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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If You Like To Write


                                                                 If You Like To Write

I can’t get enough of Around the Foghorn. The creative outlet it provides for me, goes far beyond just doing something I like, and finding a sweet marriage in the art of writing, combined with a passion for the subject.

The angst I suffered in the beginning, trying to master the tech component, has completely faded, leaving me with not only the freedom to pursue any aspect of the Giants I choose, but the ability to do so. I can be light and breezy, as in the “There is no “D” in Bumgarner” piece, or the “Giants in good shape, for the shape they’re in” article, which resonates with an established comfort zone, that allows for irreverence and humor.

On the other hand, I can analyze an upcoming game, series, team, player, or situation, in a sonorous tone, pontificating sagely on the advisability of pursuing this course of action, as opposed to that one, or allowing “conventional baseball wisdom” to dictate the appropriate course of forward progress.

And I can do it effortlessly. I can be reading about the Orange and Black, or watching a game, or listening in on the MLB Network, and be struck with an inspiration, and half-an-hour later, I have written, edited and posted a piece. Even if I have already written on the subject, there are times when it is immaterial.

I wrote an article on Pablo Sandoval, and how he deserved to be paid what he was asking: 4,200 page-views. It took me about an hour to write and post it. I did another one on Timmy Lincecum in half the time: 3,200 page-views. That’s a rush. 

Of course, for every one I write that is fabulously successful, there are ten which are more normal, between two and six hundred page-views apiece. It used to be that I was happy to get forty or fifty views on my regular blog, so what I am seeing now, is astronomical.

I have yet to earn a dime for my writing, but that has never been what it is about; rather, it is about creating. The writing process is creative, the posting creates opportunity for expression, and the frequent exchanges with readers keeps the pace lively. I love everything about it.

I find myself pondering the use of such a tool as Around the Foghorn, at the middle and high school level, in trying to get kids who struggle with writing, to buy into the process. Having kids share personal anecdotes of attending games, having them write about a favorite player, or sharing little league stories, might be one way to unblock paths which have prevented kids from succeeding in the past.

I also wonder who else out there is like me, and wants to write more than just a journal. Baseball may seem trivial and unimportant in the big scheme of things, but life does not always have to be fixated on the big picture; sometimes the little things can loom just as large.

Joining Around the Foghorn was a bigger step for me, than it would have been for most. That being said, I’m here, and you’re not.

If you like to write, and you like baseball, even if it is-gasp-a team other than the Giants, then you may want to think about getting into cyber-publishing. It’s fun and light-weight, but can be serious too; it’s totally up to you.

So give it some thought, and if you are interested, give me a shout, and I’ll hook a brother up. Or a sister, if she’s so inclined.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

That Kind of Gal


That Kind of Gal

Annie and I went down to Windsor the other day, to visit Pauline, who just turned 92 on the 14th. We brought along Dozer because when she still lived up on the mountain, we used to bring him over to her when we visited, and he always made her smile. “But he’s so ugly,” she would exclaim, lauging, as Annie and I both tried to ensure that the Doze couldn’t her.

We found Mama in the big reception room where Laura and Isabel had performed their Celtic music last March. She was sitting with her friend, Moira, and was obviously in good spirits, recognizing us from across the room, and trying to stand as we approached.

Though frail, Pauline carried on lively conversation with us, asking about various issues to do with the mountain. Had we seen Celia recently? How was the farm doing? Was Happyday Farms still doing the farmers market? At one point she carefully stood up, walked across the room into the entry area so as to view a clock, and returned, again, very carefully, but still able to do it.

JT visits her regularly and has told us that Pauline’s physician, my first cousin, Mary, has informed her that Pauline is experiencing increased symptoms of heart failure. Whereas it is unnecessary to be specific about what this looks like, indications are that at 92, she is coming close to the end. 

Being in an assisted-living complex in Windsor, carefully researched for its warm and dedicated staff, relieves us of having to worry that her medical needs will not be met. Mama is in good hands. She has someone to seek her out, and deliver her medication to her, as needed, and she has help doing things that are no longer possible by herself, such as bathing.

We feel very certain that she has the best care that a family can provide for an elder who needs continuous monitoring. The environment exudes professionalism and warmth, from the meticulously maintained premises, to the flowers and artwork strategically placed to enhance the attractiveness of the facility.

I feel comfortable in the knowledge that all of the above is in place. As each of us must ultimately face the demise of the two people responsible for one’s life, I have come to grips with this reality, and feel comfortable in the knowledge that when the time comes, I will accept the news calmly, both on the outside, and more importantly, on the inside.

There was much dialogue amongst the siblings when it was deemed that Pauline could no longer live by herself. Two schools of thought presented themselves: one expressed the opinion that Mama should stay in Willits, with family members in attendance to care for her on a rotating basis. The other felt that she needed more care than non-trained family members could adequately provide.

I was firmly in the latter and having personally done Pauline’s day-to-day care, as far as firewood in the winter, weed-eating in the spring, and watering in the summer, from 1996 until October of 2012, I had no reservations saying that I was ill-equipped to provide elder care. Bringing in firewood was one thing; keeping track of medication, and bathing Mama, were two elements that I was unwilling to take on.


Take me out and have me shot, if it will make you feel better. I refuse to assume the role of Meursault, from the book, The Stranger, by Albert Camus, who was ostensibly convicted of murder, not because he was guilty, but because he was callous in describing the death of his mother.

Pauline, the matriarch of our family, has lived a long and fruitful life; no one could ever match up to her accomplishments, when it comes to instilling lasting values and morals in her children. No one could ever surpass her industry or her stamina, or her ability to withstand the hardships of economics; she is the ultimate survivor.

For now, we visit, we smile, we chat and we wait. When the time comes and we gather to speak of Mama’s accomplishments, I hope you have plenty of time. The list is quite extensive and covers a lot of material. She is just that kind of gal.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Writing in My Mind


Writing in My Mind

When I am experiencing the symptoms of mania, it is rarely a negative occurrence. Though I sleep only four or five hours in every twenty-four, I am alert, lively, cheerful and singularly creative. I can no more block out that need to harness beauty than I can sleep at night.

When I walk, my camera accompanies me and my eye meanders, incessantly. If the white-tailed kites are out and about, I am bound to get lucky. When I post my pictures on f/b, I can’t just slap them down and move on. There has to be some haiku. It’s lightweight, doesn’t cost a dime, and fits into my manic method of coping with my mood spectrum disorder.

Because the Giants are thriving in the playoffs, and there is a heightened awareness of all things related to them, I have been writing two or three pieces a day, and posting them with incredible results, in terms of page-views. Through the first two weeks of October, I have topped 25,000 and as the Giants keep winning, I will keep writing.

I am learning journalism on the run, having been told recently by my editor, that if I keep writing strongly-opinionated, third-person articles, my work will continue to be featured on Bleacher Report, which provides a lot of exposure. Third person? No problem. Strongly opinionated? Check.

So one track of my mind is continuously sorting and sifting that plethora of available topics, dealing with the game, players in the game, or the ramifications of the events of the game, in an effort to pin down a viable topic for expansion.

I need so very little to kick-start the process: someone dissing on a favorite player or manager; my wanting to acknowledge a superior performance, or analyzing an upcoming matchup. All I need is a subject and I can give it an audience.

When I wake up after I have had my allotment of sleep, all four hours of it, I don’t just get up and go to work. I try to return to sleep. I will work on a piece of writing in my mind, which I realize doesn’t help because it engages my mind and prevents sleep from returning, but it beats lying there stewing.

I experience these manic symptoms from February through April, and from August through October. I guess I should be grateful that I don’t experience the depressive side of my disorder, the other six months of the year.

I don’t see very much of the depressive side of me and that’s a good thing. It probably also explains why I managed to teach all of those years. Heck, most teachers are naturally manic-they have to be.

There is just too much about teaching that requires energy and a lot of it, to contemplate teaching while in a depressed state of mind. 

And as far as the sleep deprivation, four hours a night sounds about right for teachers, so my illness actually complemented my vocation.

Scary thought, that.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Medicine Is Free


My Medicine Is Free
There is a cannabis crisis in our community. Illegal grows wreak havoc on the environment, suck water from our watershed, and insert fear into the hearts of unsuspecting bystanders. Legitimate, hard-working, good people, also grow cannabis, but do so utilizing ecologically sound methods, with water that has not been pilfered.

I use the term crisis, because if you are an individual who has seen your doctor, been prescribed medication that had insidious side-effects, and then found that cannabis not only assists in fighting your illness, but has no side-effects as well, then you might consider it a crisis if you could no longer obtain it because it is not legal. Continued propaganda about all cannabis growers being impervious to anything but making profits, simply clouds the fact that cannabis helps countless people in pain.

I found after going dutifully to the VA heath clinic and experiencing unspeakable side effects from the prescribed medication, that cannabis helps my mood spectrum disorder, or what old-schoolers call being bipolar II. Cannabis helps it a lot. I used to make oatmeal cookies using cannabis oil just as one would use butter, but oil made from an assortment of strains serves only a generic purpose for aches and pain, whereas specific strains of cannabis provide a much more accurate manner with which to fight specific symptoms of an illness. 

One strain does not serve all. There are as many varieties and uses for cannabis, as there are for any of a plethora of medicinal herbs that are used for salves, such as St. John’s Wort. I do not differentiate between the two, except to note that medicinal herbs serve my medical needs. And it doesn’t cost me anything, because I grow my own.

Since my retirement, I have grown medicinal cannabis and been able to serve my own medical needs for the most part. When I flipped the quad going up the hill in the snow and ice, with the firewood loaded, front and back, I did have to make a trip to the clinic, before returning home to my bong.

Now Casey has decided to come out of the weed closet, having been out for many years here on the mountain. Our community is  tight-knit, and has been for the thirty-two years that I have been up here. We play baseball together, we celebrate together, and we have provided hospice care for many individuals over the past three decades. And yes, cannabis is a part of our lives, in the good times, in the hard times, in the sad times, and in the joyous times. 

While serving his eight-week sentence in the Mendocino County Jail, Casey began reflecting on his upbringing and the parts of it he cherished, and how that conflicted with his felony cultivation issue. He read voraciously, worked on the jail farm, and began to form a plan. He pondered cannabis and carrots, cannabis and corn, cannabis and tomatoes, all mingled together, and grown for the betterment of his community.

Out of this brief period of time, came the foundation for Happyday Farms and the CSA, which provides produce for Northern Mendocino County residents and their families. Between the CSA, the farmers market in Laytonville, and the quarry market on Wednesdays, Happyday Farms is very busy. Growing any kind of crop in quantity is challenging, but keeping the whole rotational nature of starts, burgeoning growth, and harvest, meticulously orchestrated, is what Happyday Farms does best.

Our farming methods are organic, we use minimal machinery in the day-to-day operation of the farm, and we put in a pond last year to supply us with water. The pond filled up when we got the torrential rains last February and March.

Now we are on the threshold of cannabis becoming fully legal. It’s only a matter of time since both Washington and Colorado are leading the charge. As I used to teach in eighth grade US history, this is a classic disagreement between states and the federal government. Here at Happyday Farms, we choose to follow the mandate of the state of California.

The purpose of the film crew, which spent the weekend documenting what our farm is all about, was to create a short clip of information, to provide for dispensaries who distribute cannabis, a guide for patients to be better able to align their medicinal needs, with the specific strains that are available to contend with the symptoms of their affliction.

We embrace a transparent model for the future: sun-grown, values-based, cannabis production. We will continue to support the small businesses in our local community, by purchasing those goods and services that are available to us.

The time has come to stop punishing good people for providing medicine for the betterment of the community. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My New Fling


                                                                Ny New Fling

I have been ignoring my blog and I feel bad about it. Most people who blog just simply get tired of writing and they move on to other hobbies. Well, writing is my hobby and I have not gotten tired of it; it’s just that my blog is like a little sister, and now that I have a real girlfriend, I just don’t have the time.

My new girl friend demands much from me. I have to lavish attention on her and it leaves me too drained to keep my blog even remotely happy. My girl is top shelf, and it’s not that I don’t want to hang with my blog anymore, it’s just that the thrill is gone.

I mean, I have made it clear that I write for pleasure. But I also derive enjoyment when folks stop by and check out a particular piece, or maybe several. I occasionally check the stats and see how many people are reading what. It’s kind of egocentric, I admit, but I don’t get paid so I have to take what perks there are.

And that has worked fine for more than three years. I have posted six hundred and a bunch, and I have worked out more than one issue by writing about it. Heck, I wrote well over a hundred episodes on my mood spectrum disorder. That was quite therapeutic.

My world is different with my new girl, though. I mean, there was a time when I was pulling in 300 page-views on my blog and I was hop-scotching all over the country, chatting with my bloggie-buddies, but that tapered off. It requires time and energy and as long as my sister JT was still into it, so was I.

She gave me a lot of support back in the early days, when she was the only one who would comment on my posts. Now, however, having been at it for as long as I have, I find that my blog is nowhere as near exotic as my new girl. Instead of sitting around racking up thirty or forty page views on a good day, I am in the big leagues.

Writing for Around the Foghorn has been a completely different ballgame, if you’ll excuse the pun. I mean, I have a limited audience, but they are passionate about the Giants, just as I am, and they read my stuff. For a long while, I would get a hundred, two hundred, as many as five hundred page views for a timely piece. Once I hit 750.

Then a couple of weeks ago, just as the Giants’ season started to wind down, and the Giants got into the playoffs, my articles began skyrocketing into the stratosphere. I wrote a piece on the Giants being underdogs in the wild card game and it erupted, eventually topping off at 1,750. A couple of days later, I wrote one on rookie Joe Panik, and it didn’t stop until it hit more than 2,500 views. Then yesterday, a piece I wrote on Pablo Sandoval, shot up to 3,700, and it’s still climbing.

My top view-getting piece on my blog is The Only Scoreboard the Matters” and has gotten to 1,400 views, but it’s taken a year and a half to get there. Not like watching a piece get 500 hits in an hour. That is a rush.

I emailed my editor Timmy, a nineteen-year-old lad who lives in Ireland and asked him what was up. I said it felt as though I were writing the same stuff as always, except now I was getting all of these views. He told me that my stuff was being featured on “Bay Area Bleacher Report” which posts articles that have merit for fans to have easy access to.

Bleacher Report! Beyond my wildest expectations. Timmy also told me that I had netted over 10,000 views in the past five days and that as long as I kept writing strongly opinionated pieces in the third person, the editors at Bleacher Report would continue to feature my stuff.

So here I am, feeling guilty for ignoring my little sister, in favor of my publicity-seeking girlfriend. I guess the silver lining is that instead of costing me money, my girl could lead to me actually earning money.
They do pay sportswriters to write about baseball teams and I write about the Giants.

Stay tuned.