Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: He was a Giants fanatic and the best dog on the planet.

Ellie Mae or may not...

Ellie Mae or may not...
Snow monger...

Sunrise surprise

Sunrise surprise
Another sunrise in Paradise

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
"Let us be happy in our work..."

Christmas Day walk on Bell Springs Road

Christmas Day walk on Bell Springs Road
Dancing Girl and SmallBoy with Margie, Emma and Ellie Mae

Tomatoes are us.

Tomatoes are us.
we take our tomatoes seriously, here at HappyDay Farms

Much love, Shane

Much love, Shane
Shane, as Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"


Ukiah softball

January 27, 2018 from Bell Springs Road

January 27, 2018 from Bell Springs Road
No business like snow business...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Friday, March 23, 2018

Shoot, Shucks and Ducklings!

The latest ratings are in and you may be interested to know that our little rescue dog-er, ahem, our little dog-Ellie Mae, has made a remarkable comeback from that low point on February 2nd, when she had a fatal attraction to a flock of chickens.

How she achieved this, specifically, is impossible to pinpoint but I know it’s true. I know it because a little incident occurred yesterday that clarified matters once and for all, and made me realize that Ellie Mae is no longer “on trial” here. 
Zounds! Did Ellie Mae travel five miles down to the bottom of Bell Springs Road to meet the dairy guy and bring up some organic half-and-half? Through the shoulder-deep snow? Impervious to her frost-bitten paws? Just for me and Gluten-Free Mama? So I won’t have to cringe through the Creamora approach to life another morning?

Did she invite our flock of fifteen chickens to tea, serving them cracked corn and fresh cabbage leaves as a conciliatory gesture for her fatal faux pas?

Did she make up with Mr. Crips, the cat, practically unthinkable, what with the harassment trial only a few weeks removed? 

Actually, it was not Ellie Mae who did anything to improve her ratings-it was I. And what I did was leave her out in a freezing rain, while I puttered about in the workshop, making a half-dozen or so cuts on my table saw, for a set of cupboards I am working on.

Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!

Whether Ellie Mae is indeed a black-mouth cur or not, she shares many attributes, including an insatiable need to be outside and gallivanting around. That may also include cavorting, carousing and capering on any given day.

When the two of us had emerged from the house, about a half-hour earlier, it was still dry and a tad blustery. Ellie had been more than patient while I was assembling the cabinet in the newly remodeled laundry room, and the forecast snow had held off, though it was in the mid-thirties. What the heck, I had figured, I will let Ellie Mae have some play time.

With my headphones doing their job proficiently and blocking out the sound of the table saw, I was so immersed in my work I was unaware that the weather had taken a turn for the worse. I might point out that in my defense, I still have all of my digits, so I succeeded at my primary goal.

Still basking the glow of that knowledge, and clutching more plywood than was probably safe for a doddering old fool, I sidled out of the cozy workshop and into hurricane-force winds, and raindrops pelting me in the face-horizontally.

Ah, shoot, shucks and ducklings! Where WAS poor Ellie Mae? My ACX plywood getting inundated with water, never a good thing, prompted me to head the hundred feet to the front door, most rickety tic, hollering for my dog as I sloshed through muddy waters.

Propping my plywood against the kitchen counter, I scurried back outside, crushed beneath the weight of the world. How could I have been so neglectful? How could I have allowed my dog to be subjected to this frenzied winter storm?

Each dragging second was an hour in the passing, before Ellie Mae came bounding into view, ecstatically wagging her tail to see me. If I had possessed a tail, it would have been dragging in the mud.

How could I have been so unconscious? Simultaneously it hit me: Why was I so profoundly impacted? And before I knew it, I knew it. I recognized that Ellie Mae had reached that point in her life and in mine, where she was no longer “this cute, rescue dog.”

She was simply, my dog.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

If You Only Listen

All that is March presented itself at the dinner table last night, in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, as fine an Irish holiday as there is. Though we had the traditional [uncured, organic] corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and parsnips, Gluten-Free Mama roasted the veggies, instead of either boiling or steaming them.

The flavors permeating the air included the mustard sauce that she had prepared, and the brine from the beef. As HeadSodBuster put it, “I can put a mean one-dish spread on the table, but I can’t come close to the flavors on parade in this meal. Mama-made!”

Discussion centered on the seeds which had been planted in one of the hoop-houses, and that our first grandchild Ollie Mac was soon to make an appearance. Both topics dominated conversation while we dined. Dancing Girl maintains that she has inside information which puts the magic day as the 25th, one week away, and who am I to quibble?
Downed oak limb alongside the
newly-remodeled laundry room

The past three weeks have been laced with winter storms, one following the other, leaving behind snow and ice over the entire region. Remembering SmallBoy’s own arrival in November, back in the day, in the midst of a similar weather pattern, conjures up an image of GF Mama hovering down in Willits.

We had a home-birth up in Brooktrails, at the home of dear friends who were out of the area at the time. Rosalie was our primary mid-wife, as she had been for both HeadSodBuster and Ben-Jam-In, a hat trick of some significance, or so say I. Everything went exactly according to plan, as I am certain it will for Dancing Girl: Says so in the manual.

As I engaged in a little pot-walloping following our feast last night, the conversation continued to focus on little Ollie Mac, one of the luckiest kids in the universe. I say this not to diminish the accomplishments of all of the amazing grandmothers out there, but to place the spotlight on Gluten-Free Mama for a minute.

When they say it takes a village to raise a child, they have GF Mama in mind. Every grandma who has ever shed tears over a new grandchild, has amazing skills and life experiences to share, and GF Mama is no exception. There are parallels between her own arrival here on the mountain, already six months along with the HeadSodBuster, and that of Dancing Girl. This is an environment that lacks most of the common necessities that city-folk take for granted, and GF Mama has been there and done that.

I vividly recall being able to consult with Pauline, anytime, and how sweet it was to be able to get away for a minute, without kids. For GF Mama to be able to serve in like manner, would be as good as it gets. 

As for me, I have a question: How old does Ollie Mac have to be, before I can start reading Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” to him? Or how about baseball? Would it not be good to get him batting from both sides of the plate, as early as possible? Assuming he wants to, I mean?

And it’s never too soon to be talking about basic concepts such as responsibility, respect and the greatest of all, love. Pretty much everything else fits under this umbrella, and a kid who has these concepts ingrained in him by multiple sources, is a kid who truly benefits from the entire village.

I can’t imagine how cool it would be to grow up on a farm, tending the critters and having your own radish patch at age four. Have him gathering the chicken eggs and figuring out how to clean their quarters, but also have him learning how to cook the eggs later on for breakfast.

How fun would it be to accompany Uncle and Auntie to town for market? Math is applied in so many ways, it complements conventional schooling in compelling ways. For language arts he could be designing brochures for the upcoming market day(s), and writing accounts of how his experiences with the public went at the past one.
Watering the tomatoes...

But that’s what happens when you incorporate a retired middle school teacher into grandparenthood. I don’t want to frighten Ollie Mac away, because I will always be willing to have a helper, one who wants to help water the tomatoes, or needs help building a California mission out of redwood.

Think of the science fair projects a kid could do on a farm! Ninety percent of getting a kid to do his school projects, is simply getting buy-in. Kids ask so many questions anyway, all you have to do is listen, and he will provide any number of science fair hypotheses. 

March Madness surfaces in many forms, some of them on the basketball court, and some of them on the baseball diamond of life. This year’s version is particularly exciting, as nothing on the television can possibly match it: 

I get to see Gluten-Free Mama in the role of a grandma.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


I flap my jaws a lot these days about being a farmer, but the past couple of months, working with wood, have compared favorably to farming on so many levels, it bears a closer look. Both professions are physically demanding, both require a fair amount of vision and both allow me to infuse the creative process into whatever endeavors I attempt.

And oh yeah, both produce calluses.

After 35 years of no drawers in the bathroom...
they do not have to be perfect.
With almost everything completed in the bathroom/laundry room renovations, except for the flooring and baseboard trim, and the storage cabinets, I am trying something new. 

I have been assembling a miniature cabinet with six drawers, each only twelve inches by ten inches. Three are four inches deep, and the other three are five inches deep. The project, though challenging, has been quite rewarding, leaving me with the same kind of glow I felt last fall, with the processing of my tomato sauce, salsas and catsup.

I nurtured the tomato seedlings, up-planted them into bigger pots within the greenhouse and then relocated them to their summer abodes. I agonized over the gophers, I rejoiced when the water issues were resolved and I’m doing my best to decimate the supply of preserved goods, before I start the process again in August.

Gluten-Free Mama lists “drawers” on her bucket list, so that’s why I am crafting the miniature cabinet. The wood I am using is repurposed, the result of stripping the aforementioned rooms down to the studs, so there are some inherent challenges present in the project, simply because the wood is 35 years old.

The drawers rest simply on two wooden runners, ripped into three-quarter-inch by three-quarter-inch strips, and I attached some home-grown knobs to the face-fronts, also from the pine that used to serve as interior siding. The siding became dispensable-and thus available-because storage cabinets now conceal the wall behind it, forever. 

The threshold I made from a chunk of old redwood, from the
woodpile over at SmallBoy's.
Repurposing is also a key component to farming, in that I am about to start turning over the compost pile that I have been amassing for the past year. All of the weeds, clippings, dead organic matter from the farm, chicken manure, rabbit manure and everything else that would eventually break down into soil over time, has been added to this pile.

By moving this mountain now, one shovelful at a time and giving it another 45-60 days before relocating it to the beds, I allow the entire shooting match time to heat up and start cooking again, to carry the process forth into the newly-planted beds.

I am starting Ace and Heinz tomato seeds, primarily, though snow blankets the farm, even as I write. Our hoop houses must be attended to frequently, to keep the snow from piling up and crushing them, but snow does not deter forward progress.
All of the pine and redwood in this pic came from
repurposed wood.
When I write that our hoop-houses must be attended to regularly, I mean that the snow must be brushed/knocked  off often enough so that the weight can't damage the structure. 

Needless to say, I am not the one knocking the snow off of the hoop-houses; that would be HeadSodBuster and BossLady.

With my carpentry endeavors coming to a conclusion, for this winter at least, it is only natural that it be time to start the tomato seeds. I can do so, even in sub-freezing weather, if I cover the trays with the plastic covers.

These trap any warmth within the enclosures, to help the seeds germinate. Think of them as mini-greenhouses-within-a-greenhouse. When I complete the turning over of the compost pile, I will commence to work the soil in the orchard with my pitchfork, for planting when June arrives.

I work at my own pace and include frequent pit stops for medicinal purposes only, and drink vast quantities of water. I am grateful that at 65, my knees and my hips still allow me to be so physically active. I know that I am lucky to still be able to form calluses on my hands.

Otherwise, they would undoubtedly be forming on my backside.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tip-Toe Through the Tri-Tip No More

As paradigm shifts go, my reintroduction to beef recently is an 8.0 on the Richter Scale, the entire notion quite out of the question for an avowed, aging hippie. I have disdained the consumption of red meat since I emerged from the Big Green Machine, back in 1973, more often out of economic necessity than for any other reason.

While teaching I once went five years without so much as a nibble of any sort of meat, let alone beef. I also weighed in at 155 pounds, and had people asking Gluten-Free Mama what sort of cancer I had that was wasting me away. To save my life I could not have told you why at the time, but I could not properly digest beef, so I avoided it.

6-8 of these babies daily, nowadays...
That I was simply dehydrated, the entire time I spent in the classroom, never occurred to me because I need to be hit upside the head with a brick, now and again, to comprehend some of the basics. I remember I never saw Ms Stange without a tall water container-with straw-and instinctively knew that it was a smart thing to do, but still…

No staff bathroom over in our tiny middle school, made the trip across the elementary playground to get to the LES/LMS staff room, necessary. Let’s see how this plays out, “Class, may I have your attention, please?”

Damn. First time in recorded history that I actually got their undivided attention. “So, uh, hey there, I need to make [another?] a quick trip across campus, to uh, you know, uh, use the facilities.”

A hand shoots up in the air.

“Timmy? Question?”

“Yeah, Mr. O, I just wanna know. Is it like always? No running around on the table tops while you’re out of the room?”

Finally, the laughter dies down, though I take the question seriously and am able to respond that yes, it is like always, but that hand shoots up in the air again.
Water! Stay hydrated with water!

“What about the pencil sharpener. If I need to sharpen my pencil, so that I can work harder, is that OK? Or if my throat is parched? Can I get a drink? Of water, I mean?”

More snickering, or maybe it was chortling. Hard to tall with eighth graders. 

“No, it’s best that you stay in your seat until I get back. That incident last month, you know, when poor Billy was accidentally stabbed with a sharp pencil when you tripped? We want to try and avoid that. But enough chatter, or I’m going to splatter.”

The deck is stacked against teachers, when it comes to staying hydrated, but I am long gone from the classroom, and living it up. I no longer tip-toe through the tri-tip; in fact I broil the meanest tri-tip on the block. Since my block extends from the intersection of Highway 101 and Bell Springs Road, all the way up to Mount Shasta, I got this stuff covered.

Choose your weapon.
Because Gluten-Free Mama has a fairly restricted diet, I am on my own when it comes to cooking these days, and I am finding out that a two-pound tri-tip steak, lasts me for at least six meals. I do not even heat it up, because I have already broiled it to the perfect degree of medium rare, and do not want to shove it over into too well-cooked land, for me.

I still confine my indulgence to one tri-tip every month, and I finished my last one only a week ago, so I guess I better hold off for the time being. Though now that I have brought the subject up, I wish I hadn't. I am starving! And now I am facing this self-imposed ban? Arghghghgghghg! What am I going to do?

I could settle for a rib-eye, instead…

Sunday, March 11, 2018

When the Snoring Stops

We just surpassed the one hundredth day since Ellie Mae the rescue dog, came into our home. She has not replaced Dozer the Bulldog, but rather, joined him in a lengthening parade of pets who have each claimed a part of our hearts. 

Dozer, a kennel-bred, pedigreed, papered, licensed and registered rockstar, was Master of the Universe and he knew it. Everywhere he went, people kowtowed to him, acknowledging celebrity status and fawning over him. The Doze accepted it as his due.

He could be arrogant, aloof, indifferent, snobbish and a prima donna, and we would love him all the more for it. His comical facial expressions kept us-and guests-in stitches, fulfilling an oft-stated principle: As a farm dog, Dozer is useless, but highly entertaining, nonetheless.

Gluten-Free Mama and I debated the pros and cons of another English bulldog. Though the pros were obvious and needed no discussion, the cons related to the inevitable health issues that bulldogs routinely undergo, such as bronchial issues and the enlarging of their hearts. 

Bulldogs, originally bred to control angry bulls, have not benefited from the smashed-in-face, as opposed to the more typical extended snout. Dogs have infinitely more olfactory capability than we humans, being able to detect aromas from vast distances, and the bulldog is no exception. Still, over time, the path humans have created for them, gives the average English bulldog a lifespan of seven years. 

We did not purchase Dozer but acquired him for the simple reason that he stayed with us so frequently, as a result of his designated human being a Cal-Fire dude, that it was eventually deemed best for everyone (especially Dozer) if he came to live with us full-time.

I guess this made Dozer a rescue dog also.

Always regal
When we got to the point where we wanted to bring another dog into our home, we contacted Maggie from the Inland Mendocino County Humane Society, and after much back-and-forth dialogue, acquired Ellie Mae.

Ellie is not arrogant, aloof, indifferent, snobbish or a prima donna; she is sweet, anxious to please, accommodating, sensitive to my moods and everything we had hoped she would be. She is not perfect but we did not want a stuffed animal for our bed, we wanted a real, live dog.

Ellie Mae wants to go where I go, she mopes when Gluten-Free Mama leaves and she sleeps on our bed for the most part like a grateful middle schooler, at her first slumber party with the cool kids: She stays out of the limelight towards the foot of the bed, and doesn’t snore.

Dozer the bulldog used to sound like an ad for a mattress company. Imagine an English bulldog representing a famous mattress company! When the snoring stopped, I always took note. Though the bowser religiously got his twelve hours in, there was always the quick pit stop outside, to make it through the night, dry.
Perpetually smiling

Ellie Mae is silent, she has never once asked to be let out and she snuggles with me, instead of on top of me. Believe me, when you have 52 pounds draped over your legs, you’re not going anywhere except numb.

Ellie Mae drops what’s she’s doing and accompanies me to the recliner couch, when it’s siesta time, the way any dog worth her salt would do. She does not have a repertoire of different comical looks, the way the Doze did; in point of fact, her facial expression never seems to change much.

She’s smiling like a Cheshire Cat.
Who is the luckier one? Ellie Mae or me?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Keep off the Roof

This roof rule applies to me, and has been in effect for at least ten years, though why my family does not want me on the roof is baffling. I have a good track record, never having fallen off one, despite cavorting amongst the shingles on more occasions than I can remember.

Maybe a half-dozen years ago, HeadSodBuster brought a crew of four to my spot, to peel off the siding from the west wall of my home, and replace it with woodfu**er-proof Hardie-Board. I was not allowed up on the ladder(s) or the scaffolding, being relegated to providing water and moral support for those who were.
By moral support I simply mean that I provided a parade of Bell Springs bombers, in order to keep spirits high. These particular bombers are not to be confused with the baseball team of the same name, playing coed baseball in the greater metropolitan region of Laytonville, though the head bomber himself, SmallBoy, was one-fourth of the crew.

The irony of the whole situation is that never in the history of the universe, have I been so happy to stick to a rule. Those who know me well, are aware that there has been some inconsistency in this area, as my hair continues to gray up. I maintain it is simply the middle schooler in me emerging, the tendency to do the opposite of what I am told.

I maintain middle schoolers do not automatically do the opposite of what they’re told; it depends on who is doing the directing. I have also always believed that middle schoolers respond proportionately, to being asked to do something, rather than being ordered to do so.

“May I have your attention, please?” when asked one time, is infinitely preferable to “Sit down and shut up!” The reason I never had to ask more than once was because of the green book. The few seconds it took for me to stroll over to my desk, leisurely open and poise my pencil over the class list of names, for the purpose of making tiny check marks, is all it ever took.

“He’s got the green book out. Shhhhhh.” I never had to actually assign steps in this little charade; we had long since ironed out the creases in my classroom management style. If I were going to do battle with my charges, particularly the eighth graders, it was certainly never going to be about something as mundane as classroom management.
The culprit turned out to be these two elbows.

Rules were meant to be broken, said no teacher ever, unless he was referring to himself. It’s not that I LIKE breaking rules-it’s more of a gift, especially since it usually comes as a surprise to even me. I never know when that pesky Markie is going to seize control.

About that “Keep off the roof” rule, though? Assuming I have a purpose, there is no earthly reason why I should not be allowed on the roof. In San Jose I used to be able to step out of a bedroom window, directly onto a portion of the roof, in order to better appreciate both the sinsemilla and ELO’s Eldorado. 

The Drifters knew what was up, “On the roof it’s peaceful as can be; there the world below can’t bother me, up on the roof…”
Last summer when HeadSodBuster and various members of the farm crew put a new metal roof of the original cabin, I was once more relegated to ground control. Again, I was more than happy, not because I am a lazy fop, but because when a crew is involved, I try to reinvent my thirty-year-old self.

That dude was savage when it came to physical labor. All of my siblings are fierce workers, that ethic having been instilled early on in life. No one has ever had to convince me to put in my work hours. And for those who are admiring my remodeling job in the bathroom/laundry room, but wondering why it took so long, I say, “This is the first winter since I retired from teaching, that I have not had to spend the winter trimming cannabis, in order to make ends meet.”

There is one more reason why being on the roof is necessary, and that has to do with keeping the stovepipes for our two wood stoves cleaned. In recent weeks the kitchen stove has been smoking worse than an old 235, six-cylinder chevy, with a cracked head.

The kitchen stove pipe sticks out the peak of the roof, but because the design of the original cabin included a dormer, there is an almost flat roof that allows me ready access to this pipe. I have only to take extendo-dog and prop him up against the dormer roof, at the most fifteen feet in the air. 

Back in the day, I not only climbed that ladder, I did so with a bundle of shingles over my shoulder, over and over until the roof was loaded. So climbing an extension ladder to gain access to a roof is not a mystery to me. Possibly the only lesson that I have mastered as an old dude, is that nothing good ever comes from moving too fast.

Besides, if we want talk about risky behavior on a ladder, it would not have been Tuesday’s ascent to inspect the stove pipe, under dry conditions, it would have been last week’s foray far higher up the snow-laden ladder, in order to clear the white stuff off the dish antenna for the net. 

Of course I am joking; luckily there was no one around to say otherwise.

Gluten-Free Mama protested when I told her I had to clean the stove pipes.

Does this ladder look as though some
idiot has climbed it? I think NOT!
“Can’t you ask SmallBoy? I don’t want you climbing that ladder.” Though I was certain SmallBoy was poised on the edge his seat, awaiting my beck and call, I decided to disappoint him and at least scope out the scene myself. After all, only a few weeks ago, the lad had held the same ladder for me, while I made the exact same climb, for the purpose of wire-brushing the cap to remove some built-up creosote.

I did not think the build-up warranted the smoking and indeed, the little spruce-up did nothing to alleviate the smoke. This past week, with GF Mama in Willits, housesitting, I was not as worried about the smoke. That’s why I have windows and a door-to let the smoke out.

GF Mama, however, is susceptible to both dust and smoke, and I have done everything possible to do the heavy lifting on the remodel, when she was out of Dodge. The smoke, however, was omnipresent and that just could not be.

I climbed the ladder one time, the other day, and that was before I even started the job, to see what I would need to remove the cap. That way I could run the brush up and down the pipe to clean out the creosote. Once I had filed this piece of information away in my mind, hoping it would stick around for a minute, I started the job with the basics.

I separated the stovepipe from the stove itself, and then again where the pipe goes through the kitchen floor, and into the guest bedroom above. I had a six-foot section of the pipe, which included a zig and a zag, at ninety degree angles, so that I could keep at least a couple of feet of air space between the stove and the pantry.

Otherwise the stove would have been too close to the wall and a fire danger. Before I even examined this segment of the pipe, I glanced up the pipe still in place, to see just how bad it really was. To my astonishment the pipe appeared to be almost free of the nasty black crud.

Gluten-Free Mama was studying the stove where the pipe had just been removed, and observed that there was a lot of ashes and soot built up here. Simultaneously, I finally got around to inspecting the pipe in my hands, and zeroed in on another problem: The twelve inches of pipe between the two elbows, had three strikes against it: creosote, ashes and soot build-up. What this translated to was that I would not have to climb the ladder again. 

Well, not until it snows again, anyway.
My nephew, Jason

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Art or Dartboard?

My fifth grade teacher Sister Annunciation once smacked herself in the forehead with the palm of her hand, when she saw that I had again created a map, this one of the Liberian Peninsula, during our once-a-week, half-hour art session. 

The author of Mark's Work
“Why do you always making the maps? That not art. Why you do not draw real pictures?” Having only been in this country from Cuba for a little over eighteen months, Sister’s English was progressing nicely, even if I cared not for the message.

Surprised by the question I looked at my drawing, with its vibrant color, the boundaries of Spain outlined with deep red, and Portugal in yellow. I had shaded in the interior with the same colors, lightly, the colored pencils being employed parallel to the paper to efficiently shade in the entire country.

I had used black to print in the name of the capital and those of the major cities, and I had drawn the rivers in blue, the mountains in light purple. I had sketched a few imports and exports to one side, but only the surefire ones like oranges from Spain, or grapes from Portugal, nothing that required any actual skill to reproduce.

“This isn’t a real picture?” I had inquired, clearly confused.

No need to caption this: Cow standing under tree.
I had put genuine effort into it, I had stayed within my own drawn lines, and it was pleasing to the eye, or at least my eye.

“Every week you draw the maps. Draw different picture next week,” as though it were that simple.

“I didn’t trace it! It’s just that I’m not good at drawing other stuff; I like drawing pictures of maps. Am I in trouble?” 

“Arrrrgh! No, you not in trouble. But why not try different next time?” 

I had no frame of reference. Art was frustrating for me; some individual attention, or some basic how-to-draw-a-dog lessons would have benefited, but my class stood at 43 students. 

If that seems a lot, my little brother Tom was in a second grade class one year, at St. Martha’s, with 73 students in it.

I was not a kid who clamored for attention, not as long as I could conceal the book I was reading inside the geography book that the class was following. As far as I was concerned, any kid who couldn’t follow along with the imports and exports of Peru and Paraguay, and read Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” at the same time, was not worth my attention.

But that has nothing to do with art. 

At the advanced age of 65, I am still in the stick figure stage of my drawing career, as far as any reasonable attempt to draw or sketch. I have an ongoing goal of taking up painting some day, when I get the right tutor, so that I can learn to paint a cow in a field, under an oak tree, one that is recognizable as such, without any prompting from me.

I wrote recently about sculpting a rabbit from clay, and how affected I was by the experience, way back in the summer of 1993. I was so moved, I retired as champion, in my own mind, having never worked with clay since.

I have never played a musical instrument, though I did acquire a drum last August and frequently let my hands do their thing while plugged into my Dr. Dre’s. A little “Dashboard” by Modest Mouse, or possibly “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I need no tutor to guide my hands. It matters not whether my beats match those of the artist; they match the ones in my head.

Art defies definition; one man’s art is another man’s dartboard. 

Art is humbling by definition because it is so subjective. In my case you can add that art is humbling because it is also objective; a dog can only look like a porcupine or a possum, if it is Dali or Picasso who defines it that way. Otherwise, go fish.
In contrast to being humbling, art can also be exhilarating. It can be structured or it can be carefree and borderless. What I may find touches my soul, you may find repulses you, aesthetically. The amount of leeway within the world of art is comparable to that of the world of architecture. 

Whether you’re dealing with mud huts, teepees and igloos, or skyscrapers and basilicas, it all fits under one handy umbrella, just as art does. 

Now I find myself immersed in woodworking art, a curious combination of precision mixed in with variation, a tantalizing collaboration of left and right brain centers. In creating the log-cabin quilt that I wrote about in “Off the Leash,” everything was parallel or perpendicular to everything else, and yet the different combinations that could have been formed from 468 pieces of wood, of six different sizes, were infinite.

I spent three consecutive days of around sixteen hours each, to complete the 42 by 92-inch wooden log-cabin quilt, and am thrilled with the result. Comparable to that rabbit sculpted out of clay, the feeling is all-consuming and most rewarding, simply because it was so unexpected.

Gluten-Free Mama is enthralled with the woodworking, I am stoked to have been able to pull it off and the only question of the day is, what would Sister Annunciation have thought? After all, it’s still not a “real picture.”