Monday, October 31, 2005

Cloche, but no Cigar

we have a fairly short growing season here. i have, some years ago, used clear plastic over some framework, field fence or pvc pipe, to form growing tents, called cloches, to extend the season. kinda like a miniature greenhouse. it was my intention to use field fencing with 5" openings to serve as a frame for a tunnel cloche. i needed 50 feet of it to cut into 5 sections to be arched over a growing bed side by side making a tunnel 25 feet long. i thought i had seen such fencing at home depot. alas, i could only find the required fencing in rolls 330 feet long there or anywhere else. plan b was to use concrete reinforcing grid, which is made of very heavy wire welded into a 6" grid, used in slabs and driveways, and which i seemed to recall came in flat sheets 4'x8' or 6'x8'. either size would work and i could picture myself bending a piece even 6' wide into an arch. i returned from my local supply place with the roll of remesh (a new term to me) 7'6" wide and 20' long---curled 90 degrees sideways from the curl i wanted it to have. i'm building a tunnel cloche with the frame i have, not the frame i want. i unloaded it and let it lay there while i considered what sort of wrestling might convince it to form a tunnel.

a good dinner (beets with tofu, millet, salad, and red wine), an evening of restful blog perusal, some trash tv, and a good night's sleep later i was ready. two long 2x6s and an hour or so of nudging and pulling transformed the cylinder above into the parabolic tunnel pictured below.

i planted beet and carrot seeds in about 1/4 of the bed. there are chard, collard, and brocolli starts in the kitchen window to go in the cloche. spinach is planted with the other starts, but so far none has sprouted.

the rocks strewn about were used to hold down black plastic, intended to warm up the soil. they are the roundest rocks i could find.

the finished tunnel cloche, seeded with carrots and beets, ready for the starts mentioned above. one or both ends can be opened on hot, sunny days. the plastic can be rolled back for access to the growing bed. there is a soaker hose inside. i know it seems goofy to water in the rainy winter but it isn't always easy to pull back the plastic during a rainstorm.

yes. this is very late to start growing anything this far north. i should have had this going a month ago at least. it's an experiment. we're all about science here at chez bums.

morning update: we had some fierce wind last night. not a hurricane of course, but still, gusts that shook the house. i wondered if the cloche would be blown into the next county. it held. i looked out at first light and was relieved to see it still there.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Wild North Side

Our house is completely oriented to the southwest. We have a wall of windows that look out in that direction to the pond and orchard, and beyond to the Olympic Mountain range. The north side of our house is a side we don't look at or use much. Interestingly, it's the front of our house, the side we approach when we drive in, but we just click the garage door opener, and slip right in, and hardly ever use the front door. I think most people have a side of the house that they basically ignore, or at least pay scant attention to. Just making sure that the few shade-loving plants growing out there have water, and the lawn is mown. (Or is that just us?)
Arrow points to nest.
As much wildlife as we see out our south-facing windows, there's so much more going on on the northside. When we do open our front door, birds scatter like crazy. Rabbits skitter away quickly. The deer munch lazily, barely giving us a second look. It's so peacefully their haven, that the rabbits and birds have built their nests out there.
Nest close up.
The other evening, just after sundown, I walked out the front door to go over to the neighbor's. I spent a little more time over there than I thought I would, so it was definitely dark when I left to walk home. I called the pirate and asked him to turn on the outdoor lights, and to meet me half way. He met me with a flashlight, and we headed back to the house. As we approached the front steps, we startled a male House Finch. He frantically started flying back and forth between the light on the porch and the light over the garage. I felt bad for him, he didn't know where to go for safety. I thought if we entered the house quickly, we'd be out of his way. So, I opened the front door, and in he flew.
House Finch on a 55 year old teapot.
The poor fellow ended up nervously flying around our kitchen and living room. We have very high ceilings, so he was way out of reach. We just watched him go from the ledge of the kitchen's upper cabinets to the handle of the teapots we keep there. He was looking for a way out. DPR closed the doors to the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room, and opened the front door, and the back slider. We waited. He flew. He perched. I photographed him. We waited. He suddenly took off like he had a plan, and flew straight out the front door, which we quickly closed behind him.
Considering his options.
I sure hope the finches will continue to build their nests out there.
I really ought to get out the ladder and dust those teapots.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Byte This

i met my first disk drive in 1965 when i worked as a computer operator, and then programmer, at kaiser aluminum in oakland, ca.

it was was an IBM 1405, a model first sold in 1960. it stored 20 megabytes. that is 20,000,000 characters, be they letters, numbers, punctuation, or unprintable. its cabinet was about 5 feet tall, almost that wide and three feet thick. it had 50 disks that rotated at 1800 rpm. each disk was about 30 inches across and about 1/4 inch thick. so the "drive" contains about 116,640 cubic inches.

in the picture below the drive on the right is from a pc that RD had when we met in 1989. a pc with one megabyte of memory and a Seagate ST-225 harddrive. it's capacity is 20 megabytes. it spins at 3600 rpm and was introduced 1984. the seagate drive is 5.5 inches by 8 inches by 1.5 inches, and so encloses 66 cubic inches.

the one on the left is from RD's g4 iBook. it is a Toshiba MK4025GAS which held 40 gigabytes, when it worked. each and every gigabyte held 1,024 megabytes of storage. the toshiba is 2.75 inches by 3.75 inches by .1875 inches, thus it's volume is 1.94 inches. ibm 1405 in 1960 stored 20 megabytes (20 million characters, eight bits per character) in a thing taking up about 116,640 cubic inches of space. thus about 171.5 bytes per cubic inch.

and a seagate drive in 1984 stored the same amount of data in 66 cubic inches. thus about 303,030 bytes per cubic inch.

now, this once working and probably outdated toshiba from maybe 2001 stores a whopping 2,048 times more data than the previous two examples, in a smaller space, resulting in about 20,000,000,000 bytes per cubic inch!

to recap:
1960---171.5 bytes/cubic inch
1984---303,030 bytes/cubic inch
2001---20,000,000,000 bytes/cubic inch

we're already at 2005. check the trend. by next year i expect space BACK for every bit of data i store. i want space credit.

Here's a story from RD about when the pirate and I first met, and how that computer was part of our affinity.
In late 1988 I had separated from my first husband, left grad school and moved back to California to be near my twin brother in Santa Cruz. My first husband and I did not have children so there weren't many things for us to fight for custody of. We were rather nomadic ascetics, having moved once a year for ten years (he called it artistic restlessness, I called it compulsive displacement, but I digress). We did not gather many things, but we did have one great photograph of Abbie Hoffman and Tim Leary, and we had a computer. I wanted the photograph and the PC. Oh there were many reasons why, but suffice to say that without me neither of those things would have been in our house. So, when I settled in California in 1988, my ex sent me those two cherished items, and we, as they say , parted amicably. In the mean time, I had met a delightful free-spirited and broken-hearted hippie who could talk science, politics and environment just the way I liked to. He had been a computer programmer while I was a still a teenager in high school in 1968, but he hadn't touched a computer in 20 years. When the PC showed up, he offered to hook it all up for me. I said, okay, that's great. We weren't living together at the time, so I went into my bedroom to go to sleep, and he went into the office to put it together. Hours and hours later, perhaps it was just before morning, he came into the bedroom and said, "your computer is set up. First I broke it, so it didn't work at all, then I figured out what I had done, fixed it, and now it's working fine." That's when I knew this man, the pirate, was my friend and partner, and it's been true for the past 17 years.

well. i didn't exactly break anything. i just lost DOS--disk operating system, like windows with closed drapes, no gui (graphical user interface), no mouse--and some other programs. i did have to learn some text commands. i was surprised to see that the organizational structure of a pc was very much the same as the last big computers i worked on in the 60's. the text commands to initiate and control programs were the equivalent of the little decks of ibm computer cards we used back then, which became little text files on disk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Does Beauty Have Healing Power?

I have had a pinched nerve in my neck for over a week. I've had this once before, and it is seriously painful. I don't take pain medication so I am breathing through the agony, and waiting for the inflammation to calm down. It will, it always does. I am a terrible patient, because I am impatient. I won't sit still. Yesterday we went for a walk, and I donned my cervical collar so I wouldn't be enticed to look up, even at the birds flying over head. We did manage to see one of our favorite water birds, the Hooded Merganser, which was in the marsh. This bird was the first bird we added to our life list, when we found out what a life list was!

This Great Blue Heron was definitely out of neck range for me to photograph, so DPR took over.

After a mostly sleepless night, I noticed that the sun was streaming through the low-lying fog. It was so stunning I had to grab the camera and go stand in the yard. Lately I've been hearing Joni Mitchell's Chelsea Morning in my head:
"And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses..."

Does beauty have healing power? Apparently not yet, but we shall see.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Birds of Autumn

We thought with the arrival of fall we just wouldn't see many interesting birds at our backyard feeder. All summer long we had such beautiful visitors: hummingbirds, black-headed grosbeaks, crossbills, even Western Tanagers came by for the fruit trees. The yard was full of flashing reds and yellows. And while it is true that many of the most colorful birds have headed south for warmer winter climes, we have been seeing some beautiful birds that often get overlooked in the company of their showy relatives. Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens), Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis), and several variety of hard to distinguish finches and sparrows have all been stopping by.
When the Red-winged Blackbirds showed up, the Steller's Jays scattered. It was surprising to see the self-proclaimed kings and queens of the feeder be deposed. We had a small flock of ten or twelve blackbirds descend on the feeder for an entire afternoon, and then leave just as suddenly as they appeared. They have not been back since.

When the Chestnut-backed Chickadee flies from the trees to the feeder, it dips and rises in the air like it's in a state of constant joy. This bird comes to the feeder even when I am outside, adding seed to the platform. I've never gotten as close to any other bird, as I have to this. I have sensed that with encouragement and coaxing this chickadee would let me get very close, but I do not want it to be so comfortable with humans. So, I have refrained.

I think the Dark-eyed Junco has an outstandingly beautiful black head, such a fine rich color. The Juncos do a lot of their foraging on the ground under the feeder, but are willing to share the platform with the Chickadees, unlike the blackbirds or the jays.

At first I thought this was a female finch, but am now thinking song sparrow. She was so photogenic I just couldn't stop taking her picture. If you are going to enlarge any of these photos, definitely take a look at these.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hey, I'm Walking Here!

and i'm taking pictures. as always, click the pic to see the big version.

RD and i like to walk. while new places are fun to discover, we also enjoy watching a familiar place change through the seasons, and through the years. one of our favorite walks starts at the Port Townsend Shipyard. we walk here often.

this is looking south from the boatyard along the Larry Scott Trail, built on the remains of a railroad right of way. the industrial giant in the distance is the Port Townsend Paper Company, built in 1927 and the town's largest employer. it looms large in the photo but in actual context is smaller in the expanse of water, forest and sky. port townsend bay is to the left. to the right there is a marsh for about a quarter of the mile or so to the paper plant, the rest of the way being sandstone bluffs. the trail turns inland just before the paper plant and runs another mile to the highway through a forest. we have taken a lot of pictures while walking here, and posted some. from sand dollars to eagles. lots of plant life too.

now we are looking back at the boatyard and the city of Port Townsend.

some fairly large steel hulled boats.

there are wooden boats here too.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sunrise As Seen From Earth

When I was young I wished we could see stars and planets during the day. I thought it would help us remember that we are really on a planet swirling and spinning through space in a large and mostly unknown universe. I wanted to look up into the sky at any time of the day and see spheres suspended like a cosmic mobile on invisible threads, because I often need a reminder of how small and insignificant most things are on the third planet from the sun.
Would it surprise you to know I still have this wish? And mostly I get a hint of it when I watch the sun rise.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Let Me Be Your Object Lesson

I have been trying to reconstruct the past on my computer's new hard drive. The history page is blank. There are no fresh tracks on any trails. In fact there are no trails at all. I am trying to remember the logic to my bookmarks; there doesn't seem to have been any, or to the order of news sites I checked with voracious frequency. (I seem to remember not wanting to miss Rove's mea culpa or his perp walk.)

Before we left on our train trip, dpr wisely suggested that we back up our photographs on to our lumbering old PC in the office. Together, our laptops had about 5000 photographs, 2600 of those were on my iBook. Those photographs are now the only extant files left from my old hard drive. Everything else is gone.

At first I thought I didn't really have that much to lose. Then, I was walking to the mailbox the other day and noticed some very fresh coyote scat. I thought I should photograph it for the post I had been working on. Then I remembered that I no longer had that folder of articles and photographs. All the folders with posts I had been working on no longer existed-- the water rights fight in Felton; diet analysis of coyote scat (with photographs); mushrooms of the Olympic Peninsula. I thought of all the folders of articles and essays I had collected over the past fifteen months, the ones I used countless times for reference. The folders with scanned photographs of my father's extended family that had been sent to me by a distant cousin. I had a file of collected thoughts, poems, comments that had reached 30 pages at my last check. There was a folder of all the old data from my last days at the university job. All gone.

While we were in southern California visiting my mom, she and I spent a good part of one afternoon looking at old photographs. There were a few that I really wanted, so I scanned them. There was one in particular of my twin brother and me that I loved so much. I thought it really captured the happiest days of our childhoods at the beach. I thought it was so good I emailed it to him. Fortunately, I used the web-based mail program (rather than the pop account) because that sent file is all I have of the scanned photos from that trip.

Let me be an object lesson for you. Back up your files. Do it regularly. Hard drives fail, and mine didn't even give me a hint it was on its way out.
Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cat and Mouse

Shhh... don't tell dpr, but I've hijacked his laptop. I couldn't help myself. I found the mouse bones again. It was like an omen. I had to post them, especially since we are all on the Cheney Resignation Watch. In the Plame investigation, who is the big cat, who is the mouse?
Uh-oh, I have to go. The pirate is looking for his laptop.

Perfect cat and mouse
Is imbalance of power
No mouse can survive

Kind interventions
Adds only a moment more
A breath before death
Months later find bones
So much intact, like waiting
Further instructions

**The pirate really doesn't mind when I use his laptop, I just feel guilty about it, and I'm overly dramatic. He does have as much of an addiction as I do.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What Did I Ask For?

What my iBook will look like in a few days.
Some people may find it very lucky to get what they ask for. I don't. I'm never sure how my wish is going to be fulfilled. Take for instance my quandary about blogging. I mused, Should I continue? Post daily? Blah blah blah. It looks like my laptop has answered the questions for me. So, you're not sure you want to blog everyday? Will a blown hard drive help you decide?
Um, I guess so.
Light posting from this half of the dharma bums until my little wish fulfillment has been resolved.


October 17, 1989 dawned as one of those clear-sky, lazy autumn days. So beautiful it begged to be filled with hiking, playing, and exploring. I was working as a teaching assistant for Anthro 1 Physical Anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, a course being taught by Adrienne Zihlman. Luckily, the lectures were MWF, and the labs I taught were on Thursdays, so I had this stunning Tuesday to share with Roger.

We started the day by heading to a restaurant out on Highway 9 in Ben Lomond or Felton. It was reputed to make great, hearty breakfasts, and we went to eat something rich and filling. The plan was to leave there, drive up Zayante Road beyond Lompico (way out in the boonies, for those not familiar with the Santa Cruz mountains), and explore the Loch Lomond Reservoir.

All was going well until we reached the gate to the reservoir. Big chains and locks. Big sign saying it was closed due to the drought. We hadn't known, and here we were all ready for a good hike. So, rather than be deterred by gates and signs, we parked the car, next to the NO PARKING sign, climbed over the chain, and walked down to the reservoir.

Oh it was a perfect day-- trees, bugs, birds, and water. Although I can hardly remember a single detail of the things we saw, I do remember that Roger and I looked a lot at each other. We had only been together ten months, living together, and still getting to know each other. That was part of the beauty of the day.

We hiked for hours and hours. Stopped and listened. Held hands. What fun until we heard thrashing and heavy footsteps coming right for us. Sure enough, the park ranger had found us and busted us for being in the closed park, and for parking the car where it expressly said not to. The ranger asked, "Is that your car at the gate, the one with the other parking ticket on the front dash?" Oops. Yes. That was my car with the ticket I had gotten about a week before. I must have seemed like such a little outlaw to him. But lucky for us, he was absolutely cool. He told us he wasn't going to give us a ticket, since I already had one (isn't that amazing?). He hardly ever had people to talk to anymore with the park closed to visitors; so, he offered us a ride back up the hill, about a mile, to our car. We talked on the bumpy ride back. He was quite a pleasant guy. We thanked him, bid him farewell, jumped into our car and headed home.

It took us about a half hour to reach the family beach house in Capitola. It was a bit after 5:00 when we stepped inside and walked upstairs to our little two room garret. Roger turned on the World Series, and I sat down to think about dinner.

Seismogram showing the main shock of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

That's when the house started to shake. SHAKE. One of the biggest earthquakes to hit California in years was rocking that house for all it was worth. Oh My God, that house shook. Things started to fall, I crawled across the floor to be next to Roger. He was holding back the TV and the vcr from falling to the floor. The 5 gallon Sparklett's water bottle tipped over. Water was spilling everywhere. Our bookcase slid sideways. I could hear things falling and crashing in different parts of the house. I thought I heard the toilet flush by itself. There was an ongoing roar coming from everywhere the earth shook. I looked out the window to see what the birds were doing on the beach below. The gulls were circling, circling. Dust was rising from the sand where bits of cliff had already fallen. Fifteen seconds. That was all. Fifteen seconds, and the shaking stopped.
Earthquake damaged homes in San Francisco.
We looked at each other and confirmed that we were both alright. We checked for damage around the house. A couple of small broken teacups. A few new cracks in the stone fireplace downstairs. The brick chimney that vented the water heater had fallen into pieces, bounced off the street and up onto my new car. Minor damage all. That was not true for the rest of Santa Cruz or our neighbors. Fallen fireplace chimneys were everywhere. Glass from broken windows littered the streets. We turned off the gas at the main shut-off valve outside, and went to sit in the car to listen to radio reports of the damage. Learned that the epicenter of the quake was located 70 miles south of San Francisco. That's exactly where we were. They announced the bay bridge had collapsed. Other roadways had crashed onto lower roads. People were crushed and trapped in their cars. Buildings were on fire in San Francisco. Much later we learned that the damage in downtown Santa Cruz was extensive. Some of our favorite places-- the bookstore, the bagelry--simply ceased to exist.
Downtown Santa Cruz earthquake damage.
We spent that night at our friends' house. Fifteen of us slept together on the living room floor. There were significant aftershocks all night. We held tight. The earth continued to shake sporadically for days. Slowly we emerged from the shock. Electricity was restored. Streets were swept clean. For months we could bike ride on roadways that had become impassable for cars. Life resumed, and yet it was changed forever.

Roger's family beach house backyard.
Three years later, on October 17, 1992, Roger and I commemorated the quake anniversary in our own way. We had been talking about getting married and had even gone ahead and gotten blood tests. We woke on that Saturday morning, and said, "Hey, let's get married today." We called a justice of the peace who said he was available at 10:00 that morning. We called my twin brother and sister-in-law to ask if they would be our witnesses. In a matter of about two hours the wedding was planned and executed. We stood barefoot in the yard above Monterey Bay, where the gulls circled and called. It was as simple a ceremony as you can imagine. We confirmed and committed to each other what we knew was already in our hearts. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to our favorite restaurant for breakfast. Later we walked into town and told the local video store guy that we had just gotten married. He gave us a free video rental for a wedding present. And it's been a charmed life ever since!
Actual wedding day photo of the barefoot bride and groom!
Tonight we will raise our wine glasses at 5:04 and drink to the memory of day that began beautifully, but ended in sorrow; and then to a day that began simply with a marriage that's led us here.

A gallery of Loma Prieta earthquake photos can be found here.

Postscript: We never had a chance to thank that park ranger. Had he not driven us to our car we would have been in the Santa Cruz mountains when the quake struck. No telling when we would have made it out of the hills that day.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I, The Jury

there was a body. there was medical evidence. the dead man died of gunshot wounds. he didn't shoot himself. there was a trial. there was a defendant. there were witnesses. there was a jury. i was on it. it was 1966 in oakland, ca. i was a computer programmer in an era where that, at least at kaiser aluminum, was an office job requiring coat and tie for men. so i showed up for jury duty in a suit and tie and goatee. i was dumbfounded but excited that i was approved for jury duty, the standard jury of twelve of the defendant's peers. well kinda. the defendant was, i think, seventeen, so none of the adults on the jury was really his peer. some men, some women, some white, some black. no overwhelmingly obvious leaders. we listened to a week of testimony elicited by the prosecutor. there was no murder weapon. none of the witnesses actually saw the defendant fire a gun, or even have one. the most damning evidence, a claim that the defendant admitted the crime, came from another young man, who allowed as how he was getting a break on his current sentence for testifying, and who shuffled nervously while refusing to look at his erstwhile friend, the defendant.

the crime took place in a poor neighborhood. the victim may have been intending to enter a local business identified by witnesses as a place of prostitution. he was not a local. the defendant was one of a group of five or six young men present at the scene. there was conflicting testimony about how close the young men were to the victim and who ran where when shots were fired. there was an irony of names. the prosecuting attorney was a black man named white, while the defending attorney was a white man named black. there were comic moments. the prosecuting da, while asking a witness why anyone would break into parked cars looking for money, seemed shocked when informed that boosting cars was a regular paying job. a younger kid, testifying about a fire in an abandoned building down the block from the crime scene in response to questions establishing a timeline, gave the da a look as if to say "what planet do you live on?" when asked why he didn't turn in a fire alarm. even the jury knew that the fire department doesn't go to that neighborhood much.

so we filed into the jury room not having a clue about our fellows. i did not see how i could convict someone on the evidence presented. we shuffled around, sat, talked a bit, and elected a foreman. a strange ritual. as we discussed the case it became clear that no one was overwhelmed by the evidence for conviction. we all agreed that a crime had been committed and that it was possible that the defendant had done it. some favored conviction because it was a terrible crime and someone was responsible. all were angry at being asked to send a person to jail for murder on such weak evidence. we voted. the minority wanted a conviction. the majority took turns asking about certainty and reasonable doubt. none of the minority could stand and say "yes, i believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the evidence proves the guilt of this defendant." we voted some more. after a while, not overnight, as i recall, the vote was unanimous for acquittal. we asked each other "are you ok with this?" all said yes. the minority regretted that we could not convict someone for the crime, but agreed that the evidence did not warrant convicting this particular defendant.

i was most impressed with my fellow jurors. they listened carefully to the judge's instructions and accepted their responsibility soberly. we were a serious lot. that was long ago. i don't know what jury duty is like today. i hope that people take it as seriously now as then, in my small experience. it was, in many ways, easy for me. my employer paid my regular salary. i could drive to the courthouse and was given a pass for parking, in a garage. i answered truthfully when i said i could consider a death penalty, but the meager evidence undercut any possibility that i would actually be asked to do so.

i also served on a jury in a civil trial while on call back then. the state had taken some real estate, part of a parcel, for a freeway interchange, and, in its majesty, awarded the owner a pittance for some very valuable land. we of the jury found both sides biased and settled somewhere in the middle. the owner's bias was understandable. the extemely parsimonious appraisal by state employees was less explicable.

jury duty is not easy, for many reasons. there is a monumental waste of time. you go, you wait, you're called, or not called. come back tomorrow, or call for a recording at 7 AM to find out if you're called. wait all day to be dismissed. many people don't get paid their regular wages when they do jury duty. self-employed people certainly don't. then there is the actual doing of it. judging someone. technically, deciding if the evidence supports conviction, or perhaps which side is lying, the most. perhaps sending someone to jail. perhaps not sending someone to jail who should have gone.

jury duty is fodder for humor. but if we won't do it who will? i am a straight arrow about voting, jury duty, and paying taxes. whatever problems our legal system has will not, in my opinion, be solved or ameliorated by increasing numbers of us opting out of jury duty. similarly, democracy doesn't work so well when so few of us vote. taxes generate more humor than jury duty, but we all like the roads, the fire department is pretty cool, and cops are nice to have. so i urge you all to step up and judge your neighbors. seriously. jury duty. do it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Till, We Meet Again

the near dirt is about half of one bed, making it about 30 feet long. there were zucchini enough to compost, yellow crook-neck squash enough to try them as keepers like winter squash, marigolds galore, kale enough to sate anyone, and bush beans growing here. the beans were a bust.

this dirt and that strip behind it, a full 60 feet long and 3 feet wide, have been limed but not yet fertilized. more garden work could have been easily completed today had i been as mindful of my body as i was of the desired outcome. alas, i operated the rototiller less than ergonomically correctly. lower back pain. i don't blame the machine, as i have enthusiastically and heedlessly wielded a shovel and suffered the same result.

the dirt patch in the foreground will get fertilizer, perhaps a layer of compostable green stuff, and black plastic mulch. then a tunnel cloche. then winter veggies. i'd better ice that sore back. it is kinda late for a winter garden. ok, very late. worst case: the cloche is ready for early spring planting!

these carrots came from the middle of the rear bed in the picture above, about where there is a bit of straw piled just beyond. i planted them in spring, maybe may. gotta get that garden calendar thing going. they are large and not perfectly formed, yet tasty and nutritious. RD made a killer carrot soup today from some of those very carrots pictured on your screen! this pile was one un-thinned row 3 and a half feet long. root crops do very well here.

the long, just tilled, aforementioned, growing bed in the background (from whence the carrots) will be fertilized and then sown with red clover seed. our first green manure crop. RD scored a great book at a garage sale. 25 cents. "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" by Steve Solomon. wow. we live there. i'll have more to say about Steve and his book. good things.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ambivalent Blogger

I've been trying to figure out what my discontent is with blogging. Mostly, I think the community it creates is wonderfully organic and unpredictable. I love the commenters, the sharing of information. But there's something about blogging that bugs me and I am trying to get to what that is.

I left a comment over at Pure Florida today and mentioned my ambivalence about this. More than half the time I want to quit blogging. I don't really like the pressure of coming up with something to say everyday. I just don't have that much to say. Observations about the daily, seasonal, yearly changes here on our little farm are all that I lay claim to. A photographic record of the birds that come to our feeder or have stopped and migrated. The change in light. The fruits of the garden. Sometimes I think yeah, yeah, yeah all of that-- so what?

Political bloggers have so much adrenaline. They are like doctors and nurses in emergency rooms huddled around a dying patient, only this patient is one they want to see die. To suffer and then die would really provide so much incendiary creativity. There is an ongoing drumbeat about the patient's vital signs-- the rovian brain, the cheney heartbeat, the rumsfeld blood pressure. Dips in the vitals, and there is excitement that echoes from one end of the bloggy spectrum to the other. While I am delighted by the decline in the arc of evangelical Republicanism, this moment by moment, blow by blow assessment of the minutiae is overwhelming to me.

I watch the arc of sun as it crosses the sky and notice how how far south it is already. I see how the trees on our southern border have grown so much taller this year; by winter solstice the sun will barely rise above their tallest limbs. My rhythms prefer geologic time. I've always been drawn to fossils. The slow yielding of flesh and bone to stone. The present day will be so much more interesting to read about in a hundred years, when all of the dramas have completely unfolded. Here's what I know--George W. Bush and I will both be dust, I am certain of that.

Yesterday a neighbor's son came by and asked if he could do some yard work because he's saving for a play station. We said sure. Come by tomorrow and we'll figure out what you can do. He's out there now weeding with his constant companion, Buddy. He asked me if I go to church. I said no, but I photograph birds.
Buddy and the weeding kid.
Is that enough to blog about? The irrelevance of the slow earth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Deer Fencing Assessment

This yearling spent last summer feasting in our yard. Yesterday it just looked through the fence.

We experimented with two types of deer fencing this year for our first summer garden. One side of the yard had three rows of carpenter string that had been strung between rebar attached to the wooden fence posts. The rebar added three feet of additional height to the five foot field fence, and was bent at an angle extending outward. The concept was that the deer wouldn't jump the fence because of the height and the added dimension.

The other side of the yard had pruning pieces woven into the field fence adding additional height, at irregular intervals and in an irregular pattern. The concept was that the deer would not be able to jump the fence because of the spatial irregularities.

Both sides proved to be successful at keeping the deer out all season. Our only interloper was a bobcat, and we're fairly certain it made it over the fence at the wooden fence posts.

We know that without the fencing we would have never harvested as much squash, apples, onions or pears as we did this year.
A sample of what we harvested this month.

And despite our "keep out" attitude the deer still like to hang out and be lazy in the front of our house, where we planted things they don't seem to want to eat at all: lavatera, dahlias, and bachelor buttons. Very cool.
Content in the tall grasses next to the driveway.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fall Light

i went out to take pictures for a garden update and got this picture of spent cornstalks lit by the low slanting light of sunset. the sky in the background is typical of the last two weeks. gray and dark clouds. damp without real rain. peeks of sunlight at sunrise and sunset. daytime highs of 55 degrees (or less). night temps at 45 degrees. not yet winter but the end of summer crops. we will be starting broccoli and other cabbage types inside today, to be planted out in the tunnel cloche not yet built. it is a bit late for this so we classify our efforts as science--an experiment! the full garden report will wait for a few days.

here is one example of a tunnel cloche. we will be using field fencing with 6 inch square openings instead of plastic pipe to form the hoops over which to drape clear plastic. here is another. scroll down to see "Plastic Covered Cold Frame Made with Concrete Reinforcing Mesh." this is very close to our design.

RD was out early taking pictures. i was still asleep. below is sunrise looking east over the veggie garden.

this is the morning light looking southwest. today's direct sun ended shortly after the picture was taken.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Lazy Days

We have been very lazy since our whirlwind 2600 mile train journey. We've barely ventured outside our yard, preferring to stay close to home in our comfort zone. We've been reading all about Harriet Miers, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Karl Rove's fourth grand jury appearance. We recommend John Dean's article from Findlaw on the case against Tom DeLay. Also, you might want to check out Michael Isikoff's article on Rove and Miller, which is a pretty good read.
But mostly we're enjoying the cool fall weather. The yard is full of life these days. Some new birds showed up at the feeder, and the dragonflies are still flitting about the pond. A spider built its web around the garden hose and trapped a colorful meal, while an unsuspecting wasp sits just above the action.
This is our second fall in the pacific northwest.
Our yard in fall light.
Surprising to see a northern flicker on the feeder. They usually prefer eating ants on the ground.
Red Dragonfly on the pond grass.
A spider eats a colorful bug.
While a wasp waits quite unsuspectingly close to the web.