Modern End of Life
11 November 2019
During my astonishing time in Northern California, my dearly loved next door neighbor was 99 and still living independently.. She remembered the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and the mother of her Chinese playmate, who wore tiny embroidered silk booties on her bound feet.
I'd been given a key in case of emergency. Waking in a cold sweat, dead of night, I went next door to check on her.
She had insisted on a Do-Not-Resuscitate doc, a DNR, kept in her bedside table. I was fully in agreement. She'd gone into apparent diabetic coma; I settled in to sit with her.
I also called the daughter, in her 70's, who promptly lost her mind, having done so previously when her mom had had a heart attack 10 years before. Mom had been flowing joyfully out of body when daughter called 911, hence the DNR.
Daughter did it again. I stayed there, the raptor by the DNR. The EMT's came roaring in. I explained the patient's decision--DOES NOT APPLY, if an ambulance it summoned. I was vociferous in rebuttal; but they had to do their job, as per protocol.
Aftermath? My dignified elderly friend was resuscitated, confined to nursing home in diapers, left to fester in a wheelchair for hours unattended. My being distraught made no difference either. She lived out another grief-filled year till she managed to quietly escape captivity.
11 November 2019
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, cannon and machine guns go silent.
In The Great War, a generation is slaughtered for meters of mud, trenches gained and lost. Flanders poisoned, farms across Europe destroyed. Massive rapine by the conquerors. A land of widows and orphans, and fiance's blown to bits.
Spinsters lived on, with few young men left alive or fit to marry. Women cut off their "crowning glory" hair to work in the factories men had left, and entered job descriptions unheard of in Victorian Britain. Many had to face supporting themselves in lieu of the security of husband, hearth and family.
"Home by Christmas" 1914, aye.. Young women in great flowered and feathered hats, and long gowns had handed out white (coward) roses to men not yet in uniform, all bound for the abattoir of Europe. A floral epitaph for the Gilded Age.
Wild Winds & a Browser
23 October 2019
To Indian Summer, a fond farewell. We've reveled in cobalt skies and brilliant gold and orange of Rocky Mountain autumn. And then suddenly, the winds of change--leaves torn swirling from cottonwoods and aspens. Tomorrow we may get snow.
Meanwhile, neighborhood cats have been stalking and pouncing. It's the time of year when moles burrow before the ground freezes, and field mice try to become house mice!
I've been stalking as well... doe, a deer, a female deer. Although the valley is rich in browse along the river and acequia, a solitary female dined on too many rose buds in my flower garden this summer. Cute, began to look like venison to me.
I've never sat in a deer blind at dawn, deer rifle at the ready, but I have invested in a sling shot.
Fruits have all been frosted by now, but the valley is full of wilding bushes and trees. So, I watch the gourmand deer browsing plum thicket leaves and branchlets, my eyes out-of-focus, and therefore not threatening, as a raptor's would be. I sit quietly on my side of the window, 2 meters away, and might as well be invisible.
Then I mobilize.
As the deer meanders toward the flower garden, I stand waiting, with a pile of small stones on the wee table beside me. Eventually she stops and turns my way, munching shrub rose leaves. We ponder one another.
I speak low and clearly, "I don't want you here," letting loose a barrage of pebbles. She bounds around the house and back toward the verdant river. And it doesn't take much disincentive. Now she just sees me waiting, eeek, and scuttles off elsewhere.
My working dog, Bear, at the farm used to do this job, night patrol through orchard, gardens and field crops. Once he got into a woofing/shrieking brouhaha with a raccoon, who did battle on its hind legs. Family sleeping on cots on the front porch, added a bit of shouting, having been lifted straight upward out of sleep!
I miss Bear, the Norwegian elkhound, faithful and true-oo. His idea of getting a wintertime drink was to stand up to his chest in the trout stream! I think of him in all seasons but especially with the rumor of snow. He used to burrow through drifts. I'd see the mound moving--in pursuit of wabbits and rodents.Deer knew to stay well away; the forest was plenty rich in browse.
27 September 2019
Mama told me a story from her childhood about her daddy, back when he was a Texas County Attorney--It's called Depression Era salary, in that time of desperate barter--Here's your gunny sack of pecans, your nice mess of collards...
A friend of Granddaddy's came and slumped down at the kitchen table, where family and friends all came to talk. Said he couldn't take it anymore. Had decided that the only thing left for him to do, was to off himself. (Mama was listening from around the dining room door, afraid to make a sound, now that she knew she shouldn't be there.)
Granddaddy didn't miss a beat: "That a fact?... Oh I can help you with that."
He then itemized methods of killing yourself, describing the process of each, in considerable and gruesome detail. The friend looked at him aghast. Granddaddy, who had raptor eyes at need, asked further if the friend really wanted to leave that kind of gawd-awful mess for his family? Along with whatever else had been grinding him down?
The friend shook his head, "You know I don't." Shoved back his chair and headed toward the front door making choking sounds. Mama scooted out of sight.
I never knew if Granddaddy set about helping the friend with legal assistance for whatever crushing problems he faced. But I do know that listening and talking, had stopped a suicide.
18 September 2019
Ursa major comes down to earth to prowl in the cool of the morning. From high lonesome far away among the stars, he takes form... A form to snuffle for woodland strawberries, a furry back to rub against an old growth tree, clawed paws finding their way in a rolling gait down to a stream.
While trying to flip a trout out of the shallows, he pauses, sniffs a new scent--Whatever is that?--He's not alone.
"Hullo? I'm weaving a wreath, flowers and berries. Would you like one? You've such a broad, inviting back."
Bear looks up befuddled. What manner of creature is this?
"Oh? I'm a boy, walking on two legs, while you go about on four."
The boy hums.
"I could play you a tune; I've a fiddle. Would you like that?"
Bear splashes up out of the cascading stream.
"Umm? Tra la, ta diddle," hums the boy.
Settling on his haunches in the leaf mould, Bear waits and wonders.
Giving him a pat on the shoulder; Boy laughs and drapes a wreath around the massive neck. Ursa, the startled Bear, shakes himself. Leaves and twigs spin out into the mist. He clears his throat--ahem--a basso, a deep rumbling.
"Uh, Boy?"--more snorting and garbling--"You could ride, you know. What if you play your fiddle, a dance perhaps, or a song of the sea?"
Boy holds onto the russet fur with one hand, holding his fiddle in the other--oomph--and clambers up onto Bear's back. Settling on the dense pelt, tuning his fiddle, the boy's high soprano leaps among tree light and shadow.
"Would you show me the forest paths, Boy, the wild mushrooms, eagles, the crags and apple valleys? And, Boy of the deep forest, would you be my friend?"
Boy leans down with his cheek between the furry ears, "Yes, friends for life," and sings:
"...I long to hear you.
Roll away, you roving river..."
Scarlet & Crimson
30 August 2019
Rose hips, heirloom tomatoes and the cheeks of peaches! Brilliant colors as the days shorten and seem to fade toward winter. The nights of the waning moon have been worth an outdoor peek at the stunner Milky Way, vast and haunting, as never seen in cities.
Also a time of the night critters--bears gorping windfall apricots, and already snuffling in the elderberries. At first light this week, I saw beady eyes glaring at me below the sun room window, with a hint of the territorial. Oh?
I assure you, bristly skunk, that the yard is yours! Still eying me, it snatched up an apricot, bigger than its pointy nose, and galumphed around the corner of the adobe.
Hummingbirds are manic at the feeders, preparing for their long journey south. I found a snugly-soft afghan at a consignment shop in town, and am beginning the process of preparing for Rocky Mountain winter.
A Real Food Recipe
8 August 2019
When I do my--anthropologist from another galaxy routine--walking down the miles of inedibles in the supermarket aisles, one could lose heart! But actually finding good food, is a worthwhile journey.
I have no affiliation or financial interest in the following food source, but Rebirth Rice, Thai black rice, is deliciously astounding--in our era of tasteless "food", heavily in need of salt to taste like anything.
Southwest Black Rice:
I use the Kamado-San clay rice cooker; a heavy pot will do.
1 c Rebirth Rice soaked in 1 c filtered water, overnight or AM to suppertime.
Dump in soaked rice and its mineral/vitamin-rich water. Add:
1 c additional filtered water
8-10 chopped fresh Shiitake mushrooms
Splash of toasted sesame oil
2 roasted green chili peppers, minus skin & seeds, chopped
Real Salt or Himalayan salt to taste.
Cook ~25-30 min; let sit for 20. Serve to flabbergasted appreciation!
Age of Epstein et al
Their Name is Legion
10 July 2019
It took me some growing up before I unstuck myself from New Agey flypaper. ...Transformation, tra la, will come on gossamer wings...
Expecting a Tinkerbell guide!--when the tools at hand may be shovel, pick-ax and manure fork.
As a people, we have not wanted to see chemtrails, phonies or perverts, but we may have reached an adult fork in the road.
Years Ago in No. Kali
30 May 2019
I attended the 4th of July parade, Marin Co, that lovely epicenter of narcissism. A HS marching band was just passing by.
Hand on heart, I joined in singing... For beautiful, for spacious skies... A trained voice, I quickly realized I was doing a solo in the midst of animosity. In one of the most privileged spots in the country. I finished the day quietly at Muir Beach!
In my first Wayfaring Traveler book, Whale Rider of the Tide, I spoke of a far from home anecdote in the Youth Hostel, Zermatt, Switzerland.
Fourth of July, slightly repellent American girls at dusk, as the stars came out around the Matterhorn, asked me to sing that hymn to America-we-wish... I did; the young women wept into their pillows.
Not all as seems.
Down to the River
Good Friday 2019
Do you remember the old-timey hymn in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
I used to love doing it with the Hospice singers, deep, sweet toning at deathbed with gentle friends in Maine. On this cerulean afternoon, I spent the High Holy Day down by the river in this valley. Rocking in the sky chair on the river bank, I listened to noise leaving my noggin, and in silence, heard the music of water cascading and bees humming in the apricot blossoms.
Bit of a grim reaper Holy Week, the Cathedral of Notre Dame torched, its cruciform roof erupting in simultaneous flame. It took Medieval Master Masons, Carvers and Glaziers nearly 200 years to build; but a 21st century evening to destroy.
Devotion in the Age of Faith created Notre Dame, and filled it with rose window light, Gregorian chant and centuries of prayer. The Cathedral and its entrance fee income are now owned by the state, which plans to rebuild it in five years.
22 April Earth Day, finds Notre Dame in the urban-aesthetic cross-hairs. Engineers and architects in yellow hard hats reportedly envision a steel and glass renovation, with spire morphing perhaps to minaret.
As an aside, the French church in which Charles Martel was buried has also been vandalized. That would be the fellow who in 732 beat back the Ottoman Empire's attempted conquest of Europe. We don't study history, but the EU soros-funded conquest by debit cards twangs a bit.
to Rammed-Earth Homes
6 April 2019
I met a clear-sighted man today, who walked deserts of Afghanistan and now walks his talk. A US Army Vet, he's watched the stats, the daily suicides, the homeless, and the Veteran's Administration writing prescriptions for anti-depressants & anti-psychotics.
Ryan Timmermanns has taken action, buying 50 acres of hillside land in the far boonies of No. New Mexico. With a nod to the Habitat for Humanity model, US Veterans will build earth-sheltered homes, called Earthships, grow food and community.
There's pragmatic smarts at work here and hope of re-establishing sense of purpose and camaraderie.among those who swore an oath to be of service, and had their lives blown to bits.
NZ Friends Ask about Midwest Farmers
31 March 2019
Organic farmer friends with whom I did WWOOF-ing in New Zealand have been checking in about the Midwest floods, re utter farm destruction, and general lack of citizen awareness and preparedness.. Reply:
The floods are expected to spread and continue for two months, with snow-melt dead ahead. Many farmers are uninsured for harvested grain losses; most have federal insurance for loss of growing crops. Planting will not occur. Winter wheat crop lost. The huge farm equipment required in the monsanto paradigm, untold millions of investment, is under water.
Anguish for the farmers, and for those who refuse to understand what this will mean. That said, it may mean that status quo of monster monoculture, Glyphosate-saturated acreage cannot continue.
If so, I will not live to witness the restoration of some of the richest lands on the planet, but young folks will roll up their sleeves, and we may see sanity again of diverse and sustainable family farms.
Disaster may be a gift to future generations, God willing, of finally undoing the death grip of the chemical and biotech industries.
The lands flooded are declared disasters, meaning federal govt assistance, but how much and how effective? And the damage is still impossible to fully quantify; it is ongoing.
Nonetheless, farmers are among the most adult of any population, and their agony may help draw adolescent embarrassments in the US back to honest work. I don't know, but am somewhat hopeful.
WWOOF = What?
Willing (or Worldwide) Workers on Organic Farms.
Generally means farm room and (groaning) board in exchange for labor. Often a boon for small farmers during their busiest seasons. Also a way to travel the world on small budget.
Bright-Eyed & Bushy-Tailed
28 January 2019
Home-Schoolers still learn Civics & US History.
The years I read aloud each week to kids at the local library consisted primarily of home-schoolers in the nor'easter winter months. In summer, munchkins from all over joined in.
The kids were flat out amazing. They wanted to know WHY. If not liking the why, they went into solution mode. They also apprenticed as part of their schooling.
When I sink into some minor key fugue-state about sociopathic government, I remember those kids.
Blood Moon Stars
22 January 2019
First the hush, the waiting for huge full moon to peep over the mountains, rising, rising higher. Going outside, though freezing, held special magic in store. At full eclipse--a dazzling surge of starlight--the Milky Way revealed and brilliant at occluded full moon.
I jumped up and down to get warm and did a joy-spin. Began singing the old Black spiritual,
My Lord, what a morning...
When the stars begin to fall...
No more grief and pain for me,
I heard from Heaven today.
God's gonna set His people free.
I heard from Heaven today...
My Lord what a morning,
When the stars begin to fall...
Thought then about MLK's birthday next morning, and the great swath of planet folks all watching together in the quiet of the night--Millions gazing into the sky, craning our necks as the eclipse was high, and probably many more in big city light-pollution or darkness, watching on screens. The full blood moon lasted and lasted. An omen? A frenzy-pause? A reset of some kind?
Even stuffed into down layers, standing in snow drove me toward hearth and home. I left before the rose-umber shadow withdrew, to stoke the fire in the woodstove room and watch the piñon flames dance.
"I'm Just T.A.F."
17 January 2019
The excitement-acronym, TAF is courtesy of a life-long friend of the family. My dad had known her since childhood. Her father was a pooh-bah and she married one, but hadn't a pretentious bone in her chunky body.
The pooh-bah mother, besotted with Shirley Temple, had tormented her daughter's childhood with tap dance lessons, and attempted to turn the kid's straight brunette hair into adorable curls.
I called our friend, "The Good Ship" with great affection. She was funny as heck, and if I laughed and coaxed, she would launch into a song and dance routine of The Good Ship Lollipop!
So, when wildly excited about something, she'd say: I'm just TAF!
Which translates as: "Tits A-Flutter." She was outrageous.
Not All As Seems
16 January 2019
To quote the Korean Sensei in "The Karate Kid."
A stranger has taught me to not be too quick in making assumptions.
Like many folks, I'd been snowed in for several days, snow on snow, all but hearing the strains of balalaika in Dr. Zhivago.
Once the snow stopped and I mustered more zeal to shovel out, the Post Office was one of the gazillion errands. My fave person there warned me about a tub, a trolley.... Just a mo.
Uh, how was I to even get out the door? While trying to do that, a baritone voice behind me asked if I needed help.. Here let me help. I stepped aside and held the doors. The guy was huge, shaved head, a walking tattoo parlor. Everyone's bundled up, but I could see amazing Maori-dense work on head, neck, arms, hands.
And God forgive me, what leaped to mind? MS-13, till I met his eyes which had known long journey, and were kind.
When he loaded all the heavy mail into the car, he gave me a shy smile and nodded. I told him he was my hee-ro. He laughed then and said, Have a blest day. I held his hand, thanking him, and noted the skeletal bones tattooed on the back.
YOU have a blest day, you lovely man.
Avalanche Crashes into
11 January 2019
Severe snow storms are raging across the European Alps. An avalanche has burst though the windows of the Hotel Säntis Dining Room. Shocking photo, and interesting re Grand Solar Minimum, but so what?
Am having a reprise experience. I nearly lost my life on the Säntis--a school outing with an idiot leading, who told the kids as young as 8 that tennies would be enough. I was 16 and the only one with the sense to have worn climbing boots. Didn't stop severe frostbite, but I didn't die just then, and neither did anyone else.
A freak blizzard and gale force winds slammed us against the mountain. The leader did deer caught in the headlights, but managed to tell the kids to huddle. He eyed my boots, knew I was one of the few who spoke the lingo, and shouted for me to go for help. There was a restaurant on top of the mountain, otherwise reached by a gondola.
Longest climb of my life with tears freezing on my lashes and cheeks. I staggered into the restaurant. The Schnitzel-eaters seemed to think I was part of the entertainment, but a Swiss Mt. Guide grabbed me, asked rapid-fire questions and thrust my hands into cold water, poured brandy down my gullet. He was enraged when I begged him to save the children in the storm. He grabbed ropes, organized the competent and brought them all to safety, some kids on the backs of the men.
It was a near thing, as I look out on snow falling quietly in the Rockies.
2 January 2019
I grew up in an American nautical family, on the coasts of many seas, and to the sound of my grandfather's ship's bell clock chiming the 4 hour shifts, or watches, through each 24 hour cycle.
While still an attentive munchkin, I learned that one particular excuse was utterly beneath contempt:
"It didn't happen on my watch."
Nor would "the dog ate my homework" have legs!
On board ship, given mandatory drills and safety checks, and round the clock watches, if something went wrong, someone(s) had been present. Whatever happened anywhere, anytime, it all landed at the Skipper's door. It may have been 2AM, but everything "happened on his watch"---Potential outcome: Court Martial.
I've wondered if that focusing of the mind would be useful in the nation's capitol, among the slithery.
Have been reminded of watches in the night by an account of a state of the art fishing vessel in the South Pacific. The seaman on watch in the engine room fell asleep, waking to fire and smoke, a conflagration. He ran, rousing the crew from their bunks. The fire had spread to the ship's deck, with no time to launch anything. They jumped overboard without life vests, one crewman cutting a line with big corks spaced, to which they clung for days without food or water. (Thanks to Headlines w/ a Voice for reporting.)
In all the Murphy's Law of that night, the sinking vessel did auto-beam the equivalent of MAY DAY to a satellite.. A 747 at 30,000 ft. locked in on the GPS coordinates and transmitted them to Samoa. The Coast Guard alerted all vessels in the area. The closest would take a couple days to reach the floating crew. Sharks swim in those waters.
A Coast Guard plane took off, as the situation grew desperate, and located the survivors. After several passes, the pilot pinpoint-dropped an inflatable raft. The crew were near their last efforts and could not even raise their arms to wave at the low-flying plane. (One crew member summoned his whatevers and swam the 100 yards to the raft, inflated it and paddled back to his shipmates. They rolled into the raft one by one.)
When the closest fishing vessel reached them, SIXTY HOURS after the sinking, the cook was among those who helped the sunburned, starving and dehydrated seamen aboard. He said, "I'll never forget their eyes." While clinging to the abrasive corks, they had lost all reasonable hope of rescue, in a rendezvous with death on the high seas.
One man fell asleep on his watch...A ship was lost and nearly all hands.
In this New Year, let us hope for good men and women, awake in the night.
Candlelight Christmas Eve
25 Dec. 2018
I joined the somewhat dour Presbyterians last night for Lessons & Carols, in their soaring adobe church with high clerestory windows and wreaths in between. Christmas Eve among transplanted Scots, lovely tartans and Harris tweeds, and ethereal bell-ringing from the choir loft. The rendition of "We Three Kings" swept me away, to harness bells and soft foot falls of Magi camels under long ago desert nights: Star of wonder.......
Perhaps their Highland Bagpiper will be back for Epiphany when, we hope, the wise men come.
Hoot of a female Pastor--Sitting on the altar steps with the kiddos--lovely mélange of Hispanic, blond and Indio--she held a brown paper grocery sack full of the nativity scene characters--ken and barbie dolls for which the kids had fashioned wee costumes. As a child named one of the dramatis personae, Pastor pulled out the doll for the child to set up in the Parish Hall Nativity Scene.
Then a munchkin said, Animals!... Pastor: We don't have sheep, but we have--(she rummaged in the sack and drew out a very green)--dinosaur, and a zebra.....
I'm the only one who laughed out loud. And am still chuckling, as it reminds me of the Crèche of dear friends whose menagerie includes jungle creatures and surprise visitors.
Bonfires & Luminarias!
9 Dec. 2018
Last evening the Old Town, adobe and pedestrian-welcoming, literally sparkled. Fragrant piñon fires glowed in copper tripod basins. Rooftops and sidewalks, are lined with small, sand-filled paper sacks, set with tea lights. Scrumptious free food galore.
I met a friend and grinned, Merry Christmas!"... "To a good Jewish boy?!"... I laughed: "Yes, all High Holy Days, and how can we forget that Jeshua ben Yusuf, was a Jewish Rabbi?"
A friend in Eastern mountains has lost power to the messy-mix winter storm; his propane generator kicked in. A good idea, if one's situation permits... As I hand out tins of beans at stop lights. The hand-lettered cardboard signs may just read: HUNGRY, or DISABLED VET.
While sugar plums dance in our heads, some are sleeping rough. And our social safety net may not be adequate to the task. A retired medical pro friend is doing weekly kindness/dharma. He goes to a couple groceries and collects a truckful of otherwise thrown-away food, also "free box" clothes and toys, which he washes--for families of illegals who have no transportation to get to the town food pantries.
He says we could learn so much from displaced people who have lived closer to the land. They do not shun rutabagas; they are marvelously creative in fixing meals; they share.
The open borders issue remains a mess: Dems want cheap votes; Rethugs want cheap labor; anarchists want societal violence.
In Advent, at the dark of the year.
A Real World Anecdote
21 November 2018
A Romaine Lettuce, E. coli Alert, right before the US holiday, started this rumination. That aside, wishing all a convivial and Happy Thanksgiving!
Free-access borders to Cent.Americans, and Islamic-world migrants to the EU..bring in Third World intestinal parasites. Plus un-treatable TB, scabies, typhus, cholera, rodent-host diseases, etc..
Indios had no immunity to measles, smallpox... Anglos blessed with better Public Health (Talking indoor plumbing, sewage treatment, soap...) don't do well with Third World endemic diseases.
When I was tenting fwiw, a nice family of illegals joined the BLM campground, splatting apparent amoebic dysentery all over the public latrine, floors, walls, defecation-hole.
The campground host had daily misery to clean up and try to disinfect. Bottom line, everyone camping there went down disgusting-sick. The well failed--no water for clean up at all. Everyone fled.
I went north and stayed at a friend's organic ranch, and fasted on herb tea and goats' milk for 10 days. Emerged many pounds lighter and less sanguine about come-one-come-all immigration.
We once had medical screening at Ellis Island. We have none now.
3 November 2018
Lovers of color will soon resonate with subtleties of winter--beige, dun, conifer piney-green to blue-green, under lowering skies. Also beautiful, but Indian Summer did a show-stopper this week. After raining hard on the sun porch tin roof through the night, I woke to all day snow. Tawny gold and orange cottonwood leaves glowed through the falling powder, then drifting flakes. Clouds settled low on the valley rims I lit a fire and curled up with a good book, pausing often to watch the turning of the year.
As autumn was ending.I remembered a Gray Ghost, the tabby cat, story of summertime. My neighbor's much-loved geriatric dog really, finally, had to be put down. Turned out to be a neighborhood event. One neighbor dug the grave, and had ordered a paw print chunk of rosy sandstone with the dog's name. We brought late summer flowers and pot luck.
It being a small town, the vet came into the country to do the deed. We all sat around the critter as she administered first sleepy-time, and then the coup de grace shot. As she administered the final shot, the tabby cat lay along the dog's back and slid his fore paw across the dog's neck, looking at me with opaline eyes. Gray Ghost lay there till the dog's spirit had floated free of the body.
22 Sept. 2018
Lapis skies today. Gray-Ghost (neighborhood tabby cat) and I walked down to the river. Beautiful golden crepuscular light. Two hammocks by the water, and a hammock chair. Friends have edged pools with big rock. The river is low but wonderfully melodious. Watched three bay horses which live across the water, and a mule deer doing its hooves on springs leaping through the autumn wild flowers.
Munched an apple from the wild tree, mindful of more bear scat than I've seen in ages (last of the chokecherries, apple, and someone's winter squash or pumpkin.) We ran the acequia on Thursday and filled the huge blue bucket with rope handles that I use to dip the small copper watering can.. Friday morning at first light, the bucket level had been halved, having served as an apparent ursine water bowl!
Baked tart apples in the solar oven... served with Jersey cream as Equinox celebration, and reminder that life lived simply is also sane.
1929 Crash Remembered
20 Sept 2018
But who here can remember 1929?
Not I, but I was a little kid who paid attention.
Wandering into a tea at my grandmother's, one of the silver-haired ladies ordained that I come sit by her, and listen.
Old money was sipping Earl Grey and remembering not just 1929 but also 1933 and the govt-violation of safety deposit boxes to confiscate citizen gold, and even jewelry.
They described suicides leaping out of windows and going splat, fortunes lost overnight, factories, farms, homes called in as bank collateral.
I sat there in my Mary Jane's, puffed sleeves and ruffled petticoat, attentive. Much of this went over my head, but I could read their anguish just fine, and have always had excellent verbal memory, hence my storyteller skills.
The grande dame who had called me over, turned her full attention my way, and said:
"NEVER, never buy on margin."
"Oh no, ma'am. I never will."
Some years passed before I studied the history which she had lived, and understood her urgency, and my childhood promise. I have never, by the by, bought on margin.
Grape Jelly Making
16 Sept. 2018
Am about to pull on blue work shirt & bib-overalls to process grapes. Messy business straight ahead! I resist buying fruit given the bounty of this river valley, but excellent grapes are grown by an organic farmer friend at a more favorable, lower elevation.
Am trying a variation on the grape jelly theme. I have Mama's 1953 Joy of Cooking (with copyright from 1931 on.) She was a fab cook all my growing up, and it tugs at my heart knowing I'm reading her culinary map. This older Joy (than my more Calif. Cuisine edition) still has farming, canning and grandmother info. For example my current project, calling for 15# of concord grapes!
9 September 2018
We're serving up weedkiller in Cheerios, sandwiches, corn chips and everything soy. We were sold a bill of goods. Not to worry; totally harmless. First successful lawsuit has challenged Monsanto's in-house research assurances. A few million in litigation pain, and a jolly good start.
My cousin lost her life, leaving two little kids, via a Glyphosate-infiltrated well--Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma thirty years ago, age 27. Many neighbors had the same issue and were ailing. I attended her funeral; she was the first to die.
They lived in rural, flat Virginia--hot, humid. They were not farmers but plenty Roundup-based farming in her area. Sprays tended to settle and not disperse.
Have often thought with pity of the American Midwest, former breadbasket of the world--now laid waste by GMO corn and soy mega-plantings, mega-sprayed. (Also those who spend big bucks to live alongside heavily-sprayed--at night--golf courses)
My commodities broker lived in the Midwest, an old farm boy into the GMO-corn-ethanol canard, but cognizant of herbicides approaching eco-saturation, land, air and water. He worried about having children, and longed for a family.
When I organic-farmed in dairy country in the Blue Ridge Mts. of Virginia, the dairy farms had stopped crop-rotation, and gone to no-till corn (spray the living daylights out of the land instead--dead roots help prevent erosion.) Farmers who sprayed looked like death warmed over, liver-poison-sallow. The deep valleys and wind didn't stop wind drift of their Ag-sprays, but dispersed much of it.
When I finally went down for the count from Power Co. right-of-way !surprise! use of 2,4-D, I couldn't tolerate spray drift anymore, Had to sell the farm and get a year's worth of holistic medical intervention. Had dropped to less than 4% female body fat while ill.
The MD said, no more acute or chronic exposures; eat only organically grown food...
Decided then, that if I lived, doubtful at the time, I would find somewhere with contiguous ranches and family farms deciding for sustainable agriculture.
Did so and consider myself blessed, though with an attitude-problem toward regulatory agencies and the revolving doors with bayer/monsatan and their ilk.
East Coast Hurricanes
May Roar Inland
9 September 2018
Am watching potential Florence, etc. trajectories, and the NC/SC declared states of emergency.
fwiw a hurricane slammed my Blue Ridge farm my first year. I had business down below the mountain, but family friends from the Piedmont stayed while I was away, to help oversee renovations.
A worker, in haste to get gone as the winds picked up, replaced clapboards by nailing them so the overlap faced upward... Bridges over-topped, washed away, and the farm kitchen and wall flooded with incoming torrents.
The visiting hubby was a retired Marine Colonel, Mr. Can-Do, who tried to secure a tarp over the clapboard idiocy, but the winds were too violent. They mopped up flood for hours, filling and emptying buckets.
Trees and branches came down; roads washed away; power went out. I had left candles and oil lamps. Pump from the spring stopped working, but they were able to dip sweet water out of the spring box. The stove was propane. I'd left wood in the house; they were able to build woodstove fires.
It was a working farm with already a pretty good pantry. They were snug, and the epitome of good neighbors.
Food for thought.
22 August 2018
A hardy native tree across the US, the blossoms are rarely frosted. Old timers in the mountains consider the juice/jelly/syrup a medicine. I stood in a chokecherry thicket by the cascading river and picked 15 kilos, barely moving location. I did wait till the sun was up--nocturnal bears leave scat full of chokecherry seed! Tree identification in its seasons: https://gardenerdy.com/how-to-identify-chokecherry-tree-easily
The fruit is tart and local jellies are made with cloying amounts of sugar. Here's a recipe using Pomona's Pectin: https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2012/08/how-to-make-chokecherry-jelly-low-sugar-and-honey-variations.html
9 August 2018
This morning I picked peaches on the north side of the tree--the south ripening first--a fragrant and overflowing lady-basket. The bird-pecked peaches, quite a few, I bit free the good part and tossed the pits over my shoulder, some juice running down my chin. The young cats chased windfalls in the tall grass and wildflowers.
Am just in from checking on things and how vivid the flower colors in this haunting light. Heirloom tomatoes are coming in--Brandywine--the old Amish luscious one, reminding us that tomato is a fruit.
Time Measured by Garden Bounty
6 August 2018
Peach jam! Am soaking goji berries and grating ginger root to add, for winter time pizazz. Plums ripen next, then a neighborhood apple cider pressing. Followed by firewood stacking; the nights grow cooler in the high country.
The neighborhood kitties have been leaping in the air and catching grasshoppers to a very satisfying attrition. Thanks to the wee tigers, looks as though there will be enough basil to dry. Have planted it by/around the tomatoes. Picked first ones yesterday--Black Kirim and Striped German so far.
Am wanting to try the solar oven way of doing sweet corn, when corn reaches the farmers market.
You peel back leaves; rub off silks with circular motion; re-cover kernels; set ears in water to soak a bit. Shake off excess water. Then into the black pots, un-shucked and covered, for an hour or so. The vid I watched of the process evoked speechless bliss, corn buttered and hot.
A Land Still Wild
21 July 2018
As I headed out of the boonies, very much in ranch country, two horses, spectacular ones with bloodline, came speeding across the road right in front of me. I, who tap brakes, slammed them. A near miss of the second horse's hind quarters. I saw the flying hooves just clear.
Happened quickly but looked like a chestnut stallion and palomino mare. Most of the horses around here are more on the order of Indian ponies, small from drought and poverty owners who couldn't feed out enough hay. These beauties leapt out of another lineage altogether.
A fellow in an ATV maybe 300 yards ahead was watching. Looked Apache/Hispano, grounded, silent. I drove level with him, and asked if he knew who they belonged to?... No, he said, but I'm about to find out. He was waiting to go straight, but put on his turn signal and headed off into the hinterland.
It moves me that suburbia has not inflicted itself on this wild country. Even off the main roads in town, you'll find small farm holdings--chickens, a few black or red Angus, Navajo sheep, horses. Horse trailers are a common conveyance here. Cowboys on horseback still ride the range in the high desert and mountains of the American West.
Where most everyone is praying for rain, and a solar oven is cooking my supper. Too hot to roast anything, including me, indoors. It's over 100 degrees under the blazing white sun, but mercifully 74 in the thick-walled adobe.
A Firefighter's Report
14 July 2018
I encountered a friend today who was all but emitting sparks herself. Her rancher husband served as a So. Colorado Volunteer Firefighter for 25 years. He's retired now but mobilized when the arsonists got to work. He had also taught his four sons the firefighting skills of First Responders.
My friend's hubby had smelled smoke in severe drought conditions, and 35 miles away saw a wall of flame headed toward their ranch. He estimated the height of the fire-tsunami at 400 ft. He shouted for his sons who saddled up and galloped into the high country and began doing controlled burns of bone-dry sage brush and chamisa. They worked day and night for four days and saved two of the ranch buildings... but lost their home-place.
The hubby roared to the thick of the blaze to help his colleagues. Some of the volunteer fire-folks got trapped and frantically tried to do a controlled burn and dove into their protective tents still in their gear. The hubby went in after the fire passed; friends' feet and faces were scorched, their hair burned off.
Firefighters, all but dead on their feet with exhaustion, joined Forest Rangers, the Smokey the Bear folks. They went into the destroyed lands, over 100,000 acres, and did their duty by the surviving critters. They went in with rifles and handguns.
Wife said you would not believe the hordes of half-burnt animals they had to mercy-kill...elk, deer, bear, raccoon, porcupine, and ranchers' cattle.
The guy who started it is is jail, but has not been charged with arson, and that's why my friend was spitting mad--"He should be charged like any citizen!"--the guy's an illegal who came in across the southern US border.
Locals who love the mountains like their mother have known for months that it wasn't safe to have an open fire, or risk using a chainsaw.
The illegal had fixed himself a campfire meal, got soused, fell asleep, and a fire from hell was off to the races... Over 200 ancestral homes were destroyed, gone forever.
By then I was hyperventilating... "And the protected illegal?"... She squinted her eyes, and said, "He's in a jail without individual cells..."
Drought & Heirloom Corn
25 June 2018
In the Southern Rockies, the adobe Pueblos are gradually returning to native foods, as healthier, and more adapted, to challenging ecosystems. than coddled hybrids or GMO's.
That includes the "Three Sisters" of maize, beans, squash. Some of the Pueblos are making a success of sustainable Ag, but with little to no rain, all bets are off.
Locally, the river for Pueblo irrigation has gone dry. Large plantings of heirloom maize are being lost--ancestral seed stock of Hopi blue corn and ceremonial white.
I had to explain to the friend with whom I do small veggie effort that we would be letting the heirloom sugar snap peas set seed only, much reduced by drought.
She could see a few pods forming.
"We won't eat any?" she asked, a bit p.o.'d.
"No, we'll save any seed for next year and hope for winter snow pack and rain."
Before countries began relying on availability of annual purchase of hybrid seed (which cannot be saved; it does not bear true, reverting to either parent) families, gardeners and farmers saved the best seed for next year.
In Europe, corn (Korn) refers to grains in general, pre-dating the introduction of New World maize. So in desperate times, "eating the seed corn" meant loss of hope; it meant there would be no seed to plant next year. Unless stolen from others in war.
Farmers are seldom stoopid, though Monsanto certainly pulled a toxic number on the "Bread Basket of the World." Farmers know to save back seed to allow for crop failures.
Farmers in India had saved locally-adapted seed for countless generations. Those beguiled into planting non-save-able Monsanto seed went into debt to do so. The seeds have turned out to be poorly adapted/poor-yielding. Farmers went ever deeper into unpayable debt. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have committed suicide by drinking Monsanto poisons.
Black Bear Adventures
20 June 2018
A friend in the Smoky Mts where it's rained all but incessantly reports a 12 hr. power outage from a tree down, but with no wind. There have, however, been bear sightings in the area. Might that be pertinent?
Oh? said I...
Bears have two pertinent behaviors which might affect tree roots in soggy ground:
1) They stand with back to trunk and rub up and down to scratch where it itches, with enough vigah to take down evergreen branches.
2) They leave formidable scratch marks down tree trunks with hundreds of pounds leaning into same.
An elder friend of mine was camping some years back, a city-girl newbie to the SW. She's generally feisty.
Also unaware, she had food INSIDE her tent. She woke up to a large clawed paw coming through the tent fly. The bear started leaning on the tent. She:
1) Screamed bloody murder
2) Pushed back on the ursine body mass
She was in a campground fortunately, and male persons began roaring out of their tents, bellowing. The bear settled back on all fours and decided to skedaddle.
Rain, Blessed Rain
4 June, 2018
Rain and some small but not damaging hail yesterday. I sat on the sun porch where there's a tin roof and listened to rain music. Light shining through rain droplets on apricot leaf tips, particularly beautiful.
Aesthetics aside, the economy out West just had a reprieve, ditto fire fighters.
Red and Black Angus will have pasture; alfalfa and hay fields will re-surge. Orchard fruit will swell. Cider pressings this fall, we hope. River running businesses have adventures to offer.
A good refresher on the tenuousness of economy. minus.. xyz. Kunstler would re-iterate our dependence on cheap oil; he lives back East where cheap oil fueled manufacturing, now left derelict.
El aqua es la vida.
3 June 2018
In the Southern Rockies wildfires are roaring in the dry tinder and resinous forests. Sagebrush flats offer more flammable resin, as though smudging the land.
Wind is picking up, a whooshing prelude to thunderstorms, and hopefully not including, the predicted large hail.
A neighbor's well has gone dry; rivers and acequias are low. I learned about no water when the Appalachian spring (the water kind) went dry on my organic farm (Earth-Whisperers.)
We haven't much awareness of water as precious resource, till we're hauling it in jugs, or in a tank on a truck.
Memorial Day 2018
The American Civil War
Nastiness, and also gallantry. Gen. Robert E. Lee comes to mind as a last of the gentlemen soldiers.
In my family, indeed kin were arrayed on opposite sides in the long brutality. A several greats Missouri Grandmother was widowed, a Confederate officer. She had freed their few slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation. Nothing left for her, she decided to head to Texas where she had kin.
It meant passing though the fighting. Her former slaves had elected to stay with her. She drove the buggy; they drove mule and oxen, a cow hitched to the back of one of the wagons.
At a river crossing, she was threatened with thievery and worse by Union soldiers. A Union officer roared up--her deceased husband's best friend. He gave her safe passage and an escort out of the war zone.
She had no skills other than embroidery and sewing a fine seam. running a household. Her black companions, employees settled with her in Texas and taught her to spin, weave, plant, harvest, hunt, butcher.
My grandfather knew her when he was a boy, still a gentlewoman, but one who could bring down a deer to feed her family.
After Europe's Great War, WW1, there were many maimed, and many dead husbands and fiance's, and a generation of spinsters.
Ditto after the US Civil War--maiden lady aunts who moved in with some family member. They became school teachers as a demographic.
And the "Blue Coat" soldiers? They were sent West to help fulfill Manifest Destiny by destroying the Plains Indians.
Aye, we'll rally 'round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom...
Country Wild Life
24 May 2018
A mule deer has dined on rose, delphinium, lily and columbine buds in the upper flower garden, despite abundant wild forage. Harrumph. Was late planting out nasturtiums, which repel deer and wabbits, and it's been so dry, the self-sown ones from last year hadn't sprouted.
Three kitties have adopted me, mischief makers and entertaining. My neighbors, to whom they ostensibly belong, don't feed them, so I put out some crunchettes with nutritional yeast and garlic powder in the early AM on an improv apricot tree platform--as an appetizer to moles and mice. They walk along the top of the garden fence and prefer lapping water from the top of the watering can. Underfoot whenever I appear, ankle-twiners with major purr melodics.
Brilliant orioles are nesting. They like hummingbird nectar and the color, orange. Sunflower seed and suet feeders came down this week at the first bear sighting at dawn. The feeder pole will forever list to starboard from last year's first ursine leaning on it. I learned my lesson!
5 April 2018
The music of the bees alerted me to an early apricot tree suddenly burst into bloom!
Overhead, red tail hawk was swooping on updraft. Song sparrow sings in the wild plum thicket, and nesting business has begun.
I'd started to feel punch-drunk and less jolly, too much life force gone splat, following world news.
Good to settle one's tusch on the earth and remember we're still part of it.
Mountain Snow, Magical Light
28 March 2018
Three inches of fluffy snow here, and more tonight after a concerningly dry winter. Ominous (I would say, promising) clouds massing N/NW. Very little glimpse of the mountains, hidden away in snow fog.
Am just back from a walk through the woods along the river, with plenty of snow dumped on the walker! Bit of misty sun shone on the cascading water and the veils of fine snow drifting down.
Knowing I'd return to a warm fire and hot spicy chocolate, I could enthuse about sparkling fairy dust. Were I sleeping rough, like more folks than we imagine, beauty of the moment might have been a stretch.
Friends in the South inform me of blooming camellias, forsythia, red bud, dogwood and daffydowndillies. I do remember, but will wait out the high country seasons, grateful for cooler summer.
Much that we've known is giving way, dying to new beginnings. As winter dies in its season and spring returns, tree sap and life rising from the dead.
The New Recovery Program!
3 March 2018
The Wayfaring Traveler books are all about storytelling, ancestral, historical, the riveting present moment, and the prescient.
Online articles, wellness info from long experience, and expose's, I wrote at feastandfamine.blogspot
With so much tumultuous change and yes, malfeasance, I'd felt an urgency. But the Cassandra phase--heart-felt warning or just noise from the battlements--may be concluding. Train's left the station; boat's left the shore.
It's getting real, down & dirty... Jackboots trampling the Bill of Rights. And lots of fact-free shouting, once known as reportage.
Who are we? Do we seek out waymarkers of integrity, or grab the remote, with its mind control patents and obfuscation? Am hoping we land on our feet.
I write this to cyber-friends on a day of high elevation, lapis skies and cold. Single digit nights ahead. It's too soon for pruning (botanically speaking) but am already thinking roses, fruit trees, and please, may the frosts be kind.
Communication in the
20 Feb. 2018
I wanted to let readers know that Gurgle finally succeeded in blocking this writer from the two "free" blogspot sites. This, after years of interference patterns--messing with stats, temporarily impeding author-access...
Now it's permanent, and I cannot even let readers there know what caused the sudden cessation of stories and articles.
Though being blocked did activate my "flea spleech" attitude problem, I've made peace with it. A large body of work is still available to readers in the Cyber-Commons at:
If you also read books, thank you. If you delve the Wayfaring Traveler books, would you kindly leave an Amazon review?
Meanwhile, reporting from the Rocky Mts and the global asylum, I remain optimistic. It's snowy in the high country. I haul in armloads of piñon, grateful for the woodstove BTU's.
A friend helped me resolve a wrenching uncertainty about giving money to those standing on windy street corners with cardboard signs. Some of the dollar bills go straight into booze or drugs.
The friend saves leftovers to share. Give food, she said! I invested in a case of organic pinto beans and hand a tin to those who are clearly sleeping rough under bitter conditions.
Indoors, flowers bloom: a geranium, paperwhite narcissus, a Meyer lemon. The trellis'd evergreen star jasmine is budding. Days grow longer, though it's still pitch dark when this ex-farmer greets the new day.
In a wider vista, the sun is strange; weather is weird; harvests are not certain. Locally the Food Banks serve the community.
I hope community gardens become more common. Within living memory, this area was food self-sufficient. The schools are teaching heritage skills and the astonishment of seed planted, sprout tended... leading to the miracle of fresh corn, tomatoes and greens for the family.
Diurnal Black Bear
A young black bear apparently didn't get the word about nocturnal feeding.
Sitting at my desk, I look out agog at 12:15 PM: Three meters away outside the patio doors, the bear starts bending the bird feeder pole to get at sunny seeds.
I pound on the window as the feeder pole lists 20 degrees to starboard.
Ursa glances my way and tilts the hummingbird feeder so syrup pours onto its paw. Licks it up.
I open the other window and begin bellowing. It ambles through the garden and climbs the north fence onto the road.
This is not your usual gardening season with late snow and frosts, then seven weeks of drought. The last two mornings I've poked my nose out at first light to 35 degrees F.
Late planted tomatoes are bent heavy with green fruit. Which may soon decorate windowsills, to ripen over the following weeks.
With a few dishes of fried green tomatoes and cream gravy to fortify guests as the nights grow longer and colder.
Music of Bees
Wild and honeybees filled a bright snowy morning with their buzzy song. Wet snow had somehow spared the fruit tree blossoms, though not some branches of a huge apricot fruiting for generations.
Birds are doing feeding frenzies over sunflower and thistle seed and suet. I bring the feeders in at night, so as to preserve them from black bears down from their caves and burrows in the higher mountains. Last year a grumpy bear surprised me early, squashed a woven wire fence, tromped a raised bed and bent the wrought iron bird feeder pole at right angle!
Duly noted. Years ago a woman here named the bears and would shoo them from the garden with a broom. Hm. Apparently not annoying a mama bear with cubs nearby, a potentially lethal encounter.
Am maybe not too late shmart; I ponder that proximity to ursine wildness from respectful distance.
More snow is expected, but flower treats are peeking up through the mulch: a Madonna lily, delphiniums, herbs. Am keen to plant pansies.
It may finally be Spring!
Friends who quietly attend to the introspection time of winter's long nights are reporting pain-release, familial pain. Convoluted enough and where is the Ariadne thread?
But on a societal level, am wondering about the rage and hysteria being encouraged toward a president-elect who vows to bring down the mafia-like takeover of government.
We're a few generations into broken families, Daddy's gone missing in the welfare state, and in both parents, often divorced, frenetically holding down high-stress jobs.
Curious fury against an alpha male president-elect. The nation seems to be acting out an almost Borderline sense of abandonment and lash-out.
Snowflakes raised by daycare, by indulgent guilty absent parents and government schools, come to pieces if not rewarded. It's a striking failure of reality check on the spectre of growing up.
This winter an extraordinary Pueblo man died quietly after celebrating his 100th birthday. He was the last local survivor of the Bataan Death March,
He recovered and became a mentor to tribal younglings and the larger community. He had lost everything but his heart.
Winter Snows Falling
Am dreaming of this weekend's "Scottish Christmas" with a piper in full Highland regalia. Amazing Grace, and carols all but shivering one's bone marrow!
Following the arc of seasons to ancient bonfires which welcomed the return of sunlight at Winter Solstice, am startled to realize the gift of Keltic music.
I hear surf crashing, the wild cry of seagulls, the howl of wolves, bells, harp and dancing! Torchlight is long ago, and we forget it, flicking the light switch, that night time light eluded our ancestors through long cold months. I hope to hear an Irish band on the Solstice, assuming the snowy roads are navigable. And bell-ringers at Christmas as "angels wing their flight o'er all the earth."
On 19 Dec. Mercury begins its three week danse macabre through cyberspace. Am already having techno-difficulties. Attempt at paragraphs trigger sudden repetitions of text. So will leave with warm wishes to readers all over the world.