Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ernie and the Short-Sighted Mockingbird

Outside of my workshop window is a mockingbird making a nest. Whether he has a lady friend or has yet to find a lady friend, I do not know, but he has decided that this tree shall be his.

He is annoyed by my presence, and particularly the sounds of industry coming from my workshop from time to time. He makes irritated noises at me through the open window.

"Mr. Mockingbird," says I, pausing to put down my chisel. "I know that you have claimed this spot for your own, but I was here first."

"No, you were most certainly not," says he. "In this small grove my family has lived for generations untold. We have never been driven forth, not by sparrows or hawks, and you are the interloper."

"That may be so, since I arrived only a year and a half ago, but this spot is where I have built my workshop and there must be some level of compromise. Nest where you will and I will not disturb you any more than I must, nor will I harm your mate or your babies."

"How condescending of you to compromise with me," says he. "I was here first and I have the right of it. This is my tree and you and your workshop can just pack up and go away."

"I have no place else to go," I said, slightly amused by his indignation. "This is my home. I am sorry that you reject my offer of compromise. Do you not see your benefit here?"

"All I see is a great hairy hominid underneath my tree."

"I do not need your tree nor the immediate space upon which it sits. I live a simple life. I can cut firewood somewhere else and preserve your tree. I till and improve the soil which improves the land and means more bugs for you and your progeny to consume. My presence keeps away the larger predators, including other men who might desire your tree or your space for themselves and not care what 14 fluid ounces of angry bird had to say about it."

"Harrumph," said the mockingbird. "I reject your benign rulership in the name of free creatures everywhere. If I must accept you, then I do it only grudgingly and only so much as I lack the ability to drive you away."

And with an angry flutter of his wings, he took off for another tree from which to peer down at me balefully.

Sea Changes

It is strange, but I started this blog as a method of informing about threats to our civilization.

I no longer care about our civilization. In fact, I have gotten to the point where I see our civilization as largely a threat to my family, my religion, and my way of life.

I have been able to say in the past that at least our civilization has wrought some good things. Mozart, Rembrandt, and Concrete Blonde would be good examples. Yet why is that art of specialists so much better than the art of the community? A small tribe singing around the campfire some fine spring evening undoubtedly had a far greater time than you and I would listening to a recording. The best of art was painted on a cave wall for all the dwellers within to see and admire.

There are those who identify themselves more strongly as participants of this civilization than as human beings, and they are generally threatened by my musings on these topics. It's disturbing to realize that all man has wrought may very well be sin.

These days I've got time on my hands before the gardening season really ramps up, and I wonder what the meaning of life is supposed to be. I am prayerful of this topic, but it seems God only smiles at me as if to say, "I left that for you to discover, my son."

So far, I can only define that meaning of life in terms of what it is not. It is not a large bank account. It is not travel. It is not leisure and luxury.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Desert Ironwood Bowie

Could you use a good knife? I certainly would like to sell you one! $180.

Feel free to email me from my Etsy page if you'd like to talk about custom orders. Imagine a kitchen set with desert ironwood handles like these, or perhaps a big bowie like this with a rosewood, mesquite, or cherry handle.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rick Perry and Government Hands

Rick Perry recently went to California to try and convince some Californian companies to relocate to Texas. I'm sure that incentives were promised, money may have changed hands, and at the end of the day, the Texas taxpayer got screwed by any secret deals.

This morning I was listening to the local radio broadcast out of Early, Texas and they were interviewing someone who I take is concerned with the same concept ... bringing jobs to the area.

I busted out laughing when they said that some new company was looking at a piece of real estate which is located behind the old Coca-Cola plant, near the old Chrysler plant, and down the street from the old John Deere distributor warehouse.

All of those companies were previously given tax breaks and other incentives to come to this area and bring jobs. They did, and we built infrastructure to support them. New schools, parks and playgrounds, another hospital, a stadium, etc. And when some other community offers these corporations a better deal then they move on and we're left with a building nobody else will buy and an increased cost for infrastructure support.

Seems to me some new thinking is needed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Garden

Here's some spring garden pics. Stuff is growing already. That's still amazing to me. When we lived in Illinois, you couldn't plant anything until the end of May. It's not yet even the end of March!

This is probably the main garden area, not by virtue of location, but by virtue of its fencing. This keeps the free range chickens out of it as well as the deer.  To the left you see the raised beds and to the right you see the "Back to Eden" beds.

Here's a focus on the Back to Eden bed. I just took mulch and dumped it in there deep then spread it out. Nothing is growing in it yet but there are beans planted. I use rocks to mark a path down the middle. Once the area is overgrown with okra and sprawling tomato plants then it looks like wilderness. Back to Eden beds are hard to keep from looking like chaos.

This is a wheelbarrow load of the last of last year's humanure compost. All the rest went into 3 of the raised beds. That was all we have so far. In August I'll have another big batch finished, and next year we'll have even double that. It's probably about 12 tons in total we'll have by the end of next year. That is awesome.

These smaller raised beds are used as flower and herb gardens.

Here's one of the raised beds that is filled with just mulch. It has started to break down since it was dropped in last spring, but it's still not great stuff. Too twiggy. Needs more soil to it.

Here's the irrigation system which covers each raised bed. A 5 gallon bucket feeds two pipes which have holes drilled in them at each point where a plant is growing. Fill the bucket and water comes out directly at the base of the plants, soaking in deep. During the height of the summer, 2-3 fills is required. We use a lot of water. The biggest problem with this system is getting it to evenly distribute to all of the plants. Eventually you settle on "close enough" and just try to make sure no plant is having its growth stunted by lack of water.

In this bed I have dumped last year's humanure compost. As you can see, there's still some bark and larger wood chips that didn't completely break down. Since I don't turn the piles, the stuff around the edges is always less composted than the stuff from the middle of the pile. Since all of the manure gets composted, I don't stress about it. That's cabbages growing, plus some beans that somehow got thrown in there. I will often throw leftover bean seeds that I was planting elsewhere just willy nilly into the beds to thrive or die. If they grow in a good spot, or can be transplanted, then I will keep them. Otherwise I let them grow until such time as they interfere with whatever was intended to grow in there. They aren't hurting anything and are adding nitrogen into the soil.

Here are some onions growing in a bed that was filled with the compost from the center of the pile. Mostly just dirt now and only a few wood chips remaining. Most of those are probably just thrown in from other beds.

Here's a potato patch growing in mulch. Back a dump truck up, drop a big load of mulch, and then spread it out. Plant your taters and wait. Pretty simple if you've got the space.

Sorry for the bad lighting in these photos. It's a gloomy grey day outside.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cabbage Babies and Speaking Trees

I overseeded a bed because the seed stock for cabbages I had was about 2 years old. Looks like almost all of them sprouted too. I'm going to have to do some serious thinning.

They sprouted early too. Normally it's about 12-14 days, but this time it was only 6. Could be the weather, but could it also be the rich humanure compost they are growing in? I wish now that I'd planted some in one of the other beds at the same time so I could know for sure. Violating my number one rule about gardening: being scientific! Always have a control for every new experiment.

So far I've got onions up, some garlic up that survived the winter, cabbages, chard, and the asparagus. And the obligatory potatoes are starting to come up through the ground. Only about half of them have made it though. I bought those seed potatoes as I don't have any of the old stock from our previous homestead, but I should have had a better yield than 50%. I may have cut the pieces too small. I was trying to get the most number of plants out of it. I wonder if I check my notes from previous years if I'll find that for the number of pounds of seed potatoes if I didn't average the same number of plants, even with cutting them smaller.

Of the trees I planted last year, the peach tree has survived the winter. My wife says "Trees don't speak to you." Normally I can tell how smaller plants are doing, or whether or not the seeds are sprouting, or what's going on even if I don't have any visual clues. But I have to admit she's right. I always think trees have died over the winter and then they surprise me by putting out buds. I guess trees don't speak to me after all.

The cabbages have been whispering to me though. They say, "We want to live!" And I hear them going NOM NOM NOM through the compost like a Sumo team hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I'm watching the weather closely but we've still got too many nights in the thirties to plant the hardier summer crops. This year I'm trying to (primarily) start everything from seed as I believe it results in hardier plants. The early start you get with transplants is lost due to transplant shock. And you never can recover the loss of a long taproot that you would get if you'd planted from seed. Undoubtedly though I'll see some new variety of something in a garden store and bring home a tray or two of transplants over the year.

Happy gardening to you as well!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I write a lot about rain. It's coming in from the west now. I can see dark clouds on the horizon out there and the sunset is obscured.

Rain is so important to us here. We capture water from our roofline and use that for most of our needs. We are soon to begin using our pond for water, which I don't think will hurt anything. Everything we drink or cook with is filtered through a Berkey.

Without the rain, we cannot live out here. There are those who are one step removed from my situation that think because they depend on the utility company to deliver their lifeblood, that they will survive longer than we will without rain.

I do not know. But I pray for rain constantly and praise God when it approaches.

Where's Ernie?

I've retreated into my gardens and my own thoughts for the time being, communing with God and nature. Some embryonic ideas are coming forth and I've needed time to develop them.

I think one of the problems with blogging is that it affords you the ability to cast your thoughts out into the word before they are fully grown and can stand on their own. I think I've said that before, but that doesn't make it less true. A constant blogger probably provides little value to his reader.

Cabbages are coming up in the garden and the soil has warmed up to 60 degrees. The nights are still in the 30's but the days are soaring up into the mid 80's. Crazy weather for the rest of the world but normal here.