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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Living the Dream

Our home

“You are so lucky; you’re living the dream.”

I heard this sentiment expressed dozens of times over this past weekend, while working in the 215 section of the Kate Wolf Festival, in the HappyDay Farms booth. The dream referred to is, of course, the living off of the land, the growing and selling of vegetables and medicine and the ability to navigate the turbulent white waters of cannabis regulation.
The 215 area was backed up
against the Revival Stage.

My dream was to relocate to rural NorCal, to escape the ever-expanding population growth, first down in the San Gabriel Valley, and later, in the Bay Area. After searching for a year and more, my siblings and I found Paradise. Under the right circumstances, it’s paradise with an ocean view, since we can see the ocean in three separate places, when we walk up the Bell to Blue Rock.

So yes, without question, we are living the dream. However, that being said, living the dream has not been as easy as simply drifting off to sleep, and then, “Dream on.” No, while gliding down that lazy river of sleep, we have encountered our share of dreamlike issues, that are filed under “nightmare.”

How about water? From having to go down to the rest area, three miles north of the bottom of Bell Springs Road, in order to fill a 55-gallon drum with water, to our current pond, we have seen it all:

No water, period.

Water, but not running water to the cabin.

Running water, but not hot water.

No water because of frozen water pipes. 

No water because of frozen water pipes, and then the pipes burst.
The Iceman Cometh and
Freezeth our pipes...

No water because the heat has caused an air lock.

No water because a line has burst and drained the tank.

No water because a valve was left open.

No water because it’s cloudy and the solar pump won’t work.

How about electricity? Being off the grid, with no option for conventional means of electricity, we have had to get creative. We started off with simply a 12-volt system, and charged the deep cell batteries with a generator. Eventually we got our solar act together, but that still means we rely on it not being overcast. 

We now run two huge refrigerators, and a chest freezer off of our solar panels, not to mention the rest of our household. There are a few of civilization’s offerings, that we have chosen to do without: dryer, microwave, dish washer (except me) and air conditioning, so our power needs may not be as great as the “average” household. 

There is very little about our farm that would be considered average.

Nonetheless, let’s talk the logistics of living five miles up a gravel road, with a minimum of a half-hour commute, to get a cup of coffee or a quart of milk. Think of those five miles as an extended driveway, if that helps. When I first moved up full-time to our land, I swore I would never drive five days a week to town, in order to work.

Instead, I ended up driving into town six days a week as a teacher, always needing that extra day for the first five years I taught.

All those years (without the internet) we sweated whether or not to move the truck the quarter-mile up our driveway to Bell Springs Road, in case it snowed. Being at 3,300 feet, we can get dumped on-and buried-faster than you can say, “I wish we had parked up on the Bell. Sigh.”

Otherwise, with our two-wheel-drive Chevy truck in the early years, we were snowed in. Then we got our Trooper, with 4WD.

On the other hand, for all of those years I drove into town, with the three boys, a lot got done. I remember Ben-Jam-In taking advantage of the commute to work on his lines for first, Friar Lawrence, in “Romeo and Juliet,” and then Don John, in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Every morning and afternoon, for two months, he read and reread those lines so many times, he accomplished the job of memorizing them, and he produced a polished performance when the time came.

How about helicopters? When we had our home and twenty acres seized by the federal government, in 1985, for the dastardly crime of growing 33 cannabis plants, we were under the gun for nine months to the day, before the lawyer we hired took care of business. Living the dream meant losing a lot of sleep, at times.

Finally, you want nightmare? How about the task of trying to get a handle on cannabis regulation, at the state and county level, when there is nothing in place whatsoever? How many thousands of hours were spent in meetings, sharing, educating and working to put together something that all factions could work with?

Is everyone happy with the final result? No, unquestionably not. However, if you know someone who is unhappy, ask that person how much time and energy he or she devoted, to providing input while the process was taking place? How many Board of Supervisors meetings were attended; how many comments were made? How many letters were written? How many hours conversing with others, attending workshops, and working to become educated and educating others? How much money was contributed, to help the process along?

These questions frequently work well when contending with those who are unhappy. If you did nothing to further the process, then you have nothing to snivel about. All of this and more, came up for conversation this past weekend, in addition to a lot of respect.

So yes, Paradise comes with a price tag, both monetarily and physically. We grow cannabis to defray the heavy artillery, as far as paying the bills, but we provide fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and much love, to all who choose to partake of our bounty.

This is Paradise-with or without an ocean view.
Our Paradise comes stocked with bees.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Through the 'Boo

Surreal: adjective, marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; unbelievable; fantastic
I did not have to search far to find the perfect word to describe this past weekend, one that I spent in the HappyDay Farms medicinal cannabis booth, at the Kate Wolf Festival. The oppressive heat may have slowed matters down a notch, but it did not seem to impact the crowd, a little long in the tooth anyway, too much.
"Let us be happy in our work."
I don’t mind the heat myself, partially because I employ the somewhat dubious practice of stocking my hat with a couple of ice cubes. It gives my head a lumpy appearance, but I’ve been called worse than lumpy, so I consider it an upgrade.

We were also provided with a portable fan, so that our booth had air movement for those who chose to pause and smell the flowers, or just to pass the time of day. In a venue such as Kate Wolf, as opposed to that of the Emerald Cup in Sonoma County, we had the luxury of being able to exchange pleasantries, while 215 patients were trying to determine which of our medicinal strains of cannabis best suited their needs.

Down at the Cup, we barely have time to sneak in a change of water for the bongs, with the response to what is being offered, as high (no pun intended) as it has been. What we take for granted in our cloistered niche in this world, others still get quite rabid about, and when there are 30,000 of them over a two-day period, that’s a lot of bong water changes.

I label the weekend surreal for a number of reasons, the first to which I just alluded. Were my father Robert still alive, his joy at being behind the counter of our booth, would have no boundaries. I made frequent reference to Himself this past weekend, a pioneer who does not get the credit he deserves.

It was he in our family, who first planted six sativa plants on the Bell. It was back in the late seventies, and he put them in a greenhouse within his expansive vegetable garden. A few weeks later, when his girls topped out at fourteen feet, the roof of the greenhouse having been long since set free, the neighbors got a good chuckle.

The rest of us could hardly believe our eyes.

This past weekend, situated beneath the oaks for which the Black Oak Ranch is named, we were mostly in the shade, with a couple of skylights presenting themselves, during which times things warmed up a bit. Nonetheless, our comfortably large space was never crowded, it was stocked with several sofas and numerous chairs, and when folks dropped in, they sometimes took it literally. 

They flopped on the couches as though the air were slowly seeping out of them, and they needed no more of a sign, than a landing spot within our paradise. Though immensely appealing to most, I never did take a moment to sprawl out on the sofas, being far more comfortable within the confines of our booth.
This was a pretty typical crowd,
but some were huge.

While just outside the bamboo fence that surrounded our space? At times the crush of humanity, as concert-goers would jam the space to catch the action on the Revival Stage, was unreal. By peering though the ‘boo, I could see the crowd, elbow to elbow, taking in the music, at times hardly able to move due to the crush.

That this insignificant bamboo fence was all that separated us from the crowd, was what made it surreal for me. All in all, I liked things on my side of the fence, far more than I would have liked being on the other side.

There were some interesting moments, though. I was looking through the ‘boo at one point, when I realized that my glance was being returned by a woman of indeterminate age. Without a second’s delay, she elbowed her significant other in the side, while exclaiming, “Hey, Honey, turn around and get a look at this dude.”

Who, me?

I know I must have presented a goofy exterior, to a certain extent, except that I like to refer to it as eccentric. Eccentric has a little more credibility than goofy.

“Look at his mustache!”

Oh heck, do I need a hankie?

Then I realized that I was looking at a dude who was rocking the same mustache as me, including the color white. 

“Great minds think alike, huh?” he inquired.

“Why not? But I must tell you that I had mine down to my navel until last January, when I shaved it off the day I marched with the women in Sacramento.”
Under the oaks
Another time I glanced over at the fence, to see a tall gentleman, with a hat that couldn't conceal the envy in his eyes. I noted that it was crowded on the other side, just before we made eye contact. 

“It looks like Paradise inside your space,” he remarked.

“Another in a long string of days in Paradise,” I returned. “I hope your weekend is vastly surpassing excellent.”

He glanced around and said, “It is but I can see it could be a lot better.”

What can I say? I agreed with him 100%.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Nice and Warm

The general consensus of opinion is that it was hot at the Kate Wolf Festival, Friday, with the temperature frozen somewhere in the high-nineties. Being a SoCal boy, born and raised, I found it nice and warm.

Closer to approaching my idea of hot, were the three consecutive days of 106-degree weather two years ago, at Reggae on the River. Two of those days were set-up days, prior to the opening of the festivities, and the third was the first actual day of performances. 
"Been dazed and confused for so long it ain't true...
What’s ten degrees’ difference, amongst friends?

I always derive some measure of comfort, when things are not going as well as I might like, in thinking back to tougher times, as if to remind me that things could always be worse. We could have been in the sun but we weren’t; we were under some of those renowned Black Oak oaks. 

There might have been no air movement whatsoever, but instead, there was a gentle breeze much of the day. We might have been isolated in some corner of the venue, but we are actually backed up against the Revival Stage.

The organizers included a two-hour block of open-mic time, and the efforts from stage were most entertaining. Somewhere in the middle of this, an M-80-like explosion ripped the air, sending up a poof of dust/dirt just outside the fence of of the 215 Area, and startling the bejabbers out of me.

Seeking the source of the explosion, I peered through the bamboo fence at the outside world, only to sight a couple staring back at me.

“What WAS that?” I inquired. “Any ideas?”

The dude snapped back, “What do you mean? It came from inside your space.” Though it did not occur to me in that moment to inquire how he could have known this, while facing the stage, it does now.

Startled for the second time in seconds, I replied, “It most certainly did not. I saw the explosion right over there,” gesturing toward a couple of bicycles to the left of the couple. The dude walked over and said, “Golly, gee wilikers,” and if you believe that, I gotta a bridge you might be interested in.

“Must have been the heat,” he opined, leaning over to take a closer look at the blown back tire. “F**k me running. There’s a gash on the side of this tire about six inches long.”

I have no idea what prompted the bike tire to go off like that, but figure it was a combination of being over-filled and being in the heat. I was hoping whoever’s bike it was, would not think anything untoward had occurred, in the form of sabotage. Under most circumstances, what else is the natural conclusion? It just blew up? 


My experience is just the opposite, though, at these types of venues: I find time and again, that folks go out of their way to look after the valuables of others. I cite four examples off the top of my somewhat unbalanced head: Tobias’ wallet, Kevin’s guitar, Thomas’ backpack and my electronics.

At the Enchanted Forest gathering two weeks ago, HappyDays farm associate, Tobias, lost his wallet. The following morning it was hand-delivered to him-contents intact-by a young man, who looked as though he had had a rough night. 

“TOBIAS? Is that you?” he asked, glancing back and forth between something in his hand, and Tobias’ face. “I have your wallet! I’ve been hunting for you all night.” This guy was obviously not interested in ripping off anyone.
HappyDay Farms

The second example is just one of a thousand such instances, and it involves a guy I had never seen before, named Kevin. Kevin appeared in front of our table at the 215 booth, guitar in hand, and wanted to know if he could leave it somewhere in our booth for a few hours. Why he chose our booth, I do not know, but I was happy to oblige.

No big deal, right? That’s the point; the guy left something of value with strangers, and never thought twice about any risk he might be taking.

Third, a couple of weeks ago, a message appeared on face/book from Thomas, inquiring if anyone had snagged his backpack from the Bell Springs Quarry Market, the night before. He had inadvertently left it behind. Of course, someone had. [Thanks, Big Sherm.] 

Thomas had his backpack back within a couple of days.

The fourth example is one that I prattled on about while chronicling my first ROTR, in 2015. I had gone from Volunteer Village to the kitchen, a fifteen-minute walk, to charge up all my electronic equipment: computer, camera and phone. Only I had left the phone behind at the camp.
Asking two nice women to keep an eye on my computer and camera, if they wouldn’t mind terribly, I scampered back to camp to retrieve my phone, and returned to find everything as I left it. People are inherently good, and when approached with a request for a favor, will oblige the vast majority of the time.

Friday was the first of three days in the 215 booth for me, at the iconic Kate Wolf Festival. Being the lightweight I am, I was out of there and home by five o’clock, basking in the glow of a great success.

WARNING:  More to follow tomorrow…

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Can You Say Edibles?

I will be working the HappyDay Farms medicinal cannabis booth at the Kate Wolf Festival this weekend, something I look forward to with the a great deal of anticipation. Working in a cannabis booth is highly enjoyable for me, and doing so within hailing distance of my mountain home, is as good as it gets.

The Black Oak Ranch is close enough so that if the music is amped up and the planets are aligned correctly, we can hear the action from the Bell. Already accustomed to hearing the distant sound of the Harleys on The 101 on Biker Weekend, it just goes to show that sound will travel uphill quite efficiently.

Everything about this local venue is solid gold, simply because we have been working at various Black Oak productions for decades now. Logistics become much easier when you have been connected with the facility over time, and there is mutual respect. 

When I was still teaching back in the nineties and we would do the Well Springs pizza-bread booth, my students used to express amazement that I was there. I did a great deal of bridge-building during those Pig-Nic days, and it paid off over the course of the following school year.

Having enjoyed the Kate Wolf festival as a concert-goer, it will be fun to work the festival in the booth. So many friends stop by and sample the wares, that it’s impossible not to get buoyed by the occasion. Even if thousands of old hippies do not come flooding into the 215 area to afford themselves the opportunity of indulging, we are guaranteed a good time.
That's what I'm sayin/talkin about...

I can’t help reflecting back to those days when I was working the booth, and students, former, current and future, were everywhere. Cannabis was also everywhere but not for me. In order to be able to enjoy the benefits, I had to take great precautions not to be seen. 

Oh for edibles, back in the day! I will gladly pay you Tuesday for my sanity today.

And speaking of the same-only different-I am not an alcohol-kind-of-guy for so many reasons, it’s ridiculous. Therefore, I find it almost comical that I would be taken for one, as was the case a few years back, the year Joan Baez played. It was hot and I was drinking a lot of water, but not a drop of any form of booze.  I had to make regular runs to the rows of Port-A-Potties, and every time I did so, the guards at the gate harassed me. 

I’m not kidding. Every time I went past, they searched my backpack. By the fourth or fifth time, I just went bipolar, left the venue and didn’t come back.

Missed Joan.

With my musteard extending down practically to my navel, how could they have pegged me for a boozer? I was especially incensed because of my long affiliation with the Black Oak Ranch. Was nothing sacred?

I do not anticipate any logistical obstacles this weekend, and I’m hoping Mickey the clown is there. He is a good person and fun to be around, and I like chilling with him.

Besides, when he’s there, I’m not the oldest dude anymore.
Mickey the Clown

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thieves in the Night

Being a peace-loving man (I get a piece whenever I can), I cringe to think that I have enemies here in Farm-Land, but the truth of the matter is, I do. These range from ruthless, cutthroat villains, to inanimate objects, whose villainy is purely circumstantial.

I find it impossible to list them in order from one to ten, because at any given moment, any of the ten is able to assert its position at the head of the line as numero uno. Or head honcho; squeaky wheel; unmitigated disaster; insidious infiltrator(s); innocent bystander(s); thieves in the night; thieves in the day; cute thieves/ugly ones. There is a long list.

Enemies of the state:

water leaks: Whether from an old rubber washer between hose and faucet, a leaky connection between white ag pipe and black utility line, a wasted valve that never closes completely, an improperly tightened coupling, bite marks on water lines from thirsty critters or any of a plethora of other causes, slow leaks rob us of the precious water we need to make it all happen, here at HappyDay Farms.

gophers: Is there anything more galling than to see a particularly key garden bed get assaulted by these savage underground predators? Tomato plants, in particular, seem to entice them. I want to take a pitchfork and just start jabbing it along the route the little bandits follow, but I like to think I have a modicum of self-control. It doesn’t matter if I do or not-I like to think it. Oh, and I set the underground traps, attaching a big stick to the traps so they can't disappear back into the depths-WITH MY TRAP. I also use gloves so they can't detect my scent.

burst water fittings: They get one’s attention real quick-like. Nothing shatters the mood faster than the sound of running water. Running? Try sprinting, to the nearest shut-off valve.
The dreaded powder
powdery mildew: Act tung, a worthy opponent, if ever there were one. Like many, our baptism by fire was anything but celebratory, but we learned. We learned a lot in a short time, so until the next strain comes along, precautions are paramount.

weeds: Incessant, draining, they steal from what is good, to nurture that which is unwanted. I will never give an inch.

clogged water filters: At last! Something that is almost 100% preventable with vigilance. A clogged water filter is just doing its job-keeping the crud from getting into the emitter lines, but if they are not religiously spit-polished, crops suffer from a water shortage.

woodpeckers: This might be the only innocent bystander, in that the damage they do is to my home, and it’s as a misguided attempt to prepare for winter. The solution is to refurbish the affected parts, and use Hardy-Board, instead of wood, to sheath the exterior.

I am smarter than they are-just not as capable as I used to be.

Plant lovers other than humans, arranged in alphabetical order AND simultaneously size, going from small to big: 

aphids, earwigs, mice, quail, rabbits, and turkeys  

Where do I start? We wash the aphids off; we keep our crops well ventilated and cleared of excess plant matter to discourage both aphids and earwigs; we set traps for the mice, using the seeds they are stealing as bait; we cover the crops with remay to keep quail out; we reinforce fencing when rabbits are an issue, until we realize they are going under the fence. 

Large Marge helps out with that, as do all the farm dogs.

dust: More about aesthetics in the past, dust is currently a huge issue for Gluten-Free Mama, recovering from a bout with pneumonia, and doing quite well, thank you for asking. I am doubling my efforts to remove dust from places I never thought to look for it. 

time: Time is an enemy because if you stay in one place long enough, you see a lot of history repeat itself, simply because time will insist on passing. From changing the batteries in smoke detectors and kitchen clocks, to replacement of shower curtains and bathmats, to the inevitable water heater/refrigerator/washing machine, et al failure, time will be problematic.

            *                  *                  *                 *                 *
Honorable mention: No list would be complete without a few honorable mentions like deer, rattlesnakes, ticks, mosquitoes and clay, to name a few. The dogs keep the deer at bay, as do fences.
I haven’t seen a rattler in four or five years; it doesn’t mean they aren’t around-it just means they are not the issue they once were, 35 years ago, when we first moved to the mountain.

Ticks don’t seem to like me much, so I only pick one up one every few years. I have been lucky so far, as I am routinely with skeeters. They don’t seem to like A-negative blood. I am rarely afflicted with poison oak either.

Clay is a mixed bag; On the one hand it was critical that we had great deposits of clay for constructing the pond a few years ago; on the other, practically every cubic foot of soil we use on-farm,  has been supplemented with rice hulls. We are habitually trying to infuse organic matter into the soil, so as to lessen the clay influence. We are winning this battle; I used rice hulls in most areas, but none in the orchard, which has been worked for years.

The instant I hit publish, I will think of yet another Top-Ten worthy item for my list, as I am sure you can. That’s OK-I won’t stop the presses; I’ll just start a new list.
Cherry trees and tomatoes

Monday, June 19, 2017



The first thing I heard Sunday afternoon, as I stepped out the back door, was the last thing I wanted to hear: the sound of running water. The most precious of all that nature has to offer, hearing water spewing out on barren ground is the same thing as hearing gold coins hurtling out of a winning jackpot, only to see them plop into the ocean.

Never taken for granted, water is the lifeline of our farm. Once the rains have begun to fall in October or November, there is an abundance of the ambrosia of life, but we don’t need it then. The moment the spring rains shut down, however, water takes a back seat to nothing, in terms of paramount importance.

On top of that, it’s one thing to have a pond filled with that which provides life, it’s another to coax that water up to the top of the property, where it can be gravity-fed to all parts of the farm. Logistics, baby. After years of dealing with catastrophic water deprivation, at the worst of times, we have pretty much gotten the bugs worked out.

I say “we” as though I personally oversaw the entire production, when nothing could be further from the truth. After being the go-to guy for close to thirty years, I have been relieved of these responsibilities. Nonetheless, when the water cuts out while practically everyone is at Reggae on the River, and the temperature is above 100 degrees, and you lose close to a full five thousand gallons of water when a fitting blows, you have got to have something in reserve.

Like a second tank of water, filled to capacity, ready to be put into service with the flip if a valve. Of course, there were numerous catastrophes before we could get it together to have more than one tank in place. 5,000 gallon water tanks are not cheap.

HeadSodBuster, just about to park it for a Father’s Day barbecue, on my behalf, decided he’d best amble on up to that tank and find out what the damage was. I had noted with dismay, the river of water had flowed down a few rock steps, roared past Tomato Terrace, and hung a right down [Sour] Strawberry Lane.

Always one to glean anything positive out of any disaster, those four girls impacted, are pretty stoked right now.

“What’s the damage?” I asked, as ‘Buster returned.

“Down about 2 thou. Hey, it happens!” This last because of my crestfallen face. 

The reality is that there are hundreds of identical fittings as the one which burst, in every corner of the farm. All we can do is have our wits about us, take the occasional quick tour, and keep matters in perspective. 

Better to have spare tank(s) in reserve, and need them, than to not have spare tanks of water as backup, and be desperate for them. Besides, a year ago we were coming off the fifth consecutive winter of drought, and we still managed to make it through without undue concern for our source of water.

This past winter saw California’s wettest in history. Whereas we still start out with the same capacity in our pond, the water table itself exceeds that which we have had for many years, so we are in much better shape. Considering we just got the West Forty up on timers Saturday, the fact that we had a minor setback on Sunday might even have been anticipated, had my head not been in the clouds.

I mean, more so than normal, it being Father’s Day and all. It’s one of those artificial HallMark Holidays that actually translates to something special, when you differentiate between a “father” and a “dad.” Gluten-Free Mama and I raised three sons, and they all took the time to communicate with me on Sunday.

Those kinds of connections don’t burst like water fittings on a hot Sunday afternoon. Those kinds of connections are forever.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Baseball and Love

Baseball and love go hand-in-hand; of that there can be no doubt. I’m not suggesting that couples can’t make it without baseball, only that baseball enhances your chances, exponentially. How could it not? If two people can speak the language of baseball, they are well on the way to speaking the language of love.

Take me and Gluten-Free Mama, for instance. When we first hooked up in early 1981, and still lived in San Jose, we took in several of the Giants games at Candlestick Park. That continued in the early spring of 1982, but only a matter of weeks later, in late May, we moved up to the Bell. There was no baseball on the mountain when we first arrived.

Then, over at neighbor Rex’s, a bunch of us carved out a kinda/sorta level field, rimmed with manzanita trees, built a backstop and commenced Sunday afternoon games involving the entire mountain community, including the Cow. It was an epic achievement in community togetherness, and it went on until the late eighties.

We watched our boys play ball on this field, we carted them down to town for Little League, and followed a couple of them as they played high school ball. If two parents speak the language of baseball, that’s a lot of built-in family communication right there.

About a dozen or so years ago, HeadSodBuster and his crew fired that field at Rex’s up again, and it felt pretty good. Community members started showing up and that went on for quite a spell. Folks kept bringing up town baseball, though, and leagues, with men and women playing, and the Laytonville Co-Ed Softball League was formed.

And a grand league it is, I might add. I have been known to patronize this particular venue, camera in hand, to snap a few hundred photos of some of the on-field action. Proving once again that if you take enough pics of anything, you’re bound to get lucky once in a while, I managed to snap a couple of decent shots.

All that did was fuel my enthusiasm.

Well, as luck or life would have it, GF Mama likes to watch SmallBoy play down at this field, part of that language of love I was prattling on about, so we have done so from the beginning. Baseball in all forms is good; in certain settings, it is vastly surpassing excellent. 

Unfortunately, though, while Markie had ahold of the controls early this spring, he went into his act, said a bunch of stuff, most of it politically motivated, and crashed and burned. Among the foul balls he tossed out there, was the one about not attending summer ball games in town anymore. 

Honestly, I tried to follow his logic, but it stayed just out of reach.

It has taken a while to sift through the ashes, but it’s patently obvious that it is necessary. Whereas telling points were made, injustices were addressed and outrage was spewed, it all fell for naught, except maybe, it made Markie feel better. 

Whatever. Markie’s locked up again, for the moment, but I’m not, and I know GF Mama would like to take in a game. So, fake beard or not, tat across my forehead, or not, I’m going to pack up my backpack, bring along my camera, and go with GF Mama down to watch SmallBoy play.

Not tonight, with the Bombers and Sho ‘Nuff going at it, 'cause it's late, but soon.

Hold a seat for me-I’m coming home.
Watch out, Fawn!

Monday, June 12, 2017

"I May Be Crazy But I'm Not Stupid"

"I May Be Crazy But I'm Not Stupid"

Did you hear the one about the mental patient being transferred from one facility to another, when the lug nuts from one of the tires on the van in which he was traveling, loosened up and fell off? The van nosed into the curb, rendering it incapacitated, with a spare tire but no lug nuts.

Watching the driver and the doctor confer, seemingly baffled as to what the next step should be, the mental patient spoke up, “Why don’t you take one lug nut off of each of the other three tires, and use them to put the fourth tire back on? Then you can at least get to a garage where they can hook you up with the rest?”

Plainly surprised, the driver exclaimed, “Why, that’s brilliant, especially coming from, well, you know, a mental patient.”

“Listen,” the exasperated patient observed, “I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”

It’s a bit of a stretch, but I feel the same way when it comes to hospitals and waiting rooms in general. Though the objective side of me sees the big picture, and recognizes how challenging the entire medical world is, the subjective side of me struggles in a huge way.

Hospitals are places where miracles occur and health can be magically restored. All three of my overnight hospital stays involved surgery and successful outcomes, so I have not had any nightmarish tales of woe to report. 

Nonetheless, it has become apparent that I am not a person who can be counted on, to remain fully functional in a hospital setting. If nothing else, the confined spaces intimidate me because I simply hate being in tiny rooms. I struggle with things over which I have no control; others’ cell phones are at the top of my list.

It’s not even that it is a pet peeve of mine, that it is rude to conduct telephone conversations that intrude on others’ existence, it’s that the nature of so many of these conversations, defies belief. Abusive language, way too much information, and a lack of control over the situation, all combine to make it unbearable for me.

Were it not for headphones, I would just douse myself with a highly flammable substance, and get it over right there in the waiting room. Happily.

Wearing headphones, however, also cuts me off from any attempt to convey information that I might need, so I have to be selective about when I employ them.

Being in a patient’s room itself, can also be hard because of how intrusive the whole process is. Don’t confuse me with facts about why all of these components must be in place, but there is a continuous flow of official hospital personnel, who drift into and then out of, all of the patients’ rooms.

They have questionnaires to fill out; they have documents to be signed; they even have religion available, should you feel so compelled. They take your temperature, they take your pulse, and they rob you of your dignity, without you even realizing it.

They wake you up in the middle of the night to check your blood pressure, and they wake you up later, to find out if you are having any trouble sleeping. OK, I made the last up, but it just seems that way. 

I mention all of this in passing, because I am mortified that I cannot provide for Gluten-Free Mama, the support in this setting that she deserves. I want to be there, I have been so in the past, but it has become apparent that what I bring to the table, ends up spilling all over it and making a mess.

When I need supervision to keep me from going, well, bipolar, then it becomes patently obvious that I am more of a hindrance than a help.  When it means that GF Mama has to worry more about me, than about herself, then I am part of the problem and not part of the solution. 

Time and again it has been proven that I am better able to contribute by remaining at home and spit-shining the house. Two or three times, if necessary. I’m good at it because it comes under the category of, “I’m helping! I’m helping!” And that’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, which is often enough what my presence translates into.

I’m not a bad guy because of all of this, even if I want to make myself out to be. Better to think myself a bad guy, and not be, than to think myself a good guy, and be a dick.

Those sage words are bound to have been spoken before, so I won’t claim credit. I’ll just try to follow good advice.
I can also grow pretty flowers.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Options Du Jour

Options Du Jour

Nothing disorients me more than to have excess time on my hands. By definition a farmer never lacks for job security, unless he is the type of guy who has determined that he will no longer work in the rain. Believe me when I say that there is still a vast quantity of work to be done.

I don’t even know why I add the word “still” in there, as though the time will come when we will all sit back in our lounge chairs and announce, “Well, that’s that! The work is now done.” On a year-round farm, you can’t run out of work.

The list is not endless but only because I’ve never tried to jot down the options du jour. Farming is such that I can attack any one of a dozen different tasks, with none being more pressing than the next. One advantage is that I never feel bogged down with one agenda, especially if that agenda happens to be physically demanding.

So much of what needs to be done is logistical in nature, such as caging the tomato plants. To allow the plants to flop in the breeze, so to speak, is to invite later issues with tomatoes in the dirt, breakage, and general mayhem.

To cage more than 200 plants, however, requires first much thought, and then comparable follow-through. Last year we experienced some bruising when the Ace tomato plants simply produced too much fruit within the confines of the metal construction wire cages, in which they were enshrined.

Those wire cages are unforgiving when it comes to crowded conditions. What I have in mind this year, is the six inch by six inch netting, that comes in thirty-by-six feet rolls, give or take. Using bamboo, I will simply enclose the plants, either individually, or more if it seems logical, and figure that the netting will allow for more expansion, without crimping style.

Am I going to set out to enclose more than 200 tomato plants at one go? Baby steps.

With all of the prep work I have already completed, I still have the two lowest terraces to be done. Originally, Gluten-Free Mama wanted to plant winter squash, but tomatoes took precedence, and the squash was planted out by Boss Lady because the time had come.

Considering I am still seeking homes for about 20 Aces and a smattering of others, these terraces make the most sense. Besides, regardless of what will go in, I need to get them prepped. One thing that has stalled the process, is that I have run out of my home-grown compost, and will have to go up to the big pile and rustle up a truck filled with it.

On the list is this same compost prep for next year, as that which just ran out. I have a monstrous pile of pulled weeds, chicken manure, and used straw, to which I need to infuse a truck load of that same compost. So that’s two trucks filled with compost that I need to move.

I have stayed bravely abreast of the weeding throughout my entire complex, but I dare not slack off now. With the new rain will come a late rally and I must be vigilant. Job security.

Having completed the foundation/skirting work, I still have one generator door to build and attach, and one new generator house to build at SmallBoy’s site, for which I still need a slab. I have committed to painting the cabin as well, if we can put together a simple set of scaffolding, so that I do not have to go up and down all day on a ladder. Ladders and bad knees are not a good fit.

Our cannabis has been in the ground for about three weeks now, so we’re not yet to the point where we need to start the ‘booing. We have decided to hold off until towards the end of June, and just let them spread their own wings for the time being.

I have two projects pending, one involving the division of a large herb bed, and the other a far more complex endeavor. I want to relocate the Celtic Cross/Circle that I assembled about two decades ago, to a new location, one which cannot be driven over.

I made the original out of smooth river rock, acquired over time, but it got ravaged because it was at the edge of our parking area, and vehicles kept ending up on top of it. Additionally, winter rains each year gradually covered it with a layer of dirt, from which I had to retrieve it. 

Now it is sadly in need of some TLC, which I have in abundance, possibly fueled by the THC, but that is pure conjecture. And no, the project doesn’t come under the category of farming, but it does apply when it comes to those options, of which I may avail myself on any given Sunday, if’n it don’t rain.
Otherwise, I have a breath-taking idea-I could clean house. 

Breath-taking might be a stretch.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Once Upon A Fox

Once Upon A Fox

When you live off the grid, five miles up a dirt road, you can bet your bottom dollar that you are going to encounter the occasional wild critter. Some of the more frequent flyers are red-tailed hawks, rattlesnakes, deer, wild pigs, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, skunks and scorpions.

Nonetheless, I was quite shocked to come face-to-face with a little gray fox, early Friday morning, not twenty feet outside my back door. The reality is that the fox was there first, as I strolled out the back door, intent on scouting out “Tomato Terrace,” still grappling with how I am going to cage those 45 Ace tomato plants.

I was standing at the head of the terrace and had been doing so for at least five minutes, when I finally focused in on the little fox, at first mistaking it for an odd-colored cat, possibly up from a neighbor’s house. Then I saw her in profile and got a genuine jolt.

It’s been at least twenty years since I laid eyes on a fox, whereas back in the day, they were an active part of our ecosystem. In those days, we did not keep chickens, and therefore had no occasion to cross paths. I used to see them in my meanderings and we heard them all the time, more so at night.

Think of it as a dog barking with a severe case of laryngitis. It’s a raspy, gnarly, grating sound, and it kind of creeps you out if you don’t know what it is. On the other hand, once you have identified the unmistakable sound, you don’t feel weird anymore because foxes aren’t going to hurt you.

They fall under the category of “if you see me, I’m probably already gone.” They do not want to mess with people so they keep their distance. They do like to mess with the chickens, but if one is not clever enough to be able to build a coop that prevents foxes from getting in at night, then one deserves what Mr. Fox has to offer.
Who? Me?

Now that they are “back,” my question is, where did they go? In discussing this with Gluten-Free Mama, yesterday, she hit me up with an interesting hypothesis: “Do you suppose the rat poison that the cannabis farmers have been known to use, is responsible?”

Ach tung! As heinous as this thought is, I think GF Mama is on to something. It’s no secret that studies done in the past, indicate just how deadly this substance is, up and down the food chain. It just hits a bit too close to home to ponder this as a possibility.

Nonetheless, with heightened awareness and cannabis regulation, hopefully the truck is being backed up, even as we speak. The return of the foxes may be one indication that we are on the right track.

The one I spotted Friday morning, was sleek and velvety and silent. She was beautiful and graceful and seemed unconcerned that I was there. Since I had walked out and then just stopped in the early morning light, she had had five minutes to size me up.

“Nothing to be frightened of here…”

And then she wandered around and let me take a dozen snapshots of her, to prove how happy she was to be back. As I said earlier, my only issue with her would be if she went after my chickens, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Meanwhile, I won’t forget to lock my girls up at night.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Do I Know?

What Do I Know?

In somewhat of a delayed response, since I finished the task last Tuesday, I was planting tomato plants all night long in my sleep. Considering my total in the ground is 183 at this point in time, and that I have had to draw a map to keep them all straight, I suppose this is not surprising.
There are 126 tomato plants in this orchard.

I did not end up with as many of the Heinz plants for catsup as I had wanted, but it was a brutal spring for germination of hot-weather crops, such as tomatoes and peppers. We just got too much rain and not enough sunlight. 

As it is, I have 57 in the ground with a few small ones still in the greenhouse. I also have planted 57 of the Ace tomatoes, with another 20 or so in the greenhouse, because I want to process vast quantities of halved/quartered cold-pack tomatoes. The Ace tomatoes are perfectly round and easy to peel, unlike her cousin the beefsteak, which features crags and crevices galore, making blanching and peeling them more challenging.
Most of these are Aces.

Ace tomatoes are easy to put up and we have a pressure cooker that allows us to stack quarts on top of quarts; I think we can do 36 at a time. What I envision is keeping that pressure cooker going at double-time for about a month or so there in September/October.

In addition to cold-pack tomatoes, we will be doing catsup, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, paste and we will also be drying tomatoes. I planted 28 cherry tomatoes because Gluten-Free Mama wants to be able to supply local businesses with as many as demand requires. One of the varieties I planted is a rainbow assortment, that GF Mama guarantees will dazzle me.

Were it not for additional help from the ranks, I would never take on such a monumental task, but I know there are multiple extra hands which will be able to pitch in and make it happen. Specifically, harvesting is what we are targeting. For GF Mama and myself, now in our sixties, harvesting is the one thing that we can’t do very effectively.

Working at the counter alone, processing the fruit, can create havoc with my back, not to mention bending over to ground level to harvest. The Heinz plants will not grow tall and the fruit will be clustered at knee level and below. I know it sounds glamorous and all, and that folks line up in this country to do this type of work, but I will pass, thank you. 

We are anticipating the arrival of our nephew, Jason, son of GF Mama’s brother, Joe. Jason and HappyDay Farms have been in communication for some time now, orchestrating the shift from one career to another. Jason has made it clear that he is interested in learning some basic components of self-sufficiency, something we strive for here on-farm.

We’re not there yet, but we are stoked to have made the strides we have, in providing organic produce and cannabis for our community. No two days are alike, what with balancing farming with regulation. Most days are a combination of the two-for me, at least.
Foundation and skirting
I have done some supplementary foundation work for both my workshop and Lito’s cabin, and I have done the skirting on both. The additional sheer strength is to satisfy the county building department, which will be ensuring that everything has been done according to code. I have also built a small structure to house our generator, which we use to supplement our batteries when there is no sun.

I have gotten a handle on the weed-eating, though the rain that is now falling, as welcome as it is, will extend the weed-eating season by a couple of weeks. These are all hats that I wear on-farm, and I enjoy the variety immensely. I determine what it is that has priority status, and I attack it. 

The irony of this summer is that I will spend far more time with tomatoes than cannabis, a reversal from the past few summers, certainly. It’s a good thing we have a root cellar for storage of processed goods-we’re going to fill that baby up.

As far as catsup for sale, which was my original goal, it’s still up in the air. The bottom line is that you will either hear a whole lot about it, or not a peep. Personally, with sixty Heinz plants, I’d put my money on yes, but what do I know?

Not much, they all responded, in unison.
If some are good, then more must be better, right?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up and Wait

Everything comes to him who waits, especially old age. Never were there truer words than these, as is evidenced by the fact that after waiting patiently from March 2nd, until June 1st, 91 days by my fragile reckoning, I was seen by a podiatrist recommended by the VA.

Through the Veterans Choice Program, which attempts to allow veterans to seek medical care within their own communities, I was directed to present myself at the office of Dr. Douglas Lister, who is located in Ft. Bragg. The notification had been mailed on May 3rd, and I got it May 27th. Go figure.

Ft. Bragg is not my idea of my own community, but neither is Rosa, so I wasn’t arguing. I was curious. If that sounds odd for a guy with a toe that was diagnosed as being fractured, it is only because after fifteen months, the suspense was no longer killing me.

As I explained to Dr. Lister, who listened to every word I said, the problem was not chronic. As much as 80% of the time, I was good to go; it was that other 20% that I was trying to address. 

I explained about the three months of working the pitchfork, back in the spring of 2016, the increasing level of discomfort and then finally of Dr. Mulligan’s assessment, in March of this year. 

I explained about the sandals. 

I had wondered-vaguely-how the good doctor would respond to my choice of footwear; would he be critical? In the back of my somewhat murky mind, I was bristling for criticism. How would a guy who spends all of his time in an office, understand where someone is coming from, who spends all of his time outdoors?

To begin, Dr. Lister had a ruddy complexion, blonde hair that was seriously tousled, and an open, engaging face. He offered his hand for me to shake as he strode purposefully into the room, and I was immediately at ease. 

He had me slip off both sandals, so he could do some quick overall assessment, and he asked questions along the way. He would have had a hard time not seeing that my legs are inundated with scratches, bruises and what looked like a severe case of measles, from the results of weed-eating in shorts (and sandals).

Our dialogue was straightforward, with no mincing of words. He listened when I told him that after finding out there was actually something wrong, I adjusted my digging stance so as to employ my left foot, instead of the right one, in order to dig.

Subsequently, three months down the line, there was a marked improvement in terms of level of discomfort. Certain actions that used to create savage pain-such as digging in my toes when pushing a wheelbarrow uphill, now had abated to only two-thirds of the pain than earlier.

When he suggested that my simply “resting” the foot for an extended period of time would be optimum, I gave him the look. 

“I work,” I said simply. “I’m a farmer and I’m on the go twelve-sixteen hours a day.”

“So I figured,” he said. “How about we try this tape?” and he tore off a half-inch wide by twelve inch long piece of white adhesive tape. “Here’s what I think is going on. I don’t think your toe is broken; I think the little plate above it is damaged.”

He went on to explain that there was a ligament on top of this plate and one below. When the plate gets damaged, then the ligaments can cause discomfort because they are attached to other parts of your foot. As you use the foot and toe, you inevitably hurt the injured plate.”

The tape, which was placed over the top of the toe, at the base, and criss-crossed and applied to the bottom of my foot, helped to stabilize the toe. 

Think of it as a modified “walking cast.”
Thanks! But no.

No X-rays? No hospital visit? No interminable waiting around for a return consultation? No muss, no fuss?

Sign me up and I’m on my way, which is how it came down. 

“Where do I buy this magic tape?” I asked, feeling kind of dumb because it must be available at every “Drugs!” store that ever existed. He handed me the roll that he had just peeled off the tape from, and said, “Right here.”

I gotta tell you that the VA works in mysterious ways and takes her own sweet time, but once again I walked away (operative word, walk) contented. The irony is that by having to wait the three months to actually get the appointment, I aided my own cause by allowing the toe to start healing.
It brought back a quaint phrase that we heard a lot while in boot camp: Hurry up and wait. 

Only in this case, it was worth the wait.