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 29, 2017

Gobsmack

For going on forty years I felt nothing but anger and bitterness as a result of the twenty-one months I spent in the military, having been drafted off of a college campus. Then a funny thing happened: I found out that folks have much respect for veterans, and all of the sudden I no longer feel the anger.

Honestly, there are times when I still find it hard to believe that I served, for the simple fact that anyone who has ever known me, recognizes that placing me in the context of the army is laughable. I am opposed to violence in every form, with the possible exception of my mouth, which refuses to be censored.

Of course, that may be the result of spending sixteen years in the classroom, during which time I am pleased to note, I never once let fly an F-bomb. Out loud. Hell, I wouldn’t even allow the phrase “shut-up!” to be used within my hearing. 
Sitting on the steps of the hootch...
The irony is that I was drafted in the last year the draft existed, after having won the only lottery I will ever win. I drew lucky number 33 for the grand event, and found myself inextricably ensnared. My first thought was to flee to Canada, but alas, that took too much courage for me, and I took the course of least resistance.

I was never more terrified than the morning I was dropped off at the Los Angeles entrance station. I was not afraid of calisthenics; I was not frightened of the drill instructors; and finally, I was not skeered of M-16’s, even though I’d never fired a weapon in my life.

What I was petrified of was leaving home and my eight siblings. Furthermore, I was overwhelmed by the thought of sleeping in an open bay with 40 dudes in it. Every snore, every fart, every sigh was magnified in the tiled, antiseptic room, and I hated it. 

I hated the food, I hated being ordered around by dudes with the IQ of a ferret, and I hated having to wear a uniform. I despised what the US Army stood for, and I was stupefied by the thought that there was a strong likelihood, that I would end up in the ‘Nam.

I never once allowed my thoughts to drift in that direction during basic training. When the question appeared in writing in front of me one day, “Would I prefer an assignment in South Korea, or one in Viet Nam?” I almost chortled. As far as I knew, they were not blowing people up in Korea, and that was the box I checked.

I hated being 7,000 miles away from home. During my sixteen months in Korea, I made one phone call home. It boggles my pea brain to think of how much different it would be now, with the ‘Net to help facilitate communication. In 1972, there was a minimum of a two week delay for a response to a letter going home. 

I lived for mail-call.

I also wrote a ton of letters home, to keep that flow uninterrupted. I still have much of the correspondence I received, and even some of that which I sent home, my mom having saved what I sent her, along with my sister JT. 

It was from these letters that I was able to post more than a hundred thousand words, based on my military exploits. In an effort to soften that anger/bitterness, when I first started writing again in 2011, I tried to infuse humor into almost every step of the way.

And now I arrive at the crux of this jaunt down a most unwelcome memory lane: Is my opinion on matters of etiquette, when it comes to paying respect to our country and its flag, worth more than that of someone who did not serve? Does it matter that I earned an Army Commendation Medal for my service, one of only two given out in the 199th Personnel Service Company, during the sixteen months I served?

Whether I served voluntarily or not, whether I hated the experience or not, or whether I did a good job or a mediocre job, does the close-to-two-years that I spent serving the United States, give my opinion on patriotism more weight, than one who did not serve?

I don’t know. 

What I do know is that as long as one understands the difference between nationalism and patriotism, we will not have an issue. Nationalism is taking excessive pride in one’s country and its symbols, including the belief that it is superior to all others. A nationalist will refuse to acknowledge that his country is flawed. A nationalist believes it should be mandatory to stand for the flag.
A patriot loves his country, but recognizes that it has problems; a patriot also recognizes that freedom of speech is more important, than sentimental gobsmack about how real ‘Mericans stand for the flag.

I used to be far more patriotic than I am now. As long as business interests dictate that Puerto Ricans continue to starve to death, and thieves and bigots continue to run the government, I have no country and will stand for no flag.

Love is the greatest power, not money; therefore, I am not very patriotic. I am, however, a veteran, and no one can take that away from me. I never-ever-thought I would come to the conclusion that being in the army was worth it, but for this one reason alone, I may have been wrong, all of these years.


It feels pretty damn good to kneel beside Colin Kaepernick, and many others, in support of raising awareness of racism and police brutality, without having to get into any political dialogue, from folks who have, well, just an opinion.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Winter Rapture

Having completed my batch of marinara sauce and paid tribute to the hour, 4:20 in the AM, I take pen in hand, metaphorically speaking, to share the word. The word today is tomatoes.
Of all the produce grown here on-farm, nothing compares to tomatoes, for the simple reason that so much can be-and is-done with tomatoes, to stretch their value all-year-round. So far this summer, I have put up tomato paste, cold-pack tomatoes (33 quarts), catsup (4 1/2 gallons) and now marinara sauce, a paltry twelve pints.

I say paltry on the marinara sauce, because before the season is over, barring torrential rains, I will do at least another three or four batches of the king of all sauces. Oh yes, the pantry will be well-stocked for all of us here on-farm.

Because we almost never get a frost up here on our ridge-top until December, the tomatoes keep on rocking and rolling. Heavy rains would end things because the ‘maters split, but I will have harvested many lugs of not-completely ripened Aces, prior to any rain that would cause splitting. Therefore, as these ripen, I will continue to make smaller batches of sauce until I reach the end of the line. 

Because I am not working in a properly approved kitchen, we can’t sell our after-market products, the way we might sell fresh tomatoes. The truth is, rarely are there still tomato products on the pantry shelf, when the new season rolls around, so if we were actually selling our catsup and sauces, we would be in a world of hurt ourselves.

I have seen the meme that pokes fun at back-yard gardeners, for spending a fortune to gain a few tomatoes for the dinner salad. I save my best chuckling for when I am rearranging matters in the pantry for yet another infusion of winter rapture, in the form of any of the above commodities.

Add dried tomatoes, salsa, and pizza sauce to the paste, cold-pack tomatoes, catsup and marinara sauce, and that about completes the winter lineup.
Fresh basil

I have been assisted in my endeavors this summer by Jason, who is working on-farm and most enthusiastic in his approach. He and I have harvesting and doing the processing together, getting the resulting tomato sauce into huge saucepans, where it can cook down to an appropriate thickness. 

Simply because of timing, I have done the final step of putting them through either a water bath or the pressure cooker, in the wee hours. That being said, Jay will catch up with me one of these batches, because it will be at the proper thickness, right in the middle of the day.

All Jay has to do is participate in the process one time and he is good to go. Once you have worked through it, you can always google the specifics: the amount of lemon juice/salt added to each jar, processing time for the size of your jar and finally, for us at at higher elevation, how much extra time is needed to compensate for the difference from sea level.

I labeled my work with tomatoes a chore in an earlier post, but quickly amended it to a summer activity. There is something so rewarding about opening a quart of cold-packed tomatoes in the dead of winter, with snow falling, that the act of processing them could never be thought of as a chore.

I might label it a labor of love, possibly, with the delivery of explosive summer flavors, especially if we are talking about a roasted veggie pizza, using our pizza sauce.

There. I’ve done it again. I have left you hanging with a savory image. Then I guess I may as well complete it: fresh eggplant, onions, summer squash, mushrooms, bell peppers, basil and garlic, drizzled with Basalmic vinegar, slow-roasted and placed on a gluten-free crust. A base of our pizza sauce, along with some mozzarella and parmesan cheese, completes the picture, and why do I do this to myself?

Some folks settle for scrambled eggs and hash browns, but I am a man on a mission. Were there, or were there not, still some of those Baby Bella mushrooms left in the refrigerator? 


I can make do if not, but hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Locked and Loaded (Mostly Loaded)

I am aching all over today, the result of overdoing things Sunday, but it’s a happy kind of ache. OK, maybe rewarding is more like it. Considering I could have chosen to take the day off and just vedged in front of the television, reveling in the mass protests throughout NFL Land, I am in good shape for the shape I’m in.

I stumbled out the back door in pitch darkness Sunday morning to clean filters, before I got it together enough to flip on my headlamp. 45 minutes later [Editor: Can we make that 44 minutes? 46 minutes? Anything?] I came back into the house, almost forgetting of course to turn off my headlamp. I really do need to pursue the idea of picking up a little stock in Duracell…

My big plan for the day was an epic voyage off the mountain all the way to Laytonville. OK, so not so epic, but necessary nonetheless, to both give and take: I was making a recycling/trash run, and we were going grocery shopping.

My truck currently-and permanently-lodged at the wrecker’s, I am dependent on the generosity of my sons, as far as borrowing a truck. I put it to them like this: Either lend me a truck, or come and haul away my garbage. Just like magic.

Later, while waiting for SmallBoy to complete an identical mission, except that he had a stuffed trailer attached, I filled in the time by donning my best Mendo-Maids attitude, and running a mop around the house.

Afterwards, I also applied the mop to the floors, and the net result was a general spiffing-up of our domicile, a responsibility I take most seriously. Gluten-Free Mama has a lot on her plate these days, without having to worry about tripping over dust bunnies.

I had also begun doing laundry, an operation the requires about twelve steps before clothes can actually be laundered. We needed bath towels washed and I am just the guy for the job. I also did a couple of loads for GF Mama, just to show her that my heart is on the right side. She protested she was feeling strong enough to do a load of laundry.

I suggested that if she had enough energy to do laundry, then maybe she should go for a little walk with me, and let me do the laundry when we got back. We did so, and saw a small flock of turkeys in the field. We don't see them as much as we once used to.


In between mopping floors and doing laundry, I was also gathering all of the recycling and trash out in front, conveniently located for speedy load-up and departure. Mind you, I would have been perfectly happy if SmallBoy never brought the truck, and I never had to drive to the ‘Ville, but hey, such is the good life.

I separated the glass meticulously, having learned that skill back in kindergarten, and got all the paper and free-flow recycling all bagged up. As I had said to SmallBoy earlier, “The trash is the only thing that really has to go; the recycling not so much. I had two contractor bags of trash and five bags of recycling. I also had three tuppies of glass.

I was ready for action, ready for danger-ready for a trip to town.

I was just hanging up the fourth and final load of laundry on the clothesline out front, when SmallBoy rolled in with the truck, HeadSodBuster’s black ‘Yoda. I love this truck because it makes me feel like a real hill person. You know?

Locked and loaded, metaphorically speaking if not literally, GF Mama and I were off on our great adventure. Luckily there was no road construction so I did not have to commit hari-kari on the spot, and lived to tell about it another day.

The sign out in front of the dump said, “No trash!” I looked at GF Mama and said, “No problem. We have two bags full.”

Oh, bummer. We still have those two bags of garbage, because the dump was all filled up, but at least we got rid of the eight bags/tuppies of recycling, so we came out on top. Imagine my surprise though to be told that I could just dump my glass in the giant free-flow dumpster. "You mean you don't need it separated?" My world shifted just a tiny bit.

Having trash did mean, however, that GF Mama ended up doing raven duty while I went into Geiger’s and bought some grub. Otherwise the birds do their best Alfred Hitchcock impression, and make our lives a nightmare cleaning up the mess. It's part of the country experience provided free of charge. 

You can say what you want about our local grocery store; I am quite enamored. I am also pleased as punch to spend my dollars locally when I can get organic produce. Great success.

Arriving home, imagine my surprise to see HeadSodBuster up on the roof with Jesse, longtime friend, here on a visit. The way it was explained to me is that Jesse has to take it easy because of some hurt ribs. Therefore, he had spent time earlier in the day chainsawing wood, and was now up on my roof, helping to install new metal roofing. 

Where was I? Down on the ground, watching, as I unloaded an put away the groceries. I have much appreciation for roofing. I can still get up on a roof, but it scares GF Mama so badly that I have agreed to cease and desist. Huh, I wonder why it scares her to see me on a roof.

Before we strolled up to a scrumptious farm meal prepared by BossLady herself, I paused fifteen minutes to watch the opening of the football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins, a game the Raiders lost, 27-10. 

The camera panned over players from both teams protesting in various ways, the despicable comments made by 45. It seemed as though the entire Raiders team was involved in the protest. Quarterback Derek Carr chose to remain standing, while praying. He said afterwards that he loves all of his fellow players, and that it did not matter to the team whether he stood or sat.

I don’t know too much about that. I made my own statement on social media, which I manage to refrain from doing most of the time. I posted, “This veteran will take a knee with Colin any day of the week and twice on Sundays.”

I was gratified to see that much of the NFL agrees with Colin-and me.





Saturday, September 23, 2017

Extra Catsup, Please!

Who ever heard of dipping French fries in anything but catsup? Sure, I’ve tried ranch dressing and it’s all well and good, but catsup on fries and a burger is what it’s all about. And what could be better than homegrown, homemade tomato catsup? Four-and-a-half gallons, to be precise.

Over the past half-dozen or so summers, I have endeavored to produce palatable catsup, with Gluten-Free Mama applying her talents in the form of a recipe. This set of directions has undergone revision numerous times resulting in what everyone has concluded is a great success, but what must be considered first is what kind of tomatoes work best.

There was a time when I was of the opinion that if you cooked tomato sauce down long enough, it would eventually thicken to the correct consistency, and you would be good to go. Sadly, such proved not to be the case, with two primary factors affecting matters: Any remote instance of scorching on the bottom of the saucepan will taint the entire batch, no matter how small or how big.

Additionally, the juicier the tomatoes, the more liquid there is that needs to evaporate, so strains like Ace or beefsteak, as much as the tomatoes are huge, are not good candidates. Gluten-Free Mama did her homework, and determined that the tomato that gave us the best shot at successfully making catsup, is the Heinz variety.

She ordered the seeds, we started them in the greenhouse in a timely manner, and I planted them out in early June. I had been hoping for 120 altogether, but this spring was the wettest in California history, and we ended up with a paltry seventy or so which I duly planted.

The Heinz variety is not a big tomato, relying on quantity to make up for its smallish size. They are also practically devoid of juice, being incredibly dense, meaty fruit, and therefore best suited for the ultimate goal of creating catsup with the proper thickness.

Gluten-Free Mama also provided me with a diffuser, a device which sits on the burner, between that and the saucepan itself, and helps prevent scorching. In a perfect world I would have had two diffusers, because the saucepan I used was so mammoth it easily could have fully encompassed two burners. As it was, I used only the one, with the only minor consequence being that the process took longer: 44 hours altogether. I started with six and a half gallons of sauce, added more than a gallon of vinegar, and brought the mixture to a low, rolling boil, before adjusting the heat downwards. 

I never allowed the burner past about one-third of the way up, from this point onward, so a medium fire at most, and I stirred it every time I was in the vicinity, as did GF Mama. The house smelled intoxicatingly good as the spices kicked in, both those blended directly into the sauce, as well as the cheesecloth bag containing spices that had more substance, like cinnamon sticks and cloves.

It goes without saying that I guard this recipe with my very life, and with good reason. Developed by GF Mama through trial and error, it represents much research, including a couple of early batches that relied on reputation alone, as homemade, to make it to the point where they were actually consumed. 

Nonetheless, the end result of this most recent batch are the sixty half-pints that SmallBoy picked up at Geiger’s the other day, plus another half-dozen pints, a grand total of 18 quarts, or four-and-a-half gallons. From the first taste I took after adding all the ingredients, to the final one just prior to filling the jars, my taste buds have been thrilled.

Despite all of the adversity the orchard has provided for me this summer, with gophers, water issues and those insidious little ground squirrels, who swoop down on the just-ripening tomatoes, and ravage them, this homemade catsup is as good as it gets.

Farming has numerous benefits to be gained but none as rewarding as this kind of successful outcome to a direct challenge. Organic, homemade catsup on piping hot, homemade French fries from organic potatoes, and I am sorry to leave you with this savory image. Before you leave, though, could you pass the salt, please?

I did say please…






Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To Each His Quiche

“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” the old adage intones. Being a SoCal kid growing up, heat doesn’t particularly bother me. It wasn’t REALLY hot until it got over 110 degrees. The day my brother Tom was born, on October 3rd, it was 114 degrees outside.

Therefore, Monday morning, long before the sun would show its pointy little head, Gluten-Free Mama and I hashed over my plan to prepare lunch for the HappyDay Farm crew. We had to have this discussion early because she and HeadSodBuster were sallying forth to Sacramento reasonably early Monday morning.
The thrust of the conversation was her educating me that a frittata was not the same as a quiche. Whereas I did not want to make a crust, I did want to make a substantial amount of grub for a hungry crew of farming personnel. So she educated me in the art of blending eggs and cream without using a beater, and she convinced me that this was all going to work out just dandy. 

I do have an infinite amount of respect for GF Mama’s kitchen-expertise.

I could have been satisfied to harvest my cherry tomatoes (forty plants) and my Aces (80 plants), and then go on to either processing tomatoes, or prepping the cannabis for the upcoming inclement weather. However, I wanted to cook because Monday is market day, and no one has time- hardly-to even eat, let alone cook.

I am not part of the market day preparations, except for the aforementioned harvesting, so I have the freedom to don my chef’s hat and whip up lunch. Because we have so many seasonal vegetables, I wanted to prepare something that centered on them.

A soup would have been just fine but I also tend the chickens, and they had been clamoring to get into the act. Willing to do anything to keep the girls quiet, I acquiesced, and had therefore settled on quiche. I still had onions from Irene, and bell peppers, zucchini (three varieties), garlic, cabbage, and green beans from the farm; I had some bacon from Lito’s pig and some organic whipping cream that I could spare; and most importantly, I had vast quantities of tomatoes.

The irony here is that the gorgeous, just-picked Ace tomatoes that I prepared and served for our lunch, were the very ones that I had culled out of this morning’s harvest, as being a tad TOO home-grown for sale at market.

There may have been some mild splitting, due to irregular watering, or there may have been a blossom-end-rot blemish. There were also a few that were sun-burned, those kids turning a bright white/yellow on the side facing the sun, due to over-exposure. The change in color is purely aesthetics; there is nothing wrong with the taste.

Once the blemishes were removed, I sliced a dozen or so for inclusion in the quiche, and for serving on-the-side. Almost every meal I consume these days includes tomatoes on-the-side.

Monday’s plan called for me to start gathering materials and preparing the workplace for action by ten o’clock, so as to have lunch on the table precisely at noon. I was especially pleased to know that BossLady herself would be gracing my table with her presence.

Imagine my surprise when, just as I was wrapping up the Ace harvest out back, I heard SmallBoy hollering from the back door, inquiring if I would like some breakfast which he was about to whip up. Instinctively, I thanked him but said I had already eaten, but didn’t really have time to say anything more.

He returned to the kitchen, and as I was getting ready to join him, I realized my plan would have to include a little room for adjustment. I am too much like Gluten-Free Mama, after watching her in action for 35 years: I like a pristine work station before I can begin to work.

Ohhhh. Kayyyyyy. That was not going to happen until after SmallBoy had first cooked, and then cleaned up the counter. I absolutely did not want to discourage him, because he is in the state of flux, rearranging his personal living space, so he has been frequenting our kitchen.

GF Mama and I are always happy to have this happen, so I decided I could amend my plan to include working down on the far left of the counter, on the far side of the dish rack and sink. Huh, working on the far left should not pose a problem for this old hippie, so I went happily to work.

I diced two onions, one for each deep-dish, ten-inch quiche, and then the bell peppers, green beans, zucchini and garlic. I had some cabbage left over from Sunday night’s roasted chicken extravaganza, so I absconded with a one-fourth chunk to be shredded and divided between the two pies.

Just about now, as it was pushing 10:30, Small Boy wrapped up operations and headed off to town, leaving the arena ready for me to blast off. Once I had finished grabbing said bong rip, and feeling sufficiently blasted, I launched into frying the bacon, sautéing all the crunchy veggies, and preparing fifteen eggs and the whipping cream.

I used a marginal amount of the bacon grease to line the pyrex dishes, as opposed to the spray that GF Mama had suggested, taking advantage of a better way to guarantee there would be no stickage. I then grated up a mound of extra-sharp cheddar cheese, the white kind.

It was past eleven by now, the original time that I had slated to put the two pies in the oven, but I was not worried. I was flying, in more ways than one, and enjoying myself immensely. I lined both dished with the sautéed veggies, placed a layer of sliced tomatoes on top, covered the ensemble with cheese and divided the eggs/cream mixture between the two.

I dusted a little more cheese on top of it all, popped both into the oven, and promptly forgot about them for 37 minutes. GF Mama had told me about 45 minutes should do the trick, but I had tweaked the original directions a bit to include a few more eggs, so I figured more like fifty minutes.

The second I had closed the oven door, I was running water in the sink to clean up my mess, before I started frying the potatoes. I had baked a dozen small-to-medium russet potatoes in the wee hours, so they would be cold by now, and I diced them and fried them in avocado oil to make them crisp. 

Since they were already thoroughly cooked from baking them, heating them on top of the stove took only minutes. I was so absorbed in cleaning and then prepping the taters, that I totally spaced the quiches for 37 minutes. 

Bounding over to the stove, I pulled out the rack and was amazed to see they looked just fine. I stuck a butter knife in the center of one, and determined I still had ten or so minutes to go, closed the door and promptly forgot about them for another fifteen minutes. 

I was frantically slicing the tomatoes to serve on the side, getting fresh water for the pitcher and making sure there were silverware, plates and napkins. Once again, just about 11:55, I cautiously opened the oven door one more time to see the most perfect quiches imaginable. 

Inserting the butter knife again, it came out perfectly clean and I knew I did not have to check the second one. 

Lunch was an unqualified great success as we made with the palaver and enjoyed the quiche and taters. Tobias asked me if I liked the San Fernando Valley Ogre Berry and I asked him if that was what we were trimming. When he said yes, I told him I liked it a lot.

“Just this morning,” I added, “I loaded up a bowl, took a rip and went about my way. A while later I took a second rip from the same bowl, and the planets must have been aligned just right, because I had to grab onto the washing machine to keep from spinning off the map.” 


Every so often I get complete lift-off and it reminds me to keep my seatbelt fastened until the ride has come to a complete standstill. As long as I am still hanging on to the washing machine, I guess I am good to go.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I Wave; Therefore I Am

With more than forty years of experience driving on Bell Springs Road, and with more than thirty years under my belt of walking it on an almost daily basis, I know The Bell well. If you have never experienced this once-upon-a-time-stagecoach-route, then you may not be aware that we are a friendly group of dirt roaders.

We wave at one another as we pass, though in maneuvering in tight quarters, one doesn’t always see the wave. Some flash the peace sign, others the thumb/pinkie ensemble while still others toss out a salute. The gesture, regardless of its form, is merely an acknowledgment that you exist, and have come into incidental contact with another.

Obviously, this also serves as a mechanism for determining whether or not the vehicle approaching you is local or not. My peace sign has been returned in countless manners; it has also been ignored a Brazilian times. What I had never experienced, until Thursday, anyway, is the brush-off wave.  

You know, the dismissive, yawn, I’m-willing-to-write-you-off kind of thing. Is nothing sacred? Ignore me, wave, flip me the bird, whatever, but don’t give me one of these, “Good. Lord. Now. I. Suppose. I. Have. To. Wave. Back. arrangements, especially if you are driving what could possibly double as a Sherman tank, except that Sherman tanks do not generally rock chrome. So much.
Like this...
No wave frequently means that the person being waved at is not a local, and therefore assumes he was taken for someone else. Why else would someone wave, right? No wave could also mean that in navigating the road, both hands were needed, but that would probably mean no wave from either party.

Or if you are some sort of curmudgeon, and you don’t wave period, then your vehicle becomes readily identifiable as exactly that: the unfriendly dude. But I can’t think of anyone like that, you know?

Maybe the guy who brushed me off is some sort of celebrity, and is accustomed to giving people the brush-off, in which case he probably would have ignored me.
Hey, I have a pair of pants just like these...
and a yellow polo shirt. 

No, this is comparable to the “constructo wave,” but with none of the personality. The constructo wave is the one where you recognize the individual coming at you, but you dread having to stop and actually make with the palaver, so you gun the engine, plaster the biggest grin you can muster up on your face, and thrust your non-driving arm forward as though saluting the Fuhrer himself.

In essence you are saying, “Hey there good buddy, great to see you, had a hard-ass day, got to get home to some ice cold beer-and my woman-and get the barbecue started!”

All in that one gesture.

But the brush-off? 

Ach tung, Chucko. Get it together if you want to call yourself a local in good standing. 

Otherwise, you’re just a loco.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Schadenfreude

“Five Videos of the Worst Intentional Hits By the Pitch” read the meme, as I scrolled along, Thursday morning. The teaser read, “Which pitch was the worst?” 

Fascinated, not by the idea of going to the link, but by the very idea itself of compiling this list of intentional mayhem, I scrolled onward, shaking my head in disbelief. “Why would I ever want to see that?” was the only thought my little cabbage head could wrap itself around.

I paused in my finger play for a moment, and it occurred to me that I might just want to voice that idea in the form of a comment. So I did. My good friend Wayne, even if he is a Dodger fan, provided some insight. In response to my query, “Why, why, why would I ever want to view this?” he wrote, “For the same reason people watch car races.”

Huh? What does baseball have to do with men in race cars, circling the track? I used to make fun of grown men going in circles, until someone pointed out to me that it was not much different from grown men trying to hit a ball with a stick.

Point well taken.

However, I still had the dilemma of figuring out the complex logic Wayne was employing. Why DO people watch car races? To see the winner cross the finish line? Nah, only a small percentage will see that. To breathe in noxious exhaust fumes, while guzzling beer? Well, sure, that’s part of it, but not enough. You can do that in your garage, with the truck idling…

Oh. Cars going really fast around curves, occasionally go out of control. On a particularly well-played disaster, a car will cart-wheel a few hundred feet, thus providing a whole section of the stadium with first-hand, graphic visuals, of someone about to go to the great pit stop in the sky.

OK, I get it; watching the five professional ballplayers get intentionally beaned, provided that vicarious entry into the world of pain-someone else’s. Better him, than me, is all they can think. I am prone to think-nothing, because I scrolled on.

I do not like to see others suffer, especially if there was intent to hurt. I can watch that every evening of my life on Channels 2, 4, 5, 7 and 11. Such the invitation but I have managed to resist it for more than 60 years so far, and see no change in that regard.

Nick then added to the conversation, “A bit of schadenfreude.” Ah ha! That certainly clarified that. Hustling to Google, a primary source of exercise for me, I discovered it meant to feel pleasure at the expense of others’ pain. Oh, the same as watching a car race in hopes of a crash.

Finally, David chimed in with, "Part of the game-since about 1750.” Managing to restrain myself from responding that Abner Doubleday was not alive in 1750, I settled for commenting that as the game is played live, yes, getting hit in the head is part of the game. 
Buster goes down.

As for viewing a replay of five different players being intentionally beaned-not part of the game. 

I am not a fan of violence. Buster Posey, at the top of my list when it comes to favorite players, was beaned on Opening Day this season, setting the stage for a disastrous season. Any reminder of that, I can do without.


Just as I can do without schadenfreude.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When de Sun Don't Shine

“The greatest thing you will ever learn is to love and be loved in return.” David Bowie *

This meme appeared on face/book early this morning, and I was immediately besotted, the words resonating within me in four-part harmony. The most appealing component of the saying is the part about learning: You don’t come stock with that ability, unless you have been raised in an extraordinary environment.

I have experienced this exchange of love and the result is that between the two of us, we have raised three fine sons. That is my ultimate accomplishment in life, right there, but one that could never have been achieved without the presence of love.
Little pirates...

Boys who are raised in an environment, in which the mom is respected, loved and treated accordingly, grow up to treat their significant others in the same manner. I know this to be the case because I have both experienced it, and provided a similar example.

Love provides the foundation for this to occur. The plethora of challenges in life can rapidly wear one down without this component present in the home. There is constant reaffirmation of this love, as two people work together to raise children.

In our home we did not believe in spanking; we believed that time-outs, chores and communication were the better route to follow. Teaching three boys, within three years, two months of each other in age, not to hit one another by hitting them, made no sense whatsoever.

Gluten-Free Mama and I complemented each other on our own skill levels: the things I could not do, she handled with seeming ease, and there were things that I handled because of my own blue-collar background, that balanced things out.

An example I have alluded to in the past, is the fact the each of the three boys worked at the Chevron Station in the ‘Ville, and at different times, each got off of work at ten o’clock. That’s ten o’clock when de sun don’t shine.

There is no way I could ever have gone off the mountain and driven to town in the past, that late, just as there is no way I could do it today. And yet, it was the way it worked.

The things that I did, along with Gluten-Free Mama, include infusing the concept that hard work never hurt anyone, and that he who learns to work hard in life, will find ultimate satisfaction with that ability. I taught them that money is superfluous to what is important in life, and that it is better to love what you do, than to work with the ultimate goal of making money.

Two farmers and a high school teacher later, I see community contributors, who work hard at what they do. This completion of the circle cements my feeling that love is the greatest power, and that to love and be loved by another, is the greatest thing I have learned.


* I quote Ann Clark: “The song “Nature Boy,” from which this lyric is taken, was written in 1947 by George Alexander Aberle, who went by [lower case] eden ahbez.” [Much thanks, Ann!]

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I'm Living 'Til I Die

You know things are a tad discombobulated when I go eight days without posting. Could the recent solar flare-up have been the cause of the ungrounded feeling I have been experiencing, or was it just Markie messing with my head?
I have responsibilities clamoring for my attention from multiple directions, and the net result is paralysis. That’s what I call it when I am so overwhelmed, that I let my fingers take over, and I either trim cannabis or buck it off the stalks. Mindless, but necessary.

Granted, I tweaked my back more than two weeks ago, when that sheet of plywood got away and came down off the roof of the power shed. I was never really in any danger on the ground, but in moving faster than I have since Gluten-Free Mama announced that the chocolate zucchini cake was ready on my birthday, I managed to aggravate my lower back. 

Together with my surgically-repaired right shoulder objecting from my maneuvering the fifteen sheets of half-inch plywood around, I am feeling some late-summer blues, physically. Sitting at the trim table and watching the entire M*A*S*H series, all eleven seasons of it, seems to iron things out a little.

I should be processing tomatoes; I have to wrap up the power shed over at the Pepper Pot; I absolutely have to prep the cannabis plants for fall weather; and I have to figure out how to cope with the emotional maelstrom whirling around my frazzled brain, like Harvey and Irma together, doing the Tango.

It’s no secret that Gluten-Free Mama has health issues; out of love and respect for her, I do not prattle on about these matters. That being acknowledged, I sometimes find it necessary to upgrade the prattle to a ramble, and focus on myself, or that part of myself trying to contend with GF Mama’s illness. 

A short time ago, she was prescribed medication for dealing with seizures, the result of having suffered one a few weeks back. The immediate result is that there are the inevitable “side effects.” It’s not enough that she is battling the brain tumor itself, but then she must contend with dizziness and fatigue on top of it all, provided courtesy of the medication.

I am powerless to do anything about it except be there when she needs a helping hand. I watched yesterday, as she went to put some runoff water on a plant out on the deck. As she walked out the door, she lurched/staggered into the right door jamb, righted/steadied herself and proceeded out the door.

When she reentered the kitchen, I asked her, as gently as I could, “Did you just stagger-er, bump-into the door jamb?” It’s hard to frame this question in a gentle manner.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve been running into stuff all day.” There was a simple acceptance of the fact that this was the state of affairs. Coming from someone whose mantra is, “I’m living ’til I die,” I am not surprised. 

And maybe it’s that acceptance that made me sad. Does it do any good to get angry? No way, because stress is always a step backward. The last thing I want to do is be the cause of GF Mama stressing out. 

I had to cogitate the situation for a while, my fingers twirling little flowers with one hand, while snipping with the other, before I reached any conclusions. The conclusion I reached is that though everyone “lives until they die,” some do it more courageously than others. 

So whether it is the sun which just unleashed the strongest flareup of sunspots in more than a decade, that is responsible for my inertia, or whether it is life itself, I don’t know for sure. All I know is that I am the pupil, when it comes to learning how to confront adversity with both fists pumping. 

My money’s on GF Mama.  





Monday, September 4, 2017

"Put Another Candle on My Birthday Cake..."

I turn 65 today, a somewhat dubious distinction when you consider that short of dying, I was bound to get here eventually. Though the accomplishment merits little more than passing notice, time would appear to be temporarily on my side. 

Am I throwing a birthday bash for myself? Having gone this long without one, I am not going to start now. I am not a fan of the spotlight. Gluten-Free Mama will prepare a Mexican feast, however, featuring tacos, a pot of pinto beans and a Spanish rice dish, with zucchini chocolate cake for dessert.
One for the birthday boy, and one for the guests.
The zucchini chocolate cake comes liberally sprinkled with dark chocolate chips that somehow managed to survive in the pantry, long enough to be put to better use than my just eating them. All farm personnel are cordially invited to the fiesta.

As these things go, every six years or so, my big day falls on Labor Day, as it does this year. One year back in the nineties, I attended the Pignic, Black Oak Ranch’s annual music festival on my birthday, along with 5,000 other revelers. It’s remotely possible that about 4,950 of them had no awareness of the significance of the day, but that was their loss-not mine. 

On September 4th, 1990, I began a new job as a middle school teacher in the Laytonville Unified School District. 38 is old to be getting into the game, but I hung in there for 16 years before standardized testing forced me into retirement. I refused to teach to the test.

I started school my fifth grade year on my birthday, with the result being that I got sick at school, and the nuns called my mother to come and get me. That was the bad news. The good news is that I milked that bitch for three more days off from school, and finished out the week in front of the TV, getting more attention with the house and Mama to myself, than ever before.

Though I was in the Republic of South Korea for a total of sixteen months, I managed to time it so that I celebrated both my 20th and 21st birthdays in the Land of the Morning Calm. My 20th was spent in the company of my older brother Eric, and according to a letter I sent home to Mama, we consumed a bottle of Jack Daniels between us, and played hearts. I told Mama that we had a “cool” time.

I have no recollection of my 21st birthday, except to say that I was so short at that point in my military career (39 days left), I could sit on a piece of toilet paper and dangle my legs, as we used to say in the vernacular.
Taken in the hootch, in Korea.

No, in terms of accomplishments, I hold both October 13th (the day I was released from military service) and November 11th, (Veterans Day) far higher on my list of special days, than September 4th. That being said, I will still enjoy pigging out on tacos and chocolate cake tonight, in the company of family, both mine and the farm’s.

My hair is turning gray, and my mustache is pure white, not flaming red any longer, but that has not diminished the fire inside me. Luckily, though, I have managed to refrain from burning the place down with that internal fire, and confine myself to prattling on paper.

The forecast for today is 91 degrees, about fifteen degrees cooler than the past few days, so that should help keep that fire under control. That being said, I kind of like that fire smoldering inside me; it lets me know I am still alive and kicking anything that does the underdog(s) wrong.

This fire kicks my own backside, occasionally, but I have learned to take the bitter with the sweet.

I remember my birthday, a scant five years ago, a day as low as any I have ever experienced. With Gluten-Free Mama leaving the same afternoon, to go down to San Francisco for surgery, and me having to stay home and tend the home fires, we ate my birthday dinner on the front deck, and I was despondent.

Nonetheless, after having a kidney removed, along with a tumor the size of a grapefruit, GF Mama needed to be in a healing environment, close to her primary health providers, and that had to happen in Willits. Hard times ultimately softened, and the memories along with the hard times, and here I am today.

Never having thought I would ever make it this far, I am content to stumble along, and if I happen to make it once more to September 4th, then more power to me.

If I am lucky, today, the Giants will pull out a victory in Colorado, but I am not holding my breath waiting, or at least, no longer than it takes to blow out the candles on my chocolate zucchini cake. 

Here are a few verses out of the birthday song from the Sheriff John TV show, aired in SoCal during the late fifties and early sixties: 
“Let’s laugh and be happy, like a merry melody,
A song will make a hatrack, look like a Christmas tree.
When you look out the window on a dark and gloomy day,
Break out a smile and in a while, the gloom will go away.


Put another candle on my birthday cake,
And when you do, a wish I’ll make.
Put another candle on my birthday cake-
I’m another year old today.

We’ll have some pie and chocolate cake,
And chocolate ice cream too.
We’ll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I’m gonna do-

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake, 
And when I do, a wish I’ll make!
Put another candle on my birthday cake-
I’m another year old today.

Happy birthday, to me; I’m another year old today.







Sunday, September 3, 2017

"We'll Get Over It"

Disclaimer: The author wishes to acknowledge at the outset of this essay, that what is being written is redundant. Nonetheless, it must be written because to not write it, is to capitulate.

The wall? "We'll get over it."
Have you seen George Lopez’ “The Wall?” The man is a genius for capturing the spirit of what makes this country continue staunchly marching onward, in the face of hatred and bigotry. As horrifying as it is, the face of hatred and bigotry these days, is our country’s President, Number 45.

45 wants the world to recognize that he is the man behind the construction of the wall, because he can’t come out and actually say, “I am a white supremacist.” However, what he can do is build a wall that will do little to keep Mexicans out of this country, and nothing to remove the ten million undocumented Mexicans already here.

From the stage Lopez flashed that innocent smile and asked 45 directly, if he didn’t think that Mexicans knew about the internet, or even airplanes? The notion that a wall is going to prevent more immigrants from coming to this country, can belong only to someone of such limited intellect, as to make one gasp. 

Gasping aside, if the wall is not going to keep Mexicans out, why bother building it? 45 wants it built because it is an in-your-face statement that this country does not want Mexico’s kind, the kind that are not lily-white. 

It makes me want to retch.

How does Lopez know that there are ten million undocumented Mexicans in this country? It makes no difference what the exact figure is. Like George so quaintly put it, and excuse the vulgarity, please, but 45’s vulgarity begets more of the same, “It’s like putting on the condom after you have fucked.”

45 built his campaign on this wall, encouraging his followers to join him in his hateful ban against select Middle Eastern nations, the ones not doing billions of dollars’ worth of business with him, and expanding the hatred to include Mexico.

Never mind that migrant workers do the chores that ‘Mericans wouldn’t do, even if you paid them real wages; that’s immaterial. What is relevant is that Mexicans are not acceptable for the same reason Muslims are not acceptable: They are not white.

When I ponder the many uses this money could be put to, besides this symbol of hatred and racism, it saddens me greatly. Hurricane relief, food and shelter for the homeless and education are only three of these, but instead, we are building a wall.

At last count, and the number is steadily climbing, 45 has committed at least eleven impeachable acts. It’s a race now as to which will come first, the building of a wall to keep Mexicans out, or the building of a wall to keep 45 in.

I’d like to think that common sense will prevail, and 45 will lose this battle, but I would not put money on it. 


Hatred has no boundaries, especially when it comes to creating and erecting boundaries.