Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother

Spring

Spring
38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...

Flowers

Flowers
Daisies

Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby

Beauty

Beauty
Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Friday, September 11, 2020

Apocalypse

 For almost forty years now, I have been preparing for this point in time, when I would have to pick and choose the items I wanted to take with me, you know, as keepsakes from another era.

With all of the fires raging within the county, it still came as a thunderbolt on Wednesday morning, when the mandatory order to evacuate Bell Springs Road came down, effective from the nine-mile-maker, north. We are exactly at the five-mile-mark.


What are four miles here and there among friends?


Visibility in the orange glow of the apocalyptic setting, was reduced to a matter of a few hundred feet, with the air so choked with smoke as to make any thought of being maskless absurd. If the ashes streaming down upon the scene were droplets of water, we would not be having this discussion.


“Important papers,” said Casey. “Pictures,” suggested my friend Denise and “Annie’s quilts” said Amber, all of which made sense. “Take clothes for a week, because you don’t know about laundry service,” suggested Casey.


My initial thought was that I would have to be facing a wall of fire before I would deign to leave, but I have responsibilities today that I did not have only a few days ago. I have hooked up with Denise, a school chum from back at my old high school in La Puente (SoCal), and the air quality was such, that Denise had to flee.


Having spent somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen hours traveling from SoCal to Bell Springs, over the previous two days, including dealing with a shut-down Highway 101, to see me, I could not allow Denise to flee by herself. When she first left her home, I had no inkling that this fire-or any fire-would be a factor. 


We packed up what we could fit into Denise’s Toyota, including the two resilient dogs and headed north to Eureka. Prior to leaving, Denise made reservations at the Red Lion. It is a good thing she did before we left, because by the time we got there the hotel was booked solid. 


Evacuees were the name of the game, and finding a place to land was the primary objective. Fortunately, being a dog-friendly business, the Red Lion and we are good to go.


Back home, Casey and Lito, backed up by Ben (up from Willits) and nephew Alex (a firefighter up from Sebasketball), are prepping the eight homes within our complex. They are peeling back brush from structures and cutting down trees that are too close to homes and buildings.


As of now, Casey says the winds have turned back against the fire, so for the moment we are at a standoff.  Saturday is the day of reckoning, with the fire supposed to arrive at our spot. I brought my watercolor paints up to Eureka; I am going to paint a basket of tomatoes and pretend that I am on vacay.


Prior to leaving, I took a photo of my just-completed, screened-in front porch, you know, as a keepsake.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Mother Doesn't Lose A Son

 A Mother Doesn’t Lose A Son


A mother doesn’t lose a son, the way you lose your keys,

No, a mother never loses a son. 


A mother knows where her son is at all times, and watches over him, until his dying day. No, a mother never loses a son. 


A mother knows when her son is happy, and knows when her son is not, but a mother never loses a son.


No, A mother keeps track of her son until the day he leaves this earth, but a mother never loses a son.


She loses patience with the system, which treats her son like a criminal, when her son is simply sick.


But a mother never loses a son. She who gave birth to a son, is going to hover over him, whether he likes it or not.


She’s going to hover till her son runs for cover but no, just no, a mother never loses a son.


A mother knows when her son is ill, and knows also, when chicken soup is not going to make him better.


A mother knows when her son needs help and prays that he asks for it, but a mother never loses a son.


No, the cosmos is supposed to protect a mother, from the loss of a son, but a mother is not the one who loses him.


And the cosmos is supposed to protect the son, so that a mother never wakes up to find, that her son is gone. 


But the cosmos proved most fallible, and that’s as awful as it gets, when a son can be lost, without a mother losing him.


This mother did not lose her son, this mother did not misplace her son but this mother must bear the weight of her son being gone.


No weight can bear down so hard on a mother than the loss of a son, when the mother did not lose him.


The only thing a mother can do is keep on living and that is the hardest thing of all, because her son is gone.


And she did not lose him.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

No Whopper

Every morning I wake up convinced that this will be the day I finally shake the cobwebs out of my blog, and kick-start that baby to life. With mixed metaphors like that one, it is no wonder I am on sabbatical. I theorize that I have simply convinced myself it is because I have too much to say, so why bother?
I bother as much as a tribute to Annie, as for any other reason. Of all that has occurred in the last six months since she left us, including the closure of the baseball season for ANY reason, I would lead off with this: I have prepared a main meal for the farm staff for fifty-nine consecutive weekdays, beginning late last April and running through today.
Rancho-styled steak
“Right,” she’d respond. “And Guy Fieri was your sous chef.”

“No, seriously,” I would plow on, talking a tad too fast because I really was not sure I could convince her that this was no whopper. “Even though I have not left this mountain in 123 days, I get most of what I need from the farm or the freezer, and in some instances the two are one and the same." 

"But check this out," I would go on, "we even have theme-related days because it turned out to be the only way to keep my head from spinning right off of my [pencil] neck."

I don't always make waffles, but when I do,
I heat the waffle iron up for ten full minutes.
True story. Monday is breakfast at lunch, and I could serve raw banana slugs with fresh red, fire ants, as long as I included the waffles. [Annie, do you remember the last time you and I were going to knock everyone’s socks off by whipping up some tasty waffles bidness, and the very first one stuck so bad we had to use a torch to clean the griddle?]
Yeah, well the pancakes were just fine, but that’s not the point. Do you know what we did wrong? We did not let the waffle iron warm up long enough. The directions said it has to warm up for ten minutes. Wait, what? Well, sure it entailed reading the directions, and that is not all that has changed around here. 

Anyway, Tuesday is Mexican cuisine day, and always includes a pot of fresh pinto beans, Spanish rice, a monster green salad and a main course. I did chicken taquitos this week, chicken tacos last week, regular tacos (Is there such a thing?) the week before and enchiladas the week before all of those.

Wednesdays is shepherd’s pie; it is etched in concrete. I used some of Meadow’s top quality sirloin steak this week, HappyDayFarms chicken last week and organic hamburger the week before that, and no matter what week it is, I peel and pare potatoes, parsnips and peppers and prepare a huge pie.

Back in the day, Annie and I used to tag-team a couple of lunches per week, with maybe a breakfast thrown in there somewhere for the crew, but it used to seem like such an intense effort as to leave us wondering whether we were coming or going.

Annie was the brains; I was the brawn, or as I used to say, "I'm helping! I'm helping!" I did the slicing and dicing while Annie did the spicing and icing. We made a good team but she used to spend a lot of time on each meal, making lists and checking them until she wore the ink off of the paper, and had to start from scratch.

I may scratch my head a lot, trying to remember if there are more bell peppers in the outside fridge, but I keep track of things pretty well.

Now, Thursday's menu choice belongs to me, and today I made rancho steak, with onions, peppers, garlic, carrots, zucchini, home-canned tomatoes, some top round steak and lots of cumin, pasilla powder, salt and black pepper. Past Thursday selections have included macaroni and cheese, pasta Alfredo, beef stroganoff, potato/leek soup, chicken cacciatore, fajitas with barbecued tri-tip and a fish fry with French fries.

Fridays is barbecue day, and involves either a potato salad or home-grown French fries if cheese burgers are the name of the game.

Oh, what I would say to you, Annie, if you were here. I have a list of stuff ten miles long, but first, while I have you on the line, is there any chance you can tell me what happened to our good serving spoon? 

No, I don’t care how you deliver the info….

Friday, May 29, 2020

Chez Markie and Assistant


Having spent various amounts of time as a grocery clerk, war monger, auto parts clerk, tradesman, educator and farmer over the course of my adult life, I now find myself wearing a new hat: that of a chef. I am cooking lunch on weekdays for the staff, here at HappyDayFarms. 

The lineup
There are as many as six of us at any given meal, but the farm being an entity in constant flux, troops may stagger in whenever. They accept what is offered and return to their respective labors, while I clean up the kitchen.

As it was when I was teaching, I find that my profession occupies my mind constantly. Instead of, “What am I doing with social studies, fourth period?” it’s more, “Where am I going to get milk for the mac and cheese on Tuesday?”

Or just as likely, “If it’s Wednesday, this must be shepherd’s pie day,” because this dish allows me to raid the farm for ingredients. Why every week? The best I can do is say that it is back by popular demand.

In this week’s version I included beets, beet tops, baby onions, a big Spanish onion, green garlic, carrots, snow peas, broccoli, crimini mushrooms, bell peppers, bacon, red wine, rosemary, French thyme, sage, organic hamburger and golden potatoes, for the mashed potato crust.

Not all of these ingredients came from the farm, but the first time I made shepherd’s pie for the staff, five weeks ago, it was half carrots because, well, that was what I had and not much else. As the season progresses, I will have many more hot-weather components to include.

Alongside my cooking responsibilities is Master Ollie Mac, my two-year-old grandson, who visits me every day for a couple/three hours. Ollie is the center of my universe now, and takes a front seat even to the cooking; I cannot do both at the same time, without some serious juggling.

Some meals naturally lend themselves to being prepared in the wee hours and then simply heated up. Others can be prepped early for easy assembly later. I just need to assess as I go along what works best. I never want to find myself with Ollie at the same time something critical is happening on the stove, unless the littlest chef is up on his customary chair, assisting.

Otherwise, we’re talking cremated lunch, because of that front-seat/back-seat thing I was talking about.

So far, so excellent. I have had a meal on the table at the prescribed time, twenty-four consecutive weekdays, with barbecued tri-tai-tip fajitas slated for today, Friday. If everyone is here, great success; if there will be late-comers, also fine, because I am not going anywhere. 

This marks the 76th day in a row for me not leaving the mountain; I was expecting trombones.

A good friend has suggested to me that I am trying to redefine my role here on-farm, and I expect that is correct. Who was the Head Chef here in the past? Who was it that craved grandchildren so badly, her heart ached? Who is it that is missing?

It’s no wonder I am consumed with spending time with a Little Man and cooking up a storm: I am trying to be both me and Annie, simultaneously.

Since I could never replace Annie no matter what I did, the best I can do is try to encompass a couple of those many traits that best defined her, into my repertoire. 

Hence, Chez Markie and Assistant.

  
Next: The Menu






Friday, April 3, 2020

The Case of the Missing Choo-Choo (Based on a True Story)



The lil dude staggered into my office, looking slightly lost, almost as though he needed an oil change and a lube. The umbrella did not help. Standing about two-and-a-half feet tall, and weighing in at 27 pounds, he appeared to have been partying last night. There was more than a trace of whipped cream on his upper lip, and crumbs from a chocolate cake clung to his jammies.

Indeed, he was still in his jammies, and he was clutching an orange, plastic tractor (with trailer), that he was never going to let go of. He looked dejected and though his mama was still in view, getting back into her little Subi, her departure was not the reason for his unhappiness. 

“Is that you, Little Man? Did you survive your birthday party? You don’t turn two every day of the week, you know,” I began, just to show him that my heart was on the right side.

“Papi,” he began, and I knew he had something on his mind, “Strofnab kaboom uh oh dor-snuggle, choo-choo, exfekno see ya gjkfufeeyon ducktrimp,” he explained, enunciating every syllable for me.

“Seriously?” I exclaimed. “You think your choo-choo has been train-napped? When’s the last time you saw it?” I was not afraid to ask the hard, biting questions.

He's up to something...
“Yadredsey,” he informed me, but I knew that wasn’t right. We had not put any tracks together for the last two days at least. Besides, I had a photo of Ollie himself, clutching the four little choo-choo cars and heading toward me, away from my bedroom. I marked the pic, Exhibit P, for pointless, but I told Ollie the “p” stood for perfect.

He indicated my bedroom and informed me in no certain terms, that the choo-choo bromnopsied coco jorflicted sissled.

“I see. Well, let’s have a look right here, shall we? Let’s get a flashlight and start with the couch.” I signaled to my secretary to cancel all my appointments, but then remembered, I had no secretary. “Never mind,” I hollered to her anyway, because that’s what I would have said, if I had had [Editor: You DON’T!]

Fine.

“Afos?” Ollie looked at me, confused. 

“Couch, sofa, whatever. I’ll lift it up and you look under it. Sound like a plan?” We were sailing now.

The plan went according to, well, er, except the minute I lifted that couch sofa up, Little Man scuttled under it, clearly excited. Out came a small orange ball, a glass bead or three and a small red block, but what did not come out, besides the choo-choo, was Little Man.

“Hey, I hate to bug you, Lil Dude, but this sofa up in the air wants to take a rest. Could you hook a Papi up and amscray out from under there?”

“Papi, snorbbery uckldidje choo-choo kaboom, uh oh!”

What I lack in style,
Ollie Mac makes up for...
“Let’s conjecture later! Right now I need you out from under there, muy pronto!” Responding more to the note of urgency in my voice, than my fluid use of Spanish, Little Man backed out slowly, not unlike a crab being forced out from under a rock, by being probed with a piece of driftwood.

Mercifully, I set the sofa down, grabbed the flashlight and headed down to the lower part of our living space, where we proceeded to examine every nook, cranny and drawer, occasionally crying out in despair, “Choo-Choo! Here, Choo-Choo!” all to no avail.

We circumnavigated the downstairs of the house again and again, getting a little more extreme in our search as we went. We went through every pocket of the coats and hoodies on the coat rack; we looked though all of the kitchen cupboards and drawers that were under three feet tall, and we ransacked the pantry. 

I knew I had a flask in there somewhere, and By Ollie, I was right. Unfortunately, the flask was as dry as my throat. 

At least we got a bonus when we found that package of dried mango, but we did not find any choo-choo’s.

I examined the glass case where all the elephants like to congregate, but no dice. No choo-choo, either.

We went through all of Ollie Mac’s cubbies, looked along the book cases, and even searched in the box down below my little kitchen office, where I found the missing computer wire a month or so ago.

Fergeddit it.

Finally, we gave up our efforts for the morning, and adjourned to the living room, where the jigsaw puzzle sat, beckoning. About to engage said puzzle head-on, I sidestepped the xylophone and decided to relocate it before I tripped over it. I like skateboarding, but not on a xylophone.

A funny thing happened when I picked it up, however; there was a distinct rattle. I looked closer, obviously, than ever before, and noted for the first time that it was actually a container, with a curious door on one  end. Still not yet connecting the blinking neon dots, out spilled one of the missing choo-choo’s when I tilted the xylophone on its side.

The missing train was inside the xylophone. Not to be outdone by a musical instrument, I started jumping up and down with Joy, who was only there to drop off some produce, and did not appreciate my enthusiasm.

Well, I didn’t appreciate her sticking me in the eyeball with a carrot, either, but that didn’t happen until-[Editor: Not relevant…]

Well, there’s not an awful lot left to say, except that Joy and I have settled our grievances, and that I won’t be dancing with her anymore.

Little Man is so overjoyed to get his choo-choo’s back, that he has piled them into that brilliant orange tractor I was telling you about. 

The one with the trailer?

I made a mental note of that fact, and went back to pestering my secretary. I’m trying to talk her into having coffee with me.

Well, I would, I mean, if I had a secretary…

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Mature Women Only Need Apply

I am of the school of thought that women, like fine wine, improve with age. This is not to slight young women in any way, shape or form. They are splendiferous too, but not like they will be when they gain a few more years on the age-o-meter.

The reason I bring all of this up now, is not because I am looking for a companion, but because I will be at some point in the near future. I made huge strides today by listening to “On Call” by The Kings of Leon without bursting into tears, so I know that this bleak period of my life will eventually end.

Of course, I have humorously speculated on just exactly whom it is that would be interested in a 67-year-old man/hippie, who does not own a pair of shoes and drives off the mountain only when the dog chow finally runs out... 

My response to that speculation is that there is bound to be a women of mature age, who wishes to take a chance on a man who was married for almost forty years, and wants nothing more than to do it again.

By mature age I am talking at least sixty years young, or maybe a year or two younger than this. Older than sixty is not only acceptable, but commendable. I will be an equal-opportunity suitor, for women of a mature age. 

Love is the greatest power.
Exactly what is it that I am offering here?

I am offering this incredibly beautiful woman the opportunity to allow me to take her life to the highest level. How do I know this woman will be beautiful? I know because all women are beautiful, but the happy ones are the ones who positively glow. Nothing makes a woman glow like being loved properly by a man who knows how to do so.

I am not talking about love between the sheets; I am talking about love in real life. One of the most valuable commodities a person can possess is the ability to go through life in a nonjudgmental way. It can be a most loving characteristic of all, this ability to allow someone to live her own life without being constantly criticized.

I wonder…

Is there a woman out there who likes having her coffee brought to her in bed in the morning? And likes having breakfast made for her?

Is there a woman who likes a man who handles the housework? Who does the dishes? Who mops the floors and scrubs the toilet? And who does the laundry?

Is there a woman out there who likes having more flowers brought in for her than there are vases? Who likes having the fires started in the cold mornings to warm up the house? Who likes a man who knows how to cook?

Is there a woman out there who likes chicken cacciatore? Shepherd’s pie? Quiche? Roasted veggies? Barbecued anything? Freshly baked pumpkin pies? Apple pies? 

Is there a woman out there who has been living by herself for longer than she cares to think about, who is tired of being by herself? Who wants to be loved and cared for like she has never imagined possible?

Is there a woman out there who wants to walk side-by-side with a man who respects women and who wants to demonstrate it? Who wants nothing more than the opportunity to prove himself to the woman of his dreams?

Only a woman of mature age, who fits the criteria of being by herself, and who wants to be loved as she has never imagined possible, can answer the above questions.
Not I. I loved one woman exclusively for almost forty years. I am not a man who has any interest-whatsoever-in other women, when I am in a committed relationship. I will demonstrate that with actions, not words. 

All I can do is ask the above questions, and then follow through on my promise to love my woman as she has never been loved before.











Friday, March 6, 2020

I Can Fly?

The response to my post about micro-dosing surprised me. Having never heard of the term prior to Monday of this week, it seems as though I was simply not in the loop. 

One does not get this medicine from Big Pharma...
“What is it?” asked one good friend so I explained that it was ingesting small (hence, micro) doses of psilocybin mushrooms, though other folks substitute different substances for the mushrooms. 

The idea is to infuse enough of the medicine into my system to make a difference on my life outlook, but not necessarily enough to make me feel like jumping off the roof of the house to prove I can fly.

Because I have done no research and have little experience, you can take or leave what I have to say. What I am experiencing with the loss of Annie is not depression, but sadness. I distinguish between the two because I have a mood spectrum disorder, what old-schoolers call being bipolar II.

In my case I am manic 99% of the time and depressed about 1%, and the depression component requires a trigger. Annie’s passing certainly falls under the category of a trigger, but I had seven-and-a-half years to prepare for that inevitability. No, I am not depressed these days but I am deeply saddened.

Having my grandson Little Man visit every day is the reason why I am not depressed. His innate curiosity, his sunny disposition and his vice-grip on my heart combine to erect an effective barrier to depression. But when he is not here, sadness abounds.

Life glows and glitters when this character is here.
That sadness is going to be with me until time grinds some of it down the hard way, one minute at a time. The micro-dosing softens some of that grind, allowing time to pass as though it were in the fast lane instead of crawling along on the shoulder of the highway. Some days time seemed stalled along this highway of life, but stalled is not stopped, so the days, they pass.

I no longer see a murky abyss, blocking forward progress to the future. My marriage, my partnership with Annie, was so beautiful and so profoundly essential to my happiness, that I will undoubtedly try to recapture what I can of that experience.

The logistics of being able to reorganize my life, to allow me more access to what is out there in this world, seem overwhelming. That being said, love is the greatest power in existence, so pursuing it should lend wings to my sandals.

Would that it were so easy, but nothing in life that is easy, is worth much of anything. No, this will not be easy, but the harder it is (she said) the better it will turn out to be.

Who am I to argue with that logic?