood got away and came down off the roof of the power shed. I was never really in any danger on the ground, but in moving faster than I have since Gluten-Free Mama announced that the chocolate zucchini cake was ready on my birthday, I managed to aggravate my lower back. 

Together with my surgically-repaired right shoulder objecting from my maneuvering the fifteen sheets of half-inch plywood around, I am feeling some late-summer blues, physically. Sitting at the trim table and watching the entire M*A*S*H series, all eleven seasons of it, seems to iron things out a little.

I should be processing tomatoes; I have to wrap up the power shed over at the Pepper Pot; I absolutely have to prep the cannabis plants for fall weather; and I have to figure out how to cope with the emotional maelstrom whirling around my frazzled brain, like Harvey and Irma together, doing the Tango.

It’s no secret that Gluten-Free Mama has health issues; out of love and respect for her, I do not prattle on about these matters. That being acknowledged, I sometimes find it necessary to upgrade the prattle to a ramble, and focus on myself, or that part of myself trying to contend with GF Mama’s illness. 

A short time ago, she was prescribed medication for dealing with seizures, the result of having suffered one a few weeks back. The immediate result is that there are the inevitable “side effects.” It’s not enough that she is battling the brain tumor itself, but then she must contend with dizziness and fatigue on top of it all, provided courtesy of the medication.

I am powerless to do anything about it except be there when she needs a helping hand. I watched yesterday, as she went to put some runoff water on a plant out on the deck. As she walked out the door, she lurched/staggered into the right door jamb, righted/steadied herself and proceeded out the door.

When she reentered the kitchen, I asked her, as gently as I could, “Did you just stagger-er, bump-into the door jamb?” It’s hard to frame this question in a gentle manner.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve been running into stuff all day.” There was a simple acceptance of the fact that this was the state of affairs. Coming from someone whose mantra is, “I’m living ’til I die,” I am not surprised. 

And maybe it’s that acceptance that made me sad. Does it do any good to get angry? No way, because stress is always a step backward. The last thing I want to do is be the cause of GF Mama stressing out. 

I had to cogitate the situation for a while, my fingers twirling little flowers with one hand, while snipping with the other, before I reached any conclusions. The conclusion I reached is that though everyone “lives until they die,” some do it more courageously than others. 

So whether it is the sun which just unleashed the strongest flareup of sunspots in more than a decade, that is responsible for my inertia, or whether it is life itself, I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I am the pupil, when it comes to learning how to confront adversity with both fists pumping. 

My money’s on GF Mama.  





Monday, September 4, 2017

"Put Another Candle on My Birthday Cake..."

I turn 65 today, a somewhat dubious distinction when you consider that short of dying, I was bound to get here eventually. Though the accomplishment merits little more than passing notice, time would appear to be temporarily on my side. 

Am I throwing a birthday bash for myself? Having gone this long without one, I am not going to start now. I am not a fan of the spotlight. Gluten-Free Mama will prepare a Mexican feast, however, featuring tacos, a pot of pinto beans and a Spanish rice dish, with zucchini chocolate cake for dessert.
One for the birthday boy, and one for the guests.
The zucchini chocolate cake comes liberally sprinkled with dark chocolate chips that somehow managed to survive in the pantry, long enough to be put to better use than my just eating them. All farm personnel are cordially invited to the fiesta.

As these things go, every six years or so, my big day falls on Labor Day, as it does this year. One year back in the nineties, I attended the Pignic, Black Oak Ranch’s annual music festival on my birthday, along with 5,000 other revelers. It’s remotely possible that about 4,950 of them had no awareness of the significance of the day, but that was their loss-not mine. 

On September 4th, 1990, I began a new job as a middle school teacher in the Laytonville Unified School District. 38 is old to be getting into the game, but I hung in there for 16 years before standardized testing forced me into retirement. I refused to teach to the test.

I started school my fifth grade year on my birthday, with the result being that I got sick at school, and the nuns called my mother to come and get me. That was the bad news. The good news is that I milked that bitch for three more days off from school, and finished out the week in front of the TV, getting more attention with the house and Mama to myself, than ever before.

Though I was in the Republic of South Korea for a total of sixteen months, I managed to time it so that I celebrated both my 20th and 21st birthdays in the Land of the Morning Calm. My 20th was spent in the company of my older brother Eric, and according to a letter I sent home to Mama, we consumed a bottle of Jack Daniels between us, and played hearts. I told Mama that we had a “cool” time.

I have no recollection of my 21st birthday, except to say that I was so short at that point in my military career (39 days left), I could sit on a piece of toilet paper and dangle my legs, as we used to say in the vernacular.
Taken in the hootch, in Korea.

No, in terms of accomplishments, I hold both October 13th (the day I was released from military service) and November 11th, (Veterans Day) far higher on my list of special days, than September 4th. That being said, I will still enjoy pigging out on tacos and chocolate cake tonight, in the company of family, both mine and the farm’s.

My hair is turning gray, and my mustache is pure white, not flaming red any longer, but that has not diminished the fire inside me. Luckily, though, I have managed to refrain from burning the place down with that internal fire, and confine myself to prattling on paper.

The forecast for today is 91 degrees, about fifteen degrees cooler than the past few days, so that should help keep that fire under control. That being said, I kind of like that fire smoldering inside me; it lets me know I am still alive and kicking anything that does the underdog(s) wrong.

This fire kicks my own backside, occasionally, but I have learned to take the bitter with the sweet.

I remember my birthday, a scant five years ago, a day as low as any I have ever experienced. With Gluten-Free Mama leaving the same afternoon, to go down to San Francisco for surgery, and me having to stay home and tend the home fires, we ate my birthday dinner on the front deck, and I was despondent.

Nonetheless, after having a kidney removed, along with a tumor the size of a grapefruit, GF Mama needed to be in a healing environment, close to her primary health providers, and that had to happen in Willits. Hard times ultimately softened, and the memories along with the hard times, and here I am today.

Never having thought I would ever make it this far, I am content to stumble along, and if I happen to make it once more to September 4th, then more power to me.

If I am lucky, today, the Giants will pull out a victory in Colorado, but I am not holding my breath waiting, or at least, no longer than it takes to blow out the candles on my chocolate zucchini cake. 

Here are a few verses out of the birthday song from the Sheriff John TV show, aired in SoCal during the late fifties and early sixties: 
“Let’s laugh and be happy, like a merry melody,
A song will make a hatrack, look like a Christmas tree.
When you look out the window on a dark and gloomy day,
Break out a smile and in a while, the gloom will go away.


Put another candle on my birthday cake,
And when you do, a wish I’ll make.
Put another candle on my birthday cake-
I’m another year old today.

We’ll have some pie and chocolate cake,
And chocolate ice cream too.
We’ll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I’m gonna do-

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake, 
And when I do, a wish I’ll make!
Put another candle on my birthday cake-
I’m another year old today.

Happy birthday, to me; I’m another year old today.







Sunday, September 3, 2017

"We'll Get Over It"

Disclaimer: The author wishes to acknowledge at the outset of this essay, that what is being written is redundant. Nonetheless, it must be written because to not write it, is to capitulate.

The wall? "We'll get over it."
Have you seen George Lopez’ “The Wall?” The man is a genius for capturing the spirit of what makes this country continue staunchly marching onward, in the face of hatred and bigotry. As horrifying as it is, the face of hatred and bigotry these days, is our country’s President, Number 45.

45 wants the world to recognize that he is the man behind the construction of the wall, because he can’t come out and actually say, “I am a white supremacist.” However, what he can do is build a wall that will do little to keep Mexicans out of this country, and nothing to remove the ten million undocumented Mexicans already here.

From the stage Lopez flashed that innocent smile and asked 45 directly, if he didn’t think that Mexicans knew about the internet, or even airplanes? The notion that a wall is going to prevent more immigrants from coming to this country, can belong only to someone of such limited intellect, as to make one gasp. 

Gasping aside, if the wall is not going to keep Mexicans out, why bother building it? 45 wants it built because it is an in-your-face statement that this country does not want Mexico’s kind, the kind that are not lily-white. 

It makes me want to retch.

How does Lopez know that there are ten million undocumented Mexicans in this country? It makes no difference what the exact figure is. Like George so quaintly put it, and excuse the vulgarity, please, but 45’s vulgarity begets more of the same, “It’s like putting on the condom after you have fucked.”

45 built his campaign on this wall, encouraging his followers to join him in his hateful ban against select Middle Eastern nations, the ones not doing billions of dollars’ worth of business with him, and expanding the hatred to include Mexico.

Never mind that migrant workers do the chores that ‘Mericans wouldn’t do, even if you paid them real wages; that’s immaterial. What is relevant is that Mexicans are not acceptable for the same reason Muslims are not acceptable: They are not white.

When I ponder the many uses this money could be put to, besides this symbol of hatred and racism, it saddens me greatly. Hurricane relief, food and shelter for the homeless and education are only three of these, but instead, we are building a wall.

At last count, and the number is steadily climbing, 45 has committed at least eleven impeachable acts. It’s a race now as to which will come first, the building of a wall to keep Mexicans out, or the building of a wall to keep 45 in.

I’d like to think that common sense will prevail, and 45 will lose this battle, but I would not put money on it. 


Hatred has no boundaries, especially when it comes to creating and erecting boundaries.