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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"I Am the Farmer I Want To Be"

“My farm is the size it wants to be; I am the farmer I want to be.”

Observing HeadSodBuster growing up was like watching a balloon being inflated to its greatest capacity, and then waiting for it to be released into the air without tying it off: If you see this guy coming, you better step aside. 

Of all of his ideas, plans and goals, the one which stood out the most was the one which also terrified me the most: “I am going to be rich,” he used to intone, as though it were as elementary as getting a high school diploma.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I would respond simply. “Money is highly overrated when it comes to being happy.”

“What are you talking about? If I had some loot, I could go out and buy a 4WD Yoda, instead of driving around in old Brownie.” Brownie was the early ’60’s model half-ton Chevy pickup, that HeadSodBuster had purchased from Jeff. Jeff was the son of the rancher, Jerry, from whom we had purchased our parcels of land, back in the mid-seventies.

I will state right up front that making money was the furthest thing from my mind when I committed to making $67.00 monthly payments, for twenty acres of rolling hills property, paid over thirteen years. Gluten-Free Mama and I wanted simply to get out of San Jose, an hour south of San Francisco, so that we could raise kids who roamed the hills instead of the streets.

GF Mama and I have purchased exactly one brand new vehicle in our 35 years together, a 1992 Trooper, also the first 4WD vehicle we ever owned. This came after living on Bell Springs Road for a decade with only 2WD whips to get us into the ‘Ville five days a week, to answer the bell at the start of the school day.

Nevertheless, the littlest sodbuster maintained he was on a mission, one which would make him a millionaire by the time he reached thirty.

“Why?” I asked him, and then again, “Why do you want to be rich? You seem to have this impression that having money equates to happiness, and I have to tell you Buddy, nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Easy for you to say,” he might have responded. I did not need a road map to follow the route his mind had charted. I mean, realistically, how happy can a school teacher possibly be, while making the salary of a second-class professional?

Teachers are expected to be professional on the salary of amateurs. Let’s see how many politicians, policy-makers or CEO’s would have the cajones to even stand up in front of a class of 35 eighth graders, let alone try to learn them anything in the way of grammar. 

You get your mama to diagram sentences, Mr. O… You know what I’m saying?

“The problem with being rich, is that then you have all this money, and you assume it will bring you happiness. The truth is that money can’t buy happiness-the most it can do is rent it for a spell. Happiness does not come automatically because you have money-it comes because you like what you are doing in life, and you like the people around you.

What if you had all the loot in the world, but you hated your job? Or the people you work with are a bunch of arrogant so-and-so’s? How happy can you be if a third-or more-of your life is spent doing stuff you hate?

There is nothing mysterious about it, except that there are no guarantees that money will make you happy. Mostly it’s the opposite because once you have some, you want more. And if you get it, then the feeling gets worse; if you don’t get it, then…the feeling gets worse.”

“Right, Dad. Still, I’m getting tired of driving a beat-up old wreck to school, when my friends are driving real trucks. It would be hard to guarantee that having a fire-engine red 4-Banger would bring me happiness, so let’s just call it a Science Fair Project, what d’ya say?”

Fast-forward to HeadSodBuster’s appearance before the California State Assembly February 20th, when he appealed to the state’s lawmakers to include small farmers and the cottage industry, clearly within their sights, while pondering the future.

To hear HeadSodBuster’s calm voice of reason, shouting his message to our state’s lawmakers, is to fill my heart with pure, unbridled joy. In the midst of folks all around “going big,” I hear him say the words, “Last year our three craft farms were the equivalent to three 2,500 square ft cottage licenses. 

We are very small, total vegetable cultivation of just over an acre between our farms. My wife and I each made $12,000 last year from the farm; we would have done more but the licensing and regulatory costs ate most of that up. 

I was lucky enough to find an off-farm job to make ends meet. I’d like to celebrate that I have a temporary state license, but I can’t do it because most of my community does not…” 

Finally came the words that brought me full-circle back to when he was a teen, and I was trying to influence him,

“My farm is the size it wants to be; I am the farmer I want to be.”

Words are only words unless they are reinforced with actions. Can a school teacher genuinely be happy, living on a pittance? I don’t know; can a farmer? I guess he can, if he is the farmer he wants to be.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Only the Bourgeois [Need Paint]

“Men are perfectly capable of carrying out simple household tasks; there is no need to remind them every six months…”

Texturing, or "How to Hide Your Imperfections"
One would have to allow seventy, six-month periods to elapse, before eclipsing my personal-best record for procrastination. Heck, this wasn’t procrastination-it was suffocation by default. Remind me to get it done every six months? No prob. Failing that, could we shoot for prior to the third generation arriving in March? *

The question is a reasonable one, after all, because I did sheet rock, tape and [primitively] mud the room. Why did I not follow through with at least a coat of primer? Gluten-Free Mama had made the bathroom look downright chic early on, but her poor half-sister, the laundry room, was left standing on the corner, lunchbox in-hand, the bus having long since departed.

Does saying, "It was better than
nothing," make it better?
Priorities, baby. HeadSodBuster was already three weeks old before we even got hot, running water in our little cabin, with the addition of the bathroom and hot water heater. You might take note that country-styled living lacked some of the glamor you have undoubtedly attached to it in the past.

I was scrambling to make ends meet, and working with Speedy Erection Construction Company, framing [mostly] small homes for those paying cash under the table. We asked no questions for the same reason that we forgot to post the county permits in plain sight, so that the inspector would not have to ask for it.

Rebels, every one of us.

Lo and behold! Along came Ben-Jam-In nineteen months after HeadSodBuster, and the price of poker went up. Through labor exchange, I had been able to add on a sizable, two-story rectangle, at minimal cost in 1984. We needed more room than a 16 by 20 cabin with a bathroom and laundry room attached. 

At that point in time, which would have been higher on the priority list, finishing the interior of the living room, pool room, boys’ bedroom, et al, or the-cough-laundry room? Put this way, where were we more likely to congregate? 

Even after priming it, I could have quit and been
ahead of the game, by 35 years.
Right, the only congregation going on in the laundry room, was a vast collection of dirty laundry, piling up, or congregating, as we liked to call it.

The other element that can’t be ignored, is that at least the little room had been rocked, mudded and taped. It’s not as though the bare insulation was still showing. Not anymore, anyway.

Furthermore, and I am skating on thin ice here, the laundry room has always had a roguish swagger to its stride, or at least until that bong rip. Then it’s more of a stagger, praise be. With a rep to uphold, the laundry room was more than satisfied to assume an unorthodox appearance.

Far out and solid, Man. Who needs paint? Only the bourgeois…

Would you buy a used car from any of this trio?
When we went from being two parents with two sons, to two parents with three sons, with the thunderous entrance of SmallBoy, priorities shifted once again. Already low on the list, the laundry room was simply deleted at some unknown point, and the rest is history.

History is being redefined, even as we speak, with the impending addition of the next generation. Last winter’s inundation of moisture, to a bone-dry region, left our bathroom destroyed by a leaky roof, since replaced by a metal roof this past summer.

It was a package deal from the get-go: Whatever happened to the bathroom, was also going to happen to the laundry room.  If Necessity is the mother of invention, and Dancing Girl is mother of the next generation, then Necessity must be the one demanding that I invent a reason to upgrade the laundry room. 

No need to remind me every six months [anymore].


I better slow down or I will kill the job...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Excess Baggage

Three months ago, tomorrow, Gluten-Free Mama and I sallied into the Inland Mendocino County Humane Society facility, and waltzed out with sweet rescue dog, Ellie Mae. I always grace Ellie Mae’s name with he word sweet, because her sweet nature is what guarantees that I can never stay frustrated with her.
Friday's frolic in the snow; Ellie Mae loves this toy.
In some ways I have met my match: Like me, Ellie Mae has a streak of mania in her, that emerges possibly two percent of her existence. In the big picture that’s a pretty good rating. There are two areas of concern, one considerably higher on the ladder of stress than the other.

Ellie Mae has an unwavering desire to be a free spirit, a quality I myself possess, but then again, there is no danger that I will allow my free-spiritedness to goad me into killing eight chickens. Although I can admire this quality about Ellie, I have to stifle it, and therefore I spend far too much time monitoring Ellie’s whereabouts.

In a perfect world she could go outside with me every time I needed to bring in firewood, tend the chickens, and later on this spring, accompany me when I begin to till the soil, here on-farm. As hard as I have tried, I cannot do my chores and adequately keep an eye on Ellie Mae.
One of many exits I haveblocked

Friday, I actually caught her outside the fence, and on her way up to see her bff Emma. I hollered and she hesitated; I bellowed and she did a little stop-and-go cha cha cha; finally, I let it all hang out and she came right to the gate, her body language indicating that the message had been received.

Every time she disappears from my sight and I set up a clamor, I start to catastrophize. Several times I have actually stormed up to HeadSodBuster’s chicken coop, to see if carnage and mayhem have made a return visit, only to discover Ellie waiting back inside at the gate, smiling innocently at me.

I have always said that if you like someone or something, that person or pet can do anything on the face of the planet, and you will be OK with it. Conversely, if you do not like someone or something, and that individual so much as looks crookedly at you, you go ballistic.

I fit into the former category.

The other area of concern is that Ellie is over-zealous in her greeting of visitors. Though understandable, the situation is made worse by the fact that we have few visitors, but we see them frequently. Ellie is having a hard time distinguishing between a genuine need for barking, and barking for the sheer joy of it.

Her joy, not ours.
Prized possessions
Still, in the big picture, both past and present, this is pretty benign. Ellie Mae has had no accidents inside the house, she is sweet to Delta, Ben-Jam-In’s  German Shepherd service puppy, and she  does not have an aggressive bone in her body.

Ellie Mae had not destroyed anything after the phone charger cord, the second day she was with us, until the chicken faux pas. Of course, we furnished Ellie Mae with five key items to liven up her existence, and maybe mellow ours out a bit: a kong, upon which I frequently dabble almond butter, a chew toy, a circular, indestructible play-toy, and a ball. 

The fifth was a cool toss-toy that lasted a week before she got the best of it.

The ball we gave Ellie Mae is not a tennis ball, but the indestructible kind that proved its worth, for all of the years that we had the bulldog. When we first got Ellie Mae, as unthinkable as it is, she had no frame of reference for a ball. When I tossed it to her, it would bounce up against her, she would look at me, and then shrug her shoulders, metaphorically, and leave it.

If she would leave the chickens the way she ignored the ball, there would never have been an issue. Who could imagine a three-year old dog, who had no idea what a ball was for? I have kept this fact registered in my little pea-brain, ever since I made this connection.

The good news is that Ellie Mae barely ever flinches anymore, when I bring my hands to her ears to scratch. She does not start at the sudden sound of a hose being turned on, and she does not skulk away when I pick up sticks to place in the wheelbarrow.

Who can imagine what kind of excess baggage Ellie Mae brings to the table? The bottom line is that HappyDay Farms is the train depot, where there is a special room for all excess baggage.

The only baggage Ellie Mae needs now, is her travel bag, the one which contains a water dish, thermos, toys, blankie and organic dog treats. 

I never forget to bring the dog treats.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Kids

I began high school in September of 1966, and graduated in June of 1970, a period of time which coincided with the height of the “police action” in Vietnam. Already I was no stranger to peaceful protest, having watched my friend John wear an armband throughout his senior year, in support of Caesar Chavez and his efforts to attain fair wages for farm workers.

When I was drafted out of Cal Poly, Pomona, in January of 1972, I was  dead certain that I was on my way to The Nam.

An interesting side-note is that I had already participated in peaceful demonstrations against this war, and here I was on my way to boot camp in Missouri. I was not so much scared, as I was going out of my freaking mind, missing my friends and family. 

Having applied myself voraciously to the battery of form tests, that we took a total of five times my first month in the service, I achieved enough success to attract the attention of the brass. Why waste my talents having me tote a rifle doing guard duty on the DMZ, when I could be working in a personnel office, doing things that required a higher degree of intelligence than guard duty?

See, there was method to my madness in applying myself to those tests, as tantalizing as it was to make cool patterns with the answer sheet, as some of my 11 Bravo, DMZ-bound buddies were doing. Hey, some of us were not here because we did all that well on tests back home.

When I got out of the service and moved to the Bay Area, I attended San Jose State University for the next eight years, including my masters work. During this time I protested alongside my brothers and sisters, advocating solidarity for human rights, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights and whatever else I could jam into my work/college life.

I watched with infinite pride as members of my first middle school homeroom ever, seventh graders they were in the spring of 1991, marched out of my classroom after returning from lunch break, and took their actions uptown. They stood on the corner of Branscomb Road and Highway 101, and waved their signs at passing vehicles, protesting the presence of The United States in The Middle East.

I participated in a July 4th protest a few summers ago, in conjunction with a nationwide effort to raise awareness of GMO’s and the death-grip that Big Agra has on this whole food atrocity. We stood out on The 101 and tried to get folks to honk in support of our efforts. Imagine a culture in which the government espouses a carcinogenic replacement for organic food. 

Why? The government is controlled by those with money, and there is plenty of money in Big Agra. Growing organically costs more and therefore is counterproductive to the overall goal of making money. Besides, the cancer rate is soaring with the consumption of all the poisonous GMO’s, and that’s good for business with Big Pharma.

Gluten-Free Mama and I journeyed over to Sacramento thirteen months ago, to march in support of women's rights, but I am no longer able to make that long of a drive. My protesting days may rely more on my fingers than my toes from here on out.

That being said, I have been rejuvenated out of my political malaise, by the essence of that which makes our country great. This is the news that out of the ashes of the horrific and habitual assaults on school kids, will march a completely fresh and potentially lethal political force: The Kids.

The Kids were there in the sixties marching against The War and they were there in the seventies, protesting for human rights; they have been there expressing themselves against poison in our food, and now they have taken up their own cause: The Kids are tired of seeing other kids being used as lethal shields for the National Rifle Association.

I was in the first generation which had to learn to live
under the threat of nuclear war. I was ten years old
The Bay of Pigs confrontation occurred.
The recent lockdown of Leggett Schools due to shots fired in the vicinity of the Ropes Course, and the drama from Willits several nights ago, emphasize the fact that people are sick and tired of it, and getting punchy in the process. We are tired of seeing profits take preference over life.

As a society we are sick of having assault weapons thrust down our collective throats. The original intent of the Founding Fathers had nothing to do with having the right to mow down forty or fifty kindergartners, scattering for cover. It would seem imperative that the NRA has a lot of bullets-quickly-in order to kill small things scurrying around in terror.

Now, after the pace of school shootings has exponentially rocketed, The Kids have had enough. I never met a kid in my life that didn’t have some punch in him or her, so I know that if you put them all together, they’re going to do some serious damage in an area where we adults have simply floundered. 

Flounder all you want if you are a fish, but the time has come to assert what we as a culture actually want, and that is to be free from the yoke of the NRA.
The author of Mark's Work in Sacramento

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bottoms Up!

I won’t do it, no I won’t
I don’t want to-so I don’t.
Talk to any 45er’s,
‘Cause they’re blind, deaf and DUMB.

Of the hundreds of memes I examined, this one is tops.

Though I have always thought of myself as the great communicator, I will not engage in dialogue with 45er’s, or those folks who still support the “fraudulently elected President.” I was taken to task by a former friend of mine for referring to the jaboney in office as “fraudulently elected.” I did not read past the opening salvo of his post.

I am the kind of guy who unfriends another for posting pro-45 anything. You may support an orangutang for President, if you so choose, and I will not care one way or the other, as long as you do not do so, on my wall.
Those with no integrity, (L) and those by whom
the Standard is set. (R)
Therefore, when I refer to the current occupant of the White House as a fraudulently-elected President, if you do not like it, take it up with someone who is still willing to talk to you.

I won’t. I won’t talk to a person who still supports this abomination of a human being. Even as his family engorges itself on the misery of other human beings, illegally, unethically and immorally, this individual continues to spew hatred and indifference to those who deserve it least.

It is not sufficient that he has orchestrated a tax break that dooms millions of Americans, those who are old and sick, to an early, miserable death, he wants to torture them before he allows them to die.

Can we add compassion to the list? Lots of money-
no compassion.
45 has the oratory skills of a thug, unable to articulate his scrambled thoughts in any other manner than that of a petulant, narcissistic, self-centered fop. He lies, he scorns and he simmers in his own fetid stew.

45’s hypocrisy defies historical context, as does the behavior of the entire Republican Party. This bunch of liars and thieves make those who were associated with the previous standard for corruption, The Teapot Dome Scandal, or Watergate participant, Tricky Dick, seem like paragons of virtue.

No Sir, Bub, if you want to lecture me on why it’s not right to refer to the fraudulently elected President, as a fraudulently elected President, then you’re just going to have to face the fact that I do not have enough respect for you, to listen. 

You represent a small minority of people, people who are steadfastly determined to prove true what the majority of us believe to be false, that color of skin determines worth. You support a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a repulsive, self-centered, worthless man, one who has a date with Karma, the Mistress of the Universe.

If you support 45, then your date with Karma, the Mistress of the Universe, also lies in wait for you. 

Bottoms up!
A racist President. Appalling...

Hypocrisy abounds!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Skin of Our Teeth

Gluten-Free Mama was feeling reasonably chipper the other day, so she asked me to round her up some cold-pack tomatoes and marinara sauce, so she could whip up some pasta sauce. This would be the same tomatoes and sauce that I was posting photos of, and prattling about last September and October, when I set personal records for quantity of food put up for the upcoming winter.

Our crockpot
I can’t imagine farming on a big scale; the issues I contend with on a small level defy comprehension. That being said, the rewards for the level at which I function, are tremendous. HeadSodBuster and BossLady took both cherry and Ace tomatoes to market(s) all season long, and we enjoyed freshly harvested tomatoes at table from July through November.

With the Heinz tomatoes, I processed vast unlimited quantities of catsup, sauces, hot sauce and salsas. I made sure that all farm-dwelling folks knew that those processed goods were available at any time, all the way up until the point they were gone. 

By that time we will be getting close to harvest time again.

Finally, now when the temperature outside will not crack forty all day long, even with the sun shining, it’s the perfect time to dice up some onions, mushroom, and peppers, and get a pasta sauce simmering on the kitchen wood-stove. We don’t need to add basil or garlic because I included those in the processed marinara sauce last summer.

We just think of the wood-stove as our go-to winter crock pot, since it goes around the clock when the temps drop down this low, and there is snow on the ground.

GF Mama had to ask me to rustle her up some of my concoctions, because they are scattered around the pantry and kitchen storage areas like Easter eggs hidden in the flower garden in the side yard. You have to hunt for the goodness in order to enjoy it.

Luckily, I have a photographic memory when it comes to my tomatoes; I know them and they know me.

They know I watched the gophers attack in the early going, last June, and that I got a little panicky there for a minute or two, when the two hundred-plus tomato plants just did not seem that interested in playing ball. I was slightly taken aback, having prepped the nine rows in the orchard, and Tomato Terrace, in the back yard, which housed 44 Ace tomato plants.

Originally, quite by accident I can assure you, I ended up with 45 Aces in Tomato Terrace, but I certainly could not abide with that, so I transplanted one out to the orchard, and felt much better. We all have to do that, which allows us to continue to hang on by the skin of our teeth, until our ship comes in this November, and we can breathe again.

My tomatoes began life in soil amended by my own home-prepared compost, gathered over the previous year from dead organic plant material, and heavily supplemented by both chicken and rabbit manure. Soaked and tarped throughout the summer, fall and winter, I turned the whole pile over by hand in late February, and distributed it in May.

Summer on simmer...
Still, those early weeks had me so nervous that I hit HeadSodBuster up for some technical advice.

“My little tomatoes are not happy. They should be going off like gangbusters, and they’re not. And the gophers are having a field day.”

“Why don’t you hit them up with some fertilizer?” he asked, “I’ll bring you a fifty pound sack of the pellets. They’re organic and what you do is put a little pile of the pellets next to each of the emitters, so that the  water dripping out every six inches along the line, will come into contact with the pellets.”

It all sounded so simple.

“How much is a little pile?” I inquired.

“Maybe a quarter of a cup?” 

“And I spend the pellets out every six inches along the emitter hose?”

“Yup. You’ll see. The pellets will slowly dissolve into the soil, spreading all of those necessary components to where they can do the most good.”

When all was said and done as Reggae on the River approached, towards the end of July, I was still uneasy. I asked HSBuster to walk out into the orchard yet once more, to assess the situation. 

“Why are my Heinz tomatoes looking like cherry tomatoes, instead of regular-sized tomatoes? I should have triple the size from what I’m seeing. I’m baffled. I mean, more so than usual.” 

“Why don’t we increase the water?” 

Magic words to my ears, I restrained myself admirably from doing a cartwheel, and leaped instead onto his suggestion. Immediately, the entire orchard came to life, to the point where I had to actually reduce the water because the ripening tomatoes had begun to crack.

With this formula firmly staple-gunned to the interior of my cottage cheese brain, I will be ready for next spring’s foray into the world of tomatoes. I am planting fewer Heinz tomato plants, but counting on getting an even greater yield out of them, now that I have ironed out a few of these minor details.

My compost pile is a third again bigger than last year’s, my ground-cover crop is flourishing and I am itching to get out and start pitch-forking. It’s good for the body and good for the soul, and results in the best dang salsa and hot sauce on the mountain.

Popping open the seal on a quart of cold pack tomatoes, transports me back to summer more effectively than even the smell of barbecued chicken. Heck, anyone can fire up a barbecue and grill chicken, but not everyone can recapture summer with the smell of home-grown tomatoes.

You like catsup? Flavored with smoked paprika?
Come see us...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Drunk with Power

Patently, this conflict between [Sweet] Ellie Mae, the rescue dog and Mr. Crips, the cat, should have been handled by the mouthpieces, and not through the judicial process. As objectively as is humanely, felinely and caninely possible, let us proceed with the whole shabby affair.

As judge in the Ellie Mae versus Mr. Crips litigation, Sylvia the chicken did her best Judge Judy impression, sans the glasses. Though she was drunk with power, it was quite evident that she had not forgotten the little people who helped her to the top.

This reporter touched upon the fact in the first segment of this tawdry narrative, that Sylvia would have a hard time being impartial toward Ellie Mae, the defendant, due to past indiscretions. The nature of those indiscretions is such, that there is a gag order on any/all reference to the unfortunate incident in question.

In fairness it must be further noted, that similar issues existed between Sylvia the chicken and Mr. Crips, the plaintiff, a registered prowler. The only reason Ellie Mae was guilty of [AHEM!] anything, and Crips was not, is because Crips lacked the physical prowess of Ellie, and was therefore a spectator instead of a player.

Though impartial, of course, Sylvia had equal reason to avoid dark alleys, accompanied by either the plaintiff or the defendant.
Sylvia liked the motto so much,
she ordered a dozen tee-shirts.

Representing himself, Mr. Crips proceeded to call one witness after another, asking the same set of pointed questions. The questions pointed back at Crips as being a model citizen, one who was being unfairly persecuted for being nothing more than a cat.

Little purpose is served by presenting-word for word-the testimony of all those witnesses called forth. Besides, It turned out that though Crips had a prodigious list of those wishing to provide references, they were all, well, other cats. It might be suggested that cats are prone to overlooking what might be considered character flaws, especially in the eyes of a chicken.

Besides, how many times can you listen to a cat swear on “To Kill A Mockingbird,” that she had never seen Mr. Crips attack a creature smaller than him, without ample cause? “Ample cause” from the perspective of the rest of the spectators in the courthouse, meant simply that it moved. 

And those expert witnesses lined up by Mr. Crips? After listening to the testimony of one such “expert,” as he asserted that it WAS possible for a cat to leave behind a lifetime of destructive behavior, Sylvia had to call a ten minute recess to restore order in the courtroom. 

Thus was coined a new phrase to replace an old one: cat-shit crazy, you know, in place of bat-shit crazy.

Ellie Mae’s defense by Margie the dog, was diabolically simple: All Marge did was present one gif of Crips tormenting Ellie Mae, then a statement which included the phrase “taunting, ridiculing, insulting, jeering at, abusing, pestering, annoying, confronting, provoking, vexing, aggravating, browbeating, embarrassing, molesting and badgering the defendant…”
The plaintiff, so deceivingly innocent...

Naturally, when Margie got to the word “badgering,” Mr. Badger had a twonky attack and chaos ensued, after which Mr. Badger was excused from further civic duty in the courtroom. As it later turned out, the tactic by Margie was pre-planned, the resulting chaos fairly predictable.

You see, Mr B was the unknown here, and eliminating him from the picture just clarified matters.

With the jury reduced to Mr. Red-Tail and Mr. Mouse, a verdict was reached immediately. Both jurors agreed that from their personal observations, Ellie Mae was rambunctious and possibly a tad impetuous, but nonetheless, a victim of the devious Mr. Crips.

Furthermore, not only did the jury exonerate Ellie Mae, they imposed sanctions on Crips the cat. No, not the ooga horn that the defendant demanded, but rather a hat, one with a catchy slogan:

After Dogs, I Come First.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Yes, No or Maybe So

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 
Part of the mystique of country living, is that we never throw anything away that can be used again. Out in the south-forty, we have an area known as the bone yard, where unused chunks of plywood, lengths of irrigation line, left over 2 x 4’s, the odd 4 x 4 redwood post, discarded doors and windows, winterized T-posts, abandoned stock troughs and various lengths of fencing, go to await their next assignment.
One man's horse trough is another man's bathtub.

Not to be confused with hoarding, because there is an excellent chance that the stored items will once again fill a role in the greater scheme of things, the bone yard is the first place I head when I am making a materials list for a project.

Ultimately I credit-or blame-this penchant for pragmatism on my dear departed mother, Pauline, who instilled in all of her children (I suspect) a set of Depression Era values that have flourished almost eighty years after the fact.

When Gluten-Free Mama and I first moved up to the land, we repurposed a little wood stove for our cabin, including used and somewhat dilapidated stove pipes. We obtained a serviceable kitchen sink that was practical if not particularly attractive, and we scored an antique bathtub from a neighbor, even if it had not been used as a bathtub for a few decades.

I wasn’t skeered ‘cause I had a ready supply of elbow grease handy for the cleanup.

Take the current remodeling job I am working on, and let’s see how this concept plays out. The original impetus was the need to outfit our bathroom with more elderly-friendly access to such basic needs as bathing. Climbing over the side of a clawfoot bathtub to access the shower is an accident waiting to happen.

The original
Five years ago it was determined that the farm needed to build a bathroom within the confines of our drying/trim-shed. It goes without saying, that all permits, all paperwork, and all signatures were in place before construction actually started. 


I undertook this task which included a run down to Friedman Brothers in Ukiah to pick up a shower unit. HeadSodBuster ordered the necessary fir, drywall and accoutrements for success, and that bathroom had been up and running ever since.

Recently, with medicinal cannabis regulation dictating matters, we found out the bathroom out in the drying room had to go. Rather than weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, we leaped through this hoop and landed with both feet square on a plan of action: I would dissemble the bath out in the trim-shed, and make use of what I could for the current project inside our home.
Out of chaos, allegedly, comes order.
Could be yes, could be no, could be just, maybe so.

My remodel included having to borrow a little alcove from the kitchen, in order that the shower unit would fit into the prescribed spot. I was forced to extend a one-foot by three-foot chunk of the shower unit into the kitchen, right where the doorway used to be.

Now, in order to get into the bathroom, one has to walk into the laundry room first, and then hang an immediate right, entering the bathroom from the west, instead of the south. You walk right past the newly installed shower unit on your way in.

So I had to frame in the shower unit using the 2 x 4 fir, and I had to frame both a tiny hallway and a second doorway, so that the laundry room could also be used simultaneously with the bathroom. In this establishment the laundry room is the go-to spot in the house because it doubles as the designated smoking room. 

We’re not talking tobacco here.
Door to hallway and a storage nook
The minor inconvenience of having to restore the used lumber to its original state, was more than balanced by the resulting satisfaction out of a job well done. It’s not about saving money so much as it is about getting over, a twofer if ever there were one. 

I reused the lumber and that shower unit, and moved it into the bathroom through a window that was being replaced (the doors were too small). And the second door that I now needed also came from the dissembled bathroom, saving a couple of hundred bones right there. 

Since the labor was done by me and HeadSodBuster, there were no labor costs incurred. Furthermore, the fortune I would have had to pay to have the detritus from both destroyed bathrooms (dead sheet-rock and questionable insulation) hauled away, was deferred because SmallBoy backed his truck and the utility trailer up to the pile, and hauled it away as efficiently as Mr. Peabody’s coal train.

The repurposing of the shower unit is only fitting when it comes to this particular bathroom, because the bathtub I was telling you about.  When I got it from neighbor Rex back in 1982, for nothing, it was because he didn't need it anymore, so he was happy to get rid of it.

Rex didn’t need the bathtub anymore because he had sold his horse and therefore, no longer had any use for a horse trough.
I'm going to repaint the tub,
black, and the clawfeet, orange.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Constructo Jungle

Prior to my sixteen-year career as an educator, in the Laytonville Unified School district, I spent exactly half that length of time toiling in the trades. I worked first with a couple of my brothers, and then later with either my brother-in-law, Rob, or Davy, who had migrated to Laytonville in the eighties.

During this period of time, I learned how to frame structures, up to and including sealing them for winter conditions. I was a good carpenter but not a good businessman. That’s why I stuck to a time and materials formula, and eschewed the idea of making a profit on my endeavors. 

This was then...
I considered grub on the table to be my profit.

Though I could frame a house, work with concrete, including cinder block and river rock, and I could do so comfortably, I spent little time doing interior finish work. First, most folks up on the mountain are pretty down-to-earth, so most figured they were up to finishing the inside of their new homes, on their own. 

Second, It’s challenging to say the least, to do quality work where imperfections are unacceptable, and do it at a cost that does not bankrupt the customer. Compared to framing houses, where every day the march of progress can clearly be seen, finish work is a slow crawl, with each step proceeding incrementally slower.

Finally, the need to provide the customer with a reasonable time-frame, is a tricky business, particularly when you are dealing with a remodel. There is no way to predict the kind of time-consuming issues that may arise, so to a certain extent, you always go in blind.
One coat of mud, with two to go...

Now in the late autumn of my wood-working days, I have seen the light! I have discovered the sheer joy of taking chaos, and converting it into order, the classic Virgoan task. I am making improvements to my own home, that resonate with the old axiom, “The shoemaker’s kids always go barefoot.”

When I built my home originally, I was doing so simultaneously with my day job, which was building homes for others. Not only did I have little extra time available, I had even less money. 

And then I became an educator, where my first year as a full-time language arts teacher, I made just over $18,000.00. 

As long as our home was weather-tight and comfortable, we went without the frills that accompany a “Better Homes and Garbage” palace. The best I could do, metaphorically speaking, was put out fires as they cropped up. Only the loudest of the squeaky wheels received my attention, and at that, the supply of axel grease was depressingly low.
Is there a problem?

For starters the laundry room door has been a curtain for thirty-five years; ask me if I care. In fact ask me if I care about any of the following:

Having no light switch for either the laundry room or the downstairs bathroom. Pull-chains were preferable because who knew how to install light switches?

Light switches? We haven’t even had a light in the laundry room, the past ten years, give or take. When the pull-chain light gave out after a decade or so, I replaced it. When it gave out the second time, I never got around to replacing that fixture. Electrical was something I never messed with, except for pulling Romax through the holes I had drilled in the studs, so that the electrician could do his thing.

Having a washing machine that only functions when a hose is stuck through the window from outside, an electrical cord is strung out from the generator to the laundry room window, and then inside, and the drain is in place for the gray water to flow out that same window, onto the side of a hill. Anything beats the heck out of going to town to wash clothes.

No pain, no gain.
Not having a clothes dryer. We still don’t, both Gluten-Free Mama and I agreeing that we will continue to dry our laundry either on the clothesline out front, or the drying racks inside. This is relevant because with the current remodel, I could easily have outfitted my renovated laundry room with a dryer.

Not having a dishwasher. I have never lived in a home with a dishwasher, and at 65, have no plans to alter this. I am floored by the social media meme which inquires, incredulously enough, “Does anyone still wash dishes by hand?” I do. That awkward moment when I think negative thoughts towards an obvious twit.

Staring at bare dry-wall and joint compound tracks on the wall of the laundry room, because I never squeezed in the time to finish the interior. Heck, the laundry room has served as the designated smoking room for this past decade; the walls may be ugly but they are friendly and welcoming.

I work as many hours daily on this current project, as I possibly can. I have the unwavering support of Gluten-Free Mama, despite the fact that the arena is a constructo jungle. I do clear the floors of dust and debris each day, but the place is still a wreck.

The shower unit lying on its side before
That being said, all good things must come to an end, and the wreck shall be rocked. It will be rocked, mudded, painted, trimmed and decked out with such modern conveniences as towel racks and light switches. 

Oh, and did I mention? For the first time in 35 years, GF Mama will no longer have to drag an extension cord into the bathroom, from another part of the house, to dry her hair. 

We have an electrical outlet in the bathroom!

The metamorphosis Part I-ceiling of the shower unit
The metamorphosis Part II

The metamorphosis Part III

The metamorphosis Part IV

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Order in the Court!"

Within the following sordid court documents, resides the tawdry details of a dispute between two residents of HappyDay Farms, sweet Ellie Mae, the Rescue Dog (in the white hat) and [deleted] Crips the Cat, heretofore NOT to be referred to as Prince of Darkness, Demon from Hell, or any other pejorative term that might sound prejudicial to the jury, (in the black hat).

“Order in the court!” Sylvia the chicken banged her gavel imperiously-though fruitlessly-her precarious perch on a shovel handle, belying the seriousness of the situation. The directive was being aimed at the plaintiff, Mr. Crips the Cat, and the defendant, Ellie Mae, who were bickering from across the courtroom like two siblings.
Mr. Crips, on a good day
The order was also directed at Hildegard, whose egg song battered away at everyone’s patience, like a jackhammer in July.

Though perhaps not the most astute of farm denizens, I’ll grant you, Sylvia achieved her judgeship on the basis of her longevity here on-farm: nine years come April. Not only that, but from her vantage point, centrally located out in the farmyard, she is in an excellent position to evaluate whether the lawsuit, brought on by Crips, had any merit whatsoever.

I mean, let’s face it, Crips is a cat, a Siamese Cat at that, but the jury will be instructed that this is emphatically NOT to be held against him, which should tell you something right there. I’m not suggesting that cats are devious or evil, especially not Siamese cats, despite what some evidence seems to indicate, but I am suggesting that since the shoe apparently fits, lacing it up ought to be a slam-dunk.
Boorish behavior? Hummmmph. The very idea.

This court case will be used as a measuring device, to see if the shoe does, indeed, fit. In his complaint, Crips maintains that Ellie Mae, our perky rescue dog from the Inland Mendocino County Humane Society, has behaved inappropriately, unacceptably and even downright boorishly, since her arrival last November.

Mr. Crips has filed a restraining order against Ellie Mae for “habitual harassment, including but not limited to: accosting, assaulting, lunging at, blindsiding of, jumping at, bushwhacking, chasing, invading [of personal space], storming toward, assailing, and in general of being/behaving like an uncivilized and frequently savage lout.”
Mr. Badger

Crips is seeking a permanent restraining order, and damages amounting to a lifetime supply of catnip, and has agreed to allow Sylvia to be the judge. Between you and me, I think Crips’s plan relies heavily on the fact that Sylvia, an avowed chicken, has also been accosted, assaulted, lunged at, blindsided, jumped at, bushwhacked, chased, had her space invaded, stormed, assailed, and been subjected to boorish behavior by the defendant. 

The decision, however, will be rendered by a panel of three impartial critters, those not a part of the daily fabric of HappyDay Farms. We have a red-tailed hawk, who sees everything that goes on in the great outdoors; we have a mouse because mice go everywhere (unfortunately) and see everything; finally, we have a badger, guaranteeing impartiality. The badger hates everyone, but he hates them in a nonjudgmental way, equally.
The red-tailed hawk: sees all
Though there is not an aggressive bone in her body, Ellie Mae has determined that an aggressive judicial stance might serve her better than her pointer stance. The judge is, after all, a chicken and might not find the pointer stance amusing, in light of certain recent events, which shall heretofore go unmentioned, but which might have dire implications if you…

[Editor’s Note: Move along, please…]

Fine. Ellie Mae has therefore filed a countersuit, alleging that Crips is a manipulative [deleted], whose behavior includes, but is not limited to: fraud, deception, subterfuge, duplicity, underhandedness, deceit and even chicanery, at times, with some hoodwinking tossed in for good measure. 

For damages Ellie Mae is seeking to have Crips outfitted with an ooga. horn.

Surprisingly, Crips was unable to retain counsel, due to a reputation which apparently preceded him. Toby the cat was more than happy to perform the job, but was unwilling to either remove his horns or leave his pitchfork at home, and even Crips could see that might pose a problem to his image. Crips will represent himself by default. 

Ellie Mae will be represented by Large Marge, to be addressed as simply Margie, so as not to appear prejudicial in the courtroom. You could fit three Margies into one Emma, any day of the week, but no one refers to Emma as Large Emma.
Margie and Ellie Mae

Opening statements will conclude today’s post, with the trial scheduled to follow immediately, or as the remodeling of my bathroom/laundry room allows…


Crips: “As a law-abiding, sensitive, concerned, contributing member of HappyDay Farms, I am appalled and shocked that management has allowed this sorry excuse of a bowser, Ellie Mae, to invade our home. She hounds us, and she dogs our existence, not to mention being a slobbering, panting, lazy, exasperatingly ignorant mutt.”

Pausing long enough to expectorate a prodigious hair-ball, Crips continued,

“This destructive force bestows no known benefits upon the farm, choosing instead to manufacture a web of destructive harm. I will prove that the defendant is a reprehensible slime ball, with no redeeming qualities. Thank you”

Margie: “The defense maintains that Crips is no cat-he is the-oh, sorry, I forgot I couldn’t say that Crips is the Devil-my bad. Nevertheless, we will establish that my client, Sweet Ellie Mae, a paragon of on-farm virtue and loyalty, not only is innocent of the charges, but that it is actually she who is the victim here, in this tawdry affair. Thank you.”
Will the real Mr. Crips please sit down?

It was well-documented that Crips had filed 666 pages of notarized documents, whereas Margie had filed no court documents, whatsoever. Crips had seventeen pages of willing witnesses lined up; Margie had one page with a handful of witnesses. Crips had subpoenas served to seven credible experts; Margie had zero. Testimony was set to begin immediately, but was apt to take some time, due to the convoluted relationship coexisting within the courtroom.

The logistics for having Mr. Badger on hand, alone, would fill a volume of this nature, not to mention a mouse in the same venue as Mr. Crips…

Next: The Trial