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


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



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


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

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Board Game with No Rules

Board Game with No Rules

“I saw your son on TV-he looked real good.” The words were posted on my Face/Book wall when I got up this morning at 2:35. I knew that Casey had gone down to Ukiah, Friday afternoon, for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s press conference over the Island Mountain cannabis raids, so I gathered that he had found an outlet for his message.

Wearing his “I am a farmer” tee shirt, he had set out to express his outrage at the terrorist tactics currently being employed by the state and county law enforcement personnel. Though photos indicate rampant disrespect to the environment and the number of plants is significant, the presence of armored vehicles and a para-military approach is absolutely unnecessary when confronting farmers.

Casey has gone on record as saying, “There is much work to do to build a pathway forward. Using law enforcement to try and regulate industry is like banging nails with a saw. We’re all frustrated; we need sensible regulations from the state of California.”

Casey and countless others have been diligently laboring to seek said regulation on both the state and local levels. He has been stampeding to all sectors of NorCal with the message that cannabis farmers need to gather round and gear up for the upcoming battle with Corporate America, for the right to continue to grow [medicinal] cannabis.

HappyDay Farms has a personal agenda that accompanies the public one and that is Annie’s health issues. Battling both kidney cancer and thyroid cancer, she has found that juicing cannabis has had significant positive impact, and she is has been buoyed by the thought that she can rely on the farm to provide her with this medicine.

Annie has no tolerance for THC and the juicing bypasses this component. I have no such compunctions. I tried Corporate ‘Merica’s solution for bipolarism, and it was ugly. I find that cannabis drags me out of the depressive abysses, and pulls me back down to earth when the mania sends me aloft.

I have reasonably good control over my illness because I am an extraordinarily apt pupil, and I was paying attention when I attended the thirty or so cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions, but I do need the cannabis to help stabilize my mood spectrum disorder.

That the two of us should have to live in fear that our medicine will be confiscated, especially since the farm has been so politically active in the fight for legitimacy, is reprehensible. In fact it has accomplished for Annie what nothing else has been able to do: It has made her angry.

She has taken the stance that when the forces of oppression become too overwhelming, and our way of life is threatened, that civil disobedience becomes the most logical course of action. Anyone who knows Annie, knows this is pretty extreme.

When I asked her what this might look like, she talks of chaining herself to the big chipper which accompanies the task force. She has all of her paperwork laminated and clearly displayed on the front gate, which is locked for the first time in thirty-three years because she wants any law enforcement personnel to have to “break in” to our compound. 

My sweetest of apple blossoms has her proverbial panties in a bunch.

The only way to compete with Big Ag is to establish the validity of connoisseur cannabis, so that just as the wine industry has been able to establish its legitimacy, so should the cannabis farmers be able to assume their rightful place at the head of the line.

In order to do so, regulation must occur. As Casey wrote, “I see a hopeless and frustrating standoff between farmers and law enforcement because we are playing a board game with no rules. Only it’s not a game. It’s people’s lives, it’s the fish in the stream, and it’s the future of our economies. One for all and all for one; together our world will stand, divided our world will fall.”

Annie and I taught our sons to question authority but to do so with respect. We are proud of Casey, Nathaniel and all who fight the tyranny of injustice, and do so for the betterment of all. 

We call that being community contributors.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic Lawn-The Conclusion

Jurassic Lawn-The Conclusion
If you have read the first two segments of this tawdry narrative, you know that I, obviously enveloped in a pipe dream, had knowingly planted and nurtured four lawns. Two of them were the size of king-sized mattresses, and two of them somewhat larger, but as is most often the case, size is not important. 

I get it. What I saw as “WestSide Lawn,” HappyDay Farm Management saw as “Clockwork Lawn.” What confused me for the longest time was the fact that everywhere I walked on the farm, in every one of the different venues where vegetables and cannabis are grown, so are flowers. There are dozens of varieties, resplendent in all of their glory, both indigenous and planted. Many are harvested and formed into stunning bouquets each week, but most are not.

From the hundreds of volunteer sunflowers to the plethora of other ornamentals, all of which are watered through the emitter systems in place on the farm, I saw beauty around me. I admit that I struggled with differentiating between water used to grow thousands of different flowers, over two or more acres of tilled farmland, and a lawn that would have measured twenty feet by twenty-three, if the four little dudes were assimilated into one.

If there were a drought in effect that impacted the farm to the extent that I could not grow my lawns, then why were there thousands of flowers everywhere, soaking in water, when they could be pulled so that there was more of the precious nectar for that which was more important?

When the proverbial stuff hit the fan, and I staggered away from the unscheduled confab with HappyDay Farm Management, after the smoke had finally cleared, what I learned was this: Lawns were a cultural symbol of sorts to many, representing a societal level of affluence that was looked down upon by the powers that be, none of whom was me. 


Lawns were verboten. "Frankenlawn?" Other than the obvious-to-everyone-but-me, it was also explained that in the past I had not responded well to being told what to do, and therefore, no one had wanted to tell me what to do-or what not to do. That included lawns.


What I wanted to know was why it never occurred to anyone to ask me, rather than telling me. I will candidly admit that I do not like being told what to do. 

Pregnant pause. 

OK, it’s more than that; I won’t do what I am told. There, that was easy. But I will kill myself to please the powers that be, if I am asked. I don’t quite get it myself, but I do know the older I get, the less I am inclined to follow directives. Ask me anything and I’ll tolerate huge doses of physical pain to attain it, but tell me I have to do something, and watch bodies crash through the windshield as I hit the brakes. Weird.

So it wasn’t the messenger(s), it wasn’t the message itself, it was the method of delivery that caused me to sever connections that will take time to repair. They will mend because that’s the way it works in families, and hopefully some measure of learning has taken place so that we can continue to build on the knowledge that has been gained.

Meanwhile, out of chaos has come order. As life continues to weave its intricate tapestry, different events mesh and become as one. With Annie being forced to give up her spot in Willits because we simply can no longer afford the luxury, I was determined to create a space here on the mountain that best replicated her tiny backyard down in Willits.

With a little bit of help from me in the beginning, she had fashioned a colorful-though limited-flower display in her little yard. After nurturing it for more than two years, she had had to give it up. Now I wanted to recreate that spot so that Annie would feel more kinship right here at home.

After having turned the soil over in the three newest lawn additions, burying the grass forever, I proceeded to turn my attention to that original lawn, grown upon soil brought by me via wheelbarrow, back in 1992.

I dug up the grass/turf and piled it in the center of the area and formed wooden boxes around it, using materials scrounged from the back yard. I used ancient split rails, two-by-six redwood that had been formerly employed as veggie boxes, and four-by-four posts that were originally fence posts for the original stockade. 

I have converted all of the outside homestead to emitters to minimize water usage, and am continuing to develop the area so that Annie has a place to sit and enjoy a glass of zin in the late afternoon, if she is of a mind.

I am deriving much more enjoyment from the creation and planting of the herbs and ornamentals, than I ever derived from the lawn, especially since it was always dried up by August anyway. As I have found repeatedly throughout my life, the most trying of times, produce the most satisfying of results. 

Now, instead of “Draculawn,” we have “The Invisible Lawn,” and a great success all around.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jurassic Lawn-Part Two

Jurassic Lawn-Part Two

As scary movies go, “Jurassic Lawn-Part Two,” is not much to write home about, more like “Gone with the Lawn,” if you catch my drift. The whole matter was determined in a rather one-sided manner last September, with me on the losing side. At least that was my initial thought.

One of my more pronounced flaws is a certain naivete or even gullibility, if you prefer. I am often inclined to view life matters with simplistic sunglasses, or as my sainted mother used to say, “Keep it simple, Stupid.” 

Though I consider myself to be politically correct to a fault when it comes to matters involving equality and equal rights, I lack the ability at times, to grasp the bigger picture on certain other issues. Obviously.

I use as an example the drought being currently experienced in California, one making earlier dry spells seem more like nuisances. This one portends a much different future for the average guy than in any other period of time. Those living within suburbia are closely monitored and those living in rural areas had best have their own source of H2O, or else forget about agriculture.

My family has fought the battle of inadequate water through three generations so far up here in Northern Mendocino County, and has now temporarily gotten a leg up on the water-war with the construction of a second pond on the property. As I wrote about in the inaugural segment of “Jurassic Lawn,” I had conceived this idea of carving out a tiny niche of civilization from the brown which is the color of summer. I wanted a splash of green. 

My fantasy was one only truly achieved with the presence of a lawn, or lacking the spaciousness, a few small representations of same. I use the term “lawn” loosely because the second and third entities measured no more than seven feet by eight. There was barely enough room for two lounge chairs, side by side, on either of these mattress-sized “lawns.” 

The fourth was eight by fourteen feet. Doing the math for my four lawns, (12 x 20) +  (8 x 14) +  (8 x 7) + (8 x 7), is easy. The four products,  (240) + (112) + (56) + (56) = 464 square feet. That amounts to one lawn of twenty feet by twenty-three feet, or seven feet wider than the size of my original cabin.  

That’s a pretty small bit of real estate over which to wrestle.

My SoCal upbringing entered into matters, but it was really just an effort to carve the smallest of niches from the wild, upon which to sit and drink a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of red at night. I went to great lengths in the summer of 1992 to upgrade that initial attempt at a lawn, a little odd-shaped unit about twenty feet by twelve.

We had taken out a bank loan for seventy large and bought a brand-new Trooper, our first four-wheel-drive vehicle. We had used the bulk of the loan to bring the house up to Code, much of the loot being spent for fees, and to have the septic system installed. We already had a very nicely functioning system built of a huge, buried redwood box and leach-fields, but it had to be engineered and overseen by the County, and that is where the big bucks came in.

In putting the side yard back together, I had wheel-barreled somewhere around one hundred and twenty-five or so loads of soil from the manzanita grove, a couple of hundred feet away, and mostly level or downhill all the way to the site. I must have wanted that lawn pretty badly, or maybe it was just a case of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Lawn.”

I wanted to carve out that little patch of green civilization from the brown which used to be our existence. From that point when the water tapered out in May or June, through when the rains returned in the fall, dun is the color of the land. I didn’t need “The Best Lawns of Our Lives,” so much as, “It’s a Wonderful Lawn.”

Besides, no matter how beautiful it was in April, by August it always resembled “Wuthering Lawns.”

Everyone around me watched as I meticulously prepared the soil for the second, third and fourth lawns. Conversations “may” have taken place, the drought and its impact on the farm “may” have been addressed, and I may-or may not-have been present during these alleged exchanges. One thing is certain, I should have been able to piece it all together.  

This information and three dollars and fifty cents, will get me a latte at my favorite coffees shop, and nothing else.

When the hatchet fell, and it was pointed out that my use of water for lawns was frivolous, I felt like a dick. Why hadn’t anyone mentioned it before? Was I that out there?

Talk about “Silence of the Lawns.”

To be concluded...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jurassic Lawn

Jurassic Lawn
Humor is the salve that allows me to move forward when life conspires to puncture my ever-fragile skin, and then proceeds to grind coarse salt into the open laceration. A person who is incapable of poking fun at himself, is apt to find the going much tougher. 

With that thought paramount on the reader’s mind, I present to you, “A Rebel Without a Lawn,” intended to both enlighten and entertain audiences far and near, though probably more near than far. And yes, I know the title changed, as it will do so repeatedly as we move through this saga.

Water is the nectar of life; if you have it, you enjoy the fruits thereof. We have struggled to subsist on minimal amounts of this precious commodity for much of our thirty-three years here on the ridge. Only in recent times with the construction of two ponds, one substantially larger than the other, has the specter of no-water been chased away from our land.  

Coinciding with the decision to put in a second pond came the ever-increasing reverberations from the drought in California, making the move seem that much smarter. In a global sense capturing rain water to redistribute it over time, hurts no one, helps maintain the moisture levels in the soil, produces fresh produce for a grateful community year-round, and provides employment for the members of HappyDay Farm.

The ponds serve the agricultural needs of the farm primarily, but also the needs of two homesteads as well, one of them mine. When Annie and I relocated here in May of 1982, ( water was the main source of our anxiety: the less water-the more anxiety. Never did less produce more.

As misdirected as it may seem, the summer following Unc Rob’s miraculous development of the spring down below on my parcel (1984), which we pumped up to a tank above both of our homes, I put in a small “Despicable Lawn.” Why, you might ask, if water was so scarce, would I do that? The answer is contained somewhere deep within my upbringing.

I was fourteen the summer of 1967, down in SoCal, and there was no shortage of water. We lived on a plot of land that had a large back yard, extending back a couple hundred feet at least from the street, before encountering our neighbors’ fence. Within our lot were towering pecan trees, unappreciated persimmons, majestic avocado trees, and many, many more varieties, creating a shady environment of an oasis in arid SoCal. 

Our yard stood out because it was so different from many of my friends’ tract homes, which had postage stamp-sized back yards, with no room for anything other than the obligatory barbecue patio. Ours had originally been divided in half, with a huge play yard for the younger set in front, and the more untamed portion out back for the older generation.

I was in the middle, with three older brothers more than willing to make my life hell, but also willing to beat the bejabbers out of anyone who messed with me. It left me confused at times but that was to be expected. After all, I had three younger brothers upon whom to inflict the same set of familial expectations.

I was determined to domesticate that “untamed portion” out back in that yard down in SoCal and remove the wooden play-yard fence. I thus united the two in a sizable unit which I then proceeded to convert to St Augustine grass, transplanting little chunks from a small section in the middle yard, and redistributing it all over the whole premises.

For a fourteen-year old kid, who was also painting the family home the same summer, it was a monumental task. I was in no hurry because in SoCal there is no winter. I went forward with my task, even as I entered my sophomore year in high school and started a job at the local grocery store.

The lawn was everything I had hoped for; I kept it watered on a meticulous schedule, and reveled in its beauty. Ostentatious? For 1967/1968 SoCal, it was no more ostentatious than a family with nine children. It was how we rolled when times were good.

If that helps explain why I wanted a lawn, then fine. Call it “Alice in Wonder-Lawn.” For whatever reasons, once I moved up here and put in that little lawn, I nurtured it every year from 1985 until last September. I have mostly watched it radiate vitality and greenery in the spring, and then gradually over the summer seen it decline, so that by August it is mostly just an off shade of dull yellow, with a hint of green.

With the new pond in place, not only did I see visions of grandeur with my original lawn, which was probably about twenty feet by twelve, but I wanted to expand my palatial lawn holdings. Think of it as “Dark lawn Rises.”

“Jurassic Lawn” will continue...