24 Mar

Keyhole Garden Battery #1: Ground Breaking to Build Up

Keyhole garden #1 progress made on Saturday, 3/22/2014.  Cost $0, thanks to the stones retrieved from a raised bed I’m razing to the West (left/downhill of the photo frame).


Yesterday I found enough cardboard and paper products (just barely) to layer the bottom and sides, followed by bark from a tree I felled last year and the first Spring lawn cuttings. (I finished that work in the dark, so no photos yet.) I also made a compost cage from materials on hand: tomato cage wrapped several times with wire fencing.  Yesterday, I broke ground on the second bed just uphill (you can see it staked out in the bottom photo), but am focusing on finishing the first bed before I do more with the second. 


Tonight, I’ll pick up a few blocks for the keyhole inset (it’s fairly shallow), scavenge the creek banks tonight for some more dry green material, fill in the compost cage (from our existing compost bin), and start transferring the dirt from the old raised bed.  Bed #1 is on the steepest pitch–about a 12 inch drop from the upper to the lower side, but the bed bottom is flat: built up on the lower end and dug into the ground on the upper. It’s two feet deep with a three foot compost cage, with a six foot interior diameter.


Our motivation behind this effort, aside from Fun with Gardening and Reducing Water usage (even though we live in the Portland metro area, water’s still expensive): The dogs were rough on the backyard over the winter, removing much of the thin layer of sod long the rise and further down. The photo above shows some of that damage. The placements are ideal: during much of the Spring and all of the summer, both beds will be in full sunlight nearly all day long. Though the yard is on the north side of the house, it’s high enough in the upper end to stay out of the house’s shadow.

Given the shape of the garden wall, the kids were sad to learn that I was filling it with dirt. The dogs helped by sleeping in the sun most of the day.


24 Mar

Mason Bees Breakout

…break out of their cocoons, that is. While they’re easy bees to “keep” they’re tricky to place. They need to be near a source of mud (the more sticky clay, the better) to furnish their tubes/nest and near a Spring food supply (pollen). Fortunately they have a range of 300-400 feet, so it was more a matter of what do I want them to see first and how do I keep them happy.

So I placed them near the food (two bloomin’ plum trees) about 4 feet up on a shared fenceline and turned over some earth below the nest. There’s a creek about 25 feet away for extra mud if they need it. There’s rosemary blooming about 20 feet in the other direction and soon early blueberries in bloom, too.

I watched two hatch yesterday and take off like Harrier jets straight for the plum trees. Four others were already out and about. That leaves four more to hatch. I expect they’ll be out and about in the next few days.

Photos are still in the camera.

20 Mar

Chagall’s Green Fiddler

marc-chagall-the-green-violinist-1923-2420 or so years ago, my Mother, ever the garage sailor, remembered that I was a fan of Chagall and brought this over one day after a successful voyage into the Western Reach (Hillsboro, I think). She was fairly sure I didn’t have any print of his Green Violinist and said this painting made her think of me. I think the fiddler looks a little mad or possessed and may be possessing the village around him–or infecting them joyously with his art. Like Roaring, it’s sat on my desk for the last 20 years, a companion to Roaring in spirit (not style). Both are in our bedroom closet for now. I’ve captured what I need for the time being from both (and was gifted with a replacement that’s a message from Deborah) and she and I decided a change would be nice.

20 Mar

The Roaring World

20140319_203039Until a month ago, this hung or rested above my home desk for 10 years. It figures in  the balrog story in progress. My mother found it at a garage 20 or more years ago, thought of me, and gifted it for the heck of it. I love it, busted frame and all. Its replacement, I love more.

I’ve Googled and Ducked and Yahooed it to no avail. The artist is a mystery to me and that’s just fine.

20 Mar

Mason Bee Ranching

This was my early birthday present from Debby and the kids:


–a Mason Bee kit, with house, paper tubes, and bees–in larval stage, currently in the fridge until I tack the hive onto our backyard fence this weekend. Our son Adam is working at a local beekeeping supply store, Bee Thinking, and helped Debby with the purchase. I’ve been interested in raising honey bees but we have bee allergies at home, so this was the family compromise.


The Mason Bees won’t produce honey, but they’re industrious little pollen spreaders. They’re half the size of honey bees, the workers sting only if crushed, and produce such a small amount of venom that the risk of anaphylactic shock is very low.

14 Mar

Found On Internet – Excellence

Get Reading And Soar….


Look for my chain of link-sharing kiosks opening in malls across Merica soon. My plan is to seed all populous locations with kiosks and then, on a secret signal, assemble them into a monolithic superstore (shaped like a goose) and crush the independent link shops. Because nothing has a laugh more sinister than a goose (except perhaps a swan, and they’re federally protected, so…)

Gander powers, activate!

The Xylanthians are already among us (Yes, I’m Sirius! You’ll C!)

Why you can’t read past this link, if you made it this far

Some of these are on my reading list now. Note, none are about Bender, the Futurama character, although perhaps someone should write one.

“Bitch!” “Wow, you say it like it’s not a compliment!”

Peter Watts on how Silverbacks React to Eye Contact or Who’s Watchin’ the Watchmen

Finally, just get the job done

(Sorry, it’s the emergence of sunshine and the resulting colors in a humid yet crisp atmosphere.)

26 Feb

Non stop between here and your destination

043 overcrowded train IndiaWhile, technically, we call this train an express, it runs at unpredictable speeds and, did we call it a train–we meant bus or moped or Formula One (look out, driver in training!). And by train, did you think we meant bullet? Sir or Ma’am, you have to pay for the privilege of riding the bullet. This train is bourgeois, it’s a zoo train, the Western Star, the Himalayan Express, or Amtrak service to Tillamook. (It really is a train. Did we say Formula One? Sorry, bit of a runamok, that–F1 is two doors down, marked Competitive Journalism. Don’t knock, just bust in. But be prepared for a lot of paperwork.)

Whatever you do, stay on the train. Even for unexpected stops (carnivals crossing the tracks) and security checkpoints. Do not believe the voice that says, What am I doing, this journey was a stupid idea, what possessed me to think that I should look for work in the land of vengeful coconut palms!

Stay on the train. Do not step onto the platform till it reaches the end. If it turns out you bought the wrong ticket, that on arrival you discover you really meant to journey to the land of pachyderm docents who can show you recent archeological evidence (in their newly tiled Museum of History–why the new tiles everywhere?) PROVING that 100,000 y.a. elephants could leap with all four feet off the ground–but with no resolution on why that it is impossible today, although they have theories about everything from a cosmic catastrophe increasing planetary gravity to the elephant obesity problem–why then, you go.

And you stay on the train.

At first the train will be empty except for service personnel. The conductor. The steward with the snack cart. The lady sword swallower (oh my!). But as you complete more journeys you’ll see other passengers on board until perhaps the train is overwhelmed. But, really, trains are strong. Until the engine wears out or the track breaks, they are capable of non stop travel.

26 Feb


Spider web;J Schmidt;1977Those of us who aren’t arachnophobes (not freaked out by spiders) tend to identify, metaphorically, with the spider and not the web. But I wondered this morning–on my intentionally lengthy walk from the bus stop to the office–if you ever feel more like the web, your long sticky axons stretched thin in multiple interconnected directions over an indeterminate space (and perhaps time) trying to catch food. Since you’re the creature absorbing those unlucky flybys you’re more like a sentient web and not just a food trap for a higher power (unless…oh, no, that would be silly, let’s move on).

Next time, insect metaphors of a traditionally sinister sort (where you’re the fly simply unable to resist the lure of a sensual glistening web) and misused metaphors (sorry, you do not Attract Bees with Honey–that phrase is a dingbat replacement for the creepy Attracting Children with Candy and the more apt Don’t Be a Dick if you want people to listen or…do your bidding.)

12 Nov

Memories to Tinker with #3

The angst of October

The clarity of November

The juggernaut of December

The dandelion seed of January

The beaches of February

The unknittable break in March

The opacity of April

The triplet of May

The bark of June

The consumption of July

The music of August

The rest of September